Lesson 7: Spending Too Much time Alone is Dangerously Unhealthy

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I’ve learned I am much happier doing nothing with someone than doing anything by myself.

Its true. I think that is because humans, much like many animals, were just not designed or meant to live alone. Now don’t get me wrong, I think being alone sometimes is important and certainly needed, especially for an introvert like myself. I would argue however, that being alone for long periods of time is not just a bad idea, but straight-up unhealthy. Let me explain.

I am the type of person that “recharges” when I spend time away from other people. But just like with iphones, if I leave it recharging too long, the battery begins to wear and over time the iphone (myself) looses the ability to recharge the way it was meant to.

The problem with spending too much time alone is after enough time, there is a tendency to only think about me. This is expected I guess, because there is no one else around to think about. What inevitably ends up happening in these long periods of isolation is I somehow trick myself in to believing that all space in my space and all time is my time. I begin to feel entitled. I start to become short-fused and much more frustrated by other people who infringe on my time and space (especially in traffic). The problem with this is, there is no one around to contend with this lie I have convinced myself of – that I am the best and most important person in my world. This lie, given enough time, roots itself deep into my being and I slowly become more unaware and even less curious of the other people around me. I become more and more self-centered and am only in-tune to my needs rather than accepting the reality that I am not the only person in the universe.

You can see how this is a problem.

To put simply, being alone makes me behave like an ass. And nobody wants to be around an ass. Henceforth a vicious cycle of being alone manifests itself, and if one is not careful, the damage can cost many unhappy years of living life alone and bitter because the world is not catering to ones needs.

Lesson 6: Community is more important than Financial Security

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When I started this little adventure of mine over a year ago, I really had only a few priorities. One of those priorities was to arrive at the place where I felt financially stable –whatever that means. Before college I had experienced a few years of what the “real world” was like. I maintained a job, paid rent, paid bills, and did the whole paycheck to paycheck thing. With college and a few more years of experience under my belt I was ready to enter the ring with the “real world” again, but this time with a new and refined left hook. What I would soon learn, reaching the place where I felt financially stable never came. Probably because when it comes to money, no amount ever seems to satisfy. While chasing this goal of mine, I unfortunately lost sight of what was most important – community, and the true value of a few close friends. I went from having a reasonably established group of good friends that I spent time with most days out of the week to living and spending the majority of my time alone. I was after financial security and gave up what matter most to chase it. At the time though, I just didn’t know that. As cliché as it sounds: what I thought was missing from my life, turned out to be in front of me the whole time. Community and a group of supporting people is a far better security than a number in my bank account. Because really, at the end of the day, money comes and goes, but good friends will stick around forever if you let them.

Lesson 5: Blogs are Hard To Maintain

IMG_5628Believe it or not, keeping up with my blog is like pulling teeth for me. I started this blog with the idea that I would document the days and write about my experiences on the road and as I wake up from place to place. I am officially over a full year in now and I’m not even close to the amount of material I expected to have together. Many of my pictures and “almost blog posts” are sitting in a file on my computer waiting to be finished or edited. Being a perfectionist is definitely part of it, and wrestling with what I want to share with you is also what keeps me from posting when I feel I should. Mostly however, my lack of material on my blog after a full year is due to the fact that I don’t really enjoy writing very much. If anything, I like more what I have written. When the words look and sound better on the page than they do in my head, I like this feeling, but sitting down to write just stresses me out. I’m often grumpy, not in the mood or have absolutely zero material or inspiration to write most of the time. More often than not I find something to get distracted by and never write a word. Other times I somehow muster the courage to show up and force myself to push through the grump. Sure writing has its great moments on occasion. The moments where the words flow and the fingers follow. But the majority of the time I stumble through the keyboard and struggle with spelling. I get frustrated and move on to Facebook or Instragam or play a game on my phone. In these moments, sitting down to write is the last thing I want to do. I think what else it is, is taking the time to organize my thoughts. This is the hardest part of the process for me. It takes an exuberant amount of effort and energy that I don’t always believe I have. Communicating I feel is one of my stronger gifts, but organizing them into a structured and linear format for the page is perhaps where I struggle the most. Add the fact I suck at spelling and I feel no one actually reads my blog anyway, all give good reason to why I don’t want to write and give excuses for why my blog isn’t updated. Excuses mostly, but nonetheless, a blog is very, very hard to maintain.

