Updated: Mar 25, 2020
One of the questions I get most frequently about the van life is “what do your parents think?”
Especially because I come from an Asian background, people often assume that I have strict/ traditional thinking parents, which is not the case at all. Any of my friends who have met my family can attest to how chill they are.
I am very fortunate to be raised by two amazing human beings who have always valued and nurtured my love for creating and exploring. As a child and teenager I was pretty stubborn/defiant and challenged their boundaries over and over again. I always had a “take it or leave it” kind of attitude, refusing to do/be anything except what felt true to me in the moment. And I was blessed with parents who very quickly accepted and respected my need for freedom, allowing me to be go about things my own way as long as I played within their safety boundaries.
A lot of this I think was also made possible because of the trusting relationship my brother and I had with our parents. Of course, like all kids we told small white lies about skipping school sometimes or sneaking out, but when it came to the important things, we trusted that we could tell our parents and that they would be fair; and they trusted that we were telling the truth. So even though there was often physical distance between us (my dad works overseas most of the year), we always felt a sense of love and safety when it came to our family, and knew that if shit ever hit the fan we would have each other’s backs.
So when I told my dad that I wanted to write a blog post to answer the question “what do your parents think of van life?”, he wrote me an email response with permission to share with you all. The email was written in Chinese (which I also included in case anyone wanted the original version), so this is my translated version of what he said:
“When raising you (and my brother), mom and dad’s belief always was that we have no right to decide your lives. If life was a painting, all we can do is provide you with brushes, paints, and allow you to paint your own picture. Since you two were little we allowed you to learn art, dance, instruments, singing, play go, poetry, are all forms of paints and brushes, hoping that from within these you take away the ability to freely create your own lives.
Dad knows that your body houses a soul that cannot be restricted, longing to explore a colorful and different life. Do you remember that year when we took a family vacation by the beach and talked about me opening a Taiwanese restaurant after I retire? You and your brother said that you would help me run it, and I told you a little restaurant cannot contain your wild minds. You laughed, but I wasn’t joking. Because I understand you two, especially you. Because mom and I have always encouraged you to have your own opinions and ideas, so since you were very young, we discussed almost every family decision together, and listened to your suggestions, even when we bought new houses each of you got one vote.
When you chose to leave University, even though I was worried, I still respected your decision; when you competed in bodybuilding, we fully supported you; when you chose to go to counselling college, we fully supported you; when you went to Mexico, even though we were very worried, we still fully supported you. Now you choose van life, even though mom and I are concerned about your safety, we still fully support you. The reason we support you through all of this is simple: 1. We trust you, believe that you have your own reasons, and will take care of yourself
2. We trust that you have your own ideas, and have the courage to chase your own dreams
These last few years you have made me so proud, I have a great daughter, because you never gave up your dreams, even though you left school, you still continued to learn in different ways through reading, writing, gaining experience and creating.
Now you choose the van life, choosing to be able to “start” at any time, start to go find yourself, and explore a different self. Similar to your life in Mexico, wandering, dad understands, like 悔之叔叔(his long time friend who is a poet in Taiwan) said “all artists and creators have spirits that cannot be restricted”. Living many kinds to different lifestyles will nourish your creative heart. A soul kept in a cage cannot write moving poetry.
I often describe your life in the last few years to my friends with pride, because I have a brave daughter. Only a brave soul can have such a colorful rich life, and although brave souls can often experience moments of weakness, the brave souls can feel and face those moments.
Dad only wishes you to be safe and happy! Also reminding you, whenever you feel week, remember that you have a warm home, have the embrace of your family. Love you! “
你放棄大學，雖然爸爸有點憂慮，還是尊重你的決定；你去參加健美比賽，我們全力支持你；你選擇去上counseling college，我們全力支持你； 你去墨西哥，雖然我和媽媽相當憂
I am so grateful for the opportunities that my parents have provided me, the sacrifices they have made, and for their constant love and support. I love you.