It was 4 in the morning, sometime in December, when it hit me that I was, technically speaking, homeless.

I had woken up because, per usual, I really, really had to pee. I opened my very loud door, which took approximately four seconds to roar its way up. I trotted past the dumpsters, up the stairs, opened the lockbox to our “real” apartment and, in the parlance of my roommate, Eric Zaun, thought “ah, hell.”

He had forgot to leave the key in the lockbox. So I had no bathroom access to the real apartment, and the Vons across the street wouldn’t open until 6.

I jogged back down to the dumpsters, the ones a few yards from where I slept, found some cardboard boxes and, very, very aware of just how homeless I felt, peed. Then I punched in the code for my door, pushed the button, listened to its familiar roar as it opened and closed to a shut, and went back to bed.

In the garage.

Yes, for much of the past five months I have lived in Eric Zaun’s garage. Perhaps you’ve heard. When I first wrote a story on Zaun for DiG Magazine not too long ago, I thought it was the coolest thing that he lived in a van. I had always thought myself a low-maintenance person, able to live in virtually any situation anywhere in the country. After all, I had lived in a fraternity house for three years, and had bounced around more times than I care to count in D.C., Baltimore, Florida and in my few years in California.

I’ve even been stuck on a lease with an ex-girlfriend.

After doing that, what couldn’t I do?

A month or so before my lease was blessedly up, I sent out a few texts to see if anybody else was looking for a roommate in the South Bay. I had options to live with a few good friends in Orange County, and some others I knew kinda sorta well in the South Bay, but they were all expensive, and I wasn’t even going to be home for the vast majority of December and January anyway. Seemed like  a bit of a waste. Zaun mentioned that his garage was livable. His roommates crashed there occasionally when they rented the place out on AirBNB, and that it really wasn’t so bad. Cozy, even.

So I weighed my priorities. South Bay? Check. Close to the beach? Check. Closer to Delaney Knudsen, my favorite human on the planet? Check. Cheap rent? Check. I told him I was in, site unseen. I’m not sure who was more surprised, me or him. On the surface, it appears I’m a well-put together, reasonably responsible individual. I’ve never been arrested, am generally kind to most, have somehow managed to cobble together a comfortable income as a freelance writer. At the time of the move, I had recently published a book.

Did I really want to live in a garage?

Why not?

My first day at the apartment – we did have a real apartment – I met our Uruguayan roommates, Stephanie and Juan, who mentioned they had a buddy who once crashed in the garage for 20 days. He loved it, they said. Only problem was…the neighbor is kind of an early riser.

And so it was, at 4 every morning, I’d be jolted awake, terrified, not remembering where in the world I was, by the Hulk-type roar that came from the garage next door as the neighbor left for work. Delaney slept there a few nights, too, and the first time she did, and was woken up by this impossibly early riser next door, we both broke into a fit of incredulous laughs.

“You live in a garage.”

Yes, I lived in a garage.

I’m not going to go as far as to say everyone should try it. It’s not for everyone. But there was a certain romance about living with as much minimalism as I did. I knew there wasn’t much space in the garage, so I took all the clothes I hadn’t worn in a while and donated them to Goodwill. I took most of my tangible possessions and either sold them or gave them away, too. The only things I owned, which, it turns out, are the only things I actually need, were the clothes I regularly wore, some life necessities like my passport and such, and a few other sentimental items like pictures, journals, and a pillow or two.

I’d wake up – after falling back asleep once the jolt of the neighbor leaving had subsided – whenever I woke up, grab clothes for the day, go upstairs – we eventually got a key for me – drink coffee, read, go to the gym, come home, eat, shower, go to work, come home, hang with Zaun or whoever was at the house, have a glass of wine, then retreat to the garage.

Nothing about my life was actually any different, aside from the fact that I had good friends to come home to and I was finally sleeping for a change. Prior to my stint in the garage, I hadn’t slept past 6:30 in maybe two years. In the garage, a dark bat cave if there ever was one, once my body learned not to go into a primal, fight or flight survival mode by the neighbor rolling out at 4 a.m., I’d sleep straight through to 8, and it was honestly kind of profound how much of a positive impact sleeping had on me.

And, anyway, from December 3 to a few weeks ago, when I technically resided in the garage, I really didn’t live there. I knew I wouldn’t be home much, and I wasn’t. I crashed this way and that, took trips to Yosemite, Mammoth, Maryland, Austria, Italy, stayed up in Malibu and Valencia and Tri’s house and down in Huntington, because why not? Zaun, too, was gone, to Brazil for a few months, so when the place wasn’t rented, I took his room. And on the rare occasion he was home, our other roommate, John Eddins, was usually gone, so I’d take his.

Zaun and I talked frequently about our nomadic lives, his year-long stint in a van, my brief stay in the garage. It isn’t so bad, we’d repeat, getting kind of defensive about it. It’s more the stigma of living in a strange place like a garage or a van, a lifestyle choice that people tend to not understand because it’s just something 28-year-olds with full-time jobs and careers aren’t supposed to be doing, you know?

Well, the stigma, and the fact that I didn’t have a bathroom. We laughed about that one. When the real apartment was rented, I’d brush my teeth at the Vons next door. Or the Starbucks. Or in the public bathroom at the park a few minutes’ walk away. I’d shower and shave at 24 Fitness. Most of the beach players in California thought it was delightfully hilarious, even somewhat acceptable. When I explained all this to my friends from home, they seemed less humored by it than appalled. Many of them have houses now. Wives. Children. Doing the growing up thing.

“Finally,” Delaney said at their faces during New Years, when I showed them pictures of my little garage dorm room, which were a mixture of shock and horror as they pondered what had happened to the once-responsible kid they knew for so long, “the reaction people should be having!”

As I said: The road dog life isn’t for everyone. I took it as a challenge not to eat out while living in the garage, so I only ate stuff that didn’t need to be refrigerated or wouldn’t go bad in a car. Eating tuna out of a can for four meals a day – and feeling the not so great effects – is not for everyone. But in those five or so months of basically free rent, a mile from Hermosa Beach, I was able to pay off a car, whittle down my possessions to make me one of the most mobile individuals I know, put a massive dent into my student loans, make beach volleyball my full-time job, able to understand, truly, how little materialistic need I have in life.

Yes, I’ve caved. I have a real apartment, just off the Pacific Coast Highway. Ocean view. I have a bathroom. A kitchen. But the best part?

There’s a garage, too.