Go ahead…share this below…Thanks.

Lesson #4: Releasing all ties to commitment is not true freedom

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I used to think that if I released myself from everything that tied me down or left me feeling stuck, then and only then would I experience true freedom. After a full year and the ability to go or do whatever I wanted, completely free of any and all contractual obligations or commitments, I now know the freedom I was looking for does not exist. The truth is, commitment has always scared me and has been a struggle of mine. Big shocker right? Blame it on my upbringing or negative past experiences, my age, the culture or time I live in, or whatever…but the idea of commitment or permanent tie to anything has frightened me for as long as I have been making my own decisions. When I think about it, the real problem for me lies with the forcing or pressure of a choice that I feel am not ready for.

My guess is that this hesitation to commit comes a place of fear. The fear of wasting time, but ultimately wasting my life. For a long time, I’ve been afraid to loose something that I was worried once lost, I could never get back -my freedom and independence. By making a commitment to something, I feel I am signing my life away. Unfortunately for the significant people in my life, my fear of commitment to material possessions and worldly contracts have transferred over to my personal relationships. The sad part is, I didn’t know this was possible, but it is, and it has cost me deeply. For years my brain has struggled to distinguish and separate the difference between the good kinds of commitment verses the bad, and as a result, my personal relationships (in the area that matters most) have suffered the most. I believed the lie for many years (and only a year in #hotelprius could have taught me this) that if I cut ties to all my commitments completely and live life untethered of everything keeping me “tied down,” I would in fact experience the true freedom I was looking for. This I have learned is emphatically untrue.

Allow me to use an analogy of a kite on a string to further emphasis my point. Kites, as you know have been engineered to fly through the air with grace and ease. But what allows to kite to fly at all is simple string that connects the kite to the one flying it. Without this string, the kite would not fly. I’ve come to the conclusion that I am the same way. You see, by cutting myself (the kite) loose from the tether of commitment (the string), it is impossible for me to experience the kind of flight and true freedom I was made for.

Dare I say it, but some commitments are necessary. My wager is that the commitments that are necessary in life revolve around the people that care about you most. Case in point: Commitments are not always a bad thing.

Lesson #3: Traveling will not help you find Yourself

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I hear it all the time, and I even used to say it myself. “I just want to travel you know? I need to ‘find’ myself .”

First off, what does that even mean?
And second, Traveling will not help “find yourself,” it will only help you gain a better perspective of who you already are back home.

Like many people my age, I was hit hard with the wanderlust bug right after graduating college. Wonderlust is that feeling many my age experience that longs to be apart of something greater than themselves, and feels that only travel will satisfy. Let me tell you, I had it bad! I was bored and unhappy with where my life was going and I longed for more daring adventures, deeper challenges, and a life full of better stories. For some reason, traveling and experiencing the world seemed to be the thing I wanted most, and #hotelprius seemed the best vehicle (both literally and figuratively) to allow me to chase that insatiable dream I felt was missing from my life. But here is what I have learned to be true: Travel is not what I was missing.

I’m convinced the thing I was missing was NOT to explore new and unfamiliar terrain in my world, but new and unfamiliar terrain in my heart. That may sound corny but I needed and longed to feel things deeper than my current level of involvement. I needed to experience life on a more intimate plain. That meant, I needed to get more deeply and intimately involved in something I truly loved and believed in, either romantically or behind a cause. I needed to feel and experience life in new ways, but I was convinced that traveling (probably because it seemed the most fun) was going to satisfy the itch I couldn’t seem to reach. But don’t get me wrong, traveling wasn’t at all that bad or in any way a complete waste of my time. In fact my experience helped me learn that traveling is an art-form and this world is a beautiful work of art that should be celebrated for the beauty that it is. It was also through my traveling that helped me understand that it is the difficult challenges and often uncomfortable circumstances in our lives that allows us to see ourselves for who we truly are, showing our true self in the form of our responses. It is in those uncertain and sometimes extreme circumstances outside of out control (that travel often expedites) that exposes the parts of us, that we ourselves have not yet seen – the parts of us we are convinced we need “to find.” You don’t have to travel to gain perspective. Travel is just the excuse to jump in. If you are looking to “find yourself,” commit yourself to a relationship, get a new job, or join a movement.

