Last Update: 12/29/2017

Should You Start a Van Life YouTube, Instagram or Blog?

woman looking at laptop screen with crazy look in her eyes
The short answer is "no." Actually, "Hell no!" But that's only if your main goal is makin' money. Like rock'n'roll or pro sports, few van life bloggers ever get the cabbage.

If you must do a van life blog, vlog, whatever, do it mainly for fun. Cause that's mostly all you'll likely get outta it.

?? #Vanlife question? Contact Vanholio! direct !!

Takes Skill, Time, and Sizzle to Make Van Life Blog Money

Those who do make cabbage usually have skills: photography, video editing, writing, etc. They usually also have something extra attractive about them, e.g. charm or a tight, delicious ass.

Oh, and they've also worked damn hard over a long time. There ain't no instant success on YouTube, Instagram, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media. That includes writin' and sellin' books.

And if you mainly want attention and praise, that's scarce too. People got lotsa shit to look at online, and they don't give a crap about you. You ain't that special. Bein' ignored will become a way of life.

Here's the Hard Facts

Vanholio! Is Typical Van Life Blog Case

I been doin' this blog a year and a half now. That's about 140 posts and thousands a hours work. That includes time on social media, webmasterin', readin', writin' guest blogs, throwin' together a little book, jackin' around with advertising and affiliate programs, and all kindsa other backend shit.

After all that, is Vanholio ridin' rich'n pretty? Hell no! I make maybe $20-30 a month off this blog! Woulda been smarter to work a minimum wage job.

Oh, and did I mention that Vanholio's got years experience as a pro marketing writer? (Wouldn't know it with some a the shit I post …)

But that's OK. I gots my priorities in order:
  1. Have fun writin' 
  2. Help and entertain readers
  3. Make money

Course, writin' 'bout the UNSEXY parts a van life with sarcasm and a Texas drawl really really narrows my readership. Probably do better money-wise reviewin' smartphones or some shit. But that'd be boring as fuck.

Only Start a Van Life Blog for Love

So do your van life YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, blog, whatever if you MUST! Do it if it's comin' from your heart.

But if you're just lookin' for an easy way to make scratch, don't fuckin' bother. Unless you got skills, patience, and are ready to put in serious sweat.

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Last Update: 12/22/2017

3 Ways to Survive a Vanlife Christmas

VW campervan covered in christmas lights
Well, what the fuck makes Christmas and all those other end-of-year holidays so goddamn merry anyway? Sometimes they ain’t. I know, I been there. For anyone, holidays can be stressful. If you live alone in a van down by the river? Can be that much worse.

But here’s Vanholio’s constructive ideas to get your head outta your ass. Try happy out. You’ll like it!

?? #Vanlife question? Contact Vanholio! direct !!

1. Do Something Fun by Yourself, for Yourself

No point sitting around like the Grinch, stewin’ in your own juices. Make merry on your lonesome.

Some years back, Vanholio got divorced. It was rough. Naturally.

First Father’s Day alone, away from the kids, the blackness was overtakin’ me. The swamp looked deep and cool, easy to just sink on into.

So I got off my ass and went for a loooong hike up a mountain ridge. Natural beauty, tons of exercise, the knowledge that I was a free man in nature. Did me good. Picked me right the hell up. Got me through the day. I even had some fun.

What would you like to do? Something you don’t normally get to. Go to a favorite place? Stay in a fancy hotel? Play a shit ton of video games? Give yourself that special present.

2. Elbow Your Way to the Table

Now, Vanholio’s normally a bit shy. He don’t just make friends everywhere. That’s by choice

But couple Thanksgivings ago, he was in Florida. I’ve got some friends in Florida, but they already had plans to be guests elsewhere.

It was forward of me, but I asked my friends if they could wangle an invitation to Thanksgiving where they was going. They agreed. They got it. I went.

Turns out the hostess had been a career Army nurse and totally got the need to find “family” wherever you can on the road. Never felt more welcome. Lovely people. One of my best Thanksgivings ever.

