Six years ago, my husband and I moved out of our waterfront apartment in Venice, California, and into a converted Sprinter van. Although the choice to move into the van was ours, the circumstances that led us there were out of our control.
The U.S. economy was suffering its greatest recession since the notorious Great Depression. Like millions of other Americans, I had just lost my job and, without my income, we could no longer afford our high rent. In fact, we couldn’t afford much at all.
My husband was (and still is) the owner of an online adventure store, Outdoorplay. Hit with the sudden cash crunch threatening hundreds of thousands of businesses, my husband chose to cut his own pay rather than let go of any of his employees.
That left us with a combined income of $1,500/month and a van with 108 square feet of usable living space. My husband already owned the van and lived out of it when he went on rock climbing trips, so it was already equipped with a bed, small fridge, and two-burner stove.
To console ourselves for becoming newly minted homeless people, we decided to go on a road trip — but not just any road trip. We set out to drive the Pan-American Highway from Canada to the tip of South America.
To get used to our new digs, and make sure we weren’t going to kill each other in such a tiny space, we decided to spend a full year going from Los Angeles to Canada and back down again before crossing the border into Mexico and heading south. If we were going to have a meltdown, best we do it on our own turf.
Needless to say, the new living quarters changed our lifestyle dramatically.