thinking of buying a van for vanlife

Yesterday, I Almost Bought A Van. Almost.

[et_pb_section bb_built=”1″ fullwidth=”off” specialty=”off”][et_pb_row][et_pb_column type=”4_4″][et_pb_text _builder_version=”3.0.106″ background_layout=”light”]

Yes, almost. But it’s not about the fact that I didn’t buy the van, it’s about what I gleaned from the past day’s shenanigans and how it’s opening my mind up a bit.

It’s also about how quickly this came to be, and how quickly it imploded, and the nuanced reasons behind that implosion.

Sometimes the Universe puts something just within reach, just close enough for you to go through all of the motions, and then pulls it back.

Wait, don’t you like having a house?

So at about 2pm Friday I was sitting in my house, searching online and all of the interwebs for vans. No, this isn’t what I was supposed to be doing; I was supposed to be working.

Let me back up. Earlier in the morning I was having coffee with my old friend Spencer, the founder of the 24 Foundation here in Charlotte (they help people fighting through cancer…), which I used to do all of the branding and print/event design for. See, I like Spencer because I think we’re a lot alike in the way our minds work.

He’s extremely entrepreneurial as well, having started many things in his life, and he’s always grinding. He’s also awesome at connecting with people and networking, but not in that weird creepy way of networking. He just seems to easily connect with all sorts of people very authentically. I admire that and wanted to absorb as much of that knowledge as he was willing to give.

Long story short, he wasn’t fully aware of the major life changes I have recently been making, but when I let him in, he was stoked for me and had tons of great advice, anecdotes, and even connections or folks for me to look at and learn from. But the biggest nugget was that…

“…you just need to get out there and get on the road and go; start connecting with people across the US where they’re at and start collaborating on stuff!”

He was absolutely right, and that is the plan.

This came up because we were actually discussing my brick and mortar; the house that I’ve owned for about nine years. We were talking about how the many things that I have to do associated with that house, like chores, mow the lawn, upkeep, investing, and on and on, were sucking hours out of my days. I’ve been pondering for about six months now that I need to get away from it somehow, and monetize it to be cash flow positive and not time suck negative.

I thanked Spencer for catching up, and promised him that, for my own good and the good of this new chapter, I would spend some time that day going back over my options for the house and what my short term plan was.

Fast forward four hours.

I have been going down the nomad, potential vanlife path for well over a year now, so I’ve done my research and understand a lot of the pros and cons, but don’t actually know too much short of a lot of Youtube videos on how to make the build happen. So I’m not really surprised that my afternoon ritual took a sharp left.

I actually didn’t get back to my computer until about noon, and by 2pm I had found a beaut, Clark!

A dope-ass 2003 Ford Econoline 350 with a 6’-8” clearance on the inside due to the high-top roof.

Clocking in at 187,000 miles, it was middle/high on the life span for these types of vehicles (which often run upwards of 250k-300k miles pretty easily), but at $4500, it would likely do the trick for a couple years. The interior roof height is a dealbreaker too, since being able to stand up completely and move around is paramount.

thinking of buying a van for vanlife
Well, at least I could always be an Uber driver for the church picnics?

After a few phone calls, I was set up to drive two hours south from Charlotte, NC to Columbia, SC by 7pm to take a look and a test drive. That gave me about 2-3 hours to deep dive the research into that particular van make and model, which I already knew a lot about, as it’s one of the go-to vanlife staples out there. Equipped with private seller vehicle value printouts from Edmunds and KBB, and some other resources, I headed south.

Reality checking with a friend.

On the way down to Columbia to look at the van I called a longtime friend of mine, whom was actually the host on my first couchsurf many years ago, to get her thoughts.

An avid traveler herself, in the past she’s traveled in a van with her then boyfriend, a few dogs, and a cat, so she has some street cred here!

She pointed out that of all of her friends, I was definitely one that she would come to if she needed help researching pros and cons and ins and outs of a decision. She said that she knew I’d been going down this road for a while (over 10 years she reminded me…) and that she knew I’d informed myself as much as I could, but at some point I just needed to take the leap instead of continuing to plan.

That escalated quickly!

A bit later, at 7pm, I pulled into the parking lot with the big white van; it was hard to miss.

That thing was huge!
(That’s what she said?)

We’re essentially talking about a 17-18’ long tenement on wheels here, with more than 11’ of depth, almost 6’ of width, and over 6’ of height in the cargo/back area. It ran well, looked super clean, had no visible rust or fluids…and after about 30 minutes and a test drive down the highway we were talking financials.

We agreed on a compromised price due to my research, then planned on making the drop the next morning. Yeah, I hadn’t planned on buying a van, and I had no idea at that point how I was going to get that thing back to Charlotte after the transaction in the morning. A long 2 hour drive back to Charlotte and a lot of urgent phone calls later, and my buddy with a 9 months prego wife was up for the morning ride. Yeah, her literal due date was Sunday…

thinking of buying a van for vanlife
“So when did you get the tenement on wheels?” — Clark W. Griswold.
“Oh that? That there’s an RV.” — Cousin Eddie

That de-escalated even more quickly. (Sad trombone.)

Here is where the knowledge bombs and whatnot start coming in and you can learn a bit about these types of transactions. Essentially, in NC you have to have a notarized title to get anything done at the DMV. Other states are much more lenient, including SC. I knew this because I’ve lived here for about 15 years, but I also did my research when I got home Friday night to fully understand what I needed to take care of the next morning.

