Eighteen Months of Van Dwelling: Evolution

I’ve been living in my Chevy Astro for eighteen months now. I think it is the longest I have lived in one dwelling ever, except for the time I accidentally bought a house and was stuck for four years. The beauty of it is, that in eighteen months in one dwelling I’ve driven seventy something thousand miles and lived all over the continent. I love van dwelling so much.

I’ve started writing this post a bunch of times. I want to share with you guys how beautiful and hard and simple and magical it’s been, and all the things I’ve learned, but it would end up being a whole book. Instead, I’ll try to be brief and focus on the things that have changed since I started.

How My Life Has Changed

When I first started living in the van I didn’t care about things like food and comfort. They just seemed like uneccesary luxuries. I didn’t have room for a stove, I planned on just eating raw food, which would be more efficient anyways. Now I spend all kinds of time every day cooking good food that’s tastes good and is so good for me. I eat three times a day, at least, and I drink nourishing infusions and lots of water. In retrospect I don’t know how I ever lived without eating good food. I always felt kind of tired and foggy, back then, but for some reason it didn’t occur to me that food mattered.

When I first moved into the van I didn’t have the space or time to do anything. I just laid in bed reading and slept a lot when I didn’t have to do thiings, which was what I did when I lived in a house too. Now I love just hanging out in my van, cleaning up and playing the dulcimer and writing things and sewing. Life is fun!

When I first moved into the van I didn’t save money. I went and made some if I ran out, and then I lived on it until I ran out again. Now I realize that I should be saving while I’m free and I can. I live on 1/3 of what I make and save the rest.

How The Van Has Changed

The best thing I’ve done in all this time was to turn my passenger seat around. It really almost doubled my living space, and now I can kick back in the seat with my feet up on the bed and not feel like I’m hiding in a little dark box behind the seats.

The second best thing I’ve done is to put linoleum down on the floor. It’s just a little free piece that someone gave me at a flea market and I put it in the little space in front of Bro’s crate and the passenger seat, but it’s made a huge difference. I think someday I will get another little free piece and do the rest, too.

If it hadn’t gotten so warm, I would tell you that the down is the best thing I’ve done. My first winter in the van I constructed a tunnel around my bed with solar blanket insulated curtains. It was very cacoon-ish and small and dark and kind of warm. Last winter in Alaska I knew that wouldn’t be good enough, and I re-discovered down. My sister gave me a nice down blanket for christmas and I collected assorted down comfortors and feather beds from thrift stores, and shoved them all into a fancy duvet cover that my aunt gave me for christmas. I was sleeping under 24 inches of down, and on top of 4 inches of it. I was warm down to forty below.

Water has always been a complication. Jugs of it falling over and spilling, rolling around while I drive, getting warm and plasticy in the sun, freezing in the winter. I’ve solved this, partially, with nice glass jars with wooden corks that I bungee to the side of Bro’s crate. If they freeze, I just stick them up on the defroster to thaw.

For cooking, I’ve gone from just carrying a few pieces of fruit and vegetables with me to a whole system. I have a 12 volt frying pan, a propane stove, and a pressure cooker. Driving down the road I fry up eggs, liver, onions, squash, in my pan. Stopped in city parks, big rest areas, or the woods I make big pots of soup in my pressure cooker and eat on them for days, either setting the pot in a river to keep cool or turning the pressure cooker into a cooler by putting a cup of gas station ice in it. I can left overs in jars that I eat later, setting them on the defroster to get warm while I’m driving down the road, or using them as quick meals when I don’t want to eat the junk food that people I’m visiting with eat. I’ve got two food drawers (and by drawer I mean big rubbermaid box drawer) – one holds twenty four jars of canned food and the chocolate stash, and the other one holds fresh food and jar overflow. I have a big box of kitchen stuff – pressure cooker, bowl, jar lifter, spray bottle, that kind of stuff. Also a little kitchen bag with spices, stirring spoon, and knife.


