Our road trip throughout North America opened our eyes to a whole new world. This country is beautiful, enormous and simply amazing. It has geography of every kind: from beaches to deserts, to mountains & valleys, waterfalls, red rocks, snowy cliffs, to forests & redwoods and big hustling & bustling cities. As beautiful as it is, there is a whole other world of humans who live in cardboard boxes on the streets, under tree logs in the forest, and park benches by the beach. These people are real people, with families who were once children just like us. Were not sure how they got to where they are now, it could be poor choices, bad luck, their up-lifting, or possibly the hardship of our economy in America.
I used to volunteer with a non-profit humanitarian organization called www.SurfingTheNations.com based in Wahiawa, Oahu, HI. When people knew I lived in Hawaii they would alway imagine me waking up to rainbows and crystal clear waters. Actually, this time, we lived in a ghetto town with meth heads , prostitutes and hundreds of homeless wandering the streets. We worked with these people , volunteered at homeless & youth shelters, the food bank industry and conducted projects on a daily basis.
There is one project I can still remember clearly and will never forget. One day we set out on a 1-day mission to Chinatown, Honolulu. We were each given 1$ to live on for the next 24 hours. We could do anything we wanted with that 1$, the choice to use it on our own or share it with our teammates. One simple day living off 1$ will be a day I never forget. Sleeping in the park, uncomfortable and hungry, alls I wanted was for time to pass by. Sharing our 1$ with others, we were able to buy bigger meals at the cheapest place we could find, McDonalds. The next day we woke up , feeling as though we were " tripping." Walking around early morning seeing the drunks just coming out of the bars, the prostitutes hanging on the corner, the homeless sleeping on the streets, cold and hungry and some shooting up. I can remember, I could actually relate on SOMEWHAT of a level to how they felt for just one moment. The next day we helped give out meals at a homeless shelter on barely little sleep. We talked with these people, got to know them and hear their stories......
During our road trip we witnessed so many homeless people sleeping on the streets, under cardboard bags in cities, in the redwood forests, on the beaches with blankets over their head, you name it. Feeling so thankful that at least we had a warm van with a bed to sleep in, we wanted to do something special for the homeless. During the holidays we applied to many food bank industries and shelters all over California but never heard back from any of them. As we let the idea go for a bit, there comes along this Old School Camper Van from back in the 80's. A 1986 Dodge Ram Camper Van to be exact. An old beast we found on Craigslist with the thought to upgrade from our Chevy, to a larger vehicle for more space. Right away we called to go have a look. It was a couple from Iceland whom were singers and photographers that owned this vehicle and they were leaving country the next day, so this vehicle HAD TO BE SOLD. Originally asking for 3000$ they lowered to 2000$, then 1000$, and then when we declined we woke up to a message from them OFFERING TO GIVE IT AWAY FOR FREE.We immediatly went to go and pick it up, and there we see them driving the thing into storage. We stopped and waived at them and they stopped the car.
" We're so sorry, but we thought about it and we can't just give it to you for free, we put way too much only into it."
No way we thought, this is too ironic that we saw them on the way to put the vehicle in storage, so we gave them our best offer and it was a deal ! Or so we thought...
"Oh we forgot to tell you, the plates were stolen off yesterday morning, but here's a receipt from the police you can go and get it fixed with no time tomorrow."
First thing we did, take it to a mecanic to have it checked out and be parked somewhere while there were no plates on it. A couple days later we get a call that it was going to be approximately $2500 to fix. LETS GET RID OF IT we thought. But that wasn't as simple as we thought...We put it up for 1000$ right away to get rid of it and straight away over 30 phone calls and emails of people begging for the Vehicle. " Is it smogged," was the question of the day. What the """"" is smog? I thought. We looked it up, and in California in order for a vehicle to be able to get registered and insured it must be smogged, which is a " certificate that the vehicle is not polluting the environment." But in order for it to be smogged, we'd pretty much have to put down that $2500 to fix it, plus this vehicle didn't have any brakes. Should we lie, should we say its okay, I mean this is a camper van people can live in, what should we do , we thought.
We later received a phone call from a lady who seemed to be a little bit intoxiated . We couldn't understand much of what she was saying except that she got a divorce and needs something to live in. She said she was coming ASAP to see the car. A couple hours later, she arrives with a dark skinned man in an old beat up 1980 lexus car. They took it for a test drive, asked the couple main questions just like everyone else.. " YIPPYYYY, they screamed at each other, we got a house we can live in here!" Then the man looks at me in the face, mumbleing a bit and slow in his words he asks " but ma'am, you really think this will pass the smog test? You know we bought a car before with no plates and it was such a hassle to get it registered. This is all the money we have, but this could be our home! Could you follow us to the dmv just to make sure everything is okay and then we give you the money?" Joackim and I , stressed about what to do began arguing on the way there. When we arrive to the DMV, some switch light hit us. I get out of the car with the title, registration and set of keys, " This is for you, it has caused us alot of trouble and we just want to give it to you, we hope that somehow you can get it going and make it your home." Their eyes wide open and mouths dropped, I then ran away....
Later that night I received a text message from another person whom I spoke with earlier that was also interested in the vehicle.
"Hey did you sell the van?" He asked. "Yes we did, why?" "Because I saw it parked in Oakland and looked the the picture I saw on the add. "
Just so happens, that the people we gave it away to were from Oakland, looks like they got those plates fixed and the Van running after all. So maybe we didn't get to help out at the homeless shelter this Christmas, or volunteer at the food bank; but , instead we were able to provide a shelter for two people.
" Life always seems to work its way out for the better," And it seems these people needed this Van much more then we did ...
With love from the Van lifers , the SMOGGERS