The act of living in my van has been eye opening. I am living on a fraction of the money I would usually live on but do not notice a feeling of deprivation. When living in a small space, money is not spent on nonessential items because there is no space to store them. If you really want a new item, a decision has to be made about what is going from the van to make room. This is a negotiation I have not had on a daily bases in my life. I have to consciously think of what is valuable to daily living, and what is not. I now have something I have almost never had, time. Time to ride my bike to the grocery store, library or post office. Time to read and prepare for classes, time to think, time to read, time to explore and time to do nothing. When someone asks me for money on the street, I can honestly say, “sorry I am living in my van”, I have none of the usual guilt about not being able to feed the world. I feel like I am doing as much as I can by sharing what I know. My knowledge is the legal tender I am bartering with society. When you take away the time usually spent to maintain your earthly possessions, and the work you do to buy more, you are left with open possibility. It is a conundrum for me. I tend to be a bit of a workaholic and sometimes this freedom feels unnatural. My motto for this special year of my life has been, Be True To Yourself. You would think that would be easy, but not so. It seems I have been working so much in my life I have not had time to think about who I am. In truth it was grad school that led me to this moment in my van. To go to grad school I had to start shedding luxuries in my life. I had to let the cleaning lady go, get a roommate, stop eating out, and go on a budget. I foresaw deprivation and there was really none. O.K., I really miss the cleaning lady when at my house, but the van takes a mere 30 minutes to get ship shape. Having a roommate was really fun. We would ride our bikes, go on adventures, get hooked on netflix series, talk about school, art and theory, make dinners and work on projects. Laurel is an amazing seamstress and sewed the curtains for my van as well as helping with its renovation. We became good friends. Not being able to eat out led to spending more time with friends sharing meals. I had many potlucks during school and the food and company were always good. All my non-school friends, knowing I was on a budget, invited me for meals; I got to spend more time with them. With no money to spend I stopped my endless perusal of Amazon and Zappos. I spent time in the library, its free you know. In Grad school I was encouraged to get down to what was my core. What was really my very personal interest? What was different about me than anyone else? What was my personal voice? So Far, It is small spaces, teaching, and archeology. So here I am in a van going from place to place studying different areas of the country and teaching woodworking, and thinking.
People keep asking, “How has this trip changed you?” That is difficult to answer, it has happened gradually. The first night I slept in a rest stop I felt awkward, nervous, and could not sleep. Now it seems like the most natural thing in the world. I used to only be able to drive 250 miles a day without extreme discomfort, and now I can cover 500 without a problem. I can drive as comfortably with my left foot as my right. When I started this project I wouldn’t vary from my plan or route, and now I am constantly changing and recalculating my path based on what I see around me. . When I left in October I listened to books on tape or the radio all day long and now prefer to drive in silence and just drink in the scenery. I have a 500-watt battery that is charged with a solar panel. I have to constantly monitor my electric needs. This has made me think about how little I really needed and how much I have wasted. I guess I will not really know how much I have changed until I get home to Roslindale.