Vanna's insides

Vanna's insides

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.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Beauty Finds Her Way. Always.

I'm resting cross-legged atop my van on a calm, dark road at the edge of the world --- or maybe it's only the edge of Vancouver Island, but you'd be hard-pressed to identify the differences.  The night is warm and my iPod sits unplayed somewhere beneath m perch, because tonight it is the ocean's playlist tempting me with her beats.

I feel free.  Employment has been spotty over the past three months; and though not my reasoning for adopting the lifestyle, certainly a fact made easier by its inception.  I feel grateful.  I am so well supported and cared for by this city and my community of loved ones.  It was my libation-indulging friends who provided the cans I returned for this morning's coffee, and a girlfriend's home that I cleaned for Vanna's gas top-up today.  Though my consumption has eased recently, my needs continue to appear and be met.

Warmer days have meant leaving the windows open at night which has done wonders for the humidity levels.  Condensation build-up throughout the night caused me to be concerned about the development of mold which for the time being seems to have been remedied.  I've also discovered almond milk as an alternative to dairy (an alternative that doesn't require refrigeration).

Monday, April 28, 2014

Things to Think About

Rite of passage for the young vandweller... Being rejected because of your circumstances... and mold.

Yes.  That is correct.  I was dumped because I live in a van.

I think.

However, because it was only the second date, it may not really constitute a full-on 'dumping' I 'spose.

Also?  Mold.

Today marks the beginning (hopefully not of the end) of my certain to be ongoing battle with mold.  I tore my bedding apart to discover black spots forming on the wood platform of my bed.  Am now in the research phase.  Will be sure to update y'all throughout the freaking process.

And also?  Girls bestfriend: memory foam.  Have been sleeping like a baby for a few nights now since purchasing the mattress of craigslist.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Perspective, Maybe?

I've been offered a position in which they'd like me to live onsite.  I applied with awareness of that requirement, only knowing that I have the freedom for that to be a non-issue.  I'm realizing though, that being offered a place to live, though not a con, I'm not viewing as a perk of the job either.  My current home is neither a result of circumstances, a means to an end, nor a sacrifice/compromise.  At the end of every day: I am home.

Additionally, Quinn and I have now made the park a part of our weekly routine.  She returns when she is in need of the loo.  It works rather well for both of us.

And, I've started dating again.  I've chosen to keep my current circumstances to myself initially.  After three first dates, no one has proved themselves ready for the reveal that is my home.  Some of my friends have opposing views on this... mostly the ones who A) do not live in a van, and B) are in a stable relationship.  So essentially, they can take their oppositional views, and suck it.  Namaste.  

Saturday, March 15, 2014

March Update

So I've been living in a van for two months.  I really don't think of it anymore, it just is.  I am working a corporate job and it's going well.  One of my colleagues found out about my living situation, we went together to pick something up and it was kind of unavoidable, I didn't love the idea of him finding out, but he was cool with it.

I don't want to jinx my self, but in the two months, I'm yet to encounter any problems with authorities or parking.  I think it was definitely a wise decision going with the incognito minivan instead of a camper van and I keep her as innocuous looking as possible.

Also, you'll learn pretty quickly what establishments mean when they say "restrooms reserved for paying customers only."  They are generally saying the restrooms are for paying customers OR those who look like they could pay, so even my pajamas now are fairly respectable looking, just in case I need to make a mad-dash for the nearest establishment.

Denver Hayes?  A solid friend to make if you are a corporate lady van-dwelling: collared shirts, wrinkle resistant.

I find that parking under streetlights is often a safer bet, because then no one notices any flashes of light that may escape your window coverings.  And also, my goal for March was no parking tickets (after the debacle that was the entire month of February) and so far so good.  I've been diligent with sign-reading, metre-paying, and spot-switching.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Just a few little thoughts

Yes.  You are living in a van... and hard as you may try and avoid it... you will eventually hang an Ani Difranco poster on the ceiling.

Some common misconceptions about van living:
1.  Parallel parking with a cat is not easier than not parallel parking with a cat, despite what the myth will lead you to believe.  It's kind of like how having one kid is a lot of work and you assume that having a second kid will be twice as much work -- BUT it turns out to be 100x the work.  You know.  I assume.  I have a cat, after all, not two kids.  BUT I imagine parallel parking with a cat is SIMILAR in difficulty level to parallel parking with two kids.  Do you see what I'm getting at?

