People often ask what inspired us to live in a van and to set out to travel the world. For as long as either of us can remember, we’ve wanted to see it all, travel for a living, experience the world’s varied cultures, climb mountains and find the most beautiful views. Despite this longing, being able to do such things every day seemed like a wild pipe dream. How could anyone afford to do that? We certainly never thought we’d be able to.
For us, the move into #vanlife all started with the wonderful Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. The film chronicles two guys who call themselves The Minimalists as they tour the U.S. and promote a lifestyle that is centered around decluttering your life, living more authentically with less stuff, connecting on a deeper level with your family and community, and “using things, not people.” It’s a poignant insight into modern society and culture: how we’re conditioned from the get-go by profiteers of one ilk or another to want more and more stuff. To the point that we’ve become full-time consumers who believe that owning lots of nice things is a mark of success and new stuff will bring us happiness. We consume reflexively, but as our possessions fill our cupboards, garages, and then storage units, they force us into more and more debt. We end up buying bigger homes within which to store everything, find ourselves stressed out by it all, claustrophobic from the deluge of clothes, trinkets, and knickknacks, and bogged down with crap that we hardly ever use. I think everyone can relate to the feeling of stuff being everywhere, and who doesn’t love it when a good spring clean has been completed and everything is neatly hidden away behind closed doors? It’s cathartic just not having to look at it.
Well, the film really hit home for us, and walking out of the movie theater, I turned to Morgan and asked her on a scale of 1 to 10 how seriously she wanted to move to Bali tomorrow. To pack everything in Colorado in, sell or donate all our belongings, jump on a plane, and try to find a simpler life out East. Morgan answered “9/10”, a little sheepishly and slowly, trying the idea on for size for the first time — we agreed!
For the next three days straight we talked like we’d never talked before — nonstop, feverishly, with such excitement yet so tentatively (are we crazy?!). We explored the peaks and valleys, the pros and cons of escaping the 9-5, live for the weekend, rat race lifestyle neither of us was really all that satisfied with. And what minimalism meant to us. What we found through our conversations, spurred by the film, was a new take on success. A version we could both get on board with. Who doesn’t want to work less and travel more? We realized that a commitment to simplicity, to minimalism – being ok with having a lot less stuff – would allow us to pursue our dream.
It hurt a little having to walk away from the bocce court we’d just built in the backyard; to quit good jobs; to empty our wardrobes, cupboards, and crawl space and sell or donate 95% of our belongings. And it wasn’t easy giving up the safety and security of living in a home we owned. But we found that getting rid of it all truly opens up so much space for the mind, body, and soul. And moving into a van is the most liberated either of us has ever felt.*
Once we sallied forth on our new journey, everything seemed to fall into place, and events began to occur in a bizarrely serendipitous fashion. The timing of each step was perfect. We bought our van on July 4th (Independence Day!). We went under contract on our house two weeks after putting it on the market, negotiated an offer that was good for us and felt like a good deal for the buyers too, and closed on the sale within a day of our ideal get-out-of-dodge date. All in all, it took about six weeks from our decision to pursue van life to the moment we were watching Denver fade in our rearviewmirror. We’re both a bit hippy-dippy when it comes to serendipity, and think you have to listen to the messages that come from the universe and follow their course. They haven’t sent either of us down the wrong path yet, and the more you open yourself up to them, the more you find them everywhere.
We’re dedicated Minimalists now, and will be for life. In our humble opinion, it really is the only way to go.
*We need to recognize how lucky we were to have had the means to buy a house at the right time and to see its value grow quickly. And to work in professions that allow us to work remotely. Not everyone is as fortunate, and without that, none of this would have happened. Quitting our full-time jobs, buying the van and building it out, getting debt-free — none of that would have come to pass otherwise, and we are very aware that finances are the main thing stopping more people from doing this or their version of it. There isn’t a day that goes by when we’re not highly thankful for our lives. The only thing we can encourage others with dreams similar to ours to do is to try and stop accumulating debt (especially because of ‘stuff’), to save and plan towards the dream, and to keep an eye out for that winning lottery ticket that could just present itself. And jump on it if you get the chance.