Committing to Van Life, Happiness, and the Pursuit of What I'm Good at

The past couple of years have brought about a lot of challenges and opportunities. Without getting too into it right now I've learned how sickness, despair, hope, relationships, and nature can change one's view of the world and perspective of their place in it. There's a story there that's possibly going to come out later, but for now, all you need to know is that I'm moving into a van . . . which is admittedly quite odd of a thing to do but I faced myself with the reality that I was kind of settling down and kind of being adventurous and if I kept kind of doing both I would never really do either.


I took a step back and looked at what I'm good at, what I'm not good at, what about those things makes me happy/unhappy, and most importantly to me how to balance all those things with making a change in the world I would like to see. My heart has not been in a lot of what I have had to do, but I've done it all with a plan to keep a persevering attitude so when I got to the point when the fog of unfortunate incidents and adversity lifted, I could make good decisions going forward. Not everything has been clear, and I've made a lot of mistakes along the way but to quote some of my mentors "Nothing great was every achieved without enthusiasm" (Ralph Emerson) "To give less than your best is to sacrifice the gift" (Steve Prefontaine) and "If we want authenticity we have to initiate it" (Travis Rice). I tried to keep these things on the front of my mind - stay excited and optimistic, give my best and look at the world/opportunities/skills as a gift, and create my story. So this plan has a lot to do with all those thoughts and feelings as well as listening to my creative mind.

Here's why I'm doing this exactly . . .

Medium-term Goals

  • Last year I asked myself where I wanted to live and came down to the fact that, in an ideal world, I would live in Truckee, California with time spent in Denver and San Diego, with plenty of trips in between. Having a home in each of those is currently impossible, but van-living would make it possible.
  • With my job it makes the most financial sense not to rent a place (read throw away money) I am barely ever in but to own a vehicle/home.
  • I love an adventurous life and want to make it more accessible for friends to join me. This will make it easier for me to go to them or more affordable for them to fly out and join me on an expedition.
  • Have the most fun possible while learning the most possible to grow into a fun, educated, experienced, man who cares about the world a lot by focusing on the beauty and the problems simultaneously (medium-term goal transitioning into the long-term goals).

Long Term Goals

  • I want to be a writer/author/speaker/illustrator/photographer. Flat out; this is what I want to be in life. Van life gives me a studio to work in all the time and allows me the space to get away and be productive while also allowing me to be right in the middle of places I want to experience/write about.
  • Photography - I'm finding this is one of the easiest ways for me to get traction to create change, so I plan on investing my time and energy into getting better, telling more stories, and finding my style. I loved photography in middle and high school, even winning a bunch of state awards for photo journalism, but walked away because I didn't see it as a viable career. It was just something I loved and I looked at it as a hobby. If I could go back and tell myself anything in high school, it might be to never set the camera down. I've missed out on a good ten years of experience/learning but have to look at the positives of what I've learned about myself in between then and now.
  • Spend more time with homeless people: I won't be homeless . . . I will just be home wherever I am. Being able to go many places will allow me time to travel more but also frees up my schedule to connect with people and rekindle my passion that has never really gone away. I want to start up a writing club/therapy format/curriculum to help people who are homeless have healthy outlets, build relationships and have peace/growth through readily available therapy. This will be a weighty endeavor but one I am very excited about. I can't do this all on my own, and we'll see how it will work out, but the hope is to get people involved and set up workshops with open invitations.
  • Continue becoming a kind, hard working, gentle, loving, adventurous, and fun person - the past two years wore on me. At times I've become more negative than I was before (it had something to do with the cancer/being poor/terrible relational decisions/moving/job struggles etc. etc.), but I was the worst version of me I'd ever been. I know this is being hard on myself, but I am a very firm believer in being hard on yourself. I try to have some grace on myself here because during that time I still made a couple of books, didn't give up, tried to be a good friend, inspired others even when I couldn't feel good, gave talks to groups, had plenty of resiliency to overcome, and somehow mucked my way through everything, but again - any productivity came because I was hard on myself and refused to give up working/producing even when I felt like crap. All good things of motivation, healing, and the exit door from the building of hardship I was living in came from the loving generosity and grace of friends and family who didn't give up on me, to which I owe a lot and to which I plan to pay it forward.

This is a lot to focus on, but I plan on being intentional about working hard for the good things I want and feel capable of. I learned what it was like to work hard for things that sucked, but I had to do these past couple years. It feels good to be getting back to where I was before getting sick, before the months where I felt dark and gloomy and cynical about everything I created or did. I miss the person I was becoming before this valley but feel like I'm climbing the slope out of it as a more experienced and determined person.

This is just a fork in the road. I'm just a wild boy trying to take it enthusiastically.