On graduating from College, my father gave me his old Ford Van which he had somewhat converted. Real basic with no insulation or wood paneling. Just a plywood overlay of the metal floor, and nylon indoor outdoor carpet with a foam backing. The bed was a aluminum tube camp cot with green canvas where it was mounted across the rear wheel wells. Foam rubber mattress. Aside from that was a 48 qt ice chest. Dad had built a wooden cabinet with a counter top as a kitchenette of sorts. I got to use it some in college and loved it, so later it became what I would have to start out with. Then I found a little economy car I could tow behind the Van.
It's like an old friend and it was really showing it's age when I took this photo. I added the external spare tire, tilt out rear windows, roof rack, ladder, and awning. I have a canvas bag that fits in the luggage carrier, and a heavy plastic foot locker in front of the bed.
About the time I graduated I'd traded my boat for an Opel Station Wagon. It had a whopping 60.4 cui engine that could get up to 40 mpg and was even fun to drive. The rear seat back folded down to make plenty of room to stow my stuff I got the idea to pack all of my bathroom and kitchen gear in it along with a vacuum cleaner and inflatable air bed. The vacuum cleaner could also blow air to inflate the bed. If I found work and a place to stay I could quickly unload it and set up my kitchen & bath along with a bed and have the car to drive to work the next day once unhitched from the Van. Then after work I would come home and unload the Van to finish setting up my apartment. The nearly empty Van would then be available. I would often rent a small storage room to store all the camping equipment should I need an empty Van at work. I used it frequently in my work details and it added much to my value as an employee.
This rig was what I took on the road to search for a career. I slowly learned how to make it work for me as I traveled and camped while looking for a break in my field. There was no internet back then so all I had was a Rand McNally Campground Atlas and Rand McNally Road Atlas. Dad had a paperback called, "The Campers Bible" which was helpful too. Didn't have credit cards just travelers checks. So I traveled cheap !
Because I was young and single not to mention right out of school I got stuck with a lot of the crap jobs. I didn't mind as I knew I needed to learn how they were done anyway. But after awhile the older married types would ask the boss to stick me with the crap jobs simply because they were married with a family as if that were an entitlement. I had a life too and had things I needed to do. So one day I caught the Sales Manager, CEO, and Engineer together at the coffee table in the break room and suggested that I could use my Van & Station Wagon to take the out of town assignments which may have taken weeks to a couple of months to complete. After all they didn't want to do those jobs as they had families. Right ? So call the other divisions and have someone find me a temporary apartment and alert me on a Thursday so I can move that week end and be there for work on Monday morning. They bought it. Before I knew it, I was getting raises and promotions that I wouldn't have received had I stayed at HQ all of the time. I was suddenly the new "project man". The Engineer was delighted as those were his crap jobs he had been stuck with. The CEO and Sales Manager were OK with it if the Engineer was pleased with my performance. And I made sure he was.
One of the things that enabled my quick movements was a book titled Nomadic Furniture #1 & #2 by Victor Papanek and James Hennesy. It was a type of folding & knock down flat furniture made of plywood and other simple materials. These items could be set up or taken down quickly, packed and stowed almost as quickly. Some things were inflatables that I purchased and others were fold up items. But all were perfect for the Nomadic Lifestyle. In a couple of evenings I could have a place of my own all set up OR be packed up and ready to go to the next project just as quickly. But I wanted to work and make my mark while the married guys wanted the 9 to 5 and country club lifestyle after work. Not saying they hadn't paid their dues when they were younger and they often played golf with the company team to entertain customers which helped with the ongoing sales effort. But such things were off on the distant horizon for me.
But having this rig to start out with fresh out of college, my Boy Scout experience, and some of Dad's coaching as to how to deal with the road and some common perils to look out for, enabled me to find a good job and even make a semi Nomadic Lifestyle work with it. I traveled all over Ohio, parts of Pennsylvania, and West Virginia to work at my company's divisions when needed there. I later moved to another corporation and traveled some but not nearly as much. Still I missed that other company and all the traveling I enjoyed back then. I was a hit with a lot of older executives who seemed to envy my freedom and creativity. A few even stated how they would like to be young again and in my shoes. I could empathize with their lot of being married with grand kids and looking to that that 40th wedding anniversary and in a few short years a gold watch from the company at retirement. I just could never see myself in that picture. Perhaps they purchased an RV in their retirement years and got to experience some of what I was enjoying back then. I'd sure like to think so.
A word about "Opportunity Cost" now. Any Opportunity will have two dimensions. The cost associated with taking it and gaining from it if you decide to take it. Or if you chose not to take the opportunity for some reason the cost may be in the forfeiture of the gains that opportunity may have provided for you. "My Own Story" is about pursuing opportunity that could have had considerable financial cost. But as I approached it, it didn't. Then while on the job I was able to use the rig once again to pursue opportunity. Had I stayed based at HQ I would have only needed a car and my apartment and just performed my duties waiting and hoping I would get an opportunity to move up. But instead I created opportunities for myself by offering my rig as a resource. Otherwise I could have forfeited so much in time, financial earnings, and having some of the nicer things in life while still young enough to enjoy them.
Head Quarters "HQ", for many it's a dream to work at such a facility. A cozy nest. Status. But it's a long line to wait in for advancement all the same. I didn't want to wait.
Portrait of the Industrial Designer as a young man