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In life, it’s easy to get sucked into doing what seems like the right thing. Get an education, get married, have kids, and amass mountains of debt. We work 9-5 jobs just to pay off all that debt with no chance of breaking away from those shackles until retirement.
That’s just what we do. That’s how life is.
Or, is it? With more people turning towards alternatives like van life, living in an RV full-time, moving into tiny homes and sailboats, it’s becoming clear that things we believe we need may not be set in stone.
Many people are now opting to break from 9-5 jobs. For younger generations, van life has replaced suburbia as the American dream. These options often seem like a sure way to adventure, and the answer to the ever-rising cost of living.
But there are some tough parts to keep in mind as well when you’re completely changing your life.
Get your finances in order before deciding to leave your 9-5
Finances are one of the major draws to an alternative lifestyle choice like van life. Money, is, after all, a worry for most of us. Ask any one of the hordes of people why they have turned to this lifestyle, and they’re sure to say money at some point. There’s just no getting around the fact that life is expensive, and that doesn’t look like it will improve anytime soon.
By comparison, living in just about anything that isn’t a house will save you vast amounts of money. Without the worry of mortgage payments, taxes and bills, you’ll be amazed by how much extra you have each month. So much so that you might well be able to pack in that job you never wanted in the first place.
It all sounds perfect so far, right? Well, this is where the trouble comes in. You see, when you’ve lived in a world where money is your aim for so long, it can be hard to get past that point. It seems crazy, but it isn’t unusual for people to feel a little lost at first.
Sometimes, people take the step, only to realize that past debts are holding them back from true financial freedom. If this is your situation, it’s important not to let it hold you back. Instead, you should set about finding a debt consolidation company who can take care of this for you. That way, you can manage the situation, and reach your dreams at a much faster rate.
If there are no debts in your way, it’s worth transitioning slowly. Drop a day or two at work, or go part-time. If you find you have plenty to do on those extra days, think about taking this further. Doing things this way also ensures you don’t suddenly lose all your income and panic!
Think about whether a move from the traditional life is practical for you
Of course, it’s also important to spend a little time considering the practicalities of a move like this. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself up a creek without a paddle.
Even with van life and other alternatives, it’s essential you spare a thought to the practical stuff behind it. And, this is relevant in a few different ways.
For one, you need to think about how you can condense your life into a much smaller space than you’re used to. There won’t be any room for sentimental clutter, photo albums, etc. All you will be able to own is the stuff you need to get by.
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Forget wardrobes filled with clothes, and cupboards stocked with food. The only way to do this is to take it back to basics. If you don’t think you’re ready to jump straight in just yet, test a minimalist lifestyle for a few months. Get rid of everything but the things you know you need, and see how you get along. The chances are that this will be much easier than you thought. Ultimately, all that stuff we surround ourselves with is another of these set in stone beliefs.
And, the practicalities don’t stop there. It’s also important to look into the actual practicalities of a move like this. Those opting for a houseboat will need to find out about necessary mooring charges, and how to rig themselves up to electricity. Those in a van will need to get on top of road tax and vehicle use.
Of course, this also depends on your choice. It isn’t unusual for boats to moor in one place all year round. But, it’d be harder to find a safe spot to keep a van on a permanent basis. Think, too, about where you want your mail transferred. Family addresses are always convenient if you know you’ll visit often. But, if you don’t have anyone nearby, it might be worth turning to a private PO box instead.
It’s also crucial to work out how you’re going to keep things warm. Most alternative living arrangements don’t come complete with heating systems. But, you can be sure you’ll need something more than a blanket during winter. Of course, a full-blown standalone heater could be a fire hazard. But, investing in a tiny heater you can set automatically would take you far. Think, too, about incorporating old methods such as hot water bottles.
The emotional side of a major lifestyle change
Bear in mind, too, that moves like these are often more emotional than we expect. You may not think that home comforts mean that much to you, but you’ll soon miss them when they’re gone. The chances are that you’ll miss the opportunity to switch the heating on whenever you want or cook a large meal at the drop of a hat and the flick of a switch. It may also be that your sudden change in purpose leaves you feeling a little lost. All these and more are common when you first embark on alternative living.
For the most part, there’s no easy way around these feelings. This is one of those instances where you just have to get used to it. As with anything, not having those things soon eliminates our need for them.
If this is something which worries you a lot, you could always transition gradually. You don’t have to pack in the day job the moment your needs change. And, you don’t need to give up your house the second you get a van, or whatever you’ve opted for. Instead, it may be worth splitting your time between your home and your alternative.
Once you feel ready, you can then set about selling the house which is draining your finances.
The personal side of a new living situation
Ultimately, moving into alternative living arrangements doesn’t mean disappearing. But, if you intend to travel a lot, it’s important to note that there will be some difficult goodbyes along the way. This is especially the case if you’ve always lived close by to friends and family. All of a sudden, it may feel like you’re leaving yourself out in the cold.
And, feeling like that can make those first tricky weeks even harder.
Make sure every person knows how to reach you, and when you’ll be out of range. Pass on social media handles and the address you’ll be using for the future.
This is also a good time to set plans to see everyone again. It may seem like a hassle at the time. After all, you’ll have enough on your plate. But, if you do start to struggle, knowing you’ll be seeing close friends soon can be a real comfort. So much so that it can encourage you to push through.
A final word
So, those are some the unexpectedly parts of a move toward an alternative lifestyle.
These should by no means hold you back from making a go of this change.
Many people love their lives off the grid. But, by ensuring you’re aware of the struggles, you stand the best chance of being able to cope with them. There’s also nothing wrong with admitting that changes like these are too much for you to deal with. But, if you try the above and find yourself wanting to go further, why not give it a go?