Vanlife Pt.1: What’s it like?

What’s it really like to live in a van? It’s been a couple of months since we’ve joined the van revolution, and to our surprise it appears to be the preferred option for most travellers who come to adventure around New Zealand. For us, vanlife allows both the freedom to explore the open road, while adapting to a simpler clutter-free lifestyle. Here’s the insider of our #Vanlife.

The Van:
1989 Fordeconovan Maxi. This 3 door/ 3 front seat/ manual/  pop-top measuring 5.5 meters in length is what we currently call our tiny home on wheels.


The Inside:
The 50 square ft. living space is furnished with a kitchen that consists of a mini fridge, double gas burner stove-top (broiler included), sink, and L-shaped couch that we fold-out every night into our bed.


The Storage:
The cabinets furnished inside provide us with enough cupboard space for kitchen appliances, dry-food storage, our clothing and personal goods. In addition, we’ve mounted a bike rack on the back for our mountain bikes and a steel box to the front bumper to store our bike gear.

The Budget Breakdown:
For the first few months, we’ve been keeping track of our budget. By keeping a record of and managing our expenses while on the road (something I highly recommend doing when travelling with another person), put the actual $$$ values of what we’re spending on things into perspective, which helps prevent the inevitable fear of “running out of money”. Minus the purchase of our van itself, here’s an initial breakdown of how we organize our budget and things to consider if the Vanlife is something you’re after.

The first 3 categories make-up 75% of our budget and are broken into:

1. Food/ Drink No matter where you travel groceries are expensive! We’ve found it’s the cheapest and healthiest option to cook the majority of our own meals. We typically shop at local farmer markets that sell produce for > 50% cheaper compared to a grocery store. Our diet is mainly vegetarian, with a few poultry dishes generally cooked-up the day we go to the grocery store.

2. Fuel/ Travel – Unfortunately, the price of petrol in New Zealand is expensive and almost doubles the cents/ liter compared to Canada. We tend to save anywhere from 6-10 cents/ liter shopping at supermarkets or using our AA membership card.  In addition, having an older carburetorated vehicle weighed down by all of our stuff doesn’t help with our fuel mileage currently clocking at ~14L/ 100km. However, having a membership like AA gives us a safety net to roadside assistance 24/7 as well as fuel discounts all over the country.

3. Vehicle – We’ve done some upgrades to our van like extra storage, in addition to plumbing we fitted to accommodate 20L fresh and 10L grey water tanks, deep-cycle house battery, and an inverter connected to the house battery in order to power and charge-up our fridge and electronics. We’ve had a couple of hiccups mechanically, but that’s the nature of the beast when you buy a vehicle used and abused by travellers for 25+ years.

The last 3 categories make-up the remainder 25% of our budget and are broken into:

4. Accommodations/ Living – The upside for us at the moment is we have NO RENT! Arriving late summer and now pushing into fall, the warm weather’s made it easy for us not  depending on the need for extra power to heat our van and giving us the freedom to camp wherever we want. This does have a time factor attributed to it, as it does take some time to find a safe and ticket free spot to park.

5. Sports/ Tourist Stuff – For the majority of our time right now we’ve been mountain biking and bathing in natural hot springs, both of which are free local activities for us. We tend to avoid checking out most tourist attractions, so the spending in this category is minimal. We prefer to travel the country as we see it, unless we’ve spent the time doing some background research and deal hunting on BookMe or Grabone.

6. Personal – Living in a van keeps the clutter down and want of purchasing stuff to a minimal, mainly due to the tight space given. However, the need of purchasing personal goods is unpredictable and having emergency funds aside for things like this is a good idea! Bottom line for us is if we need something personal it’s for a reason, not just because it’s on sale.

In conclusion, vanlife may not be for everyone, but its opened our eyes and gave us the opportunity to dedicate some real time to travel, biking, writing, reading and getting away from the harsh realities of life we will once again face back home like rent or even a mortgage and a full-time job. It’s practical long-term travelling on a budget, and even through the rough times it is awesome and we highly recommend!

Posted by Marisa

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