Lastly, character isn’t something you find, it is something you develop.

Lesson #2: Comfort is Relative

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Think about it.

Like most things, something can only be labeled good or bad, when it is compared to something else. When you say something is good (or bad), lets say a burger, what you are really saying is, that this particular burger is only good or bad relative to the other burgers you’ve tasted in the past. Right? How else would you measure if your burger is good or bad or not? The same is true for comfort. Lets use the comfort of a small bed and space of #hotelprius. If all you have ever known is a nice, lush, comfortable queen size mattress and were to spend a night in #hotelprius, you probably not get a very good nights sleep. Why is this? It is because, relative to your cushy mattress at home, my bed would just not reach your level of comfort standards. However, if all you have ever known was sleeping on the cold hard ground, #hotelprius would be quite an upgrade. Better than what you had before, right? Now, I am not saying that all I have ever known is a sleeping on the ground, or that I’ve never experienced the comfort of one of those nice Temperpedic mattresses before. I’m just saying that I’ve spent many a night on the ground in a tent somewhere on a mountain and #hotelprius is way more comfortable. Also it just became my new normal. In time I really did forget about all the various comforts of a home, and a real bed, and lots of space and just got used to the new way of living. For the record I sleep very well. I’ve invested well in my air pad and it helps I don’t move around a lot when I sleep, and that a small space doesn’t bother me. The difficulty is saying no to friends when they invite me to crash in a real bed. I have to say no every time, because I know that once I get a taste of a real bed, especially those Temperpedics, I’m going to loath going back to the bed of #hotelprius. I would just rather not go through that torture. Comfort is relative.

21 Things I Learned While Living Out of My Car For a Year (a Series)

IMG_5695I’m excited to announce a new series to the blog: The 21 life lessons learned from my travels in #HotelPrius. If you have been following my adventure on Instagram, you know I’ve been working on this post for quite a while, as I have made mention to it several times before in recent posts, but have never actually posted anything about it. Until very recently, I hadn’t felt ready to share it with you just yet. I needed to wait, because really, and I say this the nicest way I can, this blog has nothing to do with you. It started mostly as a way for me to keep track of my travels and adventures and hold me accountable for the times when I did not feel like writing. These next few posts are pretty extensive and required a lot of work preparing them and getting them ready to make public. These next 21 posts are an accumulation of blurbs and journals I’ve kept from my travels over the the last year and has caused me to look deep inside myself and even wrestle with things that I was afraid to confront. While these life lessons may not all be universal truths for everyone, they have served as important lessons for me and my experiences living out of my car for a full year. Some will be deep. Some funny. Some trivial, and some even borderline-cheesy, but they are honest and they are real, and come from a place of complete vulnerability. For that reason alone, I hope you can appreciate it for what it is. I did my best to eliminate any fancy or artificially contrived rhetoric or try-too-hard platitudes. As your read, please, don’t expect to be blown away. Don’t expect your life to change forever. I’m not a poet. I’m barely a writer. But I promised and owed it to myself to keep an accurate account of my time in my car over the last year and that is what I did. One day, some of these things may end up in a book, who knows. But for now, they are on this blog that few will actually read. But thats okay. Because this last year was one of the most gratifying and challenging years of my life. Some of the things i experienced can and will only ever be learned first hand. No blog or journal or book could ever articulate some of the lessons I’m not able to put into words just yet. This year was a beautiful experiment if you will; An experiment in life untethered. An experiment to be and live as efficient as possible and carry the most, but as little as required. This year has taught me more than I could ever have imagined. I am very thankful. Enjoy the next few reads.

