|Comments on Wednesday 27 February 2008:|
|I've been failing to get around to posting this (or something like it) for several days now, and a vocabulary error in a spam subject line has just made it more compelling:|
subject: Want an Escape from the Dismal US Reality Market?While I may not be in the US, I do still want an escape from the US Reality Market, actually. My discomfort with the UK is largely due to it become more US-ish. Australia wasn't doing a lot better. It's getting to the point where there's nowhere left that isn't part of the US Reality Market. Canada seems like the best bet that doesn't require learning a language, but it's so adjacent, and the immigration requirements make it a difficult task for such an uncertain result.
In the shorter term, I'm not enjoying owning a house after all. It's annoying and I feel trapped by it. I moved here because I'd be able to do things I want to do here, like archery, fencing, tai-chi and (added since) bouldering, but by getting a house in the sub-area I can afford, I can't actually do any of those things without either driving, or walking about an hour each way. Which restriction means I don't end up actually doing the things very often at all. The house is spacious, and I essentially end up not using most of it. I use the kitchen and the small bedroom, and the rest is just a waste of heating space and unnecessary distance I have to walk to get a drink.
And in this dismay, the idea occurs to me that a change is in order. A change that reflects this discontent and dismisses it. In which role has been placed the idea of getting a camper-van, and living in it. Fit with solar panels I should be able to get a hundred watts in the daytime even in the UK, and I can easily run everything I need on less than a fifty watt average. Internet access based on the mobile phone networks is finally just about up to the point of being adequate. Any half-decent camper-van has a cooker and fridge that can be run on gas. Showers are available by the simple expedient of going swimming. With a plain enough looking van, randomly selected road-parking ought to be adequate - so long as I don't stay in the same place too long, nobody would complain (or even know). I couldn't so much have people round, but it seems most often I end up going to other people's places anyway so that's hardly important. I don't think my dad would mind if I use his place as an 'official' address and for deliveries. Running costs would probably be less than a house even without mortgage payments - tax is less, no utilities except mobile, heating such a small space could probably be done just with me and my computer.
What aspect have I failed to consider in this tentative plan? [18:55]
|If as you say Britain is becoming US-ish I would suggest you check out a website dedicated to living this way.|
In the US there are many places that get stupid about a van in their neighborhood. I have been an advocate of small footprint living for some time, and there are many cyber communities dedicated to it, some with international ties. Will email you a couple. Good luck RB.
|Well, if you fail to buy into the whole "your self-worth is your property" scheme, then mostly the cost is in convenience. Not the sort of thing that could work in my climate, though. Heating a van through a Canadian winter would likely be comperable to a mortgage in cost.|
|Dunno, you could somewhat insulate the van, and it's a pretty small space (and surface area). Heated by gas it might not be so bad, though inconvenient to have to replace the canisters as often as might be necessary. Diesel-powered heaters also exist. And also don't forget that a human is about a 1kW heater, too.|
Actually, I was thinking that for Canada (or for the eventual "mostly parking in a forest that I own" not in Canada, whichever becomes plausible sooner) that it wouldn't take *much* modification to fit a small wood-burning stove (chimney and inlet to the outside), which would make it very inexpensive indeed to heat.
Note for later self-reference or in case someone comes here with a google search at some point - Diesel heater example here http://www.webasto.com.au/am/en/am_rv_heaters.html (also recommended; Eberspacher). The example has a 2kW output consuming 0.24 litres of fuel. Constant heating then would be about £1 per hour, but constant 2kW would be a terrible excess for such a small space. Still, conclusion, yes, even a diesel heater would be fairly expensive to run, even if it were only £0.25 per hour usage.
|I've lived on boats or in caravans about half my life, and believe me, it's not all it's cracked up to be.|
Sure, you have all that independence, and freedom, and if you don't like your neighbours you can just up and leave, but that's only about 10% of what constitutes life spent in a small movable home. Most of the time you're not really thinking about your neighbours because you're trying to get over the cramped sleep you just had, or you're busy slopping out your own shit. The romance wears off pretty quick. You're also spending a lot of time and money restocking the fridge because it's so tiny. You once told me you're a bit over six foot, didn't you? That's going to be a hassle.
The ratio between time spent maintaining the living space and time spent just living in it is about twenty times worse than that of a house. Things aren't so bad if you're up for spending luxury prices, but they're still pretty inconvenient. Caravans aren't quite as bad as boats, what with not having to maintain the complicated stuff which stops you from sinking, but the fuel consumption pretty much balances that out, *especially* these days, and I would imagine *especially* *especially* in a year or two. You might resent all that space you have at the moment, but I really think once you don't have that ease of living you'll come to miss it.
