The last three and a half months have been the longest three and a half months I have ever experienced. They have also been the happiest, yet most frustrating, the most free, and the most anxious I have ever felt. My romanticized expectation of living in a van included yoga beach-side with tanned skin and mermaid hair, a carefree life, money in the bank, and a home that I can take where ever I want.
Reality check number 1: This is Canada and you moved into the van the first week of December, beach-side yoga with sun-kissed skin isn’t going to happen for a while and if you’re wanting mermaid hair you had better start growing it out.
Reality check number 2: That carefree life is wonderful until your home breaks down, the roof leaks all over your clothing providing you with a damp “eaux-de-mould” perfume, the interior gets down to minus 6 degrees Celsius turning you into a scared popsicle, or my personal favourite, it snows so much that your doors freeze shut, you cant’ see out and there’s just a hint of panic as you think up ways of escaping that don’t include heating the van and giving yourself carbon monoxide poisoning. Oh… and there’s also the fact that your propane intermittently doesn’t work and the guy at the RV place assures you that nothing is wrong with it, so no hot food for you!
Reality check number 3: What money in the bank? You have only paid half your van-home off, despite paying $80 a month (that, might I add, you could have put towards a warm and cozy little one bedroom apartment all winter… But YOU chose to live in a van, struggle now, and benefit financially later). Now add the $300 new battery, the $700 engine mount and CV joint repair, the $150 for homemade curtains that failed and the $150 for insulation. And, don’t discount the rattle in the engine, the broken front console (including gas gauge and speedometer), and the fact that you have silly amounts of student debt and your credit card debt is off the charts because you failed at making a clear contract with your last employer… So I ask again: What money in the bank?
Reality check number 4: To take a home wherever you want there’s one crucial thing that has to happen first: you have to decide where the hell you want to go, and at first the indecision will plague you, particularly if you are bound by a regular job.
The wonderful thing is that what happens when you let go of your romanticized expectations and ideals and accept the reality of the life you’ve chosen is worth everything. You start to develop a resilience to things you just didn’t have before. For instance: your fingers and toes are in a constant thaw or de-thaw cycle, and when it gets down to -11 with windchill there are no amount of merino wool socks that can comfort your frozen appendages. So instead you imagine your on the side of Mt. Kilimanjaro, you tuck in (with the dog), and go to sleep. All of which, of course, you do while praying for warmer weather in the morning. You learn to prioritize, to eliminate, and my favourite: organize (click here for a van-tour!)
You also learn to let go of that which you cannot control and make clear decisions about what you can. This life is by no means torturous, nor is it just about survival; this life is freedom like I have never experienced before and my intuition tells me I have only scraped the surface. Though I don’t recommend staying North for a van-life winter if the PNW decides to give us another awful year, but I do certainly recommend the life itself. (Youtube Vlog of the last 100 days here!)
Someone asked me: what is the point of all of this? There is no one single point as to why I’m doing this. There is the innate need to minimize my life, the need to deal with my anxiety and depression in a over-haul kind of way, and there’s a desire to feel like I am free from the constantly struggle of finances that seem to reach well over my head.. which as you can clearly tell I’m not free from, but I will be. This life is not a necessity, I have generous friends who have offered homes for me to stay in, I have a wonderful mother who lives an hour away who I can always stay with, and of course I can always work more to pay rent. But I have chosen to live this way for at least a year, and that’s what I’m going to do.