Hi, my name is Chris Sawey, and 1 year ago I made the choice to live out of my Toyota Prius, my “home” while I figured out the details of life post-college. What started as a one-month experiment to cut back on “unnecessary spending” and to get ahead, turned into a full year of so much more than I could have ever expected or anticipated. I call my home #HotelPrius.
After Graduating in May of 2013 from Emerson College in Boston, MA., I loaded up my newly purchased 2007 Toyota Prius with my belongings and hit the road headed south, towards Austin, TX. I didn’t need much of a reason to go back to Austin. The truth of the matter was, I was burnt out from my degree and was in no huge hurry to start a career. For me, Austin was the safe choice and required no real risk at all. As a kid, I had grown up at a children’s home near Austin and heard they were hiring a new Youth Activities Director and put in my application. Because I had lived there as a kid, my application went to the top of the list. While still in Boston, I had made it through several levels of the interview process and felt really good about getting the job. We discussed the fact that there really was no better fit for the kids at the children’s home than a kid who grew up there. My ability to empathize with the kids was unmatched by the other applicants and I was confident the job was mine. Although the job was not what I necessarily wanted after college, I still saw it for what it was: an opportunity to work and save money while I waited for another to come along. I felt like the job was good fit for my skillsets and at the very least would build my resume and gain me some work experience while I figured out what I really wanted to do.
Before the trip, I had mapped out a route, planning to stop in National Parks and big cities along the way. I had no deadlines or time frames, and my plan was to take as much time as I needed getting to Austin. At this point, I had an insatiable itch to travel and to experience new cities. And that is exactly what I did.
The road trip lasted just a little over two weeks. I went to Maine, New York and Pittsburgh. I visited a few places in the Virginia’s, and stopped in Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, New Orleans and several little stops along the way. I bought a GoPro to document the adventure and planned to start a blog with all the footage, discussing the importance of travel and how to do it efficiently.
After a long and relaxing trip across the east coast, I finally arrived in Austin late one weekday evening. I called some friends a few hours before arriving and booked a bed and a warm shower for the night. We parked on the street outside their home and was greeted with hugs and good-to-see-you’s by our awaiting friends. That night, too exhausted from long hours of driving, we passed out in our separate rooms without even showering or going to the car for our bags. A big mistake. At some point in the middle of the night, someone had broken into our car. With everything we owned in the car from the road trip, it was too hard to immediately assess what had been taken. In the next few hours I would learn piece by piece what the thieves had walked away with. The 7-Up can outside by my tire and the ripped boxes in the back told me they had been quick and sloppy. It was clear they didn’t spend too much time in the car and only grabbed things that were easily accessible. Things like my day-pack in the back seat that was full of my most important possessions. The crooks had walked off with thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment, my GoPro and all our footage and pictures from the road trip. They stole my Macbook (laptop), and few other smaller knick-knacks they now seem relatively unimportant. The worst hit was my back up hard drive with every journal, picture and file I had spent the better part of my life working on. All of my hard work from the last 10 years– gone!
Once the bed and closet were installed, the idea of living out of my car, I thought might actually be plausible. Many details still needed to be worked out, things like where to park, where to shower, laundry, free-time, etc, but I knew I would figure it out in time. Not to mention, my friends were going to think I was crazy. But I didn’t care. I was done relying on friends, sleeping on couches, sharing space and feeling like a burden. I knew this was what I needed to do. This was my best option to get ahead. It was a sacrifice to save my sanity, my money and to avoid slipping further into depression. Most of all, it was for my health and my well being and I was convinced it was the best thing I could possibly do in this particular season of life. After all, this wasn’t the first time I’ve slept out of my car. The last time was years ago in my teens, more by force circumstances really because I had nowhere else to go. My own mistakes had brought me to that point the last time, but this time was much different. If I was going to live in my car again, it was going to be by choice. It was different not only because I had a better car for it, but also because I had a place to go, I just could no longer justify the cost of keeping it. For me, it came down to cost-benefit analysis and the benefits of a room with rent was not worth the cost to keep.
After 11 days of preparation and gathering my supplies, I finally was ready. On December 12th, 2013 with my Prius loaded and home ready, I was prepared to embark on my journey. I had paid Julian a pro-rated amount of what I owed him for the month and drove away both excited and a little nervous to start the adventure. Earlier that week I had spent some time scoping out places to park and sleep for the nights ahead and had an idea of where I would go. Around 3pm on a Thursday I sat down for the first time in my new home, not exactly sure of what my newest adventure would bring.