"Creep" is completely out of the question. I'm sure that most days you don't mind tidying up after yourself, but sometimes you'll want to not bother for a couple of days, and you can't really be doing that in such a small space. Having the clothes you're drying imbued with the smell of whatever your cooking ain't the best either. You can just never quite get clean, for some reason.
The list of discomforts goes on and on, and you won't really realise how much of your head-space and budget will be taken up by them until you've spent a good bit of time actually experiencing them. Simply renting a van for a month or two probably...
|...won't be enough, but I would recommend at least doing that before you commit the majority of your bank balance to living that way. You need to know what a winter feels like as well.|
I reckon you're probably thinking "Bah, I'm not like most people All those creature comforts are no big deal to me". Well that's true of me too, and probably more so, *and* I was brought up on boats - pretty damned small ones - until I was ten years old it was all I knew - and even I find it a serious pain.
Probably much better to sell up and buy a small flat closer to the centre of town. It will make up for the distance issues, but you'll still be stuck in the American Empire.
This was my idea for myself when considering similar problems: Guyana. It's English speaking. It's in the commonwealth. Not too bad for guerrilla rebels who'll kidnap westeners, and it doesn't really have any serious militaristic disputes with anyone. It's mountainous, flat, and coastal within fairly small distances. Possibly the clincher for you, it's in the bottom 10% in population density in the world. It's about the size of mainland Britain, and has less than a million people, most of which are living in the capital (which is tucked away in the north), or around it. It's also bordered with Brazil, which is a non-extraditionary country, so you can nip across there when Britain decides to house arrest all it's citizens.
|Also, 50 watt average? Really? So you switch your PC off occasionally?!|
|Probably a lot of why I'm not happy with the house is actually because it's still not actually finished with the preemptive maintenance. Annoyingly I'll still have to finish that before I move out, so when I actually *am* moving out, a major part of my reason to do so won't be there any more.|
On the up side, I'm not coming at this with no experience at all - I lived for a year pretty much entirely in a room smaller than a camper van - there was access to a shared kitchen but I didn't like to use it much. I also lived for a year in a (relatively large) caravan with my mother. So I do have experience of the winters and of the annoying toilets. Caravan really less hassle than house.
Also, small fridge really not an issue for me. I haven't even bothered to plug my fridge in since getting the kitchen up to scratch, because I have so little stuff in it.
Not deluding myself that it won't be annoying in one way or another, but I do think it'll be a step towards what I want, which staying here is not.
Guyana sounds similar to Belize; flash floods and insects probably both issues, still got the dubious crime-rate. I think I have to stick with Canada as the goal (though rural France still possibly has its advantages.)
|Even if it's on *all the time* a laptop only averages about 30 watts if it's not under load. 50 is with a safety margin. Might be worthwhile for me to invest in one of those metering sockets to confirm this, but I'm pretty sure that's the case. The transformer can't do more than 120 watts and obviously that's going to account for plenty of spare.|
|Yeah, rural France was pretty good to me actually. Probably a lot cheaper than Canada property-wise as well.|
They will douse you in holy water, and stake you through the heart when they find out you're a teetotal vegan though.
Having already lived in a Caravan is a massive plus. I've met so many people on the waterways and in traveler communities who took a 2 week barge holiday and sold up to go and live the lifestyle, only to regret it hugely.
Incidentally, have you considered boats instead of vans? The funny thing about the canals is that, even in a very urban part of London, as soon as you step on the tow-path you suddenly loose that oppressive city vibe. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's rural even when you're in the city, but fellow canal users will smile and nod to you as you go past. Not exactly important to you, but it beats getting beeped and scowled at by the fellow road users.
|...30 watts? Jesus Christ. You don't like to play graphics intensive games ever? I've never actually tested it, but seeing as I recently had to replace my 300 Watt PSU, because my Geforce wasn't getting enough power, I kind of thought it'd be a hell of a lot more than 30 watts, even if it's a laptop.|
Also, I thought you liked to sit with the TV on and not watch it 24/7.
|Rural Canada's actually cheaper property-wise if you're looking at getting a big piece. 90 acres for the price of a few acres in rural France. (From what I've seen anyway.) Google for cheap land in New Brunswick, British Columbia or Nova Scotia, as compared to... guh, I forget where was relatively cheap in France, but you probably know that anyway.|
I did consider boats a few years ago when I was just returning to the UK - the mooring fees are outrageous though, and the ability to travel is much more limited. Advantage in floods though! Nik tells me you're actually allowed to anchor basically anywhere that *isn't* an approved mooring for free, which makes it more compelling, but the camper van still ties in better to Phase 2: Operation Buy A Forest.
