After receiving a $2 million signing bonus with the Toronto Blue Jays, Daniel Norris decided to hit the road with his new dream car—a 1978 Volkswagen Westfalia camper van—which incidentally, is also his new dream home.
21-year-old Norris signed with the Blue Jays right out of high school in 2011. Upon signing to a new team, professional athletes are typically awarded huge sums of money to incentivize their hard work and integration into the team. At this point, most athletes are inclined to indulge their fantasies coming to life, opting for a mega-home with sports cars, marble floors, and hired help. Evidently, Norris isn’t easily aroused by the materialism of ‘high status’ life, and despite being one of the only 21-year-olds on the planet able to afford a Rolls-Royce, Norris is completely content living out of his van, traveling around the coast in search of good surf, epic hiking spots and rock walls. His van, called Shaggy, is equipped with a bed and kitchenette, which Norris uses to make simplistic meals over a stovetop.
Originally from Johnson City, Tennessee, Norris grew up around the outdoors, cultivating a passion for nature that he partially built in his father’s mountain bike shop. Norris’s childhood consisted of mountain biking, camping, hiking and generally embracing the wilderness.
Norris and Shaggy make the trip to the Blue Jays training complex in Dunedin, Florida, each spring for three-a-day practices. However Norris insists that some of the best cross-training opportunities arise in his travels. “Surfing is great for your shoulders and core, hiking is a good lower body workout, and rock climbing … well, if you’ve ever rock climbed, good luck getting out of bed the next day!” Norris tells GrindTV.
The van-dwelling life may be a little unorthodox for many of his fellow Blue Jays, but Norris doesn’t mind the speculation. In fact, many of his teammates have joined him for camping excursions, all of them expressing a serious interest in coming back soon to spend more time in the wilderness.
With life on the road, camping, surfing, and hiking, it’s hard to believe that Norris can still find the time to be a professional athlete, but he is adamant that baseball is his true passion. Recognizing how easily one can be swept away in the fame and financial excess of professional baseball, Norris believes that the van life keeps him grounded, insisting that societies normalizing luxury is dangerous. Rather, his oceanfront view and van-cooked meals represent a more organic definition of ‘fancy’.
Of course, when people become alarmed at the lifestyle that he has chosen, Norris is more than happy to answer any questions concerning the van life. He is extremely open about his decision to stay simplistic in his life in nature and has even been known to be open for photo-shoots alongside Shaggy.
After three years, Norris shows no signs of slowing down this slightly nomadic life in the van.