Once we got to Columbia around 9am, I started calling my bank locations in the area to find a notary on for the day; not an easy feat on the Saturday of a Memorial Day weekend. I found one, but when I mentioned to the seller that we needed to meet at the bank and do the notary thing, there began to be some holes in the plot, and the seller started backtracking a bit.

Now, I still don’t have too much reason to believe there was anything shady going on, but the bottom line was, if I couldn’t get a legit notary signing off on that clean title, then we had hit a deal breaker.

We had arrived about 30 minutes early, so the seller wasn’t there yet, and we were chatting by phone. Three to four phone calls back and forth with the seller on trying to figure this out and many conversations with my good friend along for the ride, and I had to pull the plug. The seller met me with my deposit, we shook hands and wished each other good luck. If he hadn’t wanted to give me the deposit back I really had no recourse, and would have had to live with it, but luckily he assumed some responsibility for the situation. (There are some details I’m leaving out here, of course.)

That the fuck, Universe!?

Don’t misunderstand my minimal prose and lighthearted tone about the buy falling through; I was definitely bummed. That’s a super fast roller-coaster ride of emotions over a short amount of time.

Was I ready to buy a van? Hell no.

Was I planning to be ready? Yes, at some point I was planning to be ready, but in reality that moment would never come.

Making another major life decision in a short amount of time was just something I would never truly be ready for, and trying to fool myself of that would just impede progress.

That is kind of the reality of tough decisions or change and the fact that you have to just go for it sometimes. Bottom line; you’re never going to be ready.

You have to be as ready as you can be at the moment of decision, then just go for it and hope that the Universe, the man upstairs, luck, destiny, or whatever you want to call it, is on your side. If not, be smart and mitigate your situation or losses and learn from it all.

So in this instance, I can sufficiently say I was nauseous a few times over that 18 hours, didn’t know whether it was the right decision to choose to buy, didn’t necessarily have the money set aside, questioned the transaction and pulling out of it, and came out feeling OK in the end.

You’re a sneaky little bastard, Universe.

I’m vanless. But that 24-hour ride created some serious expansion in my brain. Here are just some of the epiphanies I had along that way and since:

Again, I’m never going to be ready.

Buying or selling a house, a vehicle, or moving to a city, or anything in between is likely never going to come with 100% warm and fuzzies. There will always be second guessing, so just get comfortable with being uncomfortable and make your move.

Just get comfortable with being uncomfortable and make your move.

Go with your gut.

This one’s tricky, since sometimes it might just be indigestion–then you end up with a van. But seriously, if it seems like a good choice and you’ve gone through the “what’s the worst that can happen” test and passed, then go for it. And if your gut says something’s wrong or just not right enough for you to move forward, then act accordingly. I only lost a day of my life, but I learned a lot and feel OK with it.

Thanks gut–glad it wasn’t just indigestion.

Sometime the things we justify show up as super hypocritical to our end game.

My 2015 4-door Jeep Wrangler is pretty bad-ass, and I really do love it and Jeeps in general, but it’s costing me $480 a month. Now understand that I live super lean, but somehow I’ve justified that large expense for a couple years now since I got rid of my 200,000mi+ old-ass 2-door jeep. No longer.

Through this brain-spansion I’ve realized that the justification of that cost just doesn’t make sense, and I’ll be moving on from the Jeep soon for something less cost intensive, likely without a payment, and which allows me to travel even more comfortably. Yes, likely of the tenement on wheels variety.

Reality: I can always buy another bad-ass jeep down the road.

I still want a van.

Yes, I’m already tired of the “creepy van guy” jokes from my family and friends who don’t understand why I’m heading down this road. I still get a bit bummed that most of the folks in my life don’t quite get why I’m making the decisions I’m making. But I have to keep in mind that this is about me, and what I need to do to make myself OK with the choices I do or don’t take at this juncture in my life.

I think the freedom that it will afford me will be liberating, and the difficulties and abnormalities of vanlife will expand my being in a way I can’t imagine or plan for in advance.

almost bought van vanlife ford e350Showering, sh!tting, and where I do them may be an issue.

Showering is tricky. Shit happens, and sometimes in the woods. Not knowing where you’re staying from week to week might be stressful. Vehicles break down. They can get broken into or stolen, and my “whole life” will be in there. Many things can go wrong.

Now, let me flip around those potential negatives and look at them a bit differently. These are all things that make me uncomfortable and a little fearful to think about, and you’re likely cringing yourself, but they’re also things that will force me to grow and learn and deal with uncomfortable and difficult situations.

I think that’s a positive for anyone in life; pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone so that you can grow.

Onward and upward.

Now what? Well, now I keep doing what I was doing, but with some new goals. Re-evaluate my current and future vehicle situation. Look at my housing situation and what to do about this investment short/long term.

Continue to research and compile resources for building out a van if or when I decide that’s the right choice. Continue to challenge myself with why I do or do not make decisions. Is it fear based? Is it knowledge based, or lack thereof? Am I just over-thinking it?

What’s the worst that can happen? What’s the best that can happen?

Hope this one helps you so see a bit of the thought process that I go through with things, and the reality that you will likely never be able to be 100% cushy about any major decision, and that’s OK. And if you haven’t ready about the moments leading up to this one, check out this other Oh Shit gut check roller coaster transcript.

Catch you on the flip side.


Related Posts