Lesson #1: Limitations Force Creativity

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When there is little to work with, it forces you to be creative with what you have. This doesn’t just apply to the limited space of #hotelprius, but also a great truth for me in life as well. Due to circumstances, most often out of our control, we don’t always have the abundant resources to make life work the way we want, dream, or plan. Sometimes in order to achieve what we want or gain access to what we consider most important in life, sacrifices most often need to be made, and we just need to start thinking creatively.

The reality is, life for the majority of us can be limiting and can often catch us off our guard. #hotelprius was creatively created by some of those life’s limitations that caught me by surprise. Read the full story here. The short version of this story is, I had just moved across the country after college and life was not panning out the way I expected it to. I was unemployed, money was running thin and I was out of practical options for what to do next. The last thing I wanted for my life was to fall behind, and living out of my car became the most efficient solution I could think of. So that’s what I did. With limited money, I didn’t have the option of buying a solution to my problem (i.e buy and live out of a van). Instead, I had to use what I already owned (a Prius and some used camping gear) as a solution. This forced me into thinking creatively. I had no choice but to take what I already owned and make it work as best I could. I played with the space inside my car and strategized with how to turn my Prius into a livable, practical and sustainable lifestyle. Maximizing my efficiency was my biggest priority and it was important that I was frugal with both my spending and my space. The Prius just made sense. I gathered my available resources and prioritized my needs – what you might do in a survival situation. A comfortable bed, a place for my clothes, curtains and extra storage space came first. Once those were in place, I used the additional remaining small pockets of space to add things that could serve multiple purposes and functions. For the space by my feet, I used a hardtop suitcase that also served as a desk and small work station. Later, I would add solar panels to charge my phone, a pull out table for my stove, and added new an improved curtains from old pillow cases. Maybe some of these things I didn’t necessarily need, but things I could justify to continue to help me live more efficiently.

In a year of living out of my car, I’ve carried this life lesson with me wherever I go. Before buying my way out of problems that arise, I look for other, more creative solutions first. Solutions that require only what I already own, then moving on to potential low cost solutions second. To question whether or not someone else has ever done it before is completely irrelevant. I may not be the only person living out of my car, or even my Prius for that matter. But I guarantee you, there is no one who has done it for cheaper and does it this efficiently. And I guess I’m proud of that.

P.S. No, that is not a picture of Jesus, that is a picture of me back when I had long hair. Crazy, I know.

 

1 Year Today!

IMG_5343 It’s hard to believe, but exactly one year ago today I embarked on a journey that would forever change my perspective of life and the world around me. I have learned so many valuable life lessons not just about myself, but about people, about God, about different cities and cultures, about traffic, about the thirst for adventure and the importance of great friends and healthy relationships. Although a very enlightening experience, there is such a thing of spending too much time alone and after a full year of the “rolling-stone, carry no moss” lifestyle, I’m at the place where I’m ready to take what I’ve learned and apply it to a more consistent, well-balanced life around great friends and people I can invest in. I’m thankful for all the places I got to see and the people I met along the way. If #hotelprius has taught me anything it is that I don’t ever want to have experiences like these again, by myself. Life was meant to be shared and experienced in community. As for what’s next, I’m headed back to Austin to be with friends and regroup for the holidays. I have a few tentative plans for what is next, but need to rest and really assess what is best for me in the the next season of life. I do have plans to turn this last year of my life into a little coffee table book, to remember for years to come. I hope to have it printed with many of the pictures and morning musings not published on the blog soon. I can only hope you will all buy it, as it would be nice to share what I have learned and pass it on to others who could maybe benefit from the experience. Who knows? Thank you to everyone who has supported me and followed me during this crazy journey of mine this last year. I’m thankful for all your kind words and support, more than you know. Let Life’s Big Adventure continue…. -Chris

The Full Story (with Pictures) of How #HotelPrius Became a Thing.

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.

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The Beginning

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.

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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.

The Break-In

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!

