I’ve been quite free with talking to people about living the car and traveling. During the pledge drives we have over a hundred volunteers come into the station, some who already know and asked about the car from the last pledge drive. I enjoy talking about the car, what I’ve done to it, and what it’s like living in it (if I didn’t I wouldn’t have started up this website). I’m more than happy to show people the website and if time permits, the car itself. In short, pretty much anyone who knows me knows I live in a car. Those who don’t just haven’t been around when the topic came up.
A little while back, someone who I don’t know really well, but who I see on a fairly regular basis made reference to my “situation.” It took me a minute to figure out what this person meant. At first I thought they were referring to the fact that I keep coming and going. Spending a month or so in LA and then two months on the road. Then it dawned on me that “my situation” is just that I live my car. As if it’s something too horrible to actually name; it must be hidden behind the phrase “your situation” like it’s the 1950′s and I’m unwed and pregnant.
On the whole, I get mostly positive reactions when I tell people I live in my car. (Many are very amused, but they’re willing to accept it.) This comment made me wonder if perhaps I’m just seeing what I want to see, or people are smiling and humoring me on the outside, but inside are thinking: “That poor, poor girl. How sad it is that she must suffer the horrors of having to shower at the gym. If only there were something I could do so that she could experience the joys of outrageous rent and a 90 minute commute.”
Maybe I haven’t actually been doing a very good job at getting across the point that this is exactly the situation I WANT to be in.
This got me wondering why it is that vandwelling might even need to be defended? When I tell someone with a big smile on my face that I live in a car why might they ever consider that I’m actually miserable and just trying to put a good spin on it?
I want to make it clear that 95% of the people I talk to about vandwelling think it’s awesome even if it’s something they’d never consider doing themselves. In this post though I’m trying to figure out what’s going on in the minds of the other 5%.
Earlier this year my brother spent a month and a half wandering around New Zealand. He carried all he needed in a backpack, hitched rides, slept in campgrounds or on the sofas of people he just met, or sometimes just spent the night the city park. He had no itinerary and no paying job, but it didn’t matter.
Talking about our travels with other people, he and I might get the some questions about logistics or safety, but his travels are not something that would be discussed in hushed and secretive tones. Part of it, of course, is just the portrayal in the media of people who live in vans or cars. (Cue Chris Farley.)
I suppose that does make some sense, backpacking around the world is not something that people are often “forced” to do, while moving into a car or a van is more often than not something done out of economic necessity. Not for me, but usually.
So I suppose backpacking around the world is not really a fair comparison.
Well, what about an RV then? If I were traveling the country in an RV I doubt I would get this reaction. I would argue that traveling in my car isn’t all that different than traveling RV. What is it about the existence of a bathroom that makes that type of travel more acceptable?
Perhaps it’s because I’m not traveling full-time yet. The person who’s comment started me off on this train of thought only sees me while I’m in LA working. During that time I’m staying put. Maybe this is the big difference between traveling in a van/car and living in a van/car. Traveling is acceptable, living is not.
Because as we all know, (from tv shows and such), people who are living in vehicles do so only because they have no other choice. And so of course some people will assume that must be the case for me as well.
Inexplicably, this has not translated into people offering to buy me lunch. Perhaps they think I’d be insulted. (Really, it’s ok. Insult away.)
I spent three years saving, planning, and waiting until the time I’d be able to do this. I work only five months a year at a job I enjoy and spend the other seven months traveling. I am not touching a dollar of my savings. In fact, over the course of last year I’ve still been putting money away into savings. I’m visiting old friends, meeting new people. I have the time to read books, work on my own projects, or do absolutely nothing at all if I feel like it.
That is my situation.
And that is precisely why I talk to everyone I meet about living and traveling in my car. There’s nothing so bad about it that it needs to be discussed in those hushed tones.