Vanna's insides

Vanna's insides

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Stability? Or Insanity

I think this is supposed to feel better...

Lots have asked me if I would ever live in the van again.  Maybe some were genuinely curious, others I know were just waiting for me to say "no."  But I absolutely would.  And tonight, tossing and turning, miserable in the acceptable, it's all I can think about.  I was never, not once, miserable as a van dweller.  But I say I would do it again with the caveat of the necessity for greater discretion.  Other people were the hardest part.  The sneaking from some and justifying to others was just such a great weight.  The experience of living that way in itself was freeing, but the expectations of others was exhausting.  And that isn't something I've been able to see a way around even with the objectivity granted by a year's worth of time and distance away from the road.

Tonight I am too awake in my recently leased one-bedroom apartment.  The need for more work in order to pay for it is forever on my mind.  The truth is I'm miserable.  I feel ungrateful for my circumstances and cowardly for my hesitations about changing them.

Urban van-dwelling was not hard.  Urban van-dwelling and working a 9-5 corporate job was hard.  But this, this scraping by for something you can see isn't what it is supposed to be, this is harder.  This is affecting my spirit in a way that scares me.  And everyone around me keeps getting drunker, and now for the first time, I feel close to joining them just to take my mind off of it all for an hour or two.

I don't mind (too much) the doing of a job, the working, solely for someone else's gain, I genuinely do enjoy my vocation; I mind that not being enough.  I mind those hours not being enough of a sacrifice and more being required of me in order to merely stay afloat.  And more is what I feel is being taken from me when I'm still struggling even after accomplishing what has been asked of me, what I've been told is required of me, and what I've been force-fed into believing could bring me some peace...

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The times they are a changing

Well, van life may be over for now.

I moved out of it a week a go.  The weather is cold, there's been a few incidents recently that have affected my sense of safety, I now feel as though it's time.

In October, on a well-lit street corner in the middle of down town, my passenger side window was smashed and laptop, gym bag, kindle were taken.  Then, earlier this month, whilst parked in a friend's driveway, someone climbed into the van at 4:30 am.  As luck would have it, I'd forgotten to lock the doors before going to sleep, and as a result, I was awoken by the door ajar alarm and cabin lights coming on.  I was incredibly incoherent but managed to react in a semi-reasonable manner.  I sat bolt-upright and yelled, "What the fuck!"

They exited (I never saw their face).  I was too spooked to remove my window coverings and try and get a good look.  I locked the doors, honked the horn once, then called 911.  Within minutes the police came (with a dog).  I explained that I'd been drinking and was sleeping in the driveway instead of driving home.  They applauded my decision and ignored the cat sitting on the dash board.

I think the main reason I'm done is due to the changing temperatures and the diminished light at this time of year.  I've taken a temporary sublet til Spring.  I'm leaving the option to renew van-dwelling open til then.  The different violations I've experienced during the past year, the only really upsetting one was the broken window in October.  The violence of that act really changed my feeling on the streets at night.  I do not begrudge the taking of my belongings/posessions, but the aggression of the smashed window really crushed a lot of my tired spirit.

The experience has been a delightful one, though.  I see this as the longest stint of urban van dwelling I'll ever do.  I could imagine adopting the lifestyle in the summers for a time, but I'm not all that committed to one way or another currently.  I've been so supported by my loved ones in this city.  Even the ones who didn't really understand the decision, extended their love and support to me.  And the virtual van-dwelling community as well, has been an invaluable source of community.

So much love and curiosity and gratitude.  It's been an incredibly difficult and an incredibly affecting year.  One for the record books.  xo

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Lies We Tell

I resent having to lie.

I resent the pity/confusion/judgement that comes from certain mindsets around living in a van.

I resent the need for craftiness and dishonesty.  And that is not because I feel everyone has the right to know the absolute truth about my life and how I choose to lead it, but having to mislead or lie when I don't necessarily feel free to do otherwise feels like a weight or burden that I begrudge having to take on.

Or maybe that's just a cop out?  Maybe the only result of transparency would be people's judgments, and maybe I'm just afraid of disappointing some?  Afraid of not meeting people's expectations?

I'm not used to compartmentalizing.  So needing to be a slightly different version of myself at my place of business does not come naturally.  Developing friendships and still not being ready to open up about where/how I live is a strain for me at this time in my life.  I'm determining that secrets are a sure way of opening yourself up to loneliness.

My recent (tho, uneventful) run-in with the Police, has reminded me of the need to be discreet.  And discretion is not something I've ever had much of a knack for.  I am also becoming more and more aware that my lack of hassles through this experience is, I'm sure, largely due to my position of privilege--young, white, able-bodied female who can afford to dress the part of a corporate professional.  People don't question my appearance in their neighborhoods, cops believe my story without question, coffee shops never question me using their facilities regardless of whether or not I've purchased anything.

I do hope to continue being as lucky as I have been; but even if my luck should change, I will still be grateful for blessings I've experienced over the past year.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Excuse me, ma'am...

Nine months in...
And last night I had my first 'for real' late night visitor...

At about 11:30, I'd just settled down to sleep when my interior lit up from another vehicle's headlights.

The past couple of nights, I've been parking near my gym in order to avoid the extra drive in the morning. The location has meant slightly more traffic and less parked cars near by (making me a tad more conspicuous).

