Welcome inside the mind of Dan the Van Man:
A short while ago we featured fellow nomad and Maverick: Jacob the Nomad on the website. Through our collaborative efforts we were able to do an interview with Jacob asking me the questions. After 8 months of full time vandwelling I thought it'd be helpful to share my responses with you - giving you a greater insight into the realities surrounding life on the road.
1. What made you want to live in your van?
2. What are the biggest perks you’ve found to living in your van?
3. What is the biggest challenge you’ve come across, and how did you solve it?
4. What kind of personality do you think it takes to live in a van?
5. Have you had to deal with the social stigma of living in a van, and if so how do you overcome it?
6. If you could offer any advice to a new vandweller, what would it be?
7. What resources (physical or digital) do you find invaluable?
8. How do you financially support your alternative lifestyle?
9. How do you maintain relationships with a significant other and/or family and friends?
10. How long do you plan on living in a van?
Random Acts of Kindness
I was at Coyote Coffee the other day and told a guy I liked his hat - thinking nothing of it I went back to work and was soon rewarded for the compliment. The guy tossed the hat onto the counter and into the coffee stand saying “he had too many.”
Living on the road and choosing a simpler life aimed at connection - being a Maverick in a uniform society - and valuing experiences over “things” have all taught me a thing or two. There are ongoing realities I face on a regular basis with Kamala being my teacher in the game of life.
Time and time again I see people showing their true nature by reaching out to lend a hand, or encouraging one another during times of darkness (they’re sure to come) - while consistently showing a uniform love which seems to stem from an altruistic place.
"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." - Henry David Thoreau
The Need For a Common Sense Revolution:
It’s no secret we’re living through a crazy time, but I don’t think it’s anything worse than the past - It’s just elevated and accelerated thanks to the evolution of technology.
We see and hear things instantaneously - we’ve become a reactionary society that’s allowed the media to instill fear and chaos into our lives. We listen to the news and walk around half expecting the worse to happen - closing ourselves off to one another and some potentially amazing experiences.
There’s a stigma that shadows this country and it’s a belief that “outsiders” - people out of your ‘typical’ social class, group, or whatever you call it; are scary, criminals, and untrusting. When I tell people I live in a van or have intentions to travel the globe I’m met with worry and caution.
I understand the caution but I don’t understand the resistance. When you have a goal or desire in life you shouldn’t limit yourself because it might be hard and uncomfortable - rather it should drive you all the more - wanting to accomplish it while the rest of the world is busy twiddling their thumbs and accepting limiting beliefs. We need a common sense revolution.
While at the coffee shop I come in contact with around 100 different individuals on a daily basis, and I’m always engaging and mingling with them. I like it because it gives me the chance to listen to the pulse of our community - listening to what they’re talking about - the good, the bad; the worries, and the things they’d do differently.
Embracing Connection over Fear of the Unknown
People speak with a helpless pitch, especially when politics and our current president are brought up. I was laying in the van after a ride through the Mountains the other day when a few ladies walked by discussing their fears of President Trump - speaking as if they didn’t have choices or a future - fear runs rampant in our distraught and convoluted society.
I’ve tossed around the idea of listing my van on Couchsurfer so I can offer to host guests in my home on wheels. It’s small and doesn’t have a bathroom but I have a hammock, a bed, a floor, and know of all the public restrooms to use in times of need - I believe true travelers would be ecstatic for even a modest place to sleep - especially one thats out of the elements and comes with a friend.
I believe in people - I believe in you and I believe in myself. Eight months down and the truth that’s seared most into my brain is that people are genuinely good - Whenever I’ve needed help there has been someone there to lift me up. I’m constantly turning down offers from individuals who want to make my vandwelling experience a little bit easier, yet when I first set out to live in a van I was told how evil and vicious the world around me was - “don’t get killed, Daniel" - they said.
"The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time." - Jack London
As Free as a Bird in the Sky
We need a cultural revolution that starts with learning how to be patient when communicating our needs - I believe there are a lot of people out there who are unhappy about their lives but are too afraid to speak their minds - contributing to the collapse of the American Society. Our planet is inhabited by individuals first - and it’s these individuals who have to come together to make any lasting changes. We are the voice. We are the power - but none of that matters when we stand in fear of our brothers and sisters who are all around us.
