While the idea of minimalism is something that’s fascinated me for years, I also find it terrifying.
First a little backstory. I have, in reality, started over with almost nothing three times in my life. When I moved from my parent’s house to a college dorm to an apartment but at that age I didn’t own much and was less “set in my ways.”
My biggest re-start was at age thirty-six. I was with my ex-husband for seventeen years and had amassed a one-bedroom apartment full of belongings. I also had most of the items I coveted from my parent’s home by that time. Old journals, photos, sentimental clothing that belonged to my mother when she was young, all my writing from elementary school through high school and college.
But I was in a severely abusive marriage, and leaving was difficult on many levels. My ex-husband was violent, an addict and volatile. When I told him I was leaving, he threatened to kill me. There’s a lot of drama and another story in all of this that I don’t need or want to unpack here, so the bottom line is that when I left, all I could take was a blow up mattress and a small suitcase. When I returned to the apartment, a couple of months later (supervised) he’d put a lock on the bedroom door, given most of my belongings to his mistress and thrown away everything else that was important to me. I “lost” almost everything that held sentimental value, including all my writing from childhood as well as photos and the clothes that had belonged to my mother. On top of that, he took my car (yes, I’d paid $10,000 for it), my pets and all the furniture… everything. But I was fine with it because I realized I’d escaped with my life, which is the one thing that was irreplaceable (other than my pets, which of course were the hardest to lose).
And so I began again. With virtually nothing. I didn’t have a bed, a dresser, pots or pans, dishes, TV, gaming systems (we had 5), etc. I did eventually get my computer back (an ancient desktop, this was a long time ago LOL) because he had his own, but he had still stuffed mine full of porn LMAO.
I moved in with a close friend and she had an apartment full of stuff. She had couches, a TV, kitchen items and basically all I “needed”. I had the blow up mattress, which I slept on for over a year, until I could afford a futon. I rode the bus 2 hours each way to work until I scraped up $250 to buy a very used car. I was thirty-six years old, and starting over at that age was not as easy as it had been at eighteen. But I managed. I learned a lot, and I was fine. At my core, I’m a survivor.
Unfortunately, I did not learn my lesson and picked another abuser. This one was even worse. He did attempt and almost killed me. It involved the police. It was an ugly mess of domestic violence with bruises and blood.
He “wouldn’t let me leave” so I had to plan in secret for months and eventually moved out while he was at work. I found a great, fully furnished, sublet and left everything except my cat. Eventually he calmed down enough for me to get a few more items than my ex-husband had allowed, but I still had little.
I had some clothes and a newer computer that I built myself. No furniture and no kitchen items. Those were all his. I was forty years old. That was when I made the firm decision to live alone. No more roommates who I’d be beholden to and no more live-in lovers.
A few months later, I moved again, from the sublet to my own one-bedroom apartment. I had nothing. No furniture, not even a single kitchen plate. I lived in that apartment for seven years and during that time I completely filled it. From a couch to a bed to kitchen items to a dresser and more…
When I moved to the apartment, I live in now; I had to hire movers and a truck. But I look around and everything I have here now is different. I ended up replacing every piece of furniture, including my couch. My last couch died a sad and scary death of horror. I changed my esthetics from dark wood to light wood. From heavy, black everything to bright, colorful and mostly blue. I bought used items on Craigslist. I painted things. I bought artwork and plants. I made a really beautiful and very comfortable home.
But about five years ago, I began obsessing on the idea of a tiny home. I knew then that I’d never be able to afford a house. Where I live in Northern California near San Francisco, the cost of living has increased exponentially and continues to do so. When I moved into my neighborhood ten years ago, two-bedroom houses were selling for $300,000. They now sell for over a million. Ten years ago, $300,000 was not in my budget. My last apartment was amazing (rats in the walls and black mold notwithstanding) but when my landlord died, they gave me sixty days to vacate. There is no rent control in my county and prices just keep going up.
At the time of this blog post, a one bedroom in my town rents for $3,200 a month. When I moved here, a one bedroom rented for $1,200 a month, which is currently less than the price of renting a single bedroom in a shared rental. Those go for $1500 and up per month.
