Van Life: Job Options for Digital Nomads
Finding work while traveling is a centuries old tradition that attracted migrant farmers, writers, poets, and explorers alike- but now if you mix this tradition with modern technology, it opens up doors for almost anyone.
Are you ready for a life on the road, but worried about how to make ends meet? I’ll break down a variety of job options and tips for success to help you decide if Van Life is the life for you!
Van Life Series
Before you take the leap, make sure this is the right choice for you. If you're in serious debt, you'll find it hard to become a Digital Nomad, as they are typically on the road for 6+ months at a time- which could mean you wouldn’t have a steady flow of income to rely on during those times. This would put a heavy burden on you if you have to worry about paying off debt and making ends meet on the road- probably a risk you don’t want to take. You would need to handle your debt first.
BUT, if you’re in a financial position to move forward with Van Life, budgets will vary depending on the person. Check out some helpful resources I found to provide a general understanding of budgets on the road:
OutboundLiving.com surveyed 725 vandwellers, and came up with some good insight. Check their site for more info, but some things that stood out to me:
- 41.8% of vandwellers only spend $50-100/week!
- 51% live in the van part-time
- 44% have 1 other person living in their van, which means split costs!
- 60% travel w/ a pet(s)
- 56.3% spend $101 to $300/month on gas
- 37.8% spend $0/mo on campsites, 25.5% spend $1 to $30/mo
Far Out Ride is a couple that started living on the road in 2017, and has broken down their total monthly budgets each year publicly. Their breakdowns are super specific covering Auto insurance, Groceries, Campgrounds, Showers, Laundry, Craft beers/Wines, Cell phone bills, Netflix, Van maintenance, and more- which makes this is a very helpful resource. Big thanks to Isabelle and Antoine on sharing their personal budgets publicly!
- Out of 18 months, their average monthly budget is about $2500/mo (split between 2!)
- Monthly average: $2,050/mo (split between 2!)
The Dirty Darlings broke down their average costs in their personal blog, but excluded fixed bills such as cell phone bill, Netflix, and Insurance. Costs are all split between 2 people. Special thanks to Matt and Megan for the budget breakdown.
- Average Daily: $79
- Average Monthly: $2,373
- Average Annual: $28,480
There are many other resources out there. Some vandwellers spend as little as $1k/month budget, others $3k+, which means there’s a Van Life budget that could fit almost anyone’s needs!
Life on the road can be much cheaper than owning or renting a house, but you will likely still need a steady income to make ends meet- unless maybe you are a ‘part-timer’ that saved up plenty to make it through your time on the road. Knowing how much money you are bringing in vs how much you’ll be spending is an important piece to the budgeting puzzle. I gave you the resources to help answer how much you’ll be spending, but the question is- do you know how you’ll bring in revenue on the road?
I want to note that living out of a van does not mean you need to quit your 9-5 job if you don’t want to. Especially with the coronavirus pandemic, more offices are allowing employees to remote work more permanently. And if your company is not one of those- it doesn’t hurt to ask your boss if you can. But for those who are interested in a career change, there are plenty of nomad-friendly job options out there:
- Social Media influencer
- Host a YouTube Channel
- This takes a lot of time to establish and make a steady income from, so it is really only applicable if you already are hosting a successful YouTube Channel
- Online Coaching (life coach, athletic trainer, nutritionist, etc...)
- Online Teaching
- Virtual Assistant
- Graphic design
- Software developer
- Web design
- Freelancers can post their services on sites like Fiverr, Freelancer, & Upwork to gain prospective clients
- Odd jobs/handywork
- Place ads on Craigslist for towns you’re passing through, and you could be surprised at how much work you can find along your routes!
- Traveling hair stylist
- Like above, Craigslist (and similar platforms) could help get you extra work when you’re passing through towns!
- Jeweler/DIY Crafts
- Sell your stuff on Etsy! You can ship any sold items at a post office when passing through towns!
These aren’t the only options for work on-the-road, but as you can see, it covers a wide range of skill sets, making the Digital Nomadic lifestyle accessible to almost anyone.
I just showed you a variety of on-the-road job options, and the majority of them require WiFi- so how do you stay connected on the road? Sometimes vandwellers will need to escape to dark hotel rooms or coffee shops just to find a good free WI-FI connection, but I’ll break down some other options:
- Mobile Hotspot: Purchase an unlimited data plan that allows you to make your phone a hotspot. You will need cell service for this, so to help in those spotty locations, you should look into a signal booster with an extended antenna.
Before choosing a network provider, check out OpenSignal.com to find an interactive map of different network provider’s coverage.
- WiFi Hotspot: You would need to purchase the device (approx $200) through a cell provider, plus a data plan. It will require cell service in order to operate.
- Boingo offers public Wi-Fi hotspots at different locations. You can use their site to search where.
- Starbucks & other coffee shops
- Some Truck Stops
- Some Airports
Keep in mind, some of the free options can get noisy and crowded, which can be distracting while trying to work. If you need to be able to concentrate, you may want to prioritize WiFi costs into your budget.
As good as it sounds to travel the world and live in amazing places, also keep in mind that this lifestyle is not going to last forever. Some people work and travel for 6 months, others for 10+ years, but very few will keep up this lifestyle forever. It’s important to keep this in mind before you spend time and money on making the lifestyle transition. Is it worth it? That’s only for you to decide. The good thing about most of these jobs is that you’ll be able to continue them in a permanent home if you want to. Are you ready to be a Digital Nomad?