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Woman Living in a Van for 3 Years to Save Money and Travel the World

L.J. has been living in a vintage 1977 GMC Vandura camper van conversion in Vancouver, BC for 3 years while working a 9-5 job in HR.


Image © Exploring Alternatives

She bought the van for just $500 and enjoys the van life because it allows her to save money and live on a budget, but mostly she loves the freedom of parking wherever she wants, and of being able to travel on weekends.

Image © Exploring Alternatives


She’s recently quit her job and is planning to travel overseas for a year in the Philippines and Indonesia.

We love how simple L.J.’s van is — no power, no heat, just the basics: a bed, a swivel seat, a cooler, and some books. She makes the lifestyle look easy although she does splurge during a couple of the coldest winter months by subletting an apartment.

Image © Exploring Alternatives

VIDEO: Woman Living in a Van for 3 Years to Save Money & Travel the World

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Danielle Chabassol
Danielle is a digital nomad who is passionate about tiny spaces, living with less, reducing waste and eating plant-based food. Danielle is half of the Exploring Alternatives blog & video project. You can find more of her at www.ExploringAlternatives.ca and her Exploring Alternatives YouTube Channel.




{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Janie F August 16, 2017, 2:32 pm

    That lifestyle is just so beyond me – to want to live like that every day for years on end. I can’t imagine not being able to cook, wash and go to the bathroom in my own “home”. No heat. No power. Wow. I guess, if she can live like that and it makes her happy then that’s all that counts. Kudos.

    • James D. August 16, 2017, 8:57 pm

      For many, the van is just a means to an end that allows them to live the lifestyle they want to have… Since they spend most of their time living that lifestyle rather than being in the van then that’s what matters to them.

      Aside from driving, eating and sleeping… Most will spend pretty much all their time away from the van experiencing life, seeing new things, hiking, climbing, biking, gliding, fishing, sports, exploring, etc…. It’s pretty much just a mobile home base that facilitates the lifestyle…

      While it’s also done because it’s a very affordable way to live and they can have as much or as little creature comforts as they can afford or want in it…

      So these range from vans that are basically used to store some camping gear and they actually live outside the van to vans that have been converted into full on RV’s with every glamping convenience imaginable and look professionally done…

      Though, some also do it for stealth and keep the exterior looking plain to not let on that it has been converted to live in, for those who want privacy and to be able to park where RV’s may not normally be allowed as some places do not allow people to live in their vehicles…

      Variations abound as well, like some may even integrate a little garage so they can store a motorbike inside but still live in it so they can go places and do motor sports, etc.

      So the mindset is basically not wanting to be spending all their time inside a house… So it’s all about the lifestyle they want to lead and anything else is just either a means to achieve that end or a bonus/extra… with the bonus of being able to do it their own way regardless of means or the specific lifestyle they want to lead…

      It’s not to say they will never switch to a traditional home, though for some they may never want any other life, but it’s just something they’ll consider for later, in the meantime they just enjoy the freedom to be able to go anywhere and do anything they want to live their lives to the fullest…

  • Jasmine August 16, 2017, 5:35 pm

    Cool! Any hints on good places to park in the Vancouver area?

  • Jan August 16, 2017, 5:56 pm

    in response to Janie F… this gal chose a very low cost unit without the necessities others may require. There are many units out there replete with all the items and more that you mentioned. YouTube has some good examples as well as many RV type sites on Google. I’m over 70 and saving my money to run away from home in a Class B – just need to find da kine unit !

    • Pat W August 18, 2017, 9:06 pm

      I am 73 young and have been given a nice 2000 dodge van and an excitied to fix it into a camper and off my dogs and I go. have found a plan I will copy The van only has2 5,000 miles on it and is veery clean inside. just some insulation and the right bed,compost potty. yea ! for the adventurous young lady. life is too short to get hung up on things when their is a world out there to explore

  • Cathy August 16, 2017, 6:32 pm

    I think this van is a hangout but not a real residence. There is no place to cook , store food, toilet, shower etc. I often wonder about the truth behind some of the stories.

    • Alex August 17, 2017, 11:35 am

      Lots of people who do this kind of thing do not spend much time in their van. They spend majority of the time out and using facilities outside of the van too. It’s to sleep/rest and drive to next destination. Am I right? 😀

      • Eva August 19, 2017, 4:28 pm

        I live in a house and I have never used my oven. I rarely eat at home. If you think about what actual portions of your house you really use (I never use my dining room for instance) then van or rv life becomes more understandable. In my case a place to sleep and a bathroom with a shower + heat and air conditioning and I would be happy. A lot of van and rv dwellers say they live outside their vans and not inside them – with an ever changing magnifiscent view outside their window.

        • Kurt September 4, 2017, 1:56 pm

          Great comeback, Eva.

        • Kurt September 4, 2017, 1:58 pm

          Forgot to mention…my wife and I also have rooms in our home that rarely get used; dining room and living room.

  • Jeannie Nuzum August 16, 2017, 7:03 pm

    To each his own 🤛! But where do you shower, go to bathroom? Oh could not handle that way of living .. Best to you, however !!

    • Kurt September 4, 2017, 1:56 pm

      Plenty of videos on YouTube on how to shower or relieve yourself. Also checkout the forums on: http://www.cheaprvliving.com. The site belongs to Bob Wells, considered the godfather of this lifestyle.

  • Carol Perry August 16, 2017, 9:51 pm

    Very cute & cozy! Love Her color scheme!🌻

  • Marlene August 17, 2017, 3:43 am

    I think she is amazing! This is exactly what I plan to do and heading in that direction already! Amazing to be so creative and resourceful I think! Way to go! 👍🏼

  • divvy August 17, 2017, 4:12 am

    Yeah but she’s Canadian…
    I did it 11 years in a VW but now I gotta bigger van….
    Travelled everywhere from Frisco to Paris…..nothin’ better

  • Kurt September 4, 2017, 1:54 pm

    I saw the video about this woman on the Exploring Alternatives YouTube channel. Reading this article makes me want to go and view the video again to see how she lived without heat/electric.

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