“What part of ‘get the place clean’ do you not understand!?”
My manager was drunk again, and directing his alcohol-induced rage at one of his lowly employees. That employee just so happened to be me. I had a full-time job at a Budweiser distributor, and was given the duty to clean the entire warehouse- by myself. All day I trekked around the warehouse with a dust mop in hand, on a mission to make the place spotless. My efforts were being largely unappreciated.
At noon, most of the delivery drivers returned from their routes and would sit outside the warehouse drinking the “outdated” beer that the distributor would give to its employees for free. On this particular day, my manager had decided that, instead of actually doing his job, he was going to drink beer outside with the drivers, leaving all the duties of the warehouse to me and one other fellow. I was told my only job for the day was to clean and nothing else, leaving the other guy to endure the demands of the warehouse by himself. I did exactly as I was told, and when my manager decided to yell at me out of his drunken stupor, he failed to realize I had 2 hours left of cleaning ahead of me, where I was indeed going to touch on those “spots” that I had missed.
I had moved to Missouri originally to go to school at SEMO. I had a very serious girlfriend, and we were playing around with the thought of engagement. Things eventually went south, as I was informed by one of her friends that my girlfriend was actually confused, despite her demands of buying an engagement ring. Some other guy had been involved. The novelty of school was quickly wearing off. I was putting myself in debt and going for a program that wasn’t going to yield a whole lot of revenue once I graduated. I realized that I could be making just as much, minus all the debt of school, right now. I dropped out of school, and my girlfriend and I parted ways, whom I haven’t really spoken to since. I went to a local temp agency to find a job, and they gave me the “hook up” with this job.
They made it all sound like a dream come true. I thought I had been given the perfect job. It was 9-5, Mon.-Fri, $10 an hour. I got weekends off. I was told I would be driving a forklift most of the time. Piece of cake, right? I couldn’t have been more wrong. When I first started, my boss told me that this job was “gravy”, and “one hell of a business to get into.” I felt so lucky to have been given this job.
And there I was, being yelled at like a stray mutt. I stood there and withstood his verbal barrage of hate, all out of fear. Fear that I had to make rent, insurance payments, utilities, the cell phone bill, cable and internet. None of it was obviously worth it, but what other choice did I have? I had to bear with a job, or else I would be homeless. Being homeless would be flat-out awful, or so I thought at the time. Yet I kept running into the same problem with each and every job I’ve ever had: pathetic wages, under-appreciating bosses, not enough time off, snitching co-workers. There had to be something else, something better. Why does everyone settle for this, just to have a place to stay? What could I possibly do to get away from all of this?
Eventually the stress became too much, and after getting completely and utterly fed-up with my current work situation (like all the ones I had before it), I resigned from my position before I had even found another job. I didn’t care anymore; I would have done anything to get away from it. So there I was, unemployed with bills to pay, and on limited funds. What on earth was I going to do? I sought advice from the internet. Since I was afraid that I was going to eventually become homeless, I typed “becoming homeless” into Google. I clicked around on the search results, reading whatever caught my attention. A whole new world was opened up to my eyes. Stories of great freedom, few bills, and even fewer headaches flooded my computer screen. I absorbed all of it, and was completely convinced that being homeless was the only way to go.
But this is homeless with a twist. I was going to buy a conversion van and live out of it.
If you’re like me, and the “normal” struggles of trying to hold down a job, and pay for a place to stay just don’t seem quite worth it, then read on.
I was paying roughly 500 dollars a month for rent and utilities, and an extra 100 for cable and internet. $600 down the drain each month that I now realized I didn’t even need to be paying. Once I made the transition into a van, all of those expenses would be completely cut out, and my only two bills would be 60 dollars for a cell phone bill, and another 50 for insurance. Add in another 100 or so for food and gas, and I would only need to make $210 per month to survive.
I was completely sold on the idea. I could work at a much easier job for minimum wage, something that wouldn’t have kept me afloat before, and still be saving upwards of $500 or more per month. Much, much better than what I was saving before. Not only that, but now the entire country was opened up before me. I could go anywhere I could find work, without the hassle of finding a house or an apartment. My dream of living on the beach suddenly didn’t seem too far off.
I had made the drastic life decision already, but where was I going to get the van? Brand new vans cost $40,000+, and newer but used vans were still expensive as well. Luckily, these types of vehicles are almost legendary for their dependability. I heard from several accounts that they can easily last for up to 250,000 miles with hardly any major engine work, so I could find a much older van that still ran O.K. for a fraction of the cost.