We’re just as natural as the deer in the field or the eagle in the sky - it’s our minds that trick us into believing otherwise. When I see a bird floating effortlessly above me I look on with envy and passion - knowing I’m just as free as he is with his feathers blowing in the wind.
I’m speaking of true freedom thats available to everyone. A genuine form found in existence - one that takes a conscious effort to switch off the mind as you sit presently aware of your direct connection to Earth, the environment, and yourself. I encourage you to unravel the chains and embrace the freedom thats omnipotently present - the more you’re able to do so, the higher quality of life you’ll live - we only get one shot at this thing - what story are you writing?
Dan The Van Man
Is crafting a simple, sustainable, and adventurous lifestyle while living in a van down by the river - A publication for those who seek freedom through adventure!
I often find myself driving with no destination in mind.
Friday after training I jumped in the van with no plan or intention and began driving north where I soon found myself 150 miles away.
the 3 places I feel most at home within myself:
As I sat behind the wheel with no obligation on the horizon I submitted to my baser-desires and kept my foot on the pedal. I tramped to Ukiah, California where I crashed in a Walmart parking lot after grabbing a pint and socializing with the locals.
While at the bar I grabbed a beer and plopped myself in-between a group of friends on the back patio next to the fire. I learned about surrounding hiking trails, passed around stories, and felt a familiar small town vibe that reflected my hometown back in Michigan.
Eight months ago when I moved into the van it was in large part because the previous two years were spent sharing a bedroom, while paying a fortune. I saw the van as a home where I’d have a quiet space to read, write, and reenergize - oh and did I mention the perk of being a home owner for only $1,600? Yeah that played a factor as well.
The first few months of my journey were spent in isolation, and although you might perceive me to be lonely - I was far from it. The van gave me the brain space to sit back and do the things I love - to read and write without interruption.
But as much as I enjoy my books and words I’ve come to learn another valuable lesson from my brother Makwa - who’s also a rubber tramp living in his RV, passing through Georgia. My brother was the original inspiration behind my life on four wheels and continues to inspire me to this day.
He crafts handmade jewelry and calls his business: Bear Natural Connectionz - the mission being to connect with others around the globe. My brother often trades his products or a helping hand, in exchange for a story and a moment. I’d agree this isn’t the best business model if you’re sole purpose is to earn a buck, but if you believe in experiences over dollars just as we do, then you too will understand why we feel a shared moment holds greater value than a greenback.
Makwa lives his every moment to connect with others and while I still enjoy my alone time in the van he has greatly influenced my recent desire to step out and connect with the people around me.
Through it all I’ve learned that happiness can be obtained in many ways, with the greatest manifesting through connection. It’s this mindset that helped put my once shy personality in a bag - to instead unearth a brave new persona that enjoys the thrill of uncertainty when connecting with a stranger.
It’s these moments of connection that have led to some pretty spectacular experiences - whether it be my first time skinny dipping in a natural hot spring near the ocean, surrounded by a group of 30 nudists and women with hairy armpits; or a simple conversation at the coffee shop - Makwa’s helped me see how life’s most cherished moments are the ones created in the space between two or more individuals connecting with one another.
My purpose in living in a van now extends past my desire to drive until my hearts content or to retreat with words in my small quiet nook; now rather, I too live to connect and hope you’ll do the same!
Dan the van man
Dan is currently living in the Bay Area while crafting a simple, sustainable, and adventurous lifestyle - for those whop seek freedom through adventure!
With nearly 8 months of full time vandwelling experience I’m here to share my stories and insights into the vanlife through my eyes.
Todays article highlights my top 5 go-to activities for a rainy day. The past few years have left California dry due to the drought but this winter left us with record rainfall and an excess of water - at least in the Bay Area.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a casual weekender who likes to jump in a rig and hit the road for a few days or a full time vagrant like myself who calls home a place on four wheels that moves from one asphalt spot to another, we are all subject to the same forces of nature that the birds of the air and the plants in the ground are lucky to endure when Mother Nature decides to remind us she’s still the ultimate judge in this quickly becoming man-made society.
THE MAVERICK MINDED LIST: (TOP 5)
dan the van man
Barista by day, Van man by night; the vanlife is hella tight. Learning about life while rubber tramping by the river. Sharing my thoughts, insights, and experiences to a global community.
