woke up this morning in my bed for the last time. tonight after work i'll be moving all the last little pieces of my material worth into my van, and the bed is going to E's. my cat has no idea what's going on. i have to work tonight, the last night of "restaurant week" and arguably one of the busiest nights of the year. i've made over 1000 bucks this week so far and i'm grateful for that, but working this hard and moving has taken it's toll on me. i feel weak and unhealthy, kinda strung out like when i used to do drugs, but this is totally natural. i'm pondering what it's going to feel like to live outside...i think it'll be great through the fall, but come the cold winds in november, i'll be seeking warmer climes. maybe i'll do like the snowbirds and move to arizona for the winter. i'll be ready and able, everything else is unkonwn.
recent developments--i found a place to park my van for REALLY cheap where i'll have access to electricity and water (included in the price) and i'll even be able to have a little garden and a chiminea fireplace. it's got a 6 foot wooden privacy fence around it and a gate that locks. it's located behind a house in the south part of town and it's bordered by a garage, an alley and a backyard. i think the security and convenience it gives me will far outweigh the cost. i was able to pay for 6 months and get a discount for doing so, though if i want to move out, i just have to give 30 days notice and i'll get a refund. this gives me a chance to have a "home" while i live in one place, but without the expense or commitment of an apartment, and it's way cheaper than the rv park. this will be a segue way to being self contained in the van on the road. i think my cat will be much happier and more comfortable too. i have today and tomorrow to be out of my house and i'm getting pretty close. i developed a system for organizing my stuff, i call it the bin-toss system. i put a series of plastic bins in a room--one for bathroom stuff, one for kitchen, one for office, one for books, one for music/enterainment, and several for clothes. then i just toss things in there as i pick them up from around the house. if the bin gets overfull, i have to give something to the garbage, thrift store, or craigslist. i still have too much stuff, but i'm going to move it to my new spot, and organize down from there. i figure i've gotten rid of roughly 50 percent of my total stuff including my motorcycle and truck, and i still have another 15-20 percent to go. i'll be able to keep a few more things since i'll have a little plot to call home, but the de-junking has been an incredible lesson in accumulation. i don't love this stuff, it doesn't make me more interesting or comfortable. the van is looking great, the futon is in, and the kitchen is set up. i'm thinking i want to take out the door between the front and the back and the passenger side of the cargo cage. it's just in my way and too hard to have to work around. then i could even turn the passenger seat around for a bigger "living room". we'll see how difficult this proves to be. my friends left yesterday for washington. it was painful to see them go, but we are on our paths and we love each other, so it's a good thing. i'll be up there in may for sarah's bachelorette party, and then again for the wedding in july. and then? there's a school i'd like to attend up there called Earthwalk Northwest. they teach primitive skills like foraging for wild foods, hunting without guns, fishing, making fire and shelter, and pretty much just learning how to be at home outside in the wilderness. i think my van living is a step in that direction, a gradual letting go of things that aren't necessary to life and happiness. i'm feeling good, loved, and optimistic!
E came over this morning and got me motivated to get crackin' at the junkyard. i love junkyards--they're like thrift stores for cars! i could have spent all day there just looking at what people leave behind. i'm a scavenger at heart, i've always loved abandoned houses and neglected places. i just like the feeling i get when looking at things that were once loved and cared for, now forgotten and returned to the ephemeral world of the lost. we found some very useful things like a spare tire mount for the back door, a rear view mirror, and a sink! the sink is cool, it's got two tanks in the cabinet, one for fresh water that's connected to a hand pump, an the other for the drain water. very simple and easy convenience. E installed both items while i cleaned the house with the roomies. he's saved me so much time, i don't know where i'd be without his help. the van is looking like a crazy hippy ride inside, though it's stealthy as all get out on the exterior. just your average boring cargo van. only a few more minor modifications and i'll be ready to move in. well, i have to move in by saturday, so ready or not... i got a weird email today with an anonymous message about my blog from an individual who thinks i'm being selfish. does anyone know why van-living would be considered selfish? i guess if you count the feelings of my landlord who won't be getting rent from me, and the credit card companies who won't be making money from me, i could understand this notion, but i don't see how living in a van has any effect on my friends or social network at all. i love my friends and family, and i love my community and if anything, i want more time to spend with them doing whatever it is we want to do. that's part of the reason i'm doing this. if someone wants to laugh at me for my efforts, well fine, they are free to do so, just as i'm free to van-dwell. i make no claim to be better or smarter than anyone who lives in a house, to each his own. i surely haven't made the best choices in life, and yes those choices got me where i am, but i'm happy here! i live fully, joyfully, and splendidly every day with no regret, so don't feel sorry for me because i live in a van.
