Skip to content
Home » Mental Health Awareness Month (Does Being A Van Lifer Improve Mental Health?)

Mental Health Awareness Month (Does Being A Van Lifer Improve Mental Health?)

Mental Health & Van Life

Like many other van lifers, we took to the open road to get away from the stresses of the daily 9-5 grind. Writing this in Mental Health Awareness Month, we discuss if van life does really help.

The concept of van life gone from a being a very niche lifestyle choice for a minority to becoming a movement embraced by thousands seeking adventure, freedom and a break from conventional living.

We decided to ditch our stable jobs and rental to become van lifers, and we have definitely enjoyed potential mental health benefits that many van lifers had said this nomadic lifestyle is all about.

Living in a van encourages a simpler, more intentional way of life. The freedom to choose where to go and how long to stay can be liberating, offering a refreshing change from the routine pressures of traditional living.

Being surrounded by nature and connecting with a like-minded community are just a few ways van life has helped improve our mental health.

With Mental Health Awareness Month taking place throughout the month of May each year, we felt it was a good time to share some of the ways we have improved our mental health on the road.

From practical things to do to making the most of this unique lifestyle, you can get into a much better head space living the van life.

When is Mental Health Awareness Month?

First things first…when is Mental Health Awareness Month. It is observed in May each year in the United States.

The purpose of it is to create a month long time dedicated to raising awareness about mental health issues and reducing the stigma associated with mental illness.

Getting involved in Mental Health Awareness Month can help spread awareness, or you can find local or virtual events like workshops, webinars and conferences taking place throughout May.

It’s good to use this month as an opportunity to learn more about mental health issues, treatments and strategies for maintaining your own mental well-being.

Pros & Cons of Van Life for Improving Mental Health

Remember that no two people, including both of us running this site, are the same. Everyone living van life will an experience that differs greatly depending on their personal circumstances.

That includes mental health status and how each of us approach the challenges and benefits of this lifestyle.

For some, being on the road is what improves mental health. For others, the loneliness of van life can be a negative. So, we jotted down some of the pros and cons from our experience.

Pros of Van Life for Mental Health

Freedom and Flexibility

Van life offers the freedom to change your surroundings, which can be refreshing and revitalizing. This can help reduce feelings of being trapped or stagnant, something we found when doing the 9-5.

Connection with Nature

Many who choose van life spend significant time in natural settings, which is known to improve mental health through reduced stress, enhanced mood, and increased physical activity.

ford transit van conversion 2

Simplicity and Minimalism

Living in a van encourages a minimalist lifestyle, reducing the stress and anxiety that can come from managing and maintaining a lot of possessions. This simplicity can lead to a clearer, more focused mental state.

Community and Belonging

The van life community is often tight-knit, offering a sense of belonging and support which can be very beneficial for mental health, particularly for those who may feel isolated in more conventional settings.

Cons of Van Life for Mental Health

Lack of Stability and Routine

The constant change in location can disrupt daily routines, which are important for some people’s mental health. The uncertainty and lack of stability can increase anxiety for some individuals.


Despite the community aspect, living on the road can also be lonely. Extended periods away from family and friends can contribute to feelings of isolation and depression.

Physical Discomfort and Stress

Living in a confined space can be physically uncomfortable and may exacerbate stress over time. Issues like extreme temperatures, limited access to showers, and cramped spaces can impact mental wellness.

Financial and Logistical Stress

Although it can reduce living costs, van life also involves unpredictable expenses related to vehicle maintenance, fuel and finding places to park safely and legally. These uncertainties can add to mental stress.

5 Ways to Boost Mental Health While Living Van Life

We’ve picked out our best five ways to boost mental health while living on the road. They might not work for you, but we try to follow them as much as we can.

1. Establish a Routine

Despite the changing scenery, maintaining a daily routine can provide a sense of stability and control. Try to wake up, eat, exercise and sleep at regular times to help structure your days and reduce anxiety.

2. Stay Connected

While on the road, it’s important to maintain relationships with family and friends. Regular check-ins through calls, texts, or social media can help combat feelings of isolation.

Also, engaging with the van life community can provide a sense of belonging and shared experience.

3. Engage in Physical Activity

Take advantage of the natural settings you visit by engaging in outdoor activities like hiking, biking or yoga. Exercise is not only good for the body but also elevates your mood and reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety.

4. Practice Mindfulness and Relaxation

Incorporate mindfulness practices like meditation, deep breathing, or journaling into your daily life. These practices can help manage stress, increase self-awareness, and enhance overall emotional resilience.

5. Create a Comfortable and Personal Space

Since the van is both your transportation and home, make it a comfortable and inviting space. Personal touches like photos, favorite books or comfy textiles can make your van feel cozy and comforting, contributing positively to your mental health.

Can Pets Help with Mental Health?

Pets are a great boost. A dog is a man’s for reason and they love being with you and have an excellent understanding of your mood. The same applies to cats and other pets.

Pets provide constant companionship, which can reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. The presence of a pet can offer comfort and a sense of security.

Interacting with pets has also been shown to decrease levels of cortisol, a stress-related hormone, and to increase the production of serotonin, a feel-good chemical in the brain.

Van life dogs, or any dog in fact, require regular exercise and as owners it forces us to be more physically active. Regular walks are therefore beneficial for mental health and can help with depression and anxiety.

Taking care of a pet requires a routine and consistent care too and helps add some structure to your day. They also help in being a great social catalyst and starting conversations with strangers.

All pets, including van life cats, are often very attuned to their owners’ emotional states and can provide comfort, are non-judgmental and give love in the bucketloads.