Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dealing with Perceptions

This is a topic that comes up quite often if you live in a van, usually when discussing whether or not to admit to it. Many people are uncomfortable letting people in on their van life due to concerns of perception or repercussions in one way or another. There are all kinds of interesting views out there of who and what kind of people would choose this life, many are quite disturbing, I have to wonder if we don't sometimes contribute to the messed up perceptions with attempts at stealth or seclusion.

We know there are a ton of people living in vehicles that really don't want to be, but are forced to. It is a lifestyle that is more sustainable that they can handle, but maybe they are not satisfied with the comfort level or stigma they believe is attached so they can't wait to go back to "normal" life.

We also know that there are just as many of us that embrace this lifestyle and love the freedom and simplicity it makes possible. Those are the people this topic is really for. The stigma and laws are the problems we fight with, but how do we change it?

One very understandable and troublesome view is derived from the fact that criminals often use vans to carry out their crimes. We see this often in the news or some show where a plain looking van was used in an abduction, drug trafficking or heist. For those of us in more obvious class B vans, this isn't as much of a problem, but there many who choose vans that will blend in to avoid being scrutinized. While being stealthy is needed in some cases where sleeping overnight in a vehicle is illegal, I wonder if being stealthy where it isn't needed makes you more of a target for harassment. For example, a place an obvious tourist might be fine, someone attempting to be stealthy and hide or blend in may be adding to the criminal perception and even draw unwanted attention. Trying to blend in after all is what a criminal also does.

I honestly don't care if someone I know (even a relative) thinks less of me for our choice in how we live. It is our life and to me, their opinion shows a need for growth on their part, not change on ours. I feel very strongly that to make this lifestyle more acceptable to society, I should do what I can to show them there is no reason for shame or sympathy or disdain. I want them to know I and my wife love this lifestyle an show them why. If I am going to aid in changing their perceptions, it seems necessary to make sure mine is in line as well.

Of course there are many things that differentiate various vantramps/dwellers from each other. There are many of us who have to be able to stand up, shower, have a fridge and more for comfort over the long haul and there are those who really take great enjoyment in the minimalistic approach and enjoy getting by with very basic methods. Both are valid and great lifestyles, part of changing the perception also I believe is in us accepting each others choices as equal and valid. We all have to do what we feel best with and make sure Joe Public doesn't discriminate towards either as far as it is in our ability to prevent.

I really find this particular topic rather fascinating. It is not meant to say anyone is wrong for keeping their van-life hidden for any reason. It also is really a separate topic from parking away from folks in the name of privacy and serenity, we do that often too for the same reason as people who live in the country in their houses. This is just a lifestyle my wife and I love and would like to see more accepted.Any input on how to make that happen is always appreciated!


  1. "I honestly don't care if someone I know (even a relative) thinks less of me for our choice in how we live. It is our life and to me, their opinion shows a need for growth on their part, not change on ours."
    This line is exellent. So many people have so much to say about the choices other people make. Honestly! They need to get a life. I'm not much different though, at the moment. I really like the choice you make to live your own life. Good for you. And thanks for posting it, so I can read it. It's inspiring.
    Take care, Beth

  2. Hi Beth! Thanks for taking the time to read and respond! I really appreciate your comments and thoughts on this! Maybe one day more people will learn to live and let live. It is a message that is worth getting out there for sure!


  3. Mike I think you really hit on something with the comments on the stealth concept. I like the blending-in idea, to a certain degree....but also think that transparency is quite valuable.

    Like you, I could care less what folks think about me and my choices...but it is fun to connect and show the possibilities...and help alleviate any fears that folks have.

    What we are doing is not all that unusual and there are hundreds of thousands of folks fulltiming in RVs of all kinds....we have chosen smaller vehicles maybe but the mobile/nomadic lifestyle is quite similar....

    I think it is helpful to keep a nice looking rig. The refugee/homeless/p.o.s. van justs draws attention and hassle from every direction....
    keep up the good work...

  4. hey, I'm a fellow vandweller and I am so glad to have found your blog. Not too many pages I follow these days, but I really like yours. I'll be back :) -Sonja,

  5. Hi Sonja! I just went and checked out your site, looks great! I will be following yours as well :) Thanks for the comment!


  6. I have to agree with Brian Many Wheels' comment "I think it is helpful to keep a nice looking rig. The refugee/homeless/p.o.s. van justs draws attention and hassle from every direction....". I'm not a full-timer, but have seen some RVs that look pretty bad outside and inside. I often automatically assume they're down on their luck, or homeless, or just drifting, by the condition of their vehicles. It may not be true, but appearances are what they are. A lot of times, it comes down to aesthetics. When Joe Public walks by an RV, they're probably going to look, and depending on what they see, will form an opinion as to the social or life situation of the owner/occupant without even seeing them. I think that folks who are obviously hoarders, and people who treat their rigs like dumpsters, make the responsible full-timers lives harder. Most will say it doesn't matter what the others do, but I think they know it does.

  7. I find it odd that people think that living on a boat is romantic but living in a RV is trashy. An RV is just a boat upside down.

  8. Your blog and comments from those who follow it are very interesting. As one who plans to live full time in an RV, the discussion is very relevent for me. However, as we have discussed, I feel a little larger (not much) vehicle will better suit our needs. Keep up the good work Mike; you have a gift when it comes to sharing your ideas and insights. You know who!

  9. Hi, I agree with others, your blog is well crafted. Thanks for the effort it's worth it. I know how much time it requires as I had my own blog last year. I found it while reviewing The Traveler's linked blogs to rebuild my RSS list.

    I bought a plain, white, cargo, Sprinter last year and am in the midst of converting it as stealthily as possible. I agree, there are different strokes for diff' folks. After owning a Westfalia I knew I wanted something I could stand in without deconstructing a bed or kitchen setup. I moved into Moby on 1 August 2009 and learn some new trick or lesson every month, at least.

    I plan to follow your blog closely.