My Story

Something in me just didn’t feel quite right. I had a great job, great friends, and I loved living in Los Angeles. I was also working on a project in San Francisco and had all of my expenses paid for to just about live up there for almost a year. I stayed in swanky hotels, fancy Airbnbs, and eventually a cute little victorian building for corporate housing. Meals were covered. Transportation was covered. I essentially had it made.
I had success and a great career and I was on the project of a lifetime. I had met some great people, people I still call friends today, and was able to explore all of San Francisco had to offer. And yet, there was something inside that just didn’t feel fulfilled. Call it teenaged angst in my mid twenties, call it unappreciative, call it what you like. But no one else’s opinion would change what I felt.
At one point, I had decided to give up my apartment in LA. I mean, I was in San Francisco for so long, why would I be paying rent for a place that I wasn’t even staying at. Sure, I wouldn’t be on this project forever. But I was a young, single, lady, living on my own and had moved almost every year since I had moved to LA. So what was another move once the project was done and I came back to LA? I put all my stuff in storage and continued to work in SF.
While in SF, I had met a number of people. One of which was a traveling artist from Ireland. He would get 6 month visas for the US, pick up his van from a friend who would hold it for him and travel around and build sculptures for clients, including helping build some of the pieces for Burning Man. Then, once the 6 months was up, he’d have to wait another 6 months to be able to come back. So during that time he’d pick up clients in Brazil or wherever he could find. In a lot of ways, through him, I saw myself. Myself if I had never let the fear of not “making it” in the world get to me. I wanted to be an artist growing up. I wanted to paint, and create and live my life that way. But I got scared. Parents telling me to get a good job and have a career and most importantly to make money. Looking at it from what I thought was a logical perspective–and also a lack of self confidence–I concluded that I would never make art as a living and therefore would need to find something else as a career. Yet here he was, traveling the world and doing what he loved. It was like seeing an alternate path of my own life. I had never thought about living in a van but the idea seemed so freeing and fit so well with what he was doing.
Then I met a CouchSurfer who was traveling up from Guatemala. He had a boat down there and was in the process of fixing it up but needed to work odd jobs here and there to save money for it. He had no official home, besides the boat, and had done quite a bit of traveling before he decided on buying a boat. He was free and living life on his own terms. He had also lived in a van before he left Seattle and had told me many stories about living that way. “You should try it,” he told me. “I think you’ll like it”.
The idea was still not really an option I was considering. But the time came when I had to eventually go back to LA. I started looking for apartments down there and hated the constant search of finding a place that fit within my budget. I was reminded of when I had my apartment and how I was barely getting by between rent, utilities and my ridiculously expensive student loans. I was not looking forward to that. And that’s when it clicked for me. Maybe I’ll just buy a van.
It started of as more of a joke but then slowly developed into an actual thing I could do. I mean why the fuck not. It’d be an adventure. It’d be a project.  A change from the normal day to day. A story to tell later. An impulsive decision to give myself a different perspective on life. Make my own perspective. And if I really didn’t like it, I can always sell it and get an apartment.
Ever since then, I have been happily living in a van. In a way, I feel like I took back some control of my own life. In another, I’m seeing the world and seeing the decisions I’ve made in a new light. I don’t regret the decisions I’ve made in the past. And I’ll never regret the lifestyle I’ve chosen, no matter if/when I decide to give it up or change it. No matter who thinks it’s weird or abnormal or is generally unaccepting. All my choices in life have made me the person I am today. And I’m thankful for that. But the van life I’ve chosen has not only liberated me to do some of the things that I’ve always wanted, like traveling, it’s also given me an entirely new perspective on the world. A smaller space means that you really have to figure out what’s essential to you. There’s no big apartment to fill with all the latest gadgets and toys and time wasters. It’s what you need to actually live. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy luxuries in life. And I pride myself in being clean and tidy in my appearance and in my home, which gives people a different perspective from their negative view of what a Van Dweller is. But I’m more deliberate in my purchases. Is it a want or a need? Can I actually fit it in the space I have. Think about all of people on this Tiny Movement kick. I’m essentially doing the same thing. Just my tiny house happens to have wheels as the foundation.
The truth is, I have many reasons for doing it. Some are easy to articulate, some not so much. But I’ve noticed within myself that everything I do now it more deliberate and working towards goals. I don’t have the same distractions, the same blinders I used to have. That isn’t to say that I still don’t have some blinders. That isn’t to say that I’m always working and not ever enjoying life. It just means that I’m a little more clear in what I want in life and I become more clear every day. And above all else, that unfullfillment, that off-ness I felt before has diminished. I’m much more mindful of myself, of the world, and getting closer to finding what my role is in all of this beautiful chaos.

