Life on the Road: the Truth, the Lessons, and the Desire

Jordan Tarver
February 27, 2018

It seems within the last couple years van life, camping, and adventure have become the big craze.

From an age I can only remember byways of pictures and stories, I've had a pretty solid appetite for the outdoors. Coming from a family of six raised in Northern California, weekend camping trips were always in sight.

Adventure has always been in my blood.

But, there's more to where it all rooted from. My father, often spending his summer days in Aptos, California, decided to purchase a van. It was around my father's early 20s he commandeered a Chevy G10 short wheel based van.

Equipping it with all the goodies, AKA enough supplies to survive near the beach for a few nights, this is when the desire for adventure began in our family. Not long after, he sold the van to his brother (my uncle) to pass on the knack for adventure.

My uncle was immediately captivated by the van life; he would eventually buy a 1980s VW Westfalia in my early days. It always caught my eye - the style, the rhythm of life, the surfboards in the back; I was always inspired by what he was doing with his van and where van life was taking him.

I vividly remember begging him to let me check it out at every family gathering. Although nothing changed since the time before, the fascination seemed to grow each time.

Well, that fascination is still growing.

Hold on, what's van life anyway?

The unfortunate part of the reality of van life is that most of everyone's interpretations are skewed of what is now shown on Instagram. No jobs. Travelling for a living. Waking up with your doors opening to Half Dome.

You know what I'm talkin' about.

Unless you engulf yourself in the van life community, then you and the greater population have the above expectation. There's much more to it, van life is not always as pretty and comfortable as it's made out to be.

Although I'm new to the van life, I've already been put through a reality check just in my short 4-month stint.

Here are a few lessons that I've learned about van life so far:

  • Van life is a test of creativity and your ability to design a small space to fit your necessities. Everything must have a function, there is no space for fluff.
  • Van life is a life lesson of patience. Will you measure 3 times and cut, or will you measure once, miss the cut and have to do over? I suggest the former.
  • Van life is an ode to those that really want to dig deep into their passion for adventure and life on the road.

So, there's much more than just ending up with a house on wheels. The life lessons you learn along the journey are priceless.

There's an Entire Community, Did Ya Know?

I know there's a large group that already know about the van life community, but there's also the people that don't. So, to break the news, there's an entire community around this lifestyle.

A circle of people on a search for something a bit different than the "normal life." A group of individuals building a life story that revolves around their wheels spinning on the asphalt of an open road.

There are people who live in their vans full time to people like me who utilize it for weekend trips. Yup, there are people that legitimately don't pay rent and live entirely out of an 8 by 4-foot space.

I raise my glass to them.

This community is a group of people that crave waves, beaches, whispering mountain air, the tallest trees, and dirt in their shoes. A life that is a bit less structured and a lot more "bohemian," if you will.

Van life is a community where the last trip wasn't good enough.

We always need a little more adventure.

Why I Desired Van Life

It takes a certain type of individual to have the desire to completely build a camper van.

So, what did I do? I purchased a 2010 Ford Econoline.

Nothing inside, just the frame and a vision to turn it into something livable.

That's exactly what intrigued me most. As a creative, I instantly saw this as a canvas. An opportunity to create something that reflects practicality and personality.

To me, it was an avenue of expression.

However, there is much more than caught my eye than the blank canvas I saw when looking in the empty van. With a vision of making it a home, I imagined this was the missing tool in my life.

It was a tool that could help me create and tell my story. It was van life that I imagined could take me to different parts of our home soil with family and friends.

Because for me, the most important part of life is the story you're able to tell at the end of it all.


The amazing thing about van life is that it's something you can tailor to your desires. You are the designer, you get to decide what goes in it and where the van goes. From tossing surfboards in the back for a day trip to heading on the road for a few weeks, it's all doable in a van.


If ya got something to share, feel free to leave a comment below!

Lookin' for a bit more van life talk? Follow the van adventures on Instagram here @thestoryonwheels


Jordan Tarver is a lead editor at Forbes, a keynote speaker, and the bestselling author of You Deserve This Sh!t.
He’s transformed over 30,000 lives through his book, amassed more than 200,000 devoted followers, and garnered over 60 million views online. Jordan is on a mission to empower people and organizations to unlock exponential growth and expansive possibilities.

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