Boondocking at “home”

This old van is my new home.

Driver side, 1997 Ford conversion van - ready for renovation
Driver’s side of the “new” old 1997 Ford van
Passenger side, 1997 Ford conversion van. Starting to renovate!
Passenger side, 1997 Ford conversion van. Starting to renovate!

I bought it used for under $1000, and have spent about $500 so far in renovations.  I am currently living in my van while parked at my son’s home.  This last month on my Honda Civic lease means I drive to work and back in the car, but sleep and live in the van.  Within the next month, I will also be driving the van to and from work, so then will officially be living “FULL TIME RV”.

I left my apartment when the lease was up in March.  We had more winter in March and April this year than from November to February (of course…Murphy’s law…if you’re gonna be without heat, the weather will turn frigid!)  My daughter-in-law who loves me insisted I come inside to sleep when it hit freezing temps and below.  But I sleep well in the cold so I only did that for a couple of weeks – would rather sleep in the van!

So, no running water, no heat or air conditioning, no toilet or shower… but I still needed to show up at work every day and I was proving a point to myself that no one would guess I was living out of a van.

I wanted to do a trial run to see how it feels to “full time RV” in a  vehicle so I purposely did not use the family’s bathroom, etc.  I tried to keep as close to the real experience as possible. I wanted to see how it worked to just “go with the flow” and be flexible. One benefit to this 6-month trial run is that by September I will have saved over $8000!  Not too shabby…

Actually, for the first two months I was living out of my Honda Civic.  How did that work?  That first night I locked my car doors and curled up on the back seat, I looked out the rear window and felt GREAT! I have always loved camping and this was pretty close to that feeling.  No campfire, but I cracked open the windows a bit and smelled/felt that nighttime breeze.  I was looking at the moon and stars through the trees, and I was SMILING! When I woke up early in the morning, the air was fresh and cool, and I knew this was what I wanted to do every day, absolutely!

Honda Civic boondocking in front of my son's house in Albany, NY
Honda Civic boondocking in front of my son’s house in Albany, NY

A Honda Civic is not a large car, and those two months before I bought the used van was a great reinforcement to all my down-sizing and packing skills.  The back seat did not allow for a complete stretch-out on the bench sleep and at first I tossed and turned every few hours to get comfortable. Fortunately I am only 5’4″ tall, and adjusted okay.  Not great sleeping curled up, but survivable.  Here are some tips and tricks:

I had done a great job of downsizing and put warm weather clothes and kitchen supplies in my daughter’s storage unit until I would be ready to move into a van. (When I did move into the full size van, I felt like it was sooooo spacious!!!  LOL)

Clothing was selected for its non-iron practicality, and packed lightly into those 12″ cloth storage cubes ($6.00 each) – one for underwear, one for socks, one for pants, etc.  These 12″ cubes were lined up in my car trunk for easy access.  In the corners of the trunk were a few pairs of shoes, sneakers, flip flops.

Living out of a Honda Civic - cloth cubes of clothes in the trunk. Easy access. Laundry basket in the back.
Living out of a Honda Civic – cloth cubes of clothes in the trunk. Easy access. Laundry basket in the back.

Personal items were stored in my gym bag, which went on the back seat floor.  I purchased a black card membership at Planet Fitness for $20/month, which allowed me to not only work-out but SHOWER every day.

Back seat has black bedroll on the seat and gym bag on the floorboard. Front seats are moved as far front as possible and tilted into dashboard for maximum space in the back.
Back seat has black bedroll on the seat and gym bag on the floorboard. Front seats are moved as far front as possible and tilted into dashboard for maximum space in the back.

My car interior is black, and I folded my black comforter with my sheets inside, and they blended into the back seat.  Ditto for a black pillowcase on my favorite pillow.  It would require quite a close look to see that there was a “bed” in the back seat while parked at work.