13 Comments

  1. Russell
    August 22, 2016
    Reply

    Well said, and heartfelt. I applaud your decisions and part of me wants to join the nomadic world. Especially with a dog. Gotta have a dog!

    Be well and keep us all posted. ENJOY LIFE!

  2. December 17, 2016
    Reply

    My plan in 1995 was to do internet from a motorhome. I have about 2000 domain names, but have not done many websites.

    I want to get findatutor.com, eTutoring.com, Tent.com, PetTaxi.com or something up and just roam, or start a commune underground.

    When I was younger, I did all that stuff like rock climb, cave, yacht race, ski race, etc. I was every where all the time. Our goal was to do dangerous things, to scare ourselves. I stopped when it was too dangerous to get scarred. I used all my luck, but I am alive.

    I am looking for people who want to develop and manage my domains. It might be time to go on the road. I am a health and radiation/Nuclear Physicist/electronic design engineer and hardware and software guy from the 1980’s. When I went back to school in 1992 to become a pharmacist and a doctor my knees went and I was in a wheelchair with leg braces. I spent 25 years but got out the the wheelchair. My problem is that I am allergic to food after 1980. I started eating wild organic food. Now, my health is returning to the same as 25 yrs ago. I also lost 8 inches around my waist, without dieting or exercising.

    Peter

    • Gilbert Nichols
      July 3, 2017
      Reply

      Inspirational, Peter! Thank you for your transparencies.

  3. Clay Gallardo
    January 16, 2017
    Reply

    Hola,

    Any advice for non-tech background folk like myself that want to become a digital nomad? I have a masters in social work and most of my work options are done face to face with people.

    • Vanessa
      February 19, 2017
      Reply

      Hey Clay, there are a number of sites that you could find remote jobs, though since I’m not in the field of social work, I’m not really sure how common jobs might be. I recommend checking out FlexJobs as they have a wide range of job types listed on their site. If you’re interested in possibly entering a new field that might be more conducive to full time travel (specifically in web work), there are a number of coding bootcamps were you can learn how to code in a relatively short amount of time. Or you can teach yourself by taking online course through places like CodeAcademy or Treehouse. Good luck!

  4. Dee K Lindsay
    February 20, 2017
    Reply

    Hi Vanessa,

    Could you please tell me when you have the time about the video camera you use to make your videos. I have had many in the past and it seems that not one will fit every thing. I see all the “GO” video cameras and was just wondering what your experience is or if you have written on this subject before.

    Thank you very much.

    Dee k Lindsay

    • Vanessa
      February 20, 2017
      Reply

      Hi Dee,

      I have a GoPro that I use for some of my videos (only posted one online though) but I also get pretty good footage from my phone so I use those from time to time. But that would b a great idea for a post. I will consider it. Thanks!

  5. L.D. Sewell
    March 2, 2017
    Reply

    Great attitude and outlook on life. We all get one life for sure, and it goes by much too quickly.

    I admire and respect that you make your own choices and do your own thing – regardless of what anyone else may think.

    I hope you continue to have success in all your adventure and look forward to reading all about it.

  6. George
    April 4, 2017
    Reply

    Hi Vanessa, just finished watching your vid on youtube re nomadic lifestyle income and I was encouraged to follow up on your adventures but do not know if you have a youtube channel? Where you at now?

    • Vanessa
      April 8, 2017
      Reply

      There’s a link to my Youtube channel at the bottom of my site. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of video posts yet but looking to do more. Thanks for your interest! It will help motivate me to do more videos.

      • Gilbert Nichols
        July 3, 2017
        Reply

        Vanessa, would there be any “free to use” videos in Youtube’s Creative Commons section that you could appropriate for repurposing in your Vlog? Just a thought?

        • Vanessa Garcia
          August 23, 2017
          Reply

          Possibly… it’s more of taking the time to actually build that. It’s hard even updating my blog on the regular. Baby steps and making time! :)

  7. Denis Steele
    May 15, 2017
    Reply

    Good luck to you I hope you find what you looking for in life: Some people do and some don’t . I found what i was looking for many times, then look again. I’m 70 years old from England have done a lot in life, Motorbike display team to Dolphin trainer and owned my own large cab and courier company developed transport software and sold to other transport companies.. I was settle in life at 55 and had a lovely kids, wife, house worth close to a mil $, all was great. Then divorce came, sold everything after the court case. Moved to Thailand done a bit of property development, then learnt how to write websites. Now have 2 website doing ok, but still not found what I’m looking for so going to sell up in Thailand head for the states and buy an RV and tour maybe 1 year maybe 5 who knows? After a hedonistic lifestyle I’m not ready to retire. I watched your youtube vid and that’s what bought me here. Life is for living young and old!

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