Van Life in the Modern Era

by Ashly Winchester / Aug 15, 2022
Van Life in the Modern Era

Pulling into the remote trailhead, you park the van and step out into the cool mountain air. The stars shine and sparkle like jewels overhead, the milky way a splash of light spilled across the sky. You open all the doors to let the cool air in before crawling into your comfortable bed and curling up under the warm blankets. In the morning, you awake to a cacophony of birds singing. Throwing open the doors, you are greeted by the sunrise and majestic mountains.


This is Van Life, and if you have a sense of adventure, a nomadic heart, or a desire to travel, this lifestyle may be for you.

Read on to discover what van life is, how it can work for you, and how you can enter to win a fully decked out Taxa Trailer worth nearly $45,000! And don’t worry, there are some other prizes you can score if you don’t win the adventure-ready Cricket Trailer.

Ways to #Vanlife

You’ve probably heard of it, or at least seen the hashtag pop up on social media. If you search #vanlife onInstagram, you will find more than 13.3 million posts under the popular hashtag. The photos range from beat up old Chevy vans hand-built into campers on a short budget, to no-holds-barred brand new Mercedes Benz vans outfitted with the latest and greatest gadgets. You’ll find posts from overlanders and tiny-home-livers. You’ll also find a plethora of hippie-clad picturesque van homes complete with potted plants parked in the most beautiful places in the world. And while waking up in beautiful places can absolutely be a part of vanlife, that’s not all that it is.

Van life is a lifestyle. It’s a casting away of social norms and societal pressures to live a life unbridled by yard care, rent, or mortgage payments. For some, it’s a complete abandonment of the 9-5 grind, while for others, it’s a lifestyle best suited for the weekends.

To put it simply, van life is exactly what it sounds like – living life in a van. Since the inception of the van life hashtag in 2011 though, “van life” has come to encompass most alternative living situations that center around travel and exploration. You can make van life whatever you want it to be. Not excited about driving and living in a van? Try hauling a camper. Not into trailers? Outfit your truck with a camper shell. You can be a weekend warrior or go all-in and try the lifestyle full-time. If appropriate, you can bring your family or pets along for the ride.

Athletic Brewing Ambassador, Keith Sardone, made the decision to live in a camper instead of a van for a multitude of reasons. “I didn't have time to do a bunch of building in a van to have a place to live,” he says. “Space was another thing for me. At the time I was mostly a rock climber, so I didn't need a ton of space for gear, but I am a software engineer so I needed a workspace large enough for multiple monitors.” Sardone also travels and lives with his two dogs, Donnie, who is 90 pounds, and Louie, who weighs in at 50 pounds. “[They] have a TON of energy and love to wrestle while I'm working,” says Sardone. “I ended up with a travel trailer I use as ‘Base Camp’ and a pickup with a camper top that I use for multi-day trips where my camper absolutely won't go.”

Want a camper of your own? Check out our Grand Adventure Giveaway!

Home Is Where You Park It

There is a special kind of freedom when you cast away the ropes and set sail into a new adventure. Especially when that new adventure involves a home on wheels. 

The pandemic made it possible for more people than ever to work remotely. Since they don’t have to be tied down to a specific place, some people are taking advantage of this and renting out or selling their homes in order to live a more adventurous life on the road.

That’s exactly what Caleb Simpson and his wife did. In 2015, they had a crazy idea to sell everything and hit the road in an RV, so they did. At the time they had a small child in tow, but with both of them being able to work remotely, they decided it was worth a shot. Fast-forward four years and they became a family of five thriving in the RV life.

That’s not to say you have to sell everything, uproot your life and family, and hit the road to live a more adventurous life. You can certainly give van life a try without making any major life changes. Many van lifers start out as what is affectionately known as weekend warriors – spending their days off and weekends traveling and living in their vehicles. This is a great way to experiment with the lifestyle and decide whether or not it’s for you. You can also try renting a camper van to experiment with the lifestyle.

Athletic Ambassador, Carrie Hoffman, experimented with van life after an extended period of time in Asia. She and her partner didn’t have a lot of material possessions and didn’t have a set plan moving forward. “The van was perfect,” says Hoffman. “A few months after getting the van we bought a piece of land in Northern Arizona and started building an off-grid yoga and nature retreat center called Bigger Life Adventures. We've lived in the van on that land full time or part time since then.” 

For the first couple of years, the two would get an apartment for the winter months, but are now living in the van full-time while they build a tiny home on their property. “We've always traveled in the van as well and we love being able to take our home with us!” says Hoffman. “As entrepreneurs with a lot of freedom to travel, van life is amazing… It’s definitely enabled us to explore lots more destinations all over the west!”

The decision to give van life a try is a personal one for most people. Sometimes it’s to save money, sometimes it’s for the sake of adventure, and sometimes there is no tangible reason – it just makes sense.

