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Van Life

My Path to Living in a Van

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My Path to Living in a Van

I was 20 years old when I graduated from Colorado School of Mines with a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science. In those 3 years Lopi and I had lived in 7 homes/apartments across Golden, Colorado. Needless to say we were really good at packing and moving. Post college I was ready to settle into a more permanent location for awhile. I applied a bunch of places and got a few job offers. At the end of the day the pay in San Francisco well out weighed my desire to live in Boulder, and I decided to make the leap. Every part of me wanted to stay in Colorado. That was where I felt comfortable, where the tall mountains were, and where all of my friends were. But a different side of me was intrigued by the adventure of a new city. About the thought of starting completely new. Not knowing a single person.

My company flew me out to find a place to live and then hired movers to move my stuff. I didn't have much but it was convenient to have everything already there once I got there. I knew nothing about San Francisco or the surrounding bay area, but I picked a one bedroom apartment in beautiful Marin county within walking distance to the ferry, which I would be commuting to work everyday on. Larkspur was perfect. Immediately I acquainted myself with the amazing trail running and beautiful coast. It was always the perfect temperature. I was ready to set roots and live here for awhile. I didn't want to move again.

But everything changed once I started working. My job had strict hours 9am to 6pm everyday. I lived so far outside of the city that with my commute I would leave my house at 7am and get back at 7pm. On top of this the ferry only ran till 9pm so I couldn't stay out late with my new coworkers. Needless to say, I hadn't made any friends yet and with my crazy work schedule it seemed like I never would. The work was demanding of my full attention and when I got home I would fall asleep within minutes.

Months went by and I became depressed. All I did was work and sleep. I was running but on the city streets of San Francisco. I was never a city person. Lopi was constantly being neglected. He wasn't happy either. I started to get out on the weekends but I didn't have any friends so my solo adventures felt dangerous. I climbed at every bouldering place on the Northern part of the state. Without a spotter, and being depressed I had some bad falls resulting in one gnarly head injury.
Then one day out of the blue a friend from high school in a pinch moved into my living room. Having Jo around made everything better. She listened to me bitch about how much I hated San Francisco and she loved Lopi like he was her own. But my problem still existed. I had one friend, an awesome job, and no time to run or climb. Soon after Jo moved in I met Yosemite. From that first day in that valley my life was changed.

I went to Yosemite every weekend. It was the only place I ever wanted to be. It would pull me through the weekdays and every Sunday my heart would break as I drove away. I could write a novel about the power of Yosemite about the people and the passion. But it wasn't until I met a man who lived in a van that my curiosity was sparked. He recommend the book that lit the fire under my butt to get out of San Francisco. The Life You Can Save by Peter Singer reminded me how silly it was to be spending all this money on a lavish apartment in Marin that I hated. But just as he came into my life he left, as van people do. And sitting in El Cap meadow contemplating my next steps in life I met a practicer of the dark art. A artist of the air.The friends of the ravens. His charm and danger drew me in like a cat.

In this moment I realized I had made all of these friends in Yosemite because these people were passionate. These people loved the outdoors and they lived every moment of there life deliberately. They had interesting stories and happiness poured from them. Many of them jobless, homeless, and poor but happier than any person I ever met in the bay. Why? Because they had nothing pointless consuming there thoughts. They were jumping off cliffs and free soloing rock climbs. They could care less who was winning on the Bachelor or when the Super Bowl starts. They drank from the springs, bathed in the rivers, and laid in the sun. I was home.
The next week I bought a van.

Next step was trying to make it work with my job. I loved my job but the lack of flexibility wasn't working. I tried every scenario to make the van life and my job work and at the end of the day it wasn't happening. Being jobless wasn't an option though. I had spent a month without work once in the van in Colorado and I thought I was going to go insane. I needed to use my brain. I needed to interact with other engineers. At this point it was just in my nature.
So the job hunt began. The nice thing about software engineering is with the right job you can do it remotely. Three months of interviews and I landed my dream job at the awesome company of Github! My suffering in San Francisco was finally over. 

In the same day that I signed my offer letter I broke my lease. I said goodbye to my roommate and friend Jo and headed for the mountains in the van. It wasn't hard to get rid of most of my belongings. After a few weeks in a van you realize how trivial it is to keep holding on to all of these things that other people could use. I've found that living in a van has made me more generous and more conscious. I'm more aware of how I am spending my time and how I am treating others around me. Time seems slower in the van. Rarely do I feel like time is flying by and I'm missing everything. I am also more aware of how much I use the things that I own. If something lays around the van for a few weeks unused I have to think about how to free up that space. Maybe I don't need that and someone else could benefit from it.

