Why don’t you just get a trailer? And other bad ideas.

When E and I began speaking publicly about living on the road a lot of people had opinions about it, solicited and otherwise…but usually well-meaning. One of the most common questions was why we didn’t simply buy a trailer and tow it with us. After all, a trailer is a ready-made house on wheels, no fuss no muss.

Aside from the obvious preference for being van trash rather than trailer trash, I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve said and thought “I am so happy we’re not towing a trailer right now.” I think part of the misconception has to do with human nature. Maybe people offering advice can’t help considering what they’d want or need in a similar situation. And they want to help us…I think. But we might not be on the same page about vandwelling in the first place. E and I have our own ideas about what’s negotiable or non-negotiable in terms of comfort and practicality, and it’s an evolving process. For our particular situation the reasons against buying a trailer are as follows:

It’s cold out there, yo. Most trailers are intended for seasonal use, not -35 degrees (and that’s before the windchill).

Navigating traffic and overall maneuverability
It’s just less practical for the narrow crowded streets of larger cities. You’ll encounter more difficulties with parking, overall visibility (blind spots), backing up, weather (crosscutting winds and ice-covered roads) and the dreaded three point turn.

When we’re on the road it’s so nice to be able to quickly run to “the back” and grab a snack, water, a book, or some other useful thing. If we were towing a trailer we’d have to park and nip out repeatedly. You could argue that we’d just bring all those things into the vehicle ahead of time, but who wants to be moving stuff back and forth and equipping the vehicle with a cooler unnecessarily. Stopping a vehicle to head into a trailer would really suck when it’s cold, when it’s raining, and when there are copious amounts of bugs. If it were January you’d also have to get into your parka and boots every time you stepped out, and if you’re on an isolated northern highway that’s assuming you’d be able to find a safe plowed area to pull over.

Leaving a trailer in a town or park you know very little about carries a certain level of risk. And if you need to leave somewhere in a hurry you can’t just get in the van and go.

Low Profile
Vandwellers call this the “stealth” factor. While it may not be stealthy at all to be roaming around a township of 1,000 in a gigantic white van, in a larger community it’s much easier to blend in. The more you blend in, the safer you are.

Freedom to Park
Parking on the road can be awkward but it’s not a nightmare. In campsites or provincial parks RVs usually have to be connected to water or electricity and competition for spaces during peak season can be fierce. With a converted van we can pay less to park in an un-serviced site, drive in, and drive out.

Our van gets about 8 kilometres to the litre, which is pretty dang good. And never mind that we never owned a vehicle capable of towing a trailer in the first place.

Bonus! Other bad ideas:

Why don’t you just build it yourself?
Why don’t you buy a new van?
Why don’t you just use a cooler instead of a fridge?
Why don’t you sleep in a tent?
Why don’t you sleep in hotels?
What do you need a solar panel for?

[Edit: Eating our words now, because we sure did buy a new van!]