If you’re not near people to ask, go near people. Stay at an RV park. Bet most of them got something going on. Hell, I bet Slab City’s got a heck of a party planned!

3. Gather Your Own Posse

Don’t you think other vandwellers might be in the same spot? That they don’t got people nearby (or at all)?

Start a gathering! Don’t need anything fancy. A location and a potluck will do. Cheap RV Living folks are gatherin' early in and around Quartzite, AZ for the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous. Get into the Cheap RV Living Forum to see what's up. If you can’t hook up with them, do what they’re doing where you are! Ain’t hard.

Talk to folks on the other forums, too: /r/vandwellers, Squat the Planet, and Vandog Traveller. Plenty of van folk in the same position you are.

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Last Update: 12/19/2017

'Eat Algae Nonfood' They Said. And I Did!

heart shaped remnant of black-green nonbar by
Check this shit out! The prototype non/food nonbar is our science fiction future today! It's compressed, flavored algae. Yes, algae! Damn good, too! But what does it taste like...?

Well, I can't rightly say! It's kinda like when you try a new tropical fruit. I mean, what the fuck does guava taste like? It don't taste like nothin' but guava.

?? #Vanlife question? Contact Vanholio! direct !!

Flavor meister Sean Raspet intentionally made it taste one of a kind. Here's how it's described on the non/food website,

Starts out leafy and green. A clean floral and honey middle with hints of citrus and vanilla. Savory base with nutty and roasted nuances.

There ya go! Can't say it much better than that. But a friend sampled mine and compared it to eatin' raw cocoa, the kind that's an unsweetened paste. Which ain't nothin' like Hershey's.

If Vanholio's got one complaint, it's the texture. Too smooth. It kinda paints to your teeth. I'd like it more chewy or crunchy or somethin'.

BTW, had no digestive complaints from eatin' my nonbar. Was kinda worried 'bout that after Soylent dropped algae oil as an ingredient when some folks got the runs. But nope, did my body good.

Don't know if the nonbar'll catch on, but I kinda hope it does. It's perfect for vandwellers, backpackers, travelers, or anyone who wants a super-nutritious, high-protein food that packs small and light.

Cool, too, to see a product introducin' algae as food. 'Cause that's the future.

As Earth cooks and population rises, algae is gonna be on the menu. Along with a bunch a other new foods. Check out this video below on 10 foods we'll probably be eatin' in the future.

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Last Update: 12/15/2017

5 Primo Tips for Being a ‘Stand Out’ Camper

You didn’t invest buku bucks in a rebuilt vanagon and artisanal kombucha jar to blend in. Oh, no, no, no! You’re out to be noticed in that van a yours. So *be* noticed. Be the most talked about camper in the campground. Follow Vanholio’s 5 Primo Tips to stick out like a sore, festering thumb.

That's how I started out my guest post at To soak in the rest of my snark, you're gonna have to go read it there.

?? #Vanlife question? Contact Vanholio! direct !!

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Last Update: 12/12/2017

Reflectix Insulation in Vans Done Right

Holy shit, I’m dense. But so are a lot of other vandwellers. Too many of us use Reflectix wrong. I did. Big waste of time and money. Know why?

No Air Gap = No Good

What Vanholio did was put closed foam insulation against the metal wall, Reflectix against that, and then plywood paneling against the Reflectix. All touching. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

At least my Reflectix is tape-sealed to the wall. It’s an expensive vapor barrier now. I coulda used cheaper foil or plastic, though.

(Well, supposedly the bubble wrap part has an R-value of 1.1. But I’m skeptical.)

And no, pressing your Reflectix up against fluffy, "airy" fiberglass batting like this guy did doesn’t count. It needs to be air, plain old air. If that foil touches *anything*, it stops being a reflector/non-emitter and becomes a conductor. The heat energy will just pass on through to whatever it’s touching. (See the video at bottom.)

OK, you can read about “The Physics of Foil” if you want to get your egghead on. Bottom line though: No Air Gap = No Good. The Reflectix company themselves says that on their website.

