Van Lifer: Neal Eisler and Phoenix the Van (My Brother Lives In A Van?!)
Updated: Aug 8, 2018
My brother Neal has been living in a van for about 6 or 7 months now. If you had asked me a year ago if I would have ever thought he was going to live in a van I would have said there's no way.
His life had taken a way different path then mine. He had a luxury car, his own 1 bedroom apartment in a luxury apartment complex and a well paying job. He was by societies standards successful. More importantly he was comfortable. I think people sometimes become to comfortable and this stops us from growing. Well now he lives in a van and likes it. He is experiencing new things and living life so much differently then he had before. Living in a van is trade off of comforts vs freedom and he seems to be enjoying the freedom living in a van offers. I asked him some questions to see what van life is like.
Name: Neal Eisler
Vehicle Type and year and name and mileage? 2006 Dodge Sprinter, 145,000 miles
How long have you been living in your van? 6 months
Whats the longest you've been without a shower? 10 days.
How long do you plan on living in your van for? I plan to live in my van for the foreseeable future. It’s only been 7 months and there has not been one day I’ve thought about going back to living in an apartment.
Is there anything you miss about living the way you did before van life?
It’s amazing to thing that there isn’t one thing I miss. I have everything I need in my van.
What made you decide to live in a van?
Spending such a large portion of my paycheck on an apartment that didn’t add much value to my life was troubling to think about. I was bored and looking for change. That’s when I opened myself to the possibility of alternative lifestyles.
After climbing with my brother for the first time this past August, I could see the enjoyment he had in every aspect of his life. It was the first time we connected in over 4 years and I could see that 3+ years of Vanlife had taught him a lot. These were things I aspired to: taking comfort in who you are, showing kindness and selflessness, being present, I could go on…
For the next month after that first climbing experience, Lee continued to push Vanlife on me. With my lease expiring, no other plans, my brother shared a couple built out Sprinter Vans on Craiglist. That’s when it became reality. I could see myself in one of those. They had everything my apartment had and more.
Maybe minus a bathroom. But, a gym shower could replace that.
I had nothing to lose. If the van didn’t work out going back to an apartment was still an option but, I knew that wasn’t going happen. My options: keep doing things in my life for the sole purpose of a relaxing future or start living my life for today and each day after that.
What is the best thing about living in a van?
The time and freedom it’s given me.
By having a home anywhere I go, there is never a rush to get back somewhere. Not feeling rushed or constrained by time has provided my mind freedom from all the anxious thoughts that used to consume it. By far the best thing about living in a van and something I would have never expected would come out of the lifestyle.
What is the worst thing about living in a van?
The worst thing about living in the van is more of a self-created problem. Living in Orange County during the week while I continue to work my White Collar job sucks. There’s traffic, noisy parking (sleeping) spots, and it restricts the freedom vanlife offers.
Of course, most problems are ones we create for ourselves.
What is your favorite part about your van?
It would have to be my grill. Yeah, my queen sized bed is awesome, but nothing beats being able to cook a warm, delicious meal while looking out into an incredible landscape
What would you change about your build?
I’d changed two things.
First, my sink is tiny and water always spills over. One day, I’ll fix this by building in a bigger sink.
Second, I have a terrible fan. It only has one speed with little effect. This could definitely be upgraded.
How do you support your lifestyle?
Right now, I work a White Collar job doing Marketing Communication for a Software/Technology Company.
Would you recommend van life to people?
Yes, and I recommend it to anyone that asks about it.
Any tips for people thinking about living in a vehicle?
Just go for it. A lot of things you’re worried about, you’ll figure out and learn how to cope with along the way.
Also, get a buddy heater for the winter.