Have you ever had a moment while enjoying an experience where you immediately began to reminisce as if you were seventy looking back on the memory made?
My former teammate Bobby “Nashty” Nash recently signed with the UFC and trains full time as a career. After my decision to wrestle in the US Open I jokingly text Nashty probing him to fly out from Michigan to do a week long training camp with me - live the vanlife, explore California, and help shake the rust off my three year retirement.
It wasn't long before his ticket was booked and we were grinding on the mat, ending our days with a swim in the ocean and an ever-changing nightly routine.
The story runs like any other training camp; lots of stance and motion, drilling, technical work, conditioning, and the inevitable grind created when two high level wrestlers lock arms and compete.
The curveball comes when you hear I hosted the future UFC Champion in my van for eight days. He agreed to fly out and help me train for the upcoming tournament but insisted on getting the full vandwelling experience - so thats just what I gave him!
I’ve lived on four wheels for roughly 7 months and have slowly transformed my van into a home - deciding it a good idea to remove the front passenger seat in an attempt to give Kamala a more homely touch. When removing the seat I knew there was going to be the occasional time when I’d have to improvise for a passenger - this was one of those moments. I picked Bobby up at the Oakland Airport and he spent the next week sitting on a cooler plopped next to my chair in the van.
My training philosophy centers around the idea of taking “no days off,” meaning I like to incorporate my everyday life into my training plan. I’m not necessarily wrestling or grinding myself into the ground - it’s more about the things I do off the mat than the things I do on. Living in my van and adopting a more simplistic lifestyle has helped me see the transferable characteristics from the everyday “vandwelling” experience to various aspects of training that I can use in wrestling.
It’s been a cold winter living in a thinly metaled rectangular box without a properly heated interior. I fought the chill by taking cold showers and embracing the elements for the past few months. The week Bobby was out here we used the ocean to train our bodies and our minds - we’d wake up early high atop the mountain; me in the hammock and him in the bed, drive to the trailhead and run to the beach. While on the beach we did wrestling specific drills and finished with a dip in the water.
Our time on the mat was focused and fun - shaking the rust off and feeling fresh. Bobby came in shape so our practices were highly productive. He had the opportunity to condition with my strength and conditioning coach Levon which I believe exceeded his expectations - training our core, warming up with dynamic stretches, hurdling, and pushing it through 200 meter sprints.
Bobby and I stayed at multiple places throughout the week. One night we slept on top of a mountain; one night we slept in a hotel parking lot in Santa Cruz; one night it was a Walmart parking lot near the Oakland airport where we woke up to knocking and a note threatening to tow us at 2:30AM; we stayed at a friends place in the city, the gym one night, and two other friends places while house sitting at one of them.
It was a week full of movement - typical of the vanlife. Rubber tramping is something I’ve truly fallen in love with. In my short vandwelling experience I’ve seen how incredibly adaptable we are as humans. In college I considered myself a homebody who hated to sleep anywhere other than my own bed - now rather than staying in one place I’ve made my home mobile and can sleep anywhere, through almost anything. I live an extremely minimal lifestyle that I’m constantly looking to simplify.
One of the big reasons I decided to wrestle again was because my current lifestyle has helped me become the fittest I’ve ever been. I live and eat as naturally as possible. I try to eat a mostly plant-based diet that minimizes my intake of acidic and artificial foods. I spent 20+ years of my life wrestling so movement and exercise are where I feel most at home and grounded within myself. I’ve gotten really into mountain biking and trail running; doing push ups, pull ups, stance and motion, and meditation at random times throughout the day. I pay for a gym membership that acts more as my bathroom and shower than it does a fitness facility. I like to workout in the Mountains or on the beach - training like a primitive warrior who focuses on mobility, functionality, and strength/explosion in positions. I want my body to fire on all cylinders late in a match and from any position.
As you know I’m working on “The Modern Day Mavericks Podcast” where our motto is crafting a simple, sustainable, and adventurous lifestyle for those who seek freedom through adventure. The podcast is based within a Ford Transit van that travels from place to place - in exploration of the simplest yet richest pleasures found in living. From two different backgrounds a friend and I are crafting our dreams into an actionable reality.
