You’ve reached my blog by any number of routes, and you may be curious, or in a tight spot financially, or dreaming of making the switch to a life like this. Let me tell you a bit about myself.
My name is Arathi (Well, not really, but that’s my handle 🙂 You’ll have to meet me to learn my real name, although I do in fact answer to Arathi). I am as of 2011, a 32 year old, single guy. I happened across vandwelling in the spring of 2010 after the love of my life simply walked out without warning or a word (I discovered the reason some months later was another man). I was devastated, and had moved into a basement suite with my child, and I couldn’t stand it. I needed to move because the people living upstairs were the worst people I have ever had to deal with. I sent my kid to live with my parents since his mother wants nothing to do with him, and at this point, I could barely take care of myself let alone a child. Shortly after this, I found DD (Designated Driver).
I went camping with friends for the May Long Weekend, and one of them had a camper van that he inherited from the death of a friend’s family member. He didn’t use it, nor really need it, and was looking to sell fast, for cheap. I checked it out, drove with him in it, and paid $500 cash for it.
This is my baby, a 1978 Chevy Vandura. She has a 350 under the hood. <3 Not bad for $500, not bad at all.
This van is quite obviously not stealth, but I have never had an issue anywhere I go. In fact, it never once occurred to me that anyone would be bothered by a guy out in his van watching a movie, or reading with the lights on. However, I live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. This is a tourist city, so RVs are common place.
I packed up all my stuff, and tossed it into a storage unit, which was pretty pricey at $289 a month for a 15×10 unit. I had that thing packed floor to ceiling, and right up to the door. I have a lot of stuff… I took my clothes, and a couple other little things I thought I may need and put them in the van. It came with plates, and cutlery, so I didn’t have to worry.
Now, if you have made it this far, let me remind you, I did this by choice. I wasn’t homeless, I just didn’t want a regular home anymore. I have a full time job in the Information Technology sector of a major international Oil&Gas company headquartered here in Calgary. I make good money, and can afford to live in a stick built. This van comes with (almost) everything you need to live. I have a fridge, a 3 burner range, a furnace, a sink, and a 9 gallon water tank. I also have cupboard space, a futon-like bed, a small closet, and storage space here and there. I don’t have a bathroom, that’s the only downside. A portable potty works just fine for that, and showers at friends, or I suppose wet wipes work too from what I have heard.
There are dozens of blogs out there written by some fascinating people that have helped me along the way, and although almost all of them are written by retirees, and snowbirds, I am neither. I am a young, working professional who is locked into Calgary. My blog is about living and working in one place with the odd excursion to somewhere else.
Living in a van in Canada of all places, CAN be done. My furnace wasn’t working last year, so I took a room at a friends for the winter. My blog currently is about upgrades I am doing to the van, as I am now living in a stick built again. My son has come back, and I met someone wonderful. By the time I can get back in the van, it’ll be fully self contained. That is, if I don’t save up, and buy myself a RoadTrek first! It’s just going to take longer than if I were able to live and work in it.
Why did I chose to move into a van?
Let me break it down for you:
I was at a point in my life that I wanted to simplify because I was broken.
I wanted to save money, and try to pay off debt gained from a failed relationship
I wanted the ability to vanish if I chose to.
Financially, had I actually be smart about it, I would have no debt right now, but my debt paying skills need sharpening. Learn from my mistakes! Rather than pay off debt, I partied with this sudden extra income I had.
Let’s break down the differences in monthly cash flow….
Stick built rent – $850
Van “Rent” (insurance) – $45
Stick built Utilities – $150-300 (depending on month)
Van “Utilities” – $14 propane, maybe $80-100 fuel, (depends on the driving I do), and free power from the sun.
Stick built “entertainment” (aka cable, Internet, cellphone) – $230
Van “entertainment” – Free WiFi, and $80 for cellphone.
Total Stickbuilt/mth: ~$1300/mth (more in the new house I live in, but it’s bigger.)
Total Van/mth: ~$160/mth
That’s all I can think off off the top of my head, I may add more if I think about them. Can you see why I chose the van? Why would you want to live in a stick built if you don’t really have to?
I did notice one positive thing that happened to me when I moved into the van. I became very social. I was visiting people every week, or every few days that I hadn’t seen in months. In a stick built, I pay so much to live in that big place, occupying only one room at any given time, that I can’t really afford to visit. In a van, I can afford to visit. Yes, my friends made the “down by the river” jokes, and still do. I tell them, “I wish! Falling asleep to the sound of a river would be so peaceful!” They’ve all been very supportive. It’s all in how you explain it to them. I never hid the fact that I moved into a van. They all knew about the troubles I was having adjusting to life without the woman I was madly in love with, and that may have helped, but never once did anyone say I was dumb, or homeless.
I explained to them that I don’t need a lot of space, and the freedom that I have now is amazing. My one favorite story to tell is the day I realized just how free I really was. My daily grind was to get up, drive to the nearest train station, brush my teeth, get ready, and go to work, then come home, and sit back (in the parking lot), watch a movie, wait for rush hour to go away, and then head off to visit whoever I felt like visiting.
One day, after the above routine, I started driving towards a friends place, when in a split second, quite literally at the light I was going to turn at, I chose to keep driving. Straight out of town, and to a lake about an hours drive away. I didn’t have to pack, I didn’t have to plan. I had everything I needed to spend the weekend away. That is freedom ladies and gentlemen.
There is a little planning involved,and a desire to do it that makes it enjoyable. If you look at living in a van with shame, and humiliation, you’ll never enjoy it. If you’re doing it because life took a turn for the worst and you have no other solid choice. You may hate it for a little while, but I bet you’ll start to love it. If you look at the idea above, and then think about the finances, and friends that become more of a staple in your life, you’ll never want to go back to a stick built. You’ll hate it. I know I do.
So here is my blog about my journey, and trying to live a simpler, healthier, and happier life. I hope that you are able to learn something from this blog, and please check out the other blogs and forums I reference in my posts. There is much to be learned.