And if that wasn’t enough to make me feel lost and helpless, a week later I got into an accident and totaled the Prius. Now with no job, no car, no place to call my own, limited money, and no convenient way to apply for jobs, I struggled. Needless to say, the decision to come to Austin was strongly reconsidered. It was very difficult to navigate through life during that time but I was fortunate to have friends guide me and get me back on my feet. I stayed with friends for the first few weeks and used their computers to retype my resume and cover letters while I waited for my claim through State Farm to finalize.

The Rebuild

The process was less than speedy, but I was thankful I had full coverage insurance on my car and that the car was paid for in cash. After several long and depressing weeks of waiting and sitting around the house. I received a phone call and a check from State Farm to pay for a new car. The outcome was so much more than I expected. The check was significantly more than what I paid for my last Prius. It allowed me to buy a newer model Prius I had found on craigslist with considerably less mileage. I even had a little extra to help cover the expense of a new laptop and the huge spike in my car insurance. I had a car now, but I was still very far behind. Everyday I was reminded of the loss of not just my laptop, but the files that I could have used to help me make money and get ahead. With backup graphic design experience I could have at least made extra money freelancing, but with no portfolio to show for it, I had to start completely fresh. It wasn’t easy remembering the last ten years of job experience for a resume either. I typed up what I could remember and put together a resume as best I could from memory. I started applying wherever I could.

Camp Life

Finally, I had landed a job at a summer camp relatively close to Austin that needed a senior counselor. The pay was minimal, and I would be sleeping outside for 6 weeks, but it was fulfilling work and provided food and pay. Most importantly, it gave me six weeks to continue playing catch up and hang out with teen boys who needed a mentor for the summer. During the day I spent time with my campers, rock climbing, fishing, and kayaking down the Colorado River just telling stories, getting to know each other and goofin off.

My days at camp were long but rewarding. On the nights when I wasn’t exhausted from the Texas heat and when all the campers were asleep, I would sneak back up to the main cabin and apply for jobs. A short 6 weeks later, camp was over and life resumed to the way it was. A harsh reminder.

Great, Now What?

The timing wasn’t perfect, but I managed to land a few other part time jobs and a place to crash with some friends after camp was over. Still unsure of exactly what I wanted to do as a career, I decided my best option in the meantime was to try my hand at substitute teaching during the day and wait tables at night. With the subbing job, I took it because I felt it was the perfect next step to see if teaching for the public school system would be something I could invest in as a career. With waiting tables, I had done it in college and was good at it, but I hated the idea of going back. To me, it felt like I was taking steps backwards rather than forwards, and that was a feeling that left me very unsettled. Finally things began to unfold. I stayed at a friend’s house until my job training was over and then moved out as began to feel my presence was becoming an unspoken burden to my friends. Whether or not that was true, I felt it, and I started looking for places of my own. I had found a place with my own room and monthly rent with another older friend of mine, Julian. I had met Julian through friends years back and despite the 20 year plus age gap, we became great friends. Julian is someone I can’t imagine my life without. He has been a great teacher to me and wise counsel the some of the more uncertain and rocky seasons of my life. He agreed to let me stay at his house for a few months while I organized my life again. He preferred living alone, but would take in roommates occasionally as he had the rooms and it would help pay for the mortgage. No lease, but an agreement to pay $600 on the 1st of every month for each month I planned to stay, and it was furnished! Perfect for what I needed and as long as I booked 10 days of subbing a month, I would cover the costs of rent and bills. With the money I made waiting tables, I planned to use towards gas and food and maybe even put some money away for the next chapter. The inconsistency did make me a little nervous but I was assured by the teachers at the schools and my boss at the restaurant that I would have no problem finding as much or as little work as I wanted, and they would be flexible with my schedule. The first month of rent and bills was not a problem, I was prepared. I used the leftover money I made from camp to pay for the next months expenses, but by the second month I was cutting it too close for comfort. Because I was new and only worked part time, I was not getting the good sections at the restaurant and not getting the classroom hours I wanted at the schools either. Both required seniority I did not have yet. I still made my estimated 10 day subbing minimum but had still not received a check from the schools as they only paid out once a month. Finally, my check was deposited into my account a day late from when rent was due. With taxes and everything else taken out, my total for the month was $590.49. Not even enough to cover rent! I had been eating like crap, losing weight rapidly, and sitting at home on my days off hungry and depressed, trying to not go out and spend money. When I was given invites to go out with friends, I said no because I couldn’t afford it. I hated that this is where my life had ended up. I was a college graduate with the experience and the skill-sets to do just about anything I wanted, but yet I was back to waiting tables and subbing! I had five years of college and had nothing to show for it. I was exhausted and depression was rapidly taking over. Something had to change, and quick. I discussed with Julian my concerns and my options for the future, but we couldn’t seem to get around the topic of rent being late. I didn’t need a lecture, but he felt he needed to give me one anyway about priorities and planning. The way he saw it, I was at home most of the time waiting for work, when I could be working somewhere else and making money. But that wasn’t my problem. I already had two jobs and a third wouldn’t make things easier. Plus “any other” job wasn’t the right investment of my time or energy. He didn’t see the details of my life, my hard work, my depression, my exhaustion or my efforts. He only saw the money he was missing for rent. It was understandable, but I needed him to see how hard I was trying. I needed help and I needed grace. The conversation didn’t go too well and his attitude towards me undoubtedly was the final deciding factor to move out. For the sake of keeping our friendship, I was convinced his home, his lectures, and rent was not something I appreciated, but ultimately did not need in my life. I did, however, need a few days to figure things out and told him I would have a decision for him within the week and would pay him the money I owned him as soon as I knew a plan. He agreed, and for the next week I thought hard about my options.

