What Do You Call People Who Live in Vans?

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What Do You Call People Who Live in Vans?

In the captivating world of van life, where the open road beckons and adventure awaits at every turn, there’s a fascinating question that often arises: What do you call the people who choose to make their homes on wheels? The nomadic lifestyle embraced by these individuals has sparked curiosity, not only about their journeys but also about the titles and terms that define their unique way of life.

What Do You Call People Who Live in Vans?

From “van lifers” to “road warriors,” there’s an array of monikers that capture the essence of those who find solace, freedom, and a sense of home within the four walls of their trusty vans. But the question remains: What’s the right term, and do these titles accurately reflect the vibrant community that thrives on the open road?

In this article, we embark on a linguistic journey to explore the various names used to describe people who live in vans. We’ll delve into the history and evolution of these terms, shedding light on the diversity of individuals who find refuge in their mobile abodes. Whether you’re a seasoned van dweller, an aspiring nomad, or simply curious about the lifestyle, join us as we unravel the language of van life and the captivating stories it tells.

2. Van Life Terminology

Van Life: At the heart of the phenomenon lies the term “Van Life.” It’s a simple yet evocative expression that encapsulates the essence of the lifestyle—living life to the fullest while on the move. Van life represents the adventure of embracing the open road, the freedom of choosing your own path, and the liberation from traditional notions of home. It’s a lifestyle defined by mobility, simplicity, and a deep connection with nature.

The Subcultures Within Van Life:

Within the overarching umbrella of van life, there exist distinct subcultures, each with its own flavor and philosophy:

  • Van Lifers: This term is perhaps the most widely used to describe individuals who choose to live in vans. Van lifers are a diverse group, including full-time nomads, weekend wanderers, and those seeking temporary escapades. They share a common bond—a love for the road and the desire to break free from conventional living.
  • Road Warriors: These are the true adventurers of van life. Road warriors traverse vast distances, exploring remote landscapes, and chasing the thrill of the unknown. They embrace the challenges and uncertainties of the road with unwavering determination.
  • Urban Nomads: Some van dwellers find solace in the urban landscape. Urban nomads park their vans in bustling cities, blending the convenience of city life with the freedom of van life. They’ve discovered the beauty of navigating the concrete jungle in their mobile homes.
  • Minimalists on Wheels: For those who cherish simplicity and minimalism, van life offers the perfect canvas. Minimalists on wheels pare down their possessions to the essentials, valuing experiences over material belongings. Their vans are reflections of intentional living.
  • Eco-Nomads: Sustainability is at the core of the van life philosophy for eco-nomads. They embrace eco-friendly practices, from solar-powered setups to minimal waste living, aiming to minimize their environmental impact while on the road.

These terms represent the rich tapestry of experiences and personalities within the van life community. As you’ll discover, the names may vary, but the spirit of adventure and the pursuit of a life less ordinary remain constants in this extraordinary way of life.

3. Van Dwellers

Van Dwellers: Among the various terms associated with the lifestyle, “Van Dwellers” stands out as a straightforward and descriptive label. It precisely defines individuals who choose to make their vans their primary dwelling. Van dwellers may be attracted to this term for its simplicity and accuracy. It leaves no room for interpretation or romanticization—it conveys precisely what it means to live in a van.

Implications: “Van Dwellers” is a term that often resonates with those who value clarity and honesty about their way of life. It lacks the romanticized or adventurous connotations associated with some other terms, making it an attractive choice for individuals who view van life as a practical solution or a genuine alternative to traditional housing. For them, the van isn’t just a vessel for exploration; it’s their home.

4. Nomads and Wanderers

Nomads and Wanderers: The terms “Nomads” and “Wanderers” evoke a sense of romanticism and adventure. They harken back to a time when humans roamed freely, following their instincts and the call of the unknown. These terms have deep historical and literary roots, with nomadic tribes and wandering poets celebrated in cultures around the world.

Romanticized Aspects: When applied to the van life lifestyle, “Nomads” and “Wanderers” carry a certain romanticized allure. They paint a picture of individuals who are unburdened by the constraints of conventional life, driven by an insatiable wanderlust. For many, these terms represent a dream—a life of exploration, self-discovery, and a constant connection to the changing landscapes of the world.

Van Life Connection: In the context of van life, “Nomads” and “Wanderers” embrace the spirit of continuous movement and exploration. Those who identify with these terms often see their vans as vessels of endless possibility, allowing them to roam freely and write their own stories on the canvas of the open road.

While these names conjure images of adventure, it’s essential to recognize that van life encompasses a spectrum of experiences. Some van dwellers may fully embrace the nomadic lifestyle, while others find joy in stability and routine within their mobile homes. The beauty of van life lies in its diversity, where individuals choose names that reflect their personal journeys and aspirations.

5. Roadtrippers and Adventurers

Roadtrippers and Adventurers: Within the lexicon of van life, “Roadtrippers” and “Adventurers” shine as names that encapsulate the spirit of exploration and wanderlust. These terms resonate with those who view their vans as portals to endless journeys and uncharted territories.

Spirit of Exploration: “Roadtrippers” are individuals who see the road as both their destination and their path. They are driven by the allure of discovery, craving the ever-changing landscapes that stretch beyond the windshield. Each turn brings new experiences and encounters, and the journey itself becomes the destination.

**”Adventurers” are kindred spirits, fueled by a passion for the unknown. They find solace in the wilderness, freedom in the open air, and fulfillment in the pursuit of experiences that lie off the beaten path. Adventurers embrace the challenges and uncertainties of the road as opportunities for growth and self-discovery.

