Archive for November, 2009

home #5

This is at 15th and Quebec. I’m be here a lot, because it’s where one of my best friends lives. The photo isn’t her house, it’s just a new townhouse development that sprouted next door to her. I like the materials, and the rectangularnessness.


home #4

That’s my van lurking in a dark corner of the parking garage in my building. And yes I did sleep in it last night, I just didn’t move it anywhere. I’m down to the crunch now, only one more day in the apartment, and the only way I could face sorting through all the crap that kept on appearing in the back of all the closets and cupboards without losing my mind was to drink a glass or two of wine while doing it. Okay, maybe it was 4 or 5. Anyway, by 3am I’d finished sorting and boxing and piling everything, and I was definitely not driving anywhere.

I often get asked if it’s hard to get rid of stuff. Today my answer to that question is no, the hard part is dealing with it responsibly instead of chucking it all into the nearest dumpster. How did I collect all this crap, and how did I fit it all in a 1-bedroom apartment???

home #3

Woke up this morning at Duffy Park on Wall street, right by the entrance to the port. This is one of my favourite mossy old industrial buildings. So far I haven’t hung out very long in the places I’ve stayed, only because I’m not set up yet to make breakfast in the van, and I still have too much to do cleaning out my apartment. But it was nice to sleep here, very quiet.

home #2

Last night I slept at Semlin and Pender, right next to the Buddhist monks. Peaceful (of course). Years ago a friend of mine parked her little cabriolet in the same spot, and left it with the top down. When it started raining the monks went out and put the top up for her! The picture I wanted this morning was of the monk who was bringing the empty garbage bins back in from the road… but I didn’t take it. Too shy.

home #1

I’m going to try to take a picture of every new place that I wake up, to celebrate the fact that each morning it’ll be different.

I’ve known all along where my first official night out would be. Years ago I used to live just east of the PNE, almost in Burnaby. I would take my dog for walks along a funny little road with nothing on it, that overlooks the freeway right where it hits the second narrows bridge. From there you can walk foresty paths up the inlet into Burnaby where you can see deer frolicking in amongst the Chevron holding tanks. I like the spot not because it’s beside a freeway, but because it has a backstage feel to it. Clear mornings are gorgeous there, it feels like you can spit and hit the mountains, and at the same time you can watch all the little people in their little cars frantically going to work. Hey look, I think that’s my old boss!

Last night I didn’t want to sleep in my apartment, even though I have it for a few more nights. I wanted to sleep in the van, so November 25 became my unofficial First Night. Here’s what my bed looked like:

Now I can’t truly say that I’m a vandweller yet: I still came home to have a shower (and see? I’m still calling the apartment ‘home’). The metamorphosis is a gradual one… but it’s definitely begun!

Some lame news though… a chip that appeared in my window last week has now grown to a 2″ crack, which is too big to repair, so now I need a new windshield.┬áThe idea of taking my home to a repair shop is kind of unsettling.

junk food

4 days left. I could stretch it to 5 if I had to, but I want to be out of my apartment on Sunday night.

Yesterday, on top of my regular (somewhat nutritional) daily meals, I ate the following:

  • 4 Peak Frean jelly cookies
  • 1 large bag Hard Bite potato chips
  • 1 full tub Mayan Chocolate Haagen Dasz
  • 1 bag Jelly Bellies
  • 1 McChicken

Not all at once of course, but still… that’s excessive, right? It was when I finished the bag of potato chips that I realized what felt so familiar about it. The last time I ate a whole large bag of chips at one sitting was when I was past-last-minute cramming for an exam at UBC. I think maybe it’s stress?

I’m not consciously worried anymore, in fact I think everything’s pretty much on track. And I think last night I might have even crossed a threshold, where so many of the essentials are gone from my apartment that now my van is the more comfortable place to be!

Well, now that the junk food’s all gone I can get back to sorting through stuff. There’s a pile to keep with me in the van, a pile to keep in storage (many thanks to all who are helping out with that… Jodi, Vero, Ocean, Erica, Kristie & Russ), a pile to take to Gather & GIve (they put together packages of household items for people with low incomes that are starting a new home from scratch), a pile that’s true garbage.


okay, okay, back to it…



Failed to sell my books today, apparently things are too slow for the used book stores to put money out just yet, they suggested I come back in a few weeks. Realized around dinner time that I’d frittered away most of the day, and that this day was one of only 7 remaining for me to be in the apartment, and that if the other six went the same way that I’d be fucked. Called everyone that’s helping me out with storing things and managed to create a schedule of what’s going where when, so I feel a lot calmer now. Actually looking forward to the quietness of being in the van… the coming week is going to be a frenzy!

test drive #2

Remember when I said peeing in a bottle is fun and easy? Well I can be more specific now: peeing in a gatorade bottle = fun and easy. Trying to pee in a little bar-sized water bottle = mistake!


The other day a friend expressed some concern about me getting rid of everything I own. She was definitely onboard with radical downsizing and had gone through a few rounds of it herself, so she was talking from experience: she said that you can get rid of so much that it destabilizes your identity. Years ago I had a terrifying acid trip during which I was completely unable to imagine who I was; now I’m quite clear on how vital a solid sense of identity is. Anyway, my friend recommended that I hold onto at least a few anchors. I love that word, and I absolutely agree with her advice, so since then I’ve been considering what my anchors are.

  1. Friends… Okay, so they’re not coming in the van with me, but I did make sure that the bed was big enough for sleepovers, and as I’ve mentioned elsewhere my plan is to spend weekends inside, on various friends’ couches. I am blessed with a small number of extraordinary people who love and support me and who have helped me become who I am. I’m definitely, definitely keeping them.
  2. Direction… The space that I’m opening up in my life by leaving my 9-5 job is space that I am using to prepare for application to architecture schools. Without that goal I think I would feel very much adrift, but instead I’m actually feeling like I don’t have enough time to accomplish all that I have in mind! Once March rolls around and the applications are all in, my new goal will be to find projects to get involved with to gain practical building/construction experience.
  3. Music… My ipod has twenty years with of accumulated music on it. I don’t necessarily listen to The Cult or Metallica anymore, but they’re still with me. I love the fact that recorded sound and images are just information that can now be packed into such a little wee object!
  4. Blankets… Linus from Peanuts has been in my head a lot the last couple of days. I remember the day… I think I was five… when my mom had to perform surgery on my ‘friendly blanket’, and how much I cried! Today I have four thick wool blankets from various Latin American countries, and they’re coming with me, no question. A sleeping bag would be more practical, but doesn’t hold the same comfort factor. Flannel sheets and alpaca blankets will keep me warm and happy.
  5. This blog… What an interesting process writing this has been. I used to carry a bit of judgment towards people who wrote blogs. I thought it was pretty ballsy for them to assume that random strangers out in the interweb would care about what they thought. Well now of course I’ve discovered that it’s a great way to keep far-away friends and family connected with your life, that it’s a great way to work out ideas in ways you wouldn’t in a private journal, and that there really are some people out there that stumble across your writing and find it interesting, and that when they write something supportive back it makes a real difference. My challenge, I think, will be to see how honest I can be with writing the hard parts. I’m not here to bare my soul necessarily, but I would like this blog to truly document my vandwelling experience. And if I can do that then I think the blog just may support me back.
  6. Knives & cutlery… Fancy kitchenware may not make a whole lot of sense on a van journey, but these are the mementos I’ve chosen. Beautiful, good quality, purchased in the days when being an adult still felt new, and home was just about the only thing I devoted my income to. Most importantly, they’re small :)