The Question

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Today my new boss asked me the question. She asked it hesitantly. I could tell she did not want to offend me, but she did want to know.

Why do you live in your van?

I gave her the most basic answer first, the one that is most honest, but that tends to make people uncomfortable and stops conversation.

I was homeless, so living in a van was a step up.

Should I not say that to people, even though it’s true, because they don’t know how to respond? Should I not tell my new boss that I used to be homeless? Should I be ashamed that I was homeless? Should I be ashamed to live in a van?

I went on to tell her the other reasons I live in my van, the ones most van dwellers and rubber tramps give. I like to travel. I don’t like paying rent. The van is enough for me. I don’t need a big RV because I am by myself. I told her, I don’t have any kids. I don’t have a man. Or a woman. (Did I come out as bisexual to my new boss? Is that more or less risky than admitting I used to be homeless?)

She seemed to understand that van living might be an ok way to live for a person who likes to travel. I told her I sometimes wish I had more space, but I’d probably just fill more space with junk I don’t really need. She seemed to understand that part too.

Then the conversation turned (as it so often does) to being a woman traveling alone and safety and being brave.

I told her I pay attention to what’s going on, I stay alert. I told her I don’t drink or party or use illegal drugs (good information to work into a conversation with a new boss) so I can be aware of what’s happening around me. I told her if sketchy people start doing sketchy things, I put the key in the ignition and drive away.

I told her, I’ve had shit (should I have not said “shit” to my new boss?) happen to me in my own home (and by own home, I actually meant other vans, cheap motel rooms, and under bridges) with someone I loved. Bad things can happen anywhere.

The other woman in the conversation piped in with Yeah, something bad could happen to you walking out of Vonn’s (the local supermarket).

When I was in college in New Orleans, I worked in the French Quarter. I didn’t have a car, and I couldn’t always get a ride, so often I’d take a bus home at midnight. There was no other way home. (A $10 cab ride? Give me a break!) I needed to work to support myself, so I stood at a bus stop in the French Quarter in the dark, and I walked from where the bus dropped me off to my house in the dark. One day I realized if I could be out at night because of work, I could be out at night to have fun.

What I’m saying is if my own loved one caused me harm, why should I be scared of strangers? Are stranger scarier than what I’ve already been through? I’m sure some of them are, but I try not to be an easy mark for people with bad things on their minds. Besides, someone could just as easily break into an apartment in a city and “get me,” as break into my van in the woods. (The one better chance I might have in a city is that maybe people would hear me scream and maybe those people would try to help.)

I don’t think what I do is so much braver than what millions of women do every day all over the world. Is traveling alone braver than walking miles to haul water and firewood, cooking and cleaning and having too many babies? Is traveling alone braver than living through war, seeing your loved ones die, having your home destroyed by bombs? Is traveling alone braver than taking a beating so your kids or your siblings won’t get hit? Is traveling alone braver than carrying on after being raped by soldiers or sold into a life of sex slavery? Is traveling alone braver than living in a city among poverty and violence, worrying that you or someone you love is going to be killed by a cop or a gang member with a gun?

When I look at it that way, my life seems good, and I seem really safe.

If I’ve done anything brave, it’s not living alone in a van, traveling, working as a camp host in a forest. If I’ve ever done anything brave, it was finally walking away from a bad situation (even if by walking away, I really mean sneaking off in the night) when I thought I had no friends or family to help me, when I was convinced I was a bad person and the universe was going to deal with me accordingly.

I’m just like so many other women in the world, doing what I do to survive, to help others, to find a little beauty in my life.

About Blaize Sun

My name is Blaize Sun. Maybe that's the name my family gave me; maybe it's not. In any case, that's the name I'm using here and now. I've been a rubber tramp for nearly a decade.I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. For most of my years on the road, my primary residence was my van. For almost half of the time I was a van dweller, I was going it alone. Now my (male) partner and I (a woman) have a travel trailer we can pull with our truck. We have a little piece of property, and when we're not traveling, we park our little camper there. I was a work camper in a remote National Forest recreation area on a mountain for four seasons. I was a camp host and parking lot attendant for two seasons and wrote a book about my experiences called Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. During the last two seasons as a work camper on that mountain, I was a clerk in a campground store. I'm also a house and pet sitter, and I pick up odd jobs when I can. I'm primarily a writer, but I also create beautiful little collages; hand make hemp jewelry and warm, colorful winter hats; and use my creative and artistic skills to decorate my life and brighten the lives of others. My goal (for my writing and my life) is to be real. I don't like fake, and I don't want to share fake. I want to share my authentic thoughts and feelings. I want to give others space and permission to share their authentic selves. Sometimes I think the best way to support others is to leave them alone and allow them to be. I am more than just a rubber tramp artist. I'm fat. I'm funny. I'm flawed. I try to be kind. I'm often grouchy. I am awed by the stars in the dark desert night. I hope my writing moves people. If my writing makes someone laugh or cry or feel angry or happy or troubled or comforted, I have done my job. If my writing makes someone think and question and try a little harder, I've done my job. If my writing opens a door for someone, changes a life, I have done my job well. I hope you enjoy my blog posts, my word and pictures, the work I've done to express myself in a way others will understand. I hope you appreciate the time and energy I put into each post. I hope you will click the like button each time you like what you have read. I hope you will share posts with the people in your life. I hope you'll leave a comment and share your authentic self with me and this blog's other readers. Thank you for reading.  A writer without readers is very sad indeed.

6 Responses »

  1. Hi Maggie,

    Thanks for your post! I’m about to move into a van myself, and I decided to start blogging about it. I’m hoping, first, to build community in this, and second, that you and some of your followers might start reading my blog as well: vaninspirations.wordpress.com

    Two things – I want to inspire and enlighten people, and I want input and advice.

    Thanks so much for being a van dweller, and for blogging about it!

    • Thanks for your comment. I will check out your blog when I can. Do you plan to attend the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous if it happens again?

      Actually, the author of the post and the blog is me, Blaize. Maggie just posted a comment.

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