Furring strips put gap between foil and roof

3 Build Strategies Work

1. Side - Reflectix - Furring - Paneling

So how do you correctly use Reflectix in your van for living down by the river? Like they do on roofs and walls! Put furring strips (thin slats of wood, about an inch thick) over the Reflectix, then tack your paneling atop the furring strips. This’ll leave a little air gap between the paneling and the Reflectix.

2. Side - Furring - Reflectix - Paneling

You could also do it the other way round: put the furring strips on the metal, and the Reflectix over that, then paneling. So long as you get your air gap, you're in fuckin' business.

3. Side - Reflectix - NOTHING

Another option: Dispense with the furring strips and leave the Reflectix exposed. The van interior becomes the air gap then.

But maybe it’s not even worth it then. Especially if you’re tight on space. You might be better off using straight foam insulation (or wool, or fiberglass batting, or cellulose, or etc.).

Or if you live in a hot, sunny place and just want to reflect solar radiation, cheaper foil insulation would be just as good. Hell, you could glue up Reynold’s Wrap! Just leave it exposed to your interior. Might be ugly, but it'll work!

But Use Reflectix on Windows

The one place Reflectix rocks is windows. Yes, you could use plain old foil, like every trashy house and trailer in America. But the bubble wrap interior gives Reflectix some structure to bear taking up and down. I assume you don’t want foil in your windows all the goddamned time!

Still don’t get why Reflectix in your van walls *must* have an air gap? Don’t believe all those van conversions you saw online are wrong? Watch this video below. You’ll wish you coulda had a fuckin' V-8!

Cover of "All the Whores I Knowed Before" a book by Vanholio! For sale on Click through.

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Last Update: 12/10/2017

Louisiana Pigs Shake Me Down

Sign reads "The Butt Hut Bar-b-que" and has a pig seen from butt.
Goddammit! As a suspicious character with some kinda brain, Vanholio's No. 1 goal is to NOT look suspicious. But my best plans failed in Pollock, Louisiana. Got questioned by three LEOs for about 30 minutes!

This was as last Thursday. I was lookin' for a legal dispersed campsite in Kisatchie National Forest, near Stuart Lake. And I was drivin' legally down a legal road, mindin' my own legal goddamn business!

(BTW, that big photo is the sign for The Butt Hut in Vidalia, Louisiana. Had to stop! Decent pulled pork. Outstandin' coleslaw.)

The road was FSR 123. Not far in, I come to this puddle in the photo and wisely stopped. You know, instead of stuckin' myself. Took a photo as proof a my newfound wisdom.

puddle in middle of dirt road
Puddle where it all began!
Comin' down the other way was a game warden. He stopped and asked me a lotta questions about whether I had guns, where I was goin', etc. Then the fucker wanted to see my driver's license!

Now, when a LEO *asks* to see your license, that's a fuzzy area. You don't *have* to show your license as the LEO don't have probable cause, such as a traffic stop. If he did, he'd *demand* to see it. But then again, if you say no, it raises suspicions and may lead to trouble if the LEO is an asshole.

So I showed the game warden my license, but let him know this was goin' too far, IMHO. We parted.

A bit later, I took Ms. Barkley for a walk by the lake. When I come back to the van, who was standin' outside it but a local police officer and the game warden! (Cop No. 3 showed up a bit later.)

The dance began. Many questions were asked. Some were answered, some were not. Vanholio did his best to stand for his rights without invitin' an ass kickin'. Kinda like pettin' restrained but suspicious guard dogs.

Turns out Vanholio stepped his foot in it. FSR 123 drives straight to the back a the Pollock Federal Correctional Complex. Also turns out that dumbasses been drivin' back there to smuggled drugs into the prison.

So when Vanholio was sniffin' around there and nearby backroads in a white, unmarked van with outta state plates ... Well, locals saw the van and called me in. And you know what them and the LEOs was thinkin'.

