Living in a van, down by the river

Well, let this be a lesson to all of you good people out there.  That lesson is, of course, that with 5+ years of pestering I will eventually give in.  Thank you, mom ( for the years upon years of pestering and pressure to get me to blog about my life.  It has been a long struggle, but she finally has won.  I am finally in possession of my own personal computer, and it would be just plain stubborn if I did not do something to record my adventures.  Perhaps I will one day have another blog about something more specific (trip reports, socio-political-environmental commentary, humor, etc.)  but for this one, anything goes.  Hold on for the ride, judge not less thou be judged, and enjoy it.  Thanks for reading.

This first blog will focus on my living situation for the past five months.  Since November, I’ve been residing in a 1994 Airstream B-van.  Yup, straight out of college and into a van.  It’s not especially original, many interesting and intelligent people have called a van home at some point or another.  However, not as many people have done so in one of the most consistently frozen environments in the country.  This van dweller has been calling Vail Valley of Colorado home for all those long winter months.  It has been character building, to say the least.  I have certainly learned some things about myself and the quality of living that we enjoy in this country.  I have also learned that no matter your living circumstances (within reason) you can choose to be happy and satisfied.

The decision to move out of a building and into a van in the high country of Colorado was fairly impulsive.  It really only all came together in late November of last year, just before my job out here actually started.  I have a trans-America bicycle ride planned for this upcoming summer, so the late start and early end to the ski season made it easier to forgo a lease and call the van home.  I am an avid kayaker, backcountry skier, and mountaineer, so the mobility and potential for recreational vehicle-ing was a large deciding factor.  The van has delivered.  Not only has Colorado experienced a phenomenal snow season, but also I have managed to make it so far this season without a single boot or parking ticket.  Rent is not cheap in a ski town, unless you just live in parking lots (and then it’s free).  I have tried to remain a moving target, staying in a dozen different locations around the valley.  I have only been asked to leave once, but that was on resort property and they still let me spend the night that night (I just couldn’t come back).  Otherwise it has been smooth, under the radar van life.  My ski pass came with my job, and with no rent to pay I have gotten my 100 days of skiing in this year for pretty cheap.

I will not be overly macho or denying of the fact that there were some cold, difficult nights in the van.  I have been living at 8,200 feet in the Colorado high country in the winter.  I’ve seen more than a few nights in the negative double digits.  My job was an outdoor evening job, so I would be working out in it at night (my coldest night was -21) and get off my shift only to return home to a nicely deep-frozen van.  I purchased a little propane-powered heater from a sports store at the start of the season that has ensured my survival.  My guess that even with the heater on full blast on the very coldest nights that the temperature inside the van was still below freezing.  Like I said, I built a little character this season.

If you live in a tent for a week on a backpacking trip, you come home and enjoy modern luxuries in a new way.  If you live in a van for a winter, you come to realize that we are the most fortunate humans to have ever existed.

On the grand scale of all humans that have ever enjoyed life on this planet, we surely must be in the top .01% of those that have enjoyed freedom, health, and material wealth.  You may not fully realize it, but sit back and consider the continuum of civilization since it came to be in Mesopotamia (and the untold generations of hunter-gatherers before that).  They were concerned with survival, we are focused on modern pop culture and mass media.  Granted, you are perhaps a better-informed, concerned citizen that has taken some time to appreciate the difficulty in securing your own food, building your own shelter, and clothing yourself.  I’m not trying to be pretentious, I’m just saying you own more stuff than most humans have ever known and it only a financial transaction separated you from owning it before it was yours.  Maybe you helped build your own house, painted the art on your walls, or made some of your own clothes, but I can be fairly certain you did not fill your pantry or your fridge.  Do you dare check to see where the clothes you are wearing were made and consider the working conditions we were made in?

We just critters that have big brains, we depend on the Earth like all of the other critters do.  I try not to lose sight of that and that’s why I would live in a van and think that I’m one of the luckiest critters to ever draw breath.