In another 10 years, with the rate of inflation here, a one bedroom will probably rent for over $6,000 a month and a share will be $3,000 for a single bedroom. Not only is that absolutely ridiculous, it’s unsustainable. Especially since income has not increased to match the rate of inflation. In a decade this will be the land for the rich only. :(
I’ve talked previously about my options and how I decided on tiny living in a van. What I haven’t touched on in depth is the fear that goes with giving up all my “stuff” again. I know I can do it. I want to do it. But society tells me that unless I have a four-bedroom house and a Mercedes, Tesla or BMW, and designer clothes, I’m a nobody. If I don’t have a husband and 2.5 children, I’m a nobody. I’m less than worthless. It’s a weird societal norm, and it’s an ugly and untrue bias.
When you’re twenty something, you’re allowed to explore and try new things. Your family and friends can label you as “experimenting” and say “they’ll grow out of it”. You can be a nomad or a minimalist, it’s more acceptable. But when you get older, it’s much less so.
I’ve always been one to buck the system, always. I went my own way and forged my path. I constantly and supremely disappointed my father to the point of being “disowned”. People in my life may look at me and think that it was easy, it’s who I am, to go against the grain. But when they don’t know is that I tried to go with it for most of my life, in my own way. I tried to fit in. I tried to do what they expected of me. I tried to be happy with other people’s constraints or the ideals they placed on me. But when I did that, I was miserable, and I didn’t like who I was. When I kept my mouth shut at restaurants as my father abused the waitstaff, I hated myself. When I strived to earn more money than I needed to survive, to the point of working seven days a week and not taking any time for myself, I was miserable. When I bent over backwards to please him and failed repeatedly, I had to give up.
So, does moving into a van scare the shit out of me? YES, it does! Am I doing it anyway? YES, I am. Does it also excite me? HELL YES! I don’t know what the future holds, none of us do. But I can try this. If I hate it, I can start over yet again. I’m resilient. I’m adaptable. And I’m willing to take risks.
I’d like to take you along on my process because when I watch YouTube videos about minimalists and vanlifers or read books written by them—they’re already there, doing it. And that’s amazing and inspirational, but I didn’t get to see the struggle. And we all know the struggle is real! I want to document that. The REAL struggle. In its ugliness, vulnerability and bravery. I hope you’ll join me in that, and I hope you’ll reach out and tell me your stories and share your own struggles.
If you live in America chances are, you’re stressed. You may be stressed if you live elsewhere too but sadly, America has, in recent years, surpassed other countries in terms of terrible work ethics. It’s become the norm to work twelve hour days for years without a day off or a vacation. Not to mention all the hate and anger we’ve been taught is normal.
There are ways to combat stress with supplements, any adaptogen will help. There’s also diet and exercise. But one of the best ways that you can start today and it won’t cost you anything is to learn how to meditate.
Here are 6 easy techniques for beginners:
First - sit in a comfortable position either crossing your legs on a cushion on the floor or sitting comfortably on a chair, the bed or the couch.
1.Zen Meditation – Counting your breath
Close your eyes. Breathe a normal breath in and then out - count it. One. Another breath in and out. Two. Do this until you reach 10 and then start again at 1.
2.One type of Vipassana Meditation (there are a few) is focusing on what’s around you.
This meditation starts with being aware of everything that’s happening around you. Close your eyes and become aware of your environment. If you hear a plane, muffled voices, your pet breathing or a door slam, focus on those sounds. If you feel pain in your body, focus on the pain. If you smell something, focus on the smell. As soon as the sound, feeling or smell is gone search for the next one. You are attempting to become vastly aware of what is going on around you. The refrigerator hum, footsteps, a distant car alarm, etc. At some point the outer will fall away and you’ll become aware of the silence. Focus on that too. The advantage of this is two-fold, in this moment you can become aware of your mind and the ability to create your own expansiveness within the space itself. You may not be able to achieve this silence right away and everyone experiences it or interprets it differently. You can also use Vipassana meditation to become aware of the thoughts of your mind and then lovingly let them go, watching them like a movie without judgment. I like doing this form of meditation in an airplane when traveling as well as at my house. It keeps me quiet for quite a long time.
