Digital Nomad Van Life

A Digital Nomad Survival Guide to Van Life

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Are you living the van life and looking for a work from home side hustle to supplement your life on the road? Or are you already a digital nomad wanting to transition to van life and start living rent-free? Either way, there are many considerations to take into account that could influence your success. That’s why I put together a digital nomad survival guide to van life to help you navigate how it’s done!

A Digital Nomad Survival Guide to Van Life

A digital nomad lifestyle: the new normal?

Only about a generation ago, the American Dream resided at the core of our culture here in the U.S. Working hard at your 9-5 all week with vacation time limited to a meager 10 days was a symbol of success and something to strive for.

With the prevalence of the internet and handheld computers we carry around in our pockets, our national ethos is beginning to look a little differently. Some companies acknowledge the practicality of working from home and have begun offering opportunities to their employees to do so. What’s more, the desire for remote work is on the rise and shows no signs of slowing down!

Work culture as we know it is shifting

So it comes as no surprise that the next logical move for remote workers would take shape as a full-time, digital nomad lifestyle. We’re figuring out that working from home is possible no matter the location you wish to work from.

Whether you’re road tripping in your van or country-hopping around the globe indefinitely, there are many factors to consider and equipment you’ll need to ensure your success as a digital nomad while living the van life. Luckily, there’s this handy survival guide!

Benefits of becoming a digital nomad

An employer handing you the opportunity to work remotely is a no-brainer, right? Of course, you want to work from home, who wouldn’t? In fact, remote workers reported that they are happier in their jobs 22% more than workers who never worked remotely.

Let’s say you took that remote job, for instance. As a result, you are no longer required to go to the office. Thus gaining the ability to work from any part of the world, provided you have a solid internet connection. What kind of benefits can you expect with your new digital nomad lifestyle? Let’s find out!

Working from my van overlooking a mountain range

You can explore the world

Being a digital nomad allows me the freedom to migrate to countries with warmer climates and as a result, I avoid the cold, dark throws of winter in my home state.

Picture yourself lounging by a beach in Costa Rica or gazing out your Nepalese Airbnb’s window at the Himalayan Mountains all while making a decent income working from your laptop. Not bad, eh? Being a digital nomad allows this dream to become a reality.

Spend your free time exploring and experiencing each new city and country’s cultural sites, local terroir, and eco-tourist attractions. Maybe one day you’ll call a particular city of interest home!

Exploring a cacao farm in Costa Rica

It’s perfect for introverts

If you’re an introvert, there’s no better way to keep your social batteries fully charged than by becoming a digital nomad. You mean, I don’t have to make small talk with my coworkers for 8 hours each day? Sign me up! I don’t know about you, but I’d happily take a pay decrease if that meant I could rid myself of the burden of daily small talk.
The digital nomad lifestyle is perfect for an introvert who is goal-oriented and has impeccable organization skills to boot. Staying on track, meeting deadlines, and the ability to minimize distractions are all valuable traits a digital nomad must possess.
Thoreau Quote

If you’re as introverted as I am, the pressure to socialize can be extremely draining. I just can’t multitask making conversation and focusing on my work. One of the two will surely suffer. After a while, spending too much time with others starts to take a toll on my mental health. I need quiet moments of introspection to make sense of my thoughts, feelings, goals, and aspirations.

Becoming a digital nomad was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself and I can attest that my mental health has benefited. If this rings a little too true for you, what are you waiting for? Become a digital nomad today!

It can be inexpensive

Depending on where you choose to go, the cost of living may be much lower than what it is in your current city. If you’re trying to pay off your student loans or other debts, look into countries with a higher exchange rate to get more bang for your buck.
When I lived in Mexico, I spent nearly half as much as I typically would on groceries, rent, and dining. Thus freeing up a lot of disposable income that I can save or spend on fun outdoor activities.

