The First Van Crisis

This morning, I had my first van crisis. Although that sounds extreme now looking back, it definitely was challenging.

To set the scene, it has been frigid here in Ithaca the past few days. Snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures. I was lucky to be able to park in one spot all weekend, which meant I didn’t have to drive my van in the slush and ice. Well, parking in one area meant I didn’t move my plug-in cord at all. It also meant I didn’t rev the car battery at all, yet still used a light inside.

Being new at this, I didn’t think of it, I was just thankful I had a warm place to stay the weekend without much hassle.

This morning I woke up and tried to start my van to move it to it’s “day spot”. The engine didn’t start, the battery was dead. To make matters worse, my cord was under two inches of ice. I immediately started to de-ice my cord using hot water and salt from work. This involved hauling 40 gallon buckets in and out for about an hour…at 5:00AM, I had to work at 6:15AM.

During this time, I am racking my brain as to what to do about the van. I have to move because people park there during the day. That’s the deal. It was so early, I didn’t know of anyone who could give me a charge. I’m thinking about all the explaining I’ll have to do, how much trouble I might get in and also about cutting my cord because it’s not out of the ice and I have to work.

I called my dad. I started working and my coworker finished the last few inches of ice I hadn’t gotten to (it took him 2 minutes, thank God!)

My dad saved the day. He answered the phone at 6AM when I was at my wits end. I didn’t know who else to call, and I knew he would be up and have what I needed. He came.

I de-iced my wet hands and feet while waiting for him, changed shoes and we got to work. He gave me a jump, then gave me his old battery charger for if it happens again.

He taught me what to do next time and told me I did the right thing, I did what I could and then asked for help.

We got my van going, I let it run for 45 minutes, then drove it to it’s spot. I plugged the battery charger into it, and it’s back working now.

First van crisis: averted.

My dad has been really helpful in this transition. I cannot stress that I have benefited from numerous sources for help. I am not alone, and that is so comforting. I’ve been in the van for a week, and I do like it, but it’s a learning curve. My dad simply stepped up to help. He could have said no. He could have told me that this was my bed I had to lay in it. But he didn’t. He helped me.

My dad is someone I want to be like. He has his opinions, his ways and just how he thinks…but he always stops to help. I called him in tears because I didn’t know what else to do. After I got off the phone and when I saw him, I was crying again, but they were tears of overwhelming joy. I was so overwhelmed that he was coming to help. I should have known he would, that’s in his character, but for some reason, I still doubted.

First van crisis: averted. I love you dad.

Oh, I made a YouTube video which you can view here: https://youtu.be/eTtPP9Q0MGE

How I Cook and Eat In The Iron Lady

I used to love cooking and baking. I still do enjoy those things, but as my living situations change, I realize that I can go for long periods of time not doing it and be ok. It will be there when I want to do it, and I enjoy it when it happens.

Eating in my van has been a bit different, but largely not a huge struggle. I eat the same things, I just have a smaller space to prepare them.

I am using an electric hot plate and electric kettle to cook the majority of things that need to be hot. I steam my veggies (I love broccoli and snap peas and was not about to give that up!) while I go to my work and make dinner.

Let me explain my work situation and how I have taken advantage of that to eat relatively easy in my van.

Anyone who has worked in food knows there is simply a lot of waste. That’s the nature of building a business where your product goes bad after a few days. At the end of the night, we throw away any food that is past the sell-by date. In the past I have usually taken bread (which gets tossed everyday) or food both because it’s delicious and because it would get tossed anyway. Now, I just do it every night. I make a sandwich or take an entree, heat it up there and bring it back to my van to eat with my veggies. I usually set my veggies to cook on my hot plate, then go get dinner from work and then when I get back to the van the veggies are still steaming.

For breakfast, I make oatmeal with my electric kettle and put peanut butter and banana on it. I also get coffee from work.

