My car, Penny, is back to being a normal mode of transportation. I have moved clinical sites (meaning I am in a different city) and I am staying with an old friend. And yes, I am renting a room! My experiment and challenge is over for now. I’ve meant to post this blog for some time now — but life.
I began my journey in January in a cold Wisconsin city. I spent the first week averaging very little sleep, which would have been fine if I didn’t have to be fully engaged for patient care and exams. My psychiatry rotation went well because I truly enjoyed it, and you just have extra energy for things you enjoy.
Then came pediatrics, which was more of challenge. For one, it was a learning curve for me, and secondly, I had to commute back and forth between two hospitals.
After that rotation, though, my exam grades slipped. Not horribly, but I wasn’t hitting the same standard as before. By then, three months had gone by, and I had spent about two thirds of that in my car, including prior cities and traveling.
Then my wife picked up a new job, which meant we could afford to move our family back together. And you know I’m not going to miss this opportunity to be with them!
I intended to tough it out until the weather warmed up, but I had to put my family and education first. Living the vanlife is hard work, and the amount of time it took to find safe spots for the night, and all the planning it took to stay healthy, clean, and prepared stole a lot from my study time.
I had been crashing on a couch at my friends’ one-bedroom apartment during cold nights and times where I got sick. It was after this point of academic struggle that we struck a deal where I could use their couch for the last month and a half of my Wisconsin rotations.
I have learned more about myself and how little I need to be truly happy than I ever thought possible. I don’t have any regrets at all, and am grateful to so many people for making the journey possible.
To my incredible wife Amanda, who actually said yes to this adventure! She has always supported my wacky, borderline-insane ideas. She also plays a huge hand in helping me not sound like a 4th grader when I write. During really cold nights, she prevented full-blown panic attacks just by being on the phone with me while we slept. I can’t thank her enough and am so glad to be back with her again.
To Scott, my childhood friend and fellow medical student who flexed his marketing muscle during this journey. He was hard at work behind the scenes building a community on social media, writing blogs, and using affiliate marketing strategies that kept this endeavor at a minimal cost for myself and my family. He filmed and edited video remotely from his school. You are a gentleman and a scholar, sir.
To Joe and Kim, thank you so very much for letting me seek shelter at your place. I had difficulty asking for help, but you guys made it easy with your generosity and concern. You two have a very bright future together.
This experience living in my car while attending medical school will be something that will stick with me for a very long time. I still don’t fully understand what it is like to be homeless, and I hope to never truly know. However, I have met some very influential people and learned a lot about myself.
A Benedictine monk once told me that those who set out to change the world don’t, and those who change their own world change the world. I hope my experience enhances my interactions with patients, and maybe inspires someone else down the road.
From this point on, I hope to be a resource for those who are in a tough situation, or those looking for an adventure by maintaining and adding to this site. Soon, I might explore an idea for a tiny home for my family.