I popped my head up and, sure enough, an officer of the law with flashlight in hand, was just peering in my window.  He had been driving by and saw the interior lights switch off with no one exiting or entering the car.  He came over to investigate whether or not the vehicle was being broken into (where was he the night of July the 2nd?  I know.  I was wondering the same thing).

The windows were open an inch or two, so we conversed through the gap (well lit by the street lights and his flashlight) and I was able to avoid turning the car on or opening the doors which would have turned on the interior lights and illuminated just how comfortable I was in the van.  He asked for my drivers' license (which states my address as just a couple of streets over) and I offered up my vehicle insurance voluntarily.

I explained that I'd locked myself out of my apartment and my roommate was not home until tomorrow; thus I was spending the one night in the van.  When he posed the obvious question as to the whereabouts of my landlord, I mumbled like a moron about it being late and not wanting to bother him.  Sheepishly I said, "I'm aware I'm not supposed to be sleeping on the street," and he was incredibly gracious in saying, "I'm not concerned in the least, your circumstances are clearly temporary."

The whole thing was a little jarring.  It left my heart racing a little bit afterwards even though there was no threat and, as stupid as it sounds, I hated lying to him--he called me "ma'am" and everything.

I suppose I'd begun to take the whole need for stealth for granted since I've never been pest-free up to now.  The whole thing was best case scenario, it would have been much worse had he shown up 10 minutes prior and caught me peeing in my trusty yogurt container.  And, luckily, I don't believe he saw Quinn; who, it would seem, didn't deem the interruption important enough to rise from her slumber.

When initially researching the lifestyle, one suggestion online had been to ready oneself in an alternate locale to the one you decide to hunker down for the night at.  Last night I was reading in bed for several minutes before shutting the internal lights off which is unwise (even with the windows covered) if not looking to attract attention.  I will not be risking a second night visit from Officer Joe, I'll be heading back to the neighborhoods that have offered more shelter in terms of vehicles to disappear among.

Sleep tight, folks!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Is this the end?

I thought that perhaps the time had come, that maybe the sun was setting on my life as a van dweller--all last week I was looking at apartments, drawing up budgets, planning for stability; however, I am so happy to say, I am recommitting to the lifestyle of transient.

I think the idea for stability stemmed from the steady employment I've found for myself.  And without really sitting with myself, I assumed the next step was an apartment.  But when I moved into the van, I made a point of telling people (those I chose to share my situation with) that this was not a decision made under duress.  I come from an incredible life of privilege, and by no means should anyone feel concern or guilt or pity for me.  To leave it now would feel hypocritical, yes, but mostly, I genuinely like this way of life.

A definite push in the direction of leasing an apartment has been that I've been house-sitting on and off for the past two months and have only been in the van intermittently throughout the summer.  This naturally makes routine difficult when I'm staying somewhere new every other week, and it's been hard not to fall into a state of lethargy when given the opportunity.  All of a sudden, I had a couch to zone out to NetFlicks on, or a house that allowed me to stay in and away from the world for days at a time.  I hadn't realized how important van life has been to the development of so many of my new and healthy habits--going to bed and waking up earlier, never drinking more than would allow me to drive safely, making use of each and every one of my days.

This morning was the first morning in what felt like quite a while that I rose in the van and then prepared for work at the YMCA.  It was nice and refreshing.  I feel an independance again that I'd lost temporarily in my reliance on other people's generosity and homes.  So much kindness has surrounded me this summer; the reprieve has been glorious.  I do believe I am ready return to the Van Life with a renewed energy and joy.

My reliable friend Vanna, which I paid a mere $1000 for back in January is still running as smoothly as ever (knock wood), and I have a feeling this is a one time deal for me, so why rush to its completion before a natural conclusion is able to occur?

So here is to the new season, and a renewed sense of appreciation.  Let the journey continue.  Thank you for reading this far, friends.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

That Van You Stole From...?

Hi there,

That van you rifled through on the night of July 2nd? It was mine. It's ok. I know the things you took won't get you much money at all, so I hope they bring you some happiness. I'm sure you could tell that I live in that van, I was just spending the night at a girlfriend's.

The mini ipod was a gift from my Dad in my first year of University in 2006. I was very homesick that year and up until then I'd been using my discman. There are at least 3 years worth of musical taste on it, I really hope you at some point take a listen and maybe like what you hear. Many of the artists on their are singer-songwriters from the East Coast whose music I will not be able to get a copy of again. That makes me sad, but music should be shared.

The BlueTooth does not work very well.

The Gerber Tool my parents bought for me when I graduated from grade 9 (13 years ago). It's wonderful, I hope it serves you well. The pocket knife was a hand-me-down from my oldest brother. I used it for opening things---I hope that is all you use it for too. The pepperspray I bought when I moved into the van. I have never used it and am sure I never would have... I actually always forgot I owned it.

The jewelry box I'm sure won't get you any money. I'm sad to have lost the locket and gold ring engraved with a 'P'.. that too was a gift from my parents when I was 11.

Maybe things have been hard for you too, recently. I hope things get better. I'm so very glad my cat wasn't in the van last night or anything else that matters.

Take care and be well. This way at least, we are a little more connected. If I think of anything else maybe I'll update this. But they are just things, I know to remember that.



PS The heater will be missed come winter.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Party Trick

I've been letting the cat out lately for a few hours at a time to roam.  So today when I lay down for a nap I let her out to wander, but when I awoke?  The damn girl was curled up asleep on the front seat.  Apparently the old girl can manage her way back in when the windows are down...  amazing.