The Most Important Thing I’ve Learned as a Full-time Vandweller
When I went full-time it really wasn’t in an RV, it was an old beat-up Chevy box van. Instead of being a small apartment on wheels, I had done only the most simple and basic modifications to make it liveable. You see, I had just gone through a divorce and after the settlement, literally could no longer afford to pay for a place to live. It was either live in a van or in a cardboard box under a bridge. The van seemed like the better idea. I lived in that van for 6 years, then re-married and moved back into a house–but, I was ruined for houses! To my dismay I discovered that I now despised everything about living in a house!!
A few years later I retired and moved to Asheville, NC for my “golden years” But they weren’t so golden; I found myself sitting in a chair, watching TV, waiting to die. I had enough money to survive on but not to have any kind of full, rich life on. The problem was the house, because so much of my retirement went into the house–a house I hated to live in. After paying the mortgage and utilities, I didn’t have the money to go off and do the things I wanted to do.
When I did everything I possibly could to follow society’s rules, like working all my life, having kids, buy lots of junk and getting a pension and retiring, I was unhappy and miserable the whole time! I had been assured that it would all be worthwhile, I would be glad for all the sacrifices I had made after retirement. But none of that was true either! I was more miserable than ever as a retired person in my “Golden Years.”
The only time I’d been happy my whole life was when my life had “failed” and I broke completely free of societies instructions and lived like a nomad in a van–then my life was suddenly great!! How could that be? Could society be lying to me, was their way wrong and the nomadic way better? If it was just me, then I would say yes, I was broken and society was right. But practically everyone I knew was just as unhappy with life as I was and they were just waiting to retire to finally be happy. But most of them ran into health or money problems and almost none of them were. Where were the happy lives society promised to deliver? There were none!
So I determined to live like a nomad for the rest of my life. Society had lied to me but I was going to start telling the truth to anyone who would listen!! I made final preparations to move out of a house for what I hoped would be the last time in my life. With a little luck, I’d never live in a house again!
Unfortunately, my ex-wife had to live in a house, so in March of 2008 I turned it over to her, and we amicably separated. Just like my heart had demanded, I hit the road and have been boondocking full-time now for the last 8 years.
The one thing I wish I had known before I hit the road was how tremendous the personal benefits are and therefore they are worth any cost and sacrifice to make them happen as early as possible.
If I had known just how cheap and easy it can be and how deeply it would impact and improve my heart, mind, body and soul, I would have done it in my 20s. Living as cheaply as I do requires some sacrifice, but anyone can do it. Now that I know how immense the benefits are, I would have paid the price and done it much earlier.
These are the three main benefits I’ve gotten (among many others):
- Freedom: but not just of travel and movement, no, that’s the least of what I’ve found. I’ve found freedom to think about everything in my life differently and independently than I had before. My entire worldview has changed by opening my heart to see new things and hear different stories and experience different points of view. Travel has broken through my hard shell of being certain I had everything figured out and allowed me to see there is much more than just one point of view. In fact there are many other ways to see the world–and more often than not, theirs is better than my “traditional view.”
- Healing: because I spend nearly all of my time on either BLM desert land or National Forests, I’ve discovered that re-connecting to nature has healed my deeply fractured and terribly stressed heart and soul. In big and little ways it has has brought me peace of mind I had never experienced before. It has changed me at the cellular level.
- Connections: like most people, my life before full-timing was filled with alienation. Even though I was always surrounded by people, I almost always felt alone. Today, my life is just the opposite of that. While I am just as often alone as I am with people, I never feel alone. I have made tremendously more deep, profound connections with others since becoming a “hermit” than I ever had when living surrounded by people. Most importantly, those connections endure through time and space, so even when I’m alone, they are always with me.
The most important thing I’ve learned as a full-time vandweller is that what I’ve gained has been so much greater than any slight cost, I would give anything to be able to go back to my 20s and start right then because there would have been so much less that I had to unlearn, and throw out. How much of society’s destructive indoctrination is so ingrained in me, that I will never be able to root it out? As great as my life is now, it would have been much better if I had the courage to start in my 20s.
The worst thing is I unknowingly allowed society to use me to mislead my own children. While my son’s life is a complete success by society’s standards, I know how much greater it could be if I had raised him to think truly independently.
What about you, how long will you wait before you take the steps that will set your soul free and allow you to truly live? Could today be the day you set your intentions to make your life exactly what it can and should be? I hope so!