When you arrive at a campground, it can be difficult to tell who’s there on vacation, and who’s there simply living. Weathered, mud-splattered vans stuffed to the gills with supplies are the things of both people with houses in the suburbs and those who live full time in their vehicles. We live in an outdoors era that celebrates the overlander who travels and lives in their $80,000 Sprinter while working in media, but for every well-to-do #vanlifer, there’s someone who never in a million years planned or wanted to live in their car. It’s not a vacation for them, not a game, but their life.
That’s the premise of the new Frances McDormand-helmed film Nomadland, getting rave reviews and Oscar nods, and available to stream widely. The Guardian published a lovely piece last week discussing the film and chronicling the lives of people who didn’t choose vanlife to be closer to the crag or the surf, but because they had trouble making ends meet otherwise. Many have found themselves truly happy to be untethered, traveling, camping, hiking, living where they please.
It’s not exactly a feel good story, but it’s not exactly a feel bad story, either. Travel and adventure and waking up in a different place every few days, to make coffee in your van, then head out for a stroll by the river isn’t just for people with lucrative jobs only a wifi connection away.
Bob Wells, who runs the website CheapRVliving.com, and who plays himself in Nomadland, is exactly that person. Unplanned detours in life saw him with dwindling finances. Rather than continue to work his ass off just to pay for a dreary apartment, he cut down his work week, moved into a van, and spent more time outside, doing what he wanted.
“One day, fretting about impossible finances, [Wells] saw a green box van for sale and thought: “Why don’t I buy that van and move into it?” The idea struck him as crazy, but with the prospect of homelessness closing in, he drained the last $1,500 in his savings account and bought the van that was just “too ratty-looking” for its previous owner. He gave his landlord notice that night, threw a sleeping pad in the back of his new home, and cried himself to sleep.
“Then came the first of the month, and something clicked: he didn’t have to pay rent. As his finances improved, he installed insulation, a proper bed, even a dream-come-true PlayStation fortress for his boys. He started working only 32 hours a week, and since every weekend was a three-day weekend, he spent more time camping with his kids, which “tremendously helped” his mental outlook on life.
Finally, he was truly happy.”
Read the rest of the article, here.