Vanlife or Gradlife?


Hi everyone!
I just graduated from college this May and have become more and more interested in the van-lifestyle. I recently just explored around in Utah and Colorado and was left wanting more of the outdoors and adventure. It’s become my dream to travel out west (I’m from PA) and hit the road in my very own van.
However, I have already sprouted plans to attend graduate school in this August for a master’s degree in psychology. As I get closer to this reality, I just gain more of a gut feeling about putting off school and heading out to travel instead. There’s that part of me that tells me that I’ll have my entire life to get a master’s and find my career. But this chance to travel will only come now.
I guess I am just looking for a piece of advice from expert and experienced vanlifers on this situation. I am only 22 years old and have my entire life to travel. But I can’t rid myself of that lingering gut feeling that I should withdraw my acceptance and hit the road. Graduate school will always be there, right?

What do you think?
Sorry if I am clogging up the forum with my life story, but I feel lost and would appreciate advice from those living the dream I admire.

Thank you,

Hello, Belgium Newbie here

If you have a gut feeling to travel, TRAVEL! I’m almost 21, but I’ve been traveling since I was 18. I decided college wasn’t for me (not yet at least) and that traveling was what I wanted to do for the time being. And I’ve never regretted it. I’d like to go to school one day, but I know it’s something that can wait. I feel so fortunate every day that I chose travel over school. But that’s just me.
On the flip side, my brother went to graduate school first, and he just graduated, and now he’s planning his travels, and he has a lot more opportunities for making money on the road since he has that higher schooling.
But I believe that whatever you do, it will be what’s best for you. Good luck!


@ttipsygypsy on Instagram is living the van life and also finishing her degree. I just privately contacted her and asked her to hop on here and share her expirenece and some feedback with you.

Hopefully she can find some time to do that. I will keep you updated on her reply. Or maybe she will just hop on here herself :blush:


This is exactly the reason we made this forum. So feel free to start as many topics and post as many replies as you want!! :blush::heart:


Hi love!!
The first thing that stuck out to me was you said you had a GUT FEELING. Girl! If that’s not telling you where your heart is, then what is!?
School will always be there. So will travel. But what do YOU want to do? Sitting in class wishing you were on the west coast in your van? Or… in your van saying “Damn this feels great and I have no test to study for!” I’m biased but that’s only because, I finished my bachelors while on the road! And will be waiting to finish my masters… if at all. I will always be an advocate for travel, and for me- that is a priority.
I don’t necessarily think it has to be an “or” thing. It is absolutely possible to be a Vanlife AND grad life :slight_smile: !! I did mostly online and made my plans around the classes I HAD to be there for. You could do the same while on the road, and if you have to do in person maybe see if you can work your curriculum around it and knock out all the online classes first (so you can travel simantanseously… WiFi is everywhere!!)
All in all- do what feeds your soul. What makes you feel alive. If that is school, then finish that degree. But don’t put off something just because you’re afraid. The worst thing ya can do is to not do something because you’re afraid of the unknown. Take a leap and see where the wind (van :wink: ) takes you!
If you have any questions feel free to contact me on here or through Instagram!
Good luck & welcome to vanlife!!! :slight_smile:


Damn, that was motivational!

Thank you so much :slight_smile:


Thank you everyone for the advice!
I feel as though I have reached a time in my life where I have lost my “purpose” in the lives and relationships of others. I definitely need a serious trip of soul-searching and insightful journeys. I want to find the things that make me tick and that I enjoy. And before I head into a tough two years of graduate school, I believe that I need to find myself and my purpose.

I am not sure of the next few steps from here, but that unknowingness reminds me of the stories I’ve read about vanlife. Things aren’t always going to go as planned, but as long as you have hope that they will work out, things always do.

Thank you again everyone.


Take it from an old hand … YES you do have the rest of your life to study! You are only young once so take your back pack and van and explore life. After 2 years of graduate school you will be a different person and the “gut feeling” will more than likely be drilled out of you by the man lol. You may decide after some real life experience that you change your mind completely about what direction you really want to take. Personally I was on the road till my late 20’s and finally achieved a Masters in my mid 40’s and wouldn’t change a thing. The life lessons of the road and the self reliance you develop will hold you in great stead for the future. Besides if you find being on the road is not for you, you can always go back to Uni which is not always that easy in reverse if you also have a student loan and other accumulated “stuff” :smile:

Remember the meaning of LIFE is Live It For Experience! Happy travels.


I clicked on your forum post because I have been immersed in vanlife and gradlife for the past year. I’m getting my MS from Green Mountain College in Vermont, which offer high-quality online sustainability programs. Maybe online education, especially for psychology, isn’t something that you’re interested in, but it has allowed me to travel and get my master’s at the same time. That being said, it has put a lot of pressure on my partner to find places for us to camp with service and cook meals while I am frantically trying to finish papers. It would have been hard without him, and I must say I can’t wait until I can once again fully immerse myself in vanlife and the wonderful places without worrying about lingering assignments. It has, however, allowed me to live cheaply enough that I haven’t needed to get a job to support myself through my studies.

But ultimately I agree with @powertrain and many of the other lovely participants in this discussion. TRAVEL NOW! I spent almost 6 years traveling before I went back to get my degree and I was not only constantly amazed by natural beauty and met amazing friends, but I learned so much! It was during my years traveling and exploring when I developed a deeper perspective and a thirst for learning that has helped me to focus my path and excel in grad school.

Good luck! It might seem scary at first, but it’s definitely worth it!


I was going to propose that. Vandwelling will make grad school a lot easier to afford. It will also allow you to sleep when/where you can, which is important if you are working at the same time.

OP may be interested in Walden On Wheels, a book about vandwelling in grad school.



I just read this thread for the first time for the first time, and feel I should add my 2¢ worth.

You’ve got it backwards, the road will always be there, but the longer you drop out of schooling, the harder it is to get back in and catch up.

Online school MIGHT be a workable compromise, but what about MONEY?!?!?!

Van dwelling isn’'t free. Traveling isn’t free. Nothing in life is free! If you want to really enjoy your travels, that takes money. For most of us that means a job. I worked and went to night school, and both suffered because of the other, but I had no choice, I had to pay my own way for both school and life. Van/RV life helped with that, by keeping my expenses to a minimum, but I wasn’t traveling. I didn’t hit the road until I was done with schooling.

I had friends who chose the opposite route, and most of them crashed and burned and have spent the rest of their lives working minimum wage jobs. Get your life and your income in order FIRST, the road will always be there, and it’s a whole lot better with money.

If travel is high on your priority list, then I suggest an income stream or job that fits well with travel. Working online fits in well with traveling, and so does a myriad of other professions. I worked construction, and traveled to where the best jobs were. There are lots of portable jobs that can work anywhere.

Van/RV life isn’t all wine & roses. The glamorous stuff you see online is mostly BS. BS dreamed up by people trying to make a buck. NOT REALITY!!! Following the promoters is a recipe for disaster. They’re only interested in your money, not your well being. While they might appear to be supporting the lifestyle, what they’re really promoting is products, most of which are expensive and stupid choices. The good choices don’t pay as much as the bad choices.



"I can live like a king because I work like a dog." ~ An anonymous vandweller