Van Life - Cop Out or Enlightenment?

Let’s start over. You came to a van life forum to see if the festival van folk you met represent the overall type of people in the van life. That’s a wonderful way to learn more about van life. Well, they don’t in the same way that any small group of box dwellers don’t necessarily represent a larger group. I wouldn’t make assumptions about box dwellers based of a few people I met one time. There are many seasonal jobs out there that allow box dwellers and van dwellers alike the ability to only work part of the year. There are also many factors that allow box dwellers and van dwellers alike to be able to travel or stuck not being able to travel. Unfortunately living in a van doesn’t automatically allow extra travel abilities. In fact, I know many more box dwellers who can afford to travel and take vacations than I can in my van. I would say the festival folk you met are outliers in the group. I think most people in most groups would be bummed out by their peers trying to crowd source vacation funds instead of using their own money. That has nothing to do with van life specifically.

And please for my own peace of mind. What would a van lifers lifestyle be reliant on a 9-5er for that a box dweller is not?

“What would a van lifers lifestyle be reliant on a 9-5er for that a box dweller is not”?

My comment was that a van dweller is far more reliant on 9-5ers that the other way round. If you disagree tell me why? What do van dwellers need to survive and live - the obvious examples are vehicles, roads, infrastructure like bridges, traffic lights, lay up places/campsites etc. These are all things that are designed, built, tested, installed, maintained and replaced by 9-5ers in the vast, vast majority of cases. This kind of work is pure 9-5 territory or more likely 8-6 and beyond for some of them. Traveling folk by their transient nature are unlikely to want to and/or be able to hold down the type of professional and/or skilled jobs that do that kind of work, as these people need to be at the coalface as it were, week in week out, for months if not years. So its pretty clear that without those type of people doing those type of jobs, van lifers can’t exist - there would be no roads to drive on for one.
Switch to van lifers - what do they do that is essential to the existence of 9-5ers, that those 9-5ers can’t get from other 9-5ers? Nothing as far as I can see. I know some van lifers probably do many things that 9-5ers buy, use etc. but they don’t HAVE to be obtained from van lifers. The opposite is just not true for van lifers - they rely pretty much 100% on 9-5ers to be able to do what they do.
That is the essence of what irks me about ‘some’ van lifers I have experienced - they just don’t realise or appreciate this it seems to me and actively seem to have a disdainful attitude towards those who make their carefree existence just traveling around possible.
Look, as you say, I probably came across an outlier in the festival people I met and the rest of the van life community are fully appreciative of the wage slaves that make their alternative lives on the road possible. And I’ve probably made you mad all over again now…oh dear:)


I would like to weigh in on this if I may…

Everybody, regardless of their housing choice, relies much more heavily on the working class than many realize. Almost every aspect of our lives is only possible because of others. The “hunter, gatherer” days are mostly over, especially in civilized areas.

I think the bigger questions are:

  • Are you totally supporting yourself and your family?
  • Are you contributing more to society, than you’re taking from it?

If the answer to both questions is yes, then all is well. If not, then why not? If it’s by choice, then shame on you. If you can’t, do to age or disability, then that’s different. Any of us can become old and/or disabled and neither should reflect negatively on us.

In regards to the deadbeats, that’s one of the lures used to get people into #vanlife, and I think it’s despicable. Countless times, I’ve seen people encouraging others to fake disabilities or claim homelessness so they can live off of public assistance, SSI, food stamps, etc. I have known people living well that way, and it is not confined to any particular housing option, and again I think it’s despicable.

A while back, while working in my van at a city park, I was approached by a guy driving a huge, fancy, Euro-Coach. He called me foolish for wasting my life working, and proceeded to tell me that he was drawing welfare and food stamps from 5 different states. (All at the same time.) When I explained that I work for myself, and enjoy my work, his comment was: “Oh well, some fools just never learn.” and he wandered off. I was appalled. He was a follower of Bob Wells.

Perhaps our schools or families are no longer teaching the importance and value of work, and work ethics, or the shame of not fully supporting yourself.


"Happiness only comes before money in the dictionary." ~ Smilin Sam

In my opinion this is all very old thinking, the 9-5, contributing to society, work ethic, the shame of not supporting yourself (maybe old western thought as well). There is no rule that says you need to contribute anything to society. A lot of people don’t want to be a part of society and that is their choice, and right. It is also completely ok if that is their choice. As far as working to support yourself, that is becoming harder and harder these days and I do not blame people for taking advantage of a broken system that has failed so many. UBI is going to happen, pretty much across the globe at some point. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when. Especially with the level of automation happening.

