Choices to the Rat Race

Rat_Race-StopIf you ask me why I am a vandweller, my answer is simple, “Freedom!” I long for freedom just as I think many of you do. Why else would you be reading my blog? But then the question must be asked, “Freedom from what?” And that is a tougher question for me to answer. What I can tell you for sure is that I hated my old life as a “normal” Joe following the American Dream.

I can summarize what I hated so much in two words: Rat Race. Imagine a rat in a lab being forced to run a maze endlessly to get enough food to live. That is just what my life felt like to me. Every day was the same; get up, fight traffic and weather, go to work, fight traffic and weather, go home, eat dinner, watch TV, go to bed, repeat, endlessly. And after running the maze what did I get, barely enough to survive on and have a few extras. It went like that year-after-year, decade-after-decade.

Drone: A person who does tedious or menial work; a drudge: “undervalued drones who labored in obscurity” (Caroline Bates).

Rat-Race-CageThere were two main things about that life that I hated: the monotony and the stress. The monotony was mind-numbing and life-sapping. Every day was the same with just minor variations. I was living for the excitement of the weekend and my vacations every year. But when they got there they just flew by and were full of busy-work to catch up on. Or, if we took a vacation and traveled, then it was so busy with trying to pack as much as possible into it that I came home more tired and stressed out than when I left. I needed a vacation from the vacation.

Let me say that I was raising two kids and I knew of no other way to support my family except by living in the Rat Race; so it was a necessary evil. Also, I worked at the same job all my life and it had a good pension plan. So when my youngest son turned 18 I was able to retire early and finally climb out of the endless maze of my dreary existence. So some really wonderful things came as a reward for my time in the Rat Race, but that doesn’t change the fact it was a total, perpetual misery to me. I am reminded of a quote by a person I tremendously admire:

“It is very important that you only do what you love to do. You may be poor, you may go hungry, you may lose your car, you may have to move into a shabby place to live, but you will totally live. And at the end of your days you will bless your life because you have done what you came here to do.

Otherwise, you will live your life as a prostitute, you will do things only for a reason, to please other people, and you will never have lived. And you will not have a pleasant death.”  Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

After I became an “adult” I never once did anything I loved to do. My whole life was fulfilling one obligation after another. Is there any way to look at my life except to say I lived as a prostitute, selling my precious time and life energy for money even though there was no joy or happiness in it for me? I was a rat in a maze doing the bidding of my Master. He told me to run and I ran. He told me to stop running and I stopped. He gave me enough food to live on and no more. The only love I got in return was the Master didn’t kill me and kept me alive.

I must be quick to say no one was to blame for my situation but me. I had options; I just failed to take them. I could have gone to college, or started a business. I could have dropped out and been a vandweller. Instead I found a high-paying blue collar job I could live on and settled into it for the rest of my life. I lacked courage, imagination and boldness so I took the easiest, most risk-free path in front of me. Society gave me options; no one is to blame for my life but me.

The price of being a sheep is boredom

The price to being a wolf is loneliness

Choose one or the other with great care.


Wolf-HowlLet’s face it, I was a sheep and I reaped the reward of great boredom. I agreed to be a good productive member of the flock and was fleeced regularly for it. Then I had a mid-life crisis and had an “Aha” moment of revelation and decided I would no longer live like a sheep. I started living in a van, worked less and made plans to become a wolf. When my kids were out of the house I abandoned the flock and went off to live life as a wolf on the road, living on public land like the wild thing I was born to be. My only regrets are waiting so long to do it and failing to do it when I was young. I greatly regret raising my children as sheep and not as wolves. I have found the risk of loneliness as a wolf to be minimal. As I have often said, I have made more, deep, intense, life-long friendships and connections living as a lone wolf than I ever made as a sheep. Vandwelling was the cure for my loneliness and my boredom.

I guess the real intent of this post is to tell you that you do have choices. You can run on the treadmill and search the maze if you want. It does offer security (although less and less every year) but at a tremendously great price. Or you can change and follow another path, a path of risk, and adventure and a life truly lived.

You’ve got a lot of choices. If getting out of bed in the morning is a chore and you’re not smiling on a regular basis, try another choice. ~Steven D. Woodhull

Here it is in a nut shell:

  1. Start selling everything you own and save money to buy a van.
  2. Get rid of everything that won’t fit in the van
  3. Walk away from the house or apartment and move into the van
  4. Save every penny you earn and once you have saved enough, hit the road.

There is more to it than that and it’s harder if you have a family and kids, but honestly, you can change your life if you really want to.

“I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of a man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.” ~Jack London

To change one’s life: Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly. No exceptions.  ~William James

(I know many of you are happy with your “normal” life, and for you it is not a Rat Race at all. But this is my blog so I am telling you my experience. I am not saying “normal” is “bad,” I am only saying it was bad for me.)


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

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