A Van Named Chickpea; Mobile Living For the Adventurous Soul
Story by Ben Dreith, Photography by Hen House Photography
Housing prices are unbearable here, in Vancouver, Canada. The uncertainty of property the standard of a successful individual are indications that the times have changed. Some lament at this change while others move gracefully into new terrains of living and homeliness. Home is, after all, a feeling.
Erudite navigations and reconfigurations of what home means has led some to embrace “small space living”. Everything from shipping containers to micro-homes to campers and vans have become dwellings as people become more disillusioned with prescribed ways of life. Some may think that these modes of living are cramped or too exposed to the elements, and for some they are dreams come true. In order to find out, I talked to two intrepid souls who filled me in on what it means to live small.
Luna and Chance are artists, travelers and partners who weave the highways of B.C. in Chance’s van called Chickpea- a 86 Dodge Ram Camper Van. I corresponded with the couple as they were exploring Bali. When they are not adventuring in Asia they are traveling and living in their van—which includes a kitchen and place to sleep—as artists and performers called by the free flowing escapades of the British Columbia festival circuit.
Luna was raised in BC in a big, “normal” home, while Chance was raised in Quebec where his father introduced him to small space living at an early age. Having been forced to move out of the small room ina house Luna was renting, she joined Chance whose van reminded her of her own previous Dodge camper, and the two hit the road. Often they bike around to accomplish things during the day and meet up at night where they can adjust their position in space on the way they’re feeling. “We like to park and sleep by beaches or quiet areas that are low key and not bothering anyone,” Chance explains.“Doing van life in the city can be stressful at times because you don’t want to bother anyone, but when were on the road it's much easier.”
For the couple, the lack of material possessions is a boon, and that it feels right to live with less. Reality is condensed in smaller spaces, making each thing more precious; highlighting intention and care that often get lost in rampant consumerism.
“Everything is permanent, temporary, and, well, you don’t need materialistic junk …. really.” Despite bombardment by the call to consume, the pair manages to do a lot without the clutter of mainstream living. Without the imposition of unnecessary distraction they are able to think, learn and play in their mobile “sanctuary”. For Chance it’s been a way to “dive deeper into reading, writing, photography and a great way to connect with a creative community”. “Minimalism is a lifestyle” says Luna, one that helps inspire her as she works on performances for her dance troop: “The Blackberryfaeries.”
While the pair reaps obvious benefits from van living, they don’t see themselves living in a van forever. “[We] don’t want to raise our children in a van or have to coordinate parking spots each time we go to work…but if we have the luxury, we’d like to always own a van. One for adventures, get aways or festivals.”
The pair paint a romantic picture of a life outside the norms and constriction of society. Certainly some people take this living even further, committing their whole lives to small or off the grid living. Can the lessons that folks like Luna and Chance learn be brought back to the mainstream in order to alleviate the social and environmental problems that the current, inequitable forms of living have produced? Is this lifestyle just a temporary, respite from the rat race for the privileged? How can we re-think questions of urban homelessness, property ownership and ancient, transient lifestyles in light of this contemporary trend?
Hopefully we can use the movement towards small space living to think about these questions instead of letting yet another revolutionary idea be capture and resold to us at double the price. Until then, we can take notes from the happily sustainable couple, while living vicariously through their life, in a van named Chickpea.