Many of you already know me... but for those who don’t:
I’m a 55 year old, low income, woman who is in the process of losing my affordable housing and being priced out of the Bay Area. My goal is to raise enough money to get my Chinook Van/RV ready to live in full time.
My very sweet landlord passed away and in the near future my affordable house is sadly going to be lost. I have spent 5 months looking at all the options available to me, from tiny homes, boats, yurts, even subsidized housing, etc.
I am not alone, so many people here in the Bay Area are losing their housing right beside me. It’s super scary and incredibly sad to see what’s happening here.
I could almost afford to stay here, maybe, barely, but it would mean getting an expensive, overpriced studio apartment that would leave me not enough to eat and pay bills or I could rent a room and share a house with a bunch of people, also expensive and overpriced. Neither option seems viable to me at my age. I’m also at a point in my life where I’m open to change and willing to take the risk of leaving what has been familiar and stable to head toward a new phase of life.
For the past 17 years I’ve also raised my grandson, and he’s off to college this coming fall so I’m free to float around. In addition to all the types of housing here in my area, I’ve considered trying to buy a cheap mobile home in Northern California and commuting to work or a little affordable condo in Detroit or Philly somewhere, but I feel like the thoughts of being isolated and stationary are totally depressing! So after some pretty intense, soul searching, months of dark times and researching everything I could find about alternative living -
I decided to get a small Class B rig and hit the road.
Although I have to admit I am a bit nervous about walking/driving away from my job and my sweet Berkeley life, but I figure what do I have to lose? I have spent my life’s work (since 1987) in the Harm Reduction field, where I’m known nationally as well as internationally, as a bit of a trail blazer. I have been working with street based drug users for over 3 decades both here in the USA and 7 years in Cambodia.
I actually named the Chinook “Chan” (pronounced Chaun) after one of my staff members in Cambodia who committed suicide. I want him to live on through this rig and every time someone asks about its name I can tell them about how devastating deportation is.
My program in Cambodia hired many of the deported Cambodian’s (green card holders who came here as refugee babies escaping the Khmer Rouge) and I trained them in Harm Reduction service delivery. We served literally 1,000’s of homeless, injection drug users and their children to prevent HIV, Hep-C and overdose.
Chan was a very, very sweet, sensitive, gentle, young man who worked closely with me and was an awesome part of our staff’s team. Unfortunately his deportation from USA to Cambodia was too much for him and he couldn’t get past his depression and he ended his life. He’d be happy to know his name won’t ever be forgotten and will serve as a catalyst to educate people about how unjust and cruel deportation is. I personally think “Chan The Chinook” has a nice ring to it too.
After all these decades of giving I’m pretty burnt out and ready to embark on a new adventure and meet new people while I still can. (And continue to try and give a bit to the community I love)
I have a super mellow 9 year old German Shepherd, who’s 100 pounds. His name is Banjo, he’ll be coming with me. He was born in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and has been by my side ever since he was just 11 weeks old.
I’ve heard so many women say that their family and friends think it’s crazy to travel or live alone in a van or RV. That’s funny because, my family and friends feel that my decision is the obvious next choice for me. I have a lot of support in my network and from my Harm Reduction work family to make this change, which has been really helpful. I feel that taking off for the road seems way better than struggling to stay here in some type of intolerable, marginal, housing situation as well.
So the perfect storm has arrived in my life, losing my housing, being burnt out from work and my grandson moving off to college. It feels that taking this opportunity to create a big change in my life seems a natural fit.
I’ve been raising a kid since I was 20 years old (first my daughter and then my grandson) and really have no idea of what adult life is like without one! I have literally been making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for almost 36 years straight!
Having housing insecurity for the past year has been awful. But! I’m not going to be homeless! I Just got this sweet 1995 Chinook and I’m going to remain positive as I make it my home. I am fully aware of how lucky I am to have the privilege of a vehicle to live in and I will never take it for granted. I drive by tent cities all day long in this area and I’m fully aware that affordable housing, or even a vehicle, is unattainable by so many people.
Chan is a 95’ Chinook side entry. It has a Ford E350 7L engine. Chinooks with the side entry are as rare as a unicorn to find. They are amazing vehicles. They have a cult following and maintain their value like no other RV in their class. The one I have originally went for $115k back in 1995! They're considered the sports car of RVs and hold the land speed record for class B RVs. I feel it’s totally worth fixing up and restoring it to its former glory.
The rig is older and has quite a few miles on it and some major repairs need to be done. I have some time to raise funds and fix it up to make it safe and to meet my needs over the upcoming months and then head out this fall/early winter after my grandson is settled at college. Although, I could be living in it sooner depending on when I have to move.
Chan The Chinook needs some major work on the breaks and suspension, tires, propane furnace, ball joint work and refrigerator replacement as well as some upgrades to the solar system and an internet/Wi-Fi addition. I’m trying to raise money get the work done and make some customizations so it can be lived in full time.
I have also created a wishlist on Amazon (which I’m happy to share with you, just send me a request) to help stock it up with things to make it safe, secure, fun and livable, as well as to create a setup to earn some income on the road. Most of the items on the wish list are essential and a few are toys to play with and keep me from getting board out there.
Once on the road, I’m hoping to do some YouTube work and see if I can build up a following and make a bit of money that way. I went to video broadcasting school back in the late 80’s and have some skills with the camera and will work on updating my editing skills too. So when I put up the YouTube channel “Chan The Chinook” please subscribe!!!
I set the campaign at $15k because of all the mechanical work Chan needs and am hoping to have some money leftover to make additional things like the solar, internet and storage work for me so I can begin to video and edit on the road. I will be focusing my YouTube channel on the American opioid crisis and overdose as well as harm reduction programs and activists that are saving lives in the places I’m traveling through and of course a lot of content on full time RV life. I’m planning on launching the YouTube channel in June. Basically I figured, hey just go for it. I’m looking forward to my transition into the nomadic, van dwelling community!
I'm happy to answer any questions you have and am grateful for each and every donation that people make. I’ll update this campaign with pictures and stories as time moves on.
One Life To Live...
Peace & Thank you,
- Michelle Rodolph
- Roxanne Saucier
- Frank Castro
- Sally Thomas
- Sarah Deutsch
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