Lunches are either eaten at work or I take myself out for lunch. I quite enjoy this actually. I plan to try all the Ithaca restaurants in 2018, and I’m 4 down already!

The biggest pain has been spilling stuff or dropping things. It’s a small space, and I am a big person, so I forget my appendages hit things often times. I spilled ketchup on the floor the other day, and thankfully I think I got most of it out of the rug. I need to be more careful about that.

Another bonus I got this week was CHIPS! My brother’s wide Cassidy is best friends with the co-owner of Off The Cob Corn Chips, an Ithaca based company that was on Shark Tank. At their wedding, I met Molly, the co-owner, and she comes into CTB everyday for lunch. She hooked me up with a box of bags of their famous chips.

Let me tell you, I couldn’t be more grateful. I love these chips. The corn is grown locally at Early Bird Farm, the chips have a sweeter taste and are perfect for snacking and dipping. I have been eating a lot of these in the van, they are perfect!

So that’s it, how I eat. Any questions?

The First Few Days of Living In A Van

I moved into my van on January 7th. Today is January 9th so I have survived the first two days.

Saying “I survived” sounds much more dramatic than it really turned out to be. I think I’m cut out for this life.

Here’s how the first night went:

I moved in officially at about 4PM after getting the rest of my stuff out of my apartment. I turned on The Office and started trying to put things away and organize, though it proved a bit futile because, being so new, I still am figuring out what things I need near me and what I don’t.

I made a good effort at it though 🙂 My space heater worked, although two of them do not work together at the same time. It proved not necessary to have two, so I will most likely return the second…or not and use it as a back up…decisions.

I have not used the table under the bed yet as it has proved unnecessary to do so. I have a different table that is easily storable and makes it so I don’t have to move the bed. I’ll figure it out better later, I’m only two days in.

My toilet system works rather well. It sucks that I know this, but I eat so much and it has to come out sometime. At least it works and it doesn’t make my van smell. Thank you kitty litter 😉

After I organized what I could, I started making dinner: steamed broccoli and oatmeal. It seemed simple.

It was, just a bit cumbersome to steam the broccoli. My electric hotplate takes longer that a flame to steam the veggies, but that was ok, I just kept watching The Office. The oatmeal was easy. I used quick oats and my electric kettle. Plopped some PB and banana in there and we’re done.

I ate dinner, clean up, did a crossword and went to sleep. That’s kind of what I did at my apartment, so not much has changed, just the movements.

One thing I noticed was that I slouch more because I am so tall. The next day I went to Ithaca ReUse and got a stadium chair (some guy definitely made it because man it says DIY all over it) to help with this. I think it’s working…

Sleeping has been ok. I don’t fall asleep immediately yet, but I have gotten good sleep. To be honest, last night I was too hot, so I might exchange my mummy sleeping bag with some blankets and see how that goes tonight. I also sleep in spandex and a tank top for reference.

Breakfast the next morning was more of the same: oatmeal and an apple. Perfect. I had errands to do that morning, and my only 2018 goal is to try all the Ithaca restaurants, so I took myself to On The Street Pitas for lunch. Definitely great and good service to boot.

I worked at Agava that afternoon, then came back home (TO MY VAN!) and ate dinner. I made a pesto pizza melt at work and had more veggies. Did a crossword and went to bed.

This morning was kind of different because I park outside my work at night, then I park at a different place during the day. So after my run I moved my van, then came into work. It all went well and smoothly so I am grateful.

That’s all I’ve done since moving into the van.

Any questions?

Well, here goes everything…

Tonight is my first night in the van full time. I’m moved out of my apartment, put stuff in storage, sold a lot and hopefully my things are going to people who can use them more than I.

I do have some fears, mostly being cold or spilling crap everywhere. However, as I think about tonight, it’s a new beginning, one that will be very hard for me, but necessary for my growth as a spiritual and physical being. I have gone over in my head the different situations that might come up. These are not van-break-down scenarios (although I’ve thought about that!), but more what I will do when I feel emotionally anxious or lonely.

