Vanlife is the latest craze to sweep the nation, and for good reason. It allows people who otherwise would not be able to afford to purchase a home (read: most millennials) to own their own space, drastically reduce bills, and have the freedom to travel at will. Of course, there are trade-offs involved: such a small space means that amenities are limited, you face possible breakdowns, and you might not always be a comfortable temperature.
For most vanlifers, these trade-offs are worth the ability to pursue their dreams, escape the crush of bills and debt, and experience the world while they are still young.
In this list, we’ve compiled some excellent videos about vanlife, including documentaries about the lifestyle as a whole as well as tours of individual vans and interviews with van owners. Whether you are dreaming of converting a van or you’re already in the process, these videos are sure to inspire you!
1. Van Boom
This 90-minute documentary is a great overview of the recent vanlife phenomenon. It’s an in-depth look into why there are over 400,000 new van conversions hitting the road every year, and how this lifestyle is becoming the new American Dream.
Sergei Boutenko dives deep into the stats of vanlife in this film and speaks with other vanlifers as well as van conversion companies and other relevant industry leaders. This documentary is basically a who’s who of vanlife and will surely inspire you to jump into your van conversion with both feet!
2. Vanlifers: Portrait of an Alternative Lifestyle
This is another broad look at the vanlife community as a whole. Westfalia Digital Nomads creating this film specifically to inspire you to follow your dreams. It features interviews with vanlifers from all over the world who share why they chose to live in a van and their perspectives on the lifestyle, including the best and worst parts of vanlife.
The international aspect presented in this documentary is quite interesting and just goes to show that this is an international movement, not just limited to the United States.
3. Descend on Bend
One of the best parts of living in a van or other type of vehicle is the gatherings, both planned and impromptu. This documentary covers one of the biggest and most well-known vanlife gatherings in the world: Descend on Bend.
This annual meeting takes place in the Oregon outback each fall and allows van dwellers and adventurers to hang out, make friends, tour each other’s vans, enjoy structured activities, and so much more.
Some of the vanlifers who make appearances in the film mention the phenomenon of so many strangers gathering in one place and getting along so well immediately. This is true and real, because with others who are living the same lifestyle as you, it’s almost as if you can skip the small talk and get straight into being friends!
This film shows you the behind the scenes preparations that take place to put on this gathering each year. If you need a boost of motivation to get your van conversion started, this will convince you to have it ready in time for the next Descend on Bend!
4. Van Life Documentary: Our family’s journey around Europe
This documentary requires subtitles but it’s another incredible look at international vanlife as this young family begins their adventure in a van and travel around Europe. They face issues with their van that they then have to get repaired in other countries, but they also have amazing experiences throughout their journey.
5. Without Bound – Perspective on Mobile Living
This documentary features several vanlifers and other mobile dwellers, who share their perspectives on living sustainably and freely. It includes input from an older generation than is typically highlighted in the vanlife movement, and they share very valuable information about finding places to park your van and how they have made vanlife their retirement plans.
6. Converted van as full-time home for nomadic Canadian couple
Mat and Danielle live full-time in their converted van so they can focus on their passions by working less and experiencing more. When they first got together, they planned to live simply but real life snuck in and they ended up working more and more to keep up with their ever-increasing bills.
Finally, they made a dramatic change and moved into the van, where Mat can pursue art and music and Danielle can focus on her writing.
If you are feeling stuck in your life with bills, work, mortgages, and so on, this documentary is a perfect inspirational tool to help you make a change like Mat and Danielle did. While they certainly traded in some creature comforts for the freedom to work less, they have everything they need in their van and can experience so much more!
7. Tiny House Documentary – Couple Builds Ultimate DIY Stealth Sprinter Camper
Richard and Sofie traveled from New Zealand to North America, where they purchased a Sprinter van and converted it with just the bag of tools they brought with them. Many of the components for their van were purchased at Ikea, which saved them lots of time and effort they would have spent by building absolutely everything.
This couple did an amazing job at maintaining a stealthy exterior (meaning it’s not immediately obvious that people are living in the van) and with the skylight that they’ve installed, they still get plenty of natural light. This is a fairly bare-bones conversion but if you are feeling like doing an entire conversion yourself is beyond you, this basic plan can serve as perfect motivation.
8. Van Tour: Self Converted Sprinter Van with Shower
Dan and Christina spent just three months converting their 2018 Sprinter van, and it turned out so beautifully. This is a deluxe conversion with all the amenities, including a shower, which is fairly rare in vans. They have a Nature’s Head composting toilet onboard as well, although they only use it as a backup bathroom. The couple built in storage everywhere and their van turned out amazing.
9. GoPro: Chasing AdVANture with Chris Benchetler
This video is a combination van tour, ski documentary, and biography of skier Chris Benchetler. It begins by showing some of the absolutely incredible craftsmanship that goes into Chris’ van as he builds out the perfect rig to chase both awesome swells and gnarly slopes. The woodworking throughout the van is just mind-blowing, especially the ceiling and the wood mosaic elements.
Although this is an incredible level of detail to go into the woodworking of a van, it’s a great reminder that you can build your van conversion however you want to and make it as elaborate or simple as you want. Chris takes things to an ornate and beautiful extreme, but when you are sponsored by so many big-name companies, the sky’s the limit!
If you plan to convert your van to enable you to pursue your favorite sports, this is an excellent documentary to get inspired since it’s equal parts van build and adventure film!
10. Ultimate DIY Camper Van – Pop Top, Bathroom & Shower Built In
This 40-minute tour video gives you a super in-depth look at Andrew and Katie’s van conversion. Their cleverly named FLAK Wagon (FL for Florida where they are from and AK for Alaska where they spend their time) is a classic econoline van to which they’ve added a pop top and all kinds of other amenities in order to make it a livable space.
They cleverly included an outdoor kitchen space to save room inside the van. Andrew and Katie share their thoughts on having the pop top versus a van that they could just walk into, and some things they would change if they were to do it all over again.
If you are really interested in all the nitty gritty details of a van build, this longer format tour video is a great option for you.
11. She Lives & Travels In A 1990 Camper Van With Her Two Young Daughters
Tiffany and her daughters live in this beautifully appointed van, which allows Tiffany to homeschool her girls and teach them valuable lessons about life and adventure as they travel around the country. Her van is cleverly designed with a bed that folds into a bench seat where she can safely strap her daughters into car seats.
Tiffany has done an amazing job making this incredibly tiny space into a beautiful and welcoming home for herself and her daughters!
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Cat is originally from Seattle, WA but has traveled around the US and Canada full-time in a self-converted school bus with her boyfriend Aaron since April of 2018. She enjoys rock climbing, paddleboarding, hiking, and generally being outdoors!