If you find yourself suddenly living in your car, it is not the end of the world. Living in a car might involve cramped sleeping quarters, but it can be much better than living on the streets. The minimalist lifestyle can help you save on extravagant spending that most people don’t normally notice and open your eyes to the better things in life just like it did for B.Batjargal, an ordinary Mongolian man who’s been living in his car in the USA for the past two years. He gave an interview about his interesting life.
How long have you been in the USA and how did you end up living in your car?
I’m currently working as an engineer at a small startup company in Silicon Valley, California. I enjoy making coffee and taking photographs. I first came to the USA in October 2013. It seems like just yesterday but it’s already been four years since I came here. Before starting work, I asked to get my pay in advance and bought a 1999’s Volkswagen Eurovan, in which I now live in.
At first, I was conscious of those around me because not everyone approved of the way I lived. They would raise their eyebrows and ask if I really live in a car, along with tons of follow-up questions. I don’t know whether it’s because a lot more of them are aware of the way I live but now, they don’t seem to mind as much. As the digital world and technology advances, people’s everyday lifestyle seems to change a lot. Some people want to separate themselves from all of it while others take this opportunity to try out different things and change their lifestyle. Due to this, more and more people are living in their cars or traveling around the world with a single backpack. My curiosity to try out random things led me to start living in my car.
Besides your curiosity, didn’t you have other reasons that made you live in your car?
Yes, I had other reasons too. The western culture strongly encourages one to get out of one’s comfort zone. I used to live quite comfortably in a home, but as the days went by, I realized that I’d become too lazy and too used to the way I was living. Every day was the same and the place I lived in was too expensive. I wanted to find a small apartment for rent near my workplace but the rent wouldn’t budge from at least 1,000 USD per month. I hardly stay at home since I spend most of my time at work so I didn’t want to spend such a large amount of money just for a place to sleep in. I thought of finding a cheaper place a little farther from my work, but then, I’d have to worry about transportation.
However, there were three main reasons that made me decide to get a car. Firstly, I wanted to use my spare time to get to know myself better. Even now, I’m not exactly sure what I want to do with my life. Secondly, I’m a minimalist, and thirdly, I have a desire to travel across all continents while continuing to work and make ends meet. I’m preparing myself for the journey by squeezing in all my “life” into a car. Living in a car gives you so many great opportunities.
Where do you shower?
I get asked this question all the time. This question made me realize that everyone prioritizes cleanliness above anything else. It’s very easy to shower. It might be unbelievable but I shower practically every day – I might skip once a week sometimes. I work out so I shower at the gym.
Where do you go to the toilet?
Mostly at my workplace. I find toilets nearby wherever I stay out. Just in case, I carry a chamber pot in my car. I used it a couple of times the first month but now I hardly use it. I guess my body has gotten used to my new lifestyle.
Are you able to cook inside the car? How do you manage your food?
I don’t cook nowadays but I have a portable gas stove and a small pot. I sometimes like to make soup during the weekend. Other times, I dine out. We have a kitchen at the office so I’m able to eat a hearty meal there in the morning. I usually buy a nice lunch from a restaurant. If I have leftovers, I eat it for dinner. I don’t eat after 6:00 p.m. But I don’t starve myself.
How comfortable is it to live in a car? Don’t you feel tired because of the uncomfortableness?
It might sound like an exaggeration but I sleep better than I used to in an apartment with the exception of some nights which are suffocatingly hot. I don’t get tired but there are times when I miss lying on a bed.
How do you find parking space? Don’t you have to pay parking fees?
I park my car outside my office since we have a small parking area there. The weather here is really nice. There are loads of people who live in their cars. I occasionally park outside the gym I go to or outside large malls since they’re free.
California prohibits sleeping in a car, but luckily for me, the area I live in permits it. I was warned by the police several times for sleeping in my car during travels to other states.
Everyone is influenced by someone. Who is your role model?
My father is my biggest role model. I took after many of his characteristics. He’s modest, steady-minded, and intelligent. He sometimes gives me extraordinary advice that can be quite shocking. I think it was after graduation, he told me he was proud of me and told me that he regretted something. My family wasn’t affluent. We lived in an ordinary one-bedroom apartment and didn’t have separate rooms. I used to live in a small room with my older sister. My father was very sorry for not being able to give me a separate room and raise me in a proper environment. I immediately burst into tears after hearing those words. Like so, I felt my father’s warm heart many times. I’ve never been hit or scolded by him.
Another role model of mine is Tsogtgerel, who owns an IT company. I interned at his company during university. I learned a lot of things from him both as an individual and an engineer. My friends and family disliked having me work there day and night without getting a salary. But every word Tsogtgerel said was so inspiring that I couldn’t help but go and wish to become like him.
Will you continue to live in your car? What’s your plan for the next five years? When do you plan to return to Mongolia?
It’ll depend on what’ll happen to my work visa this summer. I plan to work three more years at my current company in the USA if my work visa gets extended. If not, I’ll go back to Mongolia this summer. I have so many plans for when I return to Mongolia. My first goal is to develop a product that’ll sell abroad and bring money to my country. As for my five-year plan, I really want to go on a road trip.
Why do you want to travel?
Depending on the language you speak, your view on things change and expand. I want to make good memories by meeting new people and traveling to new places while I’m still young and have the financial means to do so.
You’re a young Mongolian working hard to realize your dreams. Can you share a piece of advice from your experience?
A week ago, someone broke my window and stole my bag. I was really stressed out since I had my notebook, camera and other valuables inside it. I tried blaming others and even myself. A friend of mine told me to stop stressing about it and get a hold of myself. It was very comforting. What I want to say is that encouragement from friends is very important. I realized that it’s necessary to encourage and comfort my friends and that it’s bliss to have someone who brings you back up. I hope everyone can find a friend who encourages and motivates them and makes them want to be a better person.
Secondly, I noticed that many young people are discontent with the education system and the school they attend. The basics are taught by teachers but you have to study further on your own. I sent thank you emails to my teachers after receiving three work offers. I was able to get this far all thanks to their teachings. There are many teachers who cut down on their sleep to prepare classes for us. Don’t hate the school or teacher but put more effort in yourself.
Thirdly, being steady is the key to success. I realized it through experience. I hope everyone doesn’t give up on their ambitions and dreams.
Lastly, remember that there are more than seven billion people on Earth. Think carefully about how you’re different from them and what your strong points are. Personally, I like to efficiently use time. This is my specialty in a way. For example, I do my work while eating breakfast to save time. I take supplements that contain all essential vitamins. Like so, I try to save time as much as possible. I use this to my advantage and get closer to success.