The header photo for this final part is the only one I can find (I never intended on writing about this) directly from living in my office: the workout mat I tried to sleep on with my pillow and blanket. Now, my office location was about to change. This was not part of the original plan. Changing my office potentially changed the ability to keep this office-living experiment up. But, I needed to be smart about this and not jump into living in an office I haven’t evaluated. I was going to have to experiment with vandwelling (truck-dwelling, in my case) to give me time to safely assess the new office area for living.
My truck had one of those half-sized access cabs. Attached to the truck bed was a lockable toolbox, which I had kept those extra possessions in already. There was no way to stretch out and lay down to sleep without sleeping in the truck bed, but I did not have a cap and did not want to spend the money on one for such a short term—remember, the girlfriend would be moving up here eventually.
Winter was here, and evening temperatures were starting to average in the 20°F range. My sleeping bag was rated to 30°F, and I had the blankets from the office to add for warmth. My research into vandwelling resulted in learning about various methods of insulating vans, but most options were more invasive and time-consuming to construct than I was willing to do for the short-term—especially for my truck. One common insulating method used in addition to others is to cut and place reflective insulating panels—bubble-wrap coated with reflective foil—in the windows of the vehicle. I took it a step further and purchased some black fabric to adhere to one side. Onlookers at night would see tinted windows, effectively hiding my presence yet still providing some very small level of insulation.
You also have to allow a place for the moisture to escape the cabin, otherwise your windows will get covered in condensation and the whole cabin will feel damp. I did not have a sunroof and I did not want to cut a hole and install one, like many do with vans. Leaving the windows cracked would have to do, but I needed a way to conceal this from any onlookers. Side window deflectors fit the bill, as their design covers roughly the top inch of the window frame to prevent rain from entering with cracked open windows. I found an auto parts store that had them in stock for my truck, and installed them immediately. Now I could leave the windows cracked without it being obvious, combined with the black fabric on the facing side of the insulation.
I made these preparations in just a couple days, as I HAD to move to the new office. I accepted that I’d have to learn to sleep in the cab, reclined as far as the seat would allow.
After my last shift in the old office was over, I hung around the new building to observe the “flow.” There were three or four guys working rather loudly on a project down the hall, but whether that was a one-time occurrence or routine was yet to be determined. Besides that, the building was empty. Hopefully some more recon will result in the determination that I can safely continue living in the office, but for now it was time to start my first night truck-dwelling.
I drove to a local restaurant to have dinner, and used the bathroom one last time for the night. The temperature was already down to the low 30°Fs, so I kept the heat blasting in the truck on the drive back to work. The old office’s parking lot was where I decided to camp, seeing as it was rarely used, obscured from the main road, and had an unlit area for further stealth. I pulled into the spot front first, keeping the windshield closer to the building so that passersby wouldn’t see the large reflective insulation obscuring the window (the only one I didn’t add black fabric to). While the heat was running, I put up the remaining insulation and cracked the side windows.
Switching from the driver to passenger seat in this truck without exiting was difficult for my six-foot-tall frame. Once achieved, I removed my shoes and clothing, changing into a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt. I had a sweater readily available, but wanted to test my sleeping bag and additional blanket first. In order to get the seat to recline to a somewhat horizontal position, I had to remove the headrest and reposition the seat as close to the dashboard as my knees would handle. This was worse than if I had just been sleeping in the office recliner.
To charge my phone while I slept, I plugged in an external battery that itself could be recharged when back in the office. I set my alarm, turned off the engine, and listened. The window insulation prevented looking around outside, but I was satisfied that I was alone by the sheer silence. I closed my eyes, let various things about my newfound situation flood my head, and eventually fell asleep.
The tight confines of the cab led to the occasional waking to change position, but the inside temperature did not drop as rapidly as predicted. Once the morning alarm played, I could feel the cold air around me, but I was still comfortably warm in the sleeping bag. I had not slept very well, but it was acceptable for the situation. Braving the cold, I changed into my clothes for the day, packed the sleeping gear behind the seat, and took down the window insulation. There was condensation on the interior windows about a third of the way from the top. More ventilation would be required next time, likely at the cost of more heat loss.
The next evening I cracked the windows an extra half-inch than previously, and otherwise setup for bed in the same manner. This night I only woke up maybe twice just to adjust my sleep position, but got a good amount of sleep. My back was a little tight that morning, but no condensation was present on the windows. Success!