3.The Red Dot Meditation
This is the first meditation I ever learned as a 12-year old child. Close your eyes and imagine a red dot about an inch above the center of your eyebrows. Some people know this as the third eye. In acupuncture it is the point known as yin tang. In India this is where they put the bindi. Focus on that dot. When I was a kid I used to change it to different colors, which is fine as long as you remain focused on that area.
There are many forms of this. You can go see Amma, The Hugging Guru (for free) and she will give you a mantra. You can choose an Indian mantra from the internet based on your favorite deity. Or, you can make up your own. It can be a word or a phrase. It can be as simple as the word “love” or something like “peace and gratitude”. You can take a class in TM (Transcendental Meditation) where they give you your own mantra (it’s pricey it but can be worth it and significant student discounts are available).
Whatever mantra you choose (and you can change it up), the idea is to repeat it silently over and over. That’s it.
I love walking meditation! You walk slowly, eyes cast downward so you don’t trip and focus on your steps, you can count them or not. Or if you’re good at multi-tasking you can walk and count your breath or recite a mantra. Regardless, the idea is to walk very, very, very, slowly.
6.Exercise as Meditation
People who do extreme sports will find that their exercise is their meditation because if you don’t focus completely on what you are doing at every second you could seriously injure yourself. I have a friend who uses running as her meditation. I use aerial arts. Anything where you have to completely focus can be used. So for example if you’re riding your stationary bike at home and watching TV that is not meditation.
Overall meditation advice no matter which form/s you choose:
If your mind wanders that’s completely normal and just gently bring it back to your meditation (breath, sounds, dot, whatever). If you suddenly feel an inspiration or your mind is telling you that there are other things you need to be doing as soon as you’re done meditating, let it go. Those thoughts will still be there when you’re done. Don’t admonish yourself for having them. Be gentle with yourself. Acknowledge the thought and then go back to the meditation.
Remember that many forms of meditation are to help you quiet your mind. If you can practice even 1-5 minutes a day you will notice a huge difference. Your stress will lessen. You’ll be less reactive to your children, friends, spouse, other drivers… You’ll develop better planning skills, better organizing skills and a calmer demeanor. You’ll be able to relate more to the world and people around you.
There are dozens of types of meditation, more advanced forms can focus on listening to your mind and more. The point of this article though is to give you some simple tools to begin and find one that will work for you. This too can change over time. Like everything in life meditation is fluid, not static.
Set a timer if you have time constraints. After the meditation is over, don’t jump up and go, go, go. Allow yourself a minute or two to “get back into your body”. It can be a mind-altering experience and you want to honor that.
Start small, with just one minute and build your meditation muscle. After a week, move to five, then ten, etc. Ideally 15-30 minutes a day is a good number to strive for. You will be floored at the benefits you will receive but even one minute a day is better than zero!
~By Kimberly Anne©
Safety is the biggest “issue” with nomading, especially for women, the LGBTQ+ community and POC. And by “issue” I mean that it’s the topic that everyone in your life will worry about. I’m not saying that safety isn’t #1 or that there won’t be issues but this is something I will address now and, most likely over and over again along my adventures.
Last night after work something scary happened, which is what prompted me to write this. I was leaving work and going to the dumpster in our parking lot in order to throw away a lot of trash. I work in healthcare so getting rid of trash in a timely manner is important. Some things may be infected with Covid but I don’t know for sure. I went to the dumpster like I always do but this time there was a homeless man sitting on top of it screaming. He was violent and pulling at the dumpster lid, cursing. He jumped up and down on it with a flowing litany of obscenities. My nervous system went on high alert. I threw all the trash into my car, jumped in and locked my doors. I drove away and called the police to make a report. But I still had to go back to work in order to lock up. When I pulled back around and parked illegally out of his line of site he was still raging and screaming. I was shaking and terrified. This man appeared to be on drugs or/and mentally unhinged. I waited, watching and after awhile he lay on the ground. I ran back inside my office to lock it up and by the time I left he was gone. The dumpster lid was broken and there were massive holes torn in the two recycling bins. Imagine what he could have done to a human body with that rage.
Still shaking I drove home. In the shower I thought about all the extreme times I’ve been faced with violence from strangers.
