Lee Eel Eisler
Why Did I Choose To Live In A Van
Updated: Aug 8, 2018
Everyone always asks me. "Why do you live in a van?" To me this is a funny question. I feel like I didn't choose the van life but the van life chose me.
I would have been in the same boat about a year before I made the decision to live in a van. Asking why would I choose to live in a van? It wouldn't have made sense to me. I was conditioned to having a roof over my head. A shower, a bathroom. I had no plans to live in a van. I was working my ass off mostly just to pay rent and have a box with these comforts. Also it was a safe spot for my possessions. My stuff, my things. Things that I thought were important. Things I thought were cool.
One day I was sick of paying almost half my income to live in these situations with room mates. I was basically working to live in places and with people where I couldn't live the way I wanted. I saw some buddies who lived in their vans and had my boss at the time showing me his trailer on the side of the building. It was a combination of these two things that drove me to sit down and make a pros and a cons list about living in van. I ended up coming to the conclusion that I could put all my stuff in storage, get a van and try it. If I didn't like it I would take all my stuff back out of storage and go back to renting a room somewhere. If I liked it I would get rid of all my stuff.
Long story short I ended up liking it. Slowly I began getting rid of all my stuff. Even with the commitment of being in the van it still took me way too long to get rid of all my stuff. I think most of the problem was I was keeping things like my snowboard and surfboard. Basically things I still wanted but never made a solid plan as to where to put them on or in the van. I was still very new to life in the van and there is definitely a learning curve at first.
It's funny to me when people tell me that I'm living the dream. I always tell those people that if living in a van is your dream then that is attainable. I started out with nothing and not a clue as how to do anything. I had never really worked on a car or van or anything before but half the battle is just going for it. My first van was a 1978 Dodge Tradesman 200. I got it for $1,500 in running condition. The inside was bare, a blank slate to create and build it how I wanted. I drove it an hour and a half back to where I was working in my new home on wheels. This is where my biggest evolution and growth in my 29 years on the planet began.
It's funny how the thought of living in a van at one time was something that I was so unsure of. The lust for freedom but the fear of the unknown. Living in a van is now such a natural thing that there was a time when Freedom (my current van) needed a new power control module. It is a part that is not made for the van anymore so I had to get it sent in and rebuilt by Dodge. The whole process was going to take over a month leaving me wondering where I was going to stay for that month.
I looked into rental rvs, rental camper vans, rental rooms, extended stay hotels. All these options were way more expensive then what I wanted to spend. The universe ended up working out. My Facebook app all of a sudden wanted to update and when it did there was a new feature to explore. The facebook marketplace. I typed in vans and saw a few Astro vans listed for about $700. I still was unsure but I sent a few messages. Because of my uncertainty and one of the sellers need to sell the van before leaving the country he ended up offering me his Astro van for $500. I decided that if it drove I would do it as I only needed it for about a month and that was still the cheapest option. It is the option I chose.
This brings up a good point about simplicity and how living in a van has taught me how to survive with very little. What this means is my green footprint on this planet is very small. I don't over consume and I don't need a whole lot to survive. Basically it is the complete opposite as to how I was before making the decision to start living in a van.
Before living in a van it was scary to think about living without a traditional form of an apartment or house. Now I can't imagine paying rent again. I'm not saying I will never settle down however anything I put my money into will be something I own. For now I'm content with living in a van for many, many years to come but who knows what the future brings. - Lee Eel Eisler
Check out my post on "The 10 Life Lessons I Learned From 3 Years of Van Life":