In the Spotlight

Articles, Spotlight

There are people who live in vans by choice, to travel the country or to save money to pursue a passion or simply because they want to maintain a lifestyle of minimalism and self-reliance. This week’s In the Spotlight introduces you to Crystal, The Nomadic Natural who lives the #vanlife.

Q: Please introduce yourself to our audience. Where are you located? I am a 44, soon to be 45 year old, black woman, living in my 1996 Mercury Villager minivan in the DMV area (DC/MD/VA). I call her “Red Delicious”.

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Crystal, The Natural Nomadic

Q: What inspired you to choose tiny living? Is tiny living more of a dream or necessity for you? I have obsessed over tiny houses for about 6 years now, but because of finances and the income I make, I knew I’d never be able to buy or even build one. Then at some point while looking at and researching tiny houses online, I found the van dwelling community and was HOOKED! Living tiny is both…. a dream and because I don’t make much income it’s necessary for me to van dwell. But it works for me. One day I’ll have a nicer, roomier van and be traveling around the country!!

Q: Is there anything from your youth growing up or family experience that may have also played a role in your decision to live tiny? I think the fact that my Grandmother and Mother had so much stuff and kept things in self storages for YEARS made me not hold emotional value to stuff. As a child we did move to different apartments so, I gradually stop keeping stuff so the packing of my room was easier. Even as an adult, and single mother I moved around the area and would ALWAYS have a yard sale to get rid of stuff, so I’d have less stuff to pack and move, especially since a lot of times I was moving myself in my car.

Q: Describe your previous home. I lived in a 2 bedroom rental condo paying $1,500 a month.

Q: What concerns, if any, did you have in/with your decision to go tiny? My only concern was people I know and my family thinking I was crazy! Tiny living is not a subject of talk or option in our community. I thank God for the TV shows and internet that has made this type of living more out there. People I know are now asking if I’ve seen a particular Tiny House show/episode!

Q: How did you resolve those concerns? I am documenting my journey (the good, bad, and the ugly) on YouTube. I tell anyone I know or meet to watch it. I have to let family, friends, and people know that I’m ok and not cray-cray, LOL.

Q: How did your family and friends receive your decision to go tiny? A few of my family really thought I lost it, but after listening to me and seeing my van, they get it, but they’re ALWAYS quick to say “I understand, but It ain’t for me. I couldn’t do it!!”

Q: Who designed your home and how did you determine the design? My van, has stuff that I kept from moving out of my rental. Not elaborate, but it works 😉

Q: How long did it take to get to tiny once you’d made the decision to go tiny? I started in my SUV, a 200 GMC Jimmy. I knew if I waited until I had enough money to afford a van, it would never happen. So, after 4 months I found a van on Craigslist for less than $900. I sold the SUV and a church helped me out with some cash as well. Yes, the van needed some work, but I’ve got a great mechanic and every month, when I get paid, he fixes 1 thing on my list. He’s doing them in order of importance, and he’s GREAT!

Q: What was your process for simplifying your life and getting rid of your excess possessions? I put everything on Craigslist as an inside yard sale and sold, sold, sold! I am still getting rid of things in my very small storage where I keep my van seats and some other things that are just not things you get rid of.

Q: Has moving into a smaller home been a big adjustment? In some ways it’s very comforting living in a very small space. To be honest, I’ve always “lived” in my bedroom. I mean I watch TV in bed, eat, on the bed, read, chill, etc. So really it wasn’t that hard or a big deal to me. It’s kinda like a nest or cocoon, I guess.

Q: What do you love most about your new home? I love that no matter where I go everything is with me. If I forget to bring something in to work, I can just run out to my van and get it.

Q: Any regrets about your decision to live tiny, anything you’d do differently? NO WAY!! I do plan to save and get a bigger van though, like a cargo van.

Q: What is your parking situation? It’s a van, so VERY mobile. I park at the church, public libraries (best for the free Wi-Fi from the parking lot), and sometimes at 24 hour shopping centers. I have a gym membership and shower there. I still work full time so I can use the bathrooms there. No bathroom in the van, but I do have a “pee jug”, for the 1st thing in the morning bathroom. It only gets used once a day and cleaned out immediately.