You only get one life that I am presently aware of. If you want to spend it conforming to the idea of growing up, going to college and acquiring debt, working for 30 years, then retiring and hoping you have time to do fun things, then that is great for you. There are 80 year mortgages in California now. 80 years! Due to and based off of this 9-5 contributing bull crap. You would literally never own your house. That situation is not getting better in any spot we have traveled to or from.

Our goal is to buy a piece of land outright and only need to do enough to keep ourselves fed which means doing work that we actually enjoy and find rewarding, while working considerably less. Not worrying about what time we need to get up to go to work to make other people money, while getting paid very little in comparison.

I’m sorry, but the idea of a 9-5 for 30 years, a 30 year or more mortgage, and then buying an RV at 65 to see the things you should have seen at a younger age is simply archaic and completely asinine to me. We should also remember that being nomadic was a way of life for tens of thousands of years and not just the last 100.

Well Bretly, it’s a good job that we all don’t have your attitude to life, otherwise nothing would ever get done. It’s entirely up to you if you consider the 9-5 ‘archaic’, that’s your opinion. You sound to me like a classic cop out candidate - you want to take all the good things that society has provided by the hard work of others, but don’t want to do any of that hard work yourself. You want to spend less time working so that you can presumably do the things you really enjoy, whilst others have to keep at the 9-5 to provide that world for you. You want more free time to, I don’t know, go to the beach or river to swim, spending most of the year on holiday, whilst decades off retirement age? Of course you can, as many other people will have made that carefree life possible by doing the 9-5 that you sneer at and dismiss as being ‘archaic’.
Thanks for proving my point for me Bretly…

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Well I have worked hard to foster the life I live. I work hard for money and for play. I worked hard to be able to buy a piece of land outright. I do however refuse to let my life or lifestyle choices be bound to some conservative idea that everyone should be doing the same thing and “contributing” to society by slaving away for 30 years unhappily.

If that is your bag so be it. At the end of it all I know I’m not going to regret a single bit of it. I highly doubt that I’m going to regret not choosing highway construction as a career choice. I know I will not regret never having a mortgage or paying someone else’s mortgage by paying rent.

The only thing that made my carefree life possible is the hard work and choices I put into it. Not the work of others. The point you are missing is I am not sneering at people in that position. I feel bad for them for never realizing they had a different choice.

You seem to have an ax to grind over all of this for some reason. I see that in this thread and others you have posted on. Maybe you didn’t realize you had a choice either or maybe you see other people living a certain way and wish it was you. Good luck and I hope you figure it out before it’s too late.


Working less so you can enjoy life more is generally bogus baloney, and rarely ends well. It is short sighted, and selfish, and the promoters of such nonsense are looking to profit from the foolishness and greed of others. When something looks or sounds too good to be true, it is usually a scam, whether it is obvious or not.

For the average person, the enjoyment in life is largely related to money, whether we realize it or not. The lack of money severely limits our life choices, and in turn our enjoyment. Obsessing over how money we are making others, or paying in rent or mortgages, is just one more element in the scam. One way or another, unless you’re born into money, you need to trade your time for whatever goods or services you need. The best way to accomplish this is by trading our time for money, the universal currency.

With money, we can put a value on our time, and leverage it to our benefit. This is how society has evolved, to our benefit, and working 40 hours a week is far less than what people used to work. Before modern times, we worked every waking hour of every day just to survive.

We never truly own real estate, we are only renting it in the form of taxes, regardless of how much money we invest. If we improve upon it, our rent goes up. Even our vehicles can be confiscated, so do we ever truly own anything? Perhaps the bigger question is whether any of that even matters.

In the end, we’re still all trading our time for our necessities. No other formula is accurate. If we want more, then we have to contribute more time to get it, or leverage what we already have. The system isn’t broken, but the scam artists want us to believe there are better ways. There aren’t. If you work less, you’ll have less money for enjoying life. Simple arithmetic.

If we remove the scam artists, and learn from the truly knowledgeable, we can plan our lives around our goals. I wanted to travel, so I picked a job that included that goal. I wanted the money to enjoy life, while still having enough to support my family, so I planned my job to accommodate that. I wanted a job that I would enjoy, so I planned that as well. Everything was planned in compliance with the rules, not by trying to shortcut them, and I wound up with as close to a perfect life (by my standards), as anybody could ask for.

Working 40+ hours a week never lost me a single second of enjoyment in my life. In fact I still had so much time left over, that I started volunteering just help fulfill all my empty time. Once again, doing things I enjoy. The scam artists are selling false dreams and false realities. The truth is we all still have an over abundance of time, even after fulfilling our responsibilities.

