Why I chose the van life

On the 4th of March, my $400 rent was due. To a normal person, $400 a month to rent a room of their own sounds like an amazing deal, especially for a room in Los Angeles, but to me and my bad (I'm talking BAD, like, really bad) case of wanderlust, my first thought was, "I could be putting this money toward my travel fund."

So on the 3rd is when I decided to pack all my stuff into my van, which I officially made my new home.

It's really difficult to write this first post. It's been 4 months since I decided to live in my car and man, what an eventful 4 months it's been. I guess I decided to write this because the hardest thing I've experienced so far is trying to explain my living situation to the people in my life. Yes, the criticism and the judgmental looks are even harder to deal with than having to pee in a plastic bag, trying to sleep with the noise of police sirens and helicopters circling the neighborhood all night, or having to learn how to be alone when I'm used to being surrounded by people all the time.

The first thing I want to say is that this was my choice. I'm not struggling financially to the point where I have to be homeless... I work a full-time job, I could go back to renting a room or go back to living at my parents' house if I wanted to. I chose the van life, the van life didn't choose me. lol

Second.. I'm on the path to finding my own happiness, not someone else's. Society seems to have these set rules on how you’re supposed to live your life - graduate college, get a good job, get married, have a family, and repeat. Everything outside of that plan seems taboo to certain people. When I was with my ex, that life was all I wanted, and the main reason for me wanting that was to make my parents happy. I figured hey, if I became a nurse (typical career for Filipinos) and had a family, then maybe my parents would actually be proud of me. But at the end of the day, those weren’t really my goals and I was never really happy. I lived a certain way and forgot about my own dreams because I was going after someone else’s. It wasn’t until I went through a really hard point in my life (parents divorced and had a bad break up) where I felt like I lost everything. I lost myself, I lost my perfect family, and I lost the perfect future I thought I’d have with my perfect guy. After feeling like I lost my way in life I realized that the good thing about having nothing is that you’re basically able to start from scratch and you’re finally free to do anything you want.

I am now focusing on myself more and learning how to take care of my needs and wants instead of everyone else’s. I’m taking all the energy I put into past relationships and other peoples’ happiness and putting it into my own. I don’t believe in settling for a 9-5 job that I hate for the rest of my life only to buy material things I don’t really need to impress people that don’t matter. I don't believe in having to take vacations to escape my life, I want to live a life I don't need escaping from. I don’t care if it’s out of the norm, if my dream career of photography isn’t stable, or if my dream of traveling the world is unrealistic, I have one life and I’m going to at least try to live by my own rules and not by the rules everyone thinks we're supposed to follow.

Third.. I love the idea of living a minimalist lifestyle. Filipinos have the tendency to hoard a lot of things (well at least my parents do), so I’ve grown up around useless junk all my life, and in my last relationship all we did was waste money on knick knacks we thought were cool and what we HAD to have at the time, but every single one of those items always ended up as dust collectors. I’ve learned that things are just things. Over the past few years I started throwing away things I didn’t need and tried developing that “have less, be more” mentality. I didn't want to be attached to material items anymore. I realized that I’d rather spend my money on experiences than on clothes or fancy gadgets. Amazing memories will have a bigger impact on my life than a watch I can talk into or a 1000” TV ever will.

Fourth.. I save so much damn money. More money = more travelling opportunities. I used to commute from Lancaster to LA every day and I would also pay rent. Now I don’t have to do either which saves me about $700 every month. People say they would rather pay that and be comfortable in their own bed or because they NEED their own private space, but I’m okay with being uncomfortable (and I’m okay with saving a crap load of money, too). When I had my own room, I spent every night watching TV or Youtube videos because I was so comfortable. Home was my place to rest and be lazy, but now that I live in my car I spend my nights being more productive in order to avoid having to hang out in the van. I go to the gym, I hike, I read, I practice my photography at meets or on solo explorations, or I work on other projects – all things I've always wanted to do but kept putting off, which is the fifth thing I want to point out:

It basically FORCES me to be productive and teaches me how to be independent. I'm single now, but a few months ago I got out of a 5 year relationship where I got a little too comfortable with my situations and never felt the need to better myself. I was 25 living with my ex at my parents' house, I never saved money, I gained a lot of weight from binge eating all the time, and I didn't really have goals for my future because my ex was my safety net. I was fine with the idea of getting married and being a house wife and knowing he would take care of everything. How pathetic is that? Now I'm trying to embrace the single life (it's still a struggle sometimes) and I'm learning how to depend on myself, rather than always having someone there to save me.

Sixth.. It’s good practice for when I can finally travel full-time. I don’t know if I’ll want to drive across the country in my van or if I’ll hop on a plane and travel from country to country, or both! Alls I knows is… this is good practice. I’m learning how to be alone and how to make my way around unfamiliar places. I’m learning how to practice common sense and learning what to look out for when travelling alone. 

Seventh… It makes me appreciate everything outside the van life SO. MUCH. MORE. Simple things that people take for granted every day: sleeping in a bed, eating a real full-course meal at a dinner table, getting to sleep in, doing laundry for free, being able to charge my phone or laptop whenever I want, sleeping in a house and not having to wake and make sure creepers aren’t staring into my windows, and most importantly, spending time with friends and family. When I lived at home I would always be in my room because I would be so tired from commuting to work and working. There would be days where I barely would talk to my siblings or even see my dad even though we lived together because we had different schedules. Now I visit home every weekend, and the times I get to spend with family and even my friends feel a lot more special, and I actually make sure to be present and enjoy their company because I know it’ll only last for the weekend. 

These are the main pros to my living situation, and I'm so glad I wrote it out because I started to question my decision due to friends telling me their doubts and worries. But I understand that 99% of the time I'm not going to get a positive reaction when I tell people that I live in a van, and that's okay. A lot of people aren't going to understand it no matter how many times I try to explain it or how many positives I give them and I understand. If I was an outside perspective I would be like, Marie, you're fucking crazy. And I definitely am, but not as crazy as the people who are constantly wishing they had a different life, the life they truly wanted, butare just settling for following the "rules" because it's comfortable. I would rather be my kind of crazy, hands down.



Marie is an aspiring travel and landscape photographer, frequent hiker, and works a full-time office job but is constantly daydreaming of being on the road/outdoors. She loves introducing adventure to those around her by regularly planning hikes and trips. Her dream is to travel the world for one year in 2017.