Is it okay to wear your pajamas in public? Larry Oldham, a "fat old white man" on my Facebook feed, posted this question, which was answered by predominantly other old fat white men and women. They all laughed as they judged anyone who would dare to wear their pajamas in public. They wrote, anyone who would wear their pajamas in public was probably someone who was "lazy, on welfare, or had a poor work ethic." Mind you, most of these critical self-righteous people were fat, retired, on social security, and not exactly exuding a fashion statement in their profile pictures.
It made me angry. I would say 3-5% of the people where I live, a rural area, wear pajamas to the grocery store. I know many of them. They have chronic pain, or other illnesses that make changing or wearing clothes painful. I wear leggings and t-shirts or tops because of my chronic pain at times. So, I get it. Some have lymphedema (extreme swelling) in their legs and normal pants aren't an option, and hot, heavy sweat pants aren't either.
I know parents who work the night shift, get up to take their kids to school, then swing by the grocery store to pick up supplies before going home and going back to bed. And they should change clothes why? A friend of mine with a bad sunburn wore her pajamas to the pharmacy to pick up burn lotion. The loose silk pajama bottoms were the only thing she could wear that didn't hurt her burn. It doesn't matter if there's a "legitimate" reason, or no reason for wearing your pajamas in public. If wearing pajamas, leggings, swim trunks etc. is just where you find comfort, then wear them. These judgmental people didn't stop to think about why someone might wear pajamas, or who died and made them the fashion police. Which brings me to the reason for this post.
Once many of us decide to try the van dwelling lifestyle, we are met with anger, shock, surprise, or efforts from friends and family to dissuade us from our choice. It's not "adult" or "responsible." It's not safe. It will embarrass them. There are so many reasons "they" give us, but I've noticed they're almost always about how they fear OUR choices will reflect upon them. Their "concerns" are usually nothing more than veiled reactions about how they think you should act, behave, or dress in order to make THEM look good. You don't need that. None of us do. They are not living your life, paying your bills, or accepting the consequences for the decisions they insist you make. So ignore them. Laugh at them. Point out that while you understand keeping up appearances for their friends is important to them, it's not important to you.
If you hesitate and change your mind about van dwelling or RVing because someone else is concerned about "What people will think," then you don't need that person in your life. They're crushing your dream to preserve theirs. They don't really understand you, or care about you. I understand someone saying, "Oh, I would be scared to do that, but you're so strong and confident I know you can pull it off. Send postcards!" That person is owning their fears and feelings while supporting yours. On the other hand, the person who says, "What?! What will I tell my friends?" doesn't give a rat's anus about you. They're thinking only of themselves.
I spent far too many miserable years trying to gain other people's approval for my choices before I realized I didn't need it, and that they didn't care about me. People who want to control what you drive, what you wear, what kind of job you do, and where you live are frightened, scared, easily manipulated people who are out to control and manipulate others. They are usually full of their own insecurities.
These are people who deep down see that you’re a good, admirable person, brave, and adventurous. You don’t deserve to be disrespected or attacked, and yet you are. Some of them don't know how to respond, so they react with negativity.
But their poor response to your dream is not of your doing, and it says more about the controller than it does your life choices. It may sound radical, but what the criticizer and controller wants is what you’ve got — an exciting life to look forward to. They may not want to live in a van, but they do want to do more with their life than they are. They can't face that fact, so they attack you. It goes back to how crabs in a bucket will act. The minute one crab is able to scramble up the side of the bucket and escape, the others will pull him back down to die with them.
Adult, or nearly adult children can be the best supporters you'll have, or your most vocal critic. Friends, most of whom are the same age and living comfortably with a husband or family, will be the same - supportive or critical. I've rarely met anyone who didn't have a strong reaction one way or the other to my decision to be a van dweller. What I've learned:
HOW TO ENJOY YOUR NEW LIFE
Being on the road can be the best thing you ever did, or the worst. It's up to you and how much effort you put into it, and well you can ignore the people who predict you'll hate it or fail. When I convinced my mother to travel to California the two of us slept in a Toyota Tercel, camping in the Redwoods of California, gambled in Las Vegas, and had a blast for a month. The rest of my life we hated each other, but that was one magical month out of 40 years together. There's just something about the road, and travel, that will do that for you.
In time, you'll be able to invite those same family members and friends to join you for a weekend, or a week. But for now, just put on your pajamas and wear them to the store. Consider it practice for being the free spirit you know is in you.
When my father died of brain cancer in 2006, I quit my job, bought a used van $750 and hit the road. He hadn't started traveling or living really until he got sick, and regretted it. I didn't want to regret not living. I was working seven days a week, 10-12 hours a day and for what? So I ditched it all for the van life. I'd lived for more than a year in a full-sized RV and loved it. A van wouldn't be that much different - or so I thought. Unfortunately, the van didn't look this "good" until after I found an apartment and had the space, time, and money to work on it. But once I had it outfitted, it was great!
The short story of my van life is in my TED Global Talk. What I thought would be full-timing turned out to be being homeless. If I'd had an RV I could have parked at Camping World, where I was working full-time, and been fine. But a ratty old van (not painted at the time), screamed "homeless" to my co-workers. That was odd since the business was all about selling stuff to people who lived in their vehicles. That just went to prove my point - that homelessness is about having money or not, and choices.
The van was old, and eventually threw a rod and was sold to the scrapyard for $400. I used that money to buy a $400 Saturn van. I fixed it up, but then sold it to buy a Dodge Caravan...and was almost finished converting it when it too, threw a rod after a mechanic forgot to fill the oil after changing the oil. My next car was a Plymouth Voyager. I'll post photos of it later. $900 (I paid too much). It's now a dream car, although not much to look at, it's a work in progress. But it runs, is dependable and fun to drive. I recently bought a 2000 Isuzu Rodeo. It's still at the mechanics getting brakes and new hubs etc. but for $800, it was a deal. My goal vehicle is a NEW Dodge Ram Van - the tall one you can stand up in, or not. I'd like for it to be diesel so I can put in a wood burning stove.
I've always (since I was 14 years old), loved to camp, hike, fish, explore and travel. I'm now 63 and still intent on getting back to a traveling lifestyle - van dwelling, camping etc. I'll stay at hotels from time-to-time, but I love the van life. It's not for everyone, but it's worth doing for at least 3-6 months just to know you can.
When you live in a van you become more independent, confident, and capable. You learn to do things you never thought you could do. You survive, and then you thrive. You let go of fear. Yes, you'll still be afraid, but it will be different. This website, blog, and advice is my way of giving back to those who have chosen to live in their vehicles, as well as those forced to live in their vehicles. I hope you find something here that inspires, or helps.
If there's something you'd like to know, or if you have a question, contact me or leave your comments in the comment section below.
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