The question for each person to settle is not what he would do if he had means, time, influence and educational advantages; the question is what he will do with the things he has. The moment a person ceases to dream or to bemoan his lack of opportunities and resolutely looks his conditions in the face, and resolves to change them, he lays the corner-stone of a solid and honorable success.
Hamilton Wright Mabie
This guest post is the first in a series on taking baby steps toward following your dreams. Sometimes I get carried away in my passion for vandwelling and say that you just need to chuck it all and “Do it!” But I know that for many of you the realities of your situation mean you just can’t make any major life changes right now and so you think you can’t do anything at all. Instead, you settle for reading this and other blogs to live vicariously through them. But in this series I want to encourage you to take baby steps toward a major life change. Just because you can’t make radical changes doesn’t mean you can’t make any at all. In this guest post by Liz Nelson we see you can begin to travel and reconnect with nature even if you have a very limited budget. At the end of the post I will have a list of my suggested baby step.
“Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” Joel Barker
Vacationing in a Car or MIni-Van
Although I have never lived in my van or car full time I have had quite a few experiences in living in it through vacations. As I don’t make a lot of money I have had to be creative in the way I took vacations. I could not afford to stay at hotels or even cabins most of the time. Instead I camped in my tent, car or van. In fact this idea of living in my car for vacations started with my mom.
When I was in my last summer of high school my mom decided that we needed to take a trip together to see some new things before I ‘went away’. Although we did not have the money to spend on fancy hotels or big cities, we planned a trip to see seven states in eight days. That was as long as she could afford to be away from work.
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.” Henry David Thoreau
It was a whirlwind of a trip and we had a lot of fun. Along the way we stayed in state and national parks. Because it was just the two of us and she had a big minivan we did not bother with tents. After all, tents are a pain to set up and get down, plus they have little padding or protection from the elements.
To prepare for the trip we took out both rows of back seats and laid down several thick blankets for padding. Our bags of clothes and other necessities lined one wall and left enough room on the floor for both of us to lie down. It was actually very comfortable.
However at our first camping spot we remembered something that we had overlooked. We could not keep the van on all night for air conditioning and although it was not as hot as it could have been the still air of the van was not conducive to sleeping.
Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you too can become great.
We had an extra car battery and power converter handy so we purchased an inexpensive small but powerful fan to place between the front seats to move the air. We also needed some sort of screens to keep out the huge mosquitoes when we had the windows open. Mosquito netting was too expensive so we just bought some tulle fabric that was on clearance, forest green, and covered the windows with that. We did not even have to attach the material; just shutting the door on it was enough.
During the night we did not want to venture out into the darkness to find the restroom facilities, and some parks did not even have those, so we kept a large coffee can with a tight lid around for emergencies. It was not fun to clean but it did the job.
We had a cooler for food and drinks so we did not have to eat out all the time. If we needed to heat something up we could usually hop in a gas station and use their microwave as long as we got some gas too!
We got to go a lot further and see more by staying in our van then we could have ever done staying in hotels. It was a lot of fun being in touch with nature like that and really getting to enjoy your time instead of worrying about putting up and taking down tents and so on.
As an adult I once again wanted to go on a vacation but I had very little money. I had saved up enough to cover the gas and some food but not enough for hotel stays and the like. This time I did not have a van but a small Toyota Corolla. What was I going to do?
Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Thankfully I am a small person and I frequently took naps in my car at lunch anyway so I knew it was doable. I ordered some mosquito netting online for not much money and got my power converter and fan set up and ready to go. As my goal was to see the many natural wonders of the United States I decided to buy a park pass. The pass allowed me unlimited access to state and national parks for one flat rate. After researching the prices for admission and so on at each park I planned to stay at I found it to be quite a bargain.
As I started to map out my journey, however, I found that I would be driving through many areas without parks of any sort and would have to spend the night out in the country. That did not really bother me much. I did not see much difference aside from restroom facilities and some safety. In fact I then decided not to pay extra to spend the night at the parks and instead find a place to park and sleep for free outside of them. Since most of the parks were far from any cities it would be easy to find a back road that I could spend the night alongside without a problem.
