Do you think a female going to grad school could survive your adventure? My daughter is 25 and is going to grad school next year.
Normally I would drop a question like this into a Q&A post of some sort, but I've gotten a bunch of similar questions, and even met up with a few inquirers to discuss this exact topic. These things lead me to believe it's an important enough topic to deserve its own post (not that the threshold for "deserving a post" is very high). The question is a simple one:
Could I get rid of my house or apartment and live out of a vehicle?
The Simple Answer
A simple answer would just be: Yes. Barring any harsh health conditions/completely crippling poverty, most people could buy a sleeping bag and throw it in the back of their car. Even if you don't have a car to begin with, I'm sure you could sign a few papers with some questionable, semi-savory people and find yourself in a vehicle pretty quickly. Congratulations, you live in a car.
Even that's not so bad though. In fact, if you trace your lineage back, you'll find that you have 200,000 years (give or take a few tens of thousands of years) worth of ancestors wandering around in the woods. This makes you, with your sleeping bag and car, more equipped for braving the elements than thousands of generations before you. Grab a few Happy Meals a day, and maybe a gym membership if you care about how you smell, and you should be all set for the long haul.
But obviously there's much more than that, and I'm just being facetious for the sake of wanting to use the word facetious in a sentence correctly. My above ramblings aren't taking into consideration things like comfort, adequate hygiene, and real food, not to mention that people will probably think you're crazy. I'm sure there are a few other things on Mazlow's Hierarchy of Needs that I'm missing too. So what does it really take to live out of a vehicle?
A Slightly More Reasonable But Still Ridiculous Answer
Making the decision to live out of a vehicle is a pretty big one. I had the luxury of spending 8+ months weighing out the pros and cons of the lifestyle change, and despite all of that incubation time, I was still having second thoughts even as I was signing the papers to purchase the truck I now call home. I've never really written about this before, but I vividly remember the feeling of closing my apartment door for the last time, knowing that I wouldn't have a fixed place to turn to from there on out. There's not much you can do to prepare for something like that, and I'm sure the uncertainty and chaos are even more biting when you don't make the decision willingly. It's one of those "here goes everything" kind of moments, which can be a blessing or a curse depending on your attitude.
I legitimately enjoy living out of my truck, as I've undoubtedly mentioned a hundred-and-one times before. It's simple, liberating, and occasionally challenging, but part of the fun in this lifestyle is finding creative solutions to weird problems. I like that I'm not wasting a very non-negligible part of my life commuting. I like that I'm not wasting resources that I don't need. And that's the thing, I like doing this, and that's what makes it feasible for me. If you go into something like this thinking that it's some huge sacrifice, it's going to feel like a chore. You can kind of see this in the wording of the initial question above. Instead of trying to survive this adventure, one might even enjoy it or benefit from it. I understand that people find the idea attractive because of its cost-cutting benefits, but the whole experience will be a much smoother, more savory adventure if you go into it with the right mindset. Thinking that you're going to "grit your teeth and do it" is setting yourself up for burnout, if nothing worse. It can be a lot of fun, it definitely doesn't need to be taken so seriously.
As with most non-luck-based things in life, your ability to live in a truck hinges on your ability to plan things out. Off the top of my head, some questions you're going to need to be able to answer:
- What kind of car do you want? The type of vehicle you get is entirely contingent on what type of person you are and what you need out of life. I've seen people living in everything from the bed of a pickup truck to a cushy 40' RV. Looking back to when I was planning everything out, I thought I wanted some type of sprinter or conversion van. It took a bit of introspection before I realized that I personally wanted a little more space, more of a canvas to work with. Search around and try to find something that fits in with the lifestyle you want, each vehicle will undoubtedly have its own special set of trade-offs. For example, the box truck is large and awkward to maneuver, but it blends in more than an RV, and that's a balance I'm willing to work with.
- Where are you going to get the car? Once you've figured out the type of car you want, you'll naturally have to figure out where you're getting it from. Check Craigslist, check local dealerships, check Kelly Blue Book, check that site your aunt told you was great. Whatever it is, just do your research. Remember, you're literally shopping for a home, it's in your best interest to put a little time and effort into it.
- Where are you going to park it? Will it be safe to park it at work? Is a friend going to let you park it in their driveway? What do the vagrancy laws look like in your neck of the woods? This is another area that might require a bit of research.
- Where are you going to shower and go to the bathroom? Bathhouse, gym, school, work: all valid options. Just make sure you have something available to you. I've said it before and it bears repeating: you definitely don't get to skimp on the hygiene just because you're skimping on traditional housing. If you don't think you'll be capable of keeping up appearances, so to speak, don't move into a truck. Other parts of your life will suffer as a result, and it will be sad and not worth it.
- Where are you going to eat and store food? One of the great inconveniences of being a living creature is that we have to take time out of our busy days to eat food. If you're living in a car to cut your expenses down, it doesn't make a lot of sense to be constantly eating out. You either need a place to store food, or some method of procuring it. I'm fortunate enough to be able to eat most of my meals at work, but I understand that's certainly not the norm. My senior year of college, I experimented with a Soylent-like meal-replacement shake, as part of a bodybuilding routine I was doing. It's certainly not for everyone (and I occasionally found myself missing the sensation of chewing), but it's fairly cheap (~$3 a bottle), easy to store in a vehicle, and only requires water to consume. Something worth considering.
Check out this post if you haven't seen it already — it covers all the things that make it possible for me to do what I do. That said, plenty of people live in cars and don't have the same resources available to them that I do. I'm sure there are more creative solutions to the various facets and challenges of truck life that haven't even crossed my mind, and figuring them out is part of the journey.
One Final Note
Throughout this post, I've been ignoring one of the keywords from the initially-posed question: female. The world can be a scary place, filled with less-than-savory people. I know several women that live in vehicles, and they haven't told me about any major problems with other people. Still, my anecdotes don't necessarily align with the larger reality, and crime statistics will paint a decidedly less cheery picture. I live in a place with incredibly low crime-rates, and if it came down to it, I'm pretty confident in my ability to defend myself (hell, I didn't even lock my truck door for the first six or so months). Regardless of my personal feelings, safety concerns certainly can (and should) be a deal-breaker.
To end on a less somber note: truck life can be fun and rewarding, and will likely leave you with some unique skills and life experiences. And this particular trucker just finished his aforementioned defensive driving course and sent in the paperwork, hopefully saving his license once and for all.