So here we are, almost a week into living in California. How have things progressed, you ask? Well allow me to tell you!
Arriving in California was comforting, but also a little overwhelming, and my roommate's words kept echoing around in my head, haunting me.
Don't live in a van. Don't do it.
-Zach B, Roommate for Life
I started to second guess myself. Was this really what I wanted? Was I actually being insane? What if I went through with it and then decided I didn't want it? I'd have to deal with all the stress of having to find an apartment while starting a new job, and trying to sell the stupid van on top of all of it. Would I actually be alright without truly having a home? I was in full-fledged panic mode, and I'd been on the West Coast less than a day. Panicking is very not my style, or so I like to think, so I decided to do the rational thing, and make a list of pros and cons of living in a van, and then make a well-informed decision based on that. So, ordered from most important to least important reasons, here is my list:
- Money Savings. Even sharing bedrooms, rent in the Bay area is going to cost at least $1,000 a month. That's a bare minimum, it doesn't include utilities or anything else. It's $12,000+ a year that I'm practically just burning. No return, no equity, just gone.
- Life Experience. I've never truly stepped outside my comfort zone. After living in California for a summer, I realized just how little of the world I've actually seen. If I do plan on travelling the world, I'll need to be comfortable with unconventional living situations, and this is certainly a good place to start. Plus, there is never going to be a better time in my life for me to try this. I'm young, flexible, and I don't have to worry about this decision affecting anyone else in my life.
- Transportation and Proximity. Having a car is very much a necessity, and by living in it on campus, I can cut my commute down to a few seconds instead of hours, which means I can spend my time more productively. Plus, I hate traffic, and my company's 25,000+ employees ensure that there is a whole lot of it in the morning and evening hours.
- Health Benefits. If I'm living in a van, I have no choice but to go to the gym on campus to shower, so living in a van provides me with a strict daily regimen. In a similar vein, since I'm eating all my meals at work, it means my diet will be organized into three meals a day during the week, without any late-night snacking.
- Social Suicide. I will most certainly be "That Guy". No amount of planning or forethought excuses the fact that I'm the psychopath living in a van in the parking lot. People will eventually find out, and it will affect my social life.
- Inconvenience. Living in a car is not convenient. There's no bathroom, shower, or refrigerator in a reasonable distance.
- Stress and Anxiety. The whole process is supremely stressful. Picking out a van, buying it, converting my license, getting insurance, all without a car and all before I've even started working and making money is a lot to deal with. Not to mention the illegality of most of it. Then once all of those things are out of the way, I'm still pretty anxious about being caught, and how I'm going to sneak into and out of my van.
- Upfront Expenses. At least with renting an apartment, I'd be paying gradually, without too much upfront cost. But between buying the car, buying insurance, fixing the car, setting it up, and the taxes and fees on top of all those things, it's a pretty big financial burden for someone who hasn't even started working yet.
- Good luck getting laid. Interestingly enough, it was my mom who asked me about this one. I can only imagine that it's going to be next to impossible to get laid when I'm the van guy. Sure, I can get a hotel for the night, but it's still strange and I still have a bit of explaining and convincing to do. Since I'm not nearly smooth enough for that, I've accepted the fact that I'm going to be celibate for the next who knows how long.
As you can guess by the fact that this blog even exists, I'm in the process of doing this, for real. I definitely wavered a bit before making my decision, I even posted in the "New Engineers" group looking for housing. But after weighing out the pros and cons, and evaluating where I want my life to be in 4-5 years, I decided that I'm going to do it.
A Slight Detour
One of the main things I realized from writing out the benefits and drawbacks was that it wasn't a van that I wanted. I wanted something more personal, something where I could relax even if I wasn't sleeping. And that's how I ended up with a 16' box truck, pictured above. After about ten hours of looking around at vehicles, at $8,800 (before taxes and fees), this 2006 Ford E350 Super Duty Cargo Van with 157,000 miles looked like the best bet. The "box" part is a roomy 128 ft2, larger than any of the bedrooms I've ever lived in prior.
The past few days have been a stream of car-related errands. I purchased the car on Wednesday, after a grueling five hours at Green Light Motors doing test drives and looking over the truck and applying for financing and insurances. On Thursday, I got new tires and a license to match. On Friday, I picked up the bed. Along the way, I've also done a bit of graffiti and insect removal, all part of the package.
The hardest part so far has really been parking the damned thing. It's roughly 20 feet long and 11 feet high, which means that it doesn't fit in most parking spaces, and even when it does, overhanging trees threaten to rip the top off. In the large, open-air parking lots on campus, this won't be a big deal, but maneuvering it around in the meantime has certainly put my CDL knowledge to work.