Don't Allow for Situations to Get Screwed Over
I met Brian in a hostel in LA, on the day I signed my contract and knew that I'd be moving there. Naturally, I had to mingle and celebrate.
We quickly figured that we had a lot in common, among which: a thirst to travel, a need to challenge ourselves, a concern for ecology and a plant-based diet.
But Brian had been through a lot and taken the "travelling" and "challenging" parts of his life to a whole new level.
He told me that his life took a turn after he had fully renovated a wealthy businessman's luxury house for over a year.
The man had promised him lots of things, but once the work was finished and the house sold for several hundreds of thousands of dollars, he ghosted. Stopped answering the phone, email, social media, to eventually threaten Brian with legal action for slander if he spoke out. Brian reluctantly turned silent in fear of mobster like tactics..
He then spent over a year on a legal case, working with the California labour commissioner, only to find out his case had disappeared and subsequently the statute of limitations had run out. He had reached the bottom. Desperate but realistic, he looked at the stars that night, and decided to stop fighting and move on.
He had lost everything, so he had to sell everything he owned but his van, in which he eventually ended up living in for over a year. He wasn't as exposed as those who live on the street, but he still had become homeless.
"For a long time, I was filled with anger and despair, he says.
But one day, someone walked past the van and said "Hey, you got a cool setup there!".
It got me thinking. I learned that there was a whole subculture of van dwellers and people modifying vehicles to live and travel in. That's when I started to see things in a new light.
I stopped seeing myself as homeless and started realising my freedom and thinking of the possibilities.
I managed to get a job and immediately tore my van to pieces and started building and retrofitting. It was a mess and required more work than anticipated, though.
I did have quite a lot of building, engineering and designing experience from doing construction and working on film and television shows along with being the son of a mechanic.
I always stress that all this isn't the important part for getting things done though. It's getting out of feeling stuck in life, and thinking outside our usual patterns that matters.
As for what gave me the energy... I think I've always just had the ability to snap out of bad situations and regain motivation. Sometimes it takes a while but I'll eventually feel sick of myself and pull myself up!"
After rebuilding the van, Brian decided to take off on a road trip alone through California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Washington and Oregon states, and came back as a changed man.
His relationship with people:
"Now that I am back, I think I value genuine connections between people more than ever. Even to the point of longing for it most of the time. Chit chats and small talk seem more pointless than ever. Honesty between two people is such a beautiful thing but unfortunately so rare.
Maybe that's why I prefer nature. It never seizes to amaze and inspire me. The feeling of being connected to everything and acknowledging a whole universe in a leaf or a raindrop is a humbling an awe-inspiring experience".
His relationship with money:
"Although I'd prefer to be largely independent of money, I realize its importance within the parameters of modern society. I know how hard it can be to make a buck so I don't waste it. Having said that I think our modern obsession with consumerism serves only to make us less happy in the long run. Not to mention it destroys our planet!".
"Following the incredible reception of my short film #VanLife – From Homeless To Adventurer, I may do some more adventurous and philosophical videos. For now I am moving back to Europe for a while to spend some much overdue quality time with my family. I may throw on my backpack and travel through India, Asia and Africa. That will mostly be shoestring budget backpacking without a vehicle".
Are you homeless, or do you know someone who is and want to give a chance to the van life?
"When you're down and out every single thing you do has a consequence. So, you have to be as wise and persistent as you can until you get back on your feet.
Don't waste anything and put on a happy face.
I realize this may not be genuine but unfortunately you're very dependent on others when you're homeless.
Lastly don't allow for situations where you can get screwed over!
In regards to trying the #VanLife? Go for it. Try it out before you buy or without all the bells and whistles to see if it's for you. Remember nothing's perfect, everything has drawbacks. And van life isn't free, it's just a lot cheaper than paying rent in most cases.
I personally think that taking this chance has empowered me to take bigger risks. Not be so afraid of the consequences. I suppose I've become more of what I really want to be. I don't like wasting time anymore. I realize life is short and we may only have one go at this..."