'I Refuse To Spend Thanksgiving With Anyone'

I began living in a van in early 2018, but I wasn't satisfied with the way that it was built. So, in November 2020, I purchased a new van for $40,000 and immediately began renovating it.

I put modern-day luxuries in it, like an oven, a refrigerator, and a heater so that I can be comfortable whilst living on the road. It took over three months to convert and when it was finished in February 2020, I began traveling again.

Van life with my dog

I chose to live in a van because I was at a low point in my life and needed a change to rekindle my love for life again. Originally, I intended to go on a 3-month road trip, but I enjoyed living and traveling in the van a lot. Because I had the means to support myself, I continued living this lifestyle.

Millie, my dog, lives and travels with me in my van; she's full of love and very cuddly. The story of how she came into my life is a great one.

In 2017, before deciding to live and travel full-time in a van, I lived in a house just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. At the time, I had another dog. I would let her outside in the evening and leave the back door open for her whilst I got ready for bed.

Trent and Millie
Trent Arant and his dog, Millie. Trent Arant

One night, in the Summer of 2017, I was waiting for my dog to come inside and I felt a presence in my room. I looked around but didn't see anything. I then heard a little grunt. I looked to my side and saw a small, cute Staffordshire Bull Terrier staring at me with big, bulgy eyes and a wide smile, waiting for me to pet her.

I was confused because I didn't live in a neighborhood at the time; I lived on a few acres of land. So, it was strange that a random dog wandered into my house and was comfortable enough to approach me. I decided to call her Millie and took her to the vet. I was told that she didn't have a name tag or a chip, but she was well-groomed.

Trent's Dog Millie
Millie is a Staffordshire bull terrior. Trent Arant

I then put a missing dog post on Craigslist and Facebook, but nobody claimed her. So, I kept Millie. She has been the best addition to my life and has brought me a lot of joy. She also makes traveling alone a lot easier because I often become lonely, especially whilst traveling in desolate areas for weeks at a time.

Unfortunately, I had to rehome my other dog with a friend of mine in 2018 because she was handicapped and couldn't handle my traveling lifestyle. But I still see her quite often.

Thanksgiving 2022

A week before Thanksgiving, I created a video and shared it on my YouTube channel, telling my followers that I would be spending Thanksgiving alone. In the video, I also cooked a Thanksgiving meal, although I'm not a chef by any means. Often, I make boxed mac and cheese or brownies, and I have fun doing it.

Trent Arant and his Van
Trent decided to live and travel full-time in a van, in 2018. Trent Arant

I made and posted the video early because my viewers might want something to watch on Thanksgiving, especially if they are spending the day alone. I know there are a lot of people who don't have family or friends and want to feel like they are a part of a community. I wanted those people to feel like they are a part of my community. I wanted them to feel seen during Thanksgiving. I can't imagine how hard it is to be alone on a holiday when you truly have nobody.

The food that I made in the video was nothing particularly special. I made vegan white cheddar mac and cheese and green beans that I sautéed with garlic, salt, and pepper. I then baked a sweet potato dish and drizzled some honey and cinnamon on top. Lastly, I chose to cook ham instead of turkey because I think that it tastes better. The meal was delicious.

The Interior of Trent's Van
Trent bought a Ram Promaster van in November 2020. Trent Arant

Millie stays out of my way when I'm in the kitchen because it's a very small space. I created a little bedroom for her under my bed; she often lays there whilst I'm in the kitchen, waiting for me to drop some food on the floor for her to eat.

I try not to feed her human food because I know that it could upset her stomach. But of course, I didn't forget about my Millie in my early Thanksgiving. I prepared a dish just for her. It was a traditional kibble that I fed her every night, topped off with pumpkin puree and a few slices of ham. She loved it; she was on top of the world.

Toward the end of my video, I sat and ate, whilst detailing to my followers the things that I am thankful for in life.

Trent Arant's Thanksgiving Meal
Trent Arant's home-cooked Thanksgiving meal. Trent Arant

Choosing to be alone for Thanksgiving

For as long as I can remember, I have made an effort to see my family and friends for Thanksgiving. But this year feels different. I'm currently going through a transitional phase in my life. I'm incredibly uncomfortable with being alone, but I am forcing myself to become comfortable with myself. I'm realizing that being alone is a part of life.

I am aware that my life is incredible because I can live and travel while taking my house and my beautiful dog with me. Yet, I have so many days where I wake up feeling very unhappy. Spending time alone allows me to be aware of that.

I'll be flying back to the East Coast to spend Christmas with my family, but for this Thanksgiving, I'm going to sit with myself and learn to be thankful for the life that I have. When something feels right, it's often hard to explain. That's what I'm experiencing right now.

Although I have the option to meet up with other nomads that live in vans or buses, I feel like I am teaching myself something by choosing to be alone.

I received great feedback from my early Thanksgiving video, which I thought was strange because, on the surface, it was just a video of me making food in my van. However, I realized that it's ordinary for me because I live this life every single day. But to people who only dream of having this lifestyle, it's a special experience to see me existing in a unique space.

A lot of people were very thankful for the gratitude that I expressed in the video because it helped them become more aware of their situation. Even though they're not living in a van and traveling full-time, it reminded some of them that they need to be present in the moment, and be thankful for what they have right now.

I feel like the world needs a little more vulnerability. I try to put all my emotions online to let people know that it's okay to feel lonely, and it's okay to feel grateful; it's a part of being human.

Being alone can be hard, but it's empowering because it forces you to sit with yourself. I also believe that you can learn a lot about yourself when you are alone. At the end of the day, no matter who you are with, you have to live with yourself for the rest of your life. And if you're not comfortable being with yourself, how will you ever be comfortable being with anyone else?

Trent is a full-time traveler. He lives in his van full-time with his dog, Millie. He is also a content creator on YouTube and a freelancer in the film industry. You can find out more about him here.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Newsweek associate editor Carine Harb.