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  • Writer's pictureRania Hannan

Living in a van is brave—regardless of gender

Updated: May 18, 2022

“Living in a van must be so much harder as a woman, right?”

I can’t believe I get asked such silly questions sometimes. Of course it’s so much harder. Finding room in my build for my manicure station, full-length closet for all of my pretty pink dresses, and Cosmo magazines was exhausting. And then there’s the issue of it being against the law to drive after 4 pm without written permission from your husband, father, or the local sheriff. Don’t even get me started on having to find a different barn every four weeks to go isolate in during my time of the month.

I’m joking.

The narrative that women are brave and strong for doing this because we are women is misguided. We’re brave and strong for doing this because living in a van is HARD. Regardless of gender, when you live on the road you’re at some point going to deal with:

  • Loneliness

  • Struggling to find a spot where you can park overnight

  • Something breaking, almost exclusively at the worst possible time

  • Weather extremes

  • Frustrating van chores

  • Decision overload

What people are really asking when they ask about living alone in a van as a woman is: “Is that safe?” It’s as safe as being a woman living a stationary lifestyle. Meaning it’s not as safe as life is for a cisgendered man. Women are statistically more likely to face violence, and it’s far more likely that it's by someone close to them.

Unfortunately, being a woman alone anywhere means having to take extra measures to look out for your safety. Whether it’s leaving a large pair of men’s work boots outside of your van or carrying pepper spray when you leave your apartment, we are trained from a young age to be on high alert. To make it our responsibility that others may want to harm us. To feel like we are supposed to live our lives differently because of circumstances out of our control.

This isn’t meant to be a feminist think-piece. The ultimate point here is that things are the same for women in houses versus vans. Pay inequality, the caregiving gap, violence, sexual harassment–it all still exists wherever you live. Unless you live on a secluded patch of land in the mountains, in which case would you mind dropping those coordinates on iOverlander real quick?

Everyone is on the road for their own reasons, but all genders enjoy freedom, connecting with other like-minded people, personal growth, being closer to nature, and not paying rent. Gender should not be the limiting factor in accessing all of that. #solofemalevanlife, or whatever you want to call it, has provided me with so much and I’m incredibly grateful that I didn’t let my unsupportive parents, paranoid Youtube commenters, or other skeptics keep me from doing it.

For more vanlife realities, check out my one-year follow-up video on our Youtube channel:

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