My friend worked at a nursing home, and had told me about a woman wanting to sell a gigantic van for $700 and it still ran. I told him I was interested, and we went and looked at it. She let us have the key for a test drive, so we hopped in and started it up. The engine fired right up, and there seemed to be no performance issues with the engine once we started driving it. The only problem was the fact that the inside of the van was a mess, but this was just a small issue. I was going to completely renovate the insides, anyways.
The woman was selling it for so cheap because she really needed the money. She had suffered from a stroke not long ago, and the van was too big for her to climb in and out of. Her original price was $700, but then she decided to give it to me for $650, and I didn’t even haggle her. I was going to pay the $700 happily.
So if you’re looking for a cheap older van, I would suggest asking local nursing home staff if any of the residents are trying to get rid of any. A lot of the elderly folks in there don’t have much use for them any more, and would be willing to sell for cheap. It seems like older people like to drive vans, too, so it’s not hard to find a seller.
I had the van now, but I couldn’t simply just start living out of it. There were some things that I still had to take care of. The first thing was storage space. I removed the passenger seats in the back, a very simple process, and bought some plastic shelves from Wal-Mart to store things in. A lot of people like to build wooden cabinets and put all this fancy stuff in them, but the plastic shelves worked enough for me. Also, all the furniture and other things I had no use for in the van, I sold. I got rid of just about everything. To secure the shelves inside of the van, I used velcro. Velcro became my best friend when it came to securing things inside of the van.
Now, about electricity. It isn’t nearly as complicated as you would think. I went to a specialty store that sold batteries, and bought two golf cart batteries, wired them together, and bought a nice power inverter from Wal-Mart that allows you to plug household appliances up to the batteries. I got this idea from http://www.cheaprvliving.com/howtohaveelectricity.html. There’s a lot of good information on the site, and it taught me a lot of the things I know now about van dwelling. The golf cart batteries are rechargeable, and will last a long time.
I never watched television when I had an apartment, so it’s something I just don’t worry about. I only use my electricity for running the microwave or the electric heater so I don’t freeze to death at night. The two golf cart batteries are almost overkill for my electricity needs, and if you need to run a TV or something, you wouldn’t have a problem at all.
For other small needs, the camping section at Wal-Mart or any sporting goods store is the best place to look. There, you will find all kinds of awesome and nifty little tools that will help you out enormously. I bought a portable, gas powered, 2 burner stovetop at Wal-Mart for around 40 bucks. It’s great for all cooking needs, just be sure to keep a window cracked when you use it. Anytime you burn ANYTHING in your van or any vehicle, you will be releasing CO2 (carbon monoxide) into the air. This will kill you if you breathe too much in, and it’s completely orderless and tasteless. Always get some ventilation going if you are using absolutely anything that creates any kind of heat. Good rule of thumb to go by.
You’re probably wondering how you’re going to keep clean while doing all of this. It’s actually really simple. You can wash yourself off in gas station bathrooms, or you can get a gym membership (my prefered method). There’s lots of ways to keep clean, you just gotta do some things that might be a little taboo. When I have to use the bathroom, I just go to Huck’s or some other gas station. And I don’t bother driving there, either. I use a bicycle.
Hope this helps anyone looking for a way out. I am now happily living out of my van. I’m still in the midwest, but I’m still planning on moving to the south, where there are warm, beautiful beaches, women, and awesome weather year-round. It won’t be long before I have enough to migrate somewhere else and become established there. It really doesn’t take a whole lot to go, you just gotta have the balls to do it. And let me assure you, it’s well worth every bit of it. I will provide more in-depth information addressing more technical issues in more articles to come. This is more of an introduction, if anything.
Oh, and if your friends try to make fun of you and say “You’ll never get laid doing that!” they are quite wrong. Girls love adventure, which is what this lifestyle brings tons of. Also, they don’t call them the “Shaggin Wagons” for nothing. Do whatever you do in confidence (not arrogance) and you will get plenty. Also, be responsible and use protection.
Never drink and drive. If you want to have a couple drinks when you get off work or something, go to a bar and spend the night in the parking lot so you don’t have to drive afterward. If you want to drink inside of your vehicle, leave the keys out of the ignition and try to be inconspicuous about it. Always drink in moderation. Never drink and drive!