On the issue of food, I was able to maintain the routine I had started with: I had a small fridge already in my old office and moved it to the new one. Weekly, I would hit up the grocery store to stock it with vegetables, fruit, cheese, lunchmeat, and some drinks. I’d keep some microwavable products in the freezer, and then bread, snacks, and such on top of the fridge. I did eat out a few times per week, but I’d say 65% of my diet came from the grocery store and planning it out. I started to eat out for dinner more during my truck-dwelling period, simply to take advantage of wasting time away from the office and warming the truck up via travel in preparation for sleep.
For the next two weeks, I kept up the routine and spent an hour or so after work just observing the office building. Besides that one incident the first day and a random tenant working late another night, the building stayed deserted. Management came through on their offer and frosted the office door glass. Two weeks sleeping in the truck wrecked my back, but otherwise became routine and not unpleasant—I could keep doing it if needed, though it was obvious why vans were a better choice for the lifestyle. I was happy to get back to the ever-so-more-comfortable office-living, and certainly could have chanced it after just one week of truck-dwelling, but I didn’t want to mess this experiment up with poor planning.
Living In The New Office
The first evening at the new office, I stored my possessions and sleeping gear in the same manner as I had before. I went out and got groceries and dinner, coming back around 8:30pm to an empty building. After a quick stop in the bathroom down the hall, I setup my mattress partially under the desk and fell asleep almost immediately. It was like falling asleep on a cloud compared to the cramped, non-horizontal sleeping arrangement in the truck.
My alarm went off. I had not woken up once during the night. The evening had been completely quiet. Very refreshing. The hallway lights were dim, either the result of an automatic system or an indicator of the presence of someone during the night. I liked this, but realized I would have to keep my guard up for further late night activity.
The remaining days of the first week here were routine, except that they didn’t have people vacuuming the halls at night—it only occurred during the day: score! However, the weekend activity was nothing like the previous building. As in nothing. I hid in my office for the first two weekend days, only cautiously exiting to go to the gym, get food, and use the bathroom just so I would have a full idea of a typical weekend. Nothing, no one, uneventful. Usually someone would be around in the previous building on the weekend, but this was a way better setup—I could live here forever!
The Last Day In The Office
One month remained until my girlfriend would arrive. She could not—would not—live with me in the office despite my belief that we could pull it off—yeah, I probably was pushing reality on that. I spent the time researching places to live close by to keep my commute short, signed a lease and set a move-in date.
Approximately 180 days since I left my apartment for the office live, and now the night prior to having an apartment again, I packed up my gear and stowed it in the truck late after work. I decided I would sleep on the recliner and thus not have to make a show of moving out of my office after the first part of my shift in the morning. Sitting in the chair my mind raced about all of the concerns I had when I began this experiment—fear of the unknown. Now that I was used to office-living, I felt it was going to be awkward and scary going back to the “normal” living arrangement. I also realized that I had achieved facing fear and uncertainty through pushing myself into this experiment successfully, while also seeing the value of good planning.
The morning came and went. I opened the door to my new apartment, bringing in what few belongings I had. Now I had to furnish the place, spending money on stuff I ultimately could do without. This stuff was required since both parties weren’t going to live the same lifestyle however, so sacrifices must be made. But, all we bought was a bed w/ a frame (not just a mattress on the floor, which I’ve done before also) and a good couch, as the place came with all appliances included. So, I still was keeping a minimalist approach to the apartment life.
I was just a society-defined normal, employed citizen again.
I actually missed office-living and wanted to go into vandwelling more effectively. It’ll be a few years for that to happen, but I’ve been slowly converting the girlfriend to the idea of living in a van with me—the biggest logistical issue being the fact we each have a job that is about 30 minutes away between them, and with different work schedules. Thus, that brings about the concern of where to park the van whilst still changing parking spots frequently enough. But, that’s a story to develop and be written-up in the future. The first step I’ll likely take is to purchase a van and convert it as a solo-project, perhaps in 2018/2019, and use it on vacations or work-related travel. For now, I’m content setting up the SUV I replaced my truck with for a better sleeping situation in the event it is needed—something I’ll document for a later article.
Where Am I Now On One-Bagging?