Feeling unsafe, as a woman, is the norm. I took a wonderful Alison Armstrong class called “Understanding Women” in which each woman brought their significant other. The teacher asked us all, “how many women here have felt unsafe, like your life was truly in danger in the past month?” Everyone raised their hands. She said, “men, please look around the room.” They did. Then the teacher said, “how many women have felt unsafe in the past week?” Everyone raised their hands. The men looked around. “How many have felt unsafe in the last 24 hours?” Everyone raised their hands. The men looked around. “How many felt unsafe this morning?” Everyone raised their hands. The men looked around and my boyfriend at the time turned to me and asked, “is this true?” I assured him it was. He was shocked. This is the world we live in as women. We are always on guard because we have to be. It’s not right or wrong, good or bad, it’s just a fact. We have to be hyper vigilant and hyper aware all the time.
I’ve been in a lot of scary situations, mostly not when traveling but two in particular that I can recall when I was.
In the tiny town I live in, there are at least a hundred homeless people. We have great weather and great services. Many of them are drug users and violent, individuals. When I owned a clinic on the main street, the homeless robbed me (multiple times), they threatened me and my patients and staff (multiple times), they even hid in my establishment and refused to leave. It got so bad that the police suggested I carry a gun. But in each of these situations and many others, I didn’t confront anyone. I left and called the police.
The only times where I was very close to being physically hurt were the few times I stood up for myself and every single time I was with a man/men (or woman/women) who were supposed to have my back. None of them did. Ever. Maybe they thought I had the situation under control even though it never felt that way to me?
Twice in movie theaters when I was young I yelled at people to stop talking. Both times (in different years with different “men” at my side), the person got increasingly aggressive and threatened to physically hurt me.
The scariest moment I ever dealt with (from a stranger) was stopping at a liquor store on Haight Street in San Francisco when I lived there. I had just completed a very thorough self defense training. A man came up to me and started verbally harassing me. My husband (now ex) and five other friends of mine were inches away. I puffed out my chest and said, “I’m not afraid of you.” And the huge man leaned down, got directly in my face and whispered, “well you really should be. I can make you disappear right now and your friends…” he waved toward them (they all ignored the interaction and none came to my aid) will never see you again or have any idea what happened to you.”
That was a huge lesson for me. I learned that NO ONE has my back, especially a “big, strong” man. I also learned I should keep my big mouth SHUT!
Except that apparently I needed one more lesson. Twenty years later I was in Venice, Italy and a homeless man was harassing a group of my female friends. They kept ignoring him and he grew increasingly aggressive. I yelled, “Basta, basta.” (Which means “stop” and is what my Italian friend told me to yell in such situations) And he got closer to me, screaming obscenities in my face. It was terrifying. My group of friends whom I had so chivalrously tried to defend did not come to my defense, not a single one of them. Afterwards as I stood shaking and almost wet myself, one of the women said, “you don’t need to stick up for me, I can stick up for myself.” More lessons learned. She didn’t say thank you, none of them did. And no one, once again, came to my defense. People don’t want to get involved, even if it is the right thing to do. Maybe they're afraid too. Maybe they believe my bravado. Maybe it's because there's a serious lack of empathy in our culture right now.
I’m not writing this to illicit a "poor me" response. I take full responsibility for my bad choices!
When I initially posted this I forgot about my time last year in Leipzig, Germany. It wasn't until I was interviewing a woman for my podcast yesterday that I remembered. And it is important to mention because of the way I handled it. I was walking back to my airbnb from an appointment and it was a two hour walk. I love walking for hours each day when I travel. It was a national holiday so the streets were packed. I had my phone in my hand, looking at the directions/google map periodically. At some point I noticed a large man following me. He was very distinct looking. I stopped at the side of the street, pretending to do something until he passed. A few blocks later he was behind me again. I went down a side street and waited for about ten minutes. A block later he was behind me. I stopped and waited for him to pass me and then walked behind him so I could keep him in my sights. He kept looking behind to make sure I was still there. At some point I lost him and he turned up behind me again. I went into a restaurant, when I came out, ten, or so minutes later he was waiting across the street "hiding" behind a pole. He couldn't really hide because he was quite large. At this point I told myself I wasn't being paranoid and knew for sure he was following me. I ducked into a Jack in the Box and waited until he walked by. He didn't walk by for about fifteen minutes but when he finally did, I ran out and ran down a side street as fast as I could. I zigzagged left and right, down streets until I found myself completely alone, which wasn't good either. It was hot and I was tired and scared. I kept walking, still zigzagging away from the main street where he'd been following me and toward my airbnb and several blocks later I spotted a policeman. I told him what happened and he said if the man wasn't visible there was nothing he could do. I asked for an escort back to my airbnb but the cop refused. I asked for him to please call me a cab as I was in a foreign country and didn't speak German. He refused. So much for the police being helpful. I stood next to him and changed my appearance as much as I could. I had on a bright colored top so I threw a sweater over it, even though I was already sweating. I had on a skirt and leggings so I stepped out of the skirt. I wasn't wearing a hat so I dug one out of my daypack and threw it over my head. Then I went on my way, trying to be as observant as I could and walking/running all the way back to safety. I made it but that was a harrowing experience.
