Vanlife: How to Be Alive

There are few ways learned what life is truly about. And after parenting, traveling is the next best way. The adventure I have chosen is Vanlife. I have sold the farm, organized life and am jumping in my 1984 VW Vanagon to travel full-time. Here is how to feel alive.

1. Quit Your Day Job

Modern work preoccupies one far too much. You can’t discover much about life at the office. That is a given. Most work is sugar coated slavery, you would not be there if it were not for the money.

2. Live Simply

How do you make ends meet to travel full-time? Start affordably for one. Sunshine cost $1,000 me with no second gear. Take your time, I have been lovingly restoring Sunshine for the last seven years. I saved and now she has all her gears and a hightop to stand up in. If you rent, consider living out of your van while you still work to forgo rent. And, travel now while gas is still cheap.

For me it is about getting rid of as many possessions as possible to free myself up to explore the mind and to connect deeply with the earth and my partner.

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3. Be Handy

Before I bought the farm, I could barely swing a hammer. After 10 years of organic farming I am badass at every power tool Dewalt makes and after 7 years of van-love I know where almost every engine part is. Good mechanics become your best friends. You can buy an expensive new Sprinter but I prefer the soul and simplicity of my hippie van.

4. Start Early

I wish I had started traveling when I graduated from college. It would have saved me 30 years of self-discovery the hard way and I would have ended up with the same van. The thing about consumer society is you really don’t get ahead and you are at the whim of the real estate market. So why wait for salt and pepper hair to travel?

5. Make a Joyful Living

You don’t have to be a tech guru to make a living on the road. Be inspired by what Erik Gordon is doing at Carabiner Coffee out of his 71′ bus named Ol Blue. How about the traveling off-grid storytelling theatre run from a 1966 Bedford RL lorry by Tom and Rima named Hedgespoken. See how Michael and Kristin will make the skis of your dreams in Community Skis mobile workshop. Find Vanlife on Instagram for more inspiration. How about working 6 months and traveling the other half of the year? Be creative to be free.

6. Partner Up

Life is more fun shared by two. I don’t know how I would do it without my climbing life partner. It is hard to imagine going on the road without her. Share the driving, bring a friend.

7. Connect to the Land

A great failure of civilization is the lack of connection to the land. We try to domesticate and own her. The land owns us. We came from her when we were born, we are sustained by here and we go back to her when we die. How can we own the land?

The land is talking to us, she misses our indigenous connection. Native American’s have it right, water is life.  The land has its own laws. Connect to the land and the life in each place. Slow down, listen, she is telling you what life is all about.

8. Appreciate The Gift of Travel

As Richard Heinberg explains, we live in the time of the Great Burning. This is a remarkably short window in which civilization is burning the earth’s supply of stored sunlight called fossil fuels. This time will never come again. The only renewable energy on the planet is photosynthesis. Solar and wind energy have negative a return on energy investment ROEI. Hydro electric clogs Earth’s water circulation system, rivers, and kills the life within, salmon. The age of fossil fuel is brief and costly, appreciate this gift. Your great grand children will be amazed at your travels of far off places.

9. Be Creative Culture

From permaculture, to cob cottages to music and art festivals. Support the creative cultures, they are our only hope to find out way back to the garden. Find like minded people and tribe up with them.

10. Learn What it is to be Alive

The future is living regeneratively with the land. Coexisting with the native life that is already here is our future. Imposing our short-sighted human visions on the land interrupts nature’s succession and grinds the Earth into dust one plowing and clearcut after another Find the future. Learn the medicinal herbs to heal, learn to live wild. Learn to feel alive, run, jump, skip, ski, hike, climb, surf.

11. Contribute Less to Climate Change

Climate change is not caused by fossil fuels. I know that sounds like the Earth is round 500 years ago. The truth is climate weirding is mostly caused by civilization’s deforestation of the planet. (read more) You contribute far more to global warming by building a stick frame house than you do by traveling in your modest hippie van. So get out and see the world, connect with the land and learn from others

12. Connect Locally

Stay a while where you land. In my case, spend the summer in Squamish, BC and the Winter in Joshua Tree, CA. I join the The Common co-work office space in Squamish. My co-work desk mates are my friends and family. We have Friday afternoon barbecues and catch up. I participate in the local Squamish Access Society, The Joshua Tree Climber’s Collective park clean up, and support local environmental watchdog groups like the BC Elphinstone Logging Focus. Be a citizen where you are, give back, give some love.

13. Live With Intention

Vanlife is an intentional material-less-ness of sorts. The idea is to get connected to the landscape, to experience new people and places. You can have or not have a conventional home to go back to. In my case I sold the house and am setting out. I or we will find a new place to settle but the dwelling will be a small nest and most likely naturally built by our own hands. Vanlife without a home to go back to is freeing. We don’t need much and the less we need the freer we are to develop ourselves and experience life instead of things and distractions. We are also freer to develop an outdoor recreation passion. Home is where the heart ❤️is.

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Chuck Burr is author of Culturequake: The Restoration Revolution.