Working less for money isn’t the answer, because in fact it will cost you more of your time to meet your needs, than if you simply traded your time for money. Everybody is good at some things, not so good at others. Some people can do things in an hour that would take me a day or more to accomplish. So I ask myself, how much is that day worth to me. I can trade an hour or two of my time, trading it for money, to pay someone else (YES, MAKE SOMEBODY ELSE RICH!), to save a day of my labor doing something I’d rather not do anyway. That’s leveraging my time and money to my advantage. If I spent that day working at what I’m good at and enjoy, at the end of day, I will have much money left over to enjoy life with.

We don’t set the rules, but the only true path to success requires us to play by the rules. There are no shortcuts or cheats that actually work, they will only cost you more in the long run. Maybe time, maybe money, or maybe misery, but that’s the price you pay when you don’t play by the rules. I make my life simple, easy, enjoyable, and successful by playing by the rules. The rest of my life has been bought and paid for by me, for many years now. Not Social Insecurity, or charity, but by my own hands, and brain. I still work full time, and volunteer a lot, because otherwise life would be very boring. I fulfilled all my dreams many years ago, and any new dreams are fulfilled almost instantly. Now, entering retirement age, I almost wish I still had all those dreams to look forward to and fulfill. Instead, life is downright boring, so I keep on working. Nothing that money can buy would improve my now boring life. Looking back, saving your dreams until after retirement is probably a wise idea.

Most of us have 20-30 years after retirement, to do whatever we please. No matter how long our bucket list is, when you have nothing better to do, that bucket empties very quickly. Then what? People literally die of boredom every day. Once we lose our sense of worth or purpose, many people also lose their will to live. I’ve been there… But today, I have friends who need me, in person, online, and where I volunteer. They add that worth and purpose back into my life, along with the spring in my step, the smile on my face, and the will to fight for every second of life I can. My bucket list was only a distraction and short lived, being needed was my savior.


"Happiness only comes before money in the dictionary." ~ Smilin Sam


We’re all still slaves, but working hard is still contributing to society. There is also no requirement that we must work a job we don’t enjoy. People get caught in that trap by their own doing, and it has nothing to do with being conservative.

You are confusing the issue with innuendo. For many people, probably most people, paying rent or a mortgage improves their lives.

You’re mixing fact with fiction here. By most people’s definition, a carefree life doesn’t include work. You worked hard for what you got, and rightfully so. We are all dependent on the work of others. Claiming we’re not is a falsehood unless we have never bought anything from anybody. There’s nothing wrong with recognizing just how dependent we are on the work of others these days. Life would be pretty bad without it. The work of others greatly improves everybody’s lives.

Everybody has choices, and the opportunity to succeed or fail in their life choices. “I” have no problem with anybody that supports themselves, and doesn’t infringe upon my rights or the rights of others. I “DO” have a problem with the people I am forced to support through my taxes that don’t deserve it.

Life is large, and our personal lives are only a small piece of a much larger, more complicated puzzle, but without our piece, the puzzle is incomplete. We can’t change the shape of our piece, or it no longer fits. We can’t change the design on the face of our piece, because it will no longer match. When our piece is integrated into the larger puzzle, it opens up a world of options, and suddenly those few restrictions, (The rules of society.) start to make sense, and actually enabled us to take advantage of those unlimited options because our little piece fit and matched.


"Happiness only comes before money in the dictionary." ~ Smilin Sam

Hey everyone,

I’ve been busy helping my parents move into their new home these last few days so I’ve been away, but this discussion was on my mind because it’s a great one! Glad to see it has also resonated with others.

A lot of great comments from both sides, as well as a few in the “middle”, love it!

While I’m too tired at the moment to write up anything overly long, I would like to make one comment.

It seems the belief that the “Nomad Team” needs the “Social Conformists Team” idea has been floated more than once.

“Well without social conformists to build the roads and infrastructure, you wouldn’t be able to live your nomadic life”!

I’d like to reference the entirety of human history to prove this statement 100% wrong. In fact, without the “original” nomads, your social conformity would have been impossible.

The State of California was founded by those brave enough to get into a wagon and travel through the wilderness during the gold rush, as well as pretty much anything else west of the original 13 colonies. 20,000 years ago Nomads crossed the Bering Straight to form what later became the “Native American” culture. Those same Native Americans maintained a nomadic society as well, and so on and on.

I could continue providing nomadic examples throughout history but it doesn’t seem necessary, what with history books and all.

