10 Steps to a New Life
I am well aware that the mobile life isn’t for everybody; this list is only for people who are discontent with their lives and want something different. If you are happy with your life just like it is, then you can pick and choose from this list and see if you can find anything you like.
I very much believe that the majority of my suggestions fall under the concept of “Living Better on Less” and even if you love your traditional life, some or all of these ideas will greatly enhance your life. First I will put them in simple list form and then I will elaborate on them:
- Get out of debt
- Start saving toward an emergency fund.
- Sell or give away anything non-essential.
- Buy your car, van or RV and move into it as soon as you can. If your circumstances don’t allow you to do that, at least down-size your home so you are paying as little as possible.
- Reconnect with nature.
- Try riding a bicycle, scooter, or motorcycle.
- Start traveling on short trips.
- Take classes to gain skills.
- Reconnect with yourself.
- Say “YES!” to change and adventure.
You can’t live a free life of travel if you are in much debt. It’s impossible! Your debt will be a noose around your neck that slowly tightens and kills you. Getting out of debt is not easy, but if you will do these simple things it is possible.
- Stop buying anything non-essential. You can’t have a bunch of stuff and live in a van or RV (there just isn’t room) so stop buying anything that isn’t vitally important to your new life. This may sound like a gross oversimplification, but the simplest way to do that is stay out of stores (physical and internet) and only go in with a list of what you are 100% certain you must have! Also, don’t underestimate the power of advertising. Everyone claims they are the exception and it doesn’t affect them. Yes it does!! Avoid it.
- A very few people can use credit cards without abusing them, but not many. If you have more than $1000 worth of credit card debt, you are abusing them–cut them up before it gets worse!! A debit card works just as well for most things and won’t let you go in debt.
- Work out some simple, practical budgeting system you can follow. The one that works for some people when nothing else will is the envelope system. When you get paid the first thing you do is pay all your recurring bills. Turn the remainder into cash and put it into envelopes broken down into categories like food, gas, and emergency fund. If you don’t have a vehicle to live in yet like a van, mark an envelope with “Van Fund” and start to save toward your new home. If you already have your vehicle home (car, van or RV) mark an envelope with “Vehicle Upgrades” for things like solar or needed repairs. Some people prefer to break it down into weeks, some are okay with doing it by the months; try both. Keep a close eye on the envelopes and don’t run out!
2. Start saving toward an emergency fund.
However you budget, you MUST put money into an emergency fund every month and the money MUST not come out unless it is a true emergency. If you are doing the envelope system put money into an envelope marked “Emergency Fund” every week and month. Strive to not spend all the money in the other envelopes and at the end of each period, put the unused balance into the “Emergency Fund” envelope.
3. Sell or give away anything non-essential.
Go through everything you own and get rid of 90% of it!! And for the vast majority of us I do literally mean 90% (or more!) of it. Save every penny of what you earn from sales like your life depended on it!! If you are still saving toward your van, it might be best to put that money into the “Van” envelope so you can get the van as soon as possible.
If you can, move into a van or RV and whatever you were paying toward rent should then go toward paying off debts, your emergency fund, van upgrades, or building up savings to live and travel on. If you can’t move into a van or RV, do the same with any money you save from down-sizing. You can downsize by selling your home and renting or moving into a smaller apartment.
5. Reconnect with nature.
There’s been a great deal of scientific research showing that a lack of nature in our lives has an extremely negative affect on our mental and emotional state. By reconnecting with nature right where you are you accomplish two very important things: A) You will feel better B) You will be preparing and practicing for vandwelling which is very much like an extended camping trip.
- Spend all the time you possibly can in local parks by going for walks, strolls and picnics. Teach yourself to cook on a Coleman propane stove.
- Go hiking on local trails. You’ll reconnect with nature and improve your health. Start with short hikes and continually increase their length.
- Go camping by starting with overnight trips and working your way up to longer trips. Most of the skills you gain on those trips will help prepare you for vandwelling and the camping gear you buy will all be useful to you as a vandweller.
6. Try riding a bicycle, scooter, or motorcycle.
The cost of gas is probably going to keep going up and up, so anything you can do to reduce your dependence on high-priced gas, the better off you are. There are so many advantages to riding a bicycle (better health, better for the earth, much less exxpensive) you really owe it to yourself to give it a try. An electric bike will make it much more likely that you enjoy it. If a bicycle doesn’t work for you, try a scooter. They’re light, cheap, easy to ride and get 100 mpg or more. A small motorcycle has most of the advantages of scooter but can go on the freeway.
Even if you only have an economy car you can tent camp which will still teach you a lot about vandwelling and reconnect you to nature. If possible trade or sell one of your vehicles and get a minivan so you can start practicing living in the van on short trips or even just parked in your own driveway or a local store. Then your trips will be actual vandwelling, just for a shorter time.
8. Take classes to gain skills.
Because our goal is to live better on less, the more skills you have, the less dependent you are on paying other people. 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.
- Take up an art or craft you can make money at or will just make you happy. One thing you will find as a vandweller is you will have a lot more spare time so having something to do with it will be a big plus.
- Take a local auto shop class for beginners. You’ll gain self-confidence and hopefully save yourself some money and aggravation down the road.
- Take a self-defense or martial arts class. Chances are you will never have to use it but the confidence you’ll gain will be invaluable and life-changing.
- Find and learn a hobby you will enjoy.
For many of us, the root of everything wrong with our lives is that we can’t stand living inside our own skins. We’re unhappy so we fill our lives with food, possessions, busy-ness, chemicals, and noise. When you move into a van or RV and those things are stripped away and suddenly you are confronted with living with just YOU. For many people it can be a real shock and very uncomfortable, even miserable. So learn to find a way to be comfortable with yourself. If you don’t, you’ll probably find yourself unable to take these other steps and maintain them.
- Get rid of your cable, satellite radio, iPod and turn off all the other noise. Spend time alone with yourself in silence. Once you can do that and not be uncomfortable, you can add the noise back into your life. There’s nothing wrong with those things, just with our dependence and hiding behind them.
- Find a spiritual or philosophical system to govern your life by. We all need a “North Star,” a central truth that is the core of our being. A ship without a rudder flounders, and that is exactly how most of us live. We are either directionless all our lives, going nowhere, or we blindly follow the orders of society. Vandwelling is the opposite of that. It is taking charge of your life and your destiny and living it on your own terms. No one can tell you what your “North Star” should be. You have to find it for yourself. If nothing else, make the search for a “North Star” into your “North Star.”
- A life lived in selfishness is an empty life. Find a way to serve others that works for you. I have no idea what it might be nor can anyone tell you. Find a passion and devote yourself to it. For me it was a woman and her children sleeping in a car in a grocery store parking lot on a cold Alaska day. Helping people like her became my passion and has been my guiding light ever since. At the very least adapt a policy of performing Random Acts of Kindness every day. I make it my goal to somehow enhance the lives of all the people I can. Every night before I go to sleep I ask myself, “Was I loving and kind towards all today?” That simple sentence will change your life.
10. Say “YES!” to change and adventure.
This can be as inexpensive as really exploring a local park and as simple as taking classes at a local community college in a hobby you have always wanted to try. The key thing is to say “Yes” to everything new and exciting unless there is a compelling reason to say “No. 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!