i've had this experience a few times now where i tell someone i'm moving out of my house, they ask "where are you moving to?" and i say one of several things--"oh i don't know" to which most react with a confused/disbelieving look and a need for more explanation. or "i'm gonna stay with my boyfriend for a while" which is a lie, and i feel bad about because i'm trying for radical honesty and this ain't it. or "i'm going to live in my van" which brings a host of responses like--what?!, uh..., (blank stare), oh you are out of your mind, ok..., but where will you shower/poop/park etc., do you need a place to stay?, are you in desperate circumstances? then i feel like i have to launch into a diatribe about how i'm CHOOSING to van-dwell, and i don't HAVE to and if i need something i'll call or get it or whatever. i'm on the defensive, i feel a little stupid, and it feels like i sprout 3 heads when i give an honest answer. most people think that not having a stick house=homeless. and that is a bad thing in their eyes--maybe it's their worst fear. my worst fear, however, is being trapped in a bunch of debt with no end in sight, never being able to travel or take time off, and working my whole life away at a job i don't care about. i feel the american dream is a big fat lie meant to keep the majority too busy to notice the insanity that's going down around them. if you work 50 hours a week or more to buy the toys you want to keep you busy in all your free time while the neighbors envy you, what time do you have to think about the purpose of your life? how do you know what is real or important? when it comes down to it, is what you spend your time on that significant? i think it should be--and i want to spend less time making money, more time learning what i want to learn, going where i want to go and experiencing people who inspire me. that's really it. that's the purpose of van life for me.
made some progress on the van today. E came over and was a huge help--i think we're gonna be ok, just some hurt feelings and miscalculations. i'm sure i'd be dead tired if i had to put all those metal screws in. got the carpet fitted and secured, and about half of the fabric up on the walls to cover the insulation. tomorrow we will finish the fabric and i'd like to move my kitchen stuff in to see how much room it takes up. i got an offer on my motorcycle! a local guy is going to give me 4500 for it, so i'm really happy about that! he's going to bring me a deposit tomorrow and the balance on monday-yay!!! take that, credit card debt! i wish i hadn't wasted so much time and money trying to sell it on ebay. but oh well, craigslist wins again!
ahh. i talked to E this morning, and while all is not good in the world, at least we can converse about it. i have been somewhat self-centered lately, and to some extent that's how i choose to live my life--i'm here to learn what i'm here to learn and i can't and won't sacrifice following my path to try to change someone's opinion of me. it's my sincere intention not to step on anyone in the process. if it feels good to be around me, then our paths are converging, if not then it's either a potential lesson for us to learn and grow from, or it's our paths diverging. neither possibility is better than the other, and neither of us should feel guilt about our choice. so, i've decided not to store my stuff at E's, even though we haven't talked about it yet, i just don't want him to feel like i'm abusing him. i'm going to rent a storage space--maybe a garage where i can also park the van and the motorcycle (till i sell it), that way i can be totally self-sufficient and not burdening anyone's physical or psychological space. i hope to be able to give up the crutch of storage before long and be a totally contained van-dweller. i'm going to the butterfly pavillion today with my friends sarah and kree to gain a little metamorphosis perspective. remind me that the impossible happens every day...