You can work on your own time

If you’re an independent contractor, you can afford to take a day off to go snorkeling or rock climbing. Feeling sick or hungover? Take a nap, you need it.
You can’t really do that with a traditional job unless of course you’re George Costanza. If I have 20 hours of work to complete, I can spread that time out over 5 business days, or I could knock them out in 2, it doesn’t matter. The result will be the same.

Recent studies suggest that workers are more productive when working fewer hours. As a result, they’re able to complete all their projects earlier in the week. Consequently, carving out more free time for themselves.

Jobs can require little experience

Before I started the digital nomad lifestyle, I was working in a kitchen full-time while also living in a van to save money. When my partner’s employer allowed him to work remotely, without a second thought, we decided to start traveling in our van indefinitely.
With enough savings to get me through a year of full-time van life, we started our adventure. But in the back of my mind, I was plagued with worry. What would I do for income in the future?
Turns out, there are a ton of jobs available to make a full-time income with little experience required!

New digital nomad jobs are listed every day

Where do you find them? First, take a good hard look at your hobbies and interests. Are there ways you can monetize any aspect of them? If so, you could start blogging about them or offer services to professionals in those niches. If you’re not sure where to start, think about taking an online course that will teach you a valuable skill that can be carried over into remote work.

Once you’re skilled, start pitching yourself to potential clients or join an online freelance marketplace like Upwork or Fiverr. Upwork and Fiverr are also great places to find which services are popular or in demand. You’ll be surprised by how many clients need your services.

I always loved Pinterest, so that’s where I started. As a Pinterest manager, I help other bloggers and creative businesses drive traffic to their website with Pinterest marketing services. If Pinterest marketing is something that interests you, this a great course to start with!

Working from the Van

Benefits of Van Life

Van life is a great way to escape the perils of modern society, but it may come at a cost.

For instance, the one major drawback of living this lifestyle is that most vans don’t have a readily accessible bathroom or shower. When I’m asked about why I don’t live in an apartment, I always start by saying that I can’t fathom paying $1,200/month for rent for a flushing toilet and hot shower. After all, that’s the only luxury you’re paying for that I can’t get in my van. Of course, that’s not to say you can’t have a shower or toilet, many van dwellers do. I would just rather utilize that extra space in other ways and shower at Planet Fitness.

Now that I got the one major disadvantage out of the way, let’s move on to some of the awesome advantages of living the van life!

Less stuff, more space

When I first started living the van life, I was surprised at how much stuff there was to donate or throw away. Since I was never one to place sentimental value on my belongings anyway, it was pretty easy to scale down 80% of what I owned.

And what a relief it was! One of the advantages of being on the road is that everything you own is conveniently stored within arms reach. You can easily pick up and go at a moment’s notice without having to spend time moving furniture or packing an endless supply of boxes.

Best of all, the more stuff you get rid of, the more free space for all your toys!

More money & time

Once you have the van, your only real expense is its maintenance and fuel. For that reason, you’re now able to spend more money on the things you love. Just imagine all the fun experiences and adventures you can have with that extra $1,200 in your pocket every month. From fine dining to jet-setting, the possibilities are endless!

Student loan debt is a real issue here in the U.S. If you’re the responsible type, think about how much you’ll be able to pay off while van dwelling.

Because you’re no longer working to afford rent or mortgage, you can work part-time, if you please. Use your considerable amounts of free time to take up a new hobby or sport.

Freedom to sleep & work from almost anywhere

Ah, freedom! Want to wake up next to the beach? Or how about alongside a waterfall with mountain views? Both are potential possibilities when you’re living the van life. However, if you’re also a digital nomad, you’ll need decent cell coverage to make it work. Here are some options for free camping:

  • BLM Land – While BLM land offers campgrounds with developed facilities and fire rings, they typically come with a fee attached. However, BLM land also consists of copious opportunities for dispersed camping. This is a primitive campsite that is nothing more than an open space with a rock formed fire pit, but my favorite choice by far!
  • U.S. National Forests – The slogan of the National Forest Service is, “It’s All Yours” and it couldn’t be any more true. They even put it on a shirt! National Forests offer tons of dispersed and developed campsites all over the country for your enjoyment. Thus making them an ideal option for overnight camping in your van.
  • Walmart: Every year, more and more Walmart locations discontinue offering overnight parking. Unfortunately, the growing number of RVers and van dwellers also comes with quite a few bad apples that are giving us a bad reputation. Stay a night and move along.
  • Casinos: Casinos are a great option for when you need a good stopping point after driving into the night. Best of all, they’re usually conveniently located right off the highway. If you decide to do some gambling, chances are they’ll even offer you $5-20 when you join their player’s club. Who knows, maybe you’ll turn that $20 into some serious cash. Getting paid to sleep in a parking lot isn’t the worst way to spend the evening!

Act responsibly

While the above options are still mostly free and widely available, that could change at any time if we don’t all do our part and act responsibly.

If you’re visiting public lands for any length of time, please remember to pack out any trash that you pack in! It’s all too often that campsites are littered with garbage. Not only does this ruin it for the next guest, but it takes away from the pristine beauty of the land itself. Plus, no one wants to clean up after you!

National Forests and BLM lands also have restrictions on the length of your stay with the maximum being 14 days. Don’t abuse this!

Sprinter Van in Sierra Mountains, California

Tech Equipment for digital nomad van life

While places to camp for free are plentiful, places to camp for free with cell coverage can be harder to come by. I like to check this AT&T wireless coverage map before heading off into the unknown. If you’re a Verizon user, this coverage map can also be helpful.

Before committing to full-time remote work, there are many considerations to take into account. In addition, you’ll want specific tech equipment that will ensure a stable internet connection.

Solar panel & batteries

When it comes to solar power options for van life, there are many. For us, we wanted to go the cheapest route possible. Right now, we have a single 290-watt panel and 2 of these 12v 100ah batteries.

And while we don’t have a ton of extra amperage to spare each day, we still have enough power to charge both of your laptops and phones, as well as to supply power to our marine fridge and lights.

Solar is definitely the way you want to go if you’re considering working full-time in your van. 

Solar Panel & Battery Controls


Unless you know something I don’t, you can’t have traditional wifi in your van.

Fortunately, you can buy a wifi extender made for RV and van life that allows you to pick up wifi from sources further than you typically would be able to. For instance, if you’re in the parking lot of a coffee shop or library with free wifi.

With our slider door open on the van, we are able to park within a distance of free wifi without needing to actually go inside and spend money.

Van with Wifi Extender

Cell phone data plan

Before we started full-time digital nomad van life, we debated about whether or not we should switch to Verizon or stick with AT&T. Ultimately, we kept the latter and upgraded to their premium plan (now known as the Unlimited Elite plan). With this plan, we’re able to get 100gb/month data on our phones, with 30gb of the total optional for hotspoting. This is a killer value, as our previous plan maxed out at 15gb hotspot data.

If we’re working all day from the van, I spend around a gig of my phone’s hotspot data. For that reason, I try to work as much as possible from locations offering free wifi.

Another piece of equipment we purchased prior to digital nomad van life was a weBoost cell phone signal booster. Clamp your phone on to the boosting cradle and you’re good to go! We’ve gone from a single bar of 4g to fast, 4g LTE. This has been a lifesaver!

Wireless Network Booster

Coffee shops & libraries

Coffee shops and libraries are an excellent idea for the digital nomad living the van life. But I wouldn’t make this your primary source for wifi as they can be unreliable at times. Whether their wifi network is bogged down by high guest usage or a crappy connection, it’s always a smart idea to have a backup plan.

For example, we’ve been through small towns outside of National Parks that receive heavy tourist traffic. It can be nearly impossible to find working wifi, so it became imperative for us to have a hotspot enabled phone at the ready.

