This is probably the most common question I get and for good reason. A lot of people don’t understand how someone could leave a financially successful life for a van. Many others are on the fence about whether or not to take the plunge and move into a van and are looking for further inspiration. I’ll describe the specific catalysts that I attribute to combining to inspire me to make this decision.
Before I begin, let me explain that I was extremely financially successful before moving into the man. I was also generally happy and am for the most part maintain a happy and content baseline attitude or emotional state 90% of the time. Although ‘financial success’ is the main form of success West identifies with, it is not the only type of success there is in this world. Freedom, spirituality, health/fitness, happiness, family, purpose are all other areas where someone can find success. Growing up I believed financial success was the end goal and the key to happiness but soon realized that I had been misled by society, family, school, mentors, the media and the overall collective thinking that dominates American culture.
These are the catalysts that set this whole journey into motion:
- After I made a lot of money I went out and bought a lot of nice things but those things didn’t make me happy. In fact they made me worried about damaging or losing them. I felt ridiculous about needing to buy insurance for a watch. I felt a weight of concern about all these ‘things’ I had acquired. I began questioning every facet of my life and lifestyle and soon became interested in minimalism after dissecting these feelings I was having.
- Once I began questioning my lifestyle, each time I would go out to a bar or restaurant in Miami I noticed a sinking feeling like I didn’t belong or that I was wasting precious time being there. It was precious time that I could have been spending outside hiking, or devoting to a deeper purpose. If you’ve ever had this feeling you know what I’m talking about. Don’t get me wrong I love my friends, but I personally felt like I had stop growing spiritually and wanted to invest that time to getting to know myself on a deeper level.
- Walden. I read this book when I was seventeen and it left a mark on my soul that didn’t completely flower until much later in life. After I had accumulated wealth and possessions, I picked it up and upon re-reading it I understood it in a completely new light. Having grown up in Boston, a couple miles from where it was written, many of it’s passages resonated with me and the book is still as relevant today as it was 165+ years ago. I understand this book more and take something new away every time I read it.
- The Four Agreements. After reading this book I started doubting the path that I was on and the programming I had received up until that point in my life. If I could recommend one book to anyone, this is the book (and The Fifth Agreement as a follow up).
- The Environment. I had become increasingly concerned after doing extensive research on human consumption behavior and its effect on the environment. In addition to being vegan, vanlife seemed an excellent way to shrink my footprint in the world. I want to be able to say that I did everything I could on a personal level to contribute to the climate change solution. (I also bring my own cups and bowls to restaurants, I use cloth instead of paper towels, I bring my own reuseable bags into grocery stores, etc)
- Kayaking Trip. I took a kayaking trip with my friend Eli and we stayed in a tiny plywood hut with no cell signal. The hut and it’s bunk bed couldn’t have been more rustic and simple, but it was quietly tucked away in the woods, alongside a river and I couldn’t have been more happy. We would wake up, kayak all day, eat, go to bed, repeat. I wanted to explore this new found happiness on an extended journey. I was tired of being a weekend warrior and taking small trips only to return to my life that revolved around work.
- Tiny House Movement. I’d become increasingly interested in minimalism and shrinking my footprint. I initially wanted to build a tiny house but decided that even a tiny house was too big. From watching tiny house TV shows to vanlife youtube videos, the evolution and decision to build a van crystalized when I realized this was possible.
- “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” by Ken Burns was one of the best docu-series I have ever seen. After watching this documentary I realized that while I spent my life traveling the world I had neglected the treasures in my own backyard. If you haven’t seen this, I highly recommend it. You will be motivated to see all the beautiful lands this nation has set aside for public enjoyment. The United States has some of the most awe-inspiring places to see in the world.
All of these catalysts came into my life at around the same time (late 2016/early 2017) and by the Summer of 2017 I had made up my mind to change the trajectory of my life. Within a year I had built my van, sold my stuff, sold my company and was hitting the road to begin the physical journey that was a manifestation of the mental, philosophical and spiritual journey I had just embarked on.