Matters got cleared up. Didn't get the glove. But it was not a fun day ... USA, LLC

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Last Update: 12/08/2017

Van Life Travel Safety 101

funny illustration with van surrounded in chains, police tape, with a mounted video camera and a mean guard dog

“Ain’t many guys travel around together,” he mused. “I don’t know why. Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.” – John Steinbeck, Of Mice And Men

I assume that if you’re reading this article, you’re not a big scary MMA fighter driving a military fort on wheels with an arsenal under your bed. Then again, even if you meet that description, you might find a valuable point or two for van life here (and at my blog,

First and foremost, I want you to know this is not a fear-mongering article. The official van life travel plan is to enjoy your journey, be social, meet cool people and have adventures.

You never want to let fear rule your life. However, I am a firm believer in the Vietnam war era slogan, “stay alert, stay alive.” I have learned that an ounce of prevention is worth…possibly my life.

7 Tips for Van Life Travel Safety – for Women and Men

#1 – On the Road

Of course crime can happen anywhere, but some locations are worse than others.

For example, I’ve seen some sketchy things at rest stops, and this prompted me to execute a Google search, something like “Rest stop crime, US”.  The results left me a bit stunned. So many crimes, so much violence.

The same goes for convenience stores, which turn out to be among the most likely places to get shot, robbed or mugged in the US.

Of course, stopping for gas, groceries, bathroom breaks, and sleep are realities of van life. However, there are some general rules to follow when it comes to executing these activities safely.

Instead of stopping last minute, plan ahead. Do some research and find the best places to rest, sleep and shop.

Here are some of the safer options:

  • Along main streets
  • Grocery stores
  • Libraries
  • Hospitals
  • Municipal lots and buildings
  • Restaurants

I know what you’re thinking: “Nearly every gas station is also a convenience store”. True that, but it doesn’t mean you have to go in. Plan to use your card at the pump (vs walking in with a handful of cash), and remember to “Stay alert...”. Also, grocery store gas stations tend to be safer options.

#2 – At the Campsite

This is one place I have run into trouble more than a couple of times.

It’s important to be aware of your neighbors. Sometimes they’re just annoying. However, there are times when you’ll find yourself next to a neighbor who’s sketchy, lewd, intoxicated...

Know where your campground ranger or host is located and consider camping near them if you’re alone. Also, pay attention to their behavior. Not everyone in a uniform is safe and sane.

Most people I have encountered at campgrounds are harmless, but it pays to be conscious of your neighbors and take action early if you see something that looks off.

In fact, if your gut is telling you to move to a new site, or leave all together, listen!

#3 - Stealth Camping

Not every neighborhood allows van camping. In fact, some places such as Flagstaff, Arizona actually have laws against it. While I don’t recommend it as a nightly habit, it can be useful to learn to stealth camp.

Avoid remote areas with no people. It’s tempting to find a warehouse district or wooded area on the edge of town, but guess who else hides out there (I’ll let your imagination run with that one)? A nice clean housing area with a few cars parked on the streets is a better bet.

If you’ll be doing any stealth camping, keep the van clean inside and out and keep your behavior low key. No loud music, kill the lights for an early bedtime and get up early to move on.

Finally, never stay twice in the same location. That’s called overstaying your welcome, not stealth camping.

I’ve heard it said by some veteran vanners that no matter how stealthy you are, the cops always know when you’re sleeping in your van. Most of them don’t care as long as you’re clean and respectful.

All this relates to safety because homeowners can get testy when a garbage scow rolls up spewing death metal and dumping bottles of urine. I’ve heard more than one story of 3 am pounding on the side of the van, not by cops, but local permanent residents.

Don’t be that vanner. The best way to be treated with respect and decency is to be the first to offer it.

Tip #4 – Weapons

If you choose to arm yourself, please keep the following in mind: Every weapon requires some level of training and practice. No matter how simple or powerful, there will be a learning curve and a physical element. Take some time to learn how to not shoot (stab, spray, bludgeon, poison, electrocute, inflame…) yourself or your loved ones.

The most minimal and potentially valuable weapon is your own body. If you’re able bodied and want to feel a higher level of safety at all times, take some self-defense classes or at least read up on the subject. A good self defense instructor will have tips and tricks for staying safe that most people never think of.

