The “Van Life” movement may conjure impressions of a freeing nomadic lifestyle in a nicely designed vehicle that looks great on social media, but a North Carolina woman has taken to TikTok to show the honest side of living in an automobile.
Nikita Crump, who boasts 1 million followers on the app, has documented her experiences of living in her Honda Civic, which reportedly came from absolute necessity.
After struggling to pay her rent on time and skipping meals to save money — all the while going into debt despite working two jobs — she decided to call her car her home to avoid falling further into financial ruin.
Crump moved into her Honda in late 2019 and has lived in it ever since — and despite her candid discussions of what it takes to live this way, it is a way of avoiding today’s exorbitant costs of living, as inflation continues its tear, boosting food prices and, yes, rents.
It’s a way of saving money, but a number of her videos come with TikTok disclaimers saying, “Participating in this activity could result in you or others getting hurt.”
Crump discusses safety measures she takes. In a video from May, which earned more than 3 million views, she shows the window covers she uses at nighttime to block out any views inside, which she says in the caption are handmade and “are effective when it comes to stealth, safety and insulation.” Reflective and insulated materials coat one side of the covers, while another has black fabric, which goes against the window.
“It’s totally inconspicuous,” she says in the clip. “Nobody knows I’m in here.”
Two months later, on July 4, Crump posted another video showing her ways of finding places to sleep each night. She uses satellite view on Google Maps to locate “nice” neighborhoods, or those whose aerials show big properties with their own pools. Then she zooms in to see if other cars are parked on the streets. The next step, she says, is to go at nighttime to check it out for herself.
“The neighborhood is clean, nice and quiet — and I can blend in,” she says of one area in an undisclosed city where she spent a recent night next to an ivy-covered brick wall.
Other videos show her sleeping in parking lots, windows covered, and document the practicalities of living in such a small space on four wheels. On July 5, viewers can see her start the day by removing the window covers after folding and tucking her bedding onto her back seat. She then heads into a Planet Fitness, whose parking lot she spent the night in, for a shower. She tugs a toiletry kit with her inside to wash up and brush her teeth.
Next comes eating. In that same clip, she shows a small, black tray that attaches to her steering wheel that she uses as a makeshift table to eat canned fruit, peanut butter sandwiches — or even takeout orders from Subway. Later on, she shows the only way laundry can get done: in a laundromat at a stop along her way to Oregon.
“I always fold my laundry in the laundromat — that is not something that I’m trying to do in my car,” she says.
What’s more, there are storage containers in her trunk and portable devices to keep her electronics charged.
“Here’s things in my car that just make sense for homeless life,” she says, classifying her life candidly.
“I’ve been homeless by definition most of my adult life,” she says. “I’ve even lived in my car before, briefly. So I’m not that unfamiliar with being in uncomfortable situations and being homeless.”
Despite the serious nature of her situation, she receives an array of comments on her posts — including “This looks so lonely” and “Hotel Civic.” Others, meanwhile, support her.
“I love your resilience,” wrote one commenter in a July video, while another recent clip had another tell her, “Supporting your journey through and through!”
One even learned tips of the trade.
“Thank you for this,” another commenter replied. “I need to leave my place unexpectedly. This is unbelievably helpful.”
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.