The idea of living absolutely bare-bones has always had a certain appeal to me. I remember my dad taking me with him to visit a friend of his once. The guy lived inside of an old grain bin that he had set up next to the woods along the river. He had set up a fire pit to cook on and a little cot along the wall. There were a table and an old oil lamp sitting on it with a rickety old chair to sit in. The guy wasn’t home but we hung around for a bit.
There was something about this that fascinated me and that day always stayed in the back of my mind. Even as I rolled into my adult years, I always had in the back of my mind that I could do something like that. Minimalism had worked its way into my brain and would not let go. At the age of 19, a guy I worked with nearly convinced me to move to New Orleans and take a job on an offshore fishing rig. At 28, I was considering selling all of my stuff and moving to Chicago to live and work at a homeless shelter.
Even today, the desire to roam with nothing to anchor me still exists. Now, I am not stating that I need to be set free from my family so that I can explore. I would take them with me of course. My dream life would be lived in an RV, driving from state park to state park. I would love to just drive around and visit places.
And, I’m not the only person that wants to live that way. Recently, I read a post on Miss Minimalist about a girl named Veronica who lived in a van. Here is her story.
My life as a minimalist began in an unconventional way. I was working my non-profit dream job, but it had become a nightmare. I knew I needed to make a change. Nonetheless, I had no idea how life altering of a change it would be.
That Easter, my partner Jordan surprised me with a big, green Dodge conversion van! He quickly explained his decision and I quickly put in my two weeks. However, there was nothing quick about deciding what to take with me.
Jordan was already a nomad, so he let me know we each had room for one large suitcase of personal stuff. As I looked around my well-stocked room, I knew minimizing would take some time.
I was an avid Sex and the City fan, so I knew the only way to decide what came with me was to drink alcohol and put things in piles. I divided everything I had into three categories: send home, throw away, and bring along. Unfortunately, not everything fit as neatly into the piles as it did on my favorite television show.
Minimizing for a long, unplanned journey is not easy, but over the two weeks, I paired my gaggle of stuff down to what could fit in a large suitcase.
I was forced to choose between items that were comforting versus items that would be useful. Honestly, the most difficult part was sending home some books I always carried with me. Until I had to put a value on my stuff, I never realized how much of a hold inanimate objects had over me. My emotional attachment to things was obvious by the pain I felt segregating my stuff. However, it was not just pain. Behind the pain was guilt. I actually felt as if I was betraying my stuff! Although I had never thought of myself as materialistic before, I seemed to fit the definition quite well.
Throughout my time living in our van, I had no choice but to refrain from buying anything I did not need. We even bought our food on a need-based schedule. It was during this time my attitude toward “things” changed. As I focused on living one day at a time, I felt the mental load of material goods lighten.
I think what really helped me get out of my materialistic mindset was traveling in nature. A little background may help. I grew up in Southern Indiana, and all I had to look at were cornfields. Sure, I went fishing and hiking but everyday life was the same. In a way, I needed objects to give my life value, because I had nothing else.
Life was completely different traveling in the van. Every day there was something new to see or a new perspective to gain.
On the road, I experienced awe for the first time. At that moment, I had an epiphany that would change the way I lived the rest of my life forever: the cheap emotional fulfillment of stuff pales in comparison to the wealth of fulfillment in experiences.
Although I haven’t spent any time living in a van for a couple of years now, I have managed to stay true to the invaluable lessons I learned about life as a minimalist. I still use the majority of my money on experiences versus things, I focus on finding joy in nature, and I try to get active outside at least once a week. To top it all off, I’ve made an annual tradition of purging a la Sex and the City style!
If you want to learn more about life on the open road, check out my site http://vansage.com, where I write about maximum life experiences and minimal gear related to van life.
Thanks for reading. 🙂
The problem for most people who desire this life is that a change is necessary. One of two things is necessary. Either A) you must get rid of all of your stuff so that it is not in the way or B) you must get a job that you can take on the road with you so that you can still take care of your business at home.
Life is Strange. Live it Well.