Unique Ways to Financial Independence #VanLife

Michael QuanBeliefs, Career, Contributed, Education, FI / FIRE, Saving Money, Travel20 Comments

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The path to financial freedom, financial independence, and early retirement come in many variations and flavors.  It’s a personal journey that is unique to an individual.

The exciting part is that technology is continuing to create new ways for us to pursue these dreams in ways that didn’t exist until relatively recently.

Telecommuting is Here to Stay

Daily routines, long commutes, stuffy offices — the demands of the average nine to five can be stressful. With the rise of technology, this stress has led many workers to start working remotely.

Telecommuting has elevated the pressure of the office job, but some digital nomads are taking this freedom to the next level.

Telecommuting on the Road

Some remote workers are building their careers while living in a van.

With #VanLife sprawling across social media, this adventurous form of telecommuting has taken over the digital landscape. Whether you find it ingenious or romanticized, it’s hard not to be infatuated with the bohemian young professionals writing emails before a morning rock climb.

And it’s not just hip young people living the #VanLife. The New York Times recently profiled the Harteau family, who have spent the last few years traveling the world in their camper, wandering all over Central and South America with toddlers in tow.

A recent survey found that whether staying in a tent, RV, cabin, bivy, or yurt, the average camper spends 14.9 days camping. But these travelers make the outdoors their permanent homes. Treehugger talked to Sara and Alex James of 40 Hours Of Freedom about their experience taking their digital marketing business on the road.

Vanlife presented the perfect opportunity to take our home with us everywhere we wanted to go,” Alex told Treehugger. “The professional landscape has changed thanks to the Internet, so we have taken that motivation to create an online business that allows us to travel and work from anywhere.

Profiting on the Move

Many van residents even turn their lifestyle into profit via social media. About 70% of the U.S. population have a social media profile, with more than half using more than one platform. These markers capitalize on social networking by growing their follower base through adventure photography and making money off of sponsored content.

So, how do van lifers get started? According to Treehugger, Sara and Alex bought their van for $25,000 with 50,000 miles on it. The average car on the road is 10.8 years old, and van residents generally have no problem buying an older van to refurbish into a home. In Alex and Sara’s case, their 2008 Dodge Sprinter is completely solar-powered and has a built-in shower.

Pros and Cons of #VanLife

Living on the road with limited amenities may sound glamorous, it does come with challenges. Elise Tayor and Josh Kilner said in a statement to The Daily Mail that life is certainly not as comfortable as it is while living in a traditional home.

Van life is raw, it’s dirty, cramped, you can go for weeks without seeing a hot shower, and we don’t have AC,” Taylor said. “The toilet is non-existent along with running water, we can’t stand up in the van, and it may take a day to do the simplest task like washing our clothes.

Sara and Alex echoed the statement but said that the challenges are worth the perks.

Being able to adapt and be flexible is crucial,” they said. “Living in a small space can present its own challenges as well. However, I think it has brought us closer together as a couple. Even if we get into a fight we move past it quickly, there’s no time or space for sulking in a van.

Upgrade to an RV

Unique Ways to Financial Independence

Of course, you could take this style of living to the next level with an RV.  In fact, two fellow PF bloggers are doing just that.

Steve over at ThinkSaveRetire.com is a recently retired guy who travels freely around our great U.S.A. with his wife in their Airstream.  He’s still able to blog regularly and contribute a lot to the PF community while consistently on the road.

Likewise, Michelle, at MakingSenseofCents.com, travels full-time in her RV while running a multi-million dollar business!  I don’t know about you, but I’m impressed.

Final Thoughts

I don’t think #VanLife is for me, but I certainly respect the sacrifice and freedom that comes with this lifestyle.  Expenses can truly be managed to a minimum which can be quite extraordinary.

When considering FIRE (Financial Independence, Retirement Early), make sure you choose a strategy that works for you as an individual.  For me, this was operating a business and getting involved in real estate investing.

Once you choose that strategy, execute and remain consistent.  You may just find this is the edge you need to have your money work harder for you.

Readers, are you pursuing FIRE or already achieved it in some capacity?  What’s the strategy that matches you the best?  Is telecommuting involved?

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20 Comments on “Unique Ways to Financial Independence #VanLife”

  1. While not retired were currently looking at working remotely all of next summer from a cabin somewhere. We won’t exactly have your van life issues but it should present it’s own unique situations.

    1. I think it’s great to get away from your normal environment for a while. I could do a cabin for a month, but probably not for much longer.

  2. I have been ready to live in an RV for some time. 2 problems- 1) I am a doctor and can not really work remotely…though lately there may be more options with telemedicine and 2) my wife wants our son to have stability…i.e. a home.

    So in 16 years I can consider the van life, for now I will stick it with my day to day work schedule.

    1. Yeah, that makes sense, given your situation. I believe telemedicine will really begin to take off once augmented and virtual reality tech gets better. I do agree that children could benefit from a stable dwelling.

    1. I think I’d consider living in an RV for a season to travel around everywhere during a summer, but beyond that, it would be a bit much.

  3. I would love many aspects of this lifestyle but, depending on execution, it could get quite lonely very quickly. I think it depends heavily on what type of personality you have, and whether or not you have a partner to do it with. Great stories though!

    1. Yes, a partner would certainly make it easier I’d think. I do know some people who would be totally fine being alone for long periods of time tho, so I wonder if that would translate into an enjoyable VanLife experience.

  4. I love the idea of RV/van life, to be honest! I think it’s a very different way of living; it focuses on streamlining the material things we own and process everything from an experience level instead. I’m not sure Mr. Picky Pincher would ever be on board for hitting the road, but I think there’s something very poetic about the nomad lifestyle, especially when you can make a living on the road nowadays.

  5. When I fully retire I want to be a snowbird. We are avid Rvers and being south all winter really appeals to me. In saying that I wouldn’t want to sell my house and do it full time, Victoria, British Columbia is pretty hard to beat in the summer.

    1. I’m right there with you, Steve! Even though I live in Socal, I love changing things up for small blocks of time. There are so many beautiful places to experience and I intend on doing just that once the kids are out of our home. 🙂

  6. My Instagram feed is mostly van dwellers. I love seeing the lifestyle and am curious about the ins and outs but I don’t know if I would ever pull the trigger. The logistics seem a bit much for me at this point. If I was FI that would be a whole other ball game but I do thin it would be best with a partner. I love watching Steve and Courtney on all their travels!!

  7. Fascinating stuff Michael! There are many ways to crack an egg, and FIRE is no different!

    For me, I’d much rather own a house that sits in one place but I can definitely see the appeal of your backyard changing every day.

  8. Hey Michael,

    I haven’t considered the #vanlife, but I suppose if it gets bad enough for me to want to minimize my expenses to a degree, than it could be an option. In retirement I see my surroundings changing, but probably not to the same degree as RV’ing.

    1. Yeah, van life is great food for thought. Imagining that type of life reminds me of how many “things” clutter our house. Perhaps I’ll downsize once the kids leave the house, but we probably won’t go fully mobile.

    1. Ahh, yes the bathrooms would be an issue for me too. I suppose if I had to, I’d get access to a lounge or somewhere a little more private.

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