A guy from Nantucket who left his successful personal training career in Boston for the chance of his dreams, drove cross country with his girl friend to begin living a more adventurously present lifestyle - more play and less work kinda thing. Then there’s me, the notoriously nutty “Dan the van man" who dwells in his home on wheels. Coming from a wonderful midwestern background I too wanted to see what I could create in a lifetime. It’s a big world and I’m a curious soul - with a heart for everyone - How can you contain that?
My choice to move into a van was a deliberate attempt to take ownership of my life - voluntary hardship or something like that. I’ve always been a man of principle - diligently adhering to an inner set of morals and beliefs. I struggle sitting when I see people being taken advantage of. It drives me bonkers - advertisers and media have our immediately gratifying society wrapped around their dirty little fingers. When you look at the current structure of our given culture it appears to me more like indentured servanthood than freedom - humor me for a moment and think objectively - 200 years from now when people read about our society from an experienced perspective what is it going to say? You’re playing a part in writing the script.
Living in the van has allowed me to experience an awesome lifestyle while working and saving money to build the foundation for my future. I’ll admit I could be doing a better job making monetary headway but thats part of the process - learning and becoming more aware - minimizing errors and refining the process.
Our society has manifested it’s own beast: consumerism - imprisoning ourselves by a tether of debt. I don’t believe it should be so hard to live - especially when we’re surrounded by a wealth of resources. I’m committed to going first and enduring the journey - a journey to become fully sustainable, financially free, and a fulfiller of dreams - becoming the creator of my existence. At Modern Day Maverick’s we see a path to an updated version of the American Dream - a dream that is attainable to all and truly serves the betterment of humanity.
Our first episode is an introduction to get to know us through an off-the-cuff question and answer session - we parked the van overlooking the ocean at Fort Cronkite as we fumbled through our first show. The second was equally as challenging - shot at Blackie’s Pasture in the Tiburon Peninsula, we recorded at night during the only time we could collaborate our schedules.
The third and most recent podcast was a sunrise show recorded at Fort Baker around 6:30 in the morning. We backed the van up to the jetty, opened the doors, and recorded our show as the sun rose over the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the bronze Ford Transit we were comfortably perched within - sitting on a cooler and fitness ball talking about Wealthfront and wrestling.
Our goal as Mavericks is to go ahead and test the waters, seeing what works and refining when needed. Our mission is to share our findings while testing our theories - understanding failure only exists when given up, we view challenges as opportunities to learn and grow. Wealthfront is our first experiment in the pursuit toward Financial Freedom. The company aims to deliver an automated investment management service that maximizes net-of-fee, after-tax, real investment return for each client’s particular tolerance for risk. They use a simple intuitive risk assessment service that projects your risk tolerance for investment in the market. After you answer a few questions and receive your risk assessment rating (0 being low through 10 being highly risky), you now have the option to open an account or use the results to compare against your current 401k plan, or investment mix. My rating was an 8 out of 10.
Since I have no 401K plan I chose to open two accounts:
"Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it ... he who doesn't ... pays it.” - Albert Einstein
Through my Roth IRA I intend on taking advantage of the proverbial “eighth wonder of the world” - compounding interest while using a strategy known as “dollar-cost averaging.” DCA is a technique of buying a fixed dollar amount of a particular investment on a regular schedule, regardless of the share price. The investor purchases more shares when prices are low and fewer shares when prices are high. The great thing about DCA is that it can be fully automated and taken out of your paycheck. It requires little financial knowledge and has the power to generate massive wealth over a lifetime. I’ve found that financial freedom and true wealth can be accomplished regardless your job, career, or source of employment.
My final reason for choosing Wealthfront over a typical Mutual Fund or financial advisor was due to the low fees. Investment fees where you pay over 1% could cost you millions of dollars over your investment career. “401(k) accounts can have fees of 1.0% or more per year. Rolling over a $100,000 401(k) account to Wealthfront could be worth more than $166,847 over 39 years.” All accounts under $15,000 are managed completely free. Accounts exceeding $15,000 pay a flat rate of 0.25% which is much lower than many of it’s competitors. My partner Jason and I opened our personal investment accounts with a minimum balance of $500. Jason has a 401k through work so he only has a personal brokerage with Wealthfront, whereas I decided to open a Roth IRA with a $1000 initial investment as well.