I do not deal with loneliness very much anymore. I have three very social jobs and actually love my alone time. I also have a family and support system of friends who I can call in one second to make me feel loved. I do not fear loneliness in that sense. I fear downtime in the van. I wonder if I will get anxious or claustrophobic. I worry that my heater will break in the middle of the night. I worry I won’t be able to get the door open when my hands are frozen.

I do have worries, but to be honest, I’m elated!

I want to live alone again. I want to be free and not tied down by rent payments in large buildings that provide more space than I need for unnecessary items that clutter my mind. I want to own my own thing, that no one can take or use. I want to put my energy and soul into this thing and make it a part of me.

I want to find out what it means to survive. I want to see what I need to live on. I want to be able to go somewhere at any time and know how to live or what to do. I want to teach myself to fix my shit when it breaks. I want to get tougher, to embrace cold or exposure.

I want to find a way to live comfortably in a van. I want to have less of an impact on the world. I want to be responsible for my energy usage, and try to mitigate that usage if I can. I want to love it. I want it to be challenging. I want to live in my van.

Here goes everything.

Van Life Currently December 2017

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about what’s up with my van.

I had a good trip to JFK in late November I’ve been working on it slow and steady. The inside was already converted and had the electric done, so the hardest parts were taken care of.

What I realized after JFK was that the bed in it, while very comfortable and big, was not going to be very functional for van living. The van was converted as a vacation, road trip vehicle, and it’s perfect for that. I had other plans. After looking online and at other resources for a week or two, I narrowed down what I wanted: a bed parallel to the van, with a fold up table and two storage compartments underneath. You can find the design I went with here.

Before I worked on the bed, I wanted to get solar panels installed. Luckily, this time coincided with my birthday, so my gifts from family for both my birthday and Christmas helped me pay for the panels. These will come in handy when I do not have access to electricity.

My schedule is tight, something I’ll talk about in a future post, so making time to work on it was a priority on my days off. Thankfully, it’s my dad’s slow season on the farm, and he offered to help. Selfishly, part of working on the van is a way to spend more time with my dad. Of course, I am not transitioning to van life because of this, but it is a huge benefit. There aren’t many crossovers in our lives, so this is special.

A few weeks ago I drew up a rough build plan and my dad got wood and screws from his farm supplier. I am very lucky that my dad is a farmer and therefore has the tools I needed to build. I realize not as many people have this option, so it is harder to get work done.

I must preface this by saying, we did not remove the old bed. I had it removed and taken to the reuse center when I got the solar panels installed from HiWay HiFi. I also got Reflectix (window insulation) done as well. I measured the area I wanted the bed to be and fit it into the layout of the van. After that, it was cutting, remeasuring and reworking my plans as we went using my dads knowledge and also just what worked better for my van. We had to get different hinges and add a few reinforcements here and there, but largely, I’m happy with what we got.

The mattress I will be using also folds up into a chair. I have yet decided whether I will add another piece of plywood to increase the surface area of the table. It also needs some sanding, but it’s in my van and cozy.

I have not slept on it yet, as we finished it yesterday. I am also now able to put in shelves and storage now that the major piece of hardware is in.

A few questions I’ve gotten:

How will I keep warm?

Electric hook up and solar panel electricity at night, Mr. Buddy propane heater. Friends houses if we get a bad storm.

How will I cook?

Coleman stove. But mostly I will eat from work. I benefit from food service, a work perk is free food that would get tossed. I consider that benefit better than a pay increase at times.

How will I use the bathroom/shower/laundry?

I work at a 24 hour gym, giving me ample showering and laundry facilities. I have jobs that provide me with help making van life more manageable. I am also not doing this without support. My community is great and a lot of friends have offered amenities if I need them. I am lucky.

Ok, that’s all I’ve got, any questions, send them my way!