Twenty-three-year-old Brandon S. (he has not disclosed his last name) first encountered the grim reality of Bay Area housing prices when he interned for Google in the summer of 2014. While he opted for the cheapest corporate housing option he could find, he realized he was still spending nearly $100 a night on an apartment he barely used.
“For all the money I’m spending on this apartment, I’m hardly ever there!” Brandon wrote on his blog. “I wake up, catch the first GBus to Google, work out, eat breakfast, work, eat lunch, work, eat dinner, hang out at Google, and eventually take a bus home, pack my gym bag for the next day, and go to sleep.”
With this illogical arrangement in mind, Brandon began plotting a solution for when he returned to work for Google full-time following his college graduation this spring.
The idea was that the only shelter he really needed was a place to sleep, and “company perks could provide the rest.”
He was inspired by the experience of Ben Discoe, a programmer who spent 13 months living out of a conversion van in the Google parking lot. After reading on a Quora post that Discoe’s venture had been discovered but not discouraged by Google Security staff, Brandon started seriously considering four-wheeled living options.
After realizing that he wanted “something more personal” than a van, Brandon opted for a 16′ box truck with 128 square feet of room inside — the largest bedroom he’s ever lived in, he noted.
The young software engineer has documented his journey in a blog called “Thoughts from Inside the Box.” In an email to The Washington Post, Brandon called the site “pretty much a source of truth as far as my life is concerned.” With posts detailing a crusade against roving insects, the travails of being parked beside a construction crew and his attempts to keep his lifestyle a secret from colleagues, the blog offers a whimsical look at a truly unorthodox choice.
This week marks a major milestone for Brandon, as he’s been tracking his net savings from the truck since mid-July and just broke even. His sole truck-related monthly expense is the vehicle’s $121 insurance — compare this to the approximately $2,000 it would cost to rent a Mountain View studio — and he has been earning back the roughly $10,000 he spent buying and repairing the truck.
As of early Wednesday, his net savings had surpassed $170 and were climbing steadily.
To ward off rodents, Brandon has forbidden himself from keeping any sort of food inside the truck. He eats most of his meals on the Google campus free of charge, just as he also takes showers and works out. This unlimited access to amenities is key, as the truck isn’t equipped with running water.
Despite his initial predictions that living in a truck would be “social suicide” and that he was destined for “truck-induced celibacy,” Brandon has so far skirted total isolation. In late July, he hosted a group of friends for a “truckwarming party” with drinks, card games and plenty of leg room; the following week, he made the acquaintance of an intern living in a camper parked nearby.
“I’m grateful to have a group of friends who accept me despite the fact that I’m completely deranged,” Brandon wrote in his characteristic self-deprecating style.
To give his “dorm” a cozier feel, Brandon has taken on a number of home improvement projects, from installing a clothes rack to constructing a makeshift bed frame. Through all his setbacks, Brandon appears upbeat and focused.
“I’ve been continually surprised at how receptive people are to the whole concept of living in a car,” Brandon wrote, concluding, “The way I pursue, and find happiness, is by going to sleep a better person than I was when I woke up.”
Google’s security personnel didn’t make any attempts to contact Brandon until three months into his sojourn, and even then it was merely to cross-check his car’s registration file in the company database. Though Brandon deferred communication for this article to Google’s press team, a company spokesperson declined to comment Tuesday evening.
“As far as my break-even point goes,” Brandon wrote in an email to The Washington Post, “I’m ecstatic, and it’s all up from here.”