Mobile home office: how the vanlife-work balance succeeds.

Woman and man sitting in front of a Sprinter

Working and living in a van and traveling? It can be done! We'll show you how: with the mobile home office.

Living, traveling and working on the road: bye, nine-to-five job.

It’s a bold decision and one that only a few make: to give up a steady nine-to-five job in the office and opt instead for a life in a van – and above all to use it as a mobile home office. Is that even possible? What do you lose if you swap the four walls of a fixed home for the van office – and more importantly, what do you gain?

Man sitting at a computer in a van

A camera and his computer – that’s all Ben needs to work. He is a photographer and always on the move with his girlfriend Katch and their Sprinter.

It takes courage and curiosity.

Rob and Emily went all the way and they never regretted it. The two Brits gave up all their belongings and exchanged their rented flat for a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 906. Their motorhome is now their living room, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and office all in one. It takes is above all courage and curiosity, says the couple. You have to be prepared to question the conventional perception of work that prevails in our society. The couple was always plagued by the feeling that their alternative lifestyle and their regular office jobs simply did not fit together. Now they work, where and when they want – mostly from the Sprinter. They share their experiences, tips and advices on their blog “The Road is our Home”.

People are beginning to realize that time is actually more important than excessive amounts of money.

Freed from the shackles of routine.

MYVAN: Vanlife and van work – how can they be combined?
Emily & Rob: It pays off to think outside the box, when looking for work. Your usual 9-5 office job is not necessarily the best for when living an alternative lifestyle, so better look for jobs that you wouldn’t usually look for. Do not be afraid to try something different. And finally, be open to try new things, if you end up not liking a certain job it doesn’t matter because you can just find something else, you can free yourself from the ties usually associated with living in bricks and mortar.

"The Road is Our Home" sticker on the window of the van

Rob and Emily also took the step and moved into their Sprinter.

No two days are the same.

MYVAN: What’s the appeal of this kind of working life?
Emily & Rob: The best part of travel working is variety, not having to do the same job every day, it really keeps everything interesting, you have the flexibility to do whatever you want. If you’re like us and love learning new skills then working on the road can be super exciting, one day you could be working from the comfort of your van parked on the beach, the next you could be giving skiing lessons in the mountains, work really can be fun!

MYVAN: What has changed since you chose this lifestyle?
Emily & Rob: Our costs have fallen dramatically. Suddenly, we’re no longer under so much pressure to keep a well-paid job at all costs. The result: more freedom and the self-determination to do what’s fun, what gets you ahead, what you can learn from.

Job title ‘Digital Nomad’: how to find the right job!

  • The advantage for freelancers: There are more independent jobs than you think you can do from your desk in the van: graphic designer, web developer, copywriter, author, journalist or publicist, translator, consultant, coach, teacher, social media manager, game developer, musician, photographer, video producer or filmmaker, you can even earn money as a courier.
  • From the van to the bar: If you’d rather get to work than hit the keyboard, there are also various options: barkeepers, nannies, aupairs, seasonal workers, harvesters, furniture removers – there are no limits to your imagination.
  • Social media is the key: The net also contains numerous portals and vanlife groups which offer small jobs that you can do on the move – for example gropus on Facebook for USA or UK and Europe.
  • Work & Travel: You’ll also find several agencies on the Internet that you can use to find mini-jobs, such as upwork or flexwork. The great thing about it is that you can manage your own time, learn new things all the time and you rarely get bored.

Romanticism is out of place.

Probably the most important advice is always to keep in mind that you are not on holiday. Work remains work, whether in a van or an office – although it is certainly nicer if you can arrange it yourself or do it over a cup of coffee at the beach. Nevertheless, life in a van, travelling, also has its downsides – you should therefore get your too romantic expectations out of your head beforehand.

Turning your back on the office does not always mean having to give up the profession you love. Lucas and Kathryn, for example, have proven this. The couple travels through the west of the USA to photograph wedding couples in a special way. Their mobile home and photo lab: a Sprinter 3500 with camping set-up.

A woman and a man working on a computer at a port

Sometimes you also have to change your workplace. If you’re on the road in your van, it’s easier than with a 9-to-5-job.

Van work does not mean being on a permanent vacation.

MYVAN: What advice do you give people who want to work from their van?
Kathryn: My best tip is take time to GO places to get away! That sounds a bit silly, but just because we are living in a van doesn’t mean we’re on vacation all the time! So, we usually look for places that are just outside of cell service (or farther if we can really get away) to create forced downtime. When we plan for times like this, our time back from it while we are working feels much more fresh and easygoing.

It’s not easy to find the right balance between work and travel.

MYVAN: What’s the greatest difficulty?
Lucas: Some days we find that we’ve been sitting in front of the screen too much and taking too few pictures or not being out enough. It’s not easy to find the right balance between work and travel. We actually had to learn not to work all the time – because suddenly we could work all the time and from anywhere.
Kathryn: It’s hard to get away from work work work! Even when we’ve had the best of intentions to get in a rhythm with getting long hikes in, or going for a bike ride even! So that has been a challenge. Another difficulty is having enough time for ourselves. I didn’t think I needed a lot of downtime alone, but it turns out, I do! So, finding ways to give each other a little space has proven difficult, but when we communicate those needs openly, it really helps!
Lucas: It is a never-ending learning process. We therefore consciously divide our work into phases and vary them individually. This allows us to consciously take time out from work, and to surf, to hike or simply to continue traveling.