Graphics intensive games on a laptop evidently still manage to run less than 120 watts, given that the transformer can't do more than that. I played Bioshock on this machine. So yeah, I'd be a bit time-limited for playing graphics intensive games possibly (though doing it on a sunny day would mean I'd have the full 120 watt supply anyway perhaps), but I could always just turn it off for the night to catch up. I suppose it might become a problem for the programming and testing of a graphics-intensive game, but the solar panel array in that scheme is only occupying about half of the roof anyway, so I could ramp it up if necessary.
|(Well, that's for land with comparable right-to-build - in Canada apparently you can pretty much build a home anywhere you own land, so you don't pay the extra for the planning permission that you would in the UK or France.)|
|The year before last I mostly lived on a boat in central London. There are some in some way cared for, if not completely gated mooring spots in the conurbations, and they do cost a ridiculous amount, yes. I think for a 72 ft, by 7ft narrow-boat you're looking at an average of £300 a week. Everywhere else in central London is at least a free for all, with a fair usage policy. In Angel, Islington for example, you're allowed to stay for 6 months a year, if there is a spot free. If you make the mooring warden a cup of tea or two, he'll give you an extra 3 months. Other places, like near Camden Lock, or Little Venice, by Paddington, you're allowed 3 weeks a year, I think. We, and lots of our neighbours kept the boat there for 18 months, and nobody said anything. There are rules, but they aren't enforced strongly, unless the house dwellers nearby are particularly snooty, or you're particularly anti-social.|
I lived on a converted Liberty Lines lifeboat tug motor-sailor, which was about the maximum width and drought the British canal system can cope with, but it could basically go all over the world as well, with enough tins in the cupboard (it could also capsize and self-right, without letting in water, which gave it +8 super-villain-points and +10 water-resistance).
There's a whole lot more water than road out there.
Belize seems like a random place to know about. You said it like that was somewhere else you'd considered...?
|Ah well. If I'd known that two years ago I'd probably have got a houseboat, but when I was researching it sounded like you couldn't park anywhere without fees. And now I'm no longer in a position to do that since the money I'd have done it with is now part of the house (which I intend to rent out rather than sell). A camper van is a lot cheaper than a boat. Also important, compatibility with Phase 2!|
And yeah, I considered and researched Belize - cheap land (25k for 12 acres full of fruit trees, retail, but also crazy government schemes for unowned land), quite English-speaking, pretty easy immigration, not-dreadful internet. But hot and insects and crime.
|So it's a forest now days, is it? What happened to Matryoshka submarines, or private volcanoes?|
|...and +eldritch-Scottish-hacker points for planning an energy system which requires you to stay in on the sunny days, and code.|
|Submarines - phase 5.|
Volcanoes - were never a plan.
|You pikey-wanna-be bastard... :)|
Sadly, my favorite part of Canada has become a property hot-spot. Rents are on the order of $1.50 -$3.oo a square foot/mo, and may or may not include niceties like power and heat.
(If you recall your visit to Edmonton, you and Raven popped by my apartment downtown , and at that time 1100+ square feet with heat and water was about $600.oo/mo. I moved out of that building in 2001, when my smaller studio I moved into later was going to jump to 900.oo/mo. I dont want to think of what the rent is now.)
Suburb living is almost as bad, and WILL require a car, period. Rural living over a half-hour's drive starts to bring down the price, but you're still looking at $300-500,000.oo for a small acreage.
However, the camper strategy is workable in the smaller, more rural places, if you can telecommute. It has taken a few years, but we're expanding the high-speed wireless coverage (I'm at about 2MB up/down, and no enforced bandwidth cap) and fibre-to-small-communities at an astonishing rate, even if it took 5 years for it to reach my acreage.
|Let's turn your mostly unused house into a battlefield for remotely controlled robots? ) I got one made by myself out of cheep remotely controlled toy car with a webcamera mounted on the top and connected to a PC, but i don't have enough place in my flat for more of them...|
I can give you a link for a testdrive around my room if you're somehow intrested...