Baby Steps Towards Following Your Dreams

The question for each person to settle is not what he would do if he had means, time, influence and educational advantages; the question is what he will do with the things he has. The moment a person ceases to dream or to bemoan his lack of opportunities and resolutely looks his conditions in the face, and resolves to change them, he lays the corner-stone of a solid and honorable success.
Hamilton Wright Mabie

This guest post is the first in a series on taking baby steps toward following your dreams. Sometimes I get carried away in my passion for vandwelling and say that you just need to chuck it all and “Do it!” But I know that for many of you the realities of your situation mean you just can’t make any major life changes right now and so you think you can’t do anything at all. Instead, you settle for reading this and other blogs to live vicariously through them. But in this series I want to encourage you to take baby steps toward a major life change. Just because you can’t make radical changes doesn’t mean you can’t make any at all. In this guest post by Liz Nelson we see you can begin to travel and reconnect with nature even if you have a very limited budget. At the end of the post I will have a list of my suggested baby step.

“Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” Joel Barker

Vacationing in a Car or MIni-Van

Although I have never lived in my van or car full time I have had quite a few experiences in living in it through vacations. As I don’t make a lot of money I have had to be creative in the way I took vacations. I could not afford to stay at hotels or even cabins most of the time. Instead I camped in my tent, car or van. In fact this idea of living in my car for vacations started with my mom.

When I was in my last summer of high school my mom decided that we needed to take a trip together to see some new things before I ‘went away’. Although we did not have the money to spend on fancy hotels or big cities, we planned a trip to see seven states in eight days. That was as long as she could afford to be away from work.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.” Henry David Thoreau

It was a whirlwind of a trip and we had a lot of fun. Along the way we stayed in state and national parks. Because it was just the two of us and she had a big minivan we did not bother with tents. After all, tents are a pain to set up and get down, plus they have little padding or protection from the elements.

To prepare for the trip we took out both rows of back seats and laid down several thick blankets for padding. Our bags of clothes and other necessities lined one wall and left enough room on the floor for both of us to lie down. It was actually very comfortable.

However at our first camping spot we remembered something that we had overlooked. We could not keep the van on all night for air conditioning and although it was not as hot as it could have been the still air of the van was not conducive to sleeping.

Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you too can become great.
Mark Twain

We had an extra car battery and power converter handy so we purchased an inexpensive small but powerful fan to place between the front seats to move the air. We also needed some sort of screens to keep out the huge mosquitoes when we had the windows open. Mosquito netting was too expensive so we just bought some tulle fabric that was on clearance, forest green, and covered the windows with that. We did not even have to attach the material; just shutting the door on it was enough.

During the night we did not want to venture out into the darkness to find the restroom facilities, and some parks did not even have those, so we kept a large coffee can with a tight lid around for emergencies. It was not fun to clean but it did the job.

We had a cooler for food and drinks so we did not have to eat out all the time. If we needed to heat something up we could usually hop in a gas station and use their microwave as long as we got some gas too!

We got to go a lot further and see more by staying in our van then we could have ever done staying in hotels. It was a lot of fun being in touch with nature like that and really getting to enjoy your time instead of worrying about putting up and taking down tents and so on.

As an adult I once again wanted to go on a vacation but I had very little money. I had saved up enough to cover the gas and some food but not enough for hotel stays and the like. This time I did not have a van but a small Toyota Corolla. What was I going to do?

Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. 
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Thankfully I am a small person and I frequently took naps in my car at lunch anyway so I knew it was doable. I ordered some mosquito netting online for not much money and got my power converter and fan set up and ready to go. As my goal was to see the many natural wonders of the United States I decided to buy a park pass. The pass allowed me unlimited access to state and national parks for one flat rate. After researching the prices for admission and so on at each park I planned to stay at I found it to be quite a bargain.

As I started to map out my journey, however, I found that I would be driving through many areas without parks of any sort and would have to spend the night out in the country. That did not really bother me much. I did not see much difference aside from restroom facilities and some safety. In fact I then decided not to pay extra to spend the night at the parks and instead find a place to park and sleep for free outside of them. Since most of the parks were far from any cities it would be easy to find a back road that I could spend the night alongside without a problem.

In order to maintain my privacy and give the illusion that my car was just parked and not being slept in I came up with a couple of ideas. I had a foldable sun screen for the front windows that worked well to block those. Since I slept in the back seat all I had to do was lean the front seats back and casually ‘toss’ a jacket across the middle of them to hide my sleeping figure. The mosquito netting was nearly the same color as the windows so it did not stand out.

By this method I was able to comfortably sleep almost anywhere. When I got tired of driving I would stop at a twenty-four hour shop like Wal-Mart and hop in the back seat. In fact if I had to I could have folded down the back seats and slept in the complete privacy of the trunk!