My take away: The most important thing, for me, is to walk away from dangerous situations if I can. If I can’t, I need to call the police unless I'm somewhere where the police refuse to help. I need to ignore crazy people, if I can. If I can’t, I need to try and deescalate a possible violent situation and call the police, if I can. If someone else is being verbally abused near me I can call the authorities or keep an eye open for violence and ask someone else to help them. If I'm being followed I can do my best to escape and change my appearance. I can try not to stick out in a crowd. I can wear a single earbud in one ear and listen to GPS directions instead of holding my phone in front of me like a "rob me" beacon.
Now if I saw someone else who needed help would I just turn my back them? No, I would not. It’s not in my nature. I only hope that doesn’t get me in trouble someday! How other people can just ignore someone in need, someone who is hurt or hurting, I will never understand. Nor do I want to, because I don’t want to be that kind of person, but in their defense - I have to believe they thought I could handle the situation on my own. Perhaps I should have cried out, "help me please." I do wonder if that would have changed anything.
Caveat: I hope this doesn't sound "blaming" - I think it's important to talk about my experiences so that others know that you can't always count on someone else. I'm not saying that any of these people or even the cop (who didn't come to my defense) are bad people. The "friends" made their choices based on their past experiences and even now, I don't blame or "hate" them. Would I want to travel the world with them, probably not, but I need to look at each of these incidents as a learning experience so I can make better decisions in the future. The cop, on the other hand, just taught me that I can't count on the police for help. So in the end the message really is the same, the only person who truly has my back-is ME.
~by Kimberly Anne©
I’ve wanted to write a post regarding other people’s reactions to change, no matter what that change may be, where it comes from and how I choose to deal with it.
I’ve always been the kind of person who goes after what I want and oftentimes my dreams are unconventional. My family (parents) are the opposite. They had 1.5 kids (I’m the .5 LOL). They moved into the perfect house with the perfect number of bedrooms. My father worked a full time job to support my mother and the 1.5 children. My mother was a stay at home mom. They traveled 1-2 weeks out of every year, etc. They lived the “American dream” but that’s never been my dream, EVER. (Caveat: I recently learned that the American Dream was a marketing campaign by Fannie Mae to push people into buying property!)
When I wanted to travel solo, I did it. My family thought I was nuts and naysayed me all the way there and back again. Eventually I stopped telling them because I didn’t want to deal with their negativity.
When I went back to school in my 40’s to get a master’s degree, they naysayed me through my first year. I was too old, I was giving up my “best” earning years, yadda yadda yadda.
When I wanted to get a divorce and chose to be single and not have children, my father told me that I was a complete failure.
My family has pretty much labeled me as a failure for my entire life. And yet — I’ve achieved more in my lifetime than most of them (siblings not included) have achieved in a year.
This is not a brag, it’s a fact. I don’t need to list my accomplishments, they don’t matter. What matters is that there will ALWAYS be naysayers in your life. Don’t listen to them! Listen to and focus on the people who encourage and support you!
My impetus for writing this particular blog at this particular moment is a facebook post I recently saw. Another person in my family is trying out van travel. She’s not looking at it as a full time life but merely as a way to add more travel into her everyday life. She’s very active on Facebook. Me, not so much.
She posted a few pics of her first van experience and someone in my family posted that we are both “loopy” (another word for crazy) and this negative person hoped that I would see the post and “come to my senses”.
