It’s been almost a week since I left my house. That place will be my last permanent dwelling for a while it seems, though really I have no idea. It was surreal and a little bittersweet to leave that place, but honestly I didn’t have a whole lot of emotion around it. Primarily I felt a twinge of guilt for letting go of a house that my kids enjoyed and spent a lot of time in, and now neither of them have a “home” in Ukiah to go back to when they want to. I think we've all come to terms with it, but that doesn't mean it's not a little weird still.
First question: Why The Hell?
Why did I decide to move into a van? Why let go of the stability and space and groundedness of a house? Good question. The main reasons, as I can best determine, are as follows:
1. I’ve only lived in seven different houses in my entire 45 years of life. I have no idea what it’s like to be unstable, in a housing sense. I realize I’m very fortunate to have had that kind of stability, but something in me *needs* to know what it’s like to be unstable, if only to balance out my understanding and experience of the world. I also know from experience that instability can force change, can require learning a new set of skills, can open the mind to new ways of perceiving the world around us. This is what I’m after.
2. Living in a house requires an intense amount of resources to sustain. Not only financial resources, but also water, electricity and natural gas consumption, among other things. Living in and driving van requires resources to sustain as well, I know. But not nearly as much. This makes me feel like I’m doing something, even if just a drop in the bucket, to make a little bit more out of a little bit less.
3. I needed to get rid of stuff. I had so much stuff that I just don’t give a shit about. I saved some things and put them into a 5x10 storage unit. I imagine there’s going to be another purge at some point down the road when I realize I’m paying to store stuff I could easily rid myself of, but we’re not there yet.
4. Travel. Yes, please.
5. I’ve fantasized about doing this for a while, and I need to see what the actual reality is or I’ll kick myself for the rest of my life for not doing it.
What Van Life Looks Like Right Now
I’m pretty much camping in my van. I have insulated (unfinished) floors, insulated (unfinished) walls, a small sleeping platform that I pulled out of my other car that kinda folds up and offers a bit of storage space. I have a small propane heater that kicks out the heat like a motherfucker (which means the van gets hot quick), a camping stove, a small bin of clothes, my toiletry kit, my camera equipment, a bin with cooking stuff (pans, dishes, coffee maker, paper towels, etc…), and a tri-fold futon to rest my weary body on. Despite my insulation job, the van doesn’t really retain any heat for long. Not sure if finishing the walls is gonna do anything to help that, but if it doesn’t I’ve really gotta figure something out.
A gracious friend Rich is helping me finish the build-out of the van, but he lives in Sonoma County and is only available on weekends. This might make things take a little while. Which means I need to just be cool with allowing this to happen at its own pace.
I’m parked in front of my friends’ house, right around the corner from where I used to live (clearly having a hard time letting go). They’re being kind enough to let me use their shower and internet when I need it, and to use their house while they’re not home. But that means my van (and my car) have been parked on the street here for almost a week while I deal with tying up loose ends from my move, working, getting the van serviced by a mechanic, and waiting for the weekend. I feel like I’m annoying the neighbors by being the homeless guy parked in a van on their street.
Things I’ve Noticed
I’m always planning how/when I’m going to use the bathroom. I’m always thinking about how much fuel & water I’m using. I always think about how and when to charge my devices. I spend more time outside. I spend more time walking places. I see people I know more often (due to being out in public more). I spend more time in the quiet. I’m sleeping better (mostly). I’m spending WAY more money because I’m eating out and purchasing coffee when I work (which will change soon, thankfully). I feel unstable. I can’t really organize my van and my stuff and that makes me crazy. And it might be a while before anything starts to feel normal.