I wake up every morning on a memory foam mattress, my down comforters wrapped around my legs, to the sight of my small, tidy kitchen. My counter top is a slab of madrone with a live edge and gold paint inlaid into the knots in the wood. My coffee is hand ground, from a local coffee roasting company and I cook my breakfast of organic hardboiled eggs and a grapefruit to the sound of my favorite music playing out of my iPhone or laptop.
I wash my face in the sink to freshen up, and I change into the day's clothes; typically leggings or high waisted jeans, flip flops, tank top and a pair of sunglasses. If it's chilly I put on my work boots and some clean smart wool socks and throw on my Patagonia puffy jacket. I eat breakfast in the front seat of my van or with the sliding door open and sit on the stoop as I watch the world come alive around me.
Needless to say, this is not the morning routine of someone who is homeless.
When I started building out the van, I had this romanticized version of 'homelessness' that sounded very bohemian. It became apparent pretty early on that the #vanlife lifestyle is the farthest thing from homelessness. Calling it such is offensive to people who have actually been homeless. Living in a van is a choice some people don't get to make, it's the only choice they have. Calling myself homeless was a slap in the face to people who have been forced out of their homes, and there is no Instagram filter to make that experience look good.
I want to stress that I live one of the most luxurious lifestyles of any of my friends, or anyone I know for that matter. I drink expensive local beer, wear pricey outdoorsy clothing and spend most of my time in places some people only get to dream about visiting.
Part of the reason I get to live this life is I am my own boss. I'm a freelance social media marketer and I've been doing the job and figuring out this lifestyle for about 3 years. This means I inhabit a very small group of people who live on the fringes of society while also being able to access the white collar world of business.
Being able to move so seamlessly through these class lines is one of the highest forms of privilege and I do not take this ability for granted.
Now, I don't mean to say I'm rolling in money and that's the only way anyone can build out a van or travel all the time. Part of the reason I made this site is so that people can see how living the #vanlife doesn't have to be this $40-$60k commitment. Michael and I built out the van for $16k! (Which is still a LOT of money)
To be honest, I have nearly twice that in loans; I make a small but respectable salary off my Social Media gig and a little here and there from affiliate links. I'm not rich, but I am 100% a working adult living in a tiny home on wheels. There are some things I do that shock people, like using the water I boiled my eggs in for coffee, or peeing in a bucket, or making liberal use of baby wipes instead of showering. But hygienic differences aside, I live a fortunate life.
This lifestyle also suits me really well. I rarely go shopping and when I do I typically shop at goodwill or sort through free piles; I don't like to go out much so I save a lot of money by cooking in the van, and my only real hobby is rock climbing, which after the initial investment, is pretty cheap. I'm somewhat of a minimalist, so I don't have many things, but those things I do have I use often and with care.
I live small, but I live very well. That is the difference between myself and someone who is homeless. We live in a culture where what you have determines your status. A big house and an expensive car, lots of clothes and pricey toys mean you are wealthy. When you live with less it can sometimes seem from the outside that you are suffering. In my experience? This is the farthest thing from the truth when you get to choose what living with less means to you.
So any of you prospective vanlifers out there, remember that what we get to do is very fortunate. Are there hard parts? Yes, of course. But we made this choice to live small, let's enjoy it.