2.  Your life is not perfect.  HOWEVER it will probably be better than anyone else's that you know.  SO.  When you meet the unavoidable roadrage-y drivers at 9 in the morning who could potentially take your life over a parking space (one in which you have clearly signaled you are about to pull into in every single fashion that north American society has deemed necessary as well as a few that haven't been), let them have it.  They do not live in a van.  They do not have a life as high on the perfection scale as you.  You can at least cede the parking space.  Really, you could let them have the parking space every single day for the rest of their working life, greet them with balloons, a coffee, and a home made cake from your best friend's grandmother every single morning, and your life would still be exponentially better than theirs... So give them the parking space.  The lady in front of them is pulling out anyways.  You can park there.

3.  You'll think it's cute and kind of endearing in a clueless and naive kind of way the days you deem it unnecessary to spend at least 15-30 minutes on general upkeep/organization/cleaning of your space.  Then you'll go at least three days before you forget your resolve to never do such an idiotic thing again that increases the amount of time it takes to accomplish any task 10 fold.  Then you will (endearingly) repeat the process.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

When You Live in a Van

When you live in a van...

You may be forced to slow down--because rushing in tight spaces kills any and all drive to stop and smell any flowers and often, that’s how spills happen.
You may one day forget to pack a bra when headed to the gym to get dressed, and you may realize: you prefer it that way.

Your homie/best friend/and resident lifepartner, Quinn, may grow bolder, attempting to venture beyond the van’s limits… And although this adds further stress to your life, you secretly cheer her bravery and uncageable spirit because she always comes back.
You may hurt yourself and your feet by squishing them into high heels for your job, feel sad, and be forced to be honest with yourself as you rub your battered sole/soul in the evening.

You may forget what having a bathroom to yourself feels like, do not fret.  Go to the gym on a Friday night…  Essentially, that will be the same thing.
You will lose any modesty you held around nudity and your body.  You will understand the appeal of going topless, you will applaud the naked bodies around you, all ages and shapes, that forgo the private change stalls for simplicity and ease’s sake.

You will earn your rest every single day.  You will become familiar with the night’s sounds, so much so that your earplugs which you’ve needed since University Residence will now become unnecessary.  You will scare your parents.  You will “BLOG” for the first time.  You will lie to employers…  For the first time, you will forget you own pepperspray.  The streets will no longer feel like dark threats, but homey, vacant rooms for rent.  You will stop explaining yourself, because it makes no difference, to you, whether you can or not.  You will not feel special, but you will feel honest.

You will worry your brothers, and maybe, write poems about them for the first time.  You will become diligent about litter box upkeep.  You will find and appreciate warmth like never before.  You will be surprised and confused by all the love being showered on you.  You will worry about the unfairness of your own luck and blessings.  You clap your hands in excitement on the first of every month when a rent cheque doesn't go through.  You will become an expert at purging and culling.  You will forget how important time to yourself is, and then?  You will remember.

You will turn down offers to sleep on other’s couches, you will feel incomplete when away from your own bed, you will go no where without you homie/bestfriend/resident life-partner, Quinn. You will be happiest in the moments without radio, ipods, phonecalls.  You will relinquish your data plan, feeling grateful when you find WiFi communities, and peaceful when you don’t.  You will turn off your phone a lot more.

You will time and time again wish your life on everyone you come in contact with.  You will write less, but breathe deeply more.  You will see the water daily.  Your love of blankets and cuddles will only increase.  You will consider it a blessing in disguise anytime you lose a superfluous thing like jewelry that was taking up space.  You will forget about meal “times” and will only follow your body and her needs.  You will get a phoneplan that lets you call your mom and best friends more.  You will cherish your surroundings, and build courage in exploring them.  You will see femininity and masculinity in everything and everyone.  Your own luckiness will scare and confuse you.  You will let go of many many things, and you will hold on to so many ones.

When you live in a van, you will live.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Parking Tickets and Late Night Creepers

Well, in the past two weeks I've managed to accumulate 10 (giver or take... actually no, literally 10) parking tickets.  In my life, I have never before received a parking ticket, but apparently Victoria is harsher than most cities (apparently parking infractions are the city's sole source of revenue), and I also began work this week and, it would seem, have lost the ability to correctly read and comply with city parking signs.

