1. Who, What, Where, When, Why?

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Monday July 11th, 2016

It’s been consuming my brain since I first made the decision that I’m really going to do it. The idea of life on the road has always seemed like one I’d be interested in living. I like the thought of letting the world be my home; appreciating everywhere I went and soaking up as much of it as I could but eventually moving on. I wanted to see as much as possible. Not just the hot destinations of the moment, but also the crevices of society that so often go forgotten. I wanted to travel to Iceland; but I also wanted to experience (and eat my way through) the Bible belt. I had always held onto this dream that I would one day get to see it all. But there’s a lot to see. And I don’t want to just travel to these places for a week. I wanted to really experience the depths of these various cultures. To do this, I knew I couldn’t wait for this imaginative “one day”. I needed to just go for it. Throughout my life, the proverbs that spoke to me most were almost always in regard to the idea of going for something or taking risks.

“You’ll never hit what you don’t aim for”

“Shoot for the moon and you’ll land amongst the stars”

Like most people, I have been scared to take big risks in my life. I’ve lived a lot of my life in the comfort zones. It’s safe, it’s cozy, it’s predictable. Part of me does like that on a short-term level. Unfortunately, as I spend too much time in the comfort zone, I become antsy and uncomfortable. It’s like sinking into that giant comfy couch, but you wake up the next morning with neck pain. Sometimes too much comfort isn’t a good thing. After 6 years of living an extremely comfortable life (more on that another time), I was antsy beyond belief. While I had spent a good portion of those 6 years travelling and seeing beautiful places such as the Greek Islands, Scandanavian regions, an annual pilgrimage to Cabo, etc… While I loved visiting all these places, I never felt as if I had connected with the land. And I wanted to. It wasn’t until I decided to leave my privileged life in the suburbs of Orange County and drive up to Washington State for a month all by myself, that I finally felt like I was living. It was then that I got a taste of the difference between a vacation and an adventure. I much preferred the latter.

Since my adventure in Washington, I’ve gone from camping my way through the Northeast in peak autumn conditions to sleeping in a hammock on the beaches of San Clemente. It’s adventures like these, big and small alike, that give me life. They kept me going through the muck of normalcy. I had always dreamed that one day, I’d buy an RV and travel the Americas. The ultimate road trip. I had researched everything from restoring an old Airstream trailer to s brand new Class A diesel pusher. Ultimately I decided a fifth wheel was the best option (If anyone if curious why or how I decided this, leave comments below and I will write a post on it). So I really started planning this fifth wheel life. Until I realized I couldn’t afford it. After leaving the whole privileged life gig, I had to start my life over at 27 years old; from scratch. While I had some savings, it surely wasn’t enough to buy a fifth wheel trailer, renovate it, buy a truck, insure both, and then worry about campground fees and utilities. It wasn’t realistic; at least not in the present moment. And since I don’t abide by that whole “one day” fantasy, I had to figure out what I could realistically do now. Segue to… #vanlife.

The idea came to me when I realized how many people are actually living in either truck campers or vans right here on the streets of San Clemente, a sleepy little beach town in Southern California. I had never even realized it before. I had driven past these mobile “homes” on a daily basis for months and never even realized they were parallel parked on the side streets just like any other car may. They never really stood out to me until I started looking for them. It was then that I realized there’s an entire subculture of van dwellers and truck campers out there. Now I had seen all the Instagram posts of #vanlife just like everyone else and I always double tapped them, thinking how rad it would be if I could do that. As usual, whenever I get hooked on an idea, I research the shit out of it and determine whether or not it’s actually something I want to and can do. I may be a “go for it” kind of girl, but I’m also extremely pragmatic. Practicality is a pillar of my life. I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist, I am simply a realist to the best of my abilities.

So I start researching the #vanlife and pricing it out and I realized I can actually do this. However, as more research went on, I also realized that, while there are some exceptions, most of these vans are quite primitive in the sense that they don’t have toilets or showers. I love the idea of peeing in the woods or bathing naked in a river, but let’s be real here. There are going to be times when it’s snowing out and I really have to take a shit. Or when the streams are just too cold to enter. I love being in nature, but I also love having a cozy little abode to escape to when the elements become harsh. So as cool as van life seems (really, there are some incredible ones out there), I don’t know that it’s for me. I have no shame in admitting that there are just some first world luxuries that I am not willing to live without. And everyday I am grateful that I live a life where I’m able to make such a choice. I’m willing to go a little rugged for a brief stint here and there; but if I’m going to be living in this thing full time, I need to really love it. Ultimately I decided that a truck camper provided me with the best of both worlds. It offered the maneuverability and affordability of the van with the luxuries of an RV (albeit, on a much smaller scale). They’ll never be as hipster chic as their converted cargo van cousin, but they provide the ultimate freedom. I’ll be able to go anywhere a 4wd truck can go. I’ll be able to park anywhere a truck can park. I can take my home with me when I road trip through the country and park it when I want to stop and enjoy a certain place instead of just passing through. This is the life I want to live. So I’m going to.

Halfway There

While I am still months away from moving into Yowie, I thought I would write a short post about where I’m at in the process, what I’ve accomplished, what is still on my to-do list, and what my ultimate goals are.

I feel like I’ve been working on the camper for a long time. When I made the decision back in the summer of 2016, I told myself I’d come out to New York, work for 3 months while renovating the camper, and hit the road come the new year. Well, it’s now January 26, 2017 and I am nowhere near hitting the road. This delay came about for two reasons. 1) My boss asked if I would be willing to stay on through the busy summer season to manage her hotel, with the promise of a generous bonus if I said yes. And 2) This renovation is a lot more labor intensive than I realized.

Coming “home” to New York has been great. I’ve reconnected with so many old friends, I’ve gotten to experience the nature that I missed so much, and I’ve gotten to eat at all my favorite spots. All of that, along with working 50+ hours/week, doesn’t exactly leave me with a ton of time or energy to renovate. Also, the fact that it’s literally freezing out, doesn’t really motivate me to go outside and work. So yes, I’ve been lazy. And I’m okay with it.

But! I do feel like I’ve gotten a lot done. While it’s hard to visually see it, I know I’m getting there. Right now the camper is essentially an empty shell. The cabinet panels have all been stripped away. The couch cushions are in my room, reupholstered and ready to be put back in, same for the curtains and window treatments. The lighting has all been switched out. Almost every item I’ll need has been ordered. All that’s really left to do is paint and replace the flooring. Oh and replace the air conditioner, install the wifi antenna, replace the bathroom and shower faucets… Yeah, there’s still a lot to be done.

As eager as I am to get going already, I’m realizing there’s no rush. I’m 28 years old and while sometimes I wish I did this sooner, I do still have a good amount of life ahead of me. On top of that, I was not able to buy this camper or truck flat out, so I’m making payments on it. And that truck was not cheap.  That, along with the student debt I’m still trying to pay off, having a good paying job is essential for me right now. As much as I want to just abandon the system, get off the grid and live a nomadic life, I just don’t see it in the cards for me right now. I know my patience will one day pay off once I am payment-free. But until then, I am just going to work as hard as I can to prepare myself for this life I want to live.