I returned from living overseas over a year-and-a-half ago, and continued to live small. I have a desk, a bed, and a few personal possessions but no car or large furniture to think about. All my apartments in Beijing were furnished, and I sold my car prior to leaving the country. So, decluttering my life of “things” for van life has been quite easy.
As much as I would like to go out and purchase a Ford Transit right now, renovate it with my partner and start this van life journey, there are a few questions I had to ask myself before fully committing to taking on the lifestyle.
· How will I continue to bring in money on the road?
· How much do I want to save before hitting the road?
· How long do I want to be out on the road?
· What do I want to see first? National Parks? Museums? Monuments?
· How will van life affect my personal relationships?
How will I make money?
Please understand, I want to be location independent, eventually. Traveling and writing on the road; making a living anywhere in the world with just a laptop and an internet connection. That is the dream, right? However, the reality is: I am a graduate student and resident teacher at a local independent school district in Texas.
Thus, it will take time and effort to make van life happen successfully. Just so we are clear: van life allows many to save money on rent, bills, and other expenses that come with renting an apartment or a home. For me, I’ve lived in almost every housing option available: dorm, apartment, mobile home, tiny house, RV, Airstream trailer, hostel, and a Beijing hutong house.
I plan to aggressively save for a down payment for the van; take a couple months to get it renovated. And then travel on school breaks. I will also continue as a freelance writer and pick up the occasional creative projects. I want to have the option of traveling around the U.S. for an extended amount of time. Thus, proper planning and savings will hopefully alleviate any major problems.
When thinking of a financial plan, I had to calculate my current spending habits while also estimating monthly expenses while on the road. I have a relatively easy savings goal of $10,000; that is roughly $833 a month saved over a year.
As mentioned before, I am a graduate student and paid teaching resident with a local school district. So, stashing money aside aggressively over a year is the goal.
Van Life Journey
The loose plan right now: start this van living summer 2021; and travel for a few weeks until school starts in August. I do not like driving in the winter and preparing the van for winter weather is a level of van life I am not ready to take on yet. But the beauty in all of this: we can change up the schedule as needed.
National Park Itinerary
According to the National Parks website, there are 418 national park sites in the United States. Spanning across 84 million acres in each state and extending into the territories, including parks in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Guam, there are 60 sites that include “National Park” as part of their proper name.
In response to COVID-19, visiting national parks and monuments has changed considerably. So close monitoring of park hours and closures will be taken seriously. Though I really want to see the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Joshua Tree, Redwood, and Great Smokey Mountains, my partner's schedule and this pandemic will be the determining factor.
I think those who truly know me, know that this lifestyle is not farfetched…at all. Since my early 20s, I have lived a life full of experiences. It’s nothing for me to travel to another state to catch a concert or visit a lake or a park, or like in 2018; a few days before my birthday in Beijing, I booked a whole flight to Tokyo, and had the best time--by myself.
I like low maintenance friendships. I have friends all over the world so even though we do not see each other often, when we do–we have a good time. We also keep up with each other via social media and text to check-in. With communication channels being at an all-time high, I don’t think living in a van in the U.S. will cause any communication breakdowns with family and close friends. Of course, you cannot account for everything that can happen on the road regarding communication, but all I can do is my best to keep those close to me in the loop.