Life in a Box Truck: A Google Engineer’s Crash Pad

January 25, 2016 by Justin Stoltzfus, SjStoltz

A 23-year-old software engineer named Brandon works at Google, and lives in… a truck.

Brandon’s 2006 Ford E350 Super Duty Cargo Van, a 16-foot box truck with about 150,000 miles on the odometer, can often be seen somewhere on Google’s San Francisco-area campus. Brandon showers and uses the bathrooms at Google, runs a few lights and a laptop occasionally inside the truck, and generally uses his mobile home mostly for sleeping.

In a way, it’s fitting that an employee at one of the most innovative companies in the U.S. has initiated this kind of “life hack” that saves him around $1,000 in rent each month, plus a few hundred more in gas. Brandon, who hasn’t released his last name to the press, chronicles his adventure on his blog, Thoughts From Inside the Box, where he runs a “net savings” calculator to show off how much he’s socked away.

The Commute and Other Benefits

Brandon’s truck living isn’t just about the money: There’s also the convenience of beating area traffic. In a Sept. 23 blog post titled “Commuting: A Normal Perspective,” Brandon elaborates:

Nothing rubs me quite as wrong as a couple thousand cars idling unnecessarily and wasting time that could otherwise be spend on less menial, mindless, monotonous tasks. Truck life allows me to avoid this for the most part, I live walking distance from work, and my normal “commute” doesn’t even touch real roads, it’s an assortment of trails and pedestrian areas.

There’s also a kind of asceticism at work. In some of his posts answering popular questions from readers, Brandon says he chose a truck over an RV to be deliberately less comfortable. To put it another way, he had this to say in a Dec. 1 email exchange:

Q: Are there any surprising advantages to your truck living situation that aren’t in the blog, maybe that occurred to you later on?

A: The zen of it all. I didn’t realize how uncomplicated life would be when your living situation forces you to limit the number of random things you own. When your entire life fits into a parking space, everything becomes much more manageable.

Plus, it’s impossible to forget things. One time, I drove to the DMV and thought I forgot my birth certificate/Social Security card. Then I remembered I had literally driven my house there, and quickly went into the back and grabbed what I needed.

Home Improvements

To date, Brandon has patched up leaks, installed Ikea furniture, and done a lot of other interesting DIY fixes inside of his truck. One upgrade he still wants to do involves insulating the interior for the onset of winter.

“There are a bunch [of improvements] I’ve already done that I haven’t had a chance to document on the blog yet,” Brandon said.

A Downsized Community

As fascinating as Brandon’s individual story is, one of his most intriguing posts discusses making contact with other “truck tenants, clunker colonists, sedan citizens, buggy boarders, hatchback inhabitants, and pickup people.” He also details a visit to Containertopia, which he calls “a secret and magical place in Oakland filled with shipping containers in various stages of being converted into homes.”

The idea behind it all is that more people are taking control of their finances, taking their life situations into their own hands, and deciding to live in a more practical way — one that doesn’t line the pockets of landlords and deplete their after-tax earnings just to keep a roof over their heads.

“It’s interesting that others are coming to similar conclusions and finding their own solutions,” Brandon said. “I love hearing people’s thought processes on how they made their decision, and what they’ve done to make it ‘home.’”

Check out more on the blog, as this pioneer’s long-term documentation reveals more about what you can really do when you think outside the box.


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