At first, the tickets were causing me distress, then I began to see them as a game being played between myself and the 'meter-readers,' and this was simply their way of saying 'hi.'

(Note to future van-dwellers: when your fiscally conservative father asks about van living and tickets, jokingly tell him you only received one valued at $20, then assure him you have since learned your lesson.)  (Note to future van-dwellers who start a blog and send their blog's address to their fathers: don't.) (I'm just kidding, Dad.  I've only received one ticket, valued at $20.  And I have absolutely learned my lesson.)

I have officially become a professional, who dwells in a van.  Every morning I rise, pee in my pail, head to the YMCA to shower, don my suit and heels, and head to my office.  So far?  It's going along swimmingly.

Working again has affected my sleeping patterns, I'm having trouble putting the job out of my mind at the end of the day, so I was pretty worn down this week.  Last night I slept for a minuscule 13 hours, and awoke in a state of bliss that was only amplified when I turned on my wipers to four tickets under the blade.  I was flattered that the city of Victoria parking violation enforcers cared so much for me.  Truly.  (Not truly.)


One other incident of note, one night I was tucked in, all cozy-like, and had just drifted off -- still in the zone of not quite full asleep -- when around 2am, some hooligans were coming home from the bars and (even though I was parked in a fairly residential neighborhood) were having some kind of altercation, and someone hit my 'bedroom' with some part of their body, causing a bang and me to jolt awake in a state of fear.  They had some sort of short conversation before running off.  Nothing of the like had happened before this night nor since (that was at least a week ago).


Last thing...
Quinn took off yesterday.  I was pretty concerned that that may be the end of her van-dwelling experience.  I was transporting some furniture for my office and left the door open by mistake in front of the building.  She scampered off and explored the bushes and grasslands of the apartment complex across the street.  I set out a bowl of cream and treats for her to coax her back, but I was mostly concerned because I didn't know what she would try and return to: I had to move the van to an appropriate parking space half a block away (lest give the parking bastards another point in the game) and she'd never been to my office before.

For over an hour I would catch glimpses of her across the street, and even the neighbors got involved in trying to win her over (I wished them luck in their endeavor).  But ultimately, I just sent out a prayer to the universe, because I had to get going to a meeting.  And, lo and behold, it started to rain and the little kitty's sensibilities were threatened causing her to race back to the van's awaiting open door to use her own facilities (opposed to squatting in the dirt and rain like any common stray)... where she then indulged in a dish of the finest whipping cream the local Indian Cuisine restaurant could provide.

Til next time,

Pam (Van Dweller)
Lady Quinn (Reluctant Van Dweller, but van-dweller none-the-less)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Victoria: A lady's main squeeze

Who's to say who chose whom...

Victoria (YYJ) has been romancing me all day, giving way more than I've given back. I knew she was my lady, but I guess now I know I'm hers as well...

I've had two rough nights in the van.  Terrible sleeps, lumpy bed, achey joints; so today, instead of finding a couch to crash on, I've spent the day re-wooing Vanna.  Getting re-acquainted with my girl.  I splurged at Value Village and bought a mattress from a pimped out chaise-lounge to even out the lumpy bits that have been causing so many painful nights/mornings/days for my hips and back.  I cleaned her top to bottom, inside and out, gave her a good vacuuming and scrubbing and am now feeling like I'm out of the doghouse for having abandoned her to the cold during that week of 'house-sitting.'

Something you'll notice once you take up van-dwelling?

You live every day.  

Please re-read that sentence ...  I can wait.

If you already have been, seriously: power to you.  I was not.  But now, I am...  And it's wonderful.

I took a nap under a rainbow today--just because I could.

Happy Valentines Day...

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Back At 'Er

So for the past week I've been sleeping in a friend's guestroom while they were out of town.  "Housesitting" is the official term, however really I've been hiding from the cold...

It's amazing how quickly one adjusts.  I'm feeling a lot of the apprehensions I was feeling initially (all over again, after just a week reprieve), and again am worrying about Quinn adjusting.  I'm writing this post at the community centre at midnight as my cellphone charges, then I'll get out and park and get some sleep.

It's so incredible, the traps of consumerism.  I hate it, and yet I'm still reluctant/scared/nervous about relinquishing it's grips on me.  All the crap I've accumulated that serves no purpose.  All the shitty 12 dollar rings, makeup, unnecessary toiletries.  It's all so MUCH.  There's just so much to DO that really just seem hellbent on distracting us from sunsets and parks and each other and moving our bodies.  I actually kept my bikini waxing kit... really?!