it looks like my relationship with E is on the rocks. he sent me a goodbye email and won't answer my calls after reading this blog. i didn't think there was anything to hide here, but i guess i misjudged what his reaction might be. i feel like crap now and wish i'd done things differently. from the sounds of it, he feels like i wasn't truthful with him, or at very least i was insensitive. i feel like while i may not have been brutally honest about where i felt we were headed, i didn't lie or mislead. i've remained largely silent on the subject because i wanted to wait and see what would happen. i'm interested in gathering more information and experience with him. he's understandably hurt that i said things on here to god knows who when i couldn't just have a private conversation with him about it. the thing is, i'm bad at that. i'd rather just get along when we're together, though i seem to fumble that often enough too. in a slightly unconscious way, this was my method of communication. yes, i could have handled it better, more directly, more maturely, but i didn't. for whatever reason, i'm a fallible human being and i'm apparently not very nice to boot. i'm hoping he will talk to me tomorrow. if he can't stand me anymore, then fine, but he has to say it to my face. i won't be broken up with over a myspace message. come to think of it, this whole thing started on the internet--we met on a dating site. reminds me of the youtube video "text message breakup" hehe. i don't know where this will end up, but i'm welcoming radical honesty into my life. this is how i feel. in this blog, i reveal. and any discomfort i experience due to it is of my own making. shining a light into my dark corners doesn't make me look good because in fact i'm not a tidy example of my species. i don't make the best choices and you'll probably stay cleaner if you steer clear of me. seven days to go, and the stakes are being raised. no more cozy little comfort of having a boyfriends house to crash. i'm really on my own.
i'm achingly tired right now, my neck is screaming for a massage, my wrists are sore, and i'm thirsty. i wonder if it'll be harder to help myself when i'm in the van? i hope not cause i'm in bad shape now, and i still have a house. i'm trying to fit in so many things right now--downsizing, moving into the van, selling stuff on ebay, enjoying my friends before they leave, working 12 nights in a row, and getting a promotion--it all has to happen at the same time. i enjoy sweeping changes, but it's exhausting. i got several things done on the van in the past 2 days--front brakes, strut arm bushings, oil change, spark plugs, and a new headlight/domelight switch (which didn't solve the problem of the dome light being on whenever the dash lights are on), so i'm feeling better about the state of my home. i ended up getting it all done for 360 bucks including parts, pretty good i think. my mom said i can send more stuff, so i will, just to feel safer. i don't want to let go of everything, just the things i don't love. so many things whirling in my mind, but my eyes are quitting...
what to do with all this stuff? i've gotten rid of countless bags of clothes, books, shoes, and knicknacks to the thrift store. i've sold stuff on ebay, craigslist, to friends, and still i have a ton of stuff. it's an eyeopening experience to try to fit everything you need to live in a van. i'm still allowing myself some extra storage in E's house, but not more than 3 boxes. i have to be able to fit it in the van if i want to move. books for instance. i love them, i need them, i want them, i don't have room for them. i can keep about 20 books in the van, depending on size, and a rotating collection at E's house, but that leaves about 50 books i have to kick to the curb or send to my mom's for deep storage. and i think she might be getting full up on my stuff, so i want to be mindful of that and not burden her. many of these books i haven't looked at since i moved here a year ago, why hang on? i want a cool library someday, but i have no idea when i'll be settling down. from the looks of things, no time soon. i think i've talked myself into getting rid of them. all but the very most precious and useful. there's always the library, i tell myself. luckily, i only own 1 dvd (harold and maude) and all my cd's are in big cd books without the jewel cases, so they don't take up much room. i mailed most of my precious pictures to my mom, keeping only one album of assorted memories. another obstacle is my artwork--i have a huge portrait of myself that i don't want to carry around, but i don't want it to get damaged in shipping or storage, and a few other pieces i don't want to let go of, but can't carry with me. i'd like to send them to my mom, but i fear the cost and risk. maybe i'll store them at E's for now, and decide what to do with them later. it's a beautiful day, i'm gonna go ride my motorcycle while i still can, and do some errands. this house is making me crazy!
