A year and a half ago, 24-year-old Jason Roesslein headed from Illinois to the Bay Area to start work as an engineer for Tesla Motors.
He lived with a roommate for a few months, but found it frustrating shelling out $1,250 for rent each month.
“That was supposed to be a temporary situation until I figured out where I really wanted to live,” Roesslein told Business Insider. “As I got further and further along in my thinking, I decided that I would try to live in a van, and I eventually pulled the trigger on it.”
He lived in his “studio on wheels” — a 2006 Dodge Sprinter van — from October 2014 through March 2015, using Tesla and his gym to shower and eat most of his meals. After five months of van life, he reverted back to a more traditional lifestyle, with nearly $10,000 in extra savings, some of which he diverted toward paying off his student loans in full.
Here’s what it was like:
Roesslein toyed with the idea of a buying a box truck and turning it into a tiny home. Ultimately, the idea of owning such a big truck was too daunting to proceed.
“At the same time as I was developing those thoughts, I met a guy who works at Tesla, who at the time was living in his Subaru Forester,” he says. “He’d been doing it for a year.”
One night, that same coworker mentioned replacing his Subaru with a Sprinter van.
“That planted the seed in my head,” Roesslein says. “It would be big enough so that you can stand up and have everything you need in there — but it’s also not an atrociously large vehicle, and would be fairly maneuverable.”
Roesslein thought about what he wanted out of a living situation — his own, affordable space where he could sleep and store his things — and where he wanted to be: close to work, the gym, and the social scene.
“My housing hunt had turned into the desire for a small mobile space to lay my head, cook and eat some food, store a few things, and hang out for a bit each day,” he writes on Medium.
This manifested itself in a 2006 Dodge Sprinter, which he bought off eBay for $13,000 and picked up in Houston, Texas. It turned out that flying to Texas and driving the Sprinter back was cheaper than buying a used van in the notoriously pricey Bay Area.
He paid for the van upfront — $500 the night he bought it on eBay, and then the remaining $12,500 when he arrived in Houston — and spent another $1,000 turning the Sprinter into a livable place.