Small woman and big man in desert

Kathryn and Lucas work from the road. They say, “Time-outs are important”.

Tangible tips for your mobile office:

  • Internet: hardly any task works today without the Internet: cafés, libraries or universities usually have free Internet connections. In some places, the vehicle can then simply be parked in the car park and the Wifi can be used conveniently from the van. Another clever option is a smartphone hotspot.
  • Post: no apartment – no postal address? On the Internet, you will find providers who offer a postal address for you. These companies then send you the received letters as a scan and if you are expecting a parcel, you can pick it up there at some point. In addition, packing stations simplify the postal traffic immensely.
  • Administration: paperwork can be managed digitally and archived in the cloud, which saves the printer and the environment. A few stationery items are enough, and most office jobs only require a laptop anyway, right?
  • Bureaucracy: automate your processes, outsource some things, and let others do it or the computer. This means, for example, regular bank transfers that you have to make for insurance, taxes and so on.

Turn your lifestyle into a business model.

A very rewarding work you can do while traveling: telling like-minded people about your life and making your van work-life a guide for others. Create a blog, shoot how-to videos and put them online. If you approach the issue correctly, blogging about living and working in the van can be a business model that makes this lifestyle financially possible for you in its entirety. If you land cooperations, become an influencer on Instagram, be creative in front of and behind the camera – from YouTube to Etsy. Use the possibilities of social media and your van as a mobile film set.

Mercedes-Benz offers the right van.

Meanwhile, the new working environment needs to be planned in detail. What you need, what you can do without, what the workplace should look like – these are questions that you have to clarify for yourself before you take the step. Mercedes-Benz offers the right van for every requirement. The Sprinter in particular can be excellently modified with the help of numerous body manufacturers.

Ten tips for your perfect mobile home office.

Interior of a converted Sprinter

#1 Lay the foundation: First set up an office in the van, then take care of the job and consider where the money could come from – that's the wrong way to go. Better is to set yourself up professionally in such a way that working from a van is also possible.

Sprinter and a lot of travel equipment from above

#2 Downsize your equipment! Do you need all your devices, folders and writing utensils do you have in your office? Usually not. If you use the van as an office, you have to rethink: what can go or should go. Space is limited. Practical is selling double or barely used devices earning you a bit of money.

Sprinter parked on a coast with lighthouse

#3 Minimizing means maximizing. Reduce your needs and that reduces costs. And working time. This does not only apply to the demands of daily life. Those who opt for van life have to do without many things, like a regular shower, some comfort, and much more. When it comes to finances, too, the motto is minimize! Less expenditure means less pressure to make money, more leisure time and more time for road trips.

The feet of two people lying in a bed

#4 Every little bit helps. Instead of relying on one income, it makes sense to build up several pillars and thus financial sources. Be creative and last but not least, blogs, vlogs and online guides where you tell about your van work lifestyle can earn you a modest income. Other vanlifers will thank you for it.

Tourist takes photo or Cheese!

#5 Plan your work-life balance. A brief excursion into the outdoors at work – only the van office offers you this opportunity. But this kind of working life also needs to be planned. Clients don't postpone their deadlines because of your spontaneous hike and have limited understanding if they can't reach you during their regular working hours. The same applies to the mobile office: the customer is king.

A couple relax in front of a Sprinter

#6 Let your customers know that you are digital nomads. Hiding your unusual working model from customers is counterproductive. Consider it a personal plus to be a digital nomad, thus not everyone has the guts to run their business from a van. This step shows courage, creativity, spontaneity and flexibility – not the worst professional qualities, right? A meeting in a van – why not?

A man cooking in a Sprinter

#7 Be prepared for surprises. A travel lifestyle is full of surprises – in both a positive and negative sense. If you break something on your van, you'll need some time to repair it, so you can't work. That means: hello, forced vacation. In other words, be prepared for the fact that not everything always goes according to plan.

Interior of a converted Sprinter

#8 A van office also costs money. Buying a van, living and working in it is a one-time purchase and saves rent, incidental expenses and the like. Far from it: Even a van office needs maintenance, repairs, and brings with it costs that you may not have expected in advance.

Sprinter in a desert

#9 Improvising beats studying. The strength of the van office is the flexibility and mobility of working. The weakness of the office on four wheels: that's what it is. Those who complete their tasks "on the road" must be prepared to improvise here and there.

The open sea through a window of a Sprinter

#10 Protect yourselves. Have a contingency plan for times when things aren't going so well. In case of doubt: the way back to your previous working life is always open to you. And your mobile office won't go anywhere without you.

The shown conversions were carried out by independent third parties. The suppliers and conversions were not checked by Mercedes-Benz. In this respect, these illustrations do not represent an assessment of the supplier and/or conversions by Mercedes-Benz.

Sprinter

Regardless of what job you have to tackle – the Sprinter will make your day-to-day tasks easier. And even if those tasks are weighty ones, together, you’ll move mountains. Thanks to a host of different variants and over 600 optional features, the Sprinter can meet a wide variety of requirements.

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