I woke up this morning prepared to write a heartfelt post about patience, perseverance and the idea that everything happens for a reason. That post would have gone something like this:
First, I would detail the struggle of locating a van. I would explain that I hadn’t posted anything in so long because I didn’t want to admit what I felt like were failures. I didn’t want to talk about how getting a loan took longer than I imagined, how I had found the perfect van (a High Top Ford Transit with low mileage not far from home) only to have it sold to someone else the day before my loan application was approved. I would include a few (hopefully) witty comments regarding my battles with car dealers (including the one who attempted to sell me a midroof van he assured me, even as I was standing inside it with my head nearly hitting the ceiling, that is was a high roof van).
I was going to follow my solemn tales with a redemptive explanation of how, after nearly two months of searching, I had settled on buying a van out of my initial price range from a dealership over three hours away. The day before I had planned to go look at the more expensive van, the dealership I had initially wanted to purchase from contacted me. They had just gotten in a 2016 Ford Transit High Top with 38k miles on it. And it was only $24,680 (only $680 more than the amount of my loan). I was going to Nashville for the weekend anyway and was able to go test drive it the next day. It seemed perfect. A great car for a great price sold by great people. They sent me the paperwork and agreed to deliver the van to my house on Tuesday (today). It seemed like a sign from the universe, a reassurance that all my waiting had not been in vain and a reminder that everything happens for a reason.
This was going to be that post, the “everything happens for a reason” post, the “the project is finally happening” post, but this is not that post. This is the Murphy’s Law post. Because it sometimes feels like everything that could go wrong has.
The van arrived today, I handed over the check and paperwork, took the key and looked in the cargo hold. Things were fine. I opened the driver’s door. Things were fine. I waved the delivery men goodbye as they drove away and opened the passenger door to get the owners manual out of the glove compartment. Things were not fine. Things were not fine because there were ants everywhere.
In clumps and sporadically arranged lines, they crawled over every surface of the door hinge. I followed their paths as they spread towards the cargo hold, where I found some as far back as the rear doors.
I traced them back to their source of operations, a box of blue fluid (presumably antifreeze) near the front right tire.
I was angry, disgusted and a little defeated. This was the moment it was all suppose to be okay. The moment that all of my searching, all of my planning, all of my stressing was suppose to mean something. I was suppose to rejoice. I was suppose to breathe a sigh of relief and write a happy post declaring the start of my project to the world.
Instead, I wrote this post on my phone while eating my first meal of the day at 3:26pm in a rundown Mexican restaurant while being bombarded with calls from my parents wanting to know if the dealership will pay for the extermination, my friends wanting more videos of ants crawling from the bowels of the vehicle, and car dealers wanting to know if I’m still in the market for a van.
So, what are the take aways from all of this?
Honestly, I’m not sure anymore.
All that I know is that vanlife Instagrams don’t do justice to what a project this large entails. Even I fell victim to the idea that it wouldn’t be much harder than buying a van, renovating it for a month or two and then riding off into the sunset to take pictures out the back window that would receive thousands of likes on Instagram. But that, like our president’s hair, is fake. Or, at least, it’s only a partial truth.
So, what has been the #truecost of vanlife so far?
1) An onslaught of jokes and not-so-subtle digs from various parties about being a “dirty hippy”, “voluntarily homeless” or “crazy” for taking on this project
2) Having to humble myself enough to accept that I can’t qualify for a loan on my own
3) Hundreds of hours (many during times I should have slept) spent searching for vans, solar panels and a sense of purpose
4) Approximately $25k ($760, if you don’t count the loan)
5) Hopefully the lives of hundreds of ants that still need to be eradicated from my van
Though I wrote this in a less than stellar restaurant, I came home to a house with a van parked in the driveway. A house with my van parked in the driveway. That’s something I have dreamed of for years. Maybe it isn’t as easy as I had hoped or as painless as I imagined, but life isn’t as clean cut as it looks on Instagram. Sometimes, everything that can go wrong does, but that doesn’t mean it happens for no reason.
Maybe all of this happened so that I can make this post and tell you that following your dreams can be terrifying and that even if it feels like the universe is trying to tell you to give up, that doesn’t mean you should. I already feel that my eyes have been opened to so many of the unseen costs of not just vanlife, but life in general.