Well, I did it.  I moved to Aspen (area).  I moved in November 16th.  I'm back to paying $525(includes utilities) for housing!!  This makes me sad, but it is cheaper than I was paying in Ohio before moving into my van.  I'm out of Ohio though, that's the main thing.  I've rarely left Ohio in the past 25 years, and I knew it would be hard to leave for long term.  Knowing that I had housing and a job all set up when I arrived here made it easier.

I have three roommates.  I've only had roommates once in my life, they lasted a few months.  I've lived alone for the past 4 years.  Roommates are going to be a hard adjustment.



It started at 3:30am on Monday, November 14th.  Mom and Dad drove me to a nearby Amtrak station, where I boarded the 29 Capitol Limited to Chicago, IL around 5:00am.  I had my own seat, so I was able to nap on and off for a few hours.

At 8:45am (4hrs 23min later) I arrived in Chicago.  I was about to be stranded in Chicago until 2pm, so I paid $9 to rent a locker for my luggage and wandered the streets for a five hours. I made sure to stop for cheap lunch at Subway, because train food is too expensive for me.

The California Zephyr ride to Glenwood Springs was scheduled to be 25hrs: 2pm Monday to 2pm Tuesday (with one time zone change).  I was really hoping to have my own seat (which means two seats next to each other) but I was assigned a seat next to a guy heading to Denver (7am destination) meaning I was stuck with him over night.  He wasn't even in his seat 10 minutes before he hustled off to the viewing car, never to be seen again.  I knew he would be back at night time to sleep, so I started planning musical seats.  Lucky for me, the couple behind me rented a sleeping car for the night, so I claimed their seats for my own.

I met a lot of people sitting around me.  Justin, sitting across the aisle from me was the most entertainment.  I also got a free drink from his loose change.  I shared a bottle of wine with Chad from Virginia, sitting behind me.  I learned the life story from one of the nice ladies sitting across from me who was from Cleveland.  I never got their pictures or names, and they left us in Denver, before the party started.

After a nice night sleep, we arrived in Denver about 10:30 or so. We were 3.5 hours late, but stayed in Denver for 20 minutes instead of almost an hour, which cut our delay to 3 hours.  I think the main reason for the delay was freight train traffic.  We were constantly stopping to let them pass.

From Denver to Glenwood Springs I was used to the train, comfortable with everyone around me, and knew I would not be making it to my apartment that day, due to the delay.  So we all had a few drinks, played some guitars, made a couple videos and welcomed everyone who passed to Car 9.  I'm not sure what car we were actually on, but somehow chose Car 9. Fin joined us in Denver, and I met Tessa, who had been there since Chicago, and got to know Bill and Dan, from up towards the middle of the car, a little bit better.

We arrived in Glenwood Springs at 4:30pm (2.5 hours late).  I had up to a 2hr bus ride ahead of me to the Aspen area, and my housing office closed at 4, so I wasn't going to be accessing my apartment Tuesday night.  I took the bus to Aspen and stayed at the St Moritz Lodge.  $32 for a shared room.  Not bad.  It is the off season, so there was only two females on the floor, and plenty of rooms, so I had my own. The price goes up during ski season, but it is still the most affordable lodging in the area.  It was a super cute place, and if I ever come back to the area to visit, I'll definitely be staying there.   They even had a heated outside pool open, and icicles were hanging outside my window.  Only down side was carrying all my luggage up and down three flights of stairs.

The lady working at St. Moritz Lodge at night offered me a ride to my apartment the following day, to avoid the busses with my luggage.  She told me her extension, which I forgot, and the guy working in the morning would not give to me.  So I had to walk to the bus stop, take two busses and walk up a winding road to my apartment.  I made it probably 100 feet, in like 10 minutes.  I was rolling one stack of luggage up a ways, parking it, going back for the other, rolling it up past the first, going back for the first, etc.  It was impossible for me to roll it all at once.  A nice guy stopped to pick me up.  (They only rape and kill you in the movies) He drove me the rest of the way to my apartment.  He dropped me at the housing office, and after checking in, 4 workers helped me bring my luggage to my room.  I think I needed those 4 helpers with my luggage the entire trip.

I arrived in my apartment at Noon on Wednesday the 16th.

This is the best shot I got of the abundance of room Amtrak provides in each seat.  Even when the seats in front are leaned back, it doesn't affect you at all.

Colorado River?

Red Mountains?

