For the first time, I left my van in a parking spot that didn’t belong to a friend. I was flying to a conference and the hotel offered free airport parking. When planning the logistics of it all, it made sense. Easy parking, easy flight. Done.
As I packed up my van, it hit me. I’m not just leaving my car behind. This isn’t a Honda with a few cords and loose change in the cupholder. This is my entire house. What if… and I proceeded to fill in that blank a thousand times. Finally, exhausted with myself, I thought, “get over it. You don’t have a choice.”
It kind of worked. I was calm enough to go to the front desk to request a shuttle to the airport. After confirming the parking situation, I filled out a paper to let them know which car was mine. I casually laughed as I said, “yeah, I really don’t want this to get towed – it’s my entire house.”
Now, I make this joke regularly on the internet with people who know I’m a CEO that lives in a van. The joke goes a little differently with someone in Tucson working at the front desk of a Residence Inn. At first I thought the look on her face was intrigue, but then I quickly realized it wasn’t that at all. It was pity. She heard “I’m homeless” when I was trying to convey “I have a bougie van out back.”
Those are the only two reactions I get when I tell someone that I live in a van: wow, that’s cool (and the follow up of I want to or I couldn’t possibly do this) *or* you’re homeless. While the cool reactions are great, the reaction about homelessness is very telling. It reminds me that I, and so many other people I interact with in corporate America, have never truly understood what it means to not know where you’re going to sleep at night. The panic of just not knowing if your home will be there when you get back.
I’m not suggesting that I know what it means to be without a home, but I do know how it feels right now to not have a home to just go to without a reservation or plan. The panic of a notice in the middle of the night to evacuate the area because of fire. Realizing quickly you have nowhere to go and it’s 10pm in rural America (fill in the blank – Texas or Arizona so far for me. Yes, that happened this week. More on that if you follow me on Instagram).
I’ll never take home for granted again.
I miss boring Saturday mornings. Marching between a desk and a kitchen for an endless amount of time, never wondering if my Internet would be good enough to take my next call. Waking up warm with a quiet mind instead of confused about where I am with a million questions about where I’m going. My own toilet that I know isn’t disgusting and I can use any time of night – with lights I don’t have to remember to charge.
I never realized how much brain power it takes to just live when you can’t rely on much.
In all the lessons I thought van life would deliver, I had my doubts that an appreciation for monotony and comfort would be one. Rightfully so. This is the adventure of a lifetime, right? But in all the pictures from all the places, I am still the same. These views don’t teach you much.
The lessons come as I learn to navigate my mind and all the places I used to panic. The simple things I took for granted. The judgement I had for others who didn’t live like I did. It’s also teaching me the value of monotony and systems you can rely on. I’m learning over and over again that without these things, being alive can feel extra exhausting. Even on your best days where the views are bright and beautiful.
And most of all, van life is teaching me to never take home for granted.
No, I’m not quitting van life. I’m learning a lot and will keep on seeking out these lessons. These new experiences are changing me in all the ways I wanted them to and so many more. Speaking of new experiences, I wrote about new industries this week. The cannabis industry, specifically. How can they set a higher bar for job postings? More in this week’s blog.
Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.
Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.
Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.