Three Years of Vanlife


Today is my Vanniversary. Not one, not two, but three full years on the road, in a van. It’s gone by so fast that it doesn’t feel real. I’d intended to go for a year. I’d hoped I’d make it that long. Now three? Reflexively, I want to shout, “That’s insane.”

But somehow, it doesn’t quite feel insane.

Much of the last year was spent in Los Angeles. I was in the van the whole time, but I managed to karma my way into a beautiful, peaceful, reliable parking spot in Malibu (more on that soon). But saying that I was based there still means I was there maybe thirty or forty percent of the time. That’s more time than I’d spent in any one place in years, but still, pretty transient by most peoples’ metrics.

I did a lot of drives up and down the coast, and I flew a lot of places for work, but I spent a lot of time in LA trying to sell a TV show. Came close once. Extremely close, but not quite. It may still go to another network, but as Hollywood started getting ready to close up shop for the summer (it seems Summer Break never dies in some businesses), I started getting the itch again. It was time to get moving.

A couple weeks ago I sealed my hatches, cast my dock-lines aside, and pulled out of port. I drove through Ventura, Ojai, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo. I stayed in Santa Cruz and the Bay Area for about a week, visiting family and friends, and then I started heading north without much of a plan. Today I’m in Portland. Next week, I’ll be flying to Canada to cover an event. Then the Oregon coast and Seattle and after that, it’s anybody’s guess.

Do I hang a right and start making my way to the East Coast, visiting some of the people and places from my first loop around the country? Or do I keep going straight until I hit Alaska, a place I’ve never been? Do I try to do both? I don’t know.

But let’s not get lost in the specifics here. It’s probably more interesting if I talk about the last three years in general. If I talk about the feelings, not the places.

In truth, it’s complex. There are days, many of them, when I wonder what the fuck I’m doing with my life. When I find myself asking, “How did I end up here? In this place? In this van?” Sometimes I ask that in moments of depression, but if I’m honest, there’s usually a smile on my face when I’m asking it. I wouldn’t dream of pretending that it’s all roses, but I don’t regret any of it. Any of this absurdity. Any of this uncertainty.

Actually, I think embracing the uncertainty is the key to making #Vanlife not just endurable, but also enjoyable. It’s possible that this applies to life outside of a van as well. It requires being open to all possibilities. Reacting to the world moment by moment. Adapting to dangers, pleasures, inconveniences as they come at you. Trusting your instincts and trusting that you will figure out how to deal with whatever happens, whether your initial instincts were right or wrong. It’s a constant improvisation.


All of that can be stressful. But it’s all just a ride, as Bill Hicks famously said. And when you’re able to accept that, you can handle anything. Every reality-bending kiss, every dislocated elbow, every perfect burrito, every broken heart, every personal triumph, every loved one with cancer, it’s all a part of the human experience, and if you’re reading this, CONGRATULATIONS! You’re still on the ride! Out of the infinite combinations of things that had to occur to bring you to this moment, the multitudinous combinations of sperm and eggs, somehow surviving not just infancy, but childhood, adolescence, and the last 50,000 times you crossed a street, you’re still here. You’re still experiencing life, in all its wonders and shittinesses.

These were conclusions I came to a long time before the van, back when I had a near-death experience at age 22. But the van is a good and constant reminder. I don’t think that any part of life is predictable, no matter how stable and consistent it looks on paper. The van just strips away the pretense of stability and consistency. It doesn’t pretend to know what it’s doing, that it’s making the “right” choices. We’re all just making it up as we go, it’s just a little less hidden when you’re living in a van.


So, okay. Year four begins now. Will I still be in this van July 15, 2019? I don’t know. I don’t pretend to know where I’m going to be in a month, let alone a year. It’s possible I’ll have a totally different career. Maybe I’ll have a TV show. Maybe I’ll have written a book. Or a screenplay. Maybe I’ll have an apartment. Or a house. Stranger things have happened. I’m open to it all. When I crossed the one-year mark, I had a wee existential crisis. It no longer being a “one-year project” shook me up. I wanted to find a label for it. Eventually I relaxed, decided it was okay if I didn’t know—or if I stopped pretending that I knew—and that I’d keep doing this until it stopped being fun, or until I found something that I wanted to do more.

And I’m still having fun. And I haven’t yet found something that appeals to me more. And so, I guess the only direction that matters is forward.

Thank you for all the support for the last three years. It means the world to me. See you out there.


July 15, 2018
Portland, Oregon