Thinking of becoming a remote worker and travelling with your spouse or partner in a motorhome, RV or campervan? Wondering how you'd get on together, day after day after DAY in a small space? Here's everything you need to know about being a van life couple who works from the road.
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Being a van life couple- the reality
Travelling the world in a van is a dream come true, and what better person to share it with than your soul mate. You know, the person you love and cherish and want to smother with a pillow when they WON'T stop humming, or tapping or mumbling in their sleep…
I hate to break it to you, but van life for a couple isn't always as easy as it looks on Instagram. Many couples start their new life in a motorhome or campervan without considering the downsides or things that could go wrong. Trust me, if your dearly beloved leaves their dirty socks all over the floor in a house, it becomes 10000000000 times more annoying in a 6m van.
I quit my job to travel Europe in a motorhome in 2018. I packed up our life and my husband and off we set. Since then, we've been more or less on the road (we don't discuss 2020!) Before that, we lived on a boat for 15 years. (We still do, when we're not touring.)
I'll be honest, it's been awesome.
And it's been hell.
There are times I honestly don't know how I managed to avoid stabbing him somewhere painful with a spoon. Hard.
I think it's only the thought that I would not do well in jail. (I, of course, am a fecking DELIGHT to live and travel with. He's such a lucky man…)
Still, I think it's fair to say we have PLENTY of experience as a vanlife couple and people who live in a small space together and are still (so far) alive to tell the tale.
How to be a Van Life Couple and live on the road with your partner – tips for setting up your van
So, if you're thinking about packing it all in and living full-time in a van with your partner, here are some bits of advice to set up your routine and make it work. Hopefully.
Be clever with organising your van
One of the hardest things you have to do when you start van life is downsizing all your belongings to fit into your motorhome or campervan. And, if you're travelling as a couple, you have even less space or motorhome payload to play with (see- there are arguments for solo vanlife!)
Therefore, the first task is organising the campervan storage space to make living in the van as easy as possible (and to avoid arguments.)
Try to think about how you'll use the space at various times throughout the day. I am an early to bed, early riser, so I like somewhere to sit and work in the morning while my husband is in bed. (This strongly influenced our decision when buying our motorhome too.)
And if you are crazy enough to travel in a van with kids (like we did!), then you need to be even clever with both what you bring and how you store it.
Design your van to make everything accessible
Keep your storage system as simple as possible. For example, organise the motorhome kitchen and put cooking stuff in the same area, so that you don't need to open 6 lockers or move 70 cans just to make a cup of tea. Same with clothes.
Instead of putting all socks or all trousers together, think in terms of outfits. Put ALL hiking gear or running gear together, so you only need to open one locker or box instead of three. Try to split the storage space equally in a way that works for you. In our motorhome, he has most of the wardrobe and I get an extra locker.
Less is better
I know downsizing is hard enough, but trust me on this- less clutter is better. When you're trying to work from the road and can't find something, it's easy to blame the other person for moving it. The less ‘stuff' you have, the better. If you're new to motorhome life, here are some packing checklists to help you.
Also, for work, try to keep things as digital as possible. That way, you're unlikely to lose your mind when your work notebook disappears, never to be seen again (ask me how I know…!) We use one of these portable hard drives for all our stuff, including travel photos.
TOP TIP: Get one EACH for work, in case you both need to use it at the same time, and then have a totally separate one for travel memories/ personal stuff.
Remote working from your van together- tips to stay sane
Try to set a Weekly Work Schedule
Remote working and Van life for a couple means balancing travel and work schedules. One of the biggest fights we have ever had was while touring Norway in our motorhome.
We were new to van living and working on the road as we travelled and we hadn't figured out how to be digital nomads and set proper time aside for work. It didn't help that it rained a LOT during the trip, and every time it stopped raining my husband seemed to be working. It made me so mad- we'd driven all this way, to explore this incredible country (and it really is incredible) – and he was stuck inside the motorhome, on the phone and laptop.