So, remember I dwindled my possessions down to two bags: a backpack and seabag. That backpack was an Arcteryx Khard 30L (now called the Assault), and it worked wonderfully. However, I eventually reduced my possessions further into the smaller, 20L 15L Mystery Ranch ASAP. Here is a fresh photo of my ASAP unpacked with my primary possessions:
My possessions have only slightly changed from my last post on my traveling onebag, thanks simply to a decision on the versatility of a few items I’ve replaced. I’ve actually gotten rid of my iPad and am happy reading on my laptop/phone, and I changed my headlamp. Shown in the photo:
- Mystery Ranch ASAP with Petzl Carabiner (to secure to seat in car/helicopter)
- Plastic Waterproof Document Bag
- MagPul DAKA Vinyl Pouch
- Rite-In-Rain Notebook
- CKRT Rescue Knife
- Rite-In-Rain Pen
- Violent Little Machine Shop Kydex Wallet
- 8GB Thumb Drive
- Petzl Zipka Plus 2 Headlamp (replaced my Streamlight)
- Apple Laptop 11″
- USB Cable w/ Apple Lightning Adapter
- Apple Laptop Power Cable
- Jackery Battery (the same one I used to keep my phone charged while Truck-Dwelling)
- Misc. Dual-USB Wall Charger
- Beyond Waffle-Top Warming Layer
- Pair of Darn Tough Merino Wool Socks (Own 2)
- Arcteryx Beanie
- Icebreaker Merino Wool T-Shirt (Own 2)
- Wool & Prince Merino Wool Boxer Briefs (Own 2)
- Wool & Prince Button-Down Merino Wool Shirt
Not shown due to wearing them at the time of the photo, security reasons, or simply because I forgot:
- 1x Icebreaker Merino Wool T-Shirt
- 1x Triple Aught Design Intercept Jeans
- 1x Generic Gym/Swim Shorts
- 1x Wool & Prince Merino Wool Boxer Briefs
- 1x Pair of Darn Tough Merino Wool Socks
- 1x Cellular Phone
- 1x Set of Keys
- 1x Ares Gear Belt
- 1x Pair of Salomon Shoes
- 1x Oakley Sunglasses
- 1x Arcteryx Alpha Rain Jacket
- 1x Arcteryx Atom LT
- 1x Under Armor Storm Hoodie
- Paperwork Contents of Plastic Waterproof Document Bag
- Contents of Kydex Wallet
Besides the rain jacket, I also own a medium-weight winter jacket from Arcteryx (Atom LT) and an Under Armor Storm Hoodie, both of which are either in my car or in the room/closet wherever I live.
I pack those as needed, and the next few photos show the packing configuration of the ASAP with the addition of the Arcteryx Atom LT, if I were to take it with me. First I place all the electronic wires/accessories in the vinyl bag:
Then I put the Beyond waffle-top on the bottom of the bag, followed by the laptop and then all the other clothing items:
Then, in this example, add my Arcteryx Atom LT (which can be compacted way more than in this photo, but isn’t necessary):
Zip it up:
And away I go:
I use the pack’s top pocket to hold my cellular phone, keys, wallet, and miscellaneous toiletries (which, as expendable items, I don’t count as possessions) when I travel.
I don’t own that seabag I talked about anymore, and did try to stick with just what I could fit in that ASAP for a good while. But, I still owned that sleeping bag, pillow, extra blankets, and Nemo mattress. Does that not make me a onebagger since they don’t fit in my backpack? I don’t think so. I guess you could say I’m not a “hardcore” onebagger, since I own items that can’t be carried that way. That’s okay with me—the philosophy is more important. Instead of the seabag I got a smaller bag I could throw in the vehicle if needed to hold those sleeping comfort items, plus my work gear (flight suits, helmet, gloves, and kneeboard) which I don’t personally count in my list of possessions, since I only have them for my specific job and would dispose of once I quit.
Even adding the furniture I had to buy (bed and couch) to these lists you’ll see I own less than 50 things. My girlfriend has a long road to go down on meeting me at that number, but she’s trying—recently she donated a ton of clothes to charity as a first-step. I’m confident she’ll get there.
Again, I don’t feel the specific number of possessions is important in this discussion. I think the key is merely to be happy owning just items that have value and versatility, and not wasting space, money, and resources on items with little to no real value in the big-picture of life. I primarily find value in the ability to easily leave a place with basically everything I own, especially when all of it can be on my back and never out-of-sight. Others may not need/value that ability.
I hope my experiment has inspired you or educated you on some of these different minimalist lifestyles, and that you (and I) continue to explore everything in life and, most importantly, strive to enjoy every day.