Monday, June 2, 2008

"the why"

I've been asked "why?" and "how?" more times than I can count. This is for all those folks who want to know about why.

I'm going to attempt to explain the various reasons why I'm choosing to live in a van. "The why" will be easier to understand when you also understand "the how" but I'll focus this entry on "the why" because the details of "the how" are what the rest of the blog will be about and will develop over time. This post is a bit unique because it is mostly me explaining and defending my ideology behind van-dwelling.

First off, let me make it clear that this is my choice. I'm not destitute or desperate, I do have other options. I could live a more conventional life if I wanted to but I don't. Not now anyway. Also, let me go ahead and clarify that this is temporary. I don't plan on living in the van indefinitely. It will serve as my home until I finish school and then as a means for my travels and adventures in the years soon after I graduate (hiking AT, climbing everywhere, etc.). Though there are no dates set in stone for anything yet. I'm just focused on getting school finished right now.

So why would I choose to do this?

I'm doing this because I want to and because I can. I'm doing this because this fits me. This fits my needs, wants, beliefs, and circumstances.

It boils down to Freedom. I like doing things my own way. If you know me, you know that.

1. Financial freedom: Like I said, I'm not in dire need but I'm not rich either. As a college student there is not much time to make money and there are not many substantial jobs available. I've done fairly well to make money with my handmade guitar effects business but its not enough to live a conventional life by itself. Maybe someday it will be, maybe not. I'm not putting too much stock in it. Most college students are still dependent on their parents but as soon as I move out I will be on my own and everything I need to survive will be paid for out of my pocket. My parents are face deep in debt and have been my whole life. I've seen first hand what hell that can be so there is no way that I'm going to let that happen to me. I'm completely opposed to any kind of debt.

So if I'm going to pay for school and for my living expenses without going into debt I'll have to be creative. The van is my solution.

Why not just take on some debt?

I'm fundamentally against the idea of debt. I think debt makes you a slave until you pay it off. You're stuck working so you can make those payments and in the end you end up paying more than what you bought was worth. It just doesn't seem like a good deal. We wouldn't be having the current economic crisis in the US if people just lived within their means instead of taking on more debt than they can pay off reasonably. I just want to live within my means. I don't feel like I should own something until I've earned it somehow. Debt makes it easy now but you will have to pay it back sometime. It is like bad karma. Taking on debt is nothing but a bad short term solution that will come back and kick your ass later. It is all about "getting what you want now" isn't it? In the times before loans and credit cards, if you couldn't pay off your debts you were made a slave, a servant, or a prisoner. The banks and credit card companies just figured out that you are worth more to them when you are trying to dig your way out of the hole of high interest debt with the spoon of minimum payments. They make you a comfortable slave, you get what you want but a comfortable slave is still a slave nonetheless. You are their profits. Not that I'm against making profit...I mean, I'm not that much of a socialist. I just don't want to feed the debt fire that is already out of control in so many people and places. Without any debt, the money I make will go for what I need and the rest will be saved for living the life I want to live. No middle man and no big man either, just me. The van will save me thousands on rent each year and I'll still have everything I need. But the van isn't just about saving money, its also about reducing the need for money.

Some folks have asked me why I don't think an apartment would be worth the extra money. Well, I don't need all that extra space and I don't need the things that I would put in all that extra space. It would cost a ton of "extra" money that I don't have. I've got enough room in the van for everything that I'll really need. I realize I'm sacrificing the comfort of a homey apartment but I'm OK with that. The van is plenty homey for me. It will be like camping in a small and roomy RV and I love camping even when I'm in a shitty tent. For one person it is more than enough. I know I won't love it all the time but I accept that as part of life no matter where I live. Living in a van has its advantages too. I won't have to deal with a roommate or noisy neighbors. I'll be able to go anywhere I want without ever having to think about finding a place to stay. I'll be able to live well on next to nothing. I won't have to work all the time to pay for it and I will have more free time. The money saved by living in the van will go towards doing the things that I really want to do and to me, that is worth it. It all about quality.

2. Personal freedom: so in a way "doing the things I want to do" is tied with financial freedom. I can only do what I can afford to do. Lucky for me the things I like to do are either free or really cheap. Hiking and climbing are great free fun that happen to go hand in hand with "living light." When hiking, its important to take only what you need and nothing more or else it slows you down and makes the difficult terrain harder and more dangerous. I heard someone say once, "light packs like to hike, heavy packs like to camp." The more luxuries you bring the more comfortable you are, but you can't go as far. Stuff weighs you down. I believe this is true in everyday life too. Things can own you just as much as you own them. I don't want things to control my life. As long as I have what I need my happiness will never depend on what I have or don't have. I'm separating my identity from my possessions. I'm separating my wants from my needs and my happiness from my materialistic ideas of happiness. The van is a way for me to strip down to the bare necessities and simplify my life. It is about personal development, this will make me more self-reliant and responsible. I'll learn allot from this. Personal freedom isn't just about doing things and life experiences, it is also about the freedom to be who I want to be. I'm weird. I get allot of joy and satisfaction from doing things on my own and figuring out my own way of doing them. I have a DIY lifestyle and it is very much a part of who I am. I've always been like this, my parents have evidence on tape of a 2 year old me who's favorite saying was "me do it."

Some folks may think I need to get over myself and "fall in line."

What for? What will I learn from living life the way everyone else does already? Those who risk nothing also gain nothing. So many people hate their 9-5 rat-race lives but accept it only because they haven't thought about living any other way. Anything radically different is too dangerous. They live a life of monotony because it is safe. They buy into this idea that they need to have security. That they need to have a secure job with secure income and live in a secure house in a secure neighborhood. How do they get this security? Well of course, they have to buy it. They buy the secure job with an expensive degree, they buy the house in the gated community, they buy insurance for the house, the cars, themselves, and even the dog. In the end it doesn't matter how "secure" your life is. Shit happens to everyone. The things that matter the most can't be secure, that is how life works. Stop living in fear and accept everything life has to offer and stop trying to protect yourself from it. I understand that the van could break down, burn up, get stolen, etc. but I'm not going to let fear keep me from what I want to do. I never will.

Once again, I'm doing this because this fits me and because it fits my current needs, wants, beliefs, and circumstances. I don't think its something just anyone could do. I know it is not normal. I know it has a huge stigma attached to it. I'm aware of the risks.

Not only am I going to make it work, I'm going to make it awesome.

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