Working from a Restaurant

Helpful digital nomad & van life apps

Here are some of my favorite desktop and apps that help navigate van life and stay organized professionally as a digital nomad:

  • Quickbooks Self-Employed – PAID. I don’t know what I would do without this app! It’s the perfect companion to a digital nomad that wants to have a clear picture of all their bank accounts in one place. I can also seamlessly forward business receipts to Quickbooks from my email. Best of all, from within the Quickbooks dashboard, you can easily create and send invoices to your clients. * Use the link I provided to take 50% off your membership!
  • TurboTax Live Self-Employed – PAID. The first year I had to do taxes as an independent contractor, I put it off thinking I was going to screw it up. TurboTax Live came to my rescue! While filing, you have the ability to chat with an experienced CPA at every turn ensuring an accurate return.

Free apps

  • Canva – MOSTLY FREE. If designing killer content is part of your job description, look no further than Canva! Not only is it awesome for design, but their Canva Pro membership also includes a huge library of free quality stock images!
  • iOverlander – FREE. One of the great perks of van life is that you don’t always have a destination in mind, you’re just enjoying the ride! Or at least until you get sleepy and need a place to pull over. Enter, iOverlander. The iOverlander map pinpoints your location and shows you all kinds of free campsites on public land, stealthy street parking, and lots more! Plus, each location typically has reviews from your fellow van lifers and RVers that may make or break where you end up for the night.
  • Trello – FREE. Trello is my favorite desktop and cellphone app for organizing and managing all the tasks I need to complete for my clients and for my personal blogs. Best of all, you can invite clients to collaborate on boards with you. That way, they can easily see where you’re at on projects and their completion.
  • FreeRoam – FREE. FreeRoam is a non-profit that offers boondocking and camping resources to Rvers and van dwellers. I’ve used the app and while it’s beautiful, there aren’t as many users reviewing and adding new locations as iOverlander. However, I have high hopes this will improve with time.
  • Free Campsites – FREE. Free Campsites isn’t an app, but a great website to find free camping. It’s laid out nicely and they make it super easy to find somewhere to crash for the night. What’s more, they have tons of listings and trustworthy reviews that make this website my first choice in finding overnight camping.
  • Network Cell Info Lite – FREE. This helpful app allows you to monitor and measure your wireless network’s signal strength. In my experience, it can be particularly handy when deciding on a campsite for the night.



I help self-reliance bloggers and entrepreneurs grow their businesses with a seasonal content Pinterest marketing strategy that converts.


  1. Julie

    WOW! That was an excellent article!!! Clear, concise and incredibly informative Thank you.

  2. Julie

    WOW! That was an excellent article!!! Clear, concise and incredibly informative Thank you.

    • Melody Flynn

      Thank you so much! You’re my first comment on this blog! Woohoo!

  3. Shannon

    I’m thinking about doing this and this is exactly the article I needed!

  4. Erika Ravnsborg

    I love this article. Very informative and good advice. Thanks for posting

  5. Kez

    Oh van life, you will forever have my heart! We did it in Australia and New Zealand and I miss it every day. We hope to reno our own van one day, so this is super helpful! Thank you for sharing

    • Melody Flynn

      I would love to do van life in Australia and New Zealand! Thank you!

  6. Briana | Next Destination Unknown

    Is it just me, or do you also wonder how other people do it? 🙂 For example, I’m always looking for ways to improve our WiFi. It’s nice to hear how you make remote work and van life work for you. This is a great post with lots of great resources for anyone wanting to live the digital nomad life! I’ll have to check out some of the apps you mentioned. Thanks for sharing!

    • Melody Flynn

      We’re always looking to improve our wifi and cell network! Thank you!

  7. Nick

    There are some awesome resources here! My wife and I are on pause nomads, due to the outbreak, but I can’t wait until we can travel and work in Libraries again! I love the idea of van life, but the upfront cost really puts me off. We’ve gone the house sitting route, which keeps our cost way down, and we can keep moving.

    • Melody Flynn

      Hi, Nick! That’s awesome! I’ve been wondering if house sitting would be a good alternative to van life with so much uncertainty right now. Do you house sit abroad or stateside?


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