I’ve learned the hard way that glass and ceramic in a camper is a terrible idea. Just about every glass item I’ve owned has been found shattered on the floor after a drive. I’ve resorted to stainless steel drinkware and I absolutely love it. From my coffee mug, to my wine glass, to my rocks glass, I’ve moved to stainless. Not only is it unbreakable, but it’s insulated too so it sweats much less.
I’m a huge fan of using homemade cleaners for various reasons. A) they’re usually natural and not harsh on the environment. B) I know exactly what goes into them. C) I almost always have the ingredients already on hand and most importantly, D) they’re super cheap. I had some caked on oil splatters and stuck on propane residue on my white stove top and while I tried using my Castile Oil soap spray along with some old fashioned elbow grease, nothing would work. I was at the store and tempted to buy the $6 oven cleaner when I thought I’d give it one more shot and create some kind of homemade baking soda scrub. I made a simple paste of baking soda and water (no need to measure, just add a tiny bit of water til it’s good and pastey) and I added a few drops of lemon oil for smell and a little extra cleaning power. It worked better than I could have imagined. It was super gentle on the shiny finish of my stovetop but tough enough to get every little speck of residue, leaving a beautiful sparkly clean surface. I could not have been happier with the ease and affordability of this basic cleaning solution.
Well. It’s official. I’m that camper person. It’s been about 2 months of living full-time in the truck camper aka Yowie aka The Grey Lodge.
If I could have predicted what this blog entry would entail I would have said “I bet it’ll be a tale of great difficulties as I adjust to my new living quarters and learn how to live off the grid”. Well that may be a little true. Sure, adjustments had to be made. Lessons had to be learned. But either I did a killer job of preparing myself for what life was to be like OR it’s really not all that different from normal life. Okay so I shower a lot less and a lot faster. I have to fill and dump my tanks every now and again. But otherwise, life is pretty normal. I still work a normal job and dress in normal clothes. I still cook and I am current with my TV shows. I haven’t grown dreadlocks like my friends joked I would. And I didn’t develop a twang when I speak. I’m still a weirdo but nothing new there. So yeah, life is shockingly normal.
One thing that did change, however, was the level of awesomeness I experience on a day to day basis. I really can’t even believe I get to live the life that I do. I have been to some awesome places and I’m able to take all the comforts of home with me when I do. I can’t explain how freakin’ cool that is. Whether it’s driving down to the local beach to cook dinner while I watch the sunset over the Sound or it’s cruising up to the Catskills for a true boondocking mountain escape, I am able to do just about anything and go just about anywhere. I have never felt so free in my life. It’s truly an incredible feeling that I just can’t get enough of.
Another adjustment that I had to make was the development of a keen awareness of my water consumption and use of electricity. I’ve always been somewhat conscious of this. I never let the water run while brushing my teeth. I always unplugged appliances when not in use. But this has taken it to a new level. I use so little water, I sometimes even impress myself. Washing dishes with a trickle of water has become a true skill. Lighting candles instead of turning on a light has become a habit I quite enjoy. I’ve become so accustomed to these practices so quickly that it’s hard to imagine doing it any other way. I took a real shower at my mom’s last week and letting the water run the entire time overwhelmed me with guilt. I just felt like I was wasting so much water! I’ve really grown a profound appreciation for the resources most of us take for granted.
So this is my new life. And I couldn’t be happier about it. It may not be for everyone and it may not be forever. But for me, for now, this feels right.
1.hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something.
Yes, optimism. That’s what I’m feeling. Or least I’m trying. Is there still a shit ton to do on the camper? Absolutely. But after going to town in there this week, I’m able to see that the only real project that needs to get done before I can move in is the flooring. It’s a big one. So big that I’ve enlisted help from my dad. Due to schedule conflicts between work demands and being able to work on it, I have one day to get it done and that’s next Monday. Yikes! My dad sounds confident it’ll get done. I’m scared though. I just know nothing is as easy as it seems and I’m concerned 1 day will turn into 2 and then into 10. We’ll see.
I’ll explain the mad rush. I currently live and work at a hotel. It’s a pretty cushy set up and while there are times where I just want to run far away because I feel like I’m working 24/7, it’s really a good thing I have going here. Maybe too good. I’ve gotten comfortable. The hotel is very seasonal. I’ve pretty much had the place to myself all winter. However, summer is coming and with it comes interns. So the room I’ve had all to myself will have to be shared with an incoming intern. At 29 years old, I have ZERO interest in dorming with a 20-year-old. Also, I am her boss and that’s just weird. So I have about 10 days before she gets here and I’d like to be fully moved into the camper by then. However, we have some busy days at the hotel from now until then and I can’t exactly be using power tools in the parking lot when we have a hotel full of paying guests looking to relax. So that’s why I am left with ONE DAY to do the flooring.
I can’t install the new mattress until the flooring is done because the planks are being stored where the bed is. The mattress takes a few days of puff up and air out the fumes so I can’t start sleeping in there until that’s ready. So it is crunch time to the max. And I’m freaking out about it. But I keep having to remind myself that I am optimistic. I know part of this stress is just my fear of change. Like I said, I’ve gotten comfortable. But I know my best life experiences have come out of leaving my comfort zone. So that helps keep me going and staying focused.
In the meantime, I hung all the cabinets, installed the stainless steel panels in the fridge, and cleaned everything. It looks so amazing in there. It is 100% my happy place. And the fact that my happy place is mobile makes me even happier. YAY!
May 5, 2017
It’s officially crunch time. I have about 2 weeks to finish the camper and move in. To say I am feeling somewhat stressed about it is a complete understatement. I am totally freaking out. The floor has not been laid, the cabinets not hung, the air conditioner not installed, the new batteries have not been switched out, the generator is giving me some issues, the faucets have yet to be switched out, and Yowie isn’t even dewinterized yet. Writing that sentence made me want to cry a little. Also, I am still working a ridiculous amount of hours/week (at my real job) and that is only going to increase as we head into summer. I’m so screwed.
I’m really trying to stay optimistic but I keep falling behind schedule. For example, my to-do list yesterday included hanging all 13 cabinet doors. I had about 2 hours of hustling to get in before I had to go to work and thought I could maybe bang it all out if I was persistent enough. I hung one. It seems every time I set out to do something, it takes about 10x as long as I expect it will. It feels so impossible to stick to my schedule. I have no idea how I am going to do it.
I guess I will either figure it out or I will be living in a super tiny construction zone. Not ideal but it is what it is. I’ve pretty much come to terms with the fact that summer is not going to be an easy one. I am working a job I don’t want to be doing and living in a state I don’t want to be in. I’m 3,000 miles away from my boyfriend. And I’m in a very camper UNfriendly environment. Despite the odds beings somewhat against me, I know this is just how it has to be unless I’m able to figure out an alternate scenario. Time will tell. For now, I need to quit bitchin’ and get workin’.
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.
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.