Is Van Life Chill?

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Many people have an interesting perspective about how we live. A random man at a gas station recently said to us, “Living in a van must be so chill.” Making the mistake of continuing a conversation with a stranger because I didn’t want to be rude, I listened to him rudely tell me that, “Anyone who chooses to live like that must be smoking something strong.” He went on to say that since we had given up worldly things (huh?) there probably wasn’t much to worry about. It’s almost like because we’ve given up on personal space we must have also given up on things like – let’s say – sweating the small stuff.

Maybe he’s right. We are so chill that if I disagree with a comment by Marty that I can be careless, he’ll pull out, “Then why did Jake have to be rescued from drowning by the drunk fisherman?” Now this is a legitimate question, but it happened back in 1995 and you’d think 26 years of no other drunk-fisherman rescues might have bought me a little credit.

We had finally moved onto Tom, our 32’ catamaran, at Shell Point Marina. We were still in the middle of-boat improvement projects but were at the point that we didn’t have to sleep in our Suburban. We needed to make a run to Crawfordsville for supplies. Marty and Truman were headed from the boat to the truck. I herded Connor and Jake out of the salon (not a drinking establishment) and told them to go with their dad.

Somehow Marty did not get this message because as I took a few moments to tidy up, three-year-old Jake took the opportunity to jump in the water. Normally, harness and life jacket in place, this wouldn’t be a problem. However, as we were headed to town, Jake was not wearing either. I did not hear the splash as Jake jumped in, or the splash as the fisherman on the boat next to us jumped in after him. I got an earful of sailor-ish words that Jake gleefully parroted for the next few weeks, but will be forever grateful.

We were pretty chill when a couple weeks later all five of us were draped over the seats of the Suburban barely able to raise our heads. A few days before Marty and I had woken up feeling headachy and nauseous. The kids were lethargic and grumpy. Okay, we’d lay low until we felt better. But symptoms got worse and we thought maybe there was something in the wood varnish that possibly caused us to feel so crappy. We dragged ourselves and kids to the Suburban and fell asleep. After about 24 hours we started to feel a bit better. But it was another full day and night before we had the energy to do more than roll over.

Turns out it wasn’t chemicals at all. It was CO2 poisoning. We were actually really lucky that we had moved out to the Suburban.

So, gas-station stranger, in a way you are right -- we are kind of chill. Living as we do has taught us to appreciate the small things – like waking up to another day with our family intact. We wish you the same.  

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