Archive for March, 2010


Home #96

Inlet Ave, Sechelt.

I take back what I said yesterday about parking in small towns… the problem was more that when I rolled into town it was dark and I was tired. In the daylight yesterday I found a perfect little spot in the middle of town, right by the ocean.

At home, the best thing about being sick is that you can really wallow. I love grumpily throwing my used kleenex all over the floor, letting dishes pile up, not bathing… you don’t get many opportunities to do that. In the van though it’s the opposite: I need everything to be perfect. No gap between the two halves of the mattress, no loosy goosy sheets, van perfectly level, books and clothes all in their proper places. So I did a major cleaning yesterday, and that helped. Did my usual swim, and that helped (Sechelt has a beautiful pool by the way). I also took cold medication which is something I usually avoid, and I slept beautifully, snug as a bug in a rug. I’m still um, expectorating, but I’m feeling much better.

Home #95

Rockwood Park, Sechelt. Trying to find a place for the night in a small town like this is very different. Maybe I’m fooling myself, but in Vancouver I usually feel pretty anonymous, whereas here I feel very, very conspicuous. Plus everywhere I went it said very clearly no overnight parking. Finally managed to find a weird little mini parking lot that didn’t seem attached to anything and didn’t have any signs, just a few hundred feet from the pool.

The bad news is I don’t have allergies, I have a really nasty cold. Slept poorly, was either sweating or freezing all night, can’t breathe… back when we were all afraid of H1N1 I had a thought that one serious disadvantage of living in a van is that it’s not a very comforting place to be when you’re sick. I guess now’s my chance to find out what it’s really like!

Home #94

51st & Main. Oh god. A pollen monster crawled up my nose last night and still hasn’t come out, it’s slowly killing me. Anyway this is the new Sunset Community Centre by local super-architect Bing Thom. I can’t quite tell how the roof is staying up… there are two pairs of huge concrete slabs that cross in an X pattern (see the satellite photo), and it looks like the whole thing is hanging off those, although that seems impossible. Anyway it’s stunningly beautiful. You can see and read more here. Or better yet, just go visit it.

Strangely, I was also beside another nursery. In the satellite photo you can see the Vancouver Parks Board greenhouses; eventually they will be integrated into educational and recreational programs through the community centre.

Last thing… this is for Margaret:

Monday morning, 8am

Home #93 (a&b)

a) Old Marine Drive. This is where I decided to sleep for the night, but it’s not where I ended up staying; for the first time ever someone (Pacific Spirit park officers that is) knocked on the van and told me I couldn’t stay. I knew it was dodgy when I went in: there’s a sign on the park gate that says it’s closed and locked at 9pm, but it was 10:30 when I drove in so I was hoping that maybe they’d forgotten that night, or that they’d just lock me in without looking. No such luck, but they were fairly nice about it. I came back in the morning for the photo cause it’s a really cool spot. From here you can hike down to a sludgy marsh that leads west to Wreck Beach.

b) South Campus Rd. My next spot after being booted out of the park was at the gates of the nursery that serves the UBC Botanical Gardens. Right smack between the UBC Farm and the world’s largest superconducting cyclotron. Weird, but a very peaceful place to spend a saturday night.

Home #92

East 1st Ave at Lorne. Not much to look at by day, but on some nights this turns into Open Studios and hosts grinding, throbbing, filthy electronic shows. Last night it was part of the Sistahood Celebration, so the place looked a lot better than usual, and on top of the dubstep there were spoken word and tribal dance performances. Many many thanks to everyone who put that one on, and especially to Ana Sia and The Librarian, for being so scrumptious and for sending me home (i.e. across the street) with dancing blisters on each of my big toes. They rocked it!

For those of you who didn’t bust out last night, or those who did but still have energy for more, come to Open Studios tonight. I’m not going to tell you why, just do it.

Home #91

Bridgeway Street, near New Brighton Park. This place is noisy, it’s like an enormous generator that’s always on, but the rain was so heavy on the roof last night that it drowned out the industrial sounds. To the east of here is the entrance to a trail that follows Burrard Inlet. Follow it for a few minutes and you’ll walk under the Ironworkers’ Memorial Bridge, and over the train bridge right beside it (from which the tracks plunge into a tunnel that goes south underneath North Burnaby). Then there’s a rickety two-story treehouse you can climb into, and if you want you can just keep on walking all the way to Willingdon.

Home #90

49th & Alberta. Langara golf course, at the end of the world.

Home #89

33rd & Highbury. Instead of a photo today I have a sound recording, from a few blocks away at 32nd and Crown. You may need headphones to hear it:

32nd n crown

Home #88

Drummond & W 2nd. The mannequin is staring at… well, everything: North shore, downtown, the mountains, low tide at Spanish Banks… the view from here is spectacular. And if you feel like snooping on the super-rich, do the loop just west of here made by Belmont, Fannin, and Drummond. Don’t just look though, you can actually sneak onto a few of the empty lots for sale and plan your own dream home on site. Here’s Jodi surveying her new $10m property at 4889 Belmont:

These days I joke with my friends that if I won the lottery I’d use the money to buy a slightly larger van. Obviously I’m totally sold on vandwelling as a fun experiment, but what about as a permanent lifestyle choice?

Every time I try to list pros and cons I get stuck immediately, because every aspect of van life is both. For example, extreme limitations to my storage space means I simply cannot own a lot of stuff. I’ve already talked about how for me that was a liberating process, but even I get frustrated that certain things don’t fit in the van, like my bike. On the other hand I’ve learned to organize my few belongings in such a way that everything I need is close to hand (for me that’s a big pro). But I also can’t ever take advantage of buying bulk sizes of things. Even if I talk about pros and cons on a level of lower detail and higher abstraction, they still cancel each other out. So I could say that this incredible sense of freedom is a pro… but someday that will feel like a lack of stability, a serious problem.

In the end all I can say is that there are particular reasons why this experience of nomadism has been primarily a joyful one.

  • It was my choice: unlike many of the world’s nomads this lifestyle wasn’t forced upon me by persecution, poverty, or natural disaster, and I knew that if I really wanted to come inside that I could.
  • I had the complete support of friends and family, without whom I might have been quite lonely and miserable.
  • My life still had structure and goals, I wasn’t just goofing off (although I’m starting to a little bit now… I need a new project!).
  • The lifestyle inadvertently brought me some new joys, like swimming and the library.
  • The problems that came up were relatively easy to find solutions for, and the challenge of doing so added to the project’s fun. It would certainly be a different story if, for example, I hadn’t found a way to beat the mold.

Okay… but why am I talking in past tense? Oh! And there’s the warning that the library is closing. There’s no way I can finish this entry, so I’ll have to leave it… to be continued…