Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Start of Week Two

Ok, so I made it through labor day weekend. I drove to couple of neighboring towns to visit friends, then ended up back in my town, to the tune of about 40 dollars in gas. This van really sucks it down, that's for sure.

It's been raining here for the past two days. Really raining. Staying in the van sucks in this weather. It's still warm outside, and I can't really open the windows because of the rain, so it stays hot and humid and and stuffy and gross inside the van. This was especially bad yesterday, Labor Day, because the school was closed and I couldn't go to the library or the gym. I especially missed the gym, since I wasn't able to take a shower.

I got some fleece blankets from Wal-Mart to make blackout curtains, but they're not thick enough to work. I'll try doubling them up.

I think the worst part about van dwelling has to be the necessity for stealth. I don't mind living in a small space or not having much in the way of comfort, but I don't like sneaking around, and I don't like being confined to the van's interior. If I could just park somewhere, open the side doors, and hang out with my lawn chair and cook stove, it would be great.

My friend is getting a house soon, and we're planning on making some improvements to the van, such as a bed frame and sink, as soon as he moves in and we have the space to work on it. Until then, I'm continuing in the same manner.

That's about all for now. I'll try to post some pictures soon.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Week One

Oh yes, it's Friday afternoon, classes are done for the week, and it's time for the weekend. It's been an interesting week, too, and I've met some cool people.

Since I don't have a cooking area in my van yet, I'm eating out, and always on the lookout for deals on cheap food. Of course, since I've lived in this city for a while, I already know where a lot of it is -- the happy hour tacos, the wing night, the five dollar pizza night, the dollar fried rice -- but Wednesday night I discovered a local bar has started offering one dollar tacos every day until 11 pm. And are they some good tacos! Big tacos with your choice of beef or chicken, hard or soft shell, loaded with fixin's, and served with literally a box full of a variety of different hot sauces. Delicious, and I can fill up for three dollars. The problem is, I go in figuring I'll just get some tacos and a beer and then leave, but inevitably I meet some interesting characters and one beer turns into six.

Last night I found myself sitting at the bar next to another nomad, a squatter named Russell, who welcomed me to the club. Russell looks like he fights every day. He's an amiable guy who smiles a lot, but his smile reveals just how many teeth he's had knocked out. He was also sporting a half-healed black eye and a cut on his face when I saw him. Definitely a punk kid from way back, he talked about the old days when this part of town was filled with hardcore kids and dive bars, a far cry from the way it is now, with all the rich folks moving in and setting up shops selling gourmet doggie treats. We drank for a while and he gave me some pointers about being homeless in the area, then I racked out in my van for the night.

I really feel like I'm entering into a new world here. I'm adapting to the new lifestyle. I hope to get some work done to the van this weekend. The first thing I need is blackout curtains. I'm spending too much money going to bars and coffee shops to read my textbooks because I can't have a light in the van without attracting attention. A sink and counter would be nice, too, so I can brush my teeth and wash my face in the morning, and have a place to set my camp stove to cook.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Journey Begins

I got back from Europe two days ago and drove the van back to my school's city yesterday afternoon. I parked the van by the water (livin' in a van down by the river!) and caught my evening class. After class, I stopped by a bar for a couple beers and a sandwich and then went back to my van to go to sleep. After settling in, though, I felt a little uncomfortable. I was parked in front of a big house with a BMW in the driveway, on a street with few cars parked on the street. So I moved the van a few blocks inland, to a slightly less rich part of town, and went to bed. It was really the perfect night to start my life as a van dweller. Partly cloudy skies and temps in the upper 60s. I opened a couple of the window vents and slept as well as I could, considering my brain is still in a different time zone.

This morning, I realized that living in a van also means living out of a backpack. I have a medium-sized military pack with three cargo areas. In the smallest area, I keep my pens and documents. In the middle area, I keep my toiletries. In the large area, I keep my books, folders, towel, and cloths. I strap my shower shoes to the outside, and there's also an outside pocket for a water bottle.

Then there's the matter of using the bathroom. I use a quart-sized Gatoraid bottle and dump it in public toilets when it's full. I use public bathrooms for Number Twos, and the school gym for showers. I plan on getting a bucket and plastic bags with kitty litter for emergencies.

Also on my immediate to-do list are obtaining replacement shades for the living area windows (two are broken), getting a curtain to separate the living and driving areas, and installing a sink. I'll keep you all posted on how I accomplish these tasks.

The Van

My van is a 1984 Ford Econoline conversion van. I went with a flat-roof model so I can get in and out of parking garages. She has a 351 4-barrel and a 3-speed auto (probably a C-6?) and a towing package. She's not too bad for a 25-year-old van I got for $600. With a week left to the date of my departure from my fixed living area, I got the carb tuned (complimentary from the dealership -- nice!), replaced the brake master cylinder, and patched the driver-side floorboard with scrap aluminum and sheet metal screws. She still idles a bit rough, none of the interior lights or anything work, and the climate controls are stuck on the hottest setting. There also may be the faintest beginnings of an exhaust manifold leak. But, again, not bad for 600 bucks. After I moved out of my place, I drove up to my parents' house about 150 miles north, where I removed the rear seats. I had intended on building a living area complete with a sleeping platform and storage areas and a sink and stove and everything, but plans changed. For one thing, I didn't have much time, since I was leaving for a European adventure soon and my mom needed help with other things. Secondly, I wasn't sure exactly how I wanted my van set up, and figured I could just build it as I discover better what set-up best suits my needs. So for the time being, I have a twin mattress on the floor and all my stuff in boxes and backpacks.

Hello Everyone

My name is Dan, and I live in a van. Just moved in, actually. I got tired of dealing with landlords and roommates and paying rent and decided to live in a van instead of an apartment. I will try this out for one semester and see how it goes. You can join me on this journey through this blog.

A journey is what it really is. I am a traveller. I've been all over the world, and I get antsy staying in one spot. Living in a van in just one city may not seem like travel, but in a way it is. I've lived in this city for years, but I will have to experience it in an entirely new way by living this lifestyle. I will discover news things, talk to new people, and live my life on the road. I will discover new things about myself and the world. That's what travel is all about.

I got the idea several months ago, when I obtained an old Class C RV with the intention of living at a campground. I wanted to be more free and mobile. The RV ended up being much more of a project than I could handle at the moment, and, since I couldn't sell her for a reasonable price, and since she's a really cool RV anyway, she now sits in my parents' yard waiting for the day when I will have the time and funds to restore her.While I was doing research on how to restore an RV, I came across a website about van dwelling, and the bug hit me. This would be even better than living in an RV at a campground! Why pay rent for a campsite when I could just park on the street? I spent hours and hours surfing the web for van dwelling information. Finally, with about two weeks left before the expiration of my then-current lease on my apartment, my roommate slid a little too far down the slippery slope of house-fascism (actually, he's a good guy, just a bit too conservative for me), and I decided not to renew my lease. Instead, I bought an old conversion van from the back lot of a dealership and started working on my transition to life as a van dweller.