I’m working on doing what feels right for me, not what everyone else thinks I should do
Meet Lisa from Austin, Texas!
Tell us a bit about yourself and your tiny home
I’m Lisa and I’m a solo female van-lifer living in my 2012 Nissan NV2500 named Freebird.
I am what I like to call a ‘recovering lawyer.’ I left my law career a few years ago to start an interior design firm specializing in green building and sustainability.
My passion for a sustainable lifestyle led to a love of tiny homes and minimalism.
In the fall of 2017, I discovered the #vanlife phenomenon and was immediately hooked! I self-converted Freebird using sustainable, reclaimed, and nontoxic materials. I worked on the project with my then-boyfriend, but after two weeks living together in the van, we decided to part ways. Though I didn’t plan to be a solo woman on the road, I love living this way!
I moved so much as a kid that my concept of home has always been fluid.
(Maybe that’s what draws me to this nomadic gypsy life!)
I moved every year from 5th grade to 10th grade. I spent the majority of my formative years in Tucson, Arizona, and have lived in Austin, Texas for the past 10 years.
My home, Freebird, is a 2012 Nissan NV2500 high roof that used to be a chicken-catering van.
I officially moved into her full-time in March 2018. Before that, I lived in my 26’ 1979 Airstream Overlander named Winona. My friends used to think it was crazy that I lived in a 192sf Airstream, but that’s huge compared to Freebird’s mere 60sf!
What's your working situation like? How do you sustain life on the road?
Right now I work at a remote job 30-40 hours a week, doing administrative/legal work for an internet company.
I’m so grateful to have this flexibility, but my job is not creatively inspiring. My true goal is to make money doing the things I love—writing, performing, and storytelling.
What ultimately made you choose this lifestyle?
Vanlife appealed to me because I love living minimally and intentionally.
I’ve been anti-consumerism since I watched the movie Fight Club as a teenager. I strongly believe that our culture’s focus on materialism is making us unhappy and unfulfilled.
I also love van life because it’s an opportunity to embrace the unconventional and to be weird.
How long do you see yourself maintaining this lifestyle?
I want to live in Freebird as long as possible!
What's a quote or mantra that you live by?
For me, vanlife is about embracing my quirky creative spirit, and that can turn off some people. As a life-long people pleaser, I’m working on doing what feels right for me, not what everyone else thinks I should do.
The quote that has been guiding my way is “When you try to please everyone, you end up truly exciting no one.”
3 Things I've Learned Living This Way
- Embrace mindfulness!
So many facets of vanlife require a mindfulness mentality. Normally when we get behind the wheel, we have a place to go and we’re destination-focused. But with vanlife, your van is your home, so you’re already at your destination. Suddenly everything becomes about the journey. Seeing a sign for a random detour could alter your entire path, so you become hyper in-tuned to the world around you and the present moment. When you’re open to whatever possibilities lies ahead, you become much more mindful of the here and now.
- Say yes!
For me, vanlife is about the random people you meet and unexpected adventures you experience. My vanlife mindset is: say yes! I’m so much freer on the road than I was when I lived conventionally. When you say yes to opportunities that come your way, you have incredible adventures!
- Beware of decision fatigue
There are a LOT of new decisions to make everyday when living this lifestyle—where to get gas, where to stop for a break, where to park for the night. This can be extremely tiring if you spend too much time thinking about these decisions. This is even harder when you’re traveling solo, because the buck stops with you. I’ve learned to not sweat the small stuff and just go with the first decision that seems to make sense. Otherwise, you might drive yourself nuts with decision fatigue!
What's one of the biggest challenges you've faced by choosing your lifestyle?
My biggest challenge is that I literally don’t know anything about cars or vans.
I don’t even know how to change a tire yet! But, I’m learning as I go and I'm grateful for all the supportive people around me helping me learn!
If you could give someone who's interested in your lifestyle a snippet of advice, what would it be?
Don’t research too much.
“Analysis paralysis” is a serious issue and it will keep you from living the life of your dreams. Research is valuable, but you will learn so much more by just actually doing it. Also, there is a never a “perfect” time to move into a van—you just have to go for it!