There I was working a job I was burnt out with, in a town I was bored of and no real prospects on what to do next. I knew I had to make a change.
“Do it while you’re young.“
That is something I’ve kind of always lived by, even as a teenager — this sense of urgency to live while I’m physically and mentally capable of living it to the fullest. I’m not really sure how that started for me because it wasn’t something that was taught or shown to me by example.
Heck, it could have been on one of those inspirational photos you see in a doctor’s office of a breaching whale or something. Who knows.
A bit of a back story — I grew up moving around a lot as a kid, mostly for my dad’s job transfers but our “vacations” were usually just to go back to visit the family members we left behind in upstate New York on summer break. I was born in upstate New York but we started moving around when I was 5 years old. When someone asks me where I’m from though, I say Muskegon Michigan. It’s the place that feels most like home for me. It’s here I went to high-school, fell in love for the first time, and made my first real community of friends.
Constantly being the new kid at school can leave an impact for sure. I’ve always said I’m friends with change. We know each other well.
Once I was old enough to start traveling on my own, I was constantly on the road. I threw my tent in whatever beat-up car I had at the time and would drive to up to northern Michigan to go camping on the weekends I wasn’t in school or working. This sparked my passion for traveling and really haven’t stopped since then (the difference is now my car is my van and that van is my home).
Okay, let’s fast forward because I could go ON AND ON, TRUST ME. I’m an adult, living in Nashville TN and just started dating my boyfriend Andy and we are getting pretty serious at this time. I had just gotten back from living in South East Asia for a bit (we’ll get into that in another blog post) and I was doing everything I possibly could to get back there. I loved it so much … but there was something keeping me stateside.
My mom was dying of stage 4 brain cancer.
When my mom was first diagnosed, I was working as one of the head hairstylists in an upscale salon in Nashville, with projections of hitting my first three figure year by fall. I was working my butt off, taking multiple clients at the same time, while managing my assistant and making sure she was getting good education. On top of everything, totally burnt out. Throughout my entire life I was taught that how much you make determines your worth, and I was about to make more money behind the chair than most of my family members with college degrees. But, I quickly realized I was totally unhappy.
There is a type of shift that happens in a person when someone they love is dying of a terminal illness. The things that mattered before don’t matter after.
My mom was the type of person that would do anything for anyone no matter what. She was constantly putting others before herself. In looking back during the time she was sick I did a lot of reflecting. I realized that I had actually never seen her be selfish once in my entire life.
It’s something I see now as a really beautiful lesson.
The ways that she put herself last weren’t always healthy and it made our relationship and her relationship with herself suffer at times. I just wanted her to choose herself and desperately needed that example at times. She spent her entire life taking care of other people but never really made a point to make sure she was good too.
She died just a few months before her 60th birthday.
I knew that voice that was in me from an early age, that “do it while you’re young” voice of urgency was waking up with a power I had never felt before. I realized I needed to stop doing crap that didn’t make me happy and start focusing on the things that did — because what is the point of living if I am just playing the part of what society wants me to be.
I knew I needed to somehow make a life worth living and for me, that meant seeing and experiencing the world around me, no matter what society would think of me.
I needed to choose myself.
After my mom died, Andy and I were trying to find some remote jobs that would allow us to move to Southeast Asia and travel for a while. To this day, we have no idea who mentioned buying a van and seeing the States instead, but we remember where we were. We had just gone to the farmers market and while we were walking out to the car, one of us mentioned it and we both basically stopped dead in our tracks and knew that was it. That was what we were going to do.
I can’t really remember the exact timeline, but I want to say it was within two weeks that we decided we were going to look for vans and remote work. We had two priorities for this new home on wheels: it had to be under $3500 and it had to be tall enough to stand in. Other than that, we had NO clue what we were looking for.
One night, I couldn’t sleep. I was dreaming about the van we would get and what layout we would want. I was just staring up at the ceiling so I grabbed my phone and started looking at craigslist ads. That’s when I saw her, our future home on wheels.
Okay, wait a minute. That’s not the van you have seen on my instagram if you’ve recently started following me but this was my first home on wheels (though you’ve probably seen it on pinterest because she was shared quite a bit)! We traveled in Rosa, a 1984 Chevy G20 for a solid year.
She taught Andy and me a LOT about living on the road, which lead me to eventually getting the van I have now. Without my year in this old gal, I would have never known what I needed to live on the road. I had a lonnngggg list of must-haves in my new build which what made it what it is today!
To be honest, being a 30-something year old woman who lives in van with no motivations to get married and have kids any time soon, or climb some corporate ladder (or even make a lot of money, really) is something I’m comfortable being because I’m choosing myself right now and what is making me happy over what the world thinks (women especially) someone needs to be.
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