28-year-old filmmaker pays $700 per month to work and live in a renovated cargo van

By CNBC

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a nomad, just ask 28-year-old Trent Arant.

About four years ago, after a breakup, the filmmaker moved out of his house in Atlanta, Georgia, to hit the road with his dog, Millie. Since 2018, he has lived over 20 cities and visited over 20 U.S. states, all while living and working as a full-time independent contractor from his van.

“Van life has really put life into perspective for me,” Arant tells CNBC Make It. “Being able to travel around the country and experience all these unique people and unique places … I’m forced to go out of my element and experience things I wouldn’t normally experience.”

The freedom that comes with being on the road is equal parts thrilling and lonesome, he says.  

“Living in a van is not as glamorous as it seems on social media,” Arant says. “It’s fun and adventurous, and I feel like I’m living life right now, but I do feel homeless sometimes. I don’t necessarily feel like I belong anywhere.”

It isn’t exactly a freewheeling, zero commitment lifestyle, either. Arant only pays about $700 in monthly payments for his tricked out a 2020 RAM ProMaster Van, but he spent almost $10,000 on renovations to make the recreational vehicle a home.

Since moving into a van in 2018, Trent Arant and his dog Millie have visited 20 cities and 20 U.S. states.

Since moving into a van in 2018, Trent Arant and his dog Millie have visited 20 cities and 20 U.S. states.Trent Arant

Here’s how Arant transitioned to his life on the road, and how he maintains his lifestyle living out of a cargo van:

Into the wild (in a van)

When his relationship ended in 2018, Arant was working as a visual effects artist in Atlanta’s film industry — and living alone in a home that was previously shared. Restless, that’s when he decided to experiment with life on the road with Millie, who he rescued in 2017.

For two years, he traveled around in a van that he bought off of Craigslist for $6,000. He put $4,000 into his first van’s renovations.

Arant and Millie strike a pose in front of his original cargo van.

Arant and Millie strike a pose in front of his original cargo van.Trent Arant

Then, after months of “haggling with dealerships,” Arant purchased his first new vehicle – the 2020 RAM ProMaster Van – from a lot in Charlotte, North Carolina, in November 2020. It had a bigger “width and was easier to build out” than other models, Arant says.

The original cost of the van was $47,000, but he negotiated its price down to $38,000. He took out a loan, which he’s currently repaying in $700 monthly increments. He says he expects to have the van completely paid off in 2026, ultimately paying a total of roughly $50,000, including interest on the loan.

Around this time, he also started a content-creating side-hustle on TikTok and YouTube, partially to document his new lifestyle.

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