Now I lay me down to sleep — June 30, 2015

Now I lay me down to sleep

This morning I drove around Berkeley a little at 6:00am, and I think I have a good idea of some places I can sleep.  I saw other vans parked in some areas.  There weren’t so many that it’s van city or anything, and the real reason I noticed was that I was looking for that specifically.  A year ago I would never have noticed them – just another vehicle on the street.

So now I’m not really worried about where I’m going to park to sleep as far as stealth, or not being harassed goes.  In fact, the only thing I’m worried about at all now is my cat.  Oh, I have a minor thought about being woken by police, but that’s mostly my Dad’s voice in my head – not mine.  I’ve done all the checking, looked at the law…I’ve even written the police department.

There is a story written by Huffington Post about “Sandy” who sleeps next to her car because it’s not legal to sleep in your car in Berkeley.  However, the story is very old – 2009 I think.  I doubt Sandy is sleeping next to her car now.  The police have said (got this info from their website, but for my life I can’t find the same page again… I’d just stumbled upon it earlier) that it’s not illegal to sleep in your car in Berkeley at this time.  So, I”m gonna go with that.

One of the things that I had never thought about before though, is that Berkeley and Albany seem to be a little hilly!  I’ve never noticed that before, because the hills aren’t steep or anything, but it does seem that my quest for a flat place might be more difficult than my quest for a place that I won’t be noticed.  Having camped plenty in the past, I know that any noticeable incline can make for a less than ideal sleeping space.

I have to say that I’m really looking forward to this adventure!  I can hardly wait till August 1st when my rent will go into my pocket… and then to some initial van preparation expenses.

Advertisements
On Meaninglessness — June 29, 2015

On Meaninglessness

How is it that I’m still struggling to find meaning in my life?  For so long, I’ve felt that it was just around the corner… when I finish my education, pass my exam, get the right apartment, get my degree, get that job, lose 20 pounds…. then my life will have meaning.  But when I achieve those things, they are empty.  Oh yes, our social structure seems to value them, but all of that is a lie on a personal level!  For me it’s a lie, and it only fosters a new sense of longing and hopelessness!

What worries me is that, maybe moving into my van is just another futile attempt to find meaning.   I don’t really know.  But it’s not so much that I expect to find meaning in moving into, and living in a van, but that I am hoping to eliminate all the trappings of false meaning by abandoning what convention tells me I need in order to live a valuable life.  My life, all by itself, is inherently valuable, because human existence is valuable!   But value isn’t meaning necessarily.

Here is what I do know… having an apartment doesn’t give my life meaning.  Having the stuff that fills up my apartment doesn’t give my life meaning.  My job doesn’t give my life meaning.  I now work 40 hours a week at a job that has no meaning, so that I can keep making money to pay for an apartment that has no meaning, in which I can accumulate stuff that has no meaning.  It’s worse than having no meaning, because it is a living tomb.  I am metaphorically buried in my stuff, and imprisoned in the walls of my apartment!

It may be that I continue to experience meaninglessness while living in a van.  But I do know this:  I do find value in traveling.  Traveling is the one thing that I thoroughly enjoy in my life.  I long for it!  And when I do it, I mourn its passing when it’s over, and my routine life takes over my consciousness once again.  I know that people have to have money to live.  It’s the way the world works.  So for a little while longer I have to work.  I have to feed myself and pay for my van registration etc.  It also costs money to do the thing that ultimately has meaning for me.  I don’t see any reason AT ALL why I should pay my earned money to rent instead of paying for travel.  Now that that option has become a reality for me, I don’t see any more reasonable path!

 

Wake Up! — June 28, 2015

Wake Up!

I had a dream a couple weeks ago. It was a nightmare actually. I was running… Trying to get away from some thieves who were going to shoot me.

I was inside a house that was falling apart. It was huge but really old, and there were rooms inside rooms. It wasn’t my house, but belonged to a woman that I didn’t know. I was living there and she was gone.

