"What's wrong with you."
"How will you eat?."
"Have you seen 'Into the Wild'?"
"Where will you go to the bathroom?"
"You idiot, I'm so jealous. I wish I could do that, I now hate you :)."
Those are just a few of the comments I'd get when telling people I was giving up my stable, well-paying career working as a consultant for a top-secret agency within the Federal Government and comfortable lifestyle to live in a van and travel the country.
Hermosa Beach, CA
Is this all there is?
I graduated from Penn State University with a BS in Accounting. I had worked for companies such as DuPont, Marriott, Microsoft, Verizon and the Federal Government. Lived in the Washington, DC area, Baltimore, Annapolis and NYC and loved certain aspects of each city and each job, but kept asking myself "Now what?"
During the 24 years of working in the "real world," I never felt connected to my work or the companies that hired me. I get bored easily and after about 10 years of trying to climb the corporate ladder I began dreaming about running my own business. I found out later that it wasn't about running my own business it was about being in control and doing something creative every day. After being in a position for about 6 months I pretty much just, "figured it out." How can people just do the same thing every month and still not get it?
I would start a new job and within a few months I was changing processes to make the job easier. I was in accounting for god's sake, the numbers are the same each month if you're using accrual based accounting. SORRY, I almost threw up talking about accounting and I'm sorry if I made you feel like regurgitating.
Additionally, the work itself wasn't engaging or challenging. Many days I would think to myself: "Why are they paying me this much money to push a button? They could easily train a high-schooler or an intern to do this." Yet there I was, bored to tears.
Every time I thought it would get better, it never did. The only thing that improved was my salary, when I'd leave one company and go to another.
The only fulfilling job I had was in 2003. I had enough of a crazy boss and just walked out, and headed to the gym. On my way home I passed a restaurant/bar that had "Hiring Doormen" on their marquee. I stopped in and applied and had the job before I got home. That was when I was living in Collegeville, PA and went to work as a doorman at the Trappe Tavern. This was THE best place I have ever worked, the people I worked with were great and are still great friends today, even though I "currently" live in Tampa.
After about 9 months of pure bliss, I still had to pay off student loans, a car note and some credit cards, so I decided reluctantly to head back into Corporate America. I went on the work at Verizon in their accounting department for a few years, living in the Philadelphia area and then up in Basking Ridge, NJ when the company moved all their workers there.
The money was cool for a while, but then the job got too easy. We were using a software called PeopleSoft that I had used for about 8 years already, so I was way ahead of my co-workers in getting my work done. I would only work two weeks out of the month and the other two studying the PeopleSoft software. That's when I decided I needed to change careers, so I found a job in NYC working with the software and have been since.
I then moved down to the Baltimore area and reconnected with old friends, going to concerts, bars, buying a house, a boat and just living. My favorite was going to a Jimi Hendrix tribute concert and meeting Billy Cox, who served in the Army with Jimi and later joined him with the Band of Gypsies and played at Woodstock in Bethel Woods.
Me and Billy Cox at the Hippodrome in Baltimore
Oh, and I even got a tattoo of Jim playing "Little Wing" on my sleeve.
Enough of that fun stuff back to boredom:
After that I got a sub-contracting job with the Federal Government. Still bored I decided I would try homesteading. So, I bought an acre of land about 45 minutes outside of State College, PA (Penn State). This property had a one-room schoolhouse on it and I thought that I would turn it into a cabin and get some chickens and maybe a couple of goats to do the lawn.
I was gung-ho about homesteading. I was going to quit my job and do this full-time. I had paid off my bills, no student loans, no car note, but building a homestead takes some $$$$s and it is BACK BREAKING WORK. The first winter was brutal and I didn't know it snowed that much up there, and the insects can get in through anywhere out in the middle of nowhere. I would go up there every two weeks to work on the "property" as I called it.
I got siding put on it, landscaped the yard, built a shed, and cleaned out the inside trying to figure out what I wanted to do with the inside.
The "Property" the day I bought it in 2014.
After a little landscaping
The acre of land after I planted some trees all by myself.
