experiences · travel

So This is How My Van Build is Going

After I Venmo’d the price of the vehicle, the keys to the delivery truck were placed in my hand. I sat in the squeaky driver’s seat, looking around at the dirty cargo where my future house would be. This wacky project from my notepads was now staring at me in Santa Fe Springs, California, ready to take me wherever I chose. The drive back to the 405 created some of the most spirited Car Karaoke with the finale song chanting, “You like my hair, gee thanks, just bought it.”

I pulled up to my grandparents house where my build would take place and immediately felt a weight press down on me as I began locking up and checking the perimeter of my truck. This three ton vehicle was my responsibility. It would be my time spent researching it, my money spent financing it, my hands building it, my resources advising it, my energy depleting over it, and my confidence glowing because it. I expected no hand outs and no vacations, but I had no idea how much I was taking on.

The initial weeks of the build mirrored my years behind the glass of dressing windows. The first time I’d ever seen the holiday Saks 5th Avenue windows in person was also my first time in New York when I came to interview for Flight Attendant. As I calculated the number of labor hours and hands it took to create the extensive detail, I knew regardless of how large the project, I was familiar with the process: accessing materials, contacting resources, planning actions, troubleshooting and executing. Those windows containing hundreds of items weren’t impossible to assemble and neither was learning to build a tiny home.

📷Anais Monique, 3D Layout of my tiny home inside a delivery truck
📷Anais Monique, 3D Layout of my tiny home inside a delivery truck

As much as I had planned for this big purchase, I was humbled again and again by the things I had yet to learn. Many of the builds online took 2-4 months based on a 60 sqft cargo area. However, when my three month mark came and blew passed me, my ego did not consider my truck is 100 sqft with its own unique challenges. I was blessed to fix the one leak I found. I was grateful again when I passed my RV registration ahead of schedule. Being in control was an illusion and I had to adjust quickly or else I’d miss out on enjoying the process.

As covered extensively in my webisodes for IGTV, being respected in male dominated spaces of construction and mechanics was not always assumed. What else is new? Determined women may vent, but they can not be deterred by small grievances. Each obstacle so far has been necessary to stretch my character. Those checking in on my progress, blessing me with life altering advice and flying into sunny LA to lend a hand have made a lot of hard days easier.

In general, I tend to move on. Nomadic all my life. After being a flight attendant for a little over three years, I’m no longer struck by the whimsical European streets every week. I still marvel at the duality of my time abroad and in California. Its hard to give up something that feels like an opportunity which is why some tv series run too long. Flying is addictive, accompanied by benefits and withdrawals. Travel is the force behind both of these lifestyles centered around modes of transportation. My time on planes will continue as my year solo in the truck presents its own inspiration for what’s next.

For now, my day job pays for the privilege to build my own space from the ground up. I saved for a year to get started. The way my account is setup, I can’t touch my actual savings account until 2021. Thank you, 2016 self, for having forethought.

For a good portion of August 2019, the face of #Vanlife on Youtube was Jennelle Eliana, a quirky beauty who lives in a van with her pet snake. Jennelle jumps off of any Vanlife explore page as one of the very few Black people, especially as a solo woman. Friends and followers, across all platforms, who had clued into my truck build journey this summer, forwarded her first Youtube video: “I thought of YOU!” After her meteoric rise to 1.6M subscribers in a month on Youtube, I instantly realized how Other she must appear and the importance of representation.

And, me?! Owning a pet albino snake?? I only recently wrapped my brain around the responsibilities of owning dogs. With cats, its like “oh no, I dont own Mr. Mosby the Cat per se. I feed him and he chooses to warm up to me. Eventually he tolerates me long enough to have his belly rubbed.” *TING!*

She’s been dope and vehicle dwelling for at least two years at the time of publication. I’m just getting started. It’s a huge compliment to be mistaken for a girl eleven years my junior, with fear in her rear-view mirror and nothing to lose.

My move in date is upon us. By October, I want to be decorating my truck for my birthday. The priorities that I have managed to accomplish thus far will set me up for a completely “off the grid” experience. Some vanlifers never install solar panels, a la 1970s VW style. Solar feels like a monster in itself to tackle, but the reward means morning coffee and fried eggs. Solar may be the final major purchase for the build, but its not a roadblock to moving in.

My neighbor owns a luxury RV tour bus that sleeps six and has a washer and dryer. He recommends parking at Lake Havasu and enjoying the water for holiday weekends. Ohhhh the parties. In contrast, there’s a van couple I’ve loved that will spend weeks in Baja’s beach solitude. Yosemite, Malibu and Joshua Tree are so glaringly obvious, I can not wait. My love for hiking will guide me to any elevated mountains or sand dunes. Sports involving a wave in the summer is as easily “Yes!” as is dancing till I sweat in the winter. Van meet-ups will be the icing on the cake when and where I can attend.

This has been the marathon of my life. I dont think vanlifers express enough what a challenge a solo self-built tiny home can be. The lure of adventure and freedom is powerful, but if it was easy, it would be the norm. Until living alternatively is more normalized, I must say thank you for sharing and supporting others exploring a dream. My mom recently planted the seed for me to begin sailing, but we’ll see if it can pull my attention away from all that’s on the road.

Thanks for joining me. 😘

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