In addition to that, “Well what about all the scientific advancements that society provides”!

Those scientific advancements are based on need, and need came from those travelers. The latest and greatest technology comes from the needs of those in the field, and is tested by the very same. Telescoping ladders, chips in IDs/Credit/Debit cards, anything with the word “Tactical” in it… I saw all of those inventions YEARS before the civilians ever did because I was part of the group that tested and improved those things.

Not the nerd in the lab, me, in the field with the sand. The concept of an idea is often far from the practical implementation of it, often resulting in a very different end product than originally conceived. The original product, made by the nerd in the lab or the person sitting in an office, is a fantasy that only becomes real because of my contribution in the field.

So really, it seems like the “nerd in the lab” needs “me in the field doing work” more than the other way around. Because if I didn’t have a tool, I’d just make do with something else. But when their idea doesn’t gain traction or perform as expected, they don’t have a product.

By “in the field” I mean out in a practical application situation, not the field as in the “industry” itself, just to be clear.

And because I know some smart ass is going to make the comment, “Well have you ever had to be a nomad traveling the wilds without all the benefits of society? Because no one lives like that anymore, that’s not a realistic standard in today’s society”.

Yes actually I have, I spent three years living in a war zone, far out in the middle of the desert away from society, living exactly that life out of an LAV in Helmand Province.

The belief that society needs society is a lie perpetuated by those that use society as a tool to control the masses. Of course the system that keeps you locked in the cage tells you that you need the cage.

While without the “social conformity” side my travels wouldn’t be as “easy”, that far from means they wouldn’t be possible. I’m not a fan of “easy” anyway, “easy” is what I see the “American Dream” lifestyle as. Something you can get comfortable in, shut your mind off, and work 30-40 years while living the exact same life every single day. How many hours of your day does that type of lifestyle force you to waste? Too many, in my opinion.

Easy is the enemy, I’ll take difficult every day of the week, if it means I am living conscientiously instead of autonomously.

Hey look at that, I did manage a long comment. :stuck_out_tongue:

Hope everyone is well. :wave:


Sorry, was thinking more on this and how the conversation has kinda moved away from DB’s original thought, “Enlightenment or Cop Out”.

So to help bring it back around…

Between the “social conformity” lifestyle and the “nomadic lifestyle”…

One of these lifestyles promotes change, growth, and activity at the core of it’s concept. It does not remove the responsibility of life, it simply changes the dynamic of it. After doing my online work for the day I intend to enjoy such activities as fishing, hiking, photography, metal detecting, and more while being treated to the amazing views of National Forests across the Country because those activities will be 30 feet outside of my Shuttle Bus Doors. Hell, I could fish while working because my “home” is at whatever lake/river I decide to park it at.

The other lifestyle promotes stagnation, debt, and consumerism. Remaining in the same location, often for decades, while having a huge overhead of unnecessary revolving debt, as I try to fill that location with things that promise happiness but rarely deliver. Often I am so tired from my “daily social contribution” that even though I could enjoy fishing in this lifestyle, I will instead opt to watch Netflix or Hulu because it is “easier” than having to pack everything up and go somewhere to partake in aforementioned activity.

Environment is an amazing factor in our lifestyles. If you have a negative friend, you tend to be more negative around them. If your environment promotes a pattern, you tend to stick to that pattern. So if my environment promotes comfort, consumerist tendencies, and doing things the “easy way” then that’s what my life becomes.

How often do you opt to microwave something rather than heat it up properly or cook a fresh meal? How often do you turn on the TV instead of partake in a hobby or activity? How often do you sit down, rather than do some form of physical activity?

Yes, there are those that can function independently within the system without being consumed by it, but the national health crisis of obesity would suggest there are far more that can’t.

So while I wouldn’t say that “Nomadic Life” is “enlightenment”, I do believe that freeing ourselves from the cage that is the “conformist lifestyle” is a good first step to finding something more, not because of the freedom to travel, but because of the freedom it offers from comforts that only fester laziness and complacency. The freedom that it offers from unnecessary consumerism, requiring happiness to be found through less and not more. Because change is often something the human race fears, but what most often causes the most growth within ourselves and society.

Again, really great conversation everyone, really helping me work out some of my own beliefs and thoughts! Hope everyone is well.


There is a huge difference between what is possible, and what is practical. Times change, and we need to too, when practical.

A horse drawn, hand built, house on wheels wouldn’t be nearly as convenient as a factory built fuel powered vehicle.

I’m a supporter of old school in many ways, but only when practical.


"Happiness only comes before money in the dictionary." ~ Smilin Sam