It's all so freaking non-nonsensical, and yet I'm scared of giving it all up.  Not fitting in, choosing not to play the part...

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

My Mama Didn't Raise no Fool

So it's cold.  So I've decided to take my friends up on their offer to housesit for the week.  Because it's cold.  And I'm providing a valuable service.  Not because I'm a wuss and it's cold...  But seriously, it's really freaking cold.

But on my last night in the van for a week, I post this as one more reason for van living--

My office, bedroom, and kitchen view

Monday, February 3, 2014

Things to Remember...

YOU are not the odd one in the Y change rooms.  EVERYONE ELSE is strange for NOT being in their bathrobes and brushing their teeth at 7pm on a Monday.  And as you pop your zits and hear ladies whispering in a language you don't understand, feel safe with the assumption that they are marveling over your immaculate pores.

And as you are blogging on your laptop beside a lady blowdrying her hair because you need the free electricity, remember that your YMCA membership PAID for that blowdryer...


It can't be taught, I'm afraid...

Sunday, February 2, 2014

When People Think You're Pathetic...

They do extra special things for you.

Like bake you a 10lb bag of chocolate chip cookies.  And offer to run you a bath whenever you come over for tea.  AND offer to do your laundry...  I would have appreciated all these things JUST AS MUCH before vandwelling, but I continue to let people think I'm pathetic in order to take advantage of their incredible-ness.

Things you will need to live in a van:
- a van*

* negotiable, same experience can be had with a similar item

Things I've found useful to live in a van:
- baby wipes (for non-showers)
- sweaters
- more blankets than you brought
- a live cat AND a stuffed cat (for when you and the live cat are fighting)
- bungee cords (for innumerable things)
- portable propane mr. buddy heater with low oxygen sensor
- a network of couches to sleep on should you hate it
- a spare key for when the live cat locks you out of the van by walking on the autolock buttons during your fight over the vacuuming you just did

I'm sure this list will be added to over the course of this experience.  And hey, it's been over a week and still no regrets... So that's something, right?

Orange glow, bottom right?  The heater.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

People are Strange (and How to Deal With Them)

People are weird.  Those that love you will have a lot of trouble understanding the decision to live in a van and calling it a 'choice.'  In the same breath they will say, "How will you stay warm?" and "How will you keep your food cold?"


Tell them they only get to ask one of those questions.

They will say, "I can't believe you got rid of all your stuff!" followed immediately with "What if someone steals all your stuff??"

If you are female and alone, it will be much greater for people (parents/relatives) to understand, do not be frustrated by this.  Their intentions are good.  Be gentle with people, we all feel threatened by the unknown; it is even more threatening when it involves a young female loved one--accept people's concerns love in whatever manner it comes then, leave it behind you with a smile: you are cared for, and that's nice.

Next: drive to Sooke.  Sit by the water.  Take a nap when you get sleepy in the afternoon (I used a grocery store parking lot--parked in the sun).  Sip tea at a Serious Coffee; leave you laptop, book, and journal closed.  Drive back to Victoria and head directly to the community rec centre.  Sit in the hot tub for as long as feels good.  Let the jets massage your strained calf muscles from yesterday's run.  Smile at those around you: feel confident that they get it.  Have a steamed milk at Starbucks before bed.  Kiss your cat and invite her under the covers with you.  Sleep well, you've earned it.

Friday, January 31, 2014

A Letter


Everything you are feeling right now is right.  Everything you are needing/wanting right now makes sense.  I will always hold you, love you, breathe you in.  You are strong and sweet and kind and sincere.  You bring good things to the world just by being you.  You will always have a home.  You are good.  Enough, always--forever.  Stay open and gentle.  Be sweet.  Follow simplicity, use love as your guide.  Keep trying--it's your success.

Remember to laugh.  Because it feels good, and that's worth it.  Let others see, touch, feel your soul, but don't let them take it.  Remain beautiful--because you're never not.

Rawness is good.  Scars are ok.  Deep breaths do wonders.  Participate in good-byes, they're special and worthwhile.  Dying is ok, being sad is too.  Feeling things means you're living.  Allow yourself to feel.  It's part of the experience.

