A life on the road is filled with its ups and downs. It’s important to welcome discomfort and challenging situations in order to have those picture perfect days. Living in a vehicle is a transformative experience and can really alter your outlook on life helping one gain a deeper understanding of minimalism and the things/people that truly make your life better. The overall experience is different for everyone, but all of us share one thing in common, there are some things we love and others that we hate. In this post, using my personal experience, I am going to breakdown some of the biggest pros and cons about living/travelling long term in a truck cap camper.
Improved Mental Health
After we moved into the truck I felt my stress levels completely diminish. There were 4 clear reasons why I felt so awesome.
Living in the Present
Living in the truck forced me to live in the present. When you’re living in a vehicle everything takes that much more work, and you can’t plan ahead. Traditionally, I was chronically planning ahead and thinking about what the future might bring. When I was forced to be in the present all the time things started feeling clearer.
Active All The Time
I was able to be active all of the time. For instance completing a small task like going to sleep involved finding a reasonable spot to sleep, parking the truck, brushing and urinating discreetly, removing the propane from the back, and locking up. Things just take a lot more work. This is great for me because I’m a person who loves to keep busy, and I feel the best when I’m up and active. Even though I wasn’t sticking to my traditional workout plans, I was going to sleep mentally and physically exhausted every night which felt great.
Being out of my office chair and spending all day with my feet on the ground breathing fresh air felt unbelievable. Spending as much time as possible in the great outdoors rewards humans with so many unexpected health benefits. My mind and body feel better than they ever have before.
A Rewarding Career
Not working a traditional 9-5 and doing work I enjoyed (writing and making videos) helps me to feel more motivated and fulfilled. I love sharing my adventures with people and am truly passionate about helping others to have extraordinary experiences.
Aches and Pains Go Away
This one took me a little bit by surprise. I played university baseball, worked out vigorously and have skied like a wild animal my entire life. Even at the young age of 25 my knees and lower back were always feeling quite whacked. We were doing loads of hiking one month into our trip and my left knee was screaming with pain. I toughed it out and continued to hike even more. All of the sudden, early July rolled around and all of my pain had disappeared. I was working out almost daily before we hit the road and I was expecting to feel weak and out of shape. The opposite happened. Although I wasn’t stronger, I felt more limber, flexible and didn’t have a single ache or pain in my body. This was the first time in my life since early childhood that I can remember waking up without some sort of joint or muscular pain. I attribute all of these improvements mainly to sitting less. Humans aren’t meant to sit all of the time, and living in a vehicle encouraged me to always be moving. I’ve tried yoga, stretching, bodyweight mobility workouts, but, it was simply just walking around all of the time that released years of tension that had built within my body.
Every day is an Adventure
Life is not mundane. From the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed you are going to see new things and have new experiences. Under the shelter of your own home your regular morning rituals will be the same. On the road, everything looks different. Different weather when you leave the vehicle in the morning, a different morning washroom, different cars, different people, different stores, different forests. Everything is different and this makes everything so god dang good.
Meeting New People
I’m not going to lie and tell you that you will make loads of lifelong friends on the road. In reality, the opposite will likely happen. Since you are never staying put, it’s not easy to develop relationships with others, and it will become even harder to stay in touch with you friends from before. However, it is likely that you will meet and have conversations with so many cool people from all walks of life. Since we were cooking all of our meals on the tailgate of the truck, it was almost a guarantee that we would have a fun conversation with a few passerby. As you travel to new places and do new things you will continue to meet more and more people that you would never have had the opportunity to speak with living in your prior bubble.
Saving More Money
Working full or part-time and living in a vehicle can be a challenge. But what isn’t challenging is how much money you will be saving. So much money in fact, that you will be better off than the adult child still living in their parents basement. Since the trucklife is so minimalist, you won’t feel pressured to keep up with the Jones’s or get sucked into buying things you don’t need. You will happily be able to watch you bank statement and investments increase month over month.
You Begin to Really Appreciate The Little Things
We take so much for granted in our daily lives. Not all days can be amazing, but living in a vehicle helped me really appreciate the little wins in life. For instance, when we would find a free potable drinking water source and could fill up our jugs we would be absolutely thrilled. Or, cooking a dinner on a cloudy night and finishing up right before the rain started. Did I mention finally doing laundry and sleeping on clean sheets. Lastly, the ultimate win, finding a free warm shower (Thank you Porpoise Bay Provincial Park, Sunshine Coast, BC) Trucklife really makes you appreciate the weirdest little things.
