Category: the plan

Bye for now, baby

I’ve been living in the van for twenty months now, can you believe it???

I’m not finished with vandwelling, but today I had to put it on hold. The next stage in my degree is a work term that I’ve decide to complete in BC; I miss my home and my friends. Driving there would cost as much in gas as a round trip plane ticket, so my baby is staying here while I go off on my work term. Five months we’ll be apart. Today I cleaned it, and made up my winter bed ready for my january return. It sounds ridiculous, but as I locked it and backed up to take a last look at it, I actually got a little tear in my eye.

Be safe, little van. Meep meep!!!!

Many, many thanks to Rebecca and Gen for looking after it while I’m gone.


quick update…

Hi folks, just a quickie to say that school is amazing and already devouring all my time, so I haven’t given any thought to new posts, sorry! In fact, much as I love my van and truly do think of it as my home, I’m starting to consider school to be every bit as much my home as the van, literally. I’m at school all day, with just short breaks at the pool or on the bus or running errands, and I’ve started keeping my food and various items of clothing there too. More than anything this whole project has shown how flexible the idea of home can be, and this is just one more example.

Anyway back to my original point, I’m pretty wrapped up with school and it might be a while before I write a new post…  be well, everyone!


Winter plan

People tell me it gets cold here. Wikipedia says there are two months of the year where the average low is -10, which doesn’t sound so bad. But that’s the average: the spikes can get as low as… some people say -20, some people say -30. I think I could handle -20, but I don’t know about -30. But I’m expecting that I will have some sort of graduated introduction to the cold. I’m planning to buy a thermometer so that I know at any given time what the temperature is inside the van, how that compares to the temperature outside the van, and how I can expect to feel should it get colder.

Last year my coldest night in Vancouver was -6. I had 4 blankets, and I slept in complete peace and comfort. Obviously -30 would be a lot different. But the extra resources I can pile on are a huge furry blanket, a down sleeping bag, and thermal underwear… plus full-on sweats, if necessary. With enough insulation around my body I might not be able to move, but I think I’ll be pretty warm. Oh yeah, and I’ve got my catalytic heater, and my yogi mind trick. Also I’m thinking about where the van loses the most heat, and how I could mitigate that. And I’m registering with, so that for those weeks that are extra extra cold, if I’m uncomfortable in the van I have indoor options. Finally, certain aspects of my new school program are going to help me out: one is that by all accounts I’ll be completely overwhelmed by the workload so I won’t have any free time to be hanging out in the van, it’ll just be a place to sleep; another is that the studio space is available to me 24 hours a day, so in truly dire last-minute circumstances, I can always uh… go back to school?

At this point it’s almost become a personal challenge, but don’t worry folks; I won’t keep it up if it’s not working. I really don’t want to turn into a popsicle!

Halifax parking

Last post notwithstanding, here’s the parking situation:

  • I’ve mentioned the weekly street cleaning at night,
  • I’ve mentioned the 2 hour parking restriction during the day (on all side streets anywhere near downtown, which is where my school is),
  • Now I’ve learned there’s an overnight street parking ban in winter.

I can see why this is necessary; Halifax is an old city, the streets are narrow and in winter the snow plows really can’t be dodging the parked cars. For most Haligonians it’s not a problem, because all houses have some sort of parking on their lots: every house has a driveway at the side, and apartment buildings all have a parking lot out back or underneath. For those who own cars but don’t have enough parking at their homes, the options are either to rent a parking space (going rate seems to be $90/month), or play a continuous game of “dodge the ticket weasels”.

Those are my options too but I also have a third, which is to drive out to Bayer’s Lake, where reportedly just past all the box stores is a fabled wilderness where you can do what you like and no one will notice. I’ll give it a try one night but I doubt I’d do it regularly. It involves a lot of driving, and a lot of morning rush hour, which is total madness every day as a few hundred thousand extra people try to cram themselves into this teeny little peninsula.

I may eventually have to rent some parking. Potentially it could solve all of my problems: the time spent looking for a home every night, time spent commuting, and even the cold of winter, since I may be able to find heated parking indoors. One big problem though: who the hell wants to sleep in a parking garage? Blecch, I think I want to try braving the cold and the ticket weasels first.

What now?

Okay, I’ve got just over a week before school starts, but lots going on, here’s my to do list…

  • Got a membership at the public library this morning,
  • Get my phone transferred,
  • Deal with the mistaken parking ticket I got in Toronto (I paid for a pass, mofos!!!)
  • Figure out parking in Hali… last night it seemed even residential streets had only two hour parking during the day?
  • Figure out money/budget stuff for the school year,
  • Meet up with the one person I know in Halifax,
  • Find the local pools,
  • Transfer car insurance… that’s going to be a headache, with safety inspections and hassles around the van’s imported idiosyncrasies,
  • Print some resumes, start looking for work,
  • relax a little bit,
  • start school!

extra ordinary

Wrote my calculus exam yesterday. I’m about 70% confident that I passed. If I did, that means Going Nomadic will head east to Halifax in one week!

In my life I’ve done a handful of things that I think are pretty cool: flown small planes, hiked the Inca Trail, quit smoking, sold all my stuff and moved into a van, overcome some personal challenges that I won’t get into here. Point is, I’ve never in my life worked as hard as I have for this math test, and whether I passed or not, for me it’ll stand as one of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever done. And yet it’s just a math test… people write them every day.

I think that’s just it. People do really amazing things every day. They give birth, they relocate, they help each other, they do scary things, sometimes they sacrifice their very values in order to survive. Every once in a while they’re given an opportunity to sit back and really notice how astonishing it all is.