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Why the World's Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty

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Why the World's Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty

Reading. Reading is so very important. I like to read a lot. Reading helps you educate yourself on the world around you. Helps you learn about things you know little about. Helps you see different perspectives and formulate opinions. Reading is powerful. I am currently reading this book (link to Amazon) Which is another book for me on world poverty. The title poses a very straight forward and difficult question because really why do the world's poorest starve in an age of plenty? The book has a very optimistic out look but this outlook needs to be supported by us. By the people who have plenty giving to the efforts to stop starving. To help water crops and teach skills. Check out the books website  http://enoughthebook.com/. And as always consider giving even a few dollars a month to a charity like Oxfam who help stop the world's poorest from starving.

 

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Against Malaria Foundation

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Against Malaria Foundation

Do you have $3? Do you have $3 in the bank?  Do you have $3 in your pocket? When you think about $3 does it seem like a lot of money? Probably not because what can you really get for $3? Not much in the Bay Area. However for people living in extreme poverty $3 can be a life changer. Take it from the Against Malaria Foundation where only a $3 donation can protect 2 people from malaria for up to 4 years! You can read all about this great foundation and how you can donate on this website The Life You Can Save and while you're there checkout the other great ways you can give! Or just go straight to www.againstmalaria.com to checkout the current things the foundation is up to! It really doesn't take much to limit suffering. Sometimes only $3 can make a difference.

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Oxfam

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Oxfam

Great organizations doing good things for the world. I want to write more about all the amazing charities that are out there and all the amazing things they are doing and how you can get involved.

The awesome thing about Oxfam is that they give you a bunch of things to support along with a bunch of ways to give! In one of my favorite books, The Life You Can Save by Peter Singer, it brings up Oxfam a lot. Oxfam can very specifically tell you exactly where your money is going and how it will be used. I strongly support their movement for clean water but they are doing so much more good in the world as well.

One of the unique things Oxfam offers is this feature called unwrapped. Unwrapped is a great way to give and encourage people to give as well. It takes the stress and emptiness out of gift giving. Essentially you can buy a donation in someone else's name as a gift for Birthday or Christmas or Wedding or whenever and Oxfam will send them a card telling them that they helped a village with clean water or gave a family 10 chickens or etcetera. Money you would have otherwise spent on something they would have never used or just given to them in cash is actually going to someone in need. To the extremely impoverished suffering daily.

Just check it out! A super unique way to give. https://www.oxfamamericaunwrapped.com/

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The Tiny House Movement

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The Tiny House Movement

I was super excited when the good people at TinyHouseTinyFootprint reached out to me about interviewing. I'm always excited to share what my passions are and what drive me in life. You can check the interview out here: http://www.tinyhousetinyfootprint.com/roll-with-me/roll-with-naomi-in-a-ford-van

Their post they did on Instagram is probably the nicest thing anyone has ever said about me. 

I hope you read the article and get excited to give as well. If everyone cared even just a little we could save so many lives. Read the book. It's a fast read. You won't regret it!

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Test Running City Van Life

So I've decided to ease into van life very gradually, which is hard for me. If you know anything about me I am a very impulsive person. It would be more likely for me to sell all of my belongings and move into a van over the course of 24hrs instead of 3 or 4 months. None the less I've been sleeping in my van for the past 4 nights. And have learned several things just about sleeping which means I have worlds to learn about full time living. Here are my current discoveries.

  • Sweatshirt hoodie. The hood acts as a cover for light and keeps your head warm. I was skeptical at first. I never ever wear hoodies but for sleeping in a van it is a necessity. 
  • Sleeping bags. Lots of sleeping bags. Don't unzip them you want the warmth of the sleeping bag the entire way around your body. Being a little bit cold all night is probably the worst thing ever. Don't skimp on the warmth.
  • Parking. Don't park the van against a tree where the branches will sway in the wind and scrape the side of the van all night. It will get annoying.
  • Parking 2. Try to park the van on the flattest place ever. Sleeping in a slightly tilted bed made me feel like I needed to be seat belted into something. 
  • Dog. If he weighs a lot and decides to be restless it will feel like you are on a boat out at sea. The weight of the dog shifting around seems to shift everything in the van and when you're trying to sleep it feels very dramatic. Almost like you're getting towed...
  • Dog 2. Get that dog a bark collar... Last thing you want is some people stumbling by your van in the middle of the night and then have your dog bark at them. Hello super obvious someone is sleeping in that van or they are cruel and locked there dog in there alone. Whatever those people may think its not good. In the city in either case they'll probably call the cops. If your dog barks at people in the middle of the night pull yourself from your warm bed get into the driver seat and drive away. The only solution... other than getting that dog a bark collar.

It has only been 4 days I can't imagine all I have left to learn. Stay tuned. And yes in this photo the van is titled... example of how not to park your van.

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Quarter Life Crisis == Life Crisis == Word Vomit

I'm writing this because I like writing. I write just to write hoping you like reading just to read.

