Deciding on Van Life: A Brief History

It’s occurred to me that I haven’t really explained how we came to the decision to quit our jobs and move into a van. The first post in here just says “I bought a van to tour in!”, which really doesn’t speak to all the planning that went into this. Granted, that was almost 8 months ago and I wasn’t sure anything was going to work out at the time. But now that pretty much everything is in motion, I can give a little bit of insight into our timeline and decision making process. I’ll try and give you the abridged version as best I can. (It also feels nice to tell the whole story out loud – this has been a secret for so long.)

In August of 2016 I was 22. I had just landed my first full-time job, upgraded to a shiny new car, and had moved into a 1 bedroom that I was sharing with Greg after 3 years of dating. At the beginning of the fall, I had some kind of youthful, naive optimism that I was finally “on the right track”. I was securely on a typical path many people tend to follow after college, and thus I was expecting to find some kind of fulfillment after attaining these important things.

Essentially I found the opposite, and pretty quickly. Turns out, sitting in a cubicle for 8 hours a day, sitting in traffic for 2 more, and sitting on the couch for the rest was making me more miserable than I had ever been and causing me to drink far too much on the weekends. I wanted a way out before it was too late.

After some soul searching and brainstorming, I stumbled upon the van life community. There are a lot of people out there living in decked out vans and RVs who aren’t just retirees looking to pass the time. These are people who live, work, eat, and sleep on the road. These people get to travel the country and do what they love without the overhead of utility bills or the grind of a daily commute. As soon as I came across it, I could tell how much work it was going to be to get to that point. But I was also sure that this was my way out of the 9-5, and my way into playing music full-time.

In the beginning of 2017 I broached the subject with the important people in my life. My parents were wildly supportive from day one, as they always have been. I then approached Greg with the idea of moving into a van with me. Asking a person to quit their job, leave their apartment, and move into a vehicle with someone who you are not bound to in marriage was… intimidating, to say the least. Fortunately he was 100% on board right away as well. And those were the two green lights I needed to get serious.

airstream-class-b
This is a Class B RV. I had my heart set on an Airstream just like this for ages.

I wanted a Class B RV, which is basically an over-sized van with all the guts of an RV shoved inside in Tetris fashion. But those are hard to come by on a budget, so I was fairly flexible on what might work. I looked at monster tour buses, at stripped out RV shells, at 70’s VWs and 2000’s Roadtreks. I spent many late nights scouring RVtrader.com, Craigslist, and eBay for my perfect vehicle.  And in late February I found her in an eBay search – the 1995 GMC Vandura 3500 that will soon be my full-time residence. The closing of that eBay auction was insanely stressful, and someone very nearly outbid me, but I was victorious.

From March until early July, I learned as much as I could about everything RV-related. I learned about deep cycle battery capacity, how to calculate a power budget, AC vs DC power, how to use a rivet tool, how to crimp and solder wires, how to install a car stereo, how to replace a DIY plumbing system, the difference between grey and black water tanks, how to dump waste water, how to choose and install solar panels, and so many other things. We had to disassemble a lot of what was already in place inside the van to get things working the way we needed. As a result I know how nearly everything works, where it’s likely to break, and how to fix it.

spreadsheet
One of my many tour booking/routing/accounting spreadsheets. I LOVE spreadsheets.

I also learned how to book a tour. I became an accountant, a manager, a marketer, a salesman, a PR rep, and a secretary for us. I planned a route in direction that would keep our gas costs low and the weather warm, I found spots for us to park the van at night, I put together an EPK so compelling that you’d be crazy to turn us away, I calculated how much money we can spend on food if all the venues pay us and if none of them do, I sent (and am still sending) dozens of cold-call emails every day to venues in cities I’ve never even visited. This tour has been 100% built and booked by stuff I’ve learned on the internet and crossed fingers. And for some crazy reason, it seems to be working.

I guess the biggest point I’m trying to make here is that it hasn’t been easy. In fact this will probably be the most difficult thing I ever do. I’ve given up many things to pursue this already, and I’ve spent so much of my own money trying to turn a crazy dream into a semblance of reality. It has been blood, sweat, and tears for almost an entire year. I genuinely eat, sleep, and breathe this thing. I’m sure that the hardest is yet to come (I’ve yet to officially put in notice at my job, give notice to my landlord, get in the van and drive away, or actually, you know, live in the van), but I’ve also never been more excited about anything in my entire life. Even if everything absolutely implodes in on itself a week after we get on the road, or we decide that we absolutely hate living in a vehicle, it won’t be for lack of trying. There will be no more “what ifs”.

If you’ve made it all the way to this point, I commend you. This is mostly the ramblings of a person who has had to keep a super important secret for too long. In the coming months, posts here should become a lot more interesting and feature a lot of cool places & things (or it’ll just be boring pictures of the highway, who knows). If you’re at all interested in following the journey, stay tuned! I promise to try and keep it entertaining, or at least recommend some cool hangouts for your next vacation to Florida.

DSC_0052_1
And truth be told, I wouldn’t want to be doing this crazy thing with anybody else.

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