Is it healthy to live in a van?

Sometimes when  people see me in and around my van, they ask “Is it healthy to live in a van?” So, I decided to investigate and this is what I found.

The short answer is yes due to the extended time spent outdoors in nature, the fresh air, the views  and a change to the regular 9-5 hamster wheel

But it goes deeper… 

Living alone in a confined space can seem like solitary confinement and has many parallels with prison such as loss of social skills, low self confidence, paranoia and loss of self worth.

In this article:

Possible negatives affects of living in a van.

Lets start with the obvious. Weather. It can feel a lot more extreme in a van. Everything is magnified, the cold can really make you miserable and want to give up, likewise the heat can be inescapable when you are in a metal box. When it rains it can seem like it's raining for days and if you run low on supplies then this can be a real pain in the neck.

There are times when getting your post is time sensitive, getting it late can have real consequences, especially for things like visas, passports or even insurance.

Healthcare can be difficult to access without an address. Just getting past the receptionist's interrogation can be time consuming and exhausting especially if you are feeling ill.

Breakdowns and maintenance are worrisome and costly. Most people in vans do not carry and store all the tools to rebuild an engine. Most of us accept that we may breakdown some point but by regularly maintaining our vans we hope to lower the chances. 


Choosing a parking spot carefully for the night is not everyone's priority but if you don't sleep well then this can impact on your wellbeing possibly leading to irritability, forgetfulness and error in judgment.

 Your financial situation can change dramatically when on the road. Work or income can dry up. Unexpected vehicle costs or other financial commitments can make a big dent in your wallet.  Finding new work can be an additional stress. 

Often there is a stigma that goes with van life. (more so in the UK). The UK public have a real distain for travellers and van lifers and it doesn't seem to matter how tidy your van or motorhome is the distain stays.

The fear the public have is that you will park up in a beautiful spot and treat it as if you own it. That you will leave litter, let children and dogs roam freely and live there forever. There is also a fear that you have twenty more van friends just waiting to join you.  People seem to struggle with the concept of being a full time van lifer and there has been some bad press around this lifestyle.  

Being seen as a traveller who doesn't conform to society can lead to some poor behaviour from the general public, such as cars beeping their horn in the early hours, dog walkers avoiding you and not trusting you with their unattended parked car. Some people may confront you and tell you what a bad person you are. The stigma can be very real and if you let it, it can make you feel bad.

Mental health. There is research to suggest that living in small space is bad for your mental health with studies finding cognitive abilities diminishing, low self esteem and even paranoia. 

Two important points worth mentioning are that prolonged isolation in any habitat can bring on these issues and any preexisting conditions may be magnified. 

Staying aware may sound simple enough but loneliness can creep up on you. Red flags are: Slipping in your personal cleanliness, music choices and tempo, reluctance to engage with others and increased time spent on superficial short term gratification, for example, Instagram likes. 

Recommended strategies to implement. 

Get out everyday even if it's raining, explore your surroundings and get that Vitamin D.

Weekly check ins with family or friends. This can have multiple benefits including keeping up to date with the real world,  current events and family news.

Have a flexible plan. Where you are heading or places you want to visit. Your plan should be positive not a purgatory. Make your plan personal to you, draw it on paper with colour and illustrations to make it stand out or write it down.

Build your own cookie jar. This is a jar that you put in fun, happy or memorable experiences. You look at then when you feel a little low.

List your life achievements so far, remind yourself just what you are capable of and your only limits are the ones you put on yourself. This will show you just how diverse how your life has been and how lucky you are to be here now.

This is cliché but practice living in the moment. Eckart Tolle has written some great books on this. Enjoy the fact that you have the time and freedom to do what you want to do. Celebrate the little things like your health and the ability to seek what inspires you. Stay inspired and give inspiration to others. share your stories and connect with people.

Use van life to improve your wellbeing. Think about starting a blog or vlog.  These are great ways to journal your adventure and paint a vivid picture for the reader. 

It can also be being extremely cathartic. You could potentially make money out of it in time and your friends and family can stay up to date with your adventures you could also inspire others.

Being out on the road is great for reflection and personal growth (this is certainly true for me). I am by nature an extrovert and love the company of others but I have also learned to be alone and sit with my feelings and thoughts.

Being out in nature for an hour has massive impact on your mental health and physiology. Cortisone and serotonin levels, blood pressure and the lymphatic system all benefit and there are many more positive attributes that come from just being in nature. It can be inspirational and detoxing. There are also studies detailing the benefits of being barefoot and the electrical discharge of ions.

Final thoughts. When not in nature we are not fully aware of the prison of constraints put on us by society. Physical barriers such as "Do not enter! Authorised personnel only! When you visit a town or city you are constantly bombarded with noise and light. We are manipulated into buying things we don't need. The city can be a real jungle. So if you can disconnect and escape to the countryside then do and listen to nature, reconnect with your inner self and experience true freedom.  


How much time does it take to get the benefits of being in nature?

As little as an hour can have a positive affect on your wellbeing according to a study highlighted in this article PsyPost.

How far do I need to go? It is recommended you go to where you can only see and hear nature.

Can I get these benefits whilst camping? Yes assuming you are away from noise and light pollution.

Does a bigger vehicle help with mental health? This  comes down to personal choice. If driving and parking a bigger vehicle stresses you out then that would have a negative affect on your mental health.

Related Articles.

Deborah Serani, Psy.D. Is a Psychologist in New York with a lot of authority in depression and anxiety in her article  Psychology Today she talks about boredom and how embracing it can bring many benefits. Embrace boredom

In her article How does nature impact our wellbeing?  Louise Delagran, MA, MEd explains the many benefits in detail of being in nature. She talks about how being nature heals, soothes and restores us.