Sorry to those of you who’ve gotten spammed by my blog

When I ‘quit’ email, I also turned off my blog notifications. It seems, in the meantime, I’ve been overrun by spam comments. I am going to try to clear those out. Sorry to those of you get the comments from my blog.

Hope you are doing well! I am loving my new job!

Take care,

Jennifer

I got my DREAM job

Domestic traffickingSome of you have been with me for a while… way back in the day when I was still in psychoanalysis. Way back in the day when I didn’t leave my house, was making a lot of money, drinking too much, shopping too much, and still working my ass off in twice a week therapy.

This blog was actually an important part of my therapy work. With you guys paying attention (safely, anonymously, I-could-still-run-away!), I was able to START TALKING ABOUT MYSELF for the very first time. I was able to start to TELL MY STORY.

You were the first people to get some of my worst secrets. Since then, I have gotten better and better at presenting this more integrated sense of self in my day to day life.

As I removed so much stuff from my life in 2009-2011, I started to feel lonely. Removing the noise and clutter, I started to feel what was really missing – connection, community, contribution. I realized that I was compulsively adding things because I had been missing these key fulfilling things.

You might remember that in 2010 I started imaging that I wanted to help women who were stuck like I’d been stuck. Still working in the sex industry, aging out, out of ideas. (I worked from age 21-28).

If I hadn’t been ‘rescued,’ I’m not sure what would have happened to me. Or maybe I am.

So, determined to move forward with my new professional plan, I stopped working in my previous company, sold my stake in that business, retook the GRE exam, applied to graduate school, was accepted, moved to my grad school (had a baby!), and started studying my ass off on how to be helpful to this population. I made some important professional connections and also started volunteering as an assistant to women who were trying to leave sex work.

Well, it is four years later, and I finally got that job I dreamed about!

Starting next month, I will be working as a counselor, co-facilitating therapy groups for adolescent girls who have been rescued from human sex trafficking. I will also be co-facilitating a sexual abuse recovery group for adult women who are leaving the sex industry.

I know it will be hard, but this really feels like the work I was MEANT to do. It feels like my life and my experiences make sense to me now.

Thank you for sharing this journey with me. I am so grateful.

Take care,

Jennifer

human trafficking

I am going to quit email

quitting emailSo, this may be strange, considering I have an (infrequently updated!) online blog, but I think I need to dial back my online life. I simply cannot keep up. I frequently would end up with 200 or more emails before I’d sit down with my iPhone to sort, respond, and delete, but now it is getting out of control.

I have close to 1,000 unread emails. (Sorry to those of you who have emailed me!)

My new reality is that my son does not like it when I am on my iPhone, which I use for everything. (Including capturing every moment with him.) But Silas wants me to look at HIM. He gets very angry when he has to compete with this little black contraption in my hand.

Putting away my phone is what has put me so far behind on email, but the letting go has felt unexpectedly good.

Yesterday, I was sitting in my brother’s backyard watching my son take his tentative first steps across the lawn. He was teetering and tottering, with his two little arms stretched out in front of him like Frankenstein. Screaming in delight with his accomplishment, it took everything in me to remember to stay with this moment – to not reach for my iPhone to capture it and email it out.

I stayed with him in in our experience of mutual delight. We wandered around the yard as he picked and ate dandelions.

So, last night I turned on my email vacation responder, telling people that I am going to stop using email.

We’ll see how it works. Right now, it feels great.

learning to be present

Quick Update

Sorry I’ve been out of touch. I am in finals, was teaching a class, and had a teething baby.

The super good news is that I got my dream job! A year and a half before I expected. AND I’ve got my living expenses to about $1,000 a month! (Though I am technically “homeless.”)

More later, but I wanted to stay in touch.

I have 718 unread emails, so am a bit behind online.

Hope you are well!

Jennifer

How to Not Own Anything?

How to not own anythingThis seems to be part of what I am struggling with right now. What do I NEED to have?

I can’t stop analyzing my RV, van, and trailer options. I am even researching tiny houses, earth bag houses, yurts, etc.

