TikTokers Raychel and Nick have opted out of paying rent by renovating and living in a decommissioned ambulance. After doing the math, they say they've saved $31,200 on rent over the last two years.
In a walkthrough of their renovation costs, Raychel said "Our building materials - from plywood to screws, shims, cedar, plumbing, hooks, and other hardware - was $835. Our power system, including 630 watts of solar, our inverter and AGM batteries was $1,260." She went on to say, "We didn't have any sheets or furniture before van life because we were living out of backpacks. To furnish everything, including our bedroom and bathroom, was $277, bringing us a grand total of $8,794 to buy, build, and furnish our van." There is a toilet, but no shower in the van so they bathe at gyms.
So why was van life preferable to them over paying rent? I would assume the answer would be 'because capitalism is a plague', and Raychel's response is basically that. Raychel made an FAQ video stating her main reasons being location and financial freedom, as well as responding to other common fan questions.
I think the minimalist nomad lifestyle is obviously very appealing to a lot of people. It defies the modern culture of consumption and consumerism which can have a negative affect on mental health. It also allows for a lot of freedom that owning or renting a brick and mortar don't. You get to travel, you're not tied down to one place, you get to set your own schedule, and all of that is very appealing. I do think however it would be irresponsible to pretend the rise in van life isn't also tied in with capitalism and the rising costs of living through stagnated wages. The federal minimum wage in Canada is $15.55, in America $7.25. The average income in Canada and the US are $55,700 and $67,521 in America, respectively. The average cost of buying a house in Canada and the US are $750K and $429K, respectively. The mortgages on those for a 15 year loan at 3% would be about $3,500 for Canada $3,100 for the US. The cost of a home is supposed to be 30% of your income, but the average cost of buying home compared to the average income level is significantly higher with Canada being almost 3/4 the average income and the US being about half. Would Millennials and Gen Z be flocking to van life if wages had kept up with the cost of living and if rent and the housing markets weren't being exploited for profit?