This is my favorite picture from the trip

The front of the train starting to weave up the mountain

You can barely see him, but during a 5 minute smoke break in Winter Park, CO, we came across my first snow of the season!  Another non-smoker helped me build a 5 minute snowman!

My turtle traveling companion
These are the 7 items of luggage I dragged with me. Car to train to Chicago station to 2nd train to 1st bus to 2nd bus to taxi to hostel, up three flights of stairs, down three flights of stairs, 4 blocks to 3rd bus then to 4th bus and up a winding street, into strangers car, and up to 2nd floor to my apartment. Not fun. The largest two were 54lbs and 34lbs. The rest were not much lighter.

I'll have three other roommates here, in a 4 bedroom apartment. One of them has moved in already.  I've been here two days and have not met her yet.  She must be out of town.  I feel like I've broke into someone's apartment and I'm living here while they're gone.  She has the whole place decorated and furnished.  Looks like she's lived here a while.  Maybe she'll return one of these days. The other two should arrive in the next week or two.

These are some photos taken out my bedroom window.  Beyond the tennis courts you can see the lifts up the mountain.  The mountains don't seem as large as I expected.  However, I decided to compare them to Ohio's Snow Trails, the location of the only time I've ever skied, probably in Jr. High.

Snow Trails vertical rise: 300 feet
Snowmass vertical rise: 4,406 feet

Snow Trails longest run: 2,000 feet (0.38 miles)
Snowmass longest run: 27,984 feet (5.3 miles)

So, I've come to the conclusion that this mountain is actually pretty big, and I've just been watching too much TV of back country skiing.


Bathroom Problems

It is starting to get pretty cold at night.  My down comforter has kept me pretty toasty though.  I struggle to hang out in my van in the evenings after work.  I don't want to just sit curled up in a blanket before it is time to sleep.  So I have to find heated places to eat, read, or hang out for a while.

My major problem in my vandwelling experience has been going to the bathroom in the morning.  It is something I have to do as soon as I wake up.  For the first month or so I was throwing on glasses, speeding to the gas station (almost next door) and using their bathroom to brush my teeth, and I would buy a morning coffee.  Buying a coffee every morning was not very friendly to my budget.

To fix this I would try not to drink anything after 9pm, with my last bathroom stop being around 11pm.  It worked pretty well.  I've started having time in the morning to change my clothes and put in my contacts and make it 5 minutes to work before using the bathroom.

Tuesday evening I managed not to drink anything after 6pm, and didn't have to go to the bathroom at all yesterday morning.  This turned into a new problem.  I over slept and was late to work, because for the first time my bladder did not awake me and rush me out of my covers.  I think I need motivation like that when it is down to 30 degrees in the morning.

So now I think the $.99 for coffee may be worth it, especially on these cold mornings, to coax me out of my toasty sleeping heaven and get me to work.

The past two days it has done nothing but rain.  Cold rain.  Which brought to me my second problem.  How do I dry my huge umbrella at night?  I decided to keep it closed up tonight.  There is not really room for both of us in here.  Hopefully it is raining in the morning so it doesn't seem strange when I bring it into work to dry it out.

The libraries here close at 9, and Barnes and Noble (an extra 3 mile drive) closes at 10 or 11.  I'll be located in one of these places most evenings for at least the next few weeks.


One Month Down

I just downloaded the blogger app for my iPod. I thought I would have a lot more free time then I have been having. Using my laptop is. Lot less convenient than my iPod, so this app might help.

I'm moving to Colorado next month. One month of van done, one to go. I decided on employee housing for a Colorado Mountain winter. I'm super excited to go. I have never even been west of the Mississippi before. I decided to take Amtrak over driving. Bought my $140 ticket yesterday. My last day of work here is November 4th, then I hop on a train November 14th. Time to get out and see the world.


Eating and Driving

I need to figure out a budget.  I should be saving practically every cent, but I don't seem to be.  Food and gas are my main expenses.  Plus $300 a month for loans.  I'm trying to keep food down to between $7 and $10 averaged a day.  I know this is a lot, but until I get settled in and feel more comfortable cooking in here, it is hard to do any better.  If I figure out refrigeration some day, that would help a lot too.  I'm currently shopping daily, which doesn't mess with my gas at all because there are 3 grocery stores across the street from my parking place.

As for driving, I've been trying to limit myself to 10 miles a day.  Work is 2.6 round trip, and the gym is 2.6 round trip.  If I visited them both together, that would cut out 2.6 (they're next door to each other).  The gym is open until 11pm though, and I don't like to waste my after work daylight hours there.  I drive a lot more on weekends. 