It is funny, but since I once worked as a vendor to Sam’s Club and other big stores and I still had my badge I could pretty much go wherever I wanted or needed to. All I had to do was put on some khaki pants and a polo and no one looked twice. This allowed me to get the cheap food they offered without having to have a card. It also gave me an excuse for ‘hanging around’ during off hours. I was simply ‘waiting for my shift to start’.

Anyway, I got to travel to all the destinations I wanted to and see tons of cool natural wonders without having to shell out big bucks. It took a little planning to make the trip run smoothly but it all worked out. A few weeks on the road was just what I needed to unwind from the daily grind.

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”
―Anne Frank

As you can see, you don’t even need a van to live comfortably for a short time. I had a cooler behind the passenger seat and I washed clothes by hand in park showers and it was not a big deal at all to live cheaply, simply and enjoy my trip.

This is a guest post by Liz Nelson from She is a freelance writer and blogger from Houston. Questions and comments can be sent to: liznelson17 @

Suggested Steps To Follow Your Dreams

You can change your life today! Here are some of my suggestions on baby steps you can take right now:

  1. Say “YES!” to change and adventure. This can be as inexpensive as really exploring a local park!! It can be as simple as taking classes at a local community college in a hobby you have always wanted to try. Open your eyes to little opportunities and you WILL find them all around you. Our imagination is the main thing that separates us from the other animals–USE IT!
  2. Start learning!! Take up an art or craft you can make money at. Take a local auto shop class for beginners. Find a self-defense class. Start a hobby! The list is endless!! I’m willing to bet that there are many free or low-cost classes you can be taking right now that will help prepare you for making a radical change to mobile living.
  3. The foundation of all I do is living simply and on less. You can take steps right now, today, to get rid of some of your excess stuff and to change your purchasing habits. In other words, get rid of most of what you have and stop buying more. By selling as much of your stuff as you can, you may be able to afford to make some of these other changes. With luck it might even allow you to move into a smaller home or maybe even a van—then you will save a lot of money!
  4. Sell or trade one of your cars and buy a mini-van. The mpg shouldn’t be too much worse but it will allow you to start preparing for the life change to vandwelling. Or at least (as we saw in this post) to start taking trips in it and practice camping while you are reconnecting with nature.
  5. Start collecting the camping gear you will need. By taking road trips you will gain skills and practical knowledge what works for you and what doesn’t.
  6. At the very least, you can travel in your car like Liz did. If she can do it, so can you! In the process you will gain camping and mobile living skills that will work very well for you when you finally can jump into vandwelling or RVing.
  7. One reason many of you can’t make major changes is you are raising a family, but the two most important lessons you can teach your children are 1) the value of simple living 2) love and connection to nature. The best way to teach them is to live it! So taking the steps I’ve listed here actually accomplishes both goals of helping you move toward your dreams and raising healthier, happier children.
  8. Get out of an unhealthy or abusive situation. These steps will build your confidence in your ability to survive and be self-reliant.

Here is the bottom line, if you will take some or all of these steps you will be happier because these are the things human beings are designed to do: 1) Simple Living 2)  Connect to nature 3) Be life-time learners.

Follow the Senior President Bush’s advice:

Don’t sit drooling in the corner, get out there and enjoy life!!

Give it a try!

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is not safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing Helen Keller.


I've been a full-time VanDweller for 12 years and I love it. I hope to never live in a house again!

21 comments on “Baby Steps Towards Following Your Dreams
  1. Avatar Joni says:

    Hi Bob;

    Great, as always…gee you should write a book *laugh*!!

    Its also timely as I am outfitting a mini-van and have just let the weather determine its good enough, there will be time on my trip for mods.

    It is snowing within sight of my door…up a ways up but I could drive ther in under 10 minutes. Far too close for comfort for this desert valley where we Canadians store the nice weather, usually year round…old hippies thick as thieves hereabouts!

    Thanks for the encouraging words. How is your knee healing…curious minds we lot???



    • Joni, in what part of Canada are you?
      LaVonne Ellis recently posted…DecisionsMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Joni, it is healing well but every so often it reminds me it still want’s to be treated gently. We couldn’t decide what to do next so we flipped a coin and Zion won. We started driving over their and my knee really started to ache and hurt from being forced into the driving position. I decided to avoid all the extra miles and we headed straight back to Az. We are camped near Cottonwood, AZ now.

      So if I am good to it, it is good to me. I figure in a month or so it will be good as new.

  2. Avatar OpenSpaceman says:

    Liz / Bob,

    The luxury of baby steps…I’m thankful to have been able to be able to take my time transitioning to mobile.

    I only have ten months left working in the city if everything continues to go as planned.

    I’m developing a simple rhythm…Make Tea, Workout, Go to work and then head to a predetermined rotating parking place…repeat.

    It’s taken a thousand baby steps so far. I’ve never felt more calm in my life. It’s not for everybody but it’s for me.

