Have you ever dreamed of selling off all your belongings and becoming a nomad? A growing culture of mostly young Americans is opting out of traditional living in favor of the so-called van life. The hashtag vanlife (#vanlife) has over 8 million posts on Instagram at the time of this writing. I caught up with one young man, Chris, who decided to give it a try, if only for awhile.

I started following Chris Kunz on Instagram after stumbling across his page while searching Land Cruiser hashtags. Originally from North Carolina, he’s living out a dream of the west coast surfing lifestyle while finishing his degree at the University of California, San Diego.  I caught up with Chris via a Zoom call because, well, 2020. He had just finished working out at the YMCA and had just sat down at his office, the tailgate of his 1999 Toyota Land Cruiser. I had a series of questions for him and he seemed excited to share his experience.

Chris has been living on the road for about 2 months. After learning that all his classes at UCSD would be virtual this semester, living near campus was no longer a necessity. The rent in San Diego is high and Chris is paying his own way. The thought of living out of his car seemed scary and also part of the appeal, he explains.

He wakes up early and heads out to one of San Diego’s many YMCA’s. Here, he can get a good workout, enjoy a hot shower, go to the bathroom, and get himself ready. From there, he heads to a coffee shop or similar location to begin working from his laptop. He separates himself from the laptop to enjoy an uninterrupted lunch and then gets back to work until around 5:00. Next he enjoys a couple of hours surfing the California Coast and then posting up and inviting friends (via social media) to join him for a mac and cheese dinner via his beachfront tailgate.

I asked Chris to about his most essential gear and what he had to give up in order to achieve the nomad life. He listed his bed, his car (of course), a charging station, a cook stove, and a refrigerator as the keys to success.  As for what he had to give up, he said that you only have room for the essentials. It makes you realize how much stuff you don’t really need to survive. He did purge many of his belongings and for now, the remainder is in a storage unit, which is far cheaper than paying a residential lease in San Diego County.

San Diego has a significant van life culture, he explains. The challenge is being familiar with local laws and ordinances. Knowing where you can park and stay is essential and having street smarts helps. For example, you don’t want to stay in one place too long and draw attention to the fact that you’re living out of a car. Chris tries to stay within a short range of a YMCA for getting ready the following morning. I asked him if his nomadic lifestyle was a political statement of any kind. He said that he simply wanted to save money and to give it a try. He expects to be living the van life till next summer at least.

Chris finances his endeavors by doing web development and marketing for businesses and has a keen interest in starting a personal finance business as well. He’s ambitious but also dead set on not falling into the trap of corporate America. He enjoys being able to work remotely from anywhere. His freedom to pursue his passion of living the west coast surfer life is paramount.  He is exactly what you’d expect from a millennial (with no disrespect). Time, personal development, and pursuit of happiness come before profit and climbing the ranks for Chris. He has a strong work ethic and a magnetic demeanor, including a contagious smile.

Chris is just the kind of person you would want to have as a friend. He seems to always be living life to the fullest. If you follow Chris on Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube (where you can see a video tour of his setup), you’ll find a likeable young guy with a pleasant disposition. Although his voice has given way to a more west coast accent, his southern charm is still evident. I look forward to connecting with Chris in person someday. Perhaps he could even give me a surfing lesson, something that’s on my bucket list. Until then, hang ten!

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