About a year ago, I was having lunch with a friend when I made a throwaway comment: “Have you seen the rent in San Francisco? If I get a job in the Bay Area, I’ll totally live in a van.”
As I sit in darkness writing this, I’m trying to keep my typing quiet, lest a real inhabitant of the neighborhood I’m parked in should walk by and wonder about the sounds coming from the rusty bus loitering on their block. Yes, you understood that correctly: Today, I work in a multi-million dollar office complex, and I live in a van.
This summer, after receiving a job offer in Silicon Valley, I went on Craigslist and began sifting through housing listings: “verrrrrryyy cheap bedroom ;),” “great deal on rent!” A single room with a shared bathroom? Two thousand per month on the low-end. A small studio apartment, you ask? If your startup wasn’t recently bought for seven figures, forget about it.
I perked up after finding a listing for $1,000 per month. Now this could work. Clicking through to the details section however revealed the offer was for a single bunk in a room with eight people, a set-up referred to as a “hacker house” by an (evil) marketing genius.
Even if I was to spend the huge majority of my salary on rent, I knew I would likely still be in a grim living situation, resenting every penny I handed over that could have gone towards paying back my student loans. And as a software engineer, I’m one of the lucky ones! Imagine those who aren’t lucky enough to be on the tech payroll.
Anyway, three weeks ago I took the equivalent of three months’ rent and bought an old red bus. It’s a 1969 VW camper van with a hole in the floor and a family of spiders that has more of a right to be here than I do (sleeping in your car on public land in California is illegal).
But with the help of Ikea and an army of cleaning supplies I was able to get the bus into livable condition.