A lesson in perspective

What drives me today is perspective. It’s all about perspective.


From time to time, I like to explore the vandweller subreddit. For anyone interested in vanlife (whether just a mild curiosity or a serious consideration), I suggest spending some time reading the posts in that forum.

Unlike the recent story from The New Yorker, that touts vanlife as a hashtag and people just taking Instagram photos inside their van, the reddit forum will paint a much broader—and more accurate—picture of what vanlife is all about.

Today, I came across this post…

‘Anyone else thought they had a great vehicle for a good deal and ended up having to invest a shitload for repairs?’

My response:
I bought a 1977 Volkswagen Westfalia for $8500. Then, I had to rebuild the engine. The rebuilt engine lasted me about 300 miles before it experienced catastrophic failure, resulting in a minor fire. Then, I bought a whole new engine (used but running well). Then, after completing its first successful road trip ever, it burned to the ground.
Hang in there, friend! It’s all part of your vanlife story.
The original poster replied, “Oh shit, dude. I’ll stop complaining now.”

I was doing some writing at a bar in Asheville and a song got stuck in my head. The song stuck because I was stuck—in my mind—thinking about someone special.

The song is called “Come A Little Closer” by Cage the Elephant.

The chorus goes:

Come a little closer, then you’ll see
Come on, come on, come on
Things aren’t always what they seem to be
Come on, come on, come on
Do you understand the things you been seein’
Come on, come on, come on
Do you understand the things that you’ve been dreaming
Come a little closer, then you’ll see

It also stuck with me because of how often we make assumptions when we don’t have the full picture. Sometimes all we need to do is come a little closer to realize that our view isn’t the only view. Your full picture is different than my full picture.

This is how truth finds its way into the realm of subjectivity. A scary notion for the absolutists.

But take a look at these next three photos…

From this distance, it looks like there’s a trail of blood on the inside of the dumpster. At least that’s what I thought when I first saw it.

And then I got a little closer…

Now, I was certain that it was blood splatter, and that I was going to find someone murdered and disposed of in a dumpster behind a warehouse.

My heart raced.

And then I got a little closer…

But it was nothing.

No body.

No bloodshed.

Just splatter from a tomato can.


Going back to the original vandweller reddit post that led us here. The man who was complaining about the combined cost of buying his van and the “shitload for repairs” was about the same as what I spent just buying my VW.

After venting his frustration about all the specifics, he ended his post with:

Someone please tell me this is normal, even if it isn’t.

We want so badly to feel that we’re not always getting the short end of the stick that we need some form of reassurance from others that what we’re experiencing is “normal,” or in line with the rest of our peers and colleagues.

One of my best friends from college was responsible for my termination at the last place I worked because he didn’t think I was “normal” for wanting to live the vanlife, among other things. He even questioned my mental health.

But it doesn’t matter if it is or isn’t normal. It is. So roll with it.

Talk about what it is. Write down what it is. Connect with others and get some feedback on what it is. Feel free to vent as much as you like about what it is. Get—whatever it is—all out.

Then, get yourself back on the road.

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