Recently I have begun hearing very sad stories about victims of capitalism that lose everything, including their homes, and turn to the road. Some live out of the back of a van while others carry a tent in their cars. I am in awe of the fortitude of people that are able to do this because it takes a strength and will to live that I do not possess. My biggest fear is homelessness as I would not last a day on the streets and here are people that are able to do it. I fail to see this though as anything more than survival because, unless somebody really possesses skills and resources, it does not seem like a way to thrive.
In fact, this new form of nomadic lifestyle even has a subreddit dedicated to it called r/vandwellers. There are even several related subreddit forums that popup when you do a search for the van dwelling one. On one hand this has a certain romantic notion of freedom to simply live without being bothered. I remember reading about somebody that drifts from national forest to national forest, staying the maximum 2 weeks at a time in each. He has a canvas wall tent that he packs up in his car when it is time to move. His story was not one of trial and tribulation but of relative comfort and peace. This implies he has significant executive functioning skills and planning which I kind of lack.
The van dwellers and other nomads are the modern day equivalent of the folks whom hitchhiked on railroads in the Great Depression Era and often stayed in hobo jungles on the outskirts of a town, when in between rail journeys and work. I wish I could find out if this new nomadic lifestyle is by choice, necessity, or some combination of both. It takes somebody really strong and able to adapt to varying conditions, weather, food and lack thereof, and problems with shelter. After all, there is a reason why we human beings largely gave up the nomadic lifestyle. Technology, innovation, and invention allowed us to plant roots in one place. It is a shame that capitalism has destroyed these roots.
Some days I think I might want to try doing this but I would need to have no other option. I would need to lose everything before striking it out on my own. Before risking homelessness, I would first max out my credit cards to have a roof over my head. It’s only once I hit destitution that I would consider a canvas wall tent, a sleeping bag, and a vehicle. I think the confines of a van would be too claustrophobic for me although that would be the driest form of survival.
I am going to watch Nomadland on Hulu, a series about America’s new nomadic class in the hopes of learning about the van dwelling experience and the ups and downs of the life. I don’t want to hear any romanticized version: I want to hear the good, bad, and ugly. I am still left with the two fundamental questions: How is this a thing in the wealthiest country in history? How is homelessness still a thing?