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Student life, but in a van

Over the summer I moved out of my apartment of two years and into a temporary sublet I would house sit for the summer. The apartment was in a different city and was farther away from work and school, but it was nearer to lakes, rivers, friends, and family; it was a vacation home of sorts.

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Over the summer I moved out of my apartment of two years and into a temporary sublet I would house sit for the summer. The apartment was in a different city and was farther away from work and school, but it was nearer to lakes, rivers, friends, and family; it was a vacation home of sorts. I needed a change of pace and to enter a new phase of life so it worked out well. However, summer is never as long as it seems it could be and so I was soon in a mad dash to find a new place to live for the upcoming school year. I had plans to move into a house with roommates in October, but it was only August. I was in a tight spot.

I had plenty of trouble finding a place in my price range that I would be able to live in for two months. The leases were all too long, or the locations too far away from where I needed to be.

While I had been coming into The Cascade office over the summer for the biweekly production cycle, I began to notice several parked cars in the back gravel lot. At first, I noticed them in the way that anyone might notice a parked car; it was a passing obstacle around which to maneuver myself. But after several weeks I began to realize they were campervans of a sort and they never moved. There are never very many cars at UFV during the summer and so these large vans stuck out like trees in a floodplain.

As weeks went by the vans began to become more and more obvious to me until eventually, they became the obvious solution to my housing crisis. I could buy a van, live in it for two months and hardly lose any coin compared to what I would pay in rent for the places I was looking at.

As a student this was spectacular to me  I would only have to move once in three months as opposed to twice, I would be mobile and on my days off could take all my creature comforts with me if I so chose to venture off into the woods or to a new part of the world for a few days. I continued my search, this time, instead of scouring craigslist for apartments I couldn’t afford, I looked for a van I could maybe afford. Rather than spending a ton of money on a well running reliable vehicle, I opted to buy a fixer upper — the similarities to buying a house abound — and employ my own technical skills to bring it up to par. After three weeks of searching and several visits to a couple of potentials, I settled on a rather rusted out, barely running 1974 Dodge Tradesman campervan.

Upon insuring it and driving it away I knew I had made a truly great decision for my phase of life. The van was comfortable and personal, I owned it, it was mine. I wasn’t renting it, it was a place I would never have to bring up to a certain standard in order to sell it or move out of it and pay penalties for altering its appearance. I have a hunch that the feelings I have towards it are a kid size mix of what a first-time homeowner feels towards their new abode and how a retiree feels about paying off their mortgage. This thing is mine and it has its quirks but I love it and I own it fully.

At the end of the day, I spent $800 on the van, $700 to insure it for three months, and something near $400 in labour, parts, fluids, and tools to fix it up. As a student, this was something I could manage. I now had freedom of movement, a personally-owned and paid for space, and was not too much further into debt than my student loans already had me. Perhaps the greatest benefit was that I had avoided that dark place which is the student housing market. Now the only challenge I had yet to face was actually living in it. As September goes by I will be sure to report the unique challenges and benefits that come from living in a home on wheels with no fixed address and still attempting to student the hell out of my life. Next week maybe I’ll talk about that time that I needed to use the washroom at 4 a.m. but I was parked outside of a building that had been very much closed since 7 p.m. the night before. You are curious, aren’t you?

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