  3. Avatar OpenSpaceman says:

    P.S. I’ve always acted on impulse most of my life and paid the price. Baby Steps are a lot less stressful.

    Thanks for the post.

  4. I’m taking baby steps too, though they seem huge. I’ve moved into the van and gotten rid of almost everything I can’t use in it. I’m sure there’s more purging to do. I’ve gone on one four-day urban camping trip that was lovely, but then I kind of scared myself not having the conveniences of home: power, internet, shower, laundry, and kitchen. So I came back to the apartment for those and have been having a hard time making myself leave again. Pulling the plug is harder than I expected! Anyway, I’m still sleeping in the van, and I just tore myself away from the apartment for the rest of the day. Yesterday, I drove to a regional park and did some minor hiking–ok, walking. I think, until I finally leave town altogether, I will always gravitate back to the seeming security of the apartment (that I’ve handed over to my son and his wife). By the time Winter RTR rolls around, though, I should be an old hand at this. 🙂
    LaVonne Ellis recently posted…DecisionsMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      LaVonne, it is a huge leap to move out of an apartment and into a van. I think your experience is pretty common.But it sounds like you are doing it exactly the right way, a little at a time! See you in January!

  5. Avatar CAE says:

    Great advice! The key is to take actions and see how it goes. Nothing drastic, but try something. It seems like the more “virtual” our society has become, the less people take action.
    As Nike said “Just do it”.

  6. Avatar Sheri says:

    Wow!! I was just thinking earlier this evening while driving home from work that I should start taking little steps towards my eventual goal…and I have a Toyota Corolla!!! Such a wonderfully, synchronistic article for me!! Thanks so much!

  7. Avatar Karen says:

    Lots of great tips for taking baby steps and satisfying wanderlust until you can actually vandwell. I have one that isn’t listed – bicycle touring! All you need is a half way decent touring bike, panniers,a sleeping bag and a tents. The only expense is food (and sometimes plane tickets) but you’d be eating anyway so it’s a cheap vacation. We toured the California coast, the big island of Hawaii, Nova Scotia, Louisianan and took many weekend trips close to home. At the time we never would have seen most of these places because it would have been too expensive to pay for meals out, hotel rooms and car rentals. It gives you a great sense of accomplishment and the realization that you’re capable of doing a lot more than you thought possible.

    I love Liz’s idea of using a gas station microwave to heat meals. There are new ideas popping up all of the time!
    Karen recently posted…Mt. Washington OverlookMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      karen, that is a very good suggestion! Then once you get mobile a bike is easy to carry and will save you a huge amount of money in gas. Taking up bike riding is just a great idea for everybody.

  8. Avatar Calvin R says:

    I particularly want to support the idea of traveling in whatever vehicle you can get, but especially a minivan. I have been taking baby steps toward life on the road most of my life. While I frustrate myself by being extremely slow, there are reasons for that. In the meantime, traveling by minivan has given me insight, practical skills, fun, and several “aha” moments. Remember, if you keep putting one foot in front of the other, eventually you get somewhere.

  9. Avatar Linda Barton says:

    I feel like this was written for me. I am so looking forward to life on the road as a vandweller and 2 years seems a long way out. Taking some steps now will help me feel like I am doing something towards that goal. I am renting a cargo van for the RTR in Jan. (I have to fly in)It will be cheaper than renting a camper.I will be taking small steps to learning what life on the road is like. Thanks again for your article.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Linda, that’s great! Doing something will make you feel better and help speed the time up. Before you know it, you’ll be a free bird!

  10. Avatar Curtis says:

    Thank you Liz, wonderful post.

    Also thank you Bob for opening up your blog so we may share in the experiences of others.

  11. Avatar Cleanheart says:

    Fear has been my companion for quite some time now. I lived in a stationary small RV I called Sweetie over the summer and it was doable. I was in a bad spot tho but could not move the RV as it did not belong to me. I needed to get my teeth fixed so I moved into Sweetie.
    I was fairly comfortable along with Thor the love of my life. Problem was the location. I finally had to move out of Sweetie into the basement of an unoccupied farm house so this is where we are now.
    I want so badly to get back to being independent but with winter coming on, well, it’s here now in Central Illinois I feel we need to stay put.
    My family is so dead set on me staying put around the area and well, I have agreed to stay for now anyway.
    I am allowed to stay here until Spring and by then I will have a little cash saved up from working and can hopefully find an RV that I can move into and leave this expensive state. I will have to really dig in my heels with my family here tho and that will cause some stress I’m afraid. I did it and know I can do it again I just have to overcome this fear!
    Thanks so much Bob for all you do. If it wasn’t for you and your sites I wouldn’t be even entertaining these “freeing” thoughts!

    • Bob Bob says:

      Cleanheart, a lie without a dream is an empty life and I’ve helped fan into a flame a dream in your heart I’m grateful for the chance. Keep dreaming and working toward those dreams and no matter how long it takes, your life will be better!

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