I get restless, and find it hard just being in my van in the same spot everyday.   Most vandwellers move around the country at their leisure.  That is what I look forward to doing.  It is lots of gas between towns, but it would be a lot easier to entertain yourself in a new town for a while.  Plus, it would be worth the gas costs if you're traveling the country.  For now though, I have a nice full-time job, a place to sleep, and a place to shower,  I'm going to stick with it.

I applied to a job in Aspen, CO starting in November.  I had an interview with them, but have not heard back.  This location won't be very good for vandwelling, but if this is what gets me out of Ohio and starting to travel, I'm okay with that.  Once I'm out of Ohio for a while, it'll be easier to stay out.  If I get the Aspen job, I'll return to my van and a warmer location in the spring.


Going Great

Vandwelling has been going pretty good.  I've spent three nights in the van now.  Labor Day weekend I drove to visit my parents and spent 3 nights at their house.

First two nights (last Wednesday and Thursday) my van was a mess.  I just threw all the left overs out of my apartment into it.  Over the weekend I was able to organize, and now it is a lot cleaner.  I also got rid of three seats, so only one back seat remains.

I'm pretty sure my parents have no idea.  I can't believe they wouldn't though, after telling them all about it, and them freaking out about it back in February.

All I did for stealth is velcro a green fleece throw in front of the back window, and using safety pins, pinned two other throws along the drivers side windows, using safety pins on the seat belts.  I have two large buckets on top of each other behind the back passenger side seat, and it blocks the view of me through the windows on that side.  All my back windows are tinted pretty well already, unless light is coming through the other side, you have to put your nose up to the window to see.  So it is mostly all for my comfort.  It actually might attract attention, because if the blankets are touching the window and have a pattern in them, you can see it easily from the outside.

I bought some type of black fabric that doesn't seem to let light through.  I need to find the time and location to cut that to size and velcro it.  I can't decide exactly how I want it though.  I want to make sure it does not let any light through, because I want to be able to turn on my book light or laptop while inside the van at night.


Last Night in Sticks and Bricks

It has been a crazy past few days.  It is almost 1:30 in the morning, but I wanted to post quick.

Tonight is my last night sleeping in my apartment.  I am turning in my keys on my lunch break tomorrow, and it is all VAN from here out!  I'm very excited.  Wish my last night of sleep in here was going to be longer than 5.5 hours though...


3 More Days

Even after offering co-workers and neighbors $10 an hour, $15 an hour, lots of beer, etc, no one was interested in helping me move.  This shows me that I really am ready to leave this town.  If these are the 'friends' I have, there is no reason to be here.

I called my mom Friday night in a panic, I have so much stuff, and so little time left.  Plus, it is really hard to get some furniture down a flight of stairs and across a parking lot alone. She agreed to drive the two hours to come help me today.  Yay!  So, I originally budgeted paying people $100-$200 to help, I ended up paying nothing, and making $40 on a mattress and box spring that I was sending to the dumpster!  This left me without a bed my last three nights in my apartment...

I have a couch that I acquired a few months ago and was trying to sell. A neighbor left it behind when he moved out, and though there was lots and lots of interest, no one ever even came to look at it.  I realized that the cushion on it will make a perfect van mattress.  It is one long cushion, and inside it is just a thick piece of foam, which I have seen vandwellers spend lots of money buying!  The material is scratchy, but covered with sheets and such, it should be just fine.  I eventually want to sew a new cover for it, so I can just take it off, toss it in the laundry and zip it back on again, instead of trying to keep a queen size sheet to stay put while I toss and turn in my sleep.

I brought it upstairs.  I get to adjust to the tiny mattress early.  Totally worth the unexpected $40

 I'm really glad, in the long run, that no one ever bought the couch.
Here is my new bed!  On my living room floor for three nights, then into my van.  I'm pretty short, and without the pillow it is about the same length as me.  With the pillow, my feet hang off.  I'll have to find somethings to prop up under half of the pillow, so I can move it up a little.


Four More Days

My packing is coming along slowly. I have SO MUCH CRAP!!

I can't wait to be out of here. I'm putting everything in my garage for now. I will be in town until mid-November to get rid of and sell more stuff. Even though, the few things I do want to keep, I have no cheaper option for storage. Unless I convince my parents to let me build/buy a small shed at their house to hide back in the trees. I think that will be my plan for next summer. I'll be in Colorado until mid-April. Then I can either come home for a little while, or get a summer job and come home in the fall. We will see. But I don't want to have storage in this town. There is no reason to be connected to it ever again. Even if it is more expensive, I'd rather eventually move it all to my parents town, two hours away. Then, if I need them to find something and send it to me, they would have access to it.

