Project Vanlife: a Life for a Living

So… you’re going to live in a car? Yup, that’s what it basically comes down to – even though I hope it’ll be much more than that.

I’ve dreamed of owning a VW bus for years but you know how it goes. One day…

Life happened, I travelled, I didn’t have the money. Still, my heart beat a little faster each time I walked past a VW van that was parked in the streets or when I drove past one on the highway. I could relate to the drivers and their weird, authentic smiles as I went past them, usually at a significantly faster speed. Over the years, I had dreamed up an entire “Euro rally” with friends. Where we’d start and what we’d need, the rules and the equipment of each bus. A few years went by and, while my plans had progressed to the smallest details of our trip, I was still missing the most essential part of it: the bus.

There are moments in life that are truly magical. Moments where something changes – the atmosphere, the light, the angle from where you look at things. And all of the sudden the answers to the questions we’ve been brooding over for months and months seem clearer than ever. It was in a moment like that that I realized what I really wanted and also what I didn’t want.

MEET EDDIE

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Eddie and I were brought together under somewhat common circumstances: a rather unexpected blind-date one Tuesday night in late September, in a deserted parking lot two hours from home. I was excited but careful not to get too excited, afraid of my disappointment should I return home empty-handed like before. After all, the bus had to convince not only me but also pass the functionality test designed by Ronny, who had stood by me patiently whenever I sent him the link to yet another clunker I wanted to check out. (Hint: our definitions of “clunker” didn’t always match.)

“What do you think?” We had crept around the bus in silence, touching parts and ticking items off a list I had internalized by then.

“This one’s fine,” he said eventually, his head re-emerging from the engine compartment.

“What?” I felt my jaw drop.

“Yup, this one’s fine.”

Unable to figure out how to unlock the radio I sang snippets of my favourite songs as we merged onto the now empty highway leading north. Every now and then my voice would crack with involuntary bursts of laughter, and I rolled down the window, inviting the cool breeze to both calm my mind and fuel it further. I held onto the steering wheel tightly as my eyes darted from the road and back to the dashboard of my bus – oh, the rare potential of the unexpected!

Of course Eddie still needs some fixing up before he’s ready for a life on the road. Being sixteen years old by now, he has some flaws and imperfections. He needs an all-round safety check-up of his engine and transmission. He needs to become homey. Furnishings and equipment. The list is long. But he is mine and I am euphoric.

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A LIFE FOR A LIVING

So that moment, the one where things became so clear to me… I was sitting by one of the windows of the café I worked at during the summer, looking out at the harbour that was tinted in a soft orange and pink. The summer was going in full swing, once again flooding this little town with families, bikers and water sport enthusiasts. I was happy to stay here, not just for a week or two but for the whole season. I spent time on and in the water, I hung out with friends, I wrote and read, made plans, yet every now and then I started worrying about the future. What was I going to do with my life once the summer came to an end? How was I going to make money? I had talked to enough people to know that a 9 to 5 job wasn’t an option. After all, why start something you already knew you’d quit sooner or later? I wanted to write. I wanted to travel, to explore the world and find my place in it.

And that, I realized as the sun sunk towards the horizon, as it set the deep blue water ablaze with light, is exactly what I should be doing – it’s exactly what I’m doing now. I bought a bus just like I had always dreamed I would and I’m turning it into my home. Shari, Eddie and myself – we’ll hit the road, and I’ll write. I am now officially a fulltime writer, offering freelance work to companies and magazines.

There are so many things that I don’t know the answer to. Where I’ll be in five years, if things will work out the way I hope they will, if I’ll always feel restless or if I’ll find a home along the way. What I do know is this: Life has never been more challenging, promising, encouraging or real. I have a feeling. And sometimes, that’s all you can – it’s all you must rely on to make things happen.

 

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