But do you think I need any of these things? I’m starting to feel confused about that.

Right now we go from house to house. We don’t have our own home. As much as I love that constant family interaction (especially for Silas), there is something nagging me about creating a place that is just OURS.

My RV felt like my home.

But there are real perks to not having anything right now. The way we live now is SO simple. Very unconventional, but very simple.

Can I just sit with nothing? Have nothing? Have quiet moments of just BEING with my baby and DOING NOTHING?

***

Hair update: uh, nasty mess. It feels like straw and oily straw.

I stopped shampooing my hair.

Okay, so I know a lot of you are already doing this, but I have to admit that it never appealed to me. I liked my sudsy, scented shampoos and conditioners. I thought people who used other stuff must have hair that is kind of stinky.

But, I am continuing to try to cut expenses, so I decided to do more research on the baking soda and apple cider vinegar method of hair care. After learning what I could online, I decided to make the leap into the ‘no-poo’ method.

no poo method

(giant zip bags in the back are part of my latest attempt to keep my car-living more organized! It is chaos!)

I also bought the fixins for homemade toothpaste (baking soda plus hydrogen peroxide).

It isn’t just the cost, but the realization that the shampoos we use unnaturally strip our hair of oils. This causes an overproduction of oil that, in turn, causes us to use MORE shampoo. I’d like it if I didn’t have to scrub my hair so frequently, so am hoping this change will help.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Hope you all are well!

Take care,

Jennifer

Will You Explain Twitter and Facebook to Me?

I tweet therefore I amI feel like the world has left me behind.

I have no idea how or why I would use each of these things, but I am starting to realize that a lot of people I am interested in only have content accessible through Facebook and Twitter.

Can someone explain to me why I would join either of these?

By the way, I did join both, so if you would be my friend, that would be nice as well! (Or whatever verb I am supposed to use.)

I signed up for both of them back in 2010 (as JWLivinginmycar on Twitter and under my emal iam@livinginmycar.com on Facebook), but I haven’t used it.

How do I find people/content? It looks kind of overwhelming and confusing to me.

How I am Living Out of My Car

I have been living out of my car for at least a couple of weeks now. I did this quick video to show my set up. As you can see, it isn’t that sophisticated!

I wouldn’t mind a 12 volt cooler and battery jump pack. (And I wouldn’t mind having a van!)

But, here is what we are doing for now. It is hard, but getting easier. And I love it.

My baby loves to dance (video)

I just had to share this video. I really think my boy has got a dancin’ gene.

How to be “homeless” – living in public spaces

One misconception that I think some people have of my vandwelling plan is that I am going to be spending a lot of time IN the van with my baby. Like you, I don’t think that would work very well.

I see the van as a space for sleeping and storing our food and things. Other than that, I expect we will be outside of the van.

One big adjustment to living out of our car is the lack of extensive private space. It can feel uncomfortable at times, but if we are not in someone else’s home (still not very private, but our most private option), we are in public parks, public libraries, public pools, etc.

I think this is a good, but uncomfortable, adjustment for us – well, me. I think a lot of this change to being around others has been driven by the fact that Silas is most contented when we are in a space with lots of other people.

For someone like me, it can feel weird to always been around and amongst people, but, on some deeper level, this way of being feels more natural to me. I have had to learn to BE WITH OTHERS – a great exercise.

milk on the car

Mi Casa es Su Casa

What it felt like to go from an RV to a House

In June of 2010, I wrote about my thoughts on the transition from a traditional home to an RV, but I didn’t get to share my experience of transitioning from an RV back into a traditional house.

I lived in my RV until I went to Africa for fertility treatment. (I plan to write about my solo trek to Africa soon — it was an amazing journey!)

When I arrived home I was pregnant, so I moved into a tiny apartment near my school.

These were my impressions of the differences:

Hot baths?

Sewer: one of my favorite things

Sewer: one of my favorite things

The biggest thing I liked in getting my apartment was the regular access to unlimited hot water and sewer – eg., hot baths! Hot baths were an indulgent luxury as I ballooned during my pregnancy.

