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Sleeping in your Car for 10 Days



Hello, Thrivvers! You’ve seen many times how we talk about Vancouver being an expensive city. This is all fun when you write about it from an apartment and in the comfort of your living room, but the reality is that this expensive city drives many international students like us into homelessness.


Why does this happen? Well, it’s a combination of factors:

  • Canada let too many people in and they didn’t have housing policies in place to support it.

  • Because of supply/demand, the price of houses has gone up to unsustainable levels.

  • Many students are limited in the number of hours they can work without violating their study permits. Remember that working 40 hours was an exception the government made to address labour shortages during the pandemic.


Therefore, from British Columbia to Ontario, students are struggling to find homes and safe living conditions. Sometimes, because of the fear of having to live on the streets, we accept to live in a house with 8 other people or rent part of someone’s living room for $900.


So we asked ourselves, what on Earth would we do if we lost our home? As soon as we had the perfect opportunity to test it, we packed up our bags and moved into our car (temporarily).


Now, let us tell you how we got through it and what we learned!


What We Had To Figure Out

Sleeping in a car was not enough. There were four main things we needed to figure out:


  1. How would we turn the car into a bedroom?

  2. Where would we go to the washroom?

  3. Since we worked from home, where would we work from?

  4. Where would we shower?

After investing a day brainstorming ideas that ranged from malls to gas stations to friend’s houses, we landed what we thought was the perfect plan.


The Plan

The plan turned out like this. We would have all of our belongings with us in the car, buy an air mattress to sleep at night, a car cover to give us privacy while sleeping, use WeWork as a living room/office, and a gym as our shower facilities.


Was This Legal?

Of course, we thought of that! We were so scared that we started doing research on some things like, can I sleep in my car on the streets of Vancouver? Turns out you can! Being in your vehicle is totally legal. However, keep in mind that it is frowned upon, which basically means people don’t appreciate it and they will look at you funny.


Is it legal to be in WeWork after working hours? That is ok too! WeWork is a coworking space that is open 24/7. Therefore, you can enjoy the amenities whenever you want as long as you have complied with their booking policies.


Is it legal to pay for a gym membership and just go there to shower? Of course, it is! As long as you are paying your membership, you can do whatever you want. Is it frowned upon? Maybe, but who cares!


What Our Days Looked Like


The nights were hectic! Since we had all of our stuff in the car, we had to rearrange bags, shoes and other stuff by moving them to the front of the car to make space for the mattress every night. We would inflate the mattress, make the bed (sheets, blanket, and pillows), park the car and cover it. Then, we would sneak into the car and pray that no one was watching us.


The next morning, we would wake up at 6:30 am, book a space at WeWork, go as soon as we could and do our morning routine using their washrooms. Then, go back to the car, deflate the mattress, put everything (or as much as we could) in the trunk, and start our days.


After a day of working from WeWork, we would go to the local gym to shower. We’re not sure when this genius idea happened, but having a place to shower and feel clean after sleeping in a car and a hard day’s work renewed our spirits. Oh, and the added bonus is that we were too shy to just go shower so we actually exercised every day!


Finally, we would go out if we had something planned. Otherwise, it was back to WeWork to watch movies, hang, and kill time until we had to sleep again.


Day 6: The Most Difficult Day

Throughout the first five days of this experiment, we felt good, productive, and slightly proud of having come up with such a tidy plan to survive without a home. However, day six would give us a feeling we were not expecting: we were disoriented.


The days had become too repetitive. Not having a space where we could go, feel safe, and relax made us disorganized. We had long days where we would move a lot but accomplish nothing. No talking, no watching series, nothing. That night, we went down to the car after what felt like a 24-hour day and decided we were too tired to make the bed.


“Let’s just sleep on the front seats”, we said. And so we did.


From that day on, we started noticing a decline in our productivity at work and more days when we would accomplish very little and feel tired.


What We Learned


After experiencing 10 days in our car we realized that not having a home is a huge mental hurdle to overcome. Having a private space where you are allowed to relax and recover is essential to leading a productive life. Especially if you come here to study.


Studying is a very demanding task as it requires you to concentrate for long uninterrupted periods and recover properly so you can focus on working and studying at the same time.

And although our time living in a car was short, it made us realize the challenges of being an international student in 2024. Being homeless is a serious problem and hopefully, the cap on international students Canada-wide helps alleviate some of the problems we have with housing. This way, you, your friends, and whoever decides to come study can do so under ideal conditions that help bring out the best in you.


If you or someone you know has gone through homelessness or unsafe living conditions, we would love to hear from you. Contact us at info@thrivvemag.com.


Bonus: How much did this all cost?

Wondering how much you would pay per month if you had to live like we did? Here’s the breakdown!


One-time expenses

Car air mattress - $70

Car cover (SUV) - $40 (FB Marketplace)


Monthly recurring expenses

Gym - $100

WeWork - $200

Car - $500 (financing)


So now you know! We hope that this article made you feel something and made you aware of the problems that your classmates might be experiencing. If you are not in Canada yet, we hope it helps you learn some of the hard truths that no one wants to talk about.


This is one of the many experiments we will start running at Thrivve. We will explore hard-to-swallow topics that relate to our international student journeys. If you would like to stay in the loop and know when we release new articles, join our FREE membership now.

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