Wrapping up our time in PDX

and the end of vanlife.

Honestly, we know the madness hasn’t yet truly even begun… but as we watch weeks turn to days, days turn to hours and are forced to admit to ourselves that we could never finish half of what is on our list of things to do (or things to learn) before leaving Portland and moving onto a boat, we also know that at some point we simply have to go.

In reality, we are mostly shocked we didn’t head directly for Florida from Alaska back in August as soon as we pulled the trigger on purchasing the boat… but we had lots of things to accomplish in Portland before leaving (and a buddy celebrating a very important bday early in November that we simply weren’t willing to miss!).

At the top of our to do lists was spending as much time with friends as possible, especially since we don’t know when we’ll be coming back.  Obviously we can always hop a flight home… but with karma on the boat there’s the question of who she would stay with and how to handle logistics when we don’t yet know where we’ll be be (or if we’ll meet/know anyone there).

Our real hope is that (now that we own a floating condo that can park off any beach/island in the caribbean), everyone will come visit us instead… but in reality we know that people’s schedules will continue to be busy.  Doesn’t help that by some sad twist of fate just about every couple we are close to includes at least one person who gets horribly seasick- not great for the odds of them coming to visit as often or as long as we would like.

While it should be a commodity that we can offer for friends to vacation in the caribbean, it feels somehow like we’ve committed some insane form of social suicide (if we hadn’t already years ago by traveling full time)… The loft is now a full on disaster zone as we rearrange bins and boxes of all our belongings and as we add to the list with things we know we’ll need onboard.  Safety gear, diving gear, fishing gear, everything else…  It’s actually been a very odd experience to be shopping and buying things to outfit for this new life.  We’ve spent the past decade purging almost everything, living on and buying almost nothing along the way…  Now, if there is a drawback we see to the lifestyle we’re about to embark upon its that we seem to be buying/collecting things at an insane pace as though we just moved back into a 3 bedroom house and had to fill all the rooms.

Every new thing we learn seems to also come with a shopping list of things we need.
Did you know that every time you enter a new island/country by boat you are supposed to fly the “courtesy flag” of that country?

Well we didn’t… but luckily I stumbled upon a blog post that talked about this requirement and then knew to find/buy the flags.  The terrifying thing to me is – what requirements haven’t I stumbled over, which means we’ll pull into a port and realize there’s something we don’t have onboard.  And that doesn’t even begin to touch on the thing we need to know how to do!  Terrifying!

Occasionally these moments/epiphanies jolt us and/or shake our confidence.
“What if we are in the middle of the ocean and don’t have what we need?!?”

But usually we do a good job of resettin our expectations… We didn’t know how to live in a van before we did it.  Or how to build a campervan before that.  Or how to turn a grage into a home.  There was no book on how to become a minimalist or quit your jobs in your mid-thirties.  Our trip south to mexico felt completely terrifying when it started.  Like stepping off the edge of the earth.  But now we look back and it seems so very common… in fact, and now it’s now our fall back plan for easy and cheap living if all other plans fail!

“What’s so hard about selling everything you own, moving into a van and driving through central america?”  Certainly this experience has to be the same after we look back at some point.  Right??  We hope so, in fact we’re counting on it!

No question for now, it’s daunting/overwhelming/terrifying… but like every other adventure we’ll simply have to live it day by day and hopefully those unknowns will be replaced slowly with new learnings and the fears will be replaced with excitement for new things/learnings/adventures.  Fingers crossed!

The van sold right before we left, so upon our return to PDX we picked up a rental car.  It’s a minivan.  Ouch.  Like a horrible daily reminder of the van that drove away.

Each day as we run errands or drive somewhere we are jolted back to reality that our van is now on a different adventure than we are by the sight of a minivan parked out front.  It’s a bit like phantom limb syndrome as I continually catch myself looking up and down the street for our van, our home on wheels, to see where I parked it the night before… and then slowly remember that it’s no longer here.  In it’s place is simply the minivan.Oddly, our last couple weeks in town were absolute mayhem, but not entirely in the ways we expected.
Yes, we had lots of last minute events/dinners with close friends.  Yes, we made it to that big birthday party we stuck around for and yes, we tried to make a point of hitting all our favorite places… but other people and events somehow happened at the same time.

A vanlife meetup was scheduled in portland and several people we have chatted with through social media were planning to be there, so we dropped everything and went.  Very much not our “normal” scene as our entire life in the van somehow always always found us very solitary.  Maybe because we’ve always stealth camped most nights, maybe because when we first started living this lifestyle nobody else was doing it and we simply became accustomed to it- but now this whole crazy lifestyle is somehow attracting people in droves (for good or for bad) and it was really fun to go to one last vanlife event (at least for now) and spend time with so many different people moving into this lifestyle for different reasons/goals.  It was one of our last nights with the van, and what an odd way to spend it with a huge mix of emotions.

We also had several van dwelling acquaintances move through town in the last few days.  Some needed a place to crash while their dog had emergency surgery, some needed a place to use as a staging ground before departing on their own epic journey, and then we had those very odd, very untimely interactions where you realize you might be meeting lifelong friends from people who really truly “get it” and have to wonder why it is the universe waits until you have literally days left in town (and already sold your van) before showing you parts of a lifestyle you haven’t encountered in almost a decade of living it.

That said… the timing feels right for us to be moving on.  Im not sure I like the direction I see happening in this lifestyle we have held so dear.  It taught us so many things and helped us find our way to be certain- but while we have always gotten questions and calls and emails looking for feedback or advice or reassurance about the lifestyle… I cant say i’m in love with the direction those communications seem to be going.  Im sure there’s another much longer post on this topic in there somewhere… but for now we’ll just say that it’s changing- and i’m glad that at a similar time so are we.

Im certain that at some point we will own a van again.  We enjoy traveling in that way too much to not imagine that.  Will we live in one full time again?  I cant say.
What will the #vanlife lifestyle look like at that point and will we want to be involved in it?  I cant say that either.  But… we are well aware that the universe works on it’s own schedule.  It’s not worth asking questions or trying to figure it all out.  All we can do is keep moving.  Finish packing the van and drive on toward the next adventure.  And that’s what we’ll be doing in the morning!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge