I’m Allison & my van is called Wonderland. Here’s my story…
THE SHORT STORY:
Hello World! My name is Allison. I have 2 Bachelor’s Degrees, one in Theatre (2005) and one in Early Education (2019). In 2016 I attained an Early Childhood Development Associate Credential. I also have a Masters in Holistic Business Administration (2015) with training as a Life Coach. My hometown is Seattle, and for a few years I lived in an ecovillage called Dancing Rabbit in Missouri. After moving back to Seattle in 2014, I became a full time preschool teacher. I have about 15 years of experience working in professional childcare. I love my teaching career, but as a low income earner, it wasn’t easy to pay rent and save for retirement at the same time! In 2021 at my birthday party, my mother told me about a nomad book that changed my life. The next day my co-worker told me about a nomad movie. This synchronicity catapulted my life onto the fast track of researching the mobile lifestyle and VanLife movement. I acquired a Nissan NV 200, built out my cargo van, and learned about being a digital and physical nomad. Currently in 2021, I primarily use my van for camper adventures because I’m not ready to leave my teaching job and tiny basement room. If covid rocks the world and I somehow lost employment or housing, it’s great to be prepared to go full on nomad. If you need assistance to make your lifestyle go mobile, I am here to help!
THE LONG STORY:
I was at my 37th birthday party in my parent’s backyard in February 2021. I was a preschool teacher from Seattle hosting a friend from Oregon who had been living in his van. I didn’t really have an interest in doing such a thing, I was giving my friend a place to make music, shower, do laundry, and hang out with me in my one bedroom apartment where I had gotten the one and only covid winter deal on the rent. My VanLife friend was the only other guest at my birthday party in 2021 because of covid world, and my mother told me about a book called Become A Nomad Change Your Life by a really cool spunky lady named Robin Barrett. The next day my co-worker was talking about the movie Nomadland that I had never heard of, but I was super interested in her conversation about nomads who live mobile because they can’t afford life on their retirement. I took this as a sign of synchronicity to look into what the heck these people were talking about. After all, I was about to open a new retirement account with my new employer and was wondering how I was going to make it for the next 33 years until I retire. Since then I’ve been hooked on the Mobile Lifestyle! Robin Barrett also wrote the book, Work From Home While You Roam. This book has helped me learn about nomad careers and how to make extra income.
My previous employer did not open my retirement account during the covid crazy world of 2020. The two preschool employers I’d had since I moved back to my Seattle hometown from an ecovillage in 2014 made employees wait three years for their retirement account. By 2020, I was a 36 year old preschool teacher with no retirement savings and no retirement account! In August 2020, I learned what I could about saving for retirement and opened my own Roth IRA. By 2021, I was pretty disgruntled with the whole system, why people who work on child development make 1/3 or less than people who play with machines all day, why no one had taught me how to save for retirement, and how I got to be so old with nothing saved! I have a BA in Theatre, a Masters in Holistic Business Administration with training as a Life Coach, A Child Development Associate Credential, and a BA in Early Education in my qualifications toolbox for my career. I certainly deserved better than struggling wages! I love my job as a teacher but life doesn’t have to feel like mindless survival mode just going through the motions and vegging out at home after a day job.
In 2016 I thought I’d buy a tiny house someday.
I figured it was the only house I could afford as a preschool teacher in Seattle WA where most of us make near minimum wage for a highly skilled job with lots of training, but houses cost half a million to over a million dollars. I figured I could pay rent for 50 years before I had spent that kind of money, so I paid Seattle Tiny Homes $500 to design me a house. It was going to be an Off Grid, RV rated Tiny Home! I would need the down payment for the RV loan, so from 2016-2018 I worked 60-80 hours per week, 7 days per week at a full time and part time job, to save the down payment. It wasn’t until I was sitting on this down payment that my bank started sending me a notice, a notice that I ignored for two years because I was a full time student and a full time preschool teacher/administrator. Then, the year after I graduated with my second BA, covid shut down the world. Finally in 2020 I was ready to look into that RV loan, so I went to the bank to look into a loan and see what they had been bugging me about. It was only then that I received a Financial Advisor because I had my tiny house down payment sitting in the bank. Since banks can’t make much money from poor people, they don’t get a notice to come in and sit down with a financial advisor, but poor people (like I was) are really the ones who need financial advising the most! I also discovered my brother was a financial advisor, instead of just an accountant like I had thought. They both advised against an RV loan on an asset that depreciates during the covid economy.
In 2016, Seattle Tiny Homes had told me it would be a 3-9 month wait to get my house built when I was ready to buy, but by 2020 the wait was 1-2 years because they had so many orders, and the price to custom design a tiny house had nearly tripled. By 2021 I was still sitting on this down payment, waiting for covid world to get resolved before thinking of my tiny house again, but then I found out about mobile life and the VanLife movement. It had taken me two years working 60-80 hours per week to save the money I had, but I could use it to build out a van for potential VanLife.
Now I have a Nissan NV200 for my new van house.
By April 2021, I had binged all the VanLife videos, van build out videos, and documentaries I could on what my mother calls “YouTube University.” Originally I was looking into cargo vans I could buy for near $10K or less and use the rest of the down payment money to build out the van and buy stuff to go inside. I found a 2010 Transit Connect built out camper with 171K miles on it a VanLifer was selling on Craig’s List for $7K. I wanted my mom’s help to look at it because she owns a Transit Connect, but my dear mom offered to loan me money so I wouldn’t have to take out a giant auto loan and could buy something newer with lower mileage than an old van near $10K. Now I owe my mom $ for my van house. I’m going to build it out, buy stuff I need for my new lifestyle, and hopefully pay her back by the time I’m 40. We found a 2018 Nissan NV200 SV with only 23K miles on it at Emerald City Auto on Aurora in Seattle where my mom had bought a Transit Connect many years earlier. I had actually been to this dealer the previous weekend to look at van sizes without knowing my mother had bought a van there. I had seen their adds on Craig’s List and was curious to know how big cargo areas in vans were. I don’t know why, but it wasn’t so simple to find a list of cargo van inside dimensions on the web. Nissan NV, Dodge Ram Promaster City, and Ford Transit Connect= 5ft by 6ft or 7ft for their cargo areas. Ford Transits and other vans like the GMC Savana and Ford Econoline = about 5ftx9ft in their cargo areas. I started by taping out the areas in my living room before I even thought of buying. I figured I could start with something small and buy something bigger if I wanted to upgrade after sustainable VanLife. At 4’10” tall, I can sleep width wise in cargo vans!
#VanLife Here I Come!
As of August 2021 the van build out is complete! Currently in 2021, I use my van for camper adventures, and if covid rocks the world and I somehow lost employment or housing, I’m prepared to go full on nomad.
Update 2022- I became a nanny and I can now afford rent in Seattle, so I won’t have to live in a van someday, but Wonderland and I drive to work now and go on lots of adventures.
See the blog to gain inspiration for your build out and mobile lifestyle.
Visit Allison’s portal to her online world at her website here: http://www.allisongee.net
Visit Allison’s old blog, The Ecolyte: Adventures of an Ecolyte from the Ecovillage and Beyond, here: https://theecolyte.wordpress.com