van × year

For one year (or maybe eight months), I'm living in a passenger van in an alley.

My life was getting complicated; day-to-day was weighing me down. Too many things to buy, to organize and clean. Too many details—too many deadlines. I wanted to engineer simplicity in my life, to make a space that is authentically mine—but without excess. I'm trying to keep the artifice to a minimum and develop some healthy habits that are more human than consumer.

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I deleted all my social media to clear my head; it's working. I used to spend hours on Instagram wishing I was somewhere else. I want to be where I am.

June 3, 2013
100 Big Ideas

van × year is #51 in Interior Design Magazine’s 100 Big Ideas Issue!

June 3, 2013

van × year

Kyle Bowman (Director/D.O.P./Editor)
Natasha Wheatley (Producer/Writer)
Brandy Byhoffer (Second Unit)
Gemma Holdway (Writer/P.A.)
Jean Brazeau (Sound Mixing)
Music: “This Thirsty Fountain” by The Parish of Little Clifton

June 3, 2013

Photographs by Jonathan Hayward, THE CANADIAN PRESS. (From

Outside the van. Expo '86 plate!
Alley at night.
Everything happens on the bed.
Van plants.
Always reading in photos?
Always workin'.
Always rainy in Van-couver.
April 18, 2013

Some spring cleaning…

New shelf.
New books.
February 25, 2013

Moving things around is always a delicate puzzle. New blanket for my bed.

New blanket.
Hiding some things under the mattress.
Movin' things around.
February 24, 2013

I arrived home from the island this afternoon feeling wistful and half-asleep. The sun, ready to set, left warm light filtering through the fence, making a glowing pattern on the van door. This week has been full: heady, sweet, new.

Listening to Romance of the Telescope by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. Over and over. Maybe feeling a little unsettled being back in the van’s solitude. Reading early creation stories from a text on Jewish mysticism, Antwerp by Roberto Bolaño and The Gospel According to Christ by Jose Saramago. Drinking mineral water and organizing my dirty laundry.

Heading back on the ferry today after a week away.
Arriving home to the alley.
Re-arranged the entrance and swept away the leaves and dirt left by the rain.
I left the curtain open while I was away – this is what you'll see from the alley.
It was warm enough this evening to leave to door open while I unpacked.
One plant is thriving, the other seems dead.
The last bit of daylight filters in.
New books / clean clothes.
Sitting back to read and organize my thoughts.
February 19, 2013

Photos by Ben Nelms ( from an article in the Globe and Mail.

Outside the van.
Brushing teeth.
In the alley.
With Reuben.
February 7, 2013

Photos by Natasha Wheatley (

Plugged in.
Through the window.
February 6, 2013

I’ve kind of been in a slump lately. It’s been hard to keep routines with the wet weather and feeling confined. I’m trying to stay positive, stay thankful. Last week I learned about the Jesuit tradition of the Examen. The Examen is a daily meditation during which one reviews (with gratitude) the day that has just passed, assesses areas of discomfort and looks hopefully toward the next day. I’m working on my own version of this – looking at my days with gratitude, looking to the next day with hope, anticipation and a feeling of possibility. I wanted a simpler life – living in a van is a step toward this.

Today was a good day. My sister Sarah and her husband Rodney came to eat and visit in the van. The intimacy of sitting together on the bed in the low light reminds me of scenes from my childhood – a kind of closeness and familiarity that, until now, has been lacking from my adult life.

Whenever visitors come to the van, we come together in the small space on the bed. This closeness makes for good conversation and laughter.
We shared a simple meal.
Sarah and Rodney brought dessert.
We spent some time on Instagram, as usual.
We played cards; Sarah won once, Rodney the following game.
February 3, 2013

Today I took the bed frame out. I felt a little like I was living in two vertical feet. Now the mattress is on the floor. I’ve been sitting on the bed reading tonight (The Lake), listening to loud music. 

Being closer to the ground calms me. Finding some new music.
Moving things around.
Reading. Shifting out of the frustration and anxiety of winter, slowing down.
Wheel-well nightstand.