Mat and Danielle spent their first date bonding over Lloyd Kahn’s book “Home Work” and discussing their ideas for simplifying their lives. They became a couple, but “somewhere along the way, we ended up doing the exact opposite of what we wanted,” explains Danielle on their blog.
“Instead of simplifying, we bought a house and spent months hauling furniture, paint and knick knacks into it to surround ourselves with stuff that we liked. Our bills went up so we got better jobs, started working more, and eventually all we did was work during the day and watch Netflix every night because we were too exhausted to do anything else.”
“Mat was the first to suggest making a change because he found our lifestyle stressful, but I resisted at first. I was really caught up in the idea of owning my own place, maybe starting a family one day and planning for an amazing retirement. I was also excited that I had a new full time job with benefits and that we were financially stable. Eventually I realized that all I was doing was working and I didn’t even like my job anymore. We decided that we should do something crazy: sell our house, quit our jobs and travel the world.”
Today, Mat and Danielle are living full-time in a converted van. Their back seat folds down into a bed. Their kitchen is a cooler plus camping stove. Their bathroom includes a solar camping shower and a plastic bottle toilet (with funnel).
They’ve eliminated a mortgage, but their are still costs, what Mat calls “the price of a small apartment”. Here’s how they break it down:
- Utilities & Internet $100
- Groceries $600
- Eating out & Fun $100
- Car Insurance $100
- Gas $200
- Misc. $200
- Total Cost of living: $1,300
“About like renting a really cheap apartment in a city” For us it’s a really good deal because we get to live a mobile life. We get to have all sorts of adventures for quite cheap, but it’s not free.”
Instead of paying down a house, Mat and Danielle have decided to focus on working less and experiencing more, both by exploring the world and their artistic interests: for Mat, it’s music and art and for Danielle it’s writing.
“You only have a certain amount of disposable time and disposable income in your life and obviously you need to cover your basic needs. And then after that it seems like you can either choose to do things that you love and invest your time and money in those things. Or you can choose to invest your time and money in retirement and for us we’d rather invest in our present… If you take the time to plan your life you can create something amazing.”
* More on Danielle and Mat on their blog Exploring Alternatives and youtube channel and Mat’s art page.