I'm proud of the amount of boxes I have marked 'Good Will.' As the move-out date get closer, It becomes easier and easier to shove things in bags heading for Good Will, rather than group them and box them and label the boxes. Plus, I'm running out of boxes. I can only use them for the things I love :)


First Trip With the Van

A few weekends ago I took my van to Hocking Hills, to camp with my parents.  Though I did not sleep in the van, I did get a feeling for what she can carry and what I will need to keep with me.

Unfortunately three days after I started driving the van the 'Check Engine Light' came on.  Auto Parts plugged it in and said it was a loose gas cap or a few other things.  I found an old gas cap in the back of the drivers seat, so the previous owner must have had the same problem, and tried to solve it with the gas cap.  I assume they got the light turned off and sold it ASAP.  It is NOT the gas cap.  I have no idea about what it really is.  I've been driving around with the light on for a month now.


My Childhood Travels

For the first 25 years of my life, I have visited 15 states. Most of which I just drove through, going to Florida, Myrtle Beach, Chicago, Washington D.C. or Niagara Falls. I hope to double this in the next 12 months. 15 more states? I think that is more than possible.

visited 15 states (30%)
Create your own visited map of The United States

Here she is!

My dad brought her to his home today.  He took about 100 pictures, and this is the only one that gets the whole van.  I'm so excited to start driving her.  12 more days!


Proud New Owner!

Of a Van!!!!

This is really going to be happening. I have an apartment lease that ends in a little over a month, and today, the van was paid for.

It has been a long 5 months. I spent the first few really excited about vandwelling, researching for hours a day. My dad was even helping me look for a van (being clueless to the real reason I wanted it) I guess he thinks women are good with vans. My truck I got almost a year ago is not getting as much mpg as I expected, and I told him I missed being able to drive people. A van would allow me to carry my bicycle still, but would put a roof over it and other passengers.

Then a few months later, for some unknown reason, I told my mom the wonderful idea I had of living in a van. I should have known, from past experiences, not to share any plans with my parents. They are dream-crushers. They are the typical Americans. Live, work, go in debt. They don't do anything out of the ordinary, and don't think I should either. They want me to buy a house and settle down in Ohio. I need to get married, raise a family and die. That is all. Of course my mom told my dad my plan to live in the van I buy, claiming that she thought he already knew because he was helping me look for a van. He abruptly quit looking.

Lucky for me, I brought it back up this month. This time with my job in mind. I am currently slightly unhappy working at a local preschool. I told my parents that I have been looking for a nanny job, for the freedom it would bring me being able to travel around town doing different things with the children everyday. But in order to be a nanny, clients want me to be able to drive their children. So I can only apply to 1 in 100 that have a spare vehicle for me to drive. In order to actually land a job, I have to own something other than a truck. A van perhaps?

Within a few weeks my dad found a van. I don't know anything about vehicles, so I just left it up to him. I had to go with a mini van because that is the best choice, without sharing my plans. I'm surprised they have not mentioned them from before. I have not seen the van yet. My parents live 80 miles away from me. They picked up the title and paid for it today, tomorrow they will pick up the van. August 5th I will travel to their town and get the van :) It is all going in my name. It will be my first vehicle I actually have my name on the title. My dad has access to one of my bank accounts, so he was able to get the money and buy it for me. Unfortunately this also means I have to now pay car insurance. This would have happened eventually, but that is another $40 bill a month that I did not want to have.

My van? A 2002 Oldsmobile Silhouette. I do not know anything about it. But I hope it runs for a while.

I am now researching winter jobs at ski resorts and similar places for the winter. I am eager to get out of Ohio and travel. My job does not pay me enough to afford to travel, so I must work and travel at the same time. I think working seasonal jobs in different states is a great way to do this for a while. Some big ski resorts actually have day care centers! This is what I hope to be doing come November.


What will this cost me?

Trying to figure out what my budget will be once I move out.