I responded with sarcasm (“thank you for your support and for calling us names”). Yes it pissed me off but it shouldn’t. This particular person in my family has never followed their dreams. EVER. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the things they bemoan constantly. They dreamed of moving to another state, but they never did. They have lived in the same house for over 40 years and they hate it. They hate their life. They are miserable.
So what about me following my dreams is upsetting to them? It’s like a slap in the face. It reminds them of what they never did. I liken it to a using alcoholic who has a sober friend. It’s pointing out their problems, their issues, their pain and their suffering.
People are scared of change. They just are. I’m not immune to that fear but I’m more afraid of not changing, of stagnating, of staying the same. One of my favorite quotes is from Tony Robbins: “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change."
I truly believe that, plus it’s the point I’ve finally reached. And my change is terrifying other people. And their way of responding is to demonize me, call me names and point their fingers. They don’t need to be held accountable if I’m the one who’s crazy for doing something they only wish they had the guts to do.
This happens with minimalism too. And the book I just finished reading, which I highly recommend is: Everything That Remains by The Minimalists. Among countless seeds of wisdom, Joshua talks about the fear of getting rid of “things” and what non-consumerism brings up for others.
People have to question their own actions, beliefs and ways of being when other people in their lives embrace a new way of living.
It happened when I became clean and sober 12 years ago. People who couldn’t stop using naturally fell away from my life. I expect the same will happen now, it’s already happening!
When I mentioned my upcoming vanlife decision to my neighbor she rolled her eyes and said “you’re NOT moving into a van”! While I see this as minimizing, invalidating and not listening (let alone hearing), I decided to let it be a lesson instead. Don’t tell people who can’t be supportive.
My family, my neighbors and quite a few of my acquaintances are not my “audience” and by audience I mean support group—people who have the same values, ideals and passions as I do.
And that’s okay. I don’t have to listen to all the people proclaiming “you’re going to be homeless” or “you’re giving up a good career” or “you’re crazy” and whatever other fears and negativities they want to push on me.
I don’t have to accept their stories or their drama. I’m confident and secure in my choices today.
When I started writing and publishing in 2016 I had friends and family “begging” for copies of my novels. They ALL wanted to read what I was writing. And you know what? I sent free copies to almost 100 people. Guess how many read them? ONE. One person read my books. And that’s when I learned that my friends and family will never be my “audience” and that’s okay. They wanted to read a book I wrote, they may have even intended to read it, but they never did because the truth is, they don’t read the genre I write. The only thing that interested any of them was the fact that they knew someone who had written a book.
It happened again recently when I posted a cover for a new book under a new pen name on facebook. I got dozens of requests and yes I spent the 2 hours it took to send my book to a new set of 50+ people that I knew would never read it. And I was right, only one person read it and not the same person as the first time, someone else. I only make the download available for 2 weeks so if I person doesn’t download it and tries later, they’ll have to ask me for it again. It’s been well over a month and no one has asked. I check the downloads periodically and less than 5% ever even click on the link. Are people all talk? Kind of. Should I hold that against them? If I want to, but that won't change the outcome and takes up too much of my time and energy. Instead I move on, keep writing and producing and growing while focusing on the positive. I gave those friends and family what they thought they wanted (access to my books) and they failed. Once they’ve failed, they never ask again :) It’s an important lesson for all of us. 1. Don’t have big expectations and 2. Don’t ask a friend for something they’ve written that you’re not going to read!!!
I hope this inspires you, helps you in some way. I hope you can forgive those in your life who don't understand you or emotionally support you. I hope you can fill your life with encouragers instead of naysayers. But when you encounter naysayers (and you will) know this is their baggage and not yours. You are living the dreams they didn't have the courage to live. Follow your dreams and if you can't find support from anyone around you, please reach out to me! :)
~ by KA
***I do include affiliate Amazon links in some of my posts. If you click on books or products I recommend, and purchase them I will receive a few cents but it will not cost you anything extra. You are not required to purchase anything through any of the links I provide! But if you choose to, I thank you!