6. Minimalists and Tiny Housers

Minimalists: Some van dwellers prefer the term “Minimalists” to describe their lifestyle. This choice reflects a deliberate commitment to simplicity, where less is more. Minimalists in the van life community find joy in decluttered spaces, unburdened by excess possessions. Their vans are a testament to the art of living with intention and mindfulness.

Tiny Housers: Drawing inspiration from the tiny house movement, “Tiny Housers” are van dwellers who see their mobile abodes as microcosms of efficient living. These individuals master the art of compact design, optimizing every inch of space. The concept aligns with the idea that a smaller footprint—both environmentally and spatially—can lead to a fuller, more meaningful life.

Connection to Van Life: The relationship between minimalism and van life is a symbiotic one. The constraints of living in a van naturally lend themselves to minimalist principles, encouraging individuals to prioritize what truly matters and let go of excess baggage, both literal and metaphorical. Tiny Housers take this concept a step further, translating the principles of small-space living into the mobile realm.

Whether they identify as Roadtrippers, Adventurers, Minimalists, or Tiny Housers, these van dwellers share a common thread—the pursuit of a lifestyle that values experiences, embraces freedom, and connects them intimately with the world outside their windows. The van life community is as diverse as the landscapes it traverses, and the names they choose reflect the rich tapestry of their shared adventures.

7. Vanlifers and Vandwellers

Vanlifers and Vandwellers: As the van life movement continues to gain momentum, newer terms like “Vanlifers” and “Vandwellers” have emerged, reflecting the evolving nature of this lifestyle. These terms encapsulate the essence of living in a van and have gained popularity as a way to self-identify within the van life community.

Popularity in the Van Life Community: “Vanlifers” and “Vandwellers” have garnered popularity due to their straightforwardness and inclusivity. They transcend specific subcultures or labels, providing a broad umbrella under which all van dwellers can unite. These terms celebrate the shared bond of van life while allowing individuals to define their unique experiences within it.

8. Personal Preferences

Personal Preferences: Within the van life community, the choice of terminology often reflects personal values, experiences, and outlooks. We reached out to individuals living in vans to gain insights into their preferred terms:

Sam, a full-time van dweller, identifies as a “Vanlifer.” For him, it embodies the spirit of living life to the fullest, chasing sunsets, and embracing the nomadic lifestyle. He cherishes the sense of community among Vanlifers he’s met on the road.

On the other hand, Emma prefers the term “Minimalist Vandweller.” Her van is a testament to minimalism, with only the essentials for comfortable living. She sees her lifestyle as a harmonious blend of simplicity and mobility.

Chris, an eco-conscious van dweller, identifies as an “Eco-Nomad.” For him, it’s crucial to highlight the environmental aspects of van life. He actively promotes sustainability within the community.

These personal anecdotes humanize the content, showcasing the diversity of perspectives and experiences within the van life community.

9. Cultural and Regional Variations

Cultural and Regional Variations: The terminology used to describe van dwellers may vary based on cultural and regional factors. In some countries, different names may prevail:

  • UK and Europe: In the United Kingdom and parts of Europe, the term “Wild Campers” is used to describe those who park in secluded spots, often in natural settings, for extended periods.
  • Australia: “Grey Nomads” is a colloquial term used to describe older Australians who travel in caravans, including camper vans. It reflects the predominantly retired demographic of this nomadic lifestyle.
  • North America: “Overlanders” is a term gaining popularity, especially in North America, to describe those who venture into remote or challenging terrains, often with off-road capable vans.

These cultural and regional variations in terminology reflect the nuanced ways in which van life is perceived and practiced across the globe. While the names may differ, the universal allure of freedom, adventure, and self-discovery unites van dwellers worldwide.


In the vast and diverse world of van life, the terminology used to describe those who choose to make their homes on wheels is as varied as the landscapes they explore. From “Van Lifers” to “Road Warriors,” “Nomads” to “Minimalists,” and “Vanlifers” to “Vandwellers,” the lexicon of van life reflects the multifaceted nature of this extraordinary lifestyle.

Each term carries its own connotations and evokes different aspects of van life. “Van Dwellers” embrace simplicity and practicality, while “Roadtrippers” and “Adventurers” celebrate the spirit of exploration. “Minimalists” and “Tiny Housers” find harmony in a clutter-free existence, while “Eco-Nomads” prioritize sustainability.

The beauty of van life lies in its diversity, where individuals choose names that resonate with their personal experiences and aspirations. There is no singular label that defines the essence of van life because van life, at its core, is about self-expression, freedom, and the pursuit of a life less ordinary.

As you embark on your own van life journey or simply draw inspiration from this lifestyle, remember that the terminology is a reflection of the countless stories etched on the open road. Embrace the term that resonates most with your own van life experience, for in the end, it’s your unique journey and the memories you create that truly define the essence of van life.

May your adventures be boundless, your horizons ever-expanding, and your chosen term a testament to the extraordinary life you lead on the road.

Take a look at our other van life articles here.

Written by doc cotton

Meet Doc Cotton, your go-to founder of NowShack and a goto for all things adventurous and outdoorsy. With an unwavering passion for van life and a deep connection to the great outdoors, Doc is your trusted guide to exploring the world off the beaten path.

Doc's journey began with a fascination for the freedom and simplicity that van life offers. From there, it was a natural progression to spend countless hours prepping and converting vans into cozy, mobile homes on wheels. Whether it's turning an old van into a comfortable living space or sharing tips on the best gear for outdoor adventures, Doc has you covered.

But Doc Cotton is not just about life on the road; he's also a dedicated student of survival skills. Always eager to learn and share, Doc's insights into wilderness survival and bushcraft are invaluable for anyone looking to connect with nature on a deeper level.