i finally cried today, and it felt good even though it started out of frustrated fit. i took my van for an emissions test today so i can get my plates, but the place was closed--president's day, of course. then i decided to get my alignment and brakes looked at since i couldn't do anything else for the van, so i pull into the "Alignment Masters" near the emisssions place and they have a look. the verdict--needs front brake pads, some kind of bushings in the suspension, and a steering coupling thing, then the alignment could take place. the total with labor--750 dollars (estimate). my jaw dropped, and i thought, ok...this is not possible. so i walked out of there and thought there had to be another way. i went to my boyfriends house and my throat started to choke up, then the tears. he was helping me in every way possible, calling part stores, his mechanic, junkyards, trying to assure me it would be ok. it felt cathartic to express my overwhelm and fear so fiercely, and once it was over, i could get down to business. the total for the parts he found around town was about 100 dollars, a far cry from the over 300 bucks the shop quoted me. and i found a junkyard that had just gotten a camper which they thought had a roof vent--something i've been wanting. i also thought i might find a door mounted spare tire mount there. he called his nice mexican mechanic and got a quote for labor on all these jobs--just over 150 dollars for all the work the shop was going to do for 400 dollars. it's hard to argue for tighter immigration laws when it comes to a situation like this. not that i would, we're all immigrants c'ept the natives. and many of them are immigrants too if you think about it. the guy does good work at a price i can afford, and none of my money is going to advertising or credit card merchant fees or probably even taxes, so it actually feels way better to me. so we ventured out into the world, dry-eyed, and gathered up all the new parts including one from the dodge dealership (what a trip, those salesmen are slick!). then we went to the junkyard and didn't find what i was looking for, but saw some awesome vans that were obviously homes at one time. i alternated between acceptance and despondence, but decided to keep moving forward with the van, since i'm already in it pretty far. i dropped the van off at the mechanic a few hours ago and he says he'll have it done tomorrow, so i'm keeping my fingers crossed. luckily i still have a house and roommates who are willing to drive me around for a few more days. the importance of having a reliable vehicle are heightened now and i'm scared i made a mistake buying a "bargain" of a van, but i have made my choice and i'll stick it out a bit longer. if worse comes to worse, i'll have to get another van--not the end of the world. i'm grateful for the support of the online vandwelling community, and my friends here in the city. i feel bolstered everytime i read a post about someone elses experience with an abnormal lifestyle. if i'm crazy i'm not the only one:)
i like waiting tables. it's so friggin easy compared to other jobs. i make 20 to 30 bucks an hour, i bust my ass for maybe 2 hours during the shift, and the other 4-5 hours, i'm cleaning, or standing around, or talking to customers. it's just not hard. i don't have to get up early, or stay up inordinately late, i get fed a free meal, wear comfortable shoes, and talk about food and wine to people who like food and wine. this makes it difficult to pursue other avenues, career wise. i'm a licsenced massage therapist, and i really do love bodywork, but it's not as easy as waiting tables or bartending. nothing is, that i've found. when i leave my job, i leave it all there. no clients to call, no appointments to schedule, no mountain of paperwork to return to the next day. an nobody expects me to be loyal to this job, no follow through required. when they hired me, they knew i'd quit at some point, and there was never the illusion of a "career path", or a commitment. it's very good for my sense of freedom. there's no room for advancement, really, but i don't want it. i want out when i want out with minimum hassle. there's an understanding among hospitality workers, we pass in and out of each other's lives often and easily. there's no holding on or holding back, we hook up, hang out, have fun, and move on. it's a tribe of sorts. a place where the doors always open, to enter and exit at will. it's no wonder i've been in the business for over a decade. other work is too hard to get and too much is expected of the worker. it's not bad to be where i am, but it's not good either. always in limbo, always ready for change, i can never plan for anything, but i'm ready for anything. yeah, i guess that sums me up.