If the water is calling you, seek it out.  You'll be better for it.  Say you're sorry when you're unkind to yourself.  Feed yourself bedtime snacks and chocolate covered treats.

Balloons are dumb.  Plants are not dumb.

Eat good food.  Let others journey their own ways.  It is not your weakness to have given another an opportunity to hurt you.  It takes strength to bend, courage to open, and endurance to be still.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Finding Flow

I'm not gonna say there was a urine "incident" because there really isn't any need to be dramatic, BUT there was a urine "event," if you will.  Something that is important to take note of, the standard yogurt container holds a litre of fluid.  The 26 year old female's bladder, however, can hold more than a litre of fluid...  You see what I'm saying?  So needless to say, today was laundry day.

Quinn is doing great.  We've had one serious instance of agreeing to disagree over the leash (she won), but other than that, she sleeps, walks around, pees, and daydreams out the window like a boss whilst the van is in motion.  She grew accustomed to the whole scenario almost immediately, really.

Two things that I need to be sure to pay attention to living this way are drinking enough water and getting enough sleep.  I try and bring my travel mug with me wherever I go so I remember to fill it up and keep drinking, because otherwise sometimes bedtime rolls around and I haven't had much to drink all day and no way to tide myself over til morning.  The second point of interest is getting enough sleep.  I'm a person who needs a lot of sleep.  Now I'm finding tho, that I go to bed once the streets have gotten quiet (no earlier than midnight lately) and wake when everyone else is getting up for work around 7 or 8.  I've definitely been dragging a fair bit, and am trying to come up with a better sleeping regimen because napping doesn't really work during the day.  I can't really help when I wake, and once I'm awake I realize how cold my face is and I'm then up for good, but I should be able to control how early I go to bed, so that's something I'm going to work on.
Lady Quinn: regal, ain't she?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

So, Now What?

I've always been much better at drastic changes made immediately, big alterations in life plans, rather than slowly working, day by day, to achieve my goals, and/or affect long-term change in my life. 

So now I live in a van.  And it's exactly what I thought it would be... maybe better.  Now I have to actually take advantage and put into practice all the reasons I gave for deciding to do it.

Talking to a friend today (who kindly let me park in their driveway last night and use their shower this morning), I realized that this, just like shaving my head--though a little strange--feels like a more truthful way of being for right now.  There's something to peeling back the layers that I have built up around me, the different ways of hiding I've created.  Shaving my head was an incredible decision, one that I'm so grateful for (even if I have to remind myself to feel gratitude during the current awkward growth stage).  The most obvious effects its had have been on my self-esteem, my relationship with my body and sexuality, and my way of dressing.

My body matched my personality: loud.  I received a lot of attention for my curves--from men and women, often, negative (or unjust).  A few years ago I had a breast reduction; after bic-ing my head (that's just an expression, in actuality I used my Venus-- I'm a modern girl after all), I realized that for all of this time I've been dressing in a way of warding off the assumptions often made about me and my "big rack."  Shaving my head gave me the freedom to explore my femininity, sexuality and way of dressing because all of a sudden I felt like the assumptions (slut/tease/what have you) no longer applied, because in my mind, men would no longer find me attractive without hair so I was safe to explore fabrics, shapes, cuts.

I don't know where van life is leading me yet, but hopefully given some time, the results will be equally as beneficial...

After dozens of times being asked why I shaved my head, the answer came out spontaneously and (100%) truthfully: to get to know myself better.  I think this will be somewhat the same.  So here's hoping I like what I find, ya?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

When Everyone Else Jumps off a Cliff...

You should too.
Because they obviously know what they're doing, and you do not.

I spent three nights (seriously, I have no idea if that's accurate, I've truly lost all track of time) screwing around with the damn window coverings, when in fact, if I'd just followed every single blog/article on vandwelling regarding window coverings I wouldn't have had to go through all this nonsense in the first place.

Yesterday was 11 non-stop hours of going from store to store gathering the supplies necessary to comply with the solution I've known all along and thought that I knew better seeing as I knew nothing about vandwelling and most people who do don't know what they're talking about.

I couldn't find Reflectix anywhere in the city (which is the brand that all the forums and blogs recommend for window coverings for insulation and privacy) nor a product like it--BUT I was able to find (for cheap) those aluminum foil heat reflective blankets, which I'm sure is all Reflectix is anyways, grabbed a ton of cardboard from Home Hardware, and black garbage bags from Dollarama (my original ingenuous solution to the bitch that is window coverings) and went to it.

