Van dwelling and the new middle class

July 4, 2016

short bus with solar panelsThere is a  way to stay in the bay area where the good jobs pay well without spending most of your money on rent. There was a google employee who got a lot of attention for living in the parking lot in a giant moving van. You do not need that much space for goodness sake. Shower at the gym and eat salads and stuff you you keep in the work place fridge. When you think about how much time most people spend at home now a days a single person does not even need a camper. A good cargo van or discrete transit express minivan will do, and doubles as a vehicle and is easy to park.

With a good cellphone and a lap top I am able to get everything done, get in my yoga, hikes and naps with just about the same ease I did when renting expensive apartments or living with awful roommates. The amount of time needed to work the two jobs to get myself out of debt so I can escape to a cheaper state makes it ridiculous to rent an apartment just to shower and sleep for 6 hours a night. Storing clothing? Use a dufflebag or build an under bed storage unit in your van. Get a small storage space for anything you can’t get rid of and get rid of un-needed crap.

VW van home in Palo AltoIt is no longer just the homeless and crazy who live in their vans, cars, converted milk trucks and school buses. Everybody is doing it. Respectable people park their scooters and small vehicles beside the main base all over the industrial areas, near parks, and on back streets all over the USA if you just take a moment to notice and know where to look.

It might sound like a horrible blow to the ego to live in one’s vehicle but I wish I had known about this alternative to paying rent when I first left home. I could have gotten a cheap VW bus back in the day and saved all that rent money to buy real estate or just live a much better life.

Vanabaode is the gospel on this. He goes a little crazy with the preaching, and the chapter on how you must have sex with a loving spouse could have been left out as far as I am concerned, but most of the information is sound.

I am saving for a nice little transit express van. It will be discrete and ubiquitous in plain white. I should be able to store all my art supplies under the bed area and put in a fold down table for work. If I decide to use a massage table that will also fit behind the passenger seat against the sliding door.

As an artist the van configuration can work well with a small shared art studio space for 300 a month or so in the the San Francisco area. You can still find decent shared art space in the East Bay.

There is no commute time at all when you have a minivan of some sort and a job in a wealthy neighborhood. It is called stealth camping. A nice vehicle without junk stuffed in the windows and towels and things blocking windows does not draw attention.

Peeing is a problem but easily dealt with using a couple of mason jars for emergencies. Sounds totally bag-ladyish but the thought of saving 12 thousand or more per year on rent is appealing as hell as well as gas for commutes. Libraries and cafes are fine for working on computer stuff.

I find I do not really need all the stuff I thought I did and I love the simplicity of living with just the basics. Some of my canvases are in storage and painting supplies are in storage. As an artist I like to paint large so a studio in an inexpensive area will probably be my goal in a few years or land with a tiny house or converted barn. But I can also learn to create small canvases. My doll making does not take up much space. Finding a way to fire the finished work is a problem that can be solved by renting space by the hour if needed. A subscription to Tech shop or a shared art studio space is a good way to launch an art business without paying absorbent rents in the bay area.

Van dweller Palo Alto
Van dweller Palo Alto

As I kid I went to a free school and knew a teacher who lived in a converted delivery van or maybe it was an ex ice ream truck. her name was Sky and I thought she was kind of fruity but your abode can be as edgy or respectable as you like. to see some amazing bus conversions check out mental floss and the tiny house blog for buses and vans for sale. an architectural student did very elaborate mobile home but yours can be as simple as you like.

If you are tired of paying rent in the San Francisco Bay area or If you are in debt and would like to get free or you just need to drop out of the race for a while, Van Abode is a great guide book with lots of ideas for part time work on the road and seasonal work while living nomadically or semi-nomadically.