Between tuition, books, fuel prices and all the hundreds of other expenses we have to deal with in our day-to-day, going to College is expensive. Even more so if you live on campus. Some students stay in their own homes while others live with friends or relatives, but even those options may be out of reach for a lot of people. That’s why there are some who choose a different lifestyle as they go through college, spending money on a van and making it their home in what’s known as the “van life”.
Living the van life can come with lots of advantages. The most obvious one is the low cost of living compared to living on campus or owning a home. But there is plenty to worry about and a lot of preparation involved in order to make it a comfortable way of living until your graduation, which is why we have compiled some of the challenges you’ll have to face when adopting the van life and some solutions for them.
Let’s start with the obvious, you probably won’t have a kitchen or a shower inside your van, so you’re going to have to go somewhere else for that. Luckily, you should be able to take care of all those basic needs at the UH Campus itself. A meal plan allows you access to a good variety of food at the university. It does cost quite a bit of money, and you have to renew it every semester. So if it ends up being too costly, you’ll have to get familiarized with the city in order to find different spots where you can eat well, since relying on your favorite fast-food place alone won’t do you any favors in the long run.
For showers, you can access the university’s gym for free and use the ones they have there, and no need to worry about wi-fi as long as you’re inside UH as well. For washing your clothes, however, you won’t be able to use the washing machines on campus unless you’re living there. You could try and get access if you have a friend living in the dorms, but the best option is to just find a laundromat around Houston.
Now here’s where things can get a bit tricky. There are many different lots to park at UH and multiple different permits you can buy to do so, though they can be quite expensive. If you can afford one, a valid permit will allow you to park from 3 p.m. to 7 a.m. in different uncovered zones on campus, but if that’s not an option, you’re gonna have to rely on the help of your friends and see if anyone has some extra space in front of their house.
If you don’t have anyone to help
you, then your best bets are going to be an RV Park (the nearest one being about 20 minutes away from UH), or a well-lit place with security cameras like the parking lot of a Walmart. Not the safest option, but definitely better than just picking a random spot in the city at night. And by the way, never park your car after it’s dark. Try to find out where you’ll be staying before the sun sets so you can familiarize yourself better with the area.
Regardless of where you choose to park at night, it never hurts to take some extra measures to make sure you stay safe while you’re sleeping. First, keep your doors locked and your phone charged at all times, make sure you get some curtains or tinted glass for your van to make it difficult for others to see inside as well. You should always know exactly where the keys are, hide them somewhere next to the driver’s seat so you’re able to leave as quickly as possible if you have to. Just so you don’t find yourself needing to leave the van in the middle of the night, think of a way to use the bathroom while inside, some RVs have their own toilets but for a regular van, a few water bottles should do the trick. It’s a good idea to always let someone you trust know exactly where you’ll be parking every night too, communicating with other people ensures they will know what to do in case you ever need their help.
All of this advice might seem like way too much for some people, but van life is a lot riskier and less comfortable than just living in a regular home or dorm, and you’ll have to take as many precautions as possible if you want to sleep well every night. There are just as many pros as there are cons though, if you can deal with the potential stress and do as much as you can to stay as safe, you can potentially save thousands of dollars as you work on getting your degree, have a lot more freedom on your hands if you feel like traveling, and you’ll be having a life experience that most people will never get the chance to in their lives.