For the last four years or so my dear sweet wife and I have been living out of our car. Basically. We have had apartments on both coasts and we have been profiling bed and breakfasts. Our life has felt largely unsettled; it has been and remains so. However there is one place where we have always felt comfortable, always felt at home; our 2007 Saturn Ion. Even though the old broad’s got near 100K on her and even though she has been yelping about “COOLANT” much to the mystery of all who’ve looked at her, she still is more of a home than either of us has really known…basically since we first moved out of our parents houses nearly 10 years ago. Some people wonder “how do you live out of your car,” especially together. (Some say they could probably live by themselves in their car but never with another person.) In considering these facts I came up with the following list of things to consider if you too are considering ditching the home life and living out of your car.
Consider Your Surroundings: Living out of your car is tough in the colder months. Even in Southern California and in the more southerly states, the evenings can get pretty brisk. So if you are going to live out of your car, try and station yourselves in as warm a climate as possible. Also remember to have blankets.
Consider What to Take With You: When my wife and I have traveled from east to west and back, we have lost a lot of stuff. Some of our things are in parent’s and friends attics, some of our things we had to give up. Packing your car full of stuff is no way to travel around (you’ll become a mark for petty vandalism in no time) though we did travel that way for a while. On this most recent trip we decided that since we were returning to Los Angeles and we didn’t want to buy a lot of this stuff over again, we would rent a storage space. This is a great option if you have the money for it. Storage is not expensive but if you are going to be gone for a long period of time you should make sure you can cover the cost. Just be wary; you will have to be the one to get your stuff back. Unless you make arrangements with a friend, your stuff will just sit in storage in perpetuity. Leaving your back seat free allows you plenty of room for the next option.
Consider Sleep: While I am in no way endorsing sleeping in your car on the side of the road (CYA) it is one option. You need to consider where you are before you do this though. Like, if you’re in Manhattan you’re probably not going to get any sleep. You should not sleep on the side of the highway (unless you park in front of or behind Mac trucks) you can sleep at a rest station (though they are lit, this isn’t an issue if you’re tired enough) and sleeping in neighborhoods is dicey (residents get spooked; plus you’ve got to deal with school busses and kids pretty early). More deserted neighborhoods present other problems (safety) and while parking lots are okay, you want to be somewhere you won’t stand out (far end of a hotel parking lot) and you won’t be in a 24 hour melee (McDonald’s parking lots are not good). Try a movie theatre parking lot if it’s late enough to blend in or a parking lot of an abandoned retailer in a strip of other retailers in a pinch.
Consider Your Diet: If you are physically living out of your car, you will probably try to maintain as normal a life outside of that as possible (work, shopping, working out – gyms are a great place to shower when you have no bathroom of your own, btw). However even if you do live normally outside of where you “live” you need to remember your diet. That is, no big indulgent foods which are going to be not easily digested and produce leftovers. You don’t want to smell your chimney changa in the back seat at three in the morning. If your life in your car is because of not having a normal life (more probable) then you want to make sure you are able to watch your diet because of all the time spent sitting in your car! You’ll want to get out and walk around for a few hours a day at least! Spend as little time in your car during the day as possible so that sleep can be achieved quickly and rest will come from slumber.
Consider Your Exit: The human body is capable of anything if put under duress for long enough period of time, but even for your automobile adventures you should have an exit strategy in place. Like, “We both have jobs and make around $450 a week; we’re getting our own place at this location as soon as we save $5000.” If you place a goal before you, chances are you’ll work hard to achieve that goal. Then you can get out of your car, get on with your life, and have funny stories to tell all your nieces and nephews one day.