New Orleans, LA
“The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.”–– Nassim Taleb
I thought doing the vanlife thing would just be a fun thing to do for a year. But it took me about 6 months before I really began to see the benefits of what I was doing.
I was at a bachelor party in New Orleans with a bunch of Cutco friends, and they really wanted to see the van because they had been hearing so much about it. I love showing the van because I love seeing people’s reactions. “OMG I respect you so much because I’ve always wanted to do this,” the groom’s cousin, James, said to me as his eyes lit up.
“Same here,” I replied. “That’s why I did it.”
That made me wonder… If you’re so interested in doing something, why don’t you just do it?
The answer came when we were all hanging around the campfire later… James kept asking me so many questions about the van as if he was seriously considering doing this vanlife thing. So I just asked him point blank: “If you really wanna do this vanlife thing, what’s stopping you, why don’t you just do it?” And his answer blew me away…
“I feel like I have to build something first,” he said. “I feel like I have to achieve some amount of success or money before I deserve or allow myself to do something like that.” And suddenly the whole veil lifted.
I immediately saw all the pieces of programming that we’ve all downloaded as children. I saw how James had been conditioned to believe that he is not worthy of his dreams until he achieves. Simultaneously, I saw that all these pieces of programming were being deleted from my mind one at a time. Things like…
• go to school
• get a job
• buy a house
• go into debt
• retire at 65
• then enjoy your life
I’ve been told these things for 30 years – that’s 30 years of programming erased from my mind in less than a year. So what exactly was I doing with this van thing? It wasn’t just about traveling around anymore. I was beginning to see the tremendous benefits of this thing that I thought would just be something fun to do for a year. I had no idea what it would actually mean for my life.
I followed the program perfectly – I got straight A’s, trophies, awards, 3 scholarships, 2 degrees, magna cum laude, internship at Ashton Kutcher’s production company, even started a successful six-figure business… From an outside perspective, it would appear that I followed the rules to a “T” and I got what I’m told is supposed to make me happy. But even though I had all that, I still felt unfulfilled.
Sitting around that campfire, I saw myself in these guys (at least the self that I used to be 6 months prior, before I lived in the van). I used to be stuck in that rat race; my sole purpose on this planet was to make money just to pay my bills, but it was never enough, I always needed more. And I saw how much I had changed since I started living in the van – how different I was, how much I had grown, how much more freedom I had, how much stress had left my life. And not just in relation to money – my relationship to EVERYTHING had changed.
I realized I had committed the worst sin of all: I had become what everybody else told me to be, rather than being me. Yes, the van was a vehicle that I used to drive through my life to destination freedom. But it wasn’t necessarily freedom from job and bills and debt. It was freedom from the web of beliefs that had imprisoned my mind and kept me chained to a system that I didn’t even enjoy. Because just like these successful guys at the bachelor party, I was told and I believed that there’s only one route to get to destination happiness. And that’s the worst imprisonment of all.
“Give me a child until he is 7, and I will show you the man.”– Aristotle
For the first 6-7 years of your life, your brain worked overtime to map the world around you. This is when you learn everything you need to know about how the world works and how to survive in this world. Things like: Career, Money, School, House, Relationships, Time. For these first years, you downloaded all the programs you need to survive. But living in a van, I witnessed my programs change…
• Instead of living in a house(mortgage, bills, etc), I live in a van with no bills/debt;
• Instead of having a job, I create money by many means constantly;
• Instead of working for somebody else, I work for myself;
• Instead of staying in one spot, I travel everywhere;
• Instead of thinking about the future constantly, I live completely in the present;
• Instead of doing the same thing everyday, I’m growing and changing constantly;
• Instead of seeing the same people, I meet and connect with new people everyday;
• Instead of doing what I’m told, I create and control my own reality.
I realized I was running all these programs that were installed in my mind as a child. But living in a van is magically clearing that old programming. So I’m committing to writing my own programs from now on, thank you very much.
You were taught that there is only one way to live life. And yet that’s the biggest lie because human creativity is limitless. Meaning there are literally an infinite number of ways to live your life. You can make money in any number of ways, or not make money at all. You can live in a house, an apartment, a hotel, a campsite, a van, an RV, on the street, or any combination of those. You can live in any city – there are so many to choose from. Or you can choose to travel around all the time. And once you get out of your shell, you can find community anywhere, you can do anything, you can be anybody. You can create anything for your life. Your life is a great work of art, and you are the artist.
Instead of being a human doing (the purpose of my life was to DO something everyday), living in a van put me back into a human being (the purpose of my life is to simply BE), and I was finally able to just experience and enjoy life. So living life at 70mph was kinda like getting unplugged from the matrix. All of a sudden I saw the code, I was unplugged and reprogrammed. And after living in a van for only a year, this production/consumption lifestyle seems like prison to me now, and it’s really hard to go back to that.
“I saw in their eyes something I was to see over and over in every part of the nation – a burning desire to go, to move, to get under way, anyplace, away from here. They spoke quietly of how they wanted to go someday, to move about, free and unanchored, not toward something but away from something. I saw this look and heard this yearning everywhere in every state I visited. Nearly every American hungers to move.”― John Steinbeck, “Travels with Charley: In Search of America”