As time progresses and we gain a better understanding of the software, seeing how it works and testing its merits, we will share what we find with you. The philosophy behind our podcast is to be a fully transparent. We live in a time where social media gives a disillusioned reality, it’s rare to find someone progressing through the journey while taking an audience along for the ride. I hope you’ll stick around for the fun!
Dan The Van Man
Learning about life while living in a 1998 Ford E150 van down by the river - sharing life's lessons with a Maverick-Minded community!
I’ve always been an “off the beaten path” kind of guy. After my freshman year at your run-of-the-mill public high school, I chose to transfer to an arts high school where I got class credit for recording and mixing audio, filming super-low budget films, and drawing trees in calculus class. Instead of taking the traditional path of going to an American medical school, I pursued medicine in Grenada--a mere 1500 miles south of Miami (and less than 100 miles from Venezuela).
I was never forced to do these things, I did them mostly for the experience. I’ve always believed that when we are lying on our deathbeds our greatest treasure at that moment will be the memories that we created on the many adventures that we took to get us to that point. Anyone can go to public school, and anyone (who passed the MCAT, at least) can apply to an American medical school; but memories that anyone can create weren’t the ones I want to look back on fondly. So, I went with the road less traveled--when everyone zigged, I zagged.
These adventures and the others I’ve been on were carefully planned out. That’s not to say I wasn’t nervous, but I knew that I had a backup plan or at least a strong support system of family and friends I could rely on. But some adventures sort of just sneak up on you, and the planning stage that should take months of meticulous research and self-questioning (Do I really want to be doing this? Like, really really?) turns into a whirlwind of frantic Googling and cobbling the whole arrangement together. This is how my van dwelling journey began.
One of my previous adventures included a month-long trip during my sophomore year in college in which I travelled up and down the west coast with three friends filming a documentary about migrant farm workers. We started a small non-profit organization called “Blood, Sweat and Berries,” raised enough funds for professional camera equipment and an old Astro van, and set off with a basic plan at best to see what we could capture. When we finished filming and I was left with the Astro, a crazy idea popped into my head: what if I stopped paying for a dorm room and just put a cot in this van? I started to think it through, but the idea was too insane to work so I sold the van for a Jetta and the idea of van dwelling got pushed to a dusty corner in the back of my head.
Fast forward to the fall of 2016. I was doing my third year medical school rotations at a hospital in Cincinnati, and even though I practically lived in the hospital I had a nice four-bedroom condo close by that I shared with my lovely wife, my two-year-old son, and three fellow medical students. I didn’t have a lot of free time, but what little I had was spent just goofing off with my family or catching up on sleep. We didn’t have a whole lot of possessions since we got rid of most of our stuff when we moved back from Grenada, but we were happy and life was good.
The downside of attending my international med school is that we could be placed anywhere in the continental US for our third- and fourth-year rotations, and have to pick up and move anywhere for our next rotation whenever our school tells us to. Many students end up renting several apartments all across the country, paying rent at their old ones while they move to one at their new rotation site. This can get expensive, especially for poor medical students with families who are already hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt because of their medical school tuition loans.
I knew many of my school’s rotations were in New York City, and that there was no way I could afford to live there even in the smallest of apartments. With an inevitable move barreling towards me like a freight train, the insane idea I had back in college returned to the surface. If I lived in my car I could pick up and go to my next rotation at a moment’s notice. I basically lived in the hospital on-call room as it was, so why pay rent for a room where I barely spent any time? I could eat and study at the hospital, shower and exercise with my Anytime Fitness membership, and use my car as a place to sleep.
This plan started making more and more sense, and if I was living the bachelor life like I was in college this was all the planning I would require. But with a family to think about, the idea was still out of the realm of possibility—and our financial worries doubled in October, when my wife found out she was pregnant. We celebrated more than anything, though; I could take more loans out to help pay for the new baby, and my wife had a solid online job, so things would work out.
Less than a month after finding out we were pregnant, my wife got laid off and our financial problem overflowed. It was at that point that I knew my crazy idea of living in my van was now the only sensible way to continue my medical school education. Good thing I’m an “off the beaten path” kind of guy, right?
I anxiously began researching how to modify my ‘04 Toyota Highlander, poring over van dwelling forums, and scouring YouTube for any videos made by people who had taken the plunge into the “vanlife” already. My wife and I didn’t have much time to discuss this new lifestyle, as I had less than two months before I would need to move to Wisconsin for my psychiatry rotation. Any free time we had was now spent making trips to JoAnn Fabrics to get material for blackout curtains or chopping the legs off of my cot to fit it in the Highlander (spoiler alert: it did not work out great).
