I'll Call Her Gracie

Twenty years ago, my parents bought the biggest van Dodge ever made. It had four rows of seats with a huge cargo area behind the back bench. It was too long for a parking space and too wide for some as well. Any time we used a drive-thru, everyone looked up—waiting for the roof to crunch against their low-clearance marker. It was a grey whale of a van and we called it Monstro.

Fast-forward 220,000 miles and Monstro—painted a darker grey—has been passed down to me. The seats are gone, the ceiling seems lower, and I’ve moved in full-time. This once massive vehicle has become my tiny home.

For two months now, I’ve lived on the road. I’ve traveled a lot for the last decade—making my living as a travel writer and adventure photographer—but everything changes when you give up the notion of living somewhere for the experience of living nowhere… or everywhere.

I’m learning a lot through this change from traveler to nomad. I’m simplifying my life as things quickly get in the way in a sixty square foot living space. I’m conserving power and water like my parents wanted me to when the van was new. I’m checking in more often with family and friends as the old returns to civilization happen less and less frequently. I’m also a lot happier than I used to be.

My time and money, my energy—all of ti goes toward experiences rather than stuff. I’ve always counted dollars by how many miles they’d take me, converting cash to gas as quickly as possible but now I can go further since there’s no return trip to account for.

Leading up to this change, the last couple years were the hardest of my life. When my parents offered me the van, it was exactly what I needed. I added some insulation, built a shelf for my camp pad bed, and packed my life into eight plastic tubs.

Since I left the Midwest, I’ve faced frozen nights in the desert, a flash flood, flat tires, and a plugged catalytic converter. With each challenge I’ve faced on the road, I’ve found a little more of myself. I’ve become more grateful for the simple joys of life and the victories that come from endurance and creativity. I’ve found grace in my life where I hadn’t seen it all that clearly before.

When I was a kid, this van seemed to swallow us up like its namesake whale. But now, as a home, its nature has changed—taking on the simplicity and refinement I’m gaining in my new life. So, with her new paint and tires, insulation, plastic tubs, and a resident wanderer, “Monstro” is no more. Her name’s Grace, but I’ll call her Gracie.