Anyway, the guys were chasing me, and I was trying to hide by going deeper and deeper into the rooms inside. And I was barely able to stay ahead of them. I tried to call 911, but I couldn’t.

I finally ran into the innermost room and there was a teen – maybe 18 – a boy who was sleeping. Somehow I knew that he was the son of the owner. He was deep asleep, and I shook him and shouted “wake up!  Wake up!”  It was clear to me that he’d been partying and was on drugs. But it was imperative that he be conscious now because the situation was dire, and he was the only one who could call out for help.

I barely managed to get him awake, and I got him to understand the urgency of the situation.  And he managed to use his phone and call for help just in time. I woke up before help arrived.

Whenever I dream about a house, I know that the house represents the self. In this case it was a borrowed self that was falling apart.

According to Jungian psychology, the soul is the opposite gender of the person, in my case an animus. A male soul. Whenever I have dreams that are meaningful like this, and I encounter the inner male, it’s always a young male who is weak for whatever reason, and unable to act. Sometimes it’s a little boy who is too young to act, but in this case he was a teen who was sleeping and was drugged.

My interpretation is that I am living in a false self, but it is crumbling. The truth of my life, my soul, is buried deep within. It’s now time to wake up!  And it’s imperative that I do, or the day to day existence that haunts me, the struggles, and the meaningless stuff, will surely kill my spirit. But there is hope. The soul was wakened and was able to act.

Leaving my apartment is leaving my false self. Stopping my life from being subject to the meaninglessness of working to pay rent to keep working at a job that further has no meaning – this is crucial right now. My inner soul is awake!  But just barely!  I will not keep existing just so that I can exist – if that makes sense!  It’s my life! I am taking it back!  I’m going to live!  Wake up from this hideous dream now!

 

Hopes and Fears — June 26, 2015

Hopes and Fears

Since I’m not yet in my van, and all I have is my imagination and the vicarious experience of reading others’ posts, I figured it would be a good time to post my hopes, fears, and my visions so I can compare them to the actual experience and have that all documented here.  How will this experience change my life perspective?  That’s what I’m hoping to capture, as well as the day to day living logistics.

First, I’m hoping that it will be the final move that helps me release my attachment to material things… otherwise known as “stuff.”  Where the Hell did I get all this stuff, that I think is important enough to drag around with me wherever I move!?  I imagine that releasing some of it will be painful, but I also imagine that a huge relief and sense of freedom will descend on me the moment it’s gone.

I’m hoping that I can finally escape the hamster wheel of consumerism!  Read here:  storyofstuff.org  I’m looking forward to finally not participating in this crazy consumer mentality we live in.

I’m hoping that my day to day depression lifts.  Having a chance to save my money should help, because a great deal of the depression has to do with constantly trying to make ends meet from month to month!  And then when an extra expense comes up, it sets me back again.  And doing that day after day after day…. that takes a toll.

I’m hoping to build community, because, instead of living in my apartment, and spending time being isolated there, I will be living in the world, though initially in the city of Berkeley (which I love, make no mistake there).

I’m hoping that I will be able to further refine my ideals and values, and I’m hoping to be able to deepen my compassion for human existence.  I’m hoping to be more socially active as I will not be drained by the day to day financial worries.

I’m hoping that I will feel a surge of energy due to being able eat higher quality foods.  Currently I buy organic, or try to, but I imagine that I will need to become more creative in this since I won’t be cooking at all.  I will be bringing my food to work and having to figure it out.

I imagine that living in the van will force me to be far more organized, and to know exactly where all my essentials are.  There won’t be any more searching for something I just had, that I put in a specific place so I would remember where it was!

I also know that it won’t be all roses.  I will be in a small space… and that can close in on me, but I will also be more intimately connected with my environment.

I hope that I will develop more humility, patience and tolerance.  I think it will force me to develop my spiritual self, as my material self will be seriously limited.

So that’s that!  Any thoughts about how this will change my life perspective, or stories of how it has changed others’ life perspectives is welcome!

