The Uncomfortable Truth About Vanlife
Many things happened during our years of full-time life in a van. We went through many changes and faced many unexpected situations. Most were positive; others not so much.
What has happened recently to us is pretty much the bottom of anything you can imagine, when you think about ‘things that can go wrong.’ And it’s simple to explain why: our van is not just a car or just a van, only a vehicle. It’s all we’ve got on this planet, and of course we’re ready to do anything it takes to save it and keep it.
By choice, we gave up a lot of comforts that you probably have: an apartment, a house, and what people call a normal life. We decided at this point in our lives, it wasn’t for us anymore. We never feared the risks and what we did back in 2012 was to simply jump in a van, travel and as soon as possible to find a way to continue our jobs while on the road.
It was a complete success for us, discovering how many things we could and can do online. We’ve improved our skills, challenged ourselves with new experiences and are pretty proud to be independent.
When we were in Canada, for what ended up being our last 3 days in the country, we felt absolutely miserable and without hope. I remember one day, just outside Walmart parking, I started crying.
At that point, after hours and hours spent thinking on what we can actually do and try to find a solution, I exploded and I was ready to give up. On everything.
It took us a lot of courage to do what we did, starting the GoFundMe campaign. We were very aware of the consequences in how people could perceive us, especially people that don’t know us.
We’ve never had the idea- in our lives- of asking for money to pay for our travel expenses, because we never found it right, which is why we work so hard. We did not want to get in a situation where we could easily be called “digital baggers” or something similar.
At the end of the day, starting the campaign wasn’t an easy choice for us at all. However, at that moment, without having the time, it seemed like the only solution that wouldn’t completely destroy our life. Wouldn’t destroy what we’ve accomplished in the last 4 years or our sense of family.
I can say we definitely didn’t expect so much love, support and caring from our friends, family and followers. And it has been a great feeling to know that a lot of people just simply want to help us and understood our situation.
Of course, it’s not always roses. We’ve also had to deal with the negative comments, from strangers and even people that are familiar with us, which was more surprising.
Being treated like our trip to the States was trying something completely crazy, even though Mel is an American. Being told we didn’t do the proper research when we’d spent months prior to the trip on government pages for visas, visiting and even staying longer than a year. Checking out the rules for the van. And from all of the information that was available to us in Europe, we shouldn’t have had the massive problems we did.
The truth arrived when we were at the border, when just a few people can easily decide for your future, without even giving an acceptable answer on why they refuse to let you in. And unfortunately, there is nothing you can do. Nothing.
I suppose to some people it shows that ‘the system’ of keeping illegals out works. But I wasn’t planning on being illegal. I was planning on meeting Mel’s family and friends; of doing whatever paperwork I needed to; and of traveling across the States, exploring.
From the moment our family was split to now, we haven’t stopped working (as we always have). We’re so grateful to all the people that have supported us, emotionally and financially, but we never thought to just wait and get help.
We’ve been fighting back at this situation, which of course will make us stronger for the future. Both of us are working countless hours, grabbing every job possibility online and offline, in order to get back to our life as soon as possible, because this situation makes us feel miserable.
It was our choice in 2012, and we do have to accept risks on the way, we know. For why? Why did we choose that and why are we making that choice still today?
I recently discovered ‘the why’ being back in my hometown of Milan. I see ‘why’ every day when I’m on a bus or the subway. Watching thousands of people glued to their phone screens, looking for freedom, happiness and more. The same ones we have while simply raising our glance just over the horizon, under millions of stars in the middle of a forest, or watching the sun melt into the ocean.
That’s why we’re ready to do anything in order to have back what makes us happy. Our simple life.
I don’t want to be a lonely person on the subway, living for something on a small digital screen. I need to experience life with my eyes, with my soul, with my body. Life is now, it’s happening and it’s not reversible. We need to take what’s offered in the now, instead of thinking what we could acquire in the future.
Don’t get me wrong. I do look at my phone. Whether I’m finding our next good spot where to park our home or contacting clients, it’s useful. But then I enjoy the beauty that I find right in front of my eyes, taking the moment into my memories.
That’s what I would like to have in my head when my time to go arrives. Golden memories.