Eating the Elephant: Changing Your Life
Today is New Years Eve and many of us are reflecting on the year that just ended and making plans for the New Year that is just about to begin. For many of us this is a time to make resolutions to change our lives. Personally, I’ve given up on making resolutions because I never keep them! But even more, I love my life just the way it is!! I am remarkably happy, happier than I have ever been. Of course there are lots of things I would change, I need to lose weight and be more disciplined, but all in all, my life has exceeded all my expectations!!
I know lots of you, my readers, are going through some very tough times. The economy has devastated many people and I know others are going through heartbreak and health problems. Others of you are trapped inside the system desperately wanting to be free and feeling like there is just no way to break out. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make it all better, but of course I can’t. It would be nice if I had some great wise words that could turn it all around for you, but I don’t.
I can tell you that many of us have a found a solution by living in our cars, vans or RVs. It is one of the very best answers for how to live on an extremely small amount of money. For many of us it was also the only way we found to feel truly alive and free. It was a way out of the drab mediocrity and nothing-ness American life has become. I remember so well the bleakness of getting up every day, fighting traffic, working at a job I hated, fighting traffic to get home and then sitting in front of the TV dreading having to do it again the next day. It went on day after tedious day; year after dreary, soul-crushing year for the rest of my life. It became unbearable.
I know many of you are there now and you read my (and others) blog to live vicariously through us. And I know breaking out seems like an impossibly long journey right now but you can’t let that keep you from beginning. It seemed impossible to all of us as well, but we started by putting one foot in front of the other and before we knew it, we were where we wanted to be. You can do that to!
How do you eat an elephant? One mouthful at a time! How do you take a journey of a thousand miles? By beginning with that first unsure step. How do you radically change your life from a house-bound, traditional American to a simple, free vandweller? One step at a time! What are you doing right now to make your dreams come true? I know many of you are just a few years away from retirement age and are waiting on that. Others of you have kids nearing the age when they will leave the house. Many are trying to sell your house. Like the majority of Americans, some of us are so deeply in debt we simply can’t make any changes. No matter what your current situation is, there are things you can be doing right now to make your dreams come true. Here are some ideas of things you could be doing to get ready:
1) Resolve Family Problems: I know some of you are married to a spouse who is not interested in mobile living and others of you have young kids. That is remarkably common! I don’t have any miracle cures, but I know many people have faced the same thing and worked out a compromise. On way is to start looking for baby steps you can take to ease your family members into mobile living. Start with day trips in your area to the beach, zoo, museums, and historic places; anything your family is interested in. You want the trips to be as pleasant and enjoyable as possible. Once they are looking forward to the trips, see if you can get them interested in overnight trips. Start by staying in motels so it is easier for them. Then begin to introduce the idea of camping instead or getting a pop-up trailer to overnight in. Can you expand that to weekend trips? What about a week long trip? They key thing is to take out all the frustration and difficulty of it so it is as enjoyable as possible. With a little luck, after a while they will look forward to it and want to go further and more often. If they don’t, bring up the possibility of you traveling alone. Some relationships are strengthened by time apart.
2) Make a Detailed Plan! Begin by outlining everything you need to do to transition from house-dwelling to vehicle dwelling. That is going to mean doing as much research as you possibly can. Right now you have more time than money so take advantage of it and read everything you can find. The internet is a treasure trove of information so start there. Of course you should start with my websites but don’t stop there. Read every blog you can find and join the many forums and yahoo groups on the various aspects of mobile living. But don’t stop at the internet; I recommend going into your local RV stores and ask questions like a newbie RVer would. Go to sporting goods stores and learn all you can about camping gear. Find a local solar installer and go in and learn everything you can. Go to the library and find introductory books on cabinet making, electrical wiring and anything else you may need to know to convert the van.
