I’m not the first person choosing to be homeless, and I won’t be the last. But… why am I doing this? And why would I document it?
The answer requires some backstory. I’m a third year medical student in the middle of my clinical rotations. I attended an international school, which requires me to travel around the United States to serve rotations at hospitals affiliated with my university. I have a wife and a child, who have been by my side for much of the way while my school sends me to new places.
We’ve lived in apartments, condos, and our parents’ houses. But it’s time for a change. I decided to create this blog for a few reasons, which I’ll detail below:
Community and Resources
When I made the choice to live in my car, I knew right away that a) I would be alone, and b) I needed to start planning. But where could I start? There van dwellers on YouTube sharing their stories, great subreddits (like r/vandwellers) devoted to car camping, and niche forums dedicated to customizing your vehicle for the nomad lifestyle.
But there is no single place to plan your adventure from start to finish. I want to round out these already amazing websites with tips on budgeting, finding the right gear, reconnaissance, and staying sane while you live by yourself. Together we can make a community of nomads to ease the struggle.
True Productivity and Self Discipline
Sometimes, it’s nice to feel comfortable… especially when you have a house with a nice couch and a TV for Netflix and video games. But it’s easy to get too comfortable, to the point where you don’t try anything new to improve your life. Van dwelling is going to put me in survival mode—the state of discomfort that will force me to actively improve my situation.
For me, survival mode in medical school will get me to a coffee shop to study instead of hanging out in a freezing cold car to sit around and watch TV (something I would normally do if I had a house to live in). It will get me to the gym to work out every morning so I have a place to shower. It will make me feel like I am living my life by my own rules instead of following a bland routine and working for someone else. It will make me just uncomfortable enough to try harder and get better in every way.
I can explain! Psychiatry is a field in medicine that has always intrigued me for several reasons. The main reason being it emcompasses a great amount of lonely diseases. When a person is sick with cancer, the common cold, a broken foot… loved ones are there to support them through the process, whether participating in doctor appointments or making a bowl of chicken soup.
Diseases like PTSD or depression, on the other hand, often drive a wedge between the ill person and their family and friends for reasons often out of their control. To add insult to injury, social stigmas and a lack of progress in the field prevents ill individuals from seeking help–and young doctors from choosing psychiatry as a profession.
I have always been drawn to reaching those who are marginalized, so psychiatry was the obvious choice for me. At the time of this blog post, I am about to start my psychiatry rotation to see and learn about these lonely diseases. To understand complex issues, you often need to immerse yourself in the problem. Short of contracting a psychiatric illness, this lifestyle will allow me to share in the loneliness that patients experience every day. Many are homeless, many are without help, many just need a friend.
Another Story To Tell
I don’t believe in living a scripted life. I went to a weird arts high school that let me sit in a recording studio for hours on end and play with the buttons. For fun in college, I traveled to California with some friends to pick tomatoes with migrant workers and film a documentary about their lives. For two years, I studied medicine in the Caribbean and visited patients in third-world hospitals.
When it’s all said and done, you’re going to look back at your life and ask yourself: what stories do I have to tell? Some people are fine without risk, and that’s great! But what do you want to do? Have you ever truly asked yourself? I want my stories to be an example to my children of not settling for someone else’s comfort and idealism. We have the power to make a difference, even if it makes us uncomfortable.