• Without Walls: Dylan Bellingan

    The road to simplicity may be difficult—but it isn’t complicated. It’s all about down-sizing your needs, then hitting the highway to have the adventure of your dreams. Dylan Bellingan got himself on that simple road when he bought a gutted 1993 Chevy work van and converted it into his full-time home. “The biggest thing was, ‘What am I going to do to make it to where I can live off less, and still live very comfortably?’ And when you do that, life becomes less stressful. It takes awhile, but anyone can figure it out.”

    Driving solo in his van, “Pearl,” Dylan has traveled up to Canada,  down to Mexico, and has reached both coasts—all in search of good waves to surf, incredible likeminded people to meet and experiences that can’t be bought or found anywhere else. Even though this experiment of living in a van was only supposed to last one year, Dylan, 28, has comfortably made it work for the last 16 months—and he has no plans of stopping anytime soon. 

    We caught up with Dylan to find out more about who he is and what it’s like live life at the cutting edge of simplicity.
    Photos by Dylan Bellingan and Luciana McIntosh. Words by Andrew Bisharat.

    How many miles have you put on Pearl in the last 16 months?
    I left Dallas, Texas, on January 4, 2013. And I’ve probably put on 25,000 to 30,000 miles since.

    Are you from Dallas originally?
    No, I actually grew up in South Africa. In Durban. That’s where my family is from. I grew up on the coast and lived a very relaxed lifestyle on the beach. My dad taught me surfing and boogie boarding. Lots of BBQs. Ate a lot of lobster. I was around surfing and this very cool, laid-back lifestyle. We moved to Dallas when I was 7.

    What brought your family to the U.S.?
    We moved to the States just after the end of apartheid. Nelson Mandela was coming out of prison, and no one really knew what was going to happen to the state of the country. It was kind of scary. There was a lot of crime, and a lot of families who had the means moved away. A lot of people went to Australia, Europe, the States. We went to the States because my mom had a brother here.

    Was moving from South Africa to Dallas a big change?
    Totally. I kind of became this materialistic type of kid—just from growing up in the suburbs and because of who I was hanging out with. I became more materialistic, like, what kind of car you have, what you are wearing—that’s what I thought made people cool. So now, I’ve moved back away from that. I’m going back to what I was like in South Africa as a kid—just playing in the water, living simply, and not having any real needs beyond that.

    How did you decide to choose this lifestyle?
    I’d been working in sales. I went to college for a bit, and kinda said, 'well that’s not for me.' I left college and started working in sales. Door-to-door stuff. Just entry-level positions where you’re working on straight commission. I was selling everything from electric-utility services, to vacuum cleaners. I fell into the whole world of: you work hard, you move up in a company, you find a chick to settle down with, you get married, and you have kids. You know, America—the American Dream. That’s what you’re supposed to do. At one point, I lost my car, my apartment, and didn’t have a job because I quit. I was sick of it. I was kind of in a bad place for a year. But I learned a lot about myself. I realized that I don’t ever want to have these crazy, extravagant wants and needs. That’s not me. I’m a simple dude. 

    So you got a van and hit the road?
    Not right away. First, I got a job selling security monitoring equipment for homes. I knew I wanted to travel, so I knew I needed to save money. I worked for a year and a half, got rid of everything, had no bills, sacrificed a lot, and got myself to a place where there was nothing holding me back. That first day of driving… was pretty exciting. 

    What’s the most amazing thing that’s happened to you?
    When I came to San Diego, I met a group of surfer dudes. Two days later, I hurt my shoulder. I was pretty useless. I needed ice. I needed food. I needed just about everything. This community of guys came together and just took care of me. Bought me a sling. Gave me medicine. Made me food. Brought me ice. I realized right away that they were just helping someone else out in that traveler’s van-life community. I think there’s an immediate connection when you meet someone else who is traveling like you are—in a minimal sense, without hotels and fancy resorts.

    So what’s next?
    Before I left, I was dating this girl. She didn’t want to travel, so this whole trip of mine screwed up the whole relationship. But we’ve actually gotten back together over the last year and a half. She’s followed my travels on Instagram, and I’ve returned to Dallas to visit. Now she’s moving out to San Diego, where I am currently, to meet up with me. Then we’re going to go up to British Columbia this summer. Basically, she’s quitting her job and doing the same thing. I guess it just took her a little longer to figure out. Now the next step is figuring out how to go from being one person in the van to two.

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