 

House Cars —

House Cars

When I read the Berkeley Law that you can’t sleep in a “house car” I was really curious as to what their definition of a house car was because… with the conversion van, I’m not really sure if it’s considered one.  My dad says it’s not because there isn’t a sink or a stove, but he doesn’t live in Berkeley, so what does he know about it?

So I was perusing the Berkeley Police department site, and that’s when I found out that there isn’t a law currently that stops people from sleeping in their cars.  That was a big relief for me, but it did seem that they would question people with “house cars.”  So I emailed them and asked – What exactly is considered a house car?

They got back to me and simply sent me a link to the law, which I’d already seen, and that was vague, and that prompted my question in the first place.  It says a car that is temporarily or permanently fitted for “habitation.”  My interpretation of that is that “habitation” isn’t just sleeping, so I’ll go with my Dad’s answer that no, the conversion van (it only has a bed) is NOT a house car.  However, in the police department’s response to me, they did give me a very useful piece of information.  They pointed to the law, then said, “But we aren’t really enforcing that right now due to the legal case last year.”

I don’t really know what legal case they are talking about, but I think it might be the case that was brought to the 9th circuit court – which determined that the Los Angeles law regarding people sleeping in their cars is unconstitutional.  I know that this ruling about Los Angeles caused the city of Palo Alto to reverse their practice of harassing people sleeping in cars.  I considered going to Palo Alto to park sometimes (about 40 miles and across a toll bridge from Berkeley), because I did live there for 5 years, and I like it there, and I knew about their policy of allowing people to sleep in cars before I went searching for the Berkeley laws.

However, it’s pretty clear to me, from observation, that Berkeley DOES seem to regulate the locations of “house cars.”  Since finally making my plan to move into my van, I’ve been very observant.  I moved to a 10 hour a day 4 day a week work schedule, and that puts me in the streets of Berkeley to get to work at 6:00 AM.  There is an area in Berkeley on the border of residential/industrial areas that is loaded with motor homes and other sleeping type vehicles at that hour.  Clearly they are allowed to sleep there, but… the area isn’t a place I’d want to be at night.  I’m single woman, and I’m not into taking too many chances… even if I do have a bohemian spirit.

That said, I also noticed many cars along residential streets in Albany, El Cerrito and Berkeley, with cracked open windows, blacked out back and side window areas etc… indicating that someone was sleeping in them, seemed to have been parked during the night.  They can’t possibly monitor all those cars, and I don’t even know the laws in El Cerrito and Albany.  But I lived in Albany for years, and the houses are so compact and close together, and many of them sectioned in to apartments, so no one really knows which cars belong to whom – and often only know their neighbors just barely by sight.  And on top of that, Albany is safe, and there is a 24 hour Safeway there.  I’m planning to park in Albany at least some of the time.  I do think the conversion van will be a little more noticeable to police though…. and Albany police have very little on their plates so this could be an issue, and could invite questioning, but if it happens, it’s easy enough to just drive over the city border into Berkeley.

I’m not concerned about Berkeley at all anymore, so one of my fears about moving into the van has been alleviated.  I need the law to remain unenforced for a good five years though – because that’s how much longer I think I’ll be working at my job.  After that… I’ll be on the road!

Obstacles — June 25, 2015

Obstacles

Not having a van is the number one obstacle I have.  But as mentioned, this obstacle will be overcome.  I’m going to borrow my Dad’s van starting August 1, 2015.  It is a 2001 Ford e250 conversion van.  Believe me, I’m grateful to have that option, but I’m a little concerned about whether I’ll get harassed in it because it’s a pretty obvious sleeping vehicle.  In any case, it’s noticeable, and none-the-less so because it has Nevada plates, and I’m in California.