I laid all the crap out on the floor of this semi-empty, well-lit parking garage, and cut and duct-taped like a fiend for several hours until I'd finished the 5 covers.  The front is still bare at night, but I just had to call it quits last night.  The entire day was dedicated to this ridiculous craft time, so I was mighty exhausted since the night before had been such a shite sleep.  Also, I took advantage of the electrical outlets and charged my phone and laptop so that when bedtime arrived I curled up in the back with a movie streaming from McDonalds free WiFi.

No regrets.  Vanna keeps me on my toes.  Still just putting in a lot of hours getting things right, looking forward to when things just flow.

Monday, January 27, 2014


When I woke up and, for about 1 1/2 hours after that, I hated absolutely everything.

I cannot speak highly enough of getting one's period during their first week of vandwelling.  TRULY: more fun has never been had.


Yesterday was a day of firsts: first time peeing into a yogurt container (Ladies!  Do not invest in the female urinal products, SO unnecessary); first time washing my clothes in the YMCA's sinks.

I couldn't sleep last night, and my "ingenuous" solution to the window coverings still seems to need some work.  I imagine I won't be able to talk about the damn windows for awhile because of the magnitude of frustration it is causing to my nights.

Last night I took advantage of the parking lot lights of the 24hr Thriftys and read for an hour.  Struggled with the cold again last night/this morning, the vandwelling sites reccommend Reflectix for the windows to keep the heat in.  Will investigate.
Victoria... I guess you aint so bad.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


The hardest part of this entire process (which began mid-December) has been telling people about my decision/current circumstances.  It's really hard for people to understand, and they seem to want/need more from me than I can offer them.  Why am I doing this?  Well... I think I'll have perfected my response in a few months, but for now, I may still be trying to figure that part out myself.

But some of the reasons, are as follows...

- having an apartment to retreat to encourages hiding from the World, which in turn creates loneliness
- the lifestyle i was so privileged to grow up with is no longer something i am financially able to sustain
- the lifestyle i was so privileged to grow up with is no longer something i am morally able to sustain
- the amount of space i had encouraged me to buy more and more things to fill it/maintain it/decorate it
- i had a messy roommate
- i was feeling a little trapped/stuck/locked down
- this feels like an adventure
- it excited me
- it will force me to live with intention (actions must be planned out, it it nearly impossible to realize you've just spent three hours surfing the internet/scrolling through facebook/reading blogs)
- i will become a part of a city in a way i've never managed to before (i always have to be somewhere)
- i will simplify my life

Dinnertime blogging
Considering the reactions I've received to the news of living in my van, I'm surprised by how not extreme the adjustment has been; granted, it is day 1...

I feel supported and taken care of by my city and my community.  I had originally planned to get out of Victoria this afternoon in order to really bond with my situation, become used to/comfortable with my new circumstances, but there is nothing about it that feels unnatural or necessary to adjust to.  I had been most worried about it feeling like a last resort, as though I was stuck with returning to the van at night, but it really hasn't been that way at all.  It feels precious and special and all mine... which it is.
People's reactions/confusion/fear/assumptions to the news are hard.  I often feel sad when I'm unable to make people feel about my life the way I feel about it, but it's something I'm becoming used to the more times I tell people.

Quinn is responding great to van life.  I feel much more confident about her ability to adjust now.  I bought a leash to test out (which will be another blog post all its own), and will take her a-wandering soon.

Til next time...

Bon appetit!

It's Official...

Yesterday was the first time the thought "is this crazy" passed through my head.  The subleter moved in and I moved out, and I started to question my thought processes.  Mostly, I was worried about Quinn--is this fair to make an animal live in a vehicle?  That was what I was struggling with most yesterday.

When I left the house with Vanna packed to the hilt, I headed to the underground parking at the mall to take advantage of the shelter from the rain and the overhead lighting.  I organized and reorganized, and became acquainted with my space.  Quinn also became acquainted and figured out where and what the purpose of the new litter box was.

I was really tired last night, hanging out with a friend and using his facilities to take out my contacts and wash my face and brush my teeth.  I headed back to the van which was parked in the ideal spot around 12:30 and drove around the suburbs for close to an hour in extremely heavy fog before i realized that the suburbs are not ideal for vandwelling due to the lack of street parking, and for whatever reason, the suburbs felt gloomy and not inviting.  I headed back to the exact same spot I'd vacated an hour earlier, parked there, and set up my new window coverings (an ingenious and simple solution: black garbage bags, dollar store Velcro stickers, boom).  It actually kills me to think how frustrated I was over the damn drapes that original night.