Q: So much of society focuses on having more and making more to have more. People of color are often focused on having more when they begin to make more because they haven’t had, somewhat like the Jeffersons’ “moving on up” lifestyle. Why have you chosen this path instead? Because it’s simple, it’s freeing, it’s easy, and I love it!

Q:  Do you plan to live in your tiny home long term or is it a temporary solution for a bigger plan? I do plan to van dwell long term, but as I said I will definitely be getting a bigger van, I had to stay with friends in Sticks ‘N Bricks life because my van was too small and not equipped to handle winter.

Q: Where do you see the tiny house movement going? Where do you see the movement going for people of color? I think MORE and MORE of us will embrace this lifestyle once we realize stuff is not the answer, but happiness lies within, with being free, and spending time with those we love.

Q: Why do you think more POC haven’t joined/are reluctant to join the TH/Tiny Living Movement? I think more POC haven’t joined into the tiny living “movement” because as “a people” I think it might be somewhat ingrained in us that having more means success. That means a bigger home, car, and bank account.

Q: What do you say to people who feel the way you described above? To those people I’d say…. it’s about the people we love, not the stuff we have… are you working SO hard just so you can afford those bigger things, but yet you are not spending enough time with your family, extended family, traveling, showing your children what it means to be a “citizen of this world”? How many hours are you focused on technology a day? How many hours are you focused on your kids lives a day?? Would your kids or spouse call you an absent parent or spouse because you’re always working? Do you even get to enjoy the big house because you work so much? Do you enjoy riding in that big car all those hours to work and shuttle kids to their 100 activities?? Sometimes we can be so busy, about the business, of being busy, we forget what’s important…

We’d like to thank Crystal for allowing us to showcase her story In the Spotlight! Be sure to follow The Nomadic Natural on YouTube @ The Nomadic Natural and on Facebook @ The Nomadic Natural to keep up with her journey!

2 comments

  • this is a great post. THANKS. BY THE WAY, I JUST READ THIS ARTICLE RECENTLY….. US housing crunch: The price isn’t right —2016, April 24, How higher home prices are forcing the middle class out of major American cities. By Jessica Mendoza, Staff writer –Behind the rising prices is simple economics: too many people chasing too few affordable homes and apartments. Anna Slavicek refuses to leave the Mission. As escalating housing costs drive her fellow teachers out of San Francisco, Ms. Slavicek stays put, determined to remain in the historic neighborhood where she has lived and taught for 22 years. To make rent, she shares a two-bedroom apartment with two other women. “It’s very difficult to be an adult and have to share your space, and not to have [financial] security and not be able to buy a home,” says Slavicek. Slavicek embodies a vexing reality for many Americans, not just in San Francisco, but also in other major urban centers across the United States. “Life is really tough,” says Huang, who arrived in the US five years ago from China’s Guangdong province, through an interpreter. “I never thought housing would be so expensive and the conditions so bad. I didn’t imagine that’s what life in the US would be like.” High housing costs have other deleterious effects as well. Frequent moving and overcrowded homes have been shown to negatively affect children’s performance in school. The stress of looking for new housing, facing foreclosure or eviction, and enduring long commutes has also been linked to health disorders. MS. SLAVICEK SAYS, “HOUSING IS OUR NO. 1 ISSUE NOW. OUR HOMES ARE NOT NEGOTIABLE.”

    Aging Conference Reveals Poverty’s Impact on Older Adults
    Women in particular are subject to falling into poverty
    by Barbranda Lumpkins Walls, March 24, 2016
    • Homelessness will increase 33 percent by 2020 and 100 percent by 2050.
    • By 2025, after the youngest boomers reach age 60, the number of food-insecure people will increase by 50 percent.
    • By 2030, about 72 million will be living in poverty.