Last time I was in the meadow I chatted with Cedar about my quarter life crisis. Which he told me would never stop and that it was actually a life crisis. I'd have to agree with him. So let me tell you about my life crisis....

It all started back in March when I injured my achilles and was no longer able to run. Running is how I handle all of my problems and not having that outlet for my thoughts made me start thinking. My life was filled with negativity and no outlets to let go. So I ran away. I spent some time in Seattle, in the Valley, even in Canada and Alaska all of which temporarily relieved my inner suffering. I was deep in a crisis and traveling was clearly not going to fix it. Traveling however did fix my foot problem allowing me to "active" rest and heal quickly. Two and a half months and now all I'm left with is a giant lump of scar tissue. So I started running again hoping this would offer the solace that I was searching for. Instead I spent hours on my feet, alone with my thoughts breathing heavy (because I'm a bit out of shape) and thinking deeply about me about what it is that causes me to constantly feel in crisis mode unhappy and unstable. Here are the thoughts that lie at the center of my crisis.

I go through these waves of thinking I want stability and normality and routine. I want to settle down buy a house be with a consistent partner maybe have a kid. And then I flip and all I want is freedom and low commitment and excitement. I want to move into a van. Live in my office's parking lot bring my dog to work be in the mountains every weekend.

People tell me they're jealous think I'm living the life. But ever since I moved to the bay I've never felt so alone and empty. I hate this place I literally loathe everything the bay is about. But it's home and there's no better place for me to be right now so I'm here. And I love my job and I love the sierras. But I'm missing that overarching drive and passion towards an end goal. I have them in running and climbing but they come and go so quickly I feel lost.

What is it in life that gives life meaning. I've been searching and I haven't found it. The closest I've gotten is that it's the people it's about the people it's about having relationships with people it's about sharing experiences with people it's about having physical connections. Life means nothing if you're doing everything alone if you don't have people to celebrate in victories and mourn in losses.  This revelation is why I hate the bay. I have no one here. I'll never have anyone here. I've lived here for over a year now. Nothings going to change without me changing. But I don't want to change maybe because I don't want to love the bay. I want to have one foot out the door be able to run to the mountains and never come back. It's that freedom the fear of becoming salty and stuck paying off debt. I'm so afraid of getting old and having done nothing meaningful with my life. I'm young. I'm very young. But the fear of becoming one year older and having made no difference in the world terrifies me. So much so that I lay awake at night.

I feel lonely I'm not sure why. I have friends and family but I'm empty. I'm a hollow shell of a person. Living from thrill to thrill one exciting adventure to another. My coping mechanism: running. I wake up at 3am lonely I go for run. Can't fall asleep at 11pm I run. I run till I'm numb. I'll run till the sun rises and I have to go to work. Alone again but not lonely. I never feel lonely on runs. I'm too trained to block out feelings when I run. Feelings and emotions are weakness. I'm not weak.

I want to help people. I want to help I want to feel needed to feel valuable. But not for something pointless like software engineer. I want to help the extremely impoverished. And giving just my money isn't enough. I want to physically help. I want to live simply and give everything that I am. My job allows me to take as much time as I want off of work. Just after three weeks I won't get paid anymore. If I live in a van and don't have to pay rent I can afford this. I can afford to take three or four or six months off of work a year and travel to the poor and help them. Am I crazy for wanting this? I've put myself in a position where I can do this. Should I not do it? I'd be selfish not to right? Or am I already selfish for wanting to help? Do I have ulterior motives selfish motives for wanting to help them? Selfishly wanting purpose and meaning in my life?

I guess I won't know until I try. So that's what I'm doing. Everything's in place with my job they're super supportive of my desires to help the poor and live in my van. Now I just need to find my purpose. Spending all my free time running and rock climbing only fills the void in my life for a short amount of time. Don't get me wrong I'm stoked on climbing and running but what happens when I climb El Cap then what? I feel excited and satisfied for a few hours maybe a week and then what? Then I have to climb something bigger or faster or harder. And who benefited from me climbing El Cap? No one but myself. How many impoverished people suffered while I climbed El Cap?... too many. I can't help but feel like most everything I do in my life is empty. I want meaning and purpose. I want companionship. I want to see and feel the pain of these people and the pure joy that erupts from their beings. I want to help them and by helping them they will in return help me. Because I'm selfish? Because I'm deeply disturbed? Because I live in the richest county in California. Because I ride a ferry every day with people who have more money than I ever will. Who own a house worth more than I can imagine. Who own a yacht and a big screen TV. Why? Because they were born in America. Where these luxuries are more important than the lives of the poor.

I'm not sure why I'm telling you all this but I am. Probably because I'm trying to reevaluate what I am beneath the crazy overly stoked Cuban most people see. When really I'm an emotionally distraught young woman running and climbing to temporarily fill the gaping hole in my life... I am a fool.

O and here's a photo of my van. His name is Gunther.

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