The Weather Network tells me it got down to 2 degrees last night, with a 'feels like' temperature of -1.  I did need the heater which I'm bummed to admit.  I'd been hoping to return it to Home Hardware for the $76 refund; but I awoke at 7:30 this morning with a very cold face and a kinda cold sweatiness all around.  I uncovered and cracked the box open to figure out, what turned out to be, an incredibly simple system--it just took me longer than it should have because I was just functioning as "Morning Pam" who just isn't as quick as "Any Other Time of Day Pam."

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Maiden Voyage (sorta)

So.  Last night was the first night in the Van (or, Vanna, as she will now be referred).  Quinn (my cat-child) and I didn't peace out of our apartment for our test run til the anxiety was at a bare minimum---which meant lying on the couch with Morgan (roommate) until 2am when I finally felt courageous enough to follow through with the plan.

I am not officially homeless til Saturday morning, but I wanted a safety net for my first night so I could work out the kinks before everything was for real and, potentially, awful.

Quinn and I hit the road and headed up to Sydney -- a 30 minute drive from Victoria.  We took a wrong turn, got lost, and almost arrived at Tsawassen, the Ferry Terminal, by mistake.  

I had forgotten to use the washroom before leaving the house, so I was debating between finding a 24hr place or utilizing the yogurt container I'd set up by my bed for emergencies. After trying a faux-ly lit up gas station, I found a 24hr 7-11 which gave me use of their facilities.  (I will have to try out the yogurt container method another time.)  

I parked around a few apartment buildings, out of the streetlight, and off the main strip at around 3am.  Then the frustration kicked in.  The plan originally had been to hang curtains from sticky hooks I'd stuck to the back 4 corners of Vanna, however they proved useless.  Two had already fallen off and the other two unstuck as soon as I looped one of my mauve drapes over it.

I used safety pins stuck into the roof material as plan b, and I think without a cat-child this could have worked a little better than it did.  I was getting ready for bed in the dark, and Quinn kept pulling down the curtains, and all the extra fabric was draped over everything and kept getting pulled down in all the mess of things.

My space is super organized, but my down duvet is so damn big that my once spacious living and sleeping quarters now felt like it couldn't fit me AND all that feathery softness.  I'll have to set everything up better later today, see if I can come up with a better system.

I was too tired to set up the litter box, so I used an ol' cat-trick I picked up in the army: prayer.

Once I was able to actually lie down, what struck me was the silence.  I felt more still than I have at bedtime lately, and I think that could be the lack of electronics.  Not going to bed with my phone and/or computer at hand.  It felt surprisingly calm.  I had expected to lie there stressed, and a little scared the first night, but I fell asleep quick and slept pretty soundly til 8am.

It went down to 4 degrees last night.  I didn't used (or need) the propane heater I purchased a week ago.  There were times in the night I'd have to re-cover up body parts which had grown cold and unexposed, but mostly I was pretty ok temperature-wise.

A lady leaving her house woke me up this morning.  I lay perfectly still, certain I shouldn't move lest she alert the authorities to a squatter in her driveway. I tidied up my space a little, grabbed some drive-thru (stress eating, really wasn't hungry that early with so little sleep), and headed back to Victoria.  

The broken gas gauge on Vanna only tells me FULL or EMPTY, and it flashed when I got back into town.  Seems like I just filled her up, so I'm not sure if I believe her communication style or not, but I'll check my records to see how many km that last tank should have lasted.  Vanna breaking down or lasting is my main concern.  She really wasn't taken care of, and even though driving was really smooth on the high-way, it'll be a while before I really trust her to carry me through.  

Quinn dealt pretty well.  The method of prayer held up so well that come morning, when I actually set up the litter box for her, she refused to acknowledge it... which stressed me out to no end.  When we got back to town, it was only on the walk between the car and the apartment that she started to freak out and try to get away.  But driving is pretty funny, cause she sits on my lap with her head against the window.

Driving buddies.
Probably gonna work out the kinks of window coverings and bed comfort tomorrow, and then Saturday will be my first official night of vandwelling.

Here goes nothing...