Television?

I frequently watched DVD movies in the evening in my RV, but the lack of access to broadcast television seems to have broken my addiction. Tuning in recently, I was even more aware of (and shocked by) how intense the constant negative /fear-based/ consumption/ materialistic feed is.

Now I make a real effort to LIMIT my exposure. For me, tuning into a daily news show feels like taking 20 minutes to mediate on trauma, fear, materialism, and negativity. It is something I think I need to avoid for my good mental health.

RV Maintenance?

Maintaining my RV did start to wear me down. It seemed like there was always something broken that needed to be fixed. Having trouble with AC during 110 degree days was NOT fun! I think the problem was made worse by my purchase of of a Gulf Stream. Though my RV was very similar to the Winnebabo and Itasca versions, Gulf Stream was a completely useless resource for support and/or parts information. The lack of documentation for wiring and plumbing as well as the issues related to poor construction made repairs more frustrating.

Lesson learned: Only buy from a great manufacturer!

BUT…. after I had my baby I moved into the bedroom I now rent in a big house.

Wow. You want to talk about maintenance and expenses! I am so grateful I am not in charge of this big home. I won’t outline the costs of their maintenance and upkeep, but I’d say my biggest lesson is this: Everything I own needs to be maintained (including an RV), so the less I own, the less of that stress I will have.

There is no real escape from maintenance, though. The un-fun issue is present in both living situations.

But even if I had a billion dollars, I could not live in a conventional home. It is not just the money, equipment, and management it requires to maintain a yard, pool, HOA, etc., but the TIME it takes to deal with all of this stuff.

The more you separate yourself from it, the crazier this whole cycle looks.

Favorite restaurants/places?

Eating out is no longer a financial option, but (especially with a baby in tow), having a local routine of parks and places is convenient. That said, my boy loves to be outside, so I am anxious to travel with him to national and state parks.

Feeling Safe?

I developed a deeper feeling of safety after being on the road. I started to stealth camp with greater frequency after a while. Having a child does change the issue just a bit, though. I can’t take the risks that I would take on my own.

Things?

bedtimeIronically (or not), I feel like I still had TOO MUCH stuff in my RV. Letting go of things seems to be an ongoing process of shedding for me. (The only thing I struggle with is my desire to hang on to printed books. I love books and hate e-readers.)

People and Connection?

I am no longer the isolated recluse that I used to be. I am almost never alone and have become quite attached to being with the people I love in my community.

This has been a lovely change – one that keeps me grounded.

*****

My inspiration: This guy lives on $7,000 a year.  He retired at age 30 after working five years: http://earlyretirementextreme.com/

*****

vandwelling option

.

.

My latest thinking on my van plan – start with a conversion van like this and eventually get a tiny trailer.

Vandwelling and Taking Showers

As I’ve posted in my budget, I pay $50 a week for 20 hours a week of childcare ($250 a month). I found a super luxury fitness club that offers 2 hours a child care daily (14 hours a week) with a no-contract monthly membership of $98 a month.
This is a multi-level facility that includes a salon, spa, restaurant, several pools (including kid pools and activities), comfortable sitting areas, etc.
I get free wireless internet and comfortable places to work.
I will get two months of free “mommy and me” swim lessons for Silas. (Something I need to do but haven’t been able to afford.)
The facility is open 24 hours a day and we can spend as much time as we want here.
Of course, it also has super luxury shower facilities that include free shampoo, soap, and towels. (Not to mention the indulgent eucalyptus steam room!)
I can use my membership at any of their multiple locations across the country. (Great when on the road!)
So, I dropped the weekly child care for now. I think I will get a lot out of this AND save $150 a month.
It feels wonderfully indulgent and practical at the same time.
Simplifying IS NOT Simple!
Living simply is so much easier.
Getting to that point is very difficult.
Silas and I have been sleeping in a different house every night for the last five nights.
A duffel bag was not the right choice. I don’t want to bring ALL of our belongings into every house every night. I now have organized our car trunk with a bunch of bins for clothes, shoes, toys, and diapers.
Food is a big challenge. Silas is moving to whole milk and I can’t easily tote that around. We may end up being frequent grocery shoppers, but you pay a penalty for buying smaller quantities.
I am still forgetting and leaving lots of things, but I think that is because this is a new routine. Let’s hope I get better!