i'm not going to try to control you, and you don't try to control me, ok? i find the status quo to be insidious, ridiculous and boring. when did we as a people decide it was best to spend all day working a job we don't like with a mind numbing commute because we can't afford to like close to the center of "business", just to come home to our overgrown inefficient homes and veg in front of the tv until the microwave dings and dinner is served? clearly an extreme example, right? but according to the products i see in stores and advertising everywhere, this is what they're expecting us to do. no one has time to cook, or walk, or do what they're really good at. people don't even know what they're good at, only what makes them the most dollars in the least time. it's scary and alien to me, this culture that tries to make us all automatons. but i don't blame people, it's easy to be lulled into this trap. easier than resisting. but what if you don't have to work 40+ hours a week to be able to survive? what if there were alternatives to acquisition of more and more toys, products, and things that make life "easier". isn't it "easier" not to have to make the money to buy the things that make life convenient? what if you had 20 more hours of free time a week, would that make homecooked meals possible? there are many things i would be happy to do the old fashioned way if i had the time. and luckily, these things generally cost alot less money to accomplish. i'm ready to move that direction. i've not been made happy by all the stuff i've acquired, i've become trapped by it in many ways--initial investment, upkeep, insurance, transport, storage, and on and on. so i'm breaking the chains. i'm living with less than the average american, which is still more than the average human. my goal is to live within my means now and then deliberately reduce my income and expenditures as i am able.
everyday i refine my to-do list and try to knock a few things off. today i got a rug from a dumpster outside a thrift store in boulder, it has a hole in it, but is otherwise pretty good. no smells or stains, and i'll be cutting it up anyway, so the hole's not a problem. i also bought 16 yards of fabric from the same thrift store for 8 dollars, it's a vintage flower pattern that i was immediately drawn to. i love thrifting, if i could do it for a living, i would. i haven't figured out how to make money from it yet, but maybe once i don't have any bills, maybe i'll be able to make at least a supplimental income from selling the interesting stuff i find on ebay or something... i've got my taxes filed, and should get my return by the end of the month. boy do i hate even paying taxes. i don't believe in a darn thing the federal government does and i don't have faith that i'll ever reap any rewards such as social security, which is a meager amount anyway. my motorcycle is up for auction on ebay right now. i'm sad to see her go, but i won't be when i send a big fat check in to my credit cards. won't they just be begging me to use those checks they send every other day! "there's never been a better time to use these checks.." they just can't stand it when i start to get out from under them. they're fair-weather friends, to be sure. i still don't know how i'm going to fit everything i need in the van. i have to do my best to reduce as much as i possibly can, and then just try to move in. i'm sure there will be overflow which i plan to take to E's house to figure out. i'm grateful for the cushion that gives me. there's a really annoying squeak in my van that has me thinking all kinds of horrible thoughts. it's like when you feel a lump in your neck and think it's cancer, no it's mumps, oh no it's goiter, and so on. so far i've narrowed it down to my brakes, my differential, my wheel bearings, bushings, and a few other things that i don't understand. i plan to get a diagnosis this week. oh me oh my oh.
yesterday i took a few more steps toward homeless life. i got a PO box in the same neighborhood my work and yoga studio are in. there's also a branch of my bank there, so i'm pretty set up for short commutes. i'm sure the challenging part will be learning where i can and can not park for the night. it's a pretty affluent neighborhood, but it's near downtown, so i'm sure like most dense urban areas, the neighbors don't all know each other and therefore won't be too concerned about who's van is parked out front. there's a mall with a covered parking garage 3 blocks from my work where i intend to park when it's hot out, so my kitty won't roast. i wonder about the nosiness of people in a mall lot. will someone take it upon themself to try to free my cat? i certainly hope she won't be meowing all day. i think i'll do a test run with me in the van for an evening in the mall lot just to see what kind of activity goes on around there before i leave her in there without me. some things i wonder about are will i have too much time or not enough? will i be bored in the van or will the constant change be totally engaging? will i end up leaving town alot or just find places to be around town? and on another topic...i think my boyfriend situation is not working out so well. i think it's because we don't have equal footing in the relationship. intellectually we're on different levels, emotionally too. i'm not talking superior/inferior, just really divergent. we come from opposite worlds which makes things interesting, but also causes misunderstandings. and we both have a tendency to retreat from conflict or uncomfortable conversations, leaving us both backing away from each other at the point we could be working things out. he's a good guy, he really is, but i don't know how much effort i can put into it. if it's not easy, i'm going to lose interest, i already know that. that realization feels like apathy, but i don't feel the relationship is worth fighting for. that's the bottom line that leaves me feeling like an asshole. why did i enter into it in the first place? because it was easy, and we were 2 lonely souls looking for companionship, and something was better than nothing. now i have love for him and want him to be happy, but i don't envision us going down the long road together. what a jerk.
