It started as a joke.
Some time in 2014 my good friend and then-roommate/climbing partner, Ben, became fed up with his work. He was bored, didn’t see a path forward, and really began questioning what he wanted to do in life. Meanwhile, outside of work, we were climbing hard, doing lots of camping/backpacking, and otherwise having lots of fun. These two clashing time sinks brought him to the punchline: he was going to buy a van, quit his job, and live in it while traveling the country for a year. It didn’t take long for this joke to turn to reality – and he wanted me to come.
At the time, I had a good, stable job. Sure, I happened to be questioning my own career path and wondering if I should shake things up, but doing something so drastic as taking an entire year off just seemed unreasonable. Besides, my new year’s resolution for 2014 was to travel internationally, which I did via an amazing and eye opening three week trip to Iceland. Didn’t this trip prove that I could still travel a lot while working? More importantly, what about finding a job after? What about the dent it would create in my retirement savings? What about buying a house? These are all pillars of the American Dream and surely shouldn’t be toppled over so wantonly!
At first, I blew the idea off. I simply couldn’t justify it. I was 29 years old – no spring chicken! – and I had just spent seven years in school plus six years working to get a nice financial foundation under me. I was doing so well! Why would I shatter the base I’d built just to go play nomad for a while? That is irresponsible!
Ben’s passion for the idea was addicting – he was so excited for it! He began looking at vans for sale on Craigslist. He was sending me links to videos of other people’s converted campers. Images of old beat up Volkswagen Westfalias, converted Ford Econoline cargo vans, and expensive Sprinter vansions flowed into my inbox. It did look fun! But still, something like this would cost money – living on the road, while cheap, isn’t free! – and not having income at the same time would be a real big hit. Worse, it would be impossible to get a job afterwards, because all future would-be employers would certainly regard my litte trip as a lazy and pointless waste of time.
I started looking at numbers and getting opinions. If I took, say, a year off of working, that loss of income would indeed take a sizable bite out of my net worth at retirement – but not so much that it couldn’t perhaps be worth an experience like this. So many people are born, are raised, grow old, and die in the small bubble that they call home without ever experiencing the entirety of the United States. What a shame! But what about getting a job after? I asked around, and I didn’t find a single person who said that it would be difficult. Indeed, many said that such a trip is a resume builder!
And so, before I knew it, the seed was planted. For me as well, the joke became reality. I was going to hit the road!
Once the idea wormed its way in my head, it didn’t take long for the trip to happen. The scope certainly did change, though: Ben changed gears and chose instead to take a job in Colorado – an adventure in its own way since it was a promotion that involved moving away from friends and family to another state – that turned out to be great for him. Despite being saddened by the loss of my friend and climbing partner for the trip, there was no way I wasn’t doing it. My desire to hit the road had gone far past just taking a vacation – it was now to be a full blown soul searching, exploratory, epic opportunity for growth. It was going to be a vanventure!
In April 2015, I purchased a 2007 Ford E-250 cargo van from an electrician. By May, I had stripped everything out of the van and cleaned it. By June, I had installed the interior, lighting, fan vent, and battery bank. By July, I built the bed, added the final pieces, and moved in. By August, I was unemployed and on the road.
It’s May 1, 2016 as I write this. I’ve been on the road for more than eight months and still see no end in sight. As time continues to slip by like the pavement beneath Van Wilder’s tires (yes, I named my van Van Wilder), this website – an evolving experiment – slowly but surely becomes more mature. It’s my attempt to document my travels, my pictures, and my words. I make no promises as to how often I will post to my blog, how many pictures I will upload, or how much information I will provide as to my whereabouts and doings because, frankly, I don’t know where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing! But I do promise that, at least for the time being, wherever I am or whatever I’m doing it will not be pursuing the American Dream.