Why We Traded Our Perfectly Nice House for a Van

People ask why we moved out of our home to hit the road in a van. A reverse American Dream in many ways, right? Stability traded in for the unknown, with all the headaches that traveling daily bring with it. And all the adventures, good or bad. Millennials, through and through!

The nuts and bolts of travel. Laundromats! Haven't been in one of these for ohhhh 15 years? They have wifi now! A great office. :)

The hidden nuts and bolts of travel. Haven’t been in a laundromat for ohhhh 15 years? They have wifi now!

I don’t have a clear answer to this. We are transitioning from holding down the fort, as Colin Wright writes about. After seven years of hard work in Portland, we’ve laid a strong foundation of people, place and work to stretch from, to push some boundaries and explore for awhile.

Somewhere along the way, perhaps life just got too easy? In our 1st-world-problems life, a nice home became merely another thing to maintain, a big time-suck of a residence only to have a place to sleep at night. I feel like I know only what I experience, so time for a new challenge and changing horizons. Plus, we host people constantly at home, and now we’re coming to visit!

Crescent Beach on the Coastal Trail in Northern CA.

Crescent Beach on the Coastal Trail in Northern CA.

The counterpoint: exploring the Beginner’s Mind. Chelsea introduced me to this long ago and describes it as approaching everything as if experiencing it for the first time. Why am I not content waking up in the same place every day and just being, not doing.

As my mother, a Buddhist, likes to say, “Wherever you go, there you are.” I’m different every day based on experience from the day prior, so my relationship with my surroundings and the people around me is fresh and new. I recognize this “moving on” could just be running from something, yet I don’t have a grasp as to what that is, if anything. Is it just who I am, or a deeper sense of dissatisfaction I can’t pin down?

This post doesn’t aim to address THAT Pandora’s Box – that’s going to take some additional writing and thinking to sort out! I identify with Rita Golden Gelman in that I don’t feel like I’m running away, but rather toward something greater – adventure and discovery. Personal growth, at the very least.

My Beginner's Mind coach, my lovely wife.

My lovely wife.

One truth about me: I’m bored if I’m not learning, exploring, tweaking my systems, or pushing new limits. It’s just who I am. I reset my equilibrium quickly at whatever level of success I attain, so my happiness is often temporary. A challenge becomes routine with boredom leaching in. Time to “get on the cushion” to meditate, as my parents might say.

Whatever the reason, I’m living in 72 square feet because I can’t imagine living in 1,800 square feet. Or doing the same bike rides or runs that I’ve done 150 times prior over the (occasionally rainy) Portland winter. We have no children, our fantastic in-laws graciously are watching our cat (thanks guys!), Chelsea is freed from work and able to be our Ambassador of Fun, and my business allows me to roam while working remotely.

Now is the time to explore for so many reasons, and I feel like we have no excuse NOT to go somewhere. And as a cherry on top, it isn’t even hurting my current or  future business prospects in the way shutting everything down and disappearing for a long period of time would be. Though hanging out at the beach below without a cell phone sounds pretty nice…

Sunset at Haystack Rock on the Oregon Coast.

Roaming’s reward.

One thing I feel the Holding Down the Fort article doesn’t discuss is that there are phases to it. His view comes across as black and white – either you are Barracks Stormer or a Fort Defender – whereas I see periods where you can push boundaries in business, yet live in the same place, and vice verse. Opportunity to explore spiritually while business and physical location are the same probably fits in there too, though I don’t feel qualified to comment on that!

Black versus white.

Black and white.

Whether they are boundaries of borders and new places, or ways of doing business through a new lens, I’m certainly inspired to push limits and create. If we were all revamping systems at the same time, the world would be UTTER FREAKING CHAOS. We need people in different phases of their lives and careers bouncing back and forth between Fort Defender and Barracks Stormer. Right now, I’m in the latter phase for awhile, and I suspect that pendulum will take the long slicing sweep back the other direction eventually. But for now, I’m enjoying working next to an amazing bird watching marsh outside of Arcata in Northern California on this sunny, windy day.

View from the office window bird watching outside of Arcata.

Office for the day.

Here’s to deep, happy satisfaction wherever you are right now. I’m aiming to enjoy this moment, which soon will be a lunch break hike around the marsh watching coots and Northern Harriers duke it out in their Fort!

Lunch time birding watching in Arcata.

8 replies
  1. Steve
    Steve says:

    Oh, the memories of being very young! Stretching when you are young and spry makes it easier when you are not so. Love you guys and will see you soon.

    Mom and Dad Norton

    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      My hamstrings are about 10% shorter already from too much sitting. Gotta get my standing desk dialed in for the van. See ya in Santa Cruz!

    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Thanks. Easy when the location is awesomee. And yep, we sure are happy! Life is good. Though my hands are cold typing this in the redwoods…brrrrr, 30 degrees last night!

  2. Stevie
    Stevie says:

    It’s about time a gaggle of us started reinventing normal. Here’s to pushing the limits, new beginnings every day, and nomadic van life! I’m so looking forward to meeting up with you two in South America.


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