Why I Chose Van Life: Scott’s Story
My dad was the hardest worker I’ve ever known. His dream was to work really hard until he could retire, buy an RV, and go around the US with my mom to see the whole country. He worked so hard that he wouldn’t take off to go for annual health checkups – he just didn’t have time, he’d say. He finally goes in one day and they notice some spots on his lungs. After more tests, they found he had stage IV prostate cancer, and that it had already spread to his lungs — where they first noticed it. Due to the treatments, he was forced to take early retirement; and because of the nature of the cancer, he couldn’t go more than an hour long trip from home. He never got to take his trip.
Towards the end, my dad kept reiterating one point to me: “Don’t let work become your life. Live your life while you’re young and able because you never know what’s going to happen”. He told me that again, and again, in a dozen different ways. I’ve been told that the anticipation of death gives your life a sort of clarity. If you’re ever blessed enough to receive advice from someone in that position, you should hold onto it dearly.
So, I decided to make the trip for him.
The Simple Life
I’ve always been drawn to the idea of simplifying my life, but I’ve also always struggled with actually putting a “simple life” into action. I buy too many things; I want to eat out a lot; I get into hobbies and then buy everything even tangentially related to the hobby.
I think the problem with owning too many things is that they take over your life. The more things you have, the more space you’ll need to store them. Since you need more space, you’ll need a bigger house. To get the bigger house, you’ll need to work more hours. But with a bigger house, you’ll have more space to fill or to decorate, so you’ll buy more things. Repeat. It’s a cycle that I believe has been sold to us by really good marketing. However, lately — with the help, and with the extreme patience, of Cecilia — I’ve been downsizing. We’ve sold more than half of my things, and we’ve donated a lot of clothes. When we rolled out of Northern Virginia, we were left with just a single van-load of possessions. Since then, we’ve reduced and simplified even more. It’s taken some time, but we’ve been getting down to only those possessions that add the most value to our lives.
The process gets a little addicting. I realized that I owned things that I kept in a box tucked away in a closet that I never used, and the only reason I had some of those things was a memory attached to it. Instead of holding on to “things” for the memories, we’re just going to write down the memories so we can read them again later – hence, this website. We’ll be keeping some stuff in storage that we won’t be taking with us, but that we’ll want whenever we settle down somewhere — cooking appliances like mixers, some useful hobby-stuff like climbing gear, etc. If our van trip becomes more long-term, then we’ll revisit that storage site and let it all go.
The Adventure that is Life
Since getting back from climbing Kilimanjaro, we’ve noticed that we’re settling more and more into a monotonous daily routine. We’re nesting. Neither of us likes that feeling, and we’re left feeling restless. We want to break the cycle; we want to adventure. We don’t want to feel trapped by the formula of life that’s often pressed upon us — get a job, get married, get a house, have kids, work until you retire, then go enjoy retirement somewhere else. We’re just not buying into it anymore. We’re going to live our lives by our rules.
So, we’ve decided to seek out adventure. To start, we had to understand what we mean when we say “adventure” – we had to define it. When we’d say “we want adventure every day,” we weren’t meaning that every single day we had to go sky-diving or drive race cars. We had this notion of “adventure” as being “adrenaline-seeking.” We want to redefine adventure, in this context, as trying something new; stepping out of your ordinary; branching out and breaking the mold of your ordinary life. It’s the habit of saying, “yes, because I want to,” instead of, “no, because I might fail.”
We’ve been blessed with the gift of life, and every day is a chance to adventure.