What do climber Alex Honnold, ultra-runner Anton Krupicka, and climber-photographer Jimmy Chin have in common? They all live or have lived in their car during their professional careers.


That all-or-nothing philosophy may help explain their success. Alex Honnold is perhaps the most successful and popular climber in the world at the moment. Anton Krupicka has won countless major ultrarunning races, and Jimmy Chin is a success across many disciplines – he is a climber, photographer and filmmaker with more than one million followers on Instagram.


Sleeping, eating, and training out of your car is an entirely unique experience.


Pursuing Passion at All Cost

When Alex Honnold first started climbing, he wasn’t the sponsored, world-famous climber he is now. He was simply obsessed with climbing and wanted to do it every day. The only way to be able to do this was to live as a “dirtbag.”


This might seem like an odd way to describe this lifestyle. But a dirtbag is defined by the Urban Dictionary as “a person who is committed to a given (usually extreme) lifestyle to the point of abandoning employment and other societal norms in order to pursue said lifestyle,” which is an accurate description. By this definition, dirtbags live the way the do not because they enjoy it, but because they are pursuing a dream. They are willing to live in poverty, without any luxuries such as TV and warm water, in order to pursue their passion.


After a race or competition, we often hear athletes say, “I gave everything I had.” In a way these athletes are truly giving everything they have because they are willing to commit fully, not only during training and races or expeditions, but in life. They give away everything they had or could have had so that they can live their dream. There is no compromise.


There is something special about that commitment. I’m sure many people working behind a desk would, in theory, love to quit all their responsibilities and live their dream. But most people are not willing to leave everything behind, because we are used to our luxury. Or maybe you have inescapable responsibilities and a family.  


The Realities of Pursuing Your Passion

Perhaps that’s why these athletes are so popular. They are living the life that we would like to live, whether it is climbing kayaking, surfing, or skiing every day. When we follow these athletes on social media or read articles about them, we get a feel for what it’s like to live their life. It’s an exhilarating concept. You wake up and drive anywhere you want to go. Whether you want to climb a new mountain, find a new trail to run on, or find the perfect spot to surf, the possibilities are endless.


"It may seem appealing to live on the road, but the trunk of a car is far from a five-star hotel room."

Why not take it a step further and get a feel for what it’s like to live on the road yourself?  Sleeping in a car is the most inexpensive way to travel. You don’t need a fancy van. Any car can be converted into a mobile house. This van life allows you to travel to anywhere and sleep wherever you want. It brings you a sensation of freedom that most people only dream about.


However, the realities of this type of lifestyle need to be considered. It may seem appealing to live on the road, but the trunk of a car is far from a five-star hotel room. It gets warm on summer days and cold in the winter. You also need to limit the amount of clothes and gear you take, which may be difficult if you are a triathlete or climber and need to bring along your equipment.


Try It for Yourself

If you want to give this van-life lifestyle a try for a weekend or even longer, here are some tips that may help make your experience better:


  • Park your car somewhere quiet, with few cars or people passing by.
  • Bring ear plugs and an eye mask.
  • Bring a good foldable mattress rather than the small inflatable mattresses used for camping.
  • Park your car close to an establishment with a restroom. If you are in complete wilderness, bring paper towels and baby wipes.  
  • Always have a headlamp close to you if you need to get out of your “bed” in the middle of the night.
  • Pack all your equipment and your training clothes separately from your casual clothing. You don’t want all the dirt, mud, and sweat to transfer to your jeans and t-shirts.
  • Always keep non-perishable food in your car. For instance, I always have rice, cans of beans, dried fruits, dried edamame, and nuts.
  • Upload eBooks and podcasts to your phone for entertainment.
  • Bring a GoPro, camera, charger for your phone, and other equipment.
  • Buy and bring a gas stove. You’ll use it to cook meals and prepare coffee and tea, especially when it’s cold and you’ve spent all day exercising outdoors.  


Give it a go for a weekend, and you’ll start to understand the freedom this lifestyle provides and the sacrifices it entails. Here is a video of me as a vegan pro triathlete training, sleeping, and eating out of my car for a weekend. Post your experiences to comments!


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Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.