When John Sweat first went rock climbing in Yosemite National Park, two things happened, he says. He fell in love with the sport, and he realized how convenient it would be if he could live in his car.
Yosemite is a destination for an estimated 150,000 climbers each year, and a lot of those climbers, he noticed, stay on-site in their vehicles. "People there just brought their homes with them," Sweat, now 27, tells CNBC Make It. "Their whole home system is just geared towards being able to adventure."
"Vanlife," or living out of your vehicle, has become a trend in the past few years as increasing numbers of Americans have downsized to save money and, often, to be more mobile. Both of these prospects appealed to Sweat. Last year, he had $2,300 in credit card debt and owed $8,500 in student loans. If he eliminated his housing costs, he realized, he could put more money towards getting out of the red.
So a few months after his trip — around the time Alex Honnold went to Yosemite in his van and famously climbed the 3,000-foot granite monolith El Capitan without a rope — Sweat sold his Subaru. He left his apartment, took out a $12,000 loan to purchase a used 2010 Chevy Express 2500 and moved into the van.
Here's why, for Sweat, embracing vanlife has turned out to be a great decision.