Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

Sprouting wings leads to growing unexpected roots


October 23, 2019 | View PDF

Abby Scott

Van Life

Last year, my partner and I moved to Niwot for the dual purposes of not wanting to live in Boulder while wanting a place that somewhat resembles Taos, the place we just moved from. We found this quiet little haven and knew it would work for what we needed – a soft place to land while we plotted our next adventure.

In May, I set my sights on the next horizon. Inspired by the Van Life trend that has spread like wildfire amongst my millennial generation, I purchased a large, bulky, white cargo van. Van Life is just another iteration of "On the Road" and "Electric Koolaid Acid Test", albeit this modern version is less focused on all-night partying and more focused on gaining new experiences, living small, and traveling the country.

I believed that this van would provide me the wings I've always wanted and the ability to roam where I pleased. However, I didn't know the first thing about carpentry, plumbing or wiring. My last attempt at a DIY involved some chickens that lived in a pretty unsecure coop and met a rather untimely end. But, regarding a van build, I believed that if all these other van-lifers could do it, I could too.

From June through September, I spent a lot of my time stenciling, cutting, hammering, drilling, and creating a small house. In doing so, I was able to make something really wonderful. This Dodge ProMaster was no longer a rolling delivery vehicle, but instead, a cozy oasis that would keep me safe, healthy, and secure. But as I put the finishing touches on, I realized that this tiny, mobile home wasn't the only thing I'd gained throughout a summer of hard work.

During the first few weeks of the build, my neighbor strolled down with a roll of contractors' paper and some duct tape, offering a little advice on how to make stencils for the floor. We didn't know each other well, but I think he could tell that I had bitten off more than I could chew.

From that day forward, my two-doors-down neighbor became a constant fixture of my daily life. Bert Cashman lent me tools, advice, and took trips to Home Depot with me and for me. I borrowed saws and drills, called with questions, and had an extra pair of hands to help hold up 12 foot long tongue-and-groove planks as I drilled them into the ceiling.

But above all, he spent time with me during the evenings when I was overwhelmed with this rather huge project. He gave me my very own drill, probably so I'd stop borrowing his. Cashman had numerous sayings and mantras that lifted my spirits when I fell behind on my schedule or bought the wrong item for the job or cut a piece of wood too short and had to return to the store for the third time that day.

While we worked, various neighbors would drop in during walks or pull up in the yard on the way to work, checking in on the progress. I got to know the community and found that each had incredibly fascinating stories that had taken them all over the world. They were potters, filmmakers, business owners and artists, who had traveled far and had stumbled upon Niwot, deciding to stay for one reason or another.

As my time in Niwot came to a close, I realized that I was able to build the wings I always yearned for, but also grew unintended roots that were now fixed, steadfast, in this endearing town. My new wings could take me to unknown places, to other little towns with unique communities that I was sure I'd love. However, my heart began to ache for the supportive group of friends and neighbors, who just months ago, were mere strangers. They gave me the tools, tangible and intangible, that would help me along the way and secretly watered the roots I never believed I'd grow.

Abby Scott

Scott in her empty van before the build out began.

I didn't want to leave, but the wheels were in motion, no pun intended. Cashman told me that this was the hardest part right here – one foot on the boat and one on the dock, balancing between two worlds. I just had to board the boat.

It's been three weeks of van life and I can't say I hate it. Stresses are more acute, and worries extend only to finding water, gas, food and a quiet, safe place to park at night. There's no anxiety about future plans or not keeping up with the Joneses. There's only time to focus on what's right ahead because you never know what's right around the bend.

But in my heart, I know I'll be back in Niwot permanently at some point in the future. When the sound of my own wheels drive me crazy, I'll head back to the place I now call home.


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