Saskatoon man sells everything to live in van
Imagine selling it all and starting over.
For Saskatoon’s Jesse Boldt it was an easy choice.
Since April 2018, he – along with his seven-year-old kuvasz-German shepherd, Layla – have been living in a 1998 Dodge cargo van.
The lifestyle was spurred by taking on too much debt, at just 20 years old.
“I bought a house, had an auto loan and a credit card – doing everything that everyone else seemed to do, but eventually it just didn’t feel right to me.”
That’s when the 30-year-old MMA instructor knew he had to minimalize.
“This would allow me the freedom to start at ground zero and slowly build something that I wanted to do, which is going to be involved in martial arts,” Boldt said.
The van life wasn’t a strange concept to him, embracing it years ago while living in Australia.
“Deep down I always knew I wanted to do the van life again,” Boldt said.
“Working all these jobs that I didn’t like, that itch started getting stronger and stronger and eventually I was like yeah it’s time now.”
WATCH BELOW: Jesse Boldt describes what he felt his first night in the van
Boldt sold his house and got rid of everything except some books.
He found his four-wheeled fortress on Kijiji and spent about $2,000 purchasing and renovating.
He describes it as super basic. There’s a bed, propane stove, shelving for storage – but no running water. For showers, he heads to a leisure centre.
Boldt said he often cooks in the van. During the summer he’s even prepared five-course meals.
A little bit of money goes a long way in the van, according to Boldt.
“If I’m pulling in around $800 to $1,000 a month that pays for all my expenses,” he explained. “It allows me to eat out every now and then, get a nice coffee and still put money in my savings account.”
For Boldt, it’s the freedom that means more than any luxuries.
“Whether it’s training, teaching, going to coffee shops, walking Layla, sitting in a sauna, reading, writing, podcasting – like literally everything I wanna do is what I do in a day.”
He admitted there are challenges – like the weather. Staying warm during a Saskatchewan winter can be tough during the best of circumstances.
At night, he plugs in his electric heater outside the gym where he trains, but he’s also braved the elements without it, as a personal challenge.
“The coldest I slept through without a heater was -22 Celsius,” he said. “I had about seven blankets, I had long johns on, my jeans, wool socks, three hoodies, a toque and even my eyeshade.”
“Now if it’s like -30 [Celsius] or colder we’re in the garage – I have a nice big heated garage that I rent and it’s a life saver, literally.”
He said privacy can also be an issue, adding there’s one thing he didn’t anticipate would bother him as much as it does.
“It already looks a bit creepy or whatever just parked there, so when I have a light on and people walk by – I just feel like people can see in the van or it’s bringing a bit of heat to me.”
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Thank goodness for his trusty guard dog. Boldt said being in the van makes it easy for Layla to scope out the situation.
“She just pops her head up,” he said. “It’s on a swivel – she can see the whole house, she sees her surroundings and I think that gives her a lot of comfort.”
Boldt described Layla as his “ride or die” since day one. He said the transition for her was almost better than it was for him and her demeanour changed for the better as well.
“She used to be a lot more aggressive than she is because I worked like 12-hour days,” he explained. “She wasn’t getting that attention she wasn’t being socialized whereas now from day one, I kind of set a goal to walk at least 10 kilometres a day.”
Boldt and his partner in crime are celebrating their nine-month “vanniversary” and hoping for more ahead.
“We want to keep doing the van life, but honestly next winter I think we’re going to hit the road and really put this van to the test.”
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