I need to do a “quick” post about the travel aspect of #vanlife. If you don’t like to travel, you can still live in a van if you have somewhere to park it long term. But the idea of van living sprung from travel. Setting yourself free on the open road, finding your rhythm with nature, exploring hidden wonderlands and discovering yourself. There is a 2015 movie based on a true story about a lady who lives in a stationary van. It’s not unheard of but that’s not why I’m doing it and that’s not what my blog, instagram, youtube videos and podcast are about. (The latter two are in the works for the not-to-distant future)
I am not a spontaneous person. Weird, right?! But neither do I accomplish each daily task at a specific time without deviation. I prefer a solid plan for my daily goals, but my plan seldom has specific times set for each task. For example, I may have a list that says: finish chapter ten in book x, write a blog post for penname y, create automation sequence for newsletter z. But it doesn’t look like: 9am to 10am = x, 10am to 12:30pm = y. I’ve tried this and I’ve failed. Lists without times work best for me.
I usually have so much on my list to accomplish each day that I have to prioritize and put the most important items first. This means the items toward the bottom are often carried forward to the next day. And the joke among my friends is that I usually accomplish more in one day than most people accomplish in a week. It’s true, but that’s how I’ve always been.
Working two jobs for 40 years without stopping has made me proactive, disciplined, productive, motivated and focused. Not every single day. I have my off days just like everyone, but 90% of the time. This is not to brag, I’m not actually sure it’s a good thing. I haven’t scheduled (and therefore haven’t taken) time to stop and smell the roses, have fun, explore… I haven’t even been to the beaches near my house! I live 40 minutes from some of the most beautiful beaches in my state and I love the beach. I’ve lived in this particular location for 10 years and I still have yet to explore it. That’s not something I’m proud of.
When I travel I am spontaneous. When I travel, I explore. I still manage to work when I travel too, but I don’t fill my days with x, y and z between 10am and 2pm.
I walk out the door of whatever hostel or airbnb I’m staying in and I go where my little feetsies (size 5) take me. Sometimes I’ll research a highly recommended place to eat (right before I walk outside) and I’ll head there, but more often I’ll walk until some place catches my eye.
There are definitely some things I loosely plan. Like when I was in Barcelona, I was told I had to buy tickets for La Familia Sagrada months ahead of time or I’d never get in. So I did. But you know what? I still didn’t get in! I made a mistake and bought the wrong ticket for the wrong day! But in that moment, standing in front of Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece, I simply did something else.
When I travel I point my boat downstream and go with the flow. It’s the ONLY time I do this!
Before I leave for a vacation, I always plan where I’m going and when because when traveling through Europe (my preferred destination) and having a set amount of time, you kind of have to.
So I will know that from this date to this date I’ll be in Prague and from this date to this date I’ll be in Berlin. I print out a calendar and I write in how many days I’ll be in each destination and which day I’ll travel to the next. I sit with my laptop and book all my accommodations and plane fares. I don’t book most train rides before leaving. Those I book when I’m there, usually the day or up to a week prior. Sometimes I book them after arriving at the train station. If it’s a particularly important train ride to a smaller town, like the time I flew from Spain to Italy and then had only 5 hours to get down to Cinque Terre, I’ll book ahead.
So what does my perceived vanlife look like for me? I plan to work on the road. Currently when I’m not at Job A which takes place in an office, I’m at Job B, which takes place at home. And I AM disciplined. I work from 10am until 4pm, five days a week and from 9am to 9pm, two days a week. I used to work 12-hour days, all 7 days a week, but 2 years ago, I decided that having a life was more important. Most days that I work from home (my preferred job/passion of writing, editing and publishing) I also exercise for 90 minutes, walk/run the dog for 30 minutes, make dinner and eat for an hour.
When I’m on the road, I know that everything will change. But I still plan to work for six hours, exercise and eat well. At night instead of watching TV or playing video games, I will probably be planning my next day of finding the local grocery store to purchase water and somewhere to park and sleep the next night. While I plan to be somewhat spontaneous while living in a van, I will have to stick to a schedule too.
There is a method to my madness. I will follow vanlifers before me and go south for the winter and north for the summer. I’ve already written out a list of where I want to go and a rough idea of when. For example, I’ll be moving into my van in June 2021 and for the first 3 months I plan to explore the Pacific Northwest and visit friends there. I have friends who live in Southern Oregon all the way up and through Seattle into the San Juan Islands, and they all know I’m coming to visit! I have a rough idea of where I want to go and what I want to see in the fall and then plan to visit family and friends in Southern California for the winter. But I know plans can and will change, and I love that. The idea of shedding my belongings, all this STUFF, and hitting the road to the great unknown is my anecdote to the 40 years I’ve worked my life away in stagnant rooms.