    Survival and defeat in Silicon Valley slum Martha Mendoza AP National Writer— When it comes to solving homelessness, says Jennifer Loving, “We have completely failed.” Growing up, Loving’s family ran a church in Venice Beach Calif., which served as a shelter for anyone who needed a place to stay; she’s dedicated her life to housing homeless people. For years she tried the traditional model — move someone into a shelter, then transitional housing, and then, if they’re sober and mentally stable, house them. Now, as executive director of Destination: Home, she is spearheading a new, concerted effort in San Jose to house people, a far cheaper alternative to the rotating circuit from the emergency room to local jail. Studies vary, but the cost of each person living on the street is estimated about $60,000, while the cost of housing someone is about $16,000 a year. “This is not giving out a blanket and a bowl of soup,” said Loving. “This is solving one of the worst crises we have in the U.S. today.”————————–
    San Francisco Torn as Some See ‘Street Behavior’ Worsen
    By THOMAS FULLERAPRIL 24, 2016 “We are the wealthiest big city in the wealthiest state in the wealthiest country in the world, and we have this situation on our streets,” said Joe D’Alessandro, the chief executive of San Francisco Travel, a tourism organization. “People believe that everyone has the right to be on the streets. However, I think there is a tolerance limit to bad behavior.” Visitors come to bask in the Mediterranean climate, stroll through the charming streets and marvel at the sweeping views of the bay and the Pacific. But alongside those views are tent encampments on sidewalks and rag-covered homeless people in front of some of the most expensive real estate in America.————–
    From Bon appetit to real estate feat
    Before moving to Hot Springs and joining the real estate business, associate broker at Lake Hamilton Realty, Patti Scott, lived in Florida and traveled the world on mega yachts as a personal chef for some of the most prominent people in the world. Though she enjoyed that line of work, Scott said she has no desire to go back. “I just have to give kudos to Hot Springs, because when you’re going around the world — Greece, Turkey, which is all very interesting — nobody beats Hot Springs,” she said. Although she still has friends in Florida, Scott said she can’t picture herself ever leaving Hot Springs again. “Everyone here is just so nice. I hate to say that South Florida is cutthroat but you don’t get the relationships with people there like you would here. I think that’s what draws buyers to Hot Springs. It’s just a great town, and I have no desire to leave. I could very easily go back to South Florida but I’ve got too many good friends here.”——————–

    Nowhere to Go: The Struggle of Impoverished Seniors in Naples
    Why it’s so hard for them to find affordable housing in Naples
    By Ben Wolford—Ann is 68, comes from a wealthy Chicago family and lives in Naples. On paper, she sounds like any number of affluent retirees who journey from the Midwest and Northeast to spend their golden years in the Southwest Florida sun. By their 60s, most people in Naples are retired, if not wealthy. But not everyone.
    It’s the middle of March. The money Ann once had is gone. By the end of the month, she will be evicted. By April, who knows? Ann is poor. Right now, she has about $30, an unreliable heart, a dwindling gas tank and several boxes of remaining possessions—mainly things she can’t bring herself to pawn. Her brother, she says, has a couch. How long might he let her sleep on it? Here in the house where she found her other brother dead two years ago, Ann tries to pinpoint where it all went wrong. She invested $70,000 in an early version of the tablet computer called Qbe. She never saw that money again. Her mother lived to 98, each year bringing further strain. Ann had relied upon the promise of her mother’s life insurance payout. But in the final years, the premium increased. They missed payments. The payout never came. Ann slipped and broke her arm. Sometimes her heart begins to flutter, or nearly stops. In 2012, she found her brother dead in his bedroom. Bailey, her dog, died, too. Most ofher things are gone, sold for cash to eat or pay rent. Sure, she rented the house. It was all she had. And now it’s gone, too. This is a story about seniors who cannot afford their homes, but it’s also a story about two cities in the same place. One is called Naples—it has dining and shopping, Third Street, Fifth Avenue and Artis—Naples. The other is also called Naples—it has dollar stores and accepts only food stamps. It wants art and theater, but can’t afford it. And it’s invisible. It’s so invisible that when a university professor tried to explain it to a group of people ata church, a woman told him, “I take issue with your data because this is Naples, and there’s not that many poor people in Naples.” The professor’s name is Thomas P. Felke. He teaches social work at Florida Gulf Coast University, and he spends his time correcting people like the woman at the church. “Yes, this is Naples,” he says. “And, yes, we have one of the highest number of millionaires per capita in the country. But that does not exclude the fact that we have poverty.” AND, Victoria Hambly Same problem in most Australian major cities….mainly due to foreign investors ( & not leasing),negative gearing & bankster fraud,developers & industry lobby groups & corrupt Politicians

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