Front seat passenger side held my current library books, a bag of snacks, bottle of water, and my tote-sized purse.  Most of my life I have carried a small purse but for this transition, I used a large-sized purse that could carry my wallet, notebook, smartphone, Kindle, tissues, eye glass wipes, personal feminine hygiene wipes, clear nail polish and file, etc.  Since this purse always went into work with me, there wasn’t much left in the parked car to give away my “homeless” status.

Front passenger seat has tote purse, snack bag, library books and napping pillow. All set!
Front passenger seat has tote purse, snack bag, library books and napping pillow. All set!

Sleeping in a smallish car was not too bad – I knew it wouldn’t be long as I was already searching for a used van to renovate.  I found that by pushing the front seats up as far as possible and tilting them forward into the dashboard, the back seat felt more spacious when sleeping. I could stretch my legs out occasionally if I put my feet up or in the middle console area.  I slept quite well, using my smartphone alarm in case I didn’t wake up naturally at the usual time.

Waking up by 5 a.m., I would drive to Planet Fitness or a local convenience shop to empty my bladder.  I do have a “stealth” system if I couldn’t make it (yeah, five pregnancies will do that to your ability to hold urine!)  A simple $2 funnel from the autoparts store works fantastic, as most backpacking girls know.  Not too interested in “dropping trou” in my son’s front yard, so I pull up next to some trees around the corner and stand there like a man — haha!  We call it the She-nis”…

Small automotive funnel – use your imagination!

Back to the daily experience…work-out at Planet Fitness, then shower and change into my work clothes.  Small laundry basket in the trunk to hold dirty laundry (bag of detergent pods and dryer sheets at the bottom of the laundry basket – ready to go.) When I left the apartment, I did pack all clothes that did not need ironing – jersey / knit tops, casual slacks that could pass for “business casual”.  I put together eight outfits that I could switch and mix.

I usually bought a breakfast roll or have a granola /cereal bar on my way to work.  Lunch was my usual frozen Lean Cuisine meals I keep in the office freezer – a week’s worth at a time.  Supper was either with family / friends, or just a prepackaged salad from Walmart or a grocery store, with an occasional fast food or diner meal.  I knew this was a limited time of no cooler/camp-stove so was prepared to spend a bit more for eating convenience.  Still managed to lose 4 pounds and save $2000 during that two months – yay!

Charged my smartphone, Kindle and laptop in my office at work every day.  Weekends I would either stop at the library to recharge or family / friend home.  I had purchased a Verizon Jet-pack so that I was self-sufficient with my own wi-fi.  For $10 a month, this keeps me free from public wi-fi hackers.  YAY for Verizon!

Before heading back to boondock for the night, I would stop again to empty the bladder and wash up.  For those who know upstate New York, I have always loved Stewart’s convenience shops – now they are my best friends since I stop at one or more every day.  Fortunately, there are five or more within a two mile distance of home!  Clean individual bathrooms with hot water and toilet paper/paper towels – always appreciated!  YAY for Stewart’s Shops!

It was a red letter day when I found and bought the used Ford conversion van and brought it to my son’s driveway.  He had already agreed to let me park it behind his (Railroad) work truck, back between the fence and the side of the house.  I moved my “stuff” into the van, and my car again became just a car to drive around town.

Now I am busy renovating the van, but that’s for another post.

Moral of the story, you can survive with very little if you know it’s for a limited time.  I was able to do all this, in part, because I am single.  My adult kids are all grown and have their own homes and families. I have no life partner at this point, which meant my decisions and sacrifices were my own choice.  Ask for help, be willing to make concessions, and be flexible.

If you want it bad enough, you will find a way!

Scout — out!

What book are you reading now?

From the bookshelf…

“Suffering in and of itself is meaningless; we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond to it…Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl, 1962

*NOTE*

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Author: Tevis (Scout) OMahony

Traveler on the road in my little camper van, full time since September 2016. Not all who wander are lost...

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