A new beginning. Forced spontaneity. Moving out of my comfort zone. Facing fears. Yes, please! Where do I sign up?
I’m going to talk a little about my thoughts and process/ing — please note that this post is “all over the place”. I’ve tried to make it coherent and reign it in, but it got away from me.
I’ve wanted to minimize my life for years. I started obsessing over minimization books, podcasts and devouring every tiny home everything starting fifteen years ago. When Marie Kondo’s book came out, I threw out and re-organized. When Tiny House Nation was born on HGTV, I was glued. I watched YouTube videos and followed Jenna Spesard in her Tiny House, Giant Journey road trip. I even joined meetup groups and went to monthly meetings for people who wanted to downsize and start a tiny house community. But I never did it. I was too comfortable in my life and too mired in my lifestyle. Another author I know who downsized pointed out the “identity” component to me yesterday. How our “stuff” defines our identity and I wanted to write a blog post on that because in my opinion it’s not just our “stuff”, though I definitely agree with that too.
Back to process. When I found out I was losing my job/career and my apartment, the first thing I did was spend three weeks on the couch (it’s a very comfortable couch), in a deep depression. Maybe it was the five stages of grief. Maybe it was fear. Maybe it was both. But I’m solution oriented. The twelve steps taught me that and after acceptance I went into problem solving mode. This led me to make a list of my options and spend the next few weeks researching every single one of them. I could move into a van or an RV. I could move somewhere else in the country, but I didn’t want to leave my (then) partner. I could buy a manufactured home and even qualified for a loan but if I went that route I wouldn’t be able to save a penny, ever. I could purchase a tiny home (I found a friend of a friend selling one I could afford) and either rent a space to put it, three hours east from here for $700 a month or try to find someone willing to let me live on their land. I spent several days going down this rabbit hole, as well as exploring the option of buying my own land to put it on. In the end I learned that it’s illegal to put a tiny house or RV or 5th wheel on anyone’s land anywhere (that’s not a designated RV park) in California.
I could move several hours east or north from where I live now. I should say here that where I live now is the most expensive place to live in the entire United States, even more expensive than Manhattan. Not only are our rental prices comparable, although we do get more space, our food is three times as much. I can’t eat a breakfast in a restaurant, eggs, bacon and coffee for less than $50 for two people. And that’s breakfast, the cheapest meal you can find here. I can’t shop at our local organic market for less than $200 a week for two small grocery bags.
Yes, I know I could choose not to shop organic but I’m a healthcare professional who has studied nutrition for fifteen years and that’s not a choice I’m willing to make.
When I talked to my (ex) partner about all my options I was clear that my number one priority was to remain close to him. After all, it was the best relationship I’d ever had, and I was in love with him. Last week he broke up with me because he couldn’t handle the instability of my future. I don’t understand his decision and it isn’t one I would make when someone I care about is going through a hardship. But really, do I want to be with someone who isn’t emotionally available? Nope. I don’t want to be with someone who doesn’t have the capacity to be there for me.
This change opened up my options. I took a long and hard look at my life. My shattered dreams. Everything I’ve ever wanted to do and what I’ve accomplished. When I decided to go back to school in my forties, to change my career and get a master’s degree, I did it. When I decided to write and publish 11 novels in 2 years, I did it. And the list goes on. I’ve never been one to back down from a challenge or a dream.
But the two dreams I’ve had for forty years and have never acted on are: to travel the United States for at least a year and to travel Europe for a year+. And so, there’s really no better time than the present, except there was a better time to do this before Covid. And yet Covid was the kick in the ass I needed. Covid took my life (all our lives) and turned it upside down.
After more research and talking to friends who have done something like this, I’ve decided on #vanlife. A converted van is pretty and I need my environment to be clean, organized and pretty. A converted van can be parked anywhere. A converted van gets better gas mileage than an RV. I don’t HAVE to park in an RV park. I don’t have to search for and pay to get my tanks emptied and find electrical hook-ups.
And so the journey before the journey has begun :)
Hi, I'm Kimberly Anne! (aka K.A.)
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