Vagabond Freedom - How To Live Out Of Your Car - CONRAD

Vagabond Freedom - How To Live Out Of Your Car

Once upon a time, I spent nearly 10 years living in my car. I lived in cities doing the urban bivouac, and I lived in resort towns in the woods. I lived in a VW van, my parent’s old minivan, and a pickup with a camper. At the time I was a climbing bum, working odd jobs and traveling 6 months out of the year.

When you’re on the road for anything, even if you’re a salesman, does it really make sense to have a place to live? You have to pay rent or a mortgage, pay utilities, and buy furnishing for an asset that’s not being utilized. On pure economic terms its just illogical. 

From a spiritual standpoint a home can be grounding as you have the security of a place to retreat and regroup to. It can also be an overwhelming burden of a place that you have to work more to pay for, so you have a place to go to because you’re exhausted from working all day to pay for. 

Push that rock up the hill Sisyphus.

VW Home Sweet Home - 1995-1997

In a lot of personal development coaching approaches, people are asked what would they do if they had unlimited income, and never had to work anymore. What would you do? Most people would say they would travel, or take up a hobby they’ve been dreaming of since they were young.

When I used to live in ski towns bartending and skiing deep powder, most locals had a bumper sticker that read, “My life is better than your vacation.”

It was the truth. Most of us worked less than 40 hours a week, and skied, or climbed, or did whatever most people dream of doing when they retire. We didn’t have a luxurious lifestyle, we didn’t drive Ferraris or live in mega-mansions, but we didn’t really need to, because we were happy. We were the ones benefitting by maintaining the mega-mansions, washing the Ferraris, and living in the places everyone took their vacations to.

For the 9:00-5:00er, you don’t necessarily have to quit your job and go to a ski town to shovel driveways. You can still do the same job, but maybe cut down your hours and cut down your spending. Ideally you could work remotely, or have unlimited time off – as long as you get your work done on time. 

In this day and age there are a number of ways to work remotely, or set up an online business for yourself. If you do go to an urban area and need a place to stay you can rent something on Airbnb that is already furnished.

Bugaboo Parking Lot - 2002 

Here are a few of my 10 tips for living in your car, hitting the road, and living a life of freedom.

  1. Choose a Sweet Ride- Get a VW, a station wagon, or even a Prius- Anything you can sleep in. A huge RV is comfortable but draws a lot of attention and will kill you with gas prices. My favorite rig I ever had was a pop-up camper on pickup truck. (Pictured Above)
  2. Have a Place to Shower- When I was younger I’d poach showers at colleges or outdoor parks (like the Telluride Ice Rink). Now I just get a gym membership with a national chain. Even though you’re living out of your car doesn’t mean you have to look like a bum. Dress like you usually would.
  3. Airbnb – You don’t always have to sleep in a car. But if you are going around to national parks and then back into civilization you can get a place when you need it. It just makes economic sense to rent a place only when required. This is also a great way to live if you are a traveling salesman, or vagabond entrepreneur.
  4. Shared Office Space- If you get a membership with a shared office space that has a national presence or partnerships with other shared offices, you can roll into NYC or LA and have a place to hang out with your laptop and do work. Some of them even have showers.
  5. Simplify and Store- Get rid of any of the clutter in your life. If it’s not a family heirloom or it’s clothing you haven’t worn in two years, sell it for some quick cash or donate it for a tax deduction. It doesn’t make sense to spend an extra $200 a year in storage for a couch you paid $200 for at IKEA. Rent a storage unit near your shared office so you can grab things when you need them.
  6. Live Life as Usual- So what would you really be doing at home that you can’t do at a café, campsite, or shared office? Watch TV? Hulu, Netflix, iTunes. Cook food? You can afford to eat out a bit more, or at least at a Whole Foods hot bar. Sleep? You can sleep just fine if you deck out your ride. I can tell you right now that you will probably be twice as productive if you don’t just go home everyday and watch TV for 6 hours before bed. And if you have that extra 6 hours a day, you can probably do all the work you need to in three days and then head to the beach for the rest of the week.
  7. Automate your Bills- Set up an auto-pay on everything. Get a virtual mailbox like AnytimeMailbox.com to open and scan your snail mail so you can read it from the Aspen gondola. Set up auto-responders on your email.
  8. Find a Place to Park- This can be kind of tricky, at the very least offer to rent a friend’s driveway for $100 a month. I’ve always had great luck parking in industrial areas, or places where people have always lived in their cars, like Venice Beach. Forest service land is great. Residential areas work if you wake up early and don’t park in the same place twice. Just keep a low profile (don’t piss on someone’s lawn) and you should be fine.
  9. Deck Out Your Ride- If people don’t know that you’re sleeping in your car, they won’t call the cops on you. If you’re living in your car full-time you might as well make it comfortable- look at it as an investment. Get a nice mattress that fits the back. Tint the back windows or get curtains. Get a Rocket Box on the roof so you don’t have to move your stuff out of your sleeping space at night. Get a cooler that plugs into the lighter. Maybe even get a second car battery to run all your gadgets.
  10. Invest or Save the Difference- Say you spend $1000 a month on rent and another $300 on utilities. Moving into your car you spend a bit more on eating out, but since you probably already have to because you are always working to pay for your shit, I will call this a wash. Let’s say you are saving that $1300. You put $400 towards more weekly travel and you work one less day a week and you still save $500 a month. Put that $500 in a low-risk investment with a decent rate of return. Or you can put it away for a bigger trip to a place like Nepal or Europe, or for a down payment on a house of your own.

 Black Diamond Parking Lot - Winter 1997-1998

 

 



2 Responses

Jeff Cole
Jeff Cole

March 28, 2016

Residential areas do work. I’m not living out of my car, but I make extended car trips, and am asked things such as. “Where did you stay in San Antonio?” I tell them “Park Hotel.” In whatever city you visit, there are residential areas with countless parked cars in front of houses, in strip mall lots, apartment complexes, and so on. Who’s going to notice yours? Just be cool, hop in the back and sleep. I’ve often pulled off make-shift showers in public parks. Very easy, and cheap. Free camping exists throughout the country, and often you can camp free then cruise into town for a morning espresso like a local!

Jeff Cole
Jeff Cole

March 28, 2016

Residential areas do work. I’m not living out of my car, but I make extended car trips, and am asked things such as. "Where did you stay in San Antonio? I tell them “Park Hotel.” In whatever city you visit, there are residential areas with countless parked cars in front of houses, in strip mall lots, apartment complexes, and so on? Who’s going to notice yours? Just be cool, hop in the back and sleep. I’ve often pulled off make-shift showers in public parks. Very easy, and cheap. Free camping exists throughout the country, and often you can camp free then cruise into town for a morning espresso like a local!

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