The Plan

I knew this season well. I called it “survival mode.” If life has taught me anything, it was that limitations always force creativity, and I’ve been served a fare share of limitations growing up. Living in Children’s homes as a kid prepared me well for how to navigate through touch circumstances and taught me how to adapt quickly. I went to my room and assessed what I owned. I considered what was important and what was excess and then wrote out a list of expenses of what I thought to be “necessary” spending. Netflix and new clothes unfortunately did not make the cut. The only thing I considered “necessary spending” was my car insurance, a cell phone, food, gas, and saving for the future. I looked at my car outside the window and knew exactly what I needed to do. I removed everything from the car and studied the space. I toyed and played with the seats and the inside of my car, measuring and strategizing with ideas, mapping them out in my head. My biggest priorities were a bed and space for clothes. I needed it to be efficient and organized. I needed a system. It was the only way to make this small space work. Within the week I had a plan. I picked up a few tupperware bins from Target and materials from Home Depot to help with some construction constraints, but mostly I used my already owned camping gear to set up home in my Prius.

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.

The Leap

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.

The first night of #Hotelprius was spent at a local automotive repair shop waiting until morning to get my car fixed, a perfect reminder that the next steps of my journey would not be easy or smooth. After leaving Julian’s, I had stopped at REI to pick up some last minute gear and wool socks to keep warm. It was cold that day and I had left my car running to keep it warm. When I returned to my car, my battery had died. At least it was in front of my favorite store. It could have been worse but I wondered if living in my car was still a good decision.

I waited several hours for a tow truck to arrive. I laid on my new bed and read several chapters of Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years on my Kindle, a book about living a good story and how every good story contains a character having to overcoming conflict to get what they want. By the time it finally came, all the local mechanic shops were closed for the day. I had the driver drop me and my Prius off at the Lambs Automotive in town, close to food and free Wifi till morning. The next morning, I woke up early and was at the front door waiting for the mechanics at Lamb’s as soon as they opened. It was an all day event and the battery set me back $250. Thankfully, it was money I would not have had if I had paid rent that month. I walked away thankful I had made the decision to live out of my car and smiled at the thought that I was on my way to living a good story.

After the battery ordeal was finally over, I headed directly over to the YMCA and bought a monthly membership using my old college ID to get the student discount.