As I’ve posted in my budget, I pay $50 a week for 20 hours a week of childcare ($250 a month). But I think I found a way to cut that bill in half as well as help me move toward a vandwelling lifestyle.

How to shower when you live in a van...

How to shower when you live in a van...

I found a super luxury fitness club that offers 2 hours of child care daily (14 hours a week) with a no-contract monthly membership of $98 a month.

This is a multi-level facility that includes a salon, spa, restaurant, several pools (including several kid pools and activities), comfortable sitting areas to watch TV or work, etc.

It also has free wireless Internet and is open 24 hours a day. I get two hours of chid care daily, but otherwise we can spend as much time as we want there. (It is more like a country club to me!)

As a bonus, I will get two months of free “mommy and me” swim lessons for Silas. (Something I need to do but haven’t been able to afford.)

To help with vandwelling, it has exceptionally nice shower facilities that include free shampoo, soap, towels, and hair dryers. (Not to mention the indulgent eucalyptus steam room!)

I can use my membership at any of their multiple locations across the country. (Great when on the road!)

So, I dropped the weekly child care for now. I think I will get a lot out of this AND save $150 a month.

This feels wonderfully indulgent and practical at the same time.

*****

I used to think I was going to write a book on how to live on the road, but then I read Bob Wells’ book. It is so much better than the best book I could ever write. I am sure most of you are familiar with it, but I was pregnant when it came out so I finally read it last week. It is filled with practical tips and transcendent wisdom. I am so grateful to Bob for writing this:  How to Live in a Car, Van, or RV

Don’t Help Me!

“Jennifer, I am worried about you. Your brother told me he thinks you are exhausted and overwhelmed.” My mother’s concern feels like nails on a chalkboard to me.

accepting help“Mom, I am fine. I am resting right now! I have a lot going on, but I love everything I am doing!”

“You sound like you are sick.”

“Yes, I am. That is why I am resting! Don’t worry about me, Mom.”

About two days later, I totally crashed.

When I was making a lot of money, I LOVED being helpful to other people. I adopted Christmas families, donated to charities, and gave away stuff to people in need, etc.

I felt really good being such a generous person.

Now I am at a point in my life where I need the help offered from my family.

Giving help is fun!

But accepting help? It makes me sick.

I am doing GED tutoring and job readiness training at the nonprofit where I volunteer — helping women who are trying to leave the sex industry.

Most of these women turned to stripping and prostitution because, in a world where being dependent was dangerous, sex work afforded them complete financial autonomy.

By the time they show up at the non-profit, they are asking for help. It makes them sick.

I felt so smug in my generosity, but I am learning so much from them. I am learning that it isn’t easy for me to admit that I can’t do it all on my own.

They are teaching me how to admit to my own vulnerability and to accept our frightening interdependence.

They are teaching me to have the courage to swallow my pride and to admit to another person, “Yes, I need help.”

accepting help

*****

I thought this was an interesting podcast on women, work, and babies: The Real Tradeoff for Women

*****

A Simpler Way to Simplify

Having been gone most of this week, I came home to my rented bedroom to find it filled with more new-to-me hand me down toys.
I should be grateful, but I groaned.
Silas has SO MUCH STUFF!
Moving into my Camry has been liberating.
For anyone who has tried to simplify, you know how hard it is to tackle your existing stuff to decide what to keep and what to get rid of.
My new Live Out of My Car method is so much easier!
Instead of starting with everything, I’ve started with nothing.
I have slowly but surely ADDED the things we need.
After living out of my car for a while I think it will be much easier to part with the stuff we left behind.
I packed up my car this morning and, for the first time, had that excited feeling that you get when you’ve packed up your RV and are getting back on the road.
This is fun.