As you gather information you can start to reach conclusions and formulate a plan. Begin by asking questions about every tiny aspect of your vehicle dwelling life: How will you live in the vehicle? How will you cook, clean, eat, poop? How will you make money? Where will you travel? After you have a very specific vision of exactly what your mobile life will look like, decide on all the steps you need to take to make that goal come true. As you formulate a plan, break it down into smaller steps. Then, break those steps down into even smaller steps. Then break those steps down into even smaller steps. Keeping reducing the plan until you can’t reduce it any further, and then apply a timeline to it. Finally, take step one and you are on your way!
Will you do me a favor and email me a copy of your detailed plan? If you will, I will post them here so everyone can benefit from it.
3) Getting rid of stuff: For most of us this is the hardest part of moving into a van, so having time to work on it can be a blessing in disguise. Turn the excess stuff into money by holding garage sales and listing more valuable things on Craigslist. With extra time you have the luxury of being patient and getting the most money possible for the many, many things you will be getting rid of.
4) Learn new skills. There are many ways your life as a vandweller can be improved by taking this time to learn some new skills that could be helpful in your new life. Your first response may be that you don’t have the money to take classes, but many Communities Colleges, clubs and business offer classes in all these subjects for free or very low cost. Chances are very good you have friends or co-workers who are very skilled at some of these topics and would be extremely happy to share it with you for free. Many things can be self-taught with what you learn on the internet and with a little guidance from a friend. Don’t forget your local library, it is an incredible source of detailed information on every imaginable topic; much better than the internet!!
Most of us have lived our whole lives in a tiny little box (pun intended) and closed ourselves off to new possibilities. Break out of those prison walls and think entirely new. You are a much more capable person than you think you are. Pick a topic you have had some interest in or you think you will need and find a way to learn it. Here are some possibilities:
- Basic auto mechanic skills,
- Container Gardening,
- Hunting and Foraging,
- Navigation, GPS and Map reading,
- Motorcycle or bicycle riding,
- Renewable Energy like wind and solar power,
- New hobbies: music, art, hiking, etc.
- Teach yourself a marketable skill: writing, photography, arts and crafts, etc
5) Go Camping: traveling in a car van or RV on a very tight budget is very much like going camping, so if you have never been camping before, get out and go. There are almost certainly areas very near to your home where you can camp for a night. Getting the practice will show you areas where you are lacking skills and need to learn and what supplies you need to gather to be more comfortable. Its main value is to show you the lowest level of comfort you want for yourself in your new life. It’s easy to say you can forage for food, poop in a bucket and shower with baby wipes. But sometimes the truth is you simply can’t, and it is much better to know that now.
5) Research and Buy a Vehicle. I know some of you don’t have the finances to get a vehicle right now, but I suggest you start the search anyway. I hear all the time about the most incredible deals people sometimes stumble across. They were lucky and were at the right place at the right time and found astounding deals. But luck favors the well prepared so the more you are out there looking, the more likely you are to come across some fantastic deal by pure “chance”. So spend time on Craigslist every day searching for your vehicle of choice. If nothing else you will learn the ins-and-outs of vehicle buying and learn the best prices you can get in your area. Expand your search to areas a little further away and you may find you can save a third of the price by driving a few hours to buy a vehicle.
Another thing you can do is to join forums about the vehicles you want to buy and learn the problems different models and model-years have. So you might find that a 1999 Model Y has terrible problems with its fuel injectors but those problems were solved in 2000. Knowing those kinds of things can save you lots of trouble and money later on and the fact you have to wait to move into your van lets you do the research now, so take advantage of it. Even if you can’t buy now, all the research will make it much easier when you are ready.
6) Start Converting the Vehicle. By now you should have done all the research you need to know how you want to convert your vehicle. So begin the process one step at a time. All this extra time will be a huge advantage allowing you to learn new skills to make the vehicle exactly what you want it to be.
I hope this post encourages you that you don’t have to just live vicariously through other people’s lives. You can start right now–this very day–to change your life. Then, one of these days, you can have a life that other people read about and wish they had!!!! As a bonus, having a goal and working towards it will make your life happier right now!