Converting to Van Life Living
My husband and I had a plan: in May of 2018, we would quit our jobs, go full-time in our own businesses, and travel. We didn’t know what that would look like travel-wise…if we’d settle down in Medellin, Colombia; if we’d sail around the world in a catamaran; or if we’d stick to wandering the U.S. in our Prius. After evaluating which stage our businesses were in, and where we’d like them to be next year, we decided it would be wisest to stay in the U.S…which meant living out of our car!
Excitedly we discussed our plans with some friends. They warned us how uncomfortable the Prius might be, especially trying to work full-time on the road. To consider the alternatives, we made a trip to the local RV dealer, only to learn most RVs get 8-10 mpg. If we wanted to have an RV that gets over 8-10 mpg, then the price tag would be upwards of $60k. There were financing options, but honestly none of it sat well with us (we are naturally debt averse). Coincidentally, at that moment was when we discovered the van life community on YouTube. About a week, and tons of videos binged later, we purchased our 2006 Dodge Sprinter van we found on Craigslist. My husband Matt immediately started 3-D modeling the interior build on the computer.
Over the next 4 weekends, while we still worked full-time during the week, we planned out the build, insulated the van, and ordered all the parts we would need. We had a strict timeline: the van needed to be done by May 6 because that’s when the tenants were going to move into our house. So we had 4 weekends and then 3 weeks. By the time we quit our jobs on April 12th, the van was insulated, modeled, and the bed frame was built. That’s it. We had 3 weeks to finish electrical, plumbing, cabinetry, flooring, walls, ALL while downsizing our 2300 sq. foot house to live in 60 sq feet…talk about overwhelming!
Needless to say, we didn’t make our deadline. Our tenants thankfully let us stay a week longer, but even by then the van wasn’t done. We had to move mid-build an hour and a half up the road to my mom’s house. While we were finishing up the van, sleeping on my mom’s living room floor, we ended up getting our computers hacked and having $17,000 worth of cryptocurrency stolen from us (unrecoverable). Talk about the Universe testing us to see how much we really wanted this lifestyle.
Testing our relationship too
Just converting the van itself was a test on our relationship- we learned how well we work together under pressure, physically exhausted, and the stress we put on ourselves to be perfect. But then having money stolen from us– this confirmed that the entire experience was a TEST. And what comes out of tests? GROWTH!
Now, two months into the trip of a lifetime, we’ve settled into the routine and we have some perspective to see perhaps what kind of growth the Universe was teaching us. The biggest thing was learning to express our needs to each other — what do we need and when do we need it. Most people are hiding their true needs, or ashamed of them, and then blow up when their partner doesn’t meet them. When we are empowered in our needs, and communicate our needs to each other, we grow in depth and understanding of the other person.
In addition to being more communicative of our needs, we’ve also learned more trust- trust in ourselves and trust in God/the Universe in its timing. Throughout the last two months, of not making a reliable income and not relying on anyone but ourselves, we’ve fallen into the trap of self-doubt. We’ve questioned if we’ve made the right decision. Did we financially plan enough? Was this the right choice? But we’ve learned there is no right choice, there is only the next best choice. Looking at life as a series of right and wrong choices is judgmental and harsh. When we look at our choices with a lense of “this is the best choice I made at the time with the information I was given or the place I was at,” the judgmental lense is lifted and we are free to follow what we believe is the best next choice for US.
Growth on our Journey
Growing a business, leaving the comfort of a 9-to-5, and adjusting to full-time van-life travel is a slow and sometimes painful process. It requires a lot of embracing of uncertainty. There is no natural routine, and each day is never the same. Where am I going to poo? Where am I going to sleep? As humans we need a certain amount of certainty and uncertainty to be happy. Everyone’s balance is a little different, but you’ll know when you find it. One thing we’ve learned is we know we need to build in certainty into our schedule because the uncertainty weighed a bit too heavy. We’ve started to make sure to structure some routine into our day to feel the balance of some certainty.
From the start, I have believed in radical authenticity and being vulnerable when it comes to sharing about the realities of van life and “living your dream.” With social media, it’s easy to compare the crap in our lives to the highlight reels of everyone’s else’s lives. On our instagram and YouTube, we share the realities of van life– when it’s hard, when it’s great, when it’s uncomfortable or challenging. The “lie” we so often believe is the grass is greener on the other side, that everyone else’s lives is better than our own. I refuse to believe that “lie” is truth. When I find myself scrolling and comparing, I pause to take a step back, and remind myself that social media is curated and the highlight reel is just that: highlights, not reality. I also try to share the pain- like when our stuff got stolen or the difficulties we encountered backpacking a section of the Appalachian trail. Van life is full of highs and lows, just like regular life, so documenting our vulnerabilities and strengths feels authentic and real to us.
Another thing I refuse to believe is the best day of my life is in the past. The best day is yet to come. Heck, it could be today. But then tomorrow will be better so that may actually be the best. But then the day after that…you see where I’m going with this? So while this trip is a “trip of a lifetime,” I do believe there will be more trips like this. I don’t have expectations of this trip to be the BEST EVER. I face it realistically, embracing the ups and downs to receive the learnings that we’re meant to learn while on the road.
On the road to adventure
Adventures = growth. Adventures mean getting outside of your comfort zone and it’s not always magical. Yes, there is magic, but there is also pain. Looking back, would I choose it again? Yes, absolutely the growth and the moments of magic are worth the discomfort 100% of the time. We went from feeling stuck and depressed in routine jobs to the adventures of living in a big, red van traveling the Americas. We are only in month two, and are excited about where we are now, physically and emotionally, and where the future will find us.
What are you waiting for? Put on your big girl panties and book that trip, sign up for the class, or ask that person out on a date! It’s going to get uncomfortable…but then it’s going to get real good too! The journey, the adventure, is worth it!
Find Allie, her husband, their dog Ebbie and Clifford the big red van, on YouTube: Owen Your Future and Instagram: @OwenYourFuture. If you’re interested in more about Allie’s business, check out http://alliowen.com/ and her Podcast: Aligned & Alive (episode 18 is her interview with me: http://alliowen.com/stacey/)