This was a huge lifestyle change, even bigger than packing whatever my family could into a few duffel bags and moving to an island for two years. Nervous doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt. But I found that reading up on the experiences of other people living in a van eased my tension. Seeing that others were out there choosing to live in their vehicle—and, as I saw from “vandwellers” on Instagram, often having the time of their lives—made me feel less alone. Even though I would be separated from my wife and two children for long stretches of time, I knew that somewhere out there was that support system of people living an alternative lifestyle that I needed to make this crazy plan work.
We visited my wife’s family in northern California for Christmas, and then I flew back to the midwest alone to start my newest adventure. I’ve been living the “vanlife” for almost two months now, and even though there have been a few hiccups along the way (subzero weather and crippling anxiety, for example) I would definitely say I’m starting to see the perks. It’s been fantastic getting rid of the many pointless distractions that waste so much time now that wifi is harder to come by and I don’t have a warm, comfy bed to rot away in all day.
I’m able to spend my time more efficiently so that I can treat myself with things like weekend trips. A few weekends ago, I did two things I would never have done if I wasn’t living in a van: ice fishing and shooting guns. I’d never done either (.22 caliber doesn’t count), and yet there I was one weekend drilling holes into a lake and shooting targets in the frozen Wisconsin tundra. I had a blast (pun intended) and look forward to the next adventures that van dwelling affords me.
That’s not to say that van dwelling is all fun and games. I get homesick like no other, and many nights when I am curled up in my sleeping bag listening to a blizzard outside that is rocking my car all I can think about is being next to my wife in a nice warm bed with my son in the other room. Loneliness can mess a person up real bad, and I take measures to prevent it from getting to me like meditation and frequent FaceTime calls.
But would it be an adventure without some bumps along the way? Would I really be exploring the periphery of my comfort zone if I didn’t feel anxious and uncomfortable at times? I don’t think so. It’s because of these challenges that I am able to keep making interesting memories to look back on. I still have no regrets about how my life has turned out; I’m ready to write another interesting chapter in my life’s story, and if you are considering the van life then I hope you are too.
Jacob the Nomad
Jacob the Nomad is a third-year medical student living in his SUV while he does medical school rotations around the country. His wife and two children cheer him on from northern California. To follow his journey or to learn tricks for starting your own van dwelling adventure, visit his website or follow him on social media.
Lately I’ve been pondering the value of belonging to a tribe and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s important to find some assimilated to your passions. Belonging to a tribe that fits your mold and personal beliefs is more than just a fun place to hang out and share ideas, rather it’s like a family that is there to lift you up and encourage you to grow - even on the desolate days. A tribe founded upon passions, personal interests, and a grander vision can be the key an individual needs to unlock the next aspect of life - leading to fuller more balanced lifestyle.
If you’re over the age of 25 and have no “family issues” count your blessings, you’re part of the minority. For the rest of you, like myself; you probably have an aspect of your family that you wish were existent, or at least better. I believe we exist as a unified family, belonging to many tribes throughout the differing seasons of our journey. As we go about our path experiencing life and aging along we join new tribes and say good bye to others, taking with us memories to shape our new stories. Tribes like family overlap the varying people we’ve allowed into our life, and it’s the culmination of them that affects our quality of living.The people you surround yourself with will either raise you up or tear you down - there’s always a choice.
Last night I slept in Millbrae, California so I could be close to the Vanabonders meet up in Foster City at the park. The low flying airplanes from nearby SFO shook the van while cruising over the Holiday Inn parking lot where I resided. After waking up around 7AM I got out of the hammock, rolled it up, struggled to find the sleeping bag compression sack, and then went to a nearby Starbucks to use the restroom and grab a coffee. Normally avoiding Starbucks for smaller locally owned coffee shops but when nature calls - she calls.
The Vanabond brunch was extremely enjoyable, insightful, and inspiring. Roughly 15-20 of us gathered to show off our rigs, share stories, break bread, and refill our social power-meters to full capacity. I showed up around 10am with a few bags of apples, carrots, and an excited curiosity. During my vandwelling experience I’ve learned to enjoy my quiet time in the van but have also found that without community life tends to be dull. Now that I’m living 2,500 miles away from my close family and friends I’ve had to relearn how to build relationships from scratch - finding my tribe.