Living With Less
When living or traveling in a vehicle you don’t have much space. You have to become minimalist and can only bring along what you need. Having less is really eye opening. You begin to think about your consumer habits and all of the unnecessary junk you used to hoard that you thought improved your life. Living with less is simply, much less stressful.
You Need to Be More Aware Than Normal
When living in a vehicle you will not always feel 100% secure. Over time you will get more comfortable with people and sounds around your vehicle while you are sleeping, but, nothing feels quite as safe as being locked into a house. Some of the best sleeps I’ve ever had have been in the truck, but, I’ve had my fair share of horrible sleeps. When sleeping in an urban area of a new town I sometimes struggle to go to sleep because I feel hyper aware of the noises of what’s going on around the truck.
You will be dirty
Before inhabiting my truck, I used to shower at least 2 times a day. I absolutely love to feel clean. During the summer I think Laura and I only had 1 legitimate shower. We showered in lakes and rivers almost daily. However, some days, lakes or rivers won’t be convenient to access and you are going to have tough it out and climb into bed without a shower. I embrace being dirty now and have no problem taking a few days off showering, but it took practice.
Without some sort of complex humidifier or air circulation setup some humidity in you sleeping quarters will exist. If you have a period that lacks sunshine you are going to have to get used to things feeling a little cold and damp. My one hack to reduce the humidity in your sleeping area, especially the cap of a truck, is to buy a big pack of Silica (Moisture Grabbers) from Canadian Tire. I always had one of these in the back of the truck and it kept things fresh!
I always love working out, fishing, hiking and playing in the rain. Living in a vehicle made rain take on a new meaning. You can’t spend an entire day in a vehicle, hell, other than sleep, I don’t really understand how people hunker down in such a small space all day. If it was raining we were still outside or hanging out in a rec-centre or Tim Hortons. The rain makes everything more complicated. Since things never seem to dry quickly in a vehicle
Not Always Knowing Where you Are Going To Sleep
Finding new spots to sleep is part of the adventure and is so amazing when you find that perfect backcountry camping spot. But, when you’ve been driving for hours, or had a busy day and have to drive around a new city in the dark finding the perfect spot to park it can be pretty stressful.
Things will be dirty
I’ve always liked keeping my apartment clean and tidy. In a vehicle it is essential that you keep things organized, but, no matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, everything will always be a bit dirty. When driving on dirt roads (which we did almost every day in the summer) things get very dusty. I obsessed for a while sealing every inch of the truck cap and even duct-taping the outside before adventuring on these roads. No matter what I did, I couldn’t keep dust and dirt out of the truck. Things will always be a bit dirty, especially if you are camping in the backcountry a lot of the time, so you just have to get used to it.
This wasn’t something that I personally experienced, but, some of the van dwellers I met expressed to me this unexpected problem. They loved travelling and the style of life that they were living but were getting ready to stay in one place so they could once again have a community. Feeling part of a community and having people around that care about you is very important for our health. I was fortunate to be travelling with Laura and know that if I was travelling by myself I would definitely have felt isolated from time to time. It’s hard to maintain relationships when you are living on the road. Changes in timezones, geographic locations and lack of access to solid wifi or cellular connection can make communicating with friends and family even tougher. You have to make concerted effort to stay in touch with others on the road or else you may end up losing friends.
You are going to become great friends with insects. In bug season we would keep a mosquito net on the back of the truck cap when we were cooking and the sleeping area was exposed. Sometimes, in really buggy areas, they would still manage to sneak in. I spent many nights on killing sprees swinging around a magazine in hopes to exterminate the insects buzzing and biting my face. Insects are also super irritating when you are cooking, hiking, or doing just about anything. You get used to them over time, but by no means do you ever like them.
Is Trucklife/Vanlife Worth It?
The positives completely outweigh the negatives and I couldn’t stress enough how amazing the experience of living on the road can be. The most important thing for anyone planning or starting out living in a vehicle is to set your expectations appropriately. Your life on the road is not going to be the same as those unicorn influencers who make espresso and eat caviar in their van. You have to remember that what you see in the media is not the reality of vehicle dwelling. Be ready for your fair share of challenges and make sure you make the most of every single day.
It is going to be an amazing adventure, so buckle up, and enjoy the ride!