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vanlife

Making Vanlife Work (#1/3): The Budget

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Making Vanlife Work (#1/3): The Budget

I shared a post the other day talking about how @clmbrlifr and I are going to return to full-time #vanlife in short order.  It'll be my second stint in a van in the last three years and Paul’s return to his old dirtbag roots after working corporate for the last three decades: he used to be an itinerant climber in his twenties.  

Financing life on the road

‘How do you make it work financially?’ is one of the questions that I get asked most frequently these days.

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Sunny's Story

Hi!  I’m Sunny.  I am 30 years old; I am a climber, mountaineer and ultra runner, and I live on the road full-time in search of sunshine and adventure.   

All that is true, but it’s not really my story.  Up until the end of 2015, I wasn’t Sunny; my colleagues and friends knew me as Suzanne (or Suz if we were close).  I was living and working in Houston, Texas, right in the middle of the take-off of a high-octane strategy consulting career.  I have an MBA from a terribly prestigious school; until a few months ago I used to crush it on all the “right” dimensions: acing those tests, landing that job, working my way up the ladder.  Now my home is ~150cft of space on wheels, stuffed to the brim with sandy, muddy gear; I am constantly thinking twice before I spend $5 on a Starbucks coffee or even $1.50 on a truckstop cup of joe - and then usually end up deciding against it. How did all of this happen?

In a way it all goes back to when I was 12 years old and my parents took me to theGrand Canyon for the first time - but that’s going back way too far. Let’s start in my early twenties instead: they consisted mostly of work, bar nights and being a couch potato.  A dear friend and mentor encouraged me to take time off to go traveling before grad school, so I did; with a budget of $5k I covered ten countries in five months.  Coming back from the trip my appetite for adventure had been awakened. I was still mostly a couch potato but learned to climb at the local rock gym during my first semester in business school and quickly fell in love with it.  Mountaineering and ultra running were the result of another extended backpacking trip right after graduation - my first ultra trail was essentially ‘off the couch’ (not something I would recommend), and I somehow even managed to like it enough to come back for more afterwards. 

Fast forward to the last four years - I was working long hours based out of Houston, and gradually came to realize that my true passion has very little to do with business and a lot with being outside, pushing myself and exploring.  On many Fridays and Mondays you’d find me at the airport in shift dress and high heels, still feverishly typing on my laptop, trad rack and climbing shoes slung over my shoulder; I occasionally pulled up to the Red Rocks campground in business attire with a consultant carry-on spilling out of the car - you get the idea. In 2015 I came to the realization that the main reason for why I needed a big paycheck was that I lived in a big apartment in a big city that I didn’t appreciate, and spent lots of money on plane tickets and rental cars to get into the mountains for rushed getaways: once I was out there, I wasn’t spending very much.  I also knew that I would be in a position to pay off my remaining student loans by December 2015, and with that my path was as clear as a yellow brick road - or rather a red dirt trail: save up as much as I could, dare to quit the promising job, downsize, get rid of the expensive apartment, buy a dirtbag mobile, and instead of spending lots of money on plane tickets to quickly get to the places that I cherish… just never leave them. 

That’s where I am today, it’s who I am.  The big question is what’s up next and for now, the answer is simple: the open road, until it stops being fun or my money runs out.  Judging by my first couple months of vanlife I have a feeling that it’ll be the latter!