MONCTON – Dave Gallant, Venn Innovation’s former Director of Innovation Services, has “transitioned out” to a life in a van after selling nearly everything he owns.
“I sold 90 per cent of what I own. And I downsized from 1,200 square feet to 82 square feet, almost,” he said. “If you do things right you can have those basic comforts that you have in your home. It doesn’t feel that much of a stretch. It’s essentially like you’re in a bachelor apartment.”
Gallant is just starting out in his first month living out of a van that he’s renovated to fit a queen-sized bed that can be tucked away to reveal a U shaped couch. That and his folding table gives him some space to work on his laptop. It’s insulated for the winter, and there’s a sink, water and electricity supply, and a couple of burners for him to cook, too. He stays connected through free Wi-Fi generally available in public places.
Gallant, who says he’d rather be in nature than in the city, has been going away on what he calls micro-adventures in his SUV in the last two years.
“I outfitted the back of the SUV so I can have a mattress in there and I’d drive somewhere about 40 minutes from Moncton and I would camp overnight,” he said.
He did that on warm summer days and on cold winter days, but now time, Gallant is doing it full-time.
“I’ve always had a difficult time sitting in one place. Not necessarily one location like Moncton, or New Brunswick or Alberta. It’s more so, knowing that I’m tied to a physical location where I have to pay for rent on a monthly basis,” he said. “To me, it’s [about] the freedom of knowing that I can pick up and go somewhere else.”
Gallant’s been fascinated with minimalism, sustainability and tiny homes for nearly a decade. But an illness in the family prompted Gallant to reconsider his life and led to the decision to live in a van full-time. He’s thankful the people around him have been supportive of his decision.
“I think the realization that I wasn’t on the path that I envisioned for myself at my age was one of the big contributing factors, albeit that path is a great path, and the role I did was wonderful – I got to work with some wonderful people, which made the transition even harder,” he said.
“The community that surrounds me has been incredibly supportive of everything I’ve decided to do – that includes everyone at Venn. It’s been nothing but positive experience to work with all these folks.”
Another thing that prompted the decision was a realization that he’d been accumulating things he didn’t need over the last four years.
“When I looked in my closet and saw that I had three jackets that are the exact same, just in different colours, and 20-to-25 pairs of shoes and I had everything in excess and never used any of it, it was just consuming my mental space. That’s when I realized that I went off the path of what I always stayed true to, which is being minimalist, and that bothered me,” he explained. “Having all this stuff didn’t make me happy at all. In fact, it made me very unhappy.”
So, he sold most of his things and invested around $7,000 to buy and renovate the van. He plans to continue reducing the things he owns until most of them can fit in a backpack.
He plans to explore the Maritimes in the next year, especially northern New Brunswick and Quebec’s Gaspésie region, which are home for the Charlo native. Besides, the scenery can compete with that of the West Coast, he said.
“There are a lot of areas on the east coast and Quebec’s Gaspésie area that people just don’t shine the light on as much. And I just thought why would I go completely cross-country to explore, where I haven’t really, fully explored my own backyard,” he said.
“One of the most overlooked regions that deserve to get credit for what they have regarding nature is the north shore. I’m going to make an effort to promote that region at the grassroots level because it deserves to be recognized more for the scenery that it has, and maybe when that happens, more young folks would be drawn to the region.”
He still plans to spend a month or two on the West Coast next year, with a bigger van, but he’ll remain in Canada to be close with family.
“I always had a great bond with my parents, but through the building, the bond with my father grew even more and made me realize I don’t want to be too far away from home,” he said.
So far, the experience has had a positive effect on him. He has no plans to find a permanent place anytime soon.
“Everything that you do becomes more intentional and more time-consuming, but it forces you to live slower and to appreciate everything you have and everything you currently do.”
Although not directly related, his van life is in line with his outdoor adventure brand called Gridless Life. Through this brand, he hopes to share a message that people can disconnect from their daily anchor – whether that’s a nine-to-five or other things, and take time for an outdoor adventure.
“It’s really to promote the outdoor lifestyle and to tell people that you can have your work and you can have outdoor and adventure,” he said. “When I created this brand, that was exactly why I did it – to share this philosophy, this kind of mindset.”
His journey and media coverage of it has so far helped the brand gain followers on Instagram. It now has over 4,500 followers.
Gallant’s not sure yet where he’ll park his van next. But that’s what he likes about it.
“The beauty of the van thing is you have the freedom to just do it. I’m not making any plans, I’m just hopping in the van, and I’m going to figure it out when I’m there,” he said.