|my travels to date|
Monday, February 8, was my 4-month anniversary as a full-time vandweller. The time has flown by and yet in many ways it feels like the heart of me has always been here – or at least maybe it has always longed for this lifestyle.
I was one of those kids that watched westerns on TV and wished I had lived back then. Even as an adult, I have loved movies such as “Quigley Down Under”, “Australia” and even “Last of the Mohicans” believing that I could have survived such treacherous times and even delighted in it. The list of books that stir my imagination in the same way is too long to list. Now, here I am living the life of those yesteryear dreams in modern times. Well, at least as close as one can get to historic pioneer days. And I love it.
People ask, “Why do you live in a van?”
I get that the explanation above is not enough for some. So, on this 4-month anniversary, I offer tangible reasons.
It began as a dream in October 2011, when I started my first blog. You can read my account of that serendipitous beginning (here).
On October 2014, I bought Fiona – one of the happiest days of my life. My plan (insert God laughing) was to take the next 10-15 years investing in Fiona and getting her overhauled and remodeled bumper-to-bumper. I would then retire and hit the road as a fulltime vandweller with a decked out 4x4 perfect rig, never to look back.
There is a humorous saying that goes something like this:
The Universe/God is laughing out loud while pointing and says, “Isn’t that cute? She has a plan”.
As we all know, life can sure throw some mighty curve balls.
And then you get to make lemonade.
Or something like that.
Fiona had an electrical fire that rendered me and the dogs virtually homeless. God, as always, sent earth angels (here).
I had moved to Goliad, Texas, and had hoped that the Mayberry lifestyle would keep my brain injury at bay. Scar tissue from an old brain injury was/is building up and I have been diagnosed with Hippocampal Sclerosis (HS). Unfortunately, not long after Fiona had her meltdown, I got to the point where I could no longer work – not even in laid back Goliad. It broke my heart, but once again I was blessed with beautiful people to help me and I moved back to the Austin area for treatment.
My earth angels let me take their bumper pull trailer that I affectionately called Super Spree to Austin, and I was able to still work part-time from home - for awhile.
No longer able to work at all, I went on disability last October. It broke my heart. Letting go of the life I had always known, and the life I was trying to build, and accepting the “what is” was the biggest issue I’ve ever had to process and release.
Prior to going on disability, it had become clear that I could no longer stay in Super Spree. The A/C went out, and while I was able to get that fixed, the maintenance on her still proved to be too much. Getting more and more confused, I even flooded her one day while trying to empty the tanks – and I had note cards that I was following!
After that I tried living with various family and friends, but that didn’t work. My seizures were ramping up. I require LOTS of quiet downtime. So, while I was waiting to find out about disability benefits, I bought a tent and started staying at State Parks. I love nature, but tent camping in TX in August and September is brutal. The trade out was that the seizures immediately slowed down. I am so very grateful for all the love and support shown me during those difficult weeks.
All the while, my case worker was trying to find housing for me. There were lots of options if I was willing to give up my dogs – which I was not. Bentley will be 14 in June and Nonni will be 11 this September. They are my family. Where I go, they go. We put me on the waiting list in 5 different towns and/or counties for subsidized housing – the only hope I had of being able to afford an apartment on disability income. The wait ranges from 7 months to 2 years, depending on location. I was not willing to keep tent camping that long.
So I did what most people thought to be the most improbable, inappropriate, mind-blowing thing possible. On 9/28/15, I bought a van with plans to make it my home. It is a plain ‘ole 2007 E350 Cargo Van – no plumbing or electricity – nothing to flood or burn and she had 157,000 miles logged.
I threw my sleeping bag on the floor, added some plastic tubs and drawers, and off we went.
I should mention that my friend Glenn Morrissette, tosimplify.net, pulled me out of a tailspin depression and meltdown on 9/26. With all the love and support I received from my family and friends, I am embarrassed to admit this, but on that day I had reached a point where I was ready to give up. I was curled up in bed when Glenn called me, and I remember him saying something to the tune of,
“Do you believe in the shit you are always spouting or don’t you? You didn’t come this far to give up. Pull yourself together. Let’s find you a van and then you need to get on the road. You can do this. I’ll call you back in a few hours to check on your progress.”
It might sound harsh but it was exactly the loving ‘nudge’ I needed. After that good chastisement (and I do mean good), Glenn stayed in touch with me throughout the day and helped me find several vans on Craigslist, including the one I purchased. He also hooked me up with Bob Wells, cheaprvliving.com. Am I blessed or what?!?
Drum roll please ...
On October 8, 2015, I left Texas and headed to Flagstaff, AZ, to meet up with Bob. I have been living "the good life" ever since, and it suits me – very well.
I have had a few episodes and seizures while vandwelling, but not near as many as I used to have. Nosebleeds also used to be commonplace. Now they rarely happen. And out here, it doesn’t matter if I can’t think. I just hole up in my van until I am feeling better.
Modern technology allows me mobility. I can’t maneuver routes or remember directions, but I can figure out where I want to go, tell Siri that location, and she tells me how to get there. Along the way, if I get too tired, I just stop and rest. Everything I need, including Nonni and Bentley, is always with me. And for me, the simple and small life of vandwelling works perfectly. I can see my whole world when I wake up. That is comforting – especially on days when I have trouble remembering where I am or what day it is. I am always home.
And I have met so many wonderful people – an added bonus I never expected. While my footprint has diminished to almost nothing, my world has expanded infinitely. All you have to do is read my blog posts to understand that. Life is good and I am grateful, always, no matter what.
2/18/16 Update: Since I mentioned that I have seizures, several people have asked me about my driving. I offer this information for clarity....
HS is also known as Mesial Temporal Sclerosis and can result in several types of seizures. Mine are not epileptic (spread throughout the brain) which are secondary generalized. My seizures are complex partial (focal) seizures that result in memory impairment and time loss. I have symptoms that forewarn me when I might be headed to a seizure. On days that I am symptomatic, I cut back on activities, and I especially do not drive.
A big thanks to those who have been concerned. HugZ!