Monday, January 5, 2009

A year in vandwelling

Well in a few days it will have been one year exactly since I bought this van and started living in it.

So much has changed that I find it hard to sum it all up and analyze it in any meaningful or insightful way-- sorry--, so I'm just putting up this placeholder post instead.

I haven't added up what I've spent, but I almost certainly have spent as much or possibly more than I would have spent on rent and utilities, if I'd instead decided to go that route. However, I would have had to have had roommates, and done a lot more driving and/or public-transportation-ing around. Maybe I will try to add it up, since tax season is coming up anyway. I did this kind of on the deluxe program, and I also got royally screwed when I bought the van. I know I could have done it a lot cheaper, but I was in a hurry, had a particular set of goals in mind. Which, by the way, I still haven't fully achieved.

My van conversion is still only about 50% done. Completed projects: floor, vital deferred maintenance, ceiling exhaust vent, makeshift furniture, solar electricity, beginnings of insulation, and some security stuff. Still to complete: more deferred maintenance, wall, ceiling, floor intake vent, extra seats, futon, cabinets, and sink. Things which I'm still not sure about: some kind of under-bed box, and some kind of toilet.

I've learned a lot about survival and what is and isn't important. I've figured out where to park safely, how to stay cool and warm, how to blend in, and how to fix a lot of stuff. I have become a great deal tougher in many ways, and a great deal softer-- more compassionate-- in others. My driving skills still suck, but I have learned how to park a house while only occasionally destroying other people's vehicles in the process.

My divorce became final last week; I am now officially single. I have been fairly successful so far in getting steady work, but not yet in getting paid for it. Luckily-- thanks to alimony--, I may still have a few years ahead to figure that part out.

I'm a lot happier in general, and there's no way I'd ever go back to the way it was, say, in 2007. 2008 was a very tough transition year though. Luckily the price of biodiesel has gone down dramatically. That is a huge help for me. Although, I spent the entire last week parked in one spot. I got around a lot on the Muni-- $1.50 a trip to go anywhere in the city-- and didn't start the engine once. That was fantastic and a hint of the life I want: to find a safe, cheap-or-free, semi-permanent place to park this van, and live by walking and public transportation, as a city dweller.

The future is still scary, but every now and then I realize, "Hey, this is MY life now and I get to decide what I do with it!" This thought alone can get me out of bed, any time day or night, no matter how cold it is, whatever I might be worried about or terrified of, or whatever else might have been getting me down.

This is MY life. I own it. I get to decide what I do with it, to the degree that I can. To the degree that I can't, I get to decide what it means, and what I do about it. This is a huge change from last year or any previous year in my life, and it's this urban vandweller's happy place.

Happy New Year to all.