It created a lot of tension, even though I also knew that his income was essential to us travelling- and that without that income, we wouldn't be here at all.
Nowadays, we've learnt from that. We appreciate that remote working is not the same thing as making money online from home. We schedule in work time, usually mornings, and non-driving days so we both have time to work and catch up with emails etc. He spends a LOT of our driving time on the phone and I have invested in a pair of the best noise-cancelling headphones money can but (trust me, they're amazing!)
Occasionally, we have a situation where I'm trying to film a Youtube video and he's on the phone, which is a problem in a small space, but we're much better at setting a schedule and saying what we need to get our work done (which from my side is often “Please take the dog for a walk and don't come back for an hour…”)
Communication And Honesty
If communication and honesty are at the core of any healthy relationship, for van life couples they are essential.
The point of being honest is that you can find a fair compromise from the beginning. It's pointless to pretend you are ok about something to just get mad about it 3 hours later.
Good communication takes practice and honesty. It's a skill you need to work on and maintain. However, once you master it, I can promise it will really strengthen your relationship in all the best ways.
Split Up Van Duties however works for you as a couple
One of the things which didn't change much when we started van life as a couple were the chores.
I hate to break it to you, but it's not all endless romantic walks or wild camping in your motorhome on the shore of idyllic beaches.
Living in a van doesn't only mean being organised and fair. It also means a lot of cleaning and tidying up. Before you set off each day, everything needs to be packed away. Some days you need to clean the van, fill up with fuel and get gas. Or, simply find a place to do laundry and do the shopping. If you don't have a bathroom in your van, you'll want to find a campsite or place to get clean.
The list of chores, even if they're minor, can feel overwhelming. So it's important to split the duties however makes sense for you. In our van, I plan a route and find laundrettes, campsites and places to visit. I also do the shopping and most of the cooking. He does all the maintenance and most of the motorhome cleaning. He also empties the toilet (and trust me, I am willing to do a LOT more chores in order to avoid that job!!)
We don't hold with ‘male' and ‘female' roles, but we do have a pre-trip routine, which makes it easier for us to ensure things are done before we set off. I tend to secure the inside of the motorhome, he tends to do the engine checks and things outside.
Give Each Other Space
Van life for couples is often a challenge because people struggle to be honest when they need space. Just look how many couples struggled to live and work together at home during the pandemic. And that was in a house or flat with separate rooms!
Living in a small space together ALL THE TIME can be tough. It's a whole new level of compromise. For example, you want to something on the tv in your motorhome that your partner doesn't like. Or a sport (did I mention I'm a MASSIVE rugby and F1 fan? Mr WB is a bit…meh… about them.)
It's important to leave each other space to do what you like as an individual person. If you don't leave space for yourself, you will feel overwhelmed by your relationship and by living van life as a couple and it could be a disaster.
Plan Date Nights
Another challenge of van life with a partner while remote working on the road is spending quality time together as a couple. Not only do you see each other wearing the same clothes three days in a row, stop bothering with makeup or shaving and maybe not even a shower for a while, but it's also possible to spend all your time working when you're not travelling.
However, feeling too comfortable can impact the relationship in the long run. It's important to find a special time to spice up the romance and keep the connection. It can be an intimate dinner for two, a hike to a beautiful lake or a crazy night out in the city. Something which makes you laugh and have fun together is always a good choice.
The important thing is doing something that reminds you both why you are a great couple and why you want to spend the rest of your life together. (Trust me, it can be easy to forget sometimes!)
Van Life Tips for couples
Van life for a couple can be tough. But it's definitely not impossible, even if you're working from the road together. The key to making it work is organisation and communication. You need to be hyper-aware of your own feelings and get better at being honest about them- your partner is NOT a mind reader.
Also, be kind to each other. Especially if you or your partner is new to living and working on the road. It's a learning curve. However, it's also an EPIC way to live and you'll have some incredible experiences together.
If all else fails, there's always vodka. 😉
Good luck to you. If you'd like to follow our adventures (and see if I've ended up in jail yet!) you can find us on Instagram.