Having been gone most of this week, I came home to my rented bedroom to find it filled with more new-to-me hand me down toys.

new to me toys

incomplete puzzles

I should be grateful, but I groaned.

Silas already has SO MUCH STUFF! We don’t have room for more.

Moving into my Camry this past week has been liberating.

For anyone who has tried to simplify, you know how hard it is to tackle your existing stuff to decide what to keep and what to get rid of.

But my new “live out of my car” method is so much easier!

Instead of starting with everything, I’ve started with nothing.

Over the last week, I have slowly but surely ADDED the things we need.

After living out of my car for a while I think it will be much easier to part with the stuff we left behind.

.

I packed up my car this morning and, for the first time, had that excited feeling that you get when you’ve packed up your RV and are getting back on the road.

This is fun.

What we are carrying around. (Anyone spot the NuRVers gift?!)

What we are carrying around. (Can anyone spot the NuRVers gift?!)

Your Opinion on my Budget and Van Options?

I have a few different options I am considering. If you don’t mind helping me think this through, I’d love your feedback.


Here is my current monthly budget:

  • Rent: $450
  • Food: $250
  • Car: $360
  • Gas : $100
  • Auto ins: $80
  • Life ins: $30
  • Phone: $100
  • Medical: $105
  • Web sites: $40
  • Child care: $250

Total: est. $1,800

Debt:

  • Camry: Just under $12K at 6%
  • *note: I am not including student loans because it is not a variable and because I am eligible for loan forgiveness if I continue to work in non-profits.

Cash:

  • $17K (Will be used to pay for the rest of my tuition/books on April 1st ($12k) and subsidize my living expenses until I graduate.)

Current earnings:

  • Varies, but usually about $1,500 a month.

*****

These are some of the options I am considering:

The Super Simple Option

living in a roadtrek 170Use my cash savings to pay for a 10-15 year old Roadtrek van; drop my rent ($450) and Camry payment ($360)

Save $810 a month

Apply for food stamps while I’m in school (18 more months)

Save $250 a month

Using the van as my daily driver would double or triple my fuel costs to $300 a month.

Add $200 month

Total savings: $860 mo

Monthly budget: $940 a month

Total debt: NONE!

Advantages of this plan:

  • Lowering my monthly expenses AND my overall debt provides level of simplicity that is extremely appealing.
  • A 10-15 year old Roadtrek would be pretty stealthy in most urban situations when I am traveling.

Disadvantages:

  • This van would likely attract unwanted looks in the very affluent areas where I live and work. (My brother has a maintenance company so he drives a cargo van. He is constantly getting stopped and searched.)
  • The lower mpg means I probably won’t be able to take many long trips. (The whole plan is to be able to move around, so this is a pretty big deal to me!)

The Veggie Oil Option

living in a sprinter vanUse $10K cash as a down payment for a used diesel at about $35k. Drop rent, but still have a van pymt

Save $450

Food stamps while I am in school

Save $250

Use cash for veggie oil conversion ($4k?)

Save $100-$300 monthly (more significant savings for travel, such as $800 in gas for summer trip to a family reunion)

Total savings: $800 mo

Monthly budget: $1,000 mo

Total debt: $25K for van note

Advantages:

  • Eco-friendly option has a huge appeal
  • FREE fuel! FREE travel for long trips! (I want to drive up the West coast; I think this savings would really add up over time.)
  • I am very familiar with the Sprinter chassis/engine

Disadvantages

  • Taking on more debt feels like the wrong choice.
  • I think Sprinters are a bit less stealthy on the road

*****

If I use my cash for my van, then I will pay-as-I-go with school due to my lower monthly expenses.

Please tell me what you think. I am starting to live out of my Camry! It isn’t easy, but I am learning. I will post an update on my set up soon.

Hope you are well!

Jennifer

*****

p.s. I found a great blog by a younger solo woman RVer. She is debt free an posted a very detailed overview of her RV and living expenses yesterday here