On the road with the American 'vandwellers'

As the US housing crisis worsens, many retirees have embraced the freedom of living in small vans.

by

    It's a 15 minute drive from Quartzsite, Arizona to the area where the so-called "vandwellers" live.

    These are people who live in converted vans full time; we've gone to the desert to find out what drove them to live in these small, mobile spaces.

    Debra Dickinson has been living in a van in Arizona for just over two months.

    She previously lived in Texas. About five years ago, she set the goal of living in a van when she retired.

    She wanted to live in a van with a kitchen, restroom, and shower. But a brain injury that keeps her from working fast-tracked her dream in a different way.

    US mobile home owners ask for legal protection

    The van Dickinson lives in is much simpler than what she had dreamed; everything is organised neatly in drawers and storage units.

    She says, "If I wake up disoriented, I have my two dogs with me. Waking up and seeing everything I own and knowing everything is very comforting for me…Before doing this I tried living with different family members and different friends even and I would end up having seizures because of the noise or activity."

    Alan Christensen worked in advertising as a freelance art director and copywriter.

    During the 2008 financial crisis, he started thinking about retiring early as his client base shrank.

    He opted for a van because he was fed up with owning a house; recreational vehicles, while mobile like vans, were big and cost too much to maintain.

    Christensen's tidy van has a bed and a refrigerator, a luxury for van living.

    Since he sold his house he's been paring down his possessions. The morning we visit he's pulled together a bag of items to donate to charity.

    Christensen says he "wasn't very good about paying into a retirement fund. And then of course a lot of that disappeared in 2008. Right now I’m living on the proceeds of the house and social security."

    He currently lives without medical insurance. His monthly costs for fuel, food, and mobile phone and internet access are about $800.

    Like Debra, vandwelling has been comforting for him.

    "I don’t worry about a lot of the things I used to worry about," he said.

    His only concern is some day he'll be too old to live in a van. When that day comes, he says he might move in with family.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


    ABOUT THE AUTHOR



    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Survivor stories from Super Typhoon Haiyan

    Survivor stories from Super Typhoon Haiyan

    The Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever to make landfall. Five years on, we revisit this story.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    We Are Still Here: A Story from Native Alaska

    We Are Still Here: A Story from Native Alaska

    From Qatar to Alaska, a personal journey exploring what it means to belong when your culture is endangered.