Since moving back to California in August I’ve surrounded myself with some incredible individuals. I’ve created a tribe at the coffee shop I work at and have befriended some of the worlds most amazing people (my opinion obviously); such as, a friend who has taught me a tremendous amount about being a man. Through keen observation I’ve seen this man spoil the people around him, love his wife and daughter like any lucky lady should be loved, and show up everyday with a smile on his face - this friend is a blind sponsored Mountain Bike rider who has faced more obstacles in his lifetime than many of us could ever dream about, yet he is the one man I can always count on to have a smile on his face, to provide me with honest feedback, and help kick me in the butt when needed. I also consider my boss Greg to be the kindest man I’ve ever had the opportunity of meeting - constantly giving of himself while creating a wake of compassion in his efforts. Living in a van wouldn’t be the same without these guys!
Are you familiar with the name Mort Sahl? He’s an 89 year old man; a friend, and the father of political satire humor. Mort used to write the speeches for President Kennedy before he was assassinated, and has told me stories about the days when he lived with Frank Sinatra, or how he was the first man besides Hugh Hefner to live in the Playboy Mansion with 35 beautiful playmates. There’s also my friend Monica who I’ve befriended while living out here. She ironically grew up 6 miles away from me and was coached by my Aunt in high school. She too is one of the kind souls making my van-dwelling experience much easier with her openness to allow me to use her laundry, crash on the couch, or simply hang when the quietness of the van gets to be a little too quiet.
I’m typing this post on my newly built desk, sitting behind a wall crafted to separate the drivers seat from the studio in the back. It took six months and the encouragement of a friend to pick up some tools and dare to get creative in my home on wheels. My friend Woolf is a black belt in jiu jitsu and co-owner of the Black Sheep Jiu Jitsu school in Fairfax. Woolf has been living in his RV for a little longer than I’ve been in the van. Last week before a wrestling workout he stopped by my home outside the gym and ragged on me for living in the van six months without making it more homely. He gave me a tapestry to hang on the ceiling and the next day we built the wall. Woolf’s partner Danny is another guy I feel proud to have in my tribe. These gents have gone out of their way to help pull me back into wrestling and I couldn’t be more thankful.
There are too many tribal members in my clan to mention everyone: spanning all demographics, race, religions, age, and gender. The point I want to leave you with is that it doesn’t matter whether you’re a member of the green tribe, the red tribe, or banana tribe; as long as you’re involved in a tribe that feeds your creative spirit and helps you become better rather than bitter, you’re well on your way! If you feel bad about yourself and your situation in life then I recommend figuring out who you’re spending the most time with: are they adding value to your life or dragging you down in the process? Once again, you always have a choice.
The freedoms of living in a Van provide enough incentive to continue even after six months of the experience; where I’ve been sleeping on a small cozy mattress connected to a sink on one side, and butted up to a mountain bike tire on the other. Under my bed there are two drawers where the one contains my clothing, and the other acts as a storage unit for books and important paperwork. The interior of my Van is under constant construction, being reshaped more than a few times. I recently added a 26in fitness ball to the makeup of Kamala’s interior - providing a desk chair during office hours, a fitness ball to workout, and a wonderful seat for meditation.
Even after mastering many aspects of the Vandwelling lifestyle I struggle with a few things - one constant hinderance comes between the hours of work and sleep, trying to find a place to park and chill, research, write, or relax. It gets dark earlier which means it’s also harder to see in the Van. I love nature and am obsessed with the Ocean so I do my best to find locations where I can work in the Van while enjoying the beauty around me. The problem I have is my indecision in locating a safe place to park Kamala, to then turn her into an office and finally a bedroom. Every successful rubber tramp knows the key to living nomadically is to stay on the move, never staying in one place for more than one night.
I’m committed to creating my life - “building a business out of a backpack,” as my friend Jason freshly puts it. In addition to building businesses, setting my financial life on automaton, and enjoying financial freedom, I’d like to explore the world and test my theories.
The Van has been a liberating experience. During a time of chaos and stress, with a great deal of nationwide unrest, I’ve found solace within my tiny home on wheels. I feel if I hadn't radically left the stronghold of society by moving into a Van and deliberately putting myself in struggles way, I too would be in fear and lost with desperation during this time of political disarray.
