in

Why living in a van has made me the happiest I’ve ever been

vw microbus by the ocean

Coming to you from inside the van where I now reside full-time.

Are you one of the victims of life? Do you wait until you ‘feel’ like it to do something? Someone who seems to constantly get the short end of the stick? Are you unhappy with your current circumstance and does that make you feel somewhat helpless or maybe even a little hopeless? Sort of like fate has it out to get you?

What about a victor? Are you someone who does, so they can ‘feel?’ Do you persist even when it hurts and isn’t exactly comfortable?

What does your inner-self voice tell you while going through a challenge? I’ll bet if you were to ask yourself what it says, it would remind you that life is a journey and every problem faced is a chance to grow and become better.

Think of yourself as being an airplane.

Throughout the day you have certain moments of consciousness where you and your inner-voice are in complete alignment; you’re finally in the Captain’s seat of the aircraft and able to guide yourself along. Inversely there’s a thing known as autopilot where the aircraft is able to cruise through the air following a preset GPS system without necessarily needing the pilot to direct it. Similarly, we go about our day in this subconscious autopilot mode with thoughts bouncing and circling around our head, only to be lifted from the fog and brought back to consciousness when doing something we love, stepping outside our comfort zone, or by “random” happenstance.

Everything you do matters.

Success is a choice; YOU have the ability to go from being victim to victor. The thoughts you are having while in “auto-pilot mode” during the day are the things YOU’VE fed your mind in the past. It’s honestly like a big cycle; you truly do create the life you are living.

Perception matters!

I’ve found that every life is a story – including YOURS. Anything you’ve ever done, thought, or experienced from the moment you were born to this present moment has essentially been thrown into a salad bowl of processing and mixed with our predisposed differences like genetics and family structures to create the state you find yourself in now. It doesn’t matter where you’re at in life right now… you are still living out a story. It’s up to you to decide the ending.

You are the Captain of the ship. Real life is real life and when you live on a planet that is constantly spinning, you can’t possibly hope to stay standing forever. Tough times are going to come for everyone and it is up to you to decide how you are going to handle that time; it can be a time to learn, grow, and put stock in the things that matter; or it can be a time for you to feel helpless, hopeless, and once again on the receiving end of a blow from the Universe. Your mindset is what carries you through, or sends you running.

Let me tell you my story about how I came to live in a van full-time.

living in van - man with sunglasses

Five days before I had planned for a 6-month bikepacking tour through Europe to begin, I was sitting aboard the “California zephyr” train, and heading home on a 56-hour train ride to meet my fading grandfather for the first time, as well as to be around to help my brother during a life threatening illness he was battling. I returned home with no plans of purchasing a vehicle and simply planned to ride my bike wherever I had to go. It clearly wasn’t the best idea but it was the best one I had at the time. Luckily parents occasionally know better and were quick to offer me a good deal on a van they had recently purchased.

As soon as I saw the van, I immediately felt a sense of freedom and self-sufficiency.

I’d been following the vanlife for a few months at this time and knew I could strip it out and turn it into a home – so that is what I did.

Since the day I was fired roughly a year before, life has been what I like to call transcending. On the day I was fired, I went home and truly took stock of my life, taking ownership for the first time in years, and rather than blaming the outcome on someone else, I decided to look at the situation as an opportunity to grow, and not allow it to keep me down like it had in the past. I realized that 10 years from now is going to come and pass regardless of what I’m doing right now. I knew I had the power to change direction and trajectory of my life.

Going into college, I was a highly successful wrestler who had larger than life goals. I was a 4x Michigan High School State finalist, as well as 3x Champion. I only had 8 losses and had won 198 matches. I started as a freshman for Michigan State University where I carried my work ethic and victor-mindset into the first season. However, due to some family issues, the grind of college athletics, and the struggle a first generation college student is faced with, I began to adopt a victim mindset where I was lost and hopeless. There were times I would break down in practice, and went from being a top-notch student to getting nothing higher than a 2.0 GPA in any of my classes that first semester of my sophomore year. I went from mat rat to telling everyone they’d have to talk me back into wrestling the following season because I was clearly done and ready to try something different.

I persisted but with little avail. My remaining years in college were shaped by a victim mindset that I allowed to manifest overtime. It started small but eventually led to depression! Looking back, I can see how I floated by lost for a long time; with the loss of employment starting the climb out of hopelessness.

I began with little steps like making my bed, folding the laundry immediately after it was washed, doing the dishes, and taking care of little things throughout the day so I would have the ability to take on more challenging aspects to life as they presented themselves. It’s all about the little victories throughout the day.

I’m now living in a van roughly 2,500 miles away from my family back in Michigan with a cat and an unshakable will to succeed.

This is real life in action and I finally understand that my story is intended to be written by my pen; I am the creator of this story. I was blessed with a breath, free will, and a few different predisposed elements to truly make my story different than yours. I’m working as a Barista in the bay area as I finish paying off the last of my student loans. This coming summer I plan to mountain bike 2,745 miles from Banff, Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico. I’m choosing to look at the difficult obstacles that fill our days as one big classroom. Failure doesn’t exist unless you give it meaning and allow it to control you.

The key to changing your mindset from victim to victor starts small. The most important thing I can tell you is to focus on the little victories throughout the day. You have to start training your inner-voice to coach you through the tough times rather than allowing your current painting of insignificance and inadequacy to show through on the canvas of your mind. Start with something small and once that has become a habit, move on to something a little more complex and watch yourself master that as well.

The big thing to remember is not to get down on yourself when you forget to do something. Always encourage yourself and never talk bad about yourself.

Everything matters. This moment is the best moment to begin.

In addition, start becoming thankful for what you already have and remember that life is exactly what we make of it. We came into this world naked and naked we shall leave; we can’t take anything with us so why stress about the material? Instead, I challenge you to invest in yourself: put your worth in values, beliefs, and experiences.

Becoming a victor takes work, but so does becoming a victim – who are you going to become?

Written by Dan Osterman

Dan is an aspiring Life Coach and Motivational Speaker. He is a current vandweller living in Marin County, CA, while working as a Barista and writer. Blog: http://www.moderndaymavericks.com/blog

man sitting at bar reading newspaper

How my battle with the bottle made me a more successful entrepreneur

friends with skateboards

4 reasons to rethink the friendships in your life