I need to not be noticed in those first few days because, obstacle number two:  I think my driver’s license might be suspended.  I’m not sure because they don’t seem to think it’s their responsibility to notify you until they have to ask for your driver’s license for some reason.  And then it’s, “did you know your drivers license is suspended”?  This is one of those problems that I need a significant amount of money to solve, but don’t have money due to having to pay high rent… waiting to move into the van so that I can have money…a catch 22 type problem.  I can solve this problem easily enough too, though, by not paying my rent on August 1, and going directly to the DMV with my “would be” rent money and paying this off.  The stupid thing is that the original ticket was only $33.  I just totally forgot about it until Nevada county was sending me a $400 plus bill.  I paid part of it already, but didn’t follow up…so I have no idea what they did about it!

Problem number 3 is actually my most difficult problem.  I have a cat that is 19 years old.  Until recently, I had two cats – her and her sibling, but her sibling died almost a month ago – a very sad time for me.  The two cats is the only reason I didn’t move into a van two years ago when my rent in Albany, CA was raised by 10% (for the second year in a row).  Mind you, my income didn’t go up by 10%.  I think it was 2%, and this is the reason that paying rent has become increasingly difficult.  OK, I’m on a tangent… let me get back.  Cat… my beautiful girl kitty… I’ve moved quite a bit, so she’s no stranger to moving.  Right now she basically lives in a room with me and sleeps all the time.  She’s old!  She does that!  If I can guarantee that my van won’t get hot while I’m away at work, or broken into, even this won’t be a problem.  One cat who sleeps is far easier than two that play and run around and meow all the time (my situation two years ago).

Now, I can guarantee that my van stays cool, and isn’t broken into IF my dad’s conversion van isn’t too tall, because I can get a parking pass and park it in the garage at my job… where I will have to go in the morning anyway, because there is a gym there where I can shower.  So it’s back to the conversion van.  And this is another reason that, while grateful as mentioned, the conversion van isn’t the best vehicle for my situation, though it WOULD be the most comfortable.  Oh, I should add that it’s a bitch to drive on the narrow streets too… and to park and back up.

Well… any advice about living in a van with pets here would definitely be appreciated!

 

Why Van? —

Why Van?

My family thinks I’m both crazy and brave.  But mostly crazy!  Why am I moving into a Van?  Because….. so many reasons!  Geez!  Where to start!

The biggest reason is that I have a bohemian spirit, and I’ve lost that somewhere in my life!  It’s the part of me that was free and carefree!  Somehow that was taken over by work and responsibility and … and… student loans! And propriety!  And stuff!  So much stuff!  Useless stuff that sits around!   I’m so … so tired of my life!  In fact, it’s really started to cause depression for me!  I get up, go to work, come home, and clean house and do laundry on the weekends!  With an apartment, I find it so easy to isolate myself!  What happened to community? I could go out and meet people, but I’m so tired after work. This isn’t how I envisioned my life!

Financial reasons – I can afford to live in an apartment.  That is… if all I want to do is live in an apartment, and spend all my income on living in an apartment, I can afford to do that!  Yes.  But is that living?  I pay my rent, my car payment, car insurance, power, and smart phone.  After those things, I have enough money to buy food, and by the end of the month I’m searching my purse for quarters to do my laundry!  Every…. Single…. Month!  That’s not living!  That’s existing so I can keep going to work, so I can keep existing!  I don’t pay for internet, I don’t do cocaine or smoke, or hire strippers, or even go to bars!  I don’t even go to the movies, or have TV or cable!  I get netflix, and watch that on my smart phone.  That’s entertainment for me.  And at the end of the month… I’m broke!  My income level is technically middle class.  However, a studio apartment in an OK neighborhood in Berkeley is $1600.  Yes, I have options…. I can live an hour away and commute in, among heavy traffic.  I can rent a single room (for about $1000) and share my bathroom and my kitchen.  Or… I can live in my van and save my money and do things that ARE living!  Guess what option I am taking!?

What makes me happy? The best times of my life were camping and traveling.  I have such fond memories from childhood about camping around the country in an RV with my family!  My dad loved road trips!  So how can I afford to do the things that make me happy?  That make life worth living?  By not paying rent!  Enter the van!

