One month in — August 31, 2015

One month in

I’ve been living in the van full time for one month now.  Here are some lessons I’ve learned.

  1.  It’s hot in the van!  Even if you’re in the shade.  Even if all the windows are open.  Even if it’s not so hot outside.
  2. Ice melts fast!  Even in the heavy duty ice chest I invested in (though much better than the cheap one I had, and totally worth the investment).
  3. Those glad wannabe tupperware things…. not waterproof!
  4. Organization organization organization.
  5. Nobody really notices you!  You only think they do.  It’s like when you’re a teenager an you have a little pimple… you think everyone sees it and points, but really no one does!
  6. Don’t worry so much about where to sleep.  It’s a waste of gas!
  7. I really need a better source of power inside the van.
Handy tips — August 26, 2015

Handy tips

  1.  It turns out that laundromats are great places to wash more than just clothes. Some of them have small restrooms. And there is usually an outlet somewhere. No one cares what you’re doing there, and you can read or watch a Netflix movie. And hardly anyone is around on the week days.
  2. Be careful where you park!  Trying to maneuver your van out of a tight spot, when someone has parked directly behind you and directly in front, is a pain in the ass!
Close Encounters — August 18, 2015

Close Encounters

I guess it was last Thursday night… I had parked at a great place to sleep.  It was one of those streets where every car parks with the right wheels up on the curb, which balances out the van, and makes a completely flat, even sleeping space.  It was quiet and peaceful, and I fell asleep easily.  In the middle of the night I was woken by red flashing lights and a bright light that came through my window.  I thought “here it is! This is the moment that the police will knock on my windows and ask what I’m doing!”  So I waited for the knock, and ran through my head what I would say.  No knock came… still flashing lights… still bright light coming through my window curtains, and still my heart beating heavily.

I waited for what seemed like forever, and still nothing!  Let’s get this over with!  I need to sleep!   I even, very slowly parted a curtain for a brief second, and I could see them out there!  They were right behind me!  And nothing.  After about a half hour the lights went off and they left… never disturbing me even once – at least not on purpose!  Eventually I managed to go back to sleep.

On reflection, I’m thinking that one of the houses called the paramedics, and they were there for that, though I don’t really know what happened.  All I know is that no one seemed to care that I was sleeping there – if they even knew!

Last night (Monday night) I went and parked at a place near where I’d parked before.  I moved a couple times because the first place I tried to park, someone was walking a dog, and there were kids near, and I didn’t want to cause any alarm for anyone.  The second place I parked was a favorite, but a person in the house came out and was adjusting the garbage cans and saw me sitting in the drivers seat.  I was going to stay anyway, but decided – why take the chance!?  I moved on.

Finally I parked next to the side of a house, back from several apartment garage spaces, and I was quiet and moved as little as possible while trying to prepare myself for bed.  Finally I got settled in.  Then, a loud bus type vehicle pulled up beside me and parallel parked behind me – backing into a space where it barely fit.  It was loud and it’s lights were bright!.  I heard them talking and laughing while still able to see lights from the vehicle through my curtains in the back.  After a few minutes of this, I finally parted the curtains a little to see what was going on.  They had interior lights on, and they were setting up to sleep for the night!  No stealth!  No quiet, no… hoping no one sees them… it was very obvious!  Then they quieted down, and they, and I went to sleep!

I woke early in the morning – they were still there – and I drove off as usual.  The interesting thing to me was that I’m always really cautious about stealth, and I drive a vehicle that, at least somewhat, blends in.  Theirs…. not at all!

I’m really glad both of those things happened, because, now I really know that I don’t have to worry so much.  Seriously!  There are a lot of people sleeping in vans and motor homes and buses around Berkeley, and no one does or says anything about it!

I will still be quiet.  I still don’t want to be noticed.  But I will sleep in peace, and not worry so much about where I park now!

Joys of the City — August 10, 2015

Joys of the City

This past weekend turned into an amazing experience of discovery for me.  Although I am living in my van, I don’t like to drive it everywhere so I take the bus.  For one thing, I have a bus pass that is paid for by my job, so it is free, while driving the van would be a gas expense and likely a parking expense.  In addition, the streets are narrow here, and my van is big (compared to my car).  A third reason is that I don’t feel compelled to be home all the time ( and don’t want to – it’s summer and the van is hot during the day), so being out is best, and I have a lot more time on my hands.