I set out to become a fully sustainable man. Buying a Van because I had no mechanical experience and wanted something to learn on - don’t let me fool you I still don’t have much experience, but I’m proud to say I’ve grown immensely. I desire to live in a tree house within the next few years and want to be able to build it with my own hands. I knew claiming residence in the Van was one way I could learn carpentry - you should see the cabinet door on my sink - yikes!
Dealing with a daily accumulation of trash from the lifestyle I’m living can be a challenge - no one wants to acquire trash when bedding in small quarters. Showering at the gym has helped me dive into fitness while becoming much healthier in the process. I feel weird in the morning when I walk in and five minutes later walk out after showering, but these are the strings permitting the freedoms I get to enjoy while taking up this lifestyle. I generally reside in Mill Valley as that’s where I work - a place where the median home value is $1,428,000. On mornings when I wake up atop the Mountain overlooking the valley, the bay, and the skyline of San Francisco I can’t help but chuckle when thinking about the “multi-million dollar view” I’m waking up to in my fully owned $1,600 home.
I refuse to go further into debt as I view the system consisting of chains refraining me from experiencing life to its fullest. Looking back I can see that my decision to move into a Van was in many ways a conscious effort to take back control. I was lost in the matrix of Western society - losing my soul and losing my mind. By living a lifestyle of constant adjustment, in an environment of absolute uncertainty, and mixed with an open mentality I have found myself again - amassing the greatest feeling ever felt and in no way explainable. I may only appear to be “Dan the Van Man” who lives on four-wheels and works as a barista, but thats okay with me - I know who I am, where I am, where I’ve been, and where I’m going.
I’ve found a different path to my resting place. One intended to live a life of abundance, growth, love, and contribution - building a life from the ground up. I believe a life well lived is a life where you’re conscious in the moments - making life-affirming decisions, sharing memories, and creating the freedom to engross yourself within your passions - regardless of its appearance to anyone else.
I've been living in the Van for half a year - 6 whole months. Six months of trial and error, daily growth, and a whole lot of experiences. I've made friends and built relationships. My life is a living testament of the beauty that can come from living life outside the comfort zone, while seeking experiences over the fanatical materials of our time.
I wasn't sure why I wanted to live in a Van when I first chose the life I’m now living - it’s almost like it chose me.
I knew what I didn't want and that was reason enough for me - I struggle sacrificing integrity for things I deem pointless and un-life affirming. I've been driven toward excellence since the beginning, driven through the sport of wrestling. Through wrestling and the thankful guidance of mentors I’ve had growing up, I’ve found the strength to face the world face first - in it’s present moment. I have nothing to fear - nothing but the thought of regret after a wasted life manifested by repeated excuses created to keep me comfortable - thats what I fear!
My buddy and I recently started a Podcast that is being produced from within a Van at different adventurous locations each episode. Our first episode was shot at Rodeo Beach - the Golden Gate National Recreation Area - where we backed the Van up; opened the doors; set up our cameras; lifted the 1990’s snakeskin designed TV dinner table into position; brewed some tea on the pocket rocket backpacking stove; sat on the 26” fitness ball, and cooler; and began to record our first episode. Crowds of people walked by in curiosity as two guys hunkered down in the back of a Van, recording their show on a sunny January day, with the waves crashing on the horizon.
The podcast is directed toward Millennials or anyone seeking freedom through adventure. We’ve both climbed successful Mountains - with me on the wrestling mat and Jason in his professional training career. We thrive in the hustle which brought us to the podcast. Both of us looking to create sustainable passive income to put our working careers on automation, while freeing ourselves the ability to enjoy the most precious resource of all: time!
Our Podcast will be an intimate journey where you’ll be with us the entire way - through the grit and the grime, to the freeing of time. We see a different path calling for inspection - one with adventure, lasting memories, and impacted lives - with the changing ages isn’t it time to consider what the modern day American Dream could look like? Jump on the plane as its lifting, the world is shifting; no longer wanting mammoth houses, white picket fences, or lack of resources. This is the dawn of a new era - where time is directed toward passionate endeavors; with growth and contribution resulting. Moments being lost in the memories of making - open your mind - let your story unfold.