I was going to make a section about how I’ve changed, but I think it’s too much to put here. So, to summarize greatly: I’ve followed my bliss, which has been my self. I’ve been in recovery from a life where I was too responsible. I let go of judgement and refined my sense of reality. I spent months wandering in the woods, and months prancing through strip clubs in lucite platforms and fake eyelashes. I met and visited people who lived in dozens of realities, and brushed up my survival skills in every world I encountered. Mostly I’ve learned and relearned to live in the moment, to make myself happy, and to love passionately.

I’ve becomed who I always dreamed I was.


  1. tara, excellent post. i would love love love to hear more about your personal evolution. (and is the post suppose to end as abruptly as it does?)
    happy trails,

  2. The last sentance sums it all up. That means “fuck it”. Very inspiring post.

  3. Thank you so much for relating your experiences. Your blog is inspiring, really makes me want to be nomadic again. I think I will soon. You’re living so well, so freely and with such intensity, and spreading the gospel. It’s the best anyone can possibly do. If ever you want to hit Montreal, you’ve got a pal.

  4. I am so happy for you Tara. There is nothing better than becoming who you really always wanted to be. Becoming a journalist and having my own little flat (as in: I don’t share a flat) is part of that for me, so I definitely know the feeling.
    I love knowing how you live and what makes you happy or sad or in between. You are inspiring.
    Btw, do you plan on building something in Alaska, when you have bought some land there? Or do you plan to sort of dwell/camp on your land?

    Cheers from Switzerland and congratulations,


  5. That’s the best post you have ever written… positive, upbeat and genuine YOU. Something in you has turned a good corner 🙂

  6. Lovely post.
    Since you’re going to CA anyway you might wanna check out Femina Potens art gallery in San Francisco. apparently Michelle Tea, Violet Blue, Annie Sprinkle, and Tina Butcher/Madison Young hang out there. You could learn about setting up your own non-profit, self-publishing, and web promotion there as well.
    oh and they might pay you to read one of yer posts too.

  7. J, woops! Thanks for catching that. The personal evolution is… well, the whole blog.

    Panda, thanks for the tip!

  8. That is awesome. You are awesome.

    One question: how does one “accidentally” buy a house?

  9. you’re right, tara, your blog is your evolution… and it has been ev’ryting! inspiring, poetic, full of grit and grace, down-to-earth and up-in-the-sky, and … on and on i could sing. what i meant by wanting to read more about your personal evolution is the larger picture of who you were before you became who you always thought you were. your last line is a precious gem that resonates with where i’m at in my own life… wanting to manifest that woman i envision in me. i guess that’s why i find ‘the beginning’ of your story so curious and why i’m so enchanted and inspired by who you are (and why i so impatiently pointed out an obvious error…!)
    i hope one day you’re inspired to write ‘the beginning’. until then and beyond, i will happily swim in your oceans. take care,

  10. Wow I love this blog! I feel so much better now! Its amazing! Reading that was like a nice cold glass of water on a hot day. Just what I needed! Thanks!

  11. I just found your blog today when searching for tips on how to convert a van, and I have to say, you are very inspiring. Not a lot of people actually dare to follow their dreams, their bliss the way you have – I admire you very much. I have a staffing agency job which requires me to travel – I move every 3 to 6 months – and right now my employer has been setting me up in an apartment or hotel, and my family thinks I’m living some kind of crazy lifestyle already. Then I told them I wanted to buy an RV (a van camper) – and they have decided I am from a completely different planet. But I hate packing and moving and staying in hotels with my parrot on the way, and finding places to stay in between assignments (most of my stuff is in storage, and I’m slowly going through it and getting rid of stuff), and living in a van would be much more stealthy and be SO much less of a hassle… I just can’t find a floorplan I like.
    Oh – I’m gathering that you’re a pagan as well? I need to take a class on herbs. I have a book, but I accidentally put it in storage and kept out a different one that isn’t very good.
    Anyway. Love your blog!!

  12. Pingback: van dwelling

Leave a comment

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