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**All text and photos are provided by Calen Otto**

Just like the increasing amount of young folks looking to simplify their lives, I live in my van in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. 

Before we get into how cool, hip, and fun the growing hashtag “#vanlife” can be, it’s important to note that I do it by choice, unlike so many others. According to a homeless census done in Washington, the number of folks living in vehicles and campers increased 46% over the last year alone, as reported by CBS news. (1) We can assume, just by taking a look at the world right outside of our doorsteps, that living in a vehicle looks more doable than paying for housing when living wages are low and rent becomes outrageously high.

Sadly, a survey done by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty said that the number of laws against sleeping in vehicles has more than doubled within the last 10 years, making living situations much more complicated. (2) This is a serious issue. While I am all for the van life, the van life isn’t for everyone. I enjoy residing in small spaces, but I don’t have a family to take care of, children to house, or a desire for more basic living space as most humans do. I also have access to clean water, enough food, gas to get around, and shelter when the weather goes south. Living in a vehicle can be fun, but not when it is forced as a last option.

I moved into my van last year for a few simple reasons…

To save on rent, be closer to mother nature, and not be locked into any housing contracts. Moving into a vehicle is a great opportunity to declutter your life while cutting out the useless objects that we allow to suck up our time, space, and dollars. I’ve noticed a lot of folks older than me constantly checking in to make sure that I am OK, many of them thinking that this was my last option. But, don’t worry Auntie, the vanlife has proven to be just as cool as the youngsters on Instagram make it look.

Save Money 

Everyone we know is looking to save money, and I don’t feel the need to explain why. Instead, I’ll give you a simple explanation. Things are expensive! A few select holds most of the money and power, and the government does not favor providing for the most basic of human needs. With that being said, I like having my car payment and rent wrapped into one. A lower payment means that I can spend less time living to work, and more time working to live as fully as I possibly can. On top of that, with a smaller living area comes the capacity to hold a limited amount of things. Every time I think about purchasing something new, I have to ask, “Will this fit in my space?” and, “Do I really need this?” 

Live Closer to Nature 

On most days, I’m the first one who is ready to sink their hands in the dirt, take that hike, and jump in the cool river. But with today’s society functioning as it does, those simple but thrilling activities have come to be reserved for the weekend. I don’t want to live like that. Van living has basically turned my everyday experience into something close to camping. My sleep schedule is more in tune with nature. I feel the outside climate temperature from the inside of my living space. I fall asleep listing to the earth’s tiny insects buzzing and humming on warm summer nights. 

Feel the Freedom 

Although it’s more of a personal thing or even a personality trait, I don’t like being locked into cash commitments. I feel the desire to travel and adventure almost constantly, so living on wheels and working from my computer gives me the freedom to do so. At this very moment, I’ve committed myself to spend some time staying grounded, in one place, and building community. That means that I am parked in one place that I come back to each evening, and am thankfully surrounded by people that I love. 

Even when I feel the urge to get up and go see what this world has to offer, I am comforted knowing that I have the freedom to do so at any moment. This is thanks to that good ole’ #vanlife. 



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