For $25 dollars a month I had a place to shower at any YMCA in the city. No matter where I was, there was always a YMCA near by. For food? My plan was to take advantage of my discount and free “family meal” at my restaurant, and to get to know local daily specials around town on my days off. If I wanted to cook instead, I would pop in to an HEB grocery store or Traders Joe’s and buy a skillet friendly meal and cook it out of the back of my car. This excited me, because finally with the extra money I had I could eat well again and gain back some of the weight I had lost.

The Income

I continued to wait tables and subbed when I could. The subbing gig didn’t last very long though. The kids were certainly a reason to stay, but I ended up leaving after the first few months because I knew teaching for the school system was not my next career move. I didn’t quit before finding another job first though. For my next job I was fortunate to get involved in a new hotel restaurant start-up opening downtown, working for a local Austin celebrity chef. The opportunity more fell in my lap than me having to find it. A few weeks prior, I had sought out counseling for my increasing depression and met a man named Mike K., who was absolutely paramount in helping me find emotional stability again and helped me change the bandages from the last few months of emotional injuries. He did more than listen and give me advice. I could feel he cared about me and believed in my potential and wanted me to be successful. He set me up with an interview with his cousin, the Chef, and I was hired.

The restaurant was expected to start in January and held promise from the very beginning. In a few short weeks, I transitioned out of the subbing job and my other restaurant and began full-time at Chavez in downtown Austin early that January. During the day, I helped at weddings and banquets in the hotel, and at night I served in the restaurant.
I loved it. I was learning new things, tasting great wine and meeting great people from all over the world. For the first time in a really long time, I felt that I was going to be okay. By the time of the grand opening, I was already one month-in of living out of my car but the quality of life was better than it had been since college. I walked with my head up and with a smile. I finally felt I was beating life instead of life beating me. Chavez was a higher end restaurant on the bottom floor of a hotel downtown with a well known celebrity Chef, so we stayed consistently busy. The money I made was almost too good to ever want to leave. I might of tried to move into an apartment by this point had the new  restaurant not encouraged me to stay living out of my car. This hotel downtown had everything #hotelprius needed to thrive. Free downtown parking, a great view on the parking garage overlooking the city. Perfect access to sunlight to charge my solar panels during the day and cover from the occasional storms at night. I had access to water and ice when I needed it, and restrooms and free food on the days I worked. Plus the commute was less than a minute to work, and the YMCA was a 5 minute walk down the street. How could I not stay living in my car? With limited expenses and bills I was saving over $1000 a week. It could not have been more perfect. My coworkers complained about the traffic getting to work and their 30–45 commute. When asked about my commute: my answer, “Oh you know, about thirty to forty-five…seconds.”

The Name

As far where the name came from. After long satisfying days working for the hotel I would go “home” to the top level of the parking garage and sleep for the night, only to do it again the next morning. Because I practically lived there already, when asked where I lived, I could’t lie, so I told people I lived at the Hotel. When they asked what floor, I told them “the top.” Confused when they asked what hotel, I told them “Hotel Prius.” It actually started as a joke but after saying it to my co-workers and friends enough, the name kinda stuck. At first, I was too embarrassed to admit I was living out of my car and kept it under wraps for the first month or so. But after awhile I realized I had nothing to be ashamed of and became actually proud of my lifestyle. It was smart and resourceful. It was a direct representation of who I was as a person.

The Design

The inside design of #hotelprius took on many forms. In my free time during the days, I would continue to strategize and think of ways to improve my living space. Within the first month I designed curtains in a parking lot of a Joanne Fabrics and added a pull out table in the parking lot of Home Depot. Not only was it enjoyable for me, but it also made for a great use of my free time. It was exciting and I loved it.

Everything else, I would figure out as time went on as new experiences and situations called for it. I later added solar panels to charge my phone at night, and even played around with a few fridge options and mounted a foldable moped to the top. Look closely at the picture above.

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I was constantly making little upgrades here and there, all the while still managing to save money and eat well. My stomach grew and so did my savings. Depression slowly disappeared and life provided me with the kind of challenges I loved to work out and solve. Life felt real and organic. It felt right.

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What started as a one month experiment to get ahead and to catch up on life after a turn for the worst turned into so much more than I could ever have hoped or imagined. This is that adventure.

Documented.