In order to maintain my privacy and give the illusion that my car was just parked and not being slept in I came up with a couple of ideas. I had a foldable sun screen for the front windows that worked well to block those. Since I slept in the back seat all I had to do was lean the front seats back and casually ‘toss’ a jacket across the middle of them to hide my sleeping figure. The mosquito netting was nearly the same color as the windows so it did not stand out.
By this method I was able to comfortably sleep almost anywhere. When I got tired of driving I would stop at a twenty-four hour shop like Wal-Mart and hop in the back seat. In fact if I had to I could have folded down the back seats and slept in the complete privacy of the trunk!
It is funny, but since I once worked as a vendor to Sam’s Club and other big stores and I still had my badge I could pretty much go wherever I wanted or needed to. All I had to do was put on some khaki pants and a polo and no one looked twice. This allowed me to get the cheap food they offered without having to have a card. It also gave me an excuse for ‘hanging around’ during off hours. I was simply ‘waiting for my shift to start’.
Anyway, I got to travel to all the destinations I wanted to and see tons of cool natural wonders without having to shell out big bucks. It took a little planning to make the trip run smoothly but it all worked out. A few weeks on the road was just what I needed to unwind from the daily grind.
“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”
As you can see, you don’t even need a van to live comfortably for a short time. I had a cooler behind the passenger seat and I washed clothes by hand in park showers and it was not a big deal at all to live cheaply, simply and enjoy my trip.
This is a guest post by Liz Nelson from WhiteFence.com. She is a freelance writer and blogger from Houston. Questions and comments can be sent to: liznelson17 @ gmail.com.
Suggested Steps To Follow Your Dreams
You can change your life today! Here are some of my suggestions on baby steps you can take right now:
- Say “YES!” to change and adventure. This can be as inexpensive as really exploring a local park!! It can be as simple as taking classes at a local community college in a hobby you have always wanted to try. Open your eyes to little opportunities and you WILL find them all around you. Our imagination is the main thing that separates us from the other animals–USE IT!
- Start learning!! Take up an art or craft you can make money at. Take a local auto shop class for beginners. Find a self-defense class. Start a hobby! The list is endless!! I’m willing to bet that there are many free or low-cost classes you can be taking right now that will help prepare you for making a radical change to mobile living.
- The foundation of all I do is living simply and on less. You can take steps right now, today, to get rid of some of your excess stuff and to change your purchasing habits. In other words, get rid of most of what you have and stop buying more. By selling as much of your stuff as you can, you may be able to afford to make some of these other changes. With luck it might even allow you to move into a smaller home or maybe even a van—then you will save a lot of money!
- Sell or trade one of your cars and buy a mini-van. The mpg shouldn’t be too much worse but it will allow you to start preparing for the life change to vandwelling. Or at least (as we saw in this post) to start taking trips in it and practice camping while you are reconnecting with nature.
- Start collecting the camping gear you will need. By taking road trips you will gain skills and practical knowledge what works for you and what doesn’t.
- At the very least, you can travel in your car like Liz did. If she can do it, so can you! In the process you will gain camping and mobile living skills that will work very well for you when you finally can jump into vandwelling or RVing.
- One reason many of you can’t make major changes is you are raising a family, but the two most important lessons you can teach your children are 1) the value of simple living 2) love and connection to nature. The best way to teach them is to live it! So taking the steps I’ve listed here actually accomplishes both goals of helping you move toward your dreams and raising healthier, happier children.
- Get out of an unhealthy or abusive situation. These steps will build your confidence in your ability to survive and be self-reliant.
Here is the bottom line, if you will take some or all of these steps you will be happier because these are the things human beings are designed to do: 1) Simple Living 2) Connect to nature 3) Be life-time learners.
Follow the Senior President Bush’s advice:
Don’t sit drooling in the corner, get out there and enjoy life!!
Give it a try!
Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is not safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing Helen Keller.