There are a few common notions that accompany change. Uncertainty mixed with the excitement of a new beginning. Fear of the unknown against the feeling of pride for choosing a different path. It’s the uncharted waters within a tumultuous sea of new challenges. It’s leaving your comfort zone and stretching past your limits. Now take all that and stuff it in a 320 square foot van.
My college semester began August 20, 2018. Adjusting to formal schooling again after nearly two years removed was blatantly uncomfortable. I had to retrain my lackadaisical/go-with-the-flow mindset to become punctual, studious, and constantly busy again. On top of that I had to adjust to the minimalistic living conditions my humble home provided. Trying to integrate van living into an environment that doesn’t support it very well was challenging. Parking near a heavily populated campus has been a nightmare, things kept breaking, physics is hard, things were stolen, and feelings were hurt but did I learn anything? Maybe?
Where to Park?
Let’s start with the obvious, where do I park this thing? Originally, I had planned on buying a campus parking pass that permitted 24-hour access. What I found out, though, is that “24 hours” didn’t really mean 24 hours. In the detailed rules and regulations parking wasn’t allowed between 2am and 5am. Pair that with the initial paranoia a lot of van lifers’ face and I was quite sleepless the first couple nights. I had to spend the first night in a Walmart parking lot as it was the only place that was fairly close to campus that I felt I could legally be parked overnight. I remember parking in the boonies near some campers and trucks for added moral support. However, most of the night I was plagued by a level of heightened alertness reminiscent of my first night in the field huddled up in a freshly dug fox hole. Every time I heard voices talking nearby or car door shut I was suddenly awake. I wasn’t scared or worried so much as just alarmed. My sleepy consciousness waking me as if to say it’s probably nothing, but you should still check it out. A night like that was all the convincing I needed to find a better spot. Luckily, a friend of mine had space in front of his house close to campus that I could park. Two blocks from campus and usually open its been working out pretty well so far. The downside? Lots of college student traffic which brings me to my next problem.
A World of Thieves
Now there isn’t much that can get to me. To be truly honest I don’t remember the last time I was mad. I’ve just always been very mild tempered and easy going. However, something happened two weeks in that I didn’t deal with very well… I had this Globe longboard. It was my first actual longboard and I had owned it for about two years. To be honest I was pretty attached to it and I relied on it for transportation across the large expanse of campus. So, on a particularly rainy day I had skated through a bit of mud on my way back to the van. My board was wet and spattered with mud from the few puddles I couldn’t avoid. Hardly giving it thought I put it under my van before stepping inside to avoid tracking in the filth. I figured it wouldn’t be out there long and it was hidden so it would be okay. Moments later I go back outside to return to class and my board was GONE!! Someone had snagged it while I was inside! I was seething the entire day. Isn’t it like rule #10 in the bro code not to take someone’s board? That’s right up there with being a horse thief in the 1800’s! I was pretty upset but there was nothing I could do. It was unfortunate, but I did learn a valuable lesson. Don’t trust anyone and secure my stuff. Little did I know there were bigger challenges ahead.
Coffee or KADOOM?
How would you describe the feeling of freshly brewed coffee on a briskly cool morning? Quite frankly I think its spectacularly blissful. Nothing compliments the chill like a warm mug of coffee. One of the homely features in my van is a quaint little oven that I was lucky enough to find for a great deal. It’s the perfect size for my van and after some moderate repairs I got it working again. It was a peaceful moment like that when it happened. I was heating up water to brew some coffee while I perused my list of homework assignments. The moment was peaceful as I listened to the sound of water bubbling and birds chirping outside. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye POOF!! A large ball of flame erupted from the oven. Heart racing, I leapt to shut off the stove and the propane supply. The fire was short lived but the worry that moment created was certainly not. Altogether abandoning my moment of peace. I dug heavily into troubleshooting. Granted I didn’t know much about propane appliances, but I was confident I could solve the problem. Days and multiple failed attempts later it finally clicked. The stove had no regulator! The gas was leaking out of the valves because the pressure was too high. It was a cheap and easy fix to a problem I nearly gave up on. If I hadn’t been as determined I may have ended up junking a perfectly good stove. Something good happened finally! However, you can probably guess that didn’t last long.
I’m sure a lot of college students can relate to financial hardship. This time that student was me. I can’t remember a time I had been more broke. Starting school turned out to be much more expensive than I predicted, and I had spent a lot of time and money on my van in preparation for the fall semester. Sure, I was low on cash, but I was expected drill paychecks, another payment from my old job, and to be getting paid from my new job much sooner. That sequence of events left me so broke that I couldn’t afford to buy food. I scrounged the remains of my food stores to last as long as I could but eventually I had nothing left and I had to ask my dad for some financial help. That was almost harder then starving. Each little thing by itself doesnt seem so bad but together, one after another, it ad a greater effect. The stress was high but thankfully I had the gym to manage it. The only downside to hard work in the gym is no fuel to convert it to results. Buts thats another story...
Why It Matters
Perhaps these are life lesson that I needed to learn. Maybe I am being tested by some greater force? Or if by chasing this dream and trying to get to where I want in life I must break through these barriers and push against the current until someday when I’ve finally pushed enough, I make it. Until I find myself on some awe-inspiring mountain cliff that looks over a beautiful vista. Until I am roaming freely and traveling. Until the day that my only goal in life is to do the next thing that brings me happiness. Until the day that I am climbing a mountain in Germany, parasailing in Norway, hiking in South America, sailing the Mediterranean, hanging out with locals and learning their stories, and just enjoying life. Yeah, I’m not done yet. These are just little bumps in the road. They are nothing in comparison to how much I want to see that distance horizon.
Thanks for reading! Until next time.