Just because you live in a bus doesn't mean you're forced to grow dread-locks, reek of motor oil, and never know what time it is - although, if that's what you're looking for, adelante usted!
Bus life for us is not an extended camping trip. Make-up comes on in the morning and off at night. Hair is done and dress is thoughtful. Candles are on for dinner and reading. Why not? If you can do it anywhere, you can do it here.
From small space and street living
Life is as you are
I have a cop IN MY HEAD. This cop is wearing sunglasses, is male, and is constantly telling me that I cannot do things because it is not right, not legal, not morally correct. Matt calls this cop a moral compass. My cops carries a baton.
And I'm a little bit scared to death of my cop. If Matt wants to park in an illegal area for a few minutes, I'm stressing out: "no we can't park here!! It says no parking!!"
Welp, now not only were we parking our vehicle in a city where parking spaces go for thousands of dollars, but we were living in said vehicle. Cooking, sleeping, the works. Which was all fine and dandy on our days off when we would park at Ocean Beach, hang out in the sand, take countless naps, make a meal or two. But on days Matt worked, it meant the bus was parked on the rooftop of the hospital garage.
It may sound dreadful, but it actually was the best case scenario for our then situation. Not only was it a safe place to leave a vulnerable vehicle for hours on end (the bus had been broken into the week prior), but we found a parking spot that was made for us. It was one isolated slot with no one to the left or right. The "security camera" faced the left side of the bus, away from the sliding door giving us the confidence to open it liberally exposing our stove, water tank, standing up and stretching, etc. And we had an unobstructed, million dollar view of downtown San Francisco. It was perfect.
And it was petrifying. At first. The cop in my head had his baton in hand and was ready to take me away.
Matt was about to work for 3 days straight, which meant I was left to my own devices in my new rolling home. I realized I had to confront the cop in my head and silence his terrifying presence. If someone approaches the van, I will confront them. If our house gets towed, I will deal with it. If the cops come and ask me to move the van…I will graciously tell them that my husband will be happy to move it as soon as he gets off work. That's right, I hadn't driven the bus yet, and there was no way IN HELL I was going to give it a go by myself in this tiny parking garage in this people-packed city. The bus is 32 years old. It has a standard engine. It's massive.
Day one and Matt left around 10 am. The sun was shining. And yet, any little noise outside the bus was my demise. Every car passing through the garage was the cop ready to take me away. For the first few hours of the morning, I stayed crumpled up in a ball on the bed; I didn't want to make any movement and be seen by the fellow garage patrons or the annoying valet guy (who at one point peeked into my house.) Someone was bound to uncover what we were doing and this whole game would be over.
But I couldn't remain in this pity ball all day. I was starting to cramp up, I was getting hungry, and...I had to pee.
And so slowly, I inched my way to the edge of the bed, and sat up with my feet dangling. Then a car passed through - probably just looking for parking- and I FREAKED. I threw myself back down in an attempt to hide myself from the people that couldn't see me or cared for what I was doing.
Ok that's enough.
"Come on, Mariam" I told myself, "I have a right to eat and breathe."
And going all Brené Brown, I gave myself permission.
"I give you permission to move.
I give you permission to get up and pee.
I give you permission to make yourself some food.
I even give you permission to get out of this van and hit the city."
In my mind, I was in an illegal existence in a big city that owed me nothing. I was not deserving of the usual comforts and basic necessities of any humans day to day needs. I felt the self-imposed weight of living in pseudo-secrecy heavy on my shoulders.
But why not?
Why didn't I deserve to be comfortable in my own vehicle? Because really, I was just waiting, in my car, for my husband to get off work. We pay for our parking space. We are doing nothing wrong. My car just happens to have a stove and a (non-working) fridge and a bed.
And yet, I found myself fighting with the cop in my head, seeing him knocking on the window, waiting with handcuffs to take me away to the prison I deserved.
NO. I am still deserving of my basic needs. I am worthy of love and belonging.
How must illegal immigrants feel when they enter the target countries? Or the immigrants who take work here, and do not advocate for their basic human rights, fair working conditions, and a living wage, because they feel like they are not worthy?
And then in contrast, there are the "hobo sun children" known to the Bay Area, classic of Golden Gate Park and the Height Ashbury, who act as entitled beggars. Who sometimes ask for money, but sometimes demand money. Who sleep on the stoops of businesses and boutiques, because f*ck you. Who will take shits on the street and blow smoke in your path.
How do they cultivate that sense of entitlement, that confidence? The cop in their head has his shirt untucked and smokes pot with them. They live off testing the limits of society. They know there are no rules. Well, maybe there are rules but there are so many gaps in the rules, you can fit right there...on the rooftop of the hospital garage in San Francisco for 3 days.
Let's be honest. The prospect of living in a bus may sound absolutely horrendous. And I will tell you, it is not for the faint of heart. Matt and I spent only 2 weeks in the thing and it took no time to demonstrate the peculiarities and challenges that come with living in a vehicle in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the country.
Here we are though, in the middle of a complete renovation of the thing, and even still, we are sitting on the fence. How is this happening? How do our actions say, "bus bus bus!", but our words say, "eh if we get a good buyer, it's theirs." Thanks to Matt's sweat and labor the van now has a gorgeous wood floor, a solar panel rigged to 4 USB outlets + interior hygge lights, all rust damage cleaned up, and a new gauge system. And even still…if we get a good buyer.
Bus living is a tremendous thing. A tremendous thing in a very tiny space. It forces you to be systematic in order to complete any task. If I want to prepare dinner - on the same table space that I use as a vanity - I am forced to confront myself and muster up the discipline to put away all the previous items, which can be a mix of a toothbrush, a hammer, a book, and a spatula.
How many thoughts cross through your mind in one given day? If you had to put a number to it, let's say 1000 thoughts. Thankfully, each of those thoughts - or only a handful - pass through the forefront of your mind at a single time, otherwise I'd imagine you'd go crazy. Living in the bus is like having all 1000 thoughts that pass through your mind in a day, at the very forefront of your mind - all at once.
Here's to being open about the future, and tearing down the walls of fear.