i just had dinner with my friends at the vegetarian pizza place here in town. i'm gonna miss these kind of things. it's not that i'll be friendless and unbearably alone when they leave, it's just that i won't have an automatic crew to be part of. i'll be pretty much on my own with no one taking care of me. maybe the newish boyfriend, but i'm fairly certain we don't connect on a deep level, though he helps me with day to day matters pretty well. i haven't told him about this blog and i don't intend to. what does that say? i talked to my mom today and it seems like she's tolerating me, but certainly not endorsing me. this is nothing new. i hesitate to tell her about this blog, but i know she'd be interested. it seems like she finds the unconventional things i do to be embarrassing or at least hideable. i wonder if she'll ever see what i'm doing as necessary? i could keep it a secret, and in fact i am from most of the people i know, including my family.. it's impossible for me to live my life according to my family's guidelines anyway, but that's another day's blog. i've got the bed frame in the van, it's insulated, floored and mechanically sound. i'm pretty much on schedule for moving in on the 29th of feb.
i'm fighting for my freedom. i'm a servant to debt and all things which got me there...a motorcycle, a root canal, several educations, clothes, food, rent, eyeglasses, moving. and the sad truth is i don't really care about these things now. of all of them, the root canal was the only thing i'd say was worth it. so, i'm abandoning the path of credit and debt, i'm fully embracing a cash based economy. i'm ready to be a minimalist, i have plenty of clothes, plenty of books, and entertainment is free if you know where to look. i live in the most wasteful country on earth where it is impossibly easy to scavenge basic needs like food, water, clothing, and even toiletries. from this point forward, all available cash goes to reducing debt. it shouldn't take me long, less than a year. maybe less than 9 months if i play my cards right. once i get my debt-freedom back, i won't be so careless about losing it again. i've heard that owing nothing is the new wealthy, and i believe it.
i've lived in this city for a year with two of my very best friends, it's been good for me to be in close association with people i respect and love. but, it's time to get back to my solitude, my hermit nature, and my spirit of adventure. the only way i can see to get all those things and meet my financial goals (ie not quit my job and move) is to move into a van. maybe it doesn't make the most sense for anyone else, but for me, it's perfect. i became obsessed with the idea on new years eve, a day for new beginnings and historically a pivotal point for me. there were still 2 months left to live in this house, so i had some time, but not too much time--i'm always more productive on a deadline. at this point, i have the van mechanically sound, insulated, and a plywood floor put in. goals for the week include getting the bed frame installed and building a kitchen/bathroom area. it's all going to be very primitive--water jug, basin, coleman stove, cooler, bucket with a seat on it. my only power will be a bulk propane tank and a portable battery for a few hours of computer time a day. i have a job where i can charge up while i work and also get free ice. for lights, i'll have an LED lantern that runs on rechargeable batteries and a headlamp/flashlight. for bathing, i have a membership at a yoga studio with showers, and a few friends around town who have generously offered their amenities. i'll park in residential neighborhoods, or at friends houses, or in the national forest on my days off. the world at large is my living room, my van a portable respite. i have 20 days to prepare for this leap. i have a million things yet to do....