Working on the inside of this mid 1800's schoolhouse.
Better days after I got the fence put in.
Another angle and the truck I bought to haul stones, etc.
That 12-month job exhausted me and I needed a real vacation. So, I decided to go to Key West, FL for the first time for my birthday. The friends I worked with at the Trappe Tavern would always go there during Christmas, so I wanted to see what this place was all about. And it was about ALL THAT!
I landed in Key West at about 11 AM but my hotel room at La Concha wasn't ready, so I took a walk down Duval to see what this place was all about. It happened to be Lobster Fest and 150 degrees out. I walked up and down Duval and was about to pass out and needed somewhere cool to hang out, but I didn't want to sit inside because there was so much going on outside. I then heard some live music, someone was playing '60s music at this open-to-the-outside bar. I was thirsty and hungry and noticed that they had fans blowing water. So, at 11:15 AM I sat down at Willie T's and didn't leave until 5 PM...I think...can't remember. Well, whenever Marcy, the bartender/now friend got off work is when I think I left. I met some great people and listened to some great music. My favorite being Dallas Doctor.
Marcy, Dallas, Boston friends and me at Willie T's
Willie T's was the only bar I went to the 5 days 4 nights I was there. Well, on my birthday night I did get dragged down to Sloppy Joe's by some others that were having birthdays too. Anyway, a couple days I friended this older hippie looking dude, straw hat, white hair and beard and cabana shirt. We got to talking about how he ended up in Key West, because I WAS GOING TO MOVE THERE. He told me he had a business back in 1988 where he was the "fan appreciation" guy for the Orlando Magic and they started the throwing of t-shirts into the stands at Magic basketball games. That progressed into a big business traveling the country at multiple sporting events throwing t-shirts to fan, eventually moving to having t-shirt guns shoot the t-shirts.
He said he had never visited Key West and decided he needed a vacation. After his first visit or so, he went back to Orlando, sold his business, moved to Key West and now does haunted gravesite tours down there. I lost his card, so I can't tell you exactly which gravesite tour was his. I then told him that I was going to do homesteading in central Pennsylvania. He then says, "You know what would be groovy? You should sell that homestead and buy a van and travel all over the country."
I flew back to Baltimore, sold my homestead and bought a van.
And then I quit my job.
Ten years before quitting, I started working on my first passion: singing and playing guitar. That fizzled, especially after I moved to NYC and went to Cafe' Wha? listening to their house band, Terra Blues checking out Michael Powers and later on realized that I had seen Dallas Doctor play, who I later met a Willie T's. There was no way I would ever be as good as those guys. But that made me realize that I was a hippie at heart and I am only happy when I am living free.
I could never keep a job longer than 25 months, a girlfriend longer than 6 months and after 4 months in an apartment I was ready to move. So, if whether it was 25 or 6 to 4 I just couldn't sit still, I needed to move on, I needed to be Stone Free.
Van No. 2
Baker Street (the van)
You can see the van in the picture above isn't the same van I posted earlier in the blog. Well, the day before I was to leave that van broke down. I had already spent $6,000 on that van and had to be out of my apartment the next day. After about an hour at Pep Boys arguing with the mechanics about why my van didn't run and them telling me there was nothing they could do, I sat out in the parking lot for about 20 minutes going over my options. Being the free-spirit I am and one who loves a challenge, I got on my phone and found another van online that was about 30 miles away. So, I Ubered over there, dropped another $9K, which left me with minimal saving for my trip. I not only had to test drive it, walk down the street to Wells Fargo to get cashier's checks, walk back, buy the van I had to head to my favorite bar, City Limits for a going away party.
I went to the party, showed them my van, which they of course said I should paint "Free Candy" on the side, and drove back to Pep Boys. I then had to unload everything from my old van into the new van, call Purple Heart to donate the van, head home to move everything I owned into the van (I had sold everything on craigslist except for minimal clothing), and get some sleep for my drive to my parents to work on the van.
