Vandwelling – Not just for the down and trodden

Hey there, my name is Arathi. I live in a campervan by choice, not because the economy put me there, although several factors this year have brought me to where I am now.
First, I really enjoy living in my van. I don’t have some crummy van that I converted into a living area. I have an actual campervan. A 1978 Chevy Vandura to be exact. I have a sink, stove, furnace, and fridge built in from the manufacturer. I have a futon bed, water tank with a hand pump, and plenty of storage. I can stand up in my van, and walk around. Which is great as I have the habit of pacing while on the phone.

I decided to start this blog for a couple reasons. My biggest reason was that nearly all the stories I find out there are about people who live in a van because they had no other choice. The problem with society is that we are all brainwashed into thinking that we have no worth unless we have a stick-built home. Now, in today’s economy, buying a house is almost impossible unless you are married, and bringing in a combined income of $100,000 or more. I’m single, and bring in half that.

My van cost me $500, everything works. To insure it, I needed to replace the muffler, and the brakes. A month later I changed out the alternator as the original was putting out 11 volts rather than the 13 it should, so it wasn’t charging my batteries. Otherwise, everything has been fantastic.

What I love the most about my little home on wheels is that I can go anywhere and visit anyone. On a whim, I decided to head out to a lake I had never been to before, and didn’t even have to pack. In fact, the choice was made while sitting at a red light. I never have to pack to go camping, I can stay out late and not have to think about the 30 minute drive home. I can go to a bar, and drink till I can’t see, and go to sleep, not that I do that, but it’s an option.
Now, for my reasons…

In February 2010, the love of my life suddenly, and unexpectedly left me. To this day I don’t know why, and we, I believed, were happy only two days prior, considering we were talking about starting a family. I gave up on everything in my life, and nearly lost my job as well. It’s been 7 months since that fateful day, and I have been in my van for the past 2 months. I live a simple life without too much waste as I cannot afford to take up space in my van with “stuff”.
I have a laptop that I use for all my entertainment purposes. It cost me $400 at Wal-Mart, and was a fantastic find. I bought and installed a new stereo for the van that has an auxiliary port on it, and a USB port. The USB charges my iPhone, and the auxiliary port connects my laptop sound to the van stereo system to provide me with surround sound while watching movies, playing video games, or listening to music!

I don’t use the laptop for music anymore than to sync my iPhone. It’s a 16GB 3G iPhone, and holds all of my music. It connects to my stereo via the USB plug and plays my music that way. Less draw on power.

I currently have two trickle charge solar panels connected to my deep-cycle battery. I have two batteries, one for starting, and one for the van. I plan on adding at least 4 more batteries, and some large solar panels. This will give me more freedom to run electric items longer. Basically, my laptop is the only real draw of power I have, and on hot days a small fan. Propane runs the fridge, and I don’t cook often as I make enough food for the week, and package it and store it in the fridge.

When cooking, you really need to make sure that you don’t cook more than you need for a few days to a week max, otherwise you are wasting, and that’s stupid.

One thing I thought when I moved into my van was that everything I read others having concerns about were going to be a problem for me. So many talked about “steath”, and honestly… I have a huge van that is quite obviously a camper. I have been living in it for a couple months, and have parked just about everywhere. I have never been bothered by anyone. When it gets dark, it’s late, and I’m going to bed as I have a job. I’ve parked on the street, in parking lots, alleys… I can see attracting attention if you never move, or are obvious about being in the van, otherwise, people don’t care.

I move my van daily, as I need to drive to the train station, and park to go to work. After work, I sit back, watch a movie and wait for rush hour to go away, then I move on. I visit friends, and utilize their showers and laundry. I live in a van, and I am always clean. On hot days where I’m sweating, and can’t have my door open, I wipe down occasionally with a damp hand towel, then have a shower later.

I have storage under the bed, and above the cabin, as well as a small closet to hang my work wear. I bought a couple plastic dressers from Wal-Mart and use the top one for clothes, and the bottom one for dry or canned food goods. I use a small hand broom to sweep the carpeted floor, and I have a small basket that I use for dirty clothes with a mesh bag inside to carry the clothes in.

Above my stove, I bought a magnetic strip to put my silverware on rather than use the drawer, so I could store other stuff in it.

The only thing that my van doesn’t have it a bathroom. That’s a little crummy, but I can buy a porta-potty if I choose. I don’t because I do my business at work, and if I need to pee, I can use a jug, I’m a guy after all.

Another reason for moving into the van is to save money. I have a debt load thanks to my ex, and I want it GONE. This helps. I live off about $1000 a month personal, and the rest goes into bills. It helps pay down the debt quickly, but you need to make sacrafices as well. I quit smoking, as it was costing me $300 a month that I could be putting towards other things. This is a good idea for anyone, not just a vandweller. Smoking is bad, no matter how good it seems.

I surf the net when I find open WiFi, which there is getting to be less and less of these days, and the ones that are open like to restrict you from doing so much. I play Ogame, and some WiFi block it for gaming. It’s a website, not streaming. I click a button, and wait. One day I might get a Rogers Rocket stick. It’s a USB connection to the internet anywhere, anytime. It would be useful, but I get most my surfing in during the day, and I don’t surf much. I work in IT, and would rather be visiting my friends in my off time. If I do need to get online, I have my iPhone, it keeps me connected to Facebook, and email. The two main things I would use the computer for anyways which really cuts down the pc usage.

One thing I was concerned about was peoples perception of me when I chose this lifestyle, but I made sure from the get go to note that I am doing it primarily to save money, and I actually wanted to do it. Everyone seems to understand, and some think it’s really cool. I still get the “down by the river” gag but I laugh, because that would be great. I met someone through a friend, and she actually prefers to crash with me in the van than in the friends house. Her and I are just friends, and no sex is involved, so I know it has nothing to do with that. She digs it apparently, and says it’s really comfortable.

Anyways, more to come later.

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