I also have “social justice” reasons for doing this.  The disparity between the rich and the struggling in our society has become so vast!  There is part of my mind that cries out against social injustice.  I don’t like giving my hard earned money to someone because that person is owner of some goods, and I need those goods for survival.  Shelter and food should not be about ownership.  I’m not sure that our current capitalist system is all that different from feudalism!  Are we not tied to our location out of the need to survive from day to day?  Do we not work to serve those who don’t have a need to work?  Certainly it can’t be described so simplistically but… to say that this does capture the experience of many of us is not so far fetched.  I am choosing not to participate.  I’ve always been a social activist, and now… I want to live that life!

Love,

Liselle!

Which Van? —

Which Van?

There are a couple minor things that are keeping me from moving into a van…like right now…. today… the way I want to… And one of the major obstacles is that I don’t actually have a van yet!  I need to get one.  I’m considering what I need, and at this point, since I still have to work and live in an urban area most days, stealth will be important.  Comfort takes a close second.  So my choice of vans will be a combination of these two things.

Originally I was thinking that stealth would be the biggest determining factor.  However, since I started planning this, I’ve been watching and looking up laws, and it seems that in Berkeley, where I work, they don’t actually stop people from sleeping in their cars.  I got this information directly from the Berkeley Police Site.  They responded to a complaint about someone living in a car on a residential street, and told the person that there is not a law against sleeping in your car at this time.

That means that stealth isn’t as big a consideration as I thought it would be.  Now, that doesn’t mean I can get a small motor home and set up camp in a residential area.  Because they do have a law against sleeping in “house cars.”  I’m not exactly sure what they mean by “house car” but I’m sure that a motor home qualifies, and I’d be harassed in no time!  Besides… I can’t afford a motor home!

In fact, I really can’t afford anything!  It’s sort of a catch 22.  I do work, but ALL of my money goes toward living expenses.  The San Francisco Bay Area is CRAZY with living expenses!  Somehow I have to stop paying rent so that I can get my van.  Now, my dad is planning to sell me his van conversion for $5000, and he’d take payments. This is what I might do at first… at least borrow it from him until I save my usual rent money to get my own van.  The issue with the conversion van is that it’s not that stealthy, and I’m not sure whether it falls in the “house car” category or not.  The advantage of my dad’s conversion van is that it already has a bed in it.  Of course, that takes all the fun of customizing a cargo van myself.  But I can’t do that anyway when ALL of my money is going toward rent!

What I really would like is a GMC Safari.  After looking at a few vans online, I really want one with at least some windows.  I’m a little concerned about safety, being a single woman, so I also want something that I can park in middle class residential areas.

Coversion van
Coversion van

The above is what my Dad’s van looks like – soon to be mine, possibly.

Anyway… any ideas or comments or advice …. it’s all welcome!

Into the Van! —

Into the Van!

Good Morning van dwellers and curious minds!

Welcome to the beginning of my van experience!  I’ve been reading a lot of blogs on van dwelling, traveling and stealth camping because I have been considering moving into a van myself.  I’ve actually been considering it for a few years.  About five years ago, I started to wonder what it would take to live on the beach in a van… what would I need to maintain my comfort?  I thought about having a gym membership for showers, parking near places with wifi, and maintaining a phone line.  This was before I started doing any research at all on the subject.  About 2 years ago, I was planning to move into a van, but was talked out of it for good reasons (will address this in another blog).

But now, I have gone beyond considering and have started on the intention and planning phase.  Once I made a decision to do this, I began searching out information on the internet, and …. Woah!!  So many awesome people are already doing this!  And they’re doing all the things I thought about!  Gym membership, wifi, etc.   There is a ton of information out there and so many interesting stories!  These stories have inspired me to begin blogging about my own adventure here with hopes that I might inspire… enlighten… help others who are on this path just as I’ve been inspired.

I like starting this blog now, because I can take you on my journey from the beginning – the planning stages, and take you through my learning experiences as I experience them.  So, welcome to the new adventure in my life!  I’m so happy to be sharing it with you all!  And of course, I look forward to any experienced advice out there along the way.  In addition, I’m really hopeful about building community through this.