I carry a personal pepper spray in my bag. It goes with me on walks to the bathroom at the campground, and pretty much everywhere else. I keep wasp or bear spray inside the van because they are both more powerful than regular pepper spray and travel further.

A fellow van traveler, and our gracious host for this article, Vanholio, won’t even keep a gun in his van. I tend to agree with pretty much every point he makes in that article.

If you feel the same way but want a bit more protection, you can carry a pellet gun for a last resort situation.

Tip #5 – Alarms

The cheapest alarm is a whistle. You can carry this on your keychain at all times. Additionally, you should arm your vehicle with a car alarm and make sure it’s set while you sleep. Any breach of your home will be met with a loud awakening! Get a lock fob with a panic button.

Tip #6 – Locks

Before you go to bed, check and double check the locks. You should also try to sleep with the windows mostly closed. If you have a roof fan, go ahead and close the windows. This also applies if you are rolling through a sketchy area. But again with the ounce of prevention; plan to avoid sketchy areas altogether.

Keep your valuables locked up in your van, cartop carrier, bike rack… I look at it like this: Valuable objects represent money to people in need. So by not flaunting my cool bike, camping gear or other valuables, I won’t have to defend it against someone with less to lose than I.

Tip #7 – Cell Service

Make sure you have enough service to make 911 calls. Although most cell phones will dial out in an emergency, it is another ounce of prevention.

Again, preparation is king: In planning ahead for where you want to sleep, look for areas with good cell coverage.

Of course you can go much deeper than these tips for safety and security. For example, I’m designing a small, fireproof safe to be installed in my van for storing cameras, laptop, passport… More on this topic coming soon at ‘How to leave your van unattended without worry’.

Enjoy your journey. Take the fork in the road that leads to possible adventure. Relax and breathe easy and take in the sights. Just don’t be naive. Do it with at least a modicum of preparation for the worst.

When she's not writing guest posts about van life, Veronica Cavanaugh is camping, backpacking, or planning her next outdoor adventure. She also enjoys watching old movies and writing poetry. See more of her work and a whole world of valuable van travel goodness at

Cover of "All the Whores I Knowed Before" a book by Vanholio! For sale on Click through.

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Last Update: 12/05/2017

Dispersed Camping Shut Down in Hunting Season

Squirrel hunters shoot guns up into trees
Vanholio's made a discovery this last fall months. In some – not all – national forests, the U.S. Forest Service don't allow dispersed camping durin' general hunting season. You must use a campground or hunt camp.

Sames true of some state forests and wildlife management areas (WMA).

?? #Vanlife question? Contact Vanholio! direct !!

What Kinda Campin' Is Allowed, What Ain't?

Now, campin' as a whole ain't cut off. Them forests as cut dispersed campin' keep open campgrounds. And most have designated "hunt camps," which range from seasonal campgrounds with all the amenities to small areas of cleared brush.

By "general hunting season," I mean any a them times hunters is out for big game with guns. Different states call it different things. But I ain't had the kibosh put on my dispersed campin' during bow and blackpowder seasons.

Which National Forests Restrict Dispersed Camping?

Don't know yet which all U.S. National Forests, but there's a few I can speak to from my recent travels in the South along US-84 (little 84, not the interstate).

  • Texas
    • Sam Houston National Forest – approved campsites only
    • Davy Crockett National Forest – approved campsites only
    • Angelina National Forest – approved campsites only
    • Sabine National Forest – approved campsites only
  • Louisiana
    • Kisatchie National Forest – no restrictions
  • Mississippi
    • Homochitto National Forest – no restrictions
    • Desoto National Forest – no restrictions, except state WMAs use approved campsites only
  • Alabama
    • Conecuh National Forest – approved campsites only
  • Florida
    • Apalachicola National Forest – approved campsites only

Call any forest ya wanna know more about on dispersed campin' limitations. Don't rely on their Forest Service websites. These ain't kept up good.

If ya know more, let me know in the comments. Think I'll try to put together a bigass post with a master list for future.

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