Nov 25, 2020

4 min read

What does off-the-grid vanlife mean?

Imagine waking up in the morning, getting out of bed to make a cup of tea and fry a delicious egg for breakfast. You turn the heater on to get warm and maybe get ready to go for a morning run. You open the door, and you look at this astonishing view, standing at the edge of a clear blue lake with the low morning fog and spruce trees surrounding you. What a great way to start your day isn’t it? All you need to pursue this is an off-the-grid campervan.

Off-the-grid definition

In the urban dictionary off-the-grid is defined as ‘unrecorded, untraceable through normal means.’ Whereas the more official Cambridge Dicitonary defines it as ‘not connected to any of the main utilities (= electricity, water, etc.) and having your own power and water supply.’

I wouldn’t say that either of them is wrong even though they are quite different. Consider that off-the-grid vanlife in Europe is often not allowed but nevertheless tolerated in many places. So, trying to live unrecorded and untraceable might be an important factor to sustain a life in a van in Europe.

On the other hand, an off-the-grid lifestyle also really needs the basic human needs such as water, electricity and heat. Obviously, a van is not connected to water or electricity sources. If you went camping with a camper or a caravan before you probably had to stay on a campsite because you needed to connect to a wall socket to get power in your van. And Supposedly your water ran out quickly, so you wanted to be able to refill it or just make use of the campsite’s utilities.

Off-the-grid freedom

Anyhow, an off-the-grid vanlife definition to me would definitely include the word freedom. Since you are not bound to a house you can go wherever you want whenever you want. If you work in a van you might even be able to plan when you work. Maybe you’d rather go surfing during the day and work in the evening. Or maybe you drive throughout the day to be able to work with a view in the evening watching the sunset at the same time.

What do you need to live off-the-grid in a van?

Before getting the freedom and other benefits from an off-the-grid van lifestyle, you need to make your van self-sufficient. This means that you can basically carry your basic human needs with you in your van. You have to think about the size of clean water tanks you want to carry but also where the dirty water ends up. Maybe you want to consider sustainability and include a water filter system. This means you can reuse the dirty water, very useful if you include a shower in your van. But do you actually want a shower in your van? If you are just starting to figure out what you need in your van, you can take a look at this off-the-grid vanlife guide.

How much does an off-the-grid vanlife cost?

You can consider the vanlife in Europe much cheaper than ‘regular’ living. The rental prices in European cities are increasing tremendously. But obviously you now have to pay for gas instead of rent. This is a huge factor in the costs. It might be wise to pick the places you want to fill up your gas tank beforehand. For example, try to prevent refueling on the highway. Or you can try to refuel in Belgium or Luxembourg instead of the Netherlands and France.

Further additional expenses are the maintenance of your van. When driving as much as most people living the vanlife do, you might have some emergency stops. Of course, you can prevent this as much as possible by choosing a proper van in the first place.

In the end you can pretty much decide how expensive you are going to make your vanlife journey. The prices in Europe are also very diverse per country so you could plan your trip to expensive or cheaper countries. There are vanlifers living on quite diverse budgets.

How do I start my off-the-grid vanlife journey?

If you are considering starting a van lifestyle or maybe you are already building, you might wonder where to start or what’s next. You might want to start with watching a lot of videos on YouTube. There is so many people explaining how they started. Its also always a good idea to ask other people for advice. Loads of vanlifers are very active online and are very approachable. If you want to get more of our advice, this blog will continue to answer questions you might come across while converting your van into a camper.