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People are ditching their apartments to live the 'van life'

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People are ditching their apartments to live the 'van life'

WATCH | One guy decided to live in a van to save money and another decided to live and work inside a school bus to maximize profits

The 'van life'

Imagine paying $120 to live in a studio in Los Angeles, California, where the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is about $2,300.

Sounds nice, huh?

Stephen Hutchins, 22, a freelance animation artist and rapper by the name of Lateral , does just that, except he doesn't live in an apartment -- or a studio, really. He lives in a van.

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A recent graduate of the University of Southern California, Stephen Hutchins is living in a van while he builds his portfolio as a freelance animator.

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A few miles away in Santa Monica, Zander Kingsley, owner and founder of Kowasa Clothing Co., is living in a school bus that he's fixing up.

He's not alone. Last year, 4,600 cars and RVs were used as homes, according to The Los Angeles Times.


L.A., like many cities, has a housing shortage. This, coupled with a 3.1 percent vacancy rate, makes affordable living in L.A. an oxymoron.


"The main expenses are insurance for the van, which is like $60 a month," said Hutchins. "Then, I have a storage unit for like $60."

That puts his monthly rent at $120. The van cost him just $125 at an auction.

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Stephen usually eats turkey burgers he cooks on the sidewalk on a portable stove.

Minimizing my bills can essentially allow me to work less hours.
Stephen Hutchins

Hutchins works part-time at a Taco Bell to help pay the bills, and he says living in a van has slashed his cost of living by $800 a month.


He showers at the gym, cooks on a portable stove on a sidewalk (he stores his butane at his friends' place nearby) and uses wifi at nearby coffeeshops. 

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Zander Kingsley lives in this school bus.

Kingsley's company on wheels

Meanwhile, Kingsley is living and working inside a school bus.

His clothing company is known for being on wheels. You can find it at music festivals, farmers markets and other outdoor events up and down the California coast.

"My expenses are maybe campground here and there," said Kingsley. "Cost of fuel, which diesel is cheaper than gas right now. And insurance, which is really cheap too. I don't pay rent, so I can put more back into the business at the end of the day."

$1,000 in parking tickets

One thing he hasn't saved on is parking tickets.

While sleeping in your car isn't against the law in L.A., parking where you're not supposed to is.

Before he came to the west coast, Zander was traveling up and down the east coast of the United States.

"I think I've gotten about $1,000 in parking tickets."

Kingsley and Hutchins are a part of a greater movement that even has a hashtag on Instagram.

The bigger picture

The #vanlife, says Jon Christensen, who's with the UCLA Institute of Environment and Sustainability, is about more than just necessity or saving for this generation.

"Van life addresses that kind of philosophical or even spiritual dimension of dissatisfaction with the busy-ness and clutter of our modern life," said Christensen.

And ditching brick and mortar structures for more mobile, smaller ones could be part of bigger trend, too.

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Jon Christensen, who's with the UCLA Institute of Environment and Sustainability, says the "van life" is very much an all-American, Henry David Thoreau ideal.

We have habits that were created in the 20th century that are beginning not to work so well in the 21st century.
Jon Christensen

"We have habits that were created in the 20th century that are beginning not to work so well in the 21st century," said Christensen.

"That includes cars that are only used a fraction of the time -- vast spaces of freeways and parking lots that are only used a fraction of the time."

Would you live the van life?

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