Telling someone that you live in a van is often met with skepticism and a measure of judgement. Soon your bombarded with common questions like "Where is the shower? The bathroom? It's so cramped in here!" However, the most frequent tends to be "What made you want to do this?"
For me the answer is simple. Freedom. There are a handful of moments I can recall in my life that have given me such an unbridled sense of freedom. Feeling the speed of my motorycle cruising down the interstate with no real destination. Wandering through the unfamiliar sights and sounds of a foreign port city. Or the fresh air of a mountain breeze tugging at the tree tops at the end of a long hike. At each moment I remember wishing I didn't have to return home. Living in a home that travels with you is like a never-ending adventure. There is no going home because your home is with you wherever you are. Whether you chose a nomadic lifestyle and constantly travel or decide to stick around your favorite city the choice is yours. You have the capability to live in the forests of the north, the arid deserts of the southwest, or near the oceans of the pacific all in the same year. If that's not freedom I don't know what is.
Beyond the joys that come with this lifestyle there is also a practical reason. It's inexpensive. Consider how much you spend each month on rent or a mortgage. Now how much in total for a year? Most vans can be purchased outright between $1,500 to $10,000 which means that unless your making payments there is no monthly living expense. That big number typically spent on an apartment or house is how much a van dweller can save or contribute towards investments and travel. Beyond that a van is relatively small. How does that save money you ask? Well it comes down to stuff. You can only fit so much into a van in the way of material possessions. This forces you to really only keep what you need and not fill closets and garages with clutter. This ideology extends to food as well. You become much more conscious of what you consume. There is no space for items to get lost in the back of the fridge or cabinet, so it becomes natural to only buy what you know you will eat. Additionally, there is so utility bill! A lot of van setups include a solar panel system which supplies all the necessary power. The initial cost of the system can be expensive but once it is installed the sun provides all the electricity you need from then on. Some van dwellers have even adapted to using small wood stoves in their vans during the winter. The small stoves don't require very much wood so if your resourceful you can heat the tiny space all winter for free as well.
It's not common for young adults in their low twenties to build and own a house. A rented apartment can feel homely but there is only so much you can do to make it yours. Taking a van and stripping it down to nothing and rebuilding it presents that opportunity. From the very beginning you make all the decisions in its construction and inherently it will reflect your own personality, skill, and passion. From the floor, to the wood work and cabinetry, every van is unique. In the end you literally sleep in the bed you made. There is just no equal to living in something that you built with your very own hands.
The sense of freedom, cost effectiveness, and homeliness of van living provide a radically different way of life. It's a way to break out of that nine to five job and see the world you live in.