Then my pops who has Alzheimer's, calls me and tells me my mother is not feeling well. I told him that I'll be in early the next day. I get home and to make a longer story shorter, discovered my mother had legionnaires pneumonia, in which she ended up in the IC for a week and on oxygen for another two months. Thank goodness she survived, but I stayed with them for 7 months, scared to leave them alone.
After my mom got off of the oxygen I began working on the van, utilizing Youtube videos, different "van building" websites and put on Renogy solar panels, built a bed, put in cabinets, Vmax deep cycle batteries to power cell phone, Coleman frig, Fantastik fan that I put in, sink and had a Port-a-potty. There were a ton of other accessories that I needed to install with the solar panels, batteries and fan. I will post the links that I used as resources. Let me tell you there was a lot of trial and error, A LOT!!!
Early stages of van
Deep Cycle Battery
From side doors
Amelia Beach, FL
I began my travels by heading down to Dewey Beach, DE and sleeping at a campsite between Dewey and Bethany, then on to Virginia Beach, VA to watch some March Madness, then to Durham and Raleigh, NC to visit the Duke and UNC campuses, then on through Savanah, GA and rested on Amelia Beach for a while. Down to Hollywood Beach and back to Key West. I remember getting to Key West on Good Friday because I was allowed to park my van in the post office parking lot. It was hot as hell and really didn't sleep. Well, I didn't sleep much the entire 9500 miles, always keeping one eye open. It was really tough to find sleeping places on the east coast, but was a lot easier once I hit the Midwest.
In my travels I would park and shower, etc. at Planet Fitness (had a $20/mth membership so I could go to any). I would also park at truck stops like the Flying J and Love's and very surprised how clean they were. However, I would have to stay at the ones far away from a city. Such as when I got to Albuquerque and Phoenix and found out that's where the teenagers hang out on the weekends, very noisy. So, I would just hop in the driver's seat and drive another hour to the next truck stop. I actually mapped them all out on my phone before I left, so they were starred on my Google maps.
I'm writing this part at about midnight and I'm getting sleepy, so my grammar WILL be off and there may be a bunch of run-on sentences. I'm not apologizing, just stating the facts. :)
Duke University still cold in March
Hollywood Beach, FL
You know where this is
Awesome singers at Huey's in Cordova, TN.
The windiest part of my trip. My van was not aerodynamic and with it being so flat in NM, it felt like I was being sucker punched every 7 seconds. One of the worst parts of my trip.
Visiting my cousin Brad Carr's Soul Food restaurant in Phoenix. Ezekiel's
That was the best meal I had on the road, and since!
Point Sur State Park
The scariest part of my trip
BYU, the nicest people I have ever met.
I then drove through the Rockies, which was the most difficult. I didn't think Baker Street was going to make it. The remaining part of my trip was somewhat boring, as there's not much going on in Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio...zzzzzz.
I was born in the '60s but have the heart of what drives millennials. No, not everyone wants to freelance or live in a van, but we want to be able to do what we want to do and still provide a worthwhile product or service to society.
They are not lazy or selfish. They just want to feel like they have a purpose, and when they can't get it in our current environment, they're willing to make a change. Like them or hate them, this is who they are, and this is a blueprint of how we can better work together for a higher purpose.
Spencer Carr now does freelance consulting in PeopleSoft and sells hippie themed t-shirts, bags and accessories online and at fairs and festivals in the Tampa, FL area. His first love is a '66 VW Bus and tries to attend all the VW shows in Florida in hopes of finding his dream bus to drive and live in when he retires. He may think like a millennial but he know for now it still takes smart work to live his dream... To follow his stories, check out his blogs on his t-shirt website, peacesyne.com, or follow along on Instagram.
He knows that no matter what happens with his freelancing or t-shirt business, that if worst comes to worst he knows that at least he can live out of a van.
I'll leave you with this...
CHEAP RV LIVING WAS MY BIBLE
How to live in a Conversion Van
How to choose a vehicle
The Backroads vanner blog
Where I hope to by my VW Bus one day
The Vanual a complete guide to complete freedom
America's Forgotten men and women becoming vandwellers