Should You Be Worried by Van Life Horror Stories?

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On Instagram, van life looks like a picture-perfect adventure filled with warm drinks, Patagonia sweaters, and forecasts of perpetual sunshine. However, with cases like the murder of Gabby Petito making it into mainstream news, the scarier side of van life is getting more attention. Ranging from bed bug infestations to tragic endings, the van life horror stories can be quite concerning for those wanting to venture out. 

You shouldn’t be worried by van life horror stories; however, you should use them to plan ahead for your build and itinerary. Van life is more enjoyable when you take the time to prepare the van for travel, protect yourself from burglars, and ask any companions some tough questions beforehand.

In this article, you will read about the most common frights that van-dwellers have experienced and how to do what you can to avoid having any horror stories of your own. Read on to learn how to ensure your own van life is an adventurer’s fairytale!

Van life Horror Stories that really happened

Certainly! Here are three real van life horror stories along with their sources:

1. The Cursed Van

In this story, a couple buys a van and sets out on a road trip, only to experience a series of strange and terrifying events that seem to be linked to the van itself. They eventually discover that the van was previously owned by a man who had committed suicide in it.

2. Real Nightmare for Trent

Trent, a 29 year old dude that lives, travels, and games out of his van had a terrible experience while being in the middle of the desert.

3. “The Stalker”

In this story, a woman living in a van is stalked by a man who becomes increasingly aggressive and threatening. She eventually manages to escape, but not before experiencing a terrifying and traumatic experience. (source: Reddit)

It’s important to note that while these stories are certainly scary, they are also rare occurrences. Van life can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, but it’s important to take to stay safe and secure while on the road.

There is also this Apple Podcast which shares memorable experiences from the host’s van life adventures, which may involve some challenges and potentially spooky or mysterious encounters.

How to Protect Yourself during Van Life

Install a Fort Knox-Worthy Alarm System in Your Van

Now that you are fully protected against nature’s stowaways, your van needs protection from bigger pests. Namely, humans trying to break into your van. 

Hopefully, anyone breaking in is just hoping to score a wallet or some cash, but it’s way better not to meet long enough to find out their reasons. An aftermarket alarm system is the best way to go about scaring off any bad guys.

Choosing an Alarm System

There are a few things I never cheap out on: 

  • My bed
  • My shoes
  • My safety

I will forever buy everything else from second-hand sources and then spend the big bucks on these three things, and for van life, that means investing in a good alarm system. 

City van-dwellers are especially going to want to install an alarm. Arming your van should be a bigger purchase since it could potentially be something that saves your life. I chose a high-end system and had it professionally installed before I ever left my driveway.

2 Way LCD Vehicle Car Alarm
  • Works from a far distance.
  • 2 way remote is a great way to just check if you locked your car or forgot, just look at the remote to make sure it's locked.
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A brand that has earned a lot of consumer trust is Viper. One of their most popular alarms is the Viper 5305V 2 Way System from In addition to its safety features, it also features remote start-up and keyless entry alarm features. 

If you plan to live your van life in the middle of nowhere, then a siren might not be the most important part of an alarm system. To ensure safety when no one is around to hear an alarm, you will want to pick something with GPS tracking.

2021 Positive GPS Tracker
  • Simple to use | Email & Text Alerts | Geofences | 4G LTE
  • Computer, Phone, or Tablet | Great for GPS tracking of assets, inventory, and vehicles | Compact Size

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I am usually one to get as far away from civilization as I can, so this Positive GPS tracker from has helped me sleep soundly at night. It’s simple to use, requires no contract, and doesn’t charge any cancellation fees. Additionally, it has unlimited 4G LTE data.

Personal tips: looking for more safety advice? Check these articles:
Is living in a van dangerous? A safety guide for newbies
Is Van Life Dangerous? Safety Tips

Gain Insight on Everyone’s Reasons for Choosing Van Life

Before leaving, you will want to talk through your and your companions’ reasons for making this leap. This can be the hardest part of looking out for your safety before pursuing van life. No one wants to believe that their friend or partner is capable of harm, but this is still a step not to be skipped. 

First, look inward. Why are you attracted to this type of life? If it’s the thrill of adventure and the freedom of being on the road, then full steam ahead!

However, if you detect some sadness or desire to escape some present circumstances, then it might be a good idea to hold off and work through those feelings first. 

Van life might still be a great future for you, but it will not solve all of the mental health problems that you might be trying to avoid dealing with at home. 

Next, look to any companions if you have any. This is particularly the case with couples since van life can be very attractive to someone who is already trying to isolate their partner. If you think there could be even one red flag that your partner has controlling behavior, it could justify not getting in the van with them.

According to Psychology Today, if your partner uses physical force, finances, guilt, emotional harm, etc., to manipulate you in any way, then this is cause for concern. Check out the full article for the complete list of controlling behaviors to watch for in a relationship. 

This is especially tough because it can be really hard to see warning signs beforehand, and sometimes there is nothing to see. However, this is just generally true of relationships and is not something unique to van life. 

Final Thoughts

For every horror story you hear about van life, there are about 100 happy ones. Most of the community is filled with fun-loving, free-spirited folks who just don’t want to be tied down to a permanent address.

Of course, keep your safety as your number one priority whether you live in a castle, a shoe, or a van. Be extra cautious before stepping on the gas for your van life but don’t let fear stop you from living your dream and seeing the world!

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