What I would have done previously, is leave my apartment, drive to my appointment, parked, paid…whatever… and driven home.  And then I’d have sat at home, on the computer or playing my computer game.  I would have also had the stress of traffic to negotiate, making it a less than pleasant experience.

What I did this weekend was I left the van parked, got on the bus and went to the appointments.  On Friday I had a doctor’s appointment.  The bus exchange station is right in the middle of a nice shopping area, so on the way back, I got some lunch, did some window shopping, and really spent the whole day just wandering around the city along my bus line.  I did the same to a different area on Saturday when I had a dentist appointment.  On Sunday I had a haircut appointment, and I arrived about 45 minutes early.  It was in an area that I wouldn’t usually go to, but when I got there, I discovered they have a farmer’s market on Sunday mornings.  So I wandered around the farmer’s market, got a basket of strawberries and ate them, and then went to my hair appointment.  They were the sweetest strawberries I’ve tasted in the season, and sitting on a bench in the shopping area and just enjoying them, made the experience that much sweeter.

Basically I discovered a city I only half guessed at before, and it felt incredible!


Notes on sleeping — August 4, 2015

Notes on sleeping

I learned a valuable lesson about sleeping last night.  I’ve been saying for a while that I needed to find flat places to sleep rather than an incline – even a slight incline.  Last night drove that point home for me.  I parked on a street – great location!  Quiet, and all that I could hope for.  However, the street was slightly rounded so that the passenger side of the van was observably lower than the driver side.  I could feel this slope when I lay down, but I was comfortable enough, so I decided to just work with it.  That was a mistake!  The gravity pull caused me to experience pressure points that I’m not used to during sleep, and though I was able to fall asleep easily enough, I woke fairly frequently with pain at those pressure points and had to readjust myself.  This morning, sitting at my desk, my mind isn’t clear and my body feels stiff.  Now I am realizing the importance of finding the perfect places to park and sleep.

I also have another thought… I could put a large piece of plywood under the mattress that could be raised at one end if necessary.  That’s a thought for the future, but for the time being – I just need flat spaces to sleep.


Freedom — August 3, 2015


It’s been five days now, and I have no regrets at all!  I don’t worry about where I’m going to sleep too much anymore.  I haven’t been disturbed, but have slept peacefully each night.  It’s been quiet during the night, and I’ve gotten better at my evening/night/morning routine.

Things that can use improvement include not eating out so much.  I’ve found this to be a little more difficult than anticipated.  For one thing, in order to use a restroom in the evening to prepare myself for the night, I feel like I need to buy something.  This puts me in a place to have an evening snack at Starbucks.  Last night, I just ordered passion tea though, and that was fine, it’s just that I don’t want to spend an excessive money on these kinds of things.  The idea is to save money so I can do the things that are important to me… and that doesn’t include Starbucks.  Tonight I might try just using a gas station bathroom, but these are usually much dirtier than the one at Starbucks.  I don’t know… maybe it’s worth it to buy something small at Starbucks.

The eating out problem is compounded with a need to charge my cell phone in the evening.  This is also something I can do at Starbucks.  Both of these problems will be somewhat ameliorated when I get some way of having some power in my van that doesn’t use my car battery, and when I get an ice chest.  I’m planning to get a high quality ice chest, which is why I haven’t done it yet.  They’re quite expensive.  Also, I don’t quite understand about house batteries in vehicles yet, which is why I haven’t purchased anything to date.

Another issue is that during the week, I need something to do between the time I get out of work and the time I park to sleep.  What I’ve been doing is sitting in my van in a parking lot at a strip mall and playing a game on my phone.  This wasn’t my intention. And it is this that leads me to needing to charge my phone at Starbucks before sleeping. I’m sure that things will shift and I’ll settle into something more meaningful as I become adjusted to this life.

I did end up getting a storage space.  There isn’t as much room in the van as I anticipated, so I’m planning to stop by the storage space to choose what I’m going to wear for the next week on Fridays.  I’ve got the shower thing down, because there is a gym at work – I work at a University – and it opens at 6:00 AM.

This is all a learning process, but I’m still really excited about it!  Maybe I’ll be inspired to write a real blog rather than just talking about my experiences.