Van Life Guide: Not All Motor Oil and Roses.
Sitting under the stars atop a rock overlooking a moon-lit forest of Joshua Trees was the perfect time to discuss the pains of life. Six years of city life were taking their toll on my girlfriend and I. At twenty-six years old, we’d spent the entirety of our young life either striving for success in school or in our careers, and everything was beginning to lose its magic.
On that special February night in Joshua Tree, it was obvious to us both that a change was needed. Losing yourself in nature delivers a unique chance to revisit life with fresh eyes. A Joshua Tree doesn’t try to be a Joshua Tree, it just is. The coyotes and crows don’t strive for anything, they rely on instinct and simply live for every moment. When you can step back from the stress and anxiety of human life, it allows you to see what needs improving.
This was 2015, #VanLife had yet to be a popular hashtag. These were the early days of the modern outdoor movement, and both of us were highly passionate about nature; a world we’d felt too disconnected from after many years in Los Angeles. By some divine intervention, I stumbled upon the book “Walden on Wheels”, a memoir by Ken Ilgunas. A hero to anyone with debt — Ken set out on a three-year quest that took him from New York to Alaska, where he embraced frugality inspired by Henry David Thoreau while working odd jobs to clear his $32,000 in debt. It was his goal to avoid accruing further financial obligations while attending Duke University. Accepting the challenge he opted to live in a van — parked in the campus parking lot. He embraced the essence of Thoreau’s “Walden” while dodging campus police and enduring the challenges of a confined space. “Walden on Wheels” was published on May 14th, 2013 — Ken is one of our generation’s original van life legends. He found promise in the lifestyle far before anyone ever made a dime as a #VanLife influencer.
I saw my van on May 14th — two years to the day since Ken’s book was published. A full-circle moment that, like the book itself — is forever printed on my mind. A 1988 Ford Econoline with a…