So yay for me, and yay for whatever extraordinary thing you did today or last week or next year. And stay tuned for the next instalment of Going Nomadic; with luck it’ll be from somewhere on the road across Canada.

A friend told me that once upon a time she’d thought of becoming an architect too, but she’d been discouraged by the math involved. Is this common knowledge, that being an architect means doing math? No one told me! And somehow in the process of applying to architecture school I missed the fact that fairly high-level math is a pre-requisite to get into the program.

Dalhousie decided to give me a chance to make up that pre-requisite instead of just rejecting my application, and for that I am extremely grateful. Knowing that I’m a somewhat bright fellow I didn’t worry myself too much about it, I just signed up for a distance ed calculus course and waited for the material to arrive. Well the last time I did math was in high school twenty years ago; needless to say when the stuff arrived, it was totally senseless to me. I have a lot of catching up to do before I can even start the course.

There really is a vandwelling reason I bring this up, it’s not just that I want y’all to feel sorry for me. I’m getting to it… So here I am, doing math. All day every day, math math math. Except I don’t have a lot of stamina; my eyes go furry and my brain seizes up after an hour, sometimes less. So I take lots of little breaks, and I just try to be pretty rigorous about getting back to work. As it turns out, van life actually helps me break things up. It involves changing the scenery: when I’m sick of the library, I go work in the van for a while. And when I’m done with that I go to a café for a while, or maybe for my swim. Then back to the van, and when I’m really feeling squirmy then it’s time to drive somewhere… off to a park, or the beach… it’s still just me and my math in the van, but I’ve had a little driving break, and I can be anywhere I want. Now I’m in a new peaceful environment, all re-charged and ready to uh… do more math. Crazy.


I’ve been burned before by putting all my eggs in one basket, so when I was looking at architecture schools I decided on three to put in applications for, mainly to trick the universe into thinking that I was taking the process seriously. Really I knew which one I wanted, and the others were only oh-alright back-up plans. Well I started to get a little nervous over the last week or so because I’d gotten a big fat no from the two schools I didn’t want, and hadn’t heard anything from the one I did, despite how late it was getting. To me that said they’d probably offered the first round of spots to other people and needed to get confirmations from them.

Whether that’s the case or not, they called yesterday and invited me to join them, with a few provisions (there’s a pre-req I still need). So come late summer I’ll be driving my little home out to Halifax and going to Dalhousie.


vandwelling forever? pt. II

Hi folks, sorry it’s been so long since I posted, I just haven’t been as nomadic as usual. I’m still on the farm in Roberts Creek, and I still go to the pool in Sechelt every couple of days. On weekends I’ve been leaving the van here and going back to Vancouver for some event or other.

I’ve always tried to keep my entries on this site quite specific to vandwelling, and now I’m finding I have less and less to say on the topic. The truth is I seem to be moving on to the next phase of this adventure, which will be less about wandering around wide-eyed exploring everything, and more about getting to work on building projects. These projects are starting to fall into place: some will be here on this farm, some will be elsewhere on the Sunshine Coast and the Gulf Islands, and I have a few to work on at my mom’s place too. Living in a van has become so natural that it’s almost irrelevant to the other things going on in my life. And since my focus has changed I just don’t have the time every day to work on photos and writing for the blog.

So, sadly, entries here will be much fewer and further between. I’m sure every so often something will pop into my head to write about, so this isn’t really goodbye yet. Still, it’s a good time to thank all of you who read along and encouraged me, you played a part in the success of this experiment. I’m very grateful, thank you!

Best of luck on your own adventures :)


Update: there’ll be no building projects for me, as it turns out this summer will be about math… see above :(

the plan

Okay, I was a little unsettled yesterday morning, but I think I’ve got it sorted now. I’ve got a plan

1) Apply for EI. I did this online yesterday. I think it’s pretty tough to convince them that quitting is justifiable, especially when you’re not actually holding any anger or bitterness toward your former employer. We’ll see.

2) Register as an extra! My friend Tracy told me this is an excellent job for people that don’t want a real job. Not that I truly don’t want to work, it’s just that until February I’d prefer to focus on putting together my portfolio and applications… that’s what I consider my real job now.

3) Apply for bartender jobs. I used to bartend years ago, and I loved it. The hours and simplicity would also work well with my real job. I’m almost finished my resume, just have to track down a few references from my pre-raincity days. Last millennium.

4) Keep working on the van! I’ve got the frame built, it’s a bench with storage underneath that unfolds to make a nice wide bed, and also locks the shelving in place. Next I need to make the cushions and the window coverings, and then see if I can rig some solar power…

5) Start selling my stuff. That’s depressing… not because I’m not ready to let go if it, I am. Rather because it represents such a huge ‘investment’ over my lifetime: thousands and thousands of dollars. Now that I have to put a dollar value on it on Craigslist, I realize what a shite investment that stuff was all along! As long as it pays for my solar gear I’ll be happy.

6) Pay forward. My very last paycheck is coming up and there’s a few things I want to take care of so I don’t have to worry if my income is sporadic: loan payments, car insurance, 3 month flexipass for the swimming pools, and 3 months of yoga.

7) Work on projects… aside from the van conversion, right now the big one is with my friend Leona. She shares some land on Lesquite Island with her family, and wants to build a treehouse in the forest… so cool!!! We scouted the property last weekend, and I got a chance to hang out with her and her adorable mother, Vivian. I’ve started some drawings and some sketchup files, and I’m a little daunted by the technical challenges, but super excited to see what we can come up with.

8) ??? I’m sure there’s something I’m not thinking of. If anyone reads this, and has any ideas, please send them my way!