Rent: $0
Electricity: $0
Health Insurance: $0 (on my dad's for 3 more years :)
Cell Phone: $0 (paid by my dad since I got it 10 years ago :)
Gym Membership: $30 (hope to get a part time job there, to bring this to 0)
Internet: $0 (bought an iPod touch last year, the free wifi is a much better deal that a required $720 data plan on a phone every 2 years)
Gas: while i still have my truck, same as I pay now. About $40/month, gets me 200 miles. I drive about 100 for work per month, plus any shopping or visiting I do. Will probably double when I get a van.
Food: $200 (more than I spend. I don't usually eat breakfast, though I should start, and get free lunch at work. All I pay for is supper and weekend lunches.)
School Loans: $200 required (will be spending all my extra income on these for a while)
Laundry: $30 seems to be about what I pay a month. This seems high.
That all equals $500. All of which I already pay.

Also...Truck/van upkeep, entertainment, what am I missing? It is 2am, I can't think very clearly.

Propane - might cost up to $100/month in Jan and Feb it looks like from my research.
Ice, regular household products like Shampoo and Excedrin. (save on toilet paper thanks to the high usage of public restrooms!)

Pretty much I'll be trading my $600+ rent and electricity for extra gas once I get my van and propane for 2 months. And perhaps I'll spring for the $20 gym locker fee, because I think it might be very convenient to keep my shampoo, hairdryer, gym clothes, towels, etc at the gym, at least until I have more room in a van.

Oh..storage...$60. If it turns out living on wheels is not for me, I don't want to be left with nothing. Plus all my childhood items I've removed from my parents house (photo albums, Christmas ornaments, etc) that I will want for the rest of my life, I want to store them.


Not happy in my 'real world'

I have been out of college for almost three years now. Wow. Does not seem like that long. I wish it has not been that long. What have I accomplished? or enjoyed? I hate modern America. Work, work, work - until you die.

I love my job. I'll rephrase that: I love my students. My job is a little bit ridiculous lately. I'm content where I am though, petty things aside. I have a nice apartment and decent neighbors. I just long for something more.

I am single. I have no reason to stay put. All I've ever wanted in life was to travel. WHY AM I NOT TRAVELING?!?!?!?! I've really been questioning myself on this the past few weeks, and have outlined an ingenious plan. I've can't remember the last time I was so excited about something.

I'm going to take up a life of vandwelling. That is right. I'm going to live in a van. It will be almost a year before I'm settled and satisfied, and I can't wait.

Right now I'm stuck in an apartment lease. This ends August 31st. 6 months from now. That gives me 6 months to organize, minimalize, sell as much as possible, and put some into storage. Starting in September, I will be moving into my truck. I really turned out to be lucky already having a truck, plus available cap. It will be tight (and cold!), but with at least $600 in savings a month, how could it not be worth it? I already have lots of blankets to keep warm. I just need to invest in some reflectix, a -20 below sleeping bag, and a mr. buddy heater before winter.

I will keep my job, I still need to earn money. By spring I plan to buy a van, and pay for my trip to Jamaica with my friends (which I'm suppose to be saving $20 a week all of 2011, but seem to keep spending it). After that it is college loans. Being in debt is not a choice anymore. Especially since I will likely never use my college degree.

I already have a gym pass, which is practically next door to work. Perfect place for showers and getting ready in the morning. I'm also trying to get a part time evening job there (free gym pass). My apartment now is 2 miles from work. I don't see why I would ever be found out if I just keep spending my nights there. As long as I'm not seen exiting or entering the back of my truck (will be less obvious once I get van). Even if I thought they ever checked license plates, I would come while the office is closed for the night. Plus, I have so many friends here, that if ever questioned, I could easily be staying with them for the night. But so many people here have people not on their leases, so I doubt they have their plate records. And there has never been a problem.

Within 5 miles is a hospital and a Wal-Mart for alternative night parking. Plus a 24 hour Meijer, Kroger and Giant Eagle. No one seems to ever talk about boon docking at those, but I'm sure it could happen if you're not in an obvious RV.

Also within 5 miles are two libraries, for computer use and hanging out doing work for work when it is too hot or cold outside. And metroparks, for grilling. I might buy a little backpacking propane grill for use in truck/van, but right now I own a rolling/traveling charcoal grill to use, if I find room for it in the truck bed.

Work provides cellphone and iPod charging. And Mon-Fri refrigerator use.

I'll see how it goes for a year, and consider traveling and getting a job somewhere else. Also I can leave my teacher position at work and become a floater, and take a month off every 3 or 4 months. Or by 2013 I hope to have some money saved after all my loans are paid off to quit my job and travel for 6 months to a year.

Next step: Make a list of high ticket items to start ebaying and craigslisting.