Vandwellers: A Community on Wheels

I hate blog posts that start with, “Sorry I haven’t been posting lately,” so now I feel the need to also say, “Sorry I’m starting this post with ‘Sorry.'”

Sorry! And Sorry I’m sorry! Wow, the more I write that word the more meaningless it looks. Sorry.

The thing is, I don’t feel like I know enough about any one area of living and traveling in a van to write about it – though I can write about what I’ve been reading and link to those sites. So here you go:

The vandwelling community is just that: a constantly moving community of people who love the way they live and love to share what they’ve learned.

I found a hilarious blog recently – HoboStripper.com – which is just what the name implies: she lived in her van for a long time and traveled around the country for stripping jobs! Now she does what she calls eco-porn. Seriously.

I about fell off my chair reading her post about how women can pee without a bathroom in full view: wear a long skirt and squat down to pet your dog while taking a stealth leak. Um, I probably won’t be doing that. I don’t like wearing skirts of any length but when I do, I’ll be wearing undies. No, it will be a FUD (Female Urination Device) for me.

Most other blogs of van- and rv-dwellers are less startling, but many are clearly written by distinctive characters. There’s Mobile Homemaker (a man) who gives fascinating and thoughtful advice for being homeless in a vehicle after having spent four years at it himself, by choice.

The thing is, a lot of people consider living in a vehicle to be the equivalent of homelessness (i.e., the poor souls you see with signs at stoplights). I think most of us see the difference between a vandwelling homeless person and an adventurous soul as choice: did you choose this life or were you forced by circumstance to live in your car or van? And that difference is how people who live in vehicles often define themselves.

The word ‘homeless’ itself is so emotionally charged that pinning it on anyone is practically like saying they have a social disease. This subject deserves a post of its own, but I just want to note that we categorize and judge people (and ourselves) way too easily by surface descriptions. Are you happy with your life? That’s all that matters.

One van dweller who definitely chose the life, and loves it, is Hollywood composer/arranger/musician Glenn Morrissette. His blog, To Simplify, was the first that I started reading on the subject. I spent hours digging through his archives and reading his story.

Three years ago, Glenn gave up his apartment and sold or gave away almost everything he owned, including a fancy sports car, in order to live in a Class B motorhome (basically an RV squeezed into a tricked-out cargo van). He parked on the streets of Los Angeles, enjoyed living at the beach or in nearby state and national parks whenever he wanted, and continued his successful freelance career. Eventually, he realized he wasn’t stuck in L.A., and he started roaming the country, working remotely from his roving sound-studio/home.

While many would consider Glenn’s Chinook impossibly small for living and working, to me it is the ultimate in tiny luxury. He has everything he needs and he gets to take it all with him wherever he goes – his van is like a giant man-purse on wheels – what’s not to like?

What I love about these blogs and others like them is the sense of community. They all seem to know each other, and they often have real life meetups where they socialize, share tips, and help each other. Think of more informal versions of SXSW, WDS, and BWE.

I was feeling a little shy about introducing myself to these folks, just like I did when I started commenting on blogs in this little corner of the blogosphere. But I knew they’d be just as friendly and welcoming as so many remarkable people were back then. So I’ve been commenting on a few blogs and joining some discussion lists and forums… and I was correct.

One group that made me feel right at home was a Yahoogroup that’s just for women who travel and camp in what they call “Class Z RVs,” meaning any car, SUV, or van that can be slept in without special conversions. One member has already invited me to meet up with her in October so she can show me the ropes.

I’m looking forward to that.

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