Some professional athletes do it for the convenience of having a comfortable home at races. Pro cyclist and Athletic Brewing Ambassador, Pete Stetina uses his van to camp out at or near race starts. It’s a comfortable place for him to sleep and have all his gear, as well as a kitchen and a cold Athletic Lite, at his fingertips. He doesn’t have to pay for a hotel or compromise comfort. Some rock climbers do it to follow the seasons and haul their gear around. Hikers, backpackers and trail runners do it so they can have easier access to trailheads.

There’s certainly something to be said about having everything you need to thrive within reach both before and after your adventures. And there’s something doubly powerful about waking up to a backyard of mountains or ocean waves crashing against a sandy shore.

For Sardone, it was a combination of the love of the outdoors as well as a financial need. “I love being outside,” he says, “I didn't get to travel much as a kid. I've become a huge fan of living tiny, and I read a lot of financial books. So renting my house and living on the road made a lot of sense to me. I didn't need the three bedrooms and I wasn't having much luck finding a partner in the area I was living, furthering me down the camper life path.”

The Perks of Living on the Road

Van life has a lot of perks. Most obviously, those perks encompass freedom and adventure. Not being tied down to a household or apartment and the daily tasks that come along with maintaining it is extremely freeing for most people. Having your own, comfortable bed and all of your necessary possessions everywhere you go opens up a lot of opportunities.

According to Sardone, there is a beauty in the minimalism necessary to make the lifestyle work. “I really like the simplicity,” he says. “I like that I am forced outside more frequently to live out adventures than I would be if I have a whole house and yard to maintain. The tiny space keeps me honest about things I need vs want and keeps me from collecting unnecessary things.”

The love of the outdoors and exploration is common amongst those who choose to live life on the road. It’s more difficult to “veg-out” all day when you’re in a smaller space. Especially when that smaller space is parked in a beautiful place. Van dwellers tend to spend more time in nature.

Caleb Simpson, who lives in an RV with his wife and three children, also loves how the RV life forces them to be outdoors. “Part of our family mission statement is to enjoy experiences over possessions,” says Simpson. “We put most of our focus on going outside, being outdoors, doing trail races, going camping and doing all these things that put us outdoors into nature. The RV helps with that. We’re pretty much always outdoors. The RV is so small that you end up just naturally going outside a lot… the small space itself is fine. We’re used to it.”

It’s also a fantastic and less expensive way to check off bucket list items. Want to visit all the National Parks? You don’t have to pay for hotels or expensive flights. Have family and friends around the country? Visit them during an epic road trip. If you’re not tied down to a set schedule or wi-fi, you can spend days (or weeks!) totally off the grid. There’s a general sense that your time is your own, which allows you to focus on things you’re passionate about, whether that’s writing music or rock climbing or hiking.

How to Start Van (or RV) Living

Interested in the lifestyle but not sure whether or not to commit? Or even where to start? First, check out our Grand Adventure Giveaway for a chance to win a fully decked out Taxa Trailer. Second, according to most van lifers, you just have to make the decision, make a plan, and go for it.

You can go the weekend warrior route and experiment with the lifestyle, or, according to Simpson, you just have to make the decision and go. “The thing I like to tell other people is that you just gotta do it,” he says. “It’s human nature to have limiting beliefs because of the way we’ve been raised, the way we’ve been taught and the way society teaches us to go after the ‘American Dream’ – get a job, get a home – this is the way it is, and that’s what you have to accept. And it’s just totally not true…. If there’s something you want out there, figure out how to make it happen and just go do it. Chances are it can happen. In this lifestyle, it’s not like it’s a big expensive lifestyle. I’m a firm believer that if you want to live this type of lifestyle, anybody can do it. You just gotta make the plan and make it happen.”

Sardone agrees and recommends that you really figure out what you want to do and ask yourself ‘why do I want to live this lifestyle? “Do some planning and sort out what makes sense. You can always rent a van or a camper for a month or so before you commit. [And]  make sure you can handle the small space, especially if you're with a partner in this adventure.”

Like Sardone, the goal is to figure out what it is you need in order to thrive in a small space, and make your decisions based on those necessities. That being said, van life is an alternative lifestyle, not a lifelong vacation. Many van lifers still have to work in order to make ends meet, and there are always challenges that come along with any lifestyle. You have to strategize your water, food, and fuel, and you have to consider weather a little more closely than you would living in a traditional fixed dwelling.

But those challenges can be viewed as perks as well. Learning to overcome these obstacles can help you become more self-sufficient, add to your problem-solving skills, and help you become more resilient and flexible.

Our Grand Adventure Giveaway!

Interested in a more adventurous lifestyle? Camper life might just be for you!

Win big. Adventure big. Score a customized Taxa Trailer outfitted in style and spirit by Athletic Brewing Company, plus other road-trip essentials. Roam free on the open road with family and friends. With a value of nearly $45,000 and all the ingredients for an epic adventure, you can get out there, play hard, relax harder, and drink in every last drop of sunshine that nature has to offer. 

The Great Outdoors are calling, answer by entering to win!