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”.
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!