When I was a youngling, my heart ached for the openness of the wild. It sang to me like a tranquil lullaby, and I would often find myself fantasizing about my days prancing through meadows surrounded by forest and mountains. I envisioned myself as a free spirit – just as most children are. But I longed for such unrestrainable action that may whisk me into a whole other world, an alternative way to live that most people feel unable to obtain. 

And then adulting happened

So as I grew older, I stuck by that preconceived vision in my head. It rarely left me. I watched both my parents get sucked into the tunnel of worry and fear, burdens that only accumulated. I saw every other adult live with a similar kind of mindset. My family’s motto seemed to be something along the lines of we can’t do that, we can’t get this, we just can’t. And this was absolute torture for me as a child. What kind of law that governs the nature of things prescribes it to be so damn restricted? It’s not the way things should be.

Now I’m an adult. And that youthful mentality that rebelled against the family motto and affixed itself to the belief of “I can” has stuck with me. I’ve decided that whatever feels like a wrong action, choice, situation or even people needs to be examined and dispatched from my life. I say examined first because: we humans are too used to seeing an enemy and shoving it away from our attention. But shoving things away has never benefited anyone, trust me. It only inflates the issue. Just take a look at your own life’s examples for proof.

But you first have to be closed before you blossom

The process of becoming, much like the metamorphosis of a butterfly, is no smooth and simple transition the way it may seem for that butterfly. And just like every other blossoming adult, I’ve entered periods of struggle and stress, most especially concerning finances. Of course, the great complaint of transitioning adults is, why didn’t they ever teach us how to actually adult and how to succeed in it rather than focusing primarily on over-complicated numbers? Why didn’t they teach us at school how to properly do taxes and sort through our finances so that we could live a minimally stressful life?

An unrealistic leap of faith

Alex and I both chose to jump across the country to California a year ago today. Boston was starting to feel vapid, soulless, unable to fill in the structure of my desires. Alex was starting to feel the same way. We made the incorrigible decision to move across the country without much money or any kind of security on the other end. No house, no job – aka youthful impulse. Now we’re here, living and enjoying every moment. But the desires never end. Each goal is sought after and once it’s reached, it unfolds to develop a new one. Each becomes a sub-goal that trails on to the next so as to complete the form of the ultimate desire.

Why van life?

When we committed to living and traveling in a van for a year of our lives, I was elated. I couldn’t wait any more than I was expected to – which happened to be a year-and-a-half in the future from the moment of our decision. The dreaming was endless. Every minute I gained was lost to the seductive vision of a wild future. But recently, as the trend of the Vanlife movement has started to receive even more notice and popularity, the controversy has spiked and the judgments are harsh. Embarking on this kind of intrepid lifestyle appears to others as akin to being homeless and living like hippies. For some reason, this is categorized in an area of “lost souls who are trying to find their way through life.” We’re seen as the anarchists. Empty-headed. Unintelligent. Dirty. Our brains deep-fried in psychedelics.

While reading these articles on people’s opinions of living in a van and the cruddy reality of what it really is like, I went on to re-evaluate what was making me want to live this kind of life. To see what inspired and drove me to the decision of pursuing this kind of lifestyle for a year. And this is the conclusion I came to.

I want something different

I want to experience human life from the outside. Meaning, I want to see society from another perspective – perhaps from outside the societal bubble. On top of that, I want to feel the liberating high of freeing my soul into nature. I want to go about moving everything – on all levels. I want to move my physical body, my environment, my attitude, my thoughts, behaviors, emotions. I want to live with less than I have now because, in a way, I feel as though it poisons the atmosphere around me and even my mind. I feel stuffy. Distracted from true values and relationships. It’s like all the things that truly matter hide behind meaningless objects and/or expensive items. All serve as artifice that conceals our raw nature. And I want to re-discover this raw nature.

I want to shake up the stagnancy in my life and see new things while experiencing personal interactions with new souls. I have a theory people tend to underestimate how powerful experiencing can be. It’s the whole point of living, really. I just want to feel obligated to live instead of surviving.

But what’s it worth?

I never got a degree in college. I’ve completed multiple semesters, have learned what I want/need to learn and completed the usual late-night projects that most students have to endure. But I’ve thought about it on multiple occasions, is all this time worth it? If I’m not really enjoying my ongoing pursuit and the steps towards it while envisioning a better, alternative route, should I follow that instead?

I love learning, but I am more so an experiential learner than anything else. Classroom setting has just never really resonated with me. Perhaps it’s because I’m an artist – isn’t there some kind of science behind the myth of artists not being able to sit still and process systematic information?

In this day and age, not going to college is still considered fallible, and then on some subconsciously programmed level people automatically assume you’re less smart than the college-goers and degree-holders. This has made me terribly self-conscious.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with going to college, receiving ample education and acquiring a diploma. There isn’t. Education is the terminator of ignorance. But the more I look into this, the more I see that we all learn differently. Not all of us are fit for classroom learning when you consider how we are all built to do different things. (I suppose you could see us a colony of ants with inherent roles for life.)

But our decision doesn’t look too appealing

So now, I feel like a detached limb of society. Making this new unconventional dedication to explore life like nomads has been no easy path to pursue. And to others, we just appear like a couple of nonsensical dreamers, deviating from society.

Living in a van? No shower? No bathroom? Just me, the wild, partner and a dog? I should title myself and Alex, The Unconventionalists.

Making it to the deep end

So in light of my self-consciousness, I’ve had to recalibrate my inner guidance system. I’ve readjusted, reconfigured, reaffirmed what I already somewhat knew. It was time. I asked myself what I really wanted in life. Simple question, but the answer is usually startlingly complicated. I want to be free! Okay, free of what? I just want to experience life! And, how exactly do you expect to earn money by “just experiencing”? I want to be successful! Great! How do you think you’re going to do that? 

And so I take stepping stones. I’m an experiential learner, right? So bit by bit, I’m sort of expected to discover how to make realistic decisions based on my unconventional, dreamer’s mindset.

Now, as a twenty-two year old looking to reevaluate my existence, I decided that the only way for me to understand myself better is to just . . . throw myself out into the deep end. Challenge. Surrender. And then become.

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