I’m sitting in the umpteenth coffee serving establishment we’ve discovered on this essential living van journey.
Since leaving Bend in September, we’ve spent many mornings working and sipping too much coffee in Looney Bean, BlackSheep, multiple Starbucks locations, too many McDonald’s (though $1 coffee, free wifi, and remodeled dining rooms make McDonald’s an unexpectedly good remote working option), one Panera Bread, several Whole Foods, Macy’s, Tourist Home, and a dozen additional small roasters between Oregon and Arizona.
This morning Susan and I chatted about Thanksgiving. It’ll be one of the few I can remember not being with family. We discuss what we’ll do with our day. A long run followed by a cheap buffet and a movie becomes the plan. As well, we conspire to sneak into a second show and make it a double feature, reminiscent of our youth. This may prove difficult as it seems all the movie theaters in Arizona have assigned seating, some have enormous leather recliner seats you have to peel your sweaty self from during the ending credits. For me this sounds like a marvelous day. I’ll be doing what I enjoy most; trail running, watching a movie, and eating — too much. I feel grateful.
There is so much joy in the simple things, when you allow yourself to experience that enjoyment. Living in a van, pursuing a more essential lifestyle, has gently nudged me to acknowledge that for which I am grateful. This journey was born from a desire to seek adventure and to strip away the possessions and distractions that kept me “stuck”. Stuck in a place of stagnation. Adventure requires being uncomfortable. A proper perspective on being uncomfortable invokes a greater awareness of gratitude.
Uncomfortable is living in a 45 square foot box on wheels, which at times feels slighter bigger than a bread box. Uncomfortable is parking said box at dispersed campsites (an uneven dirt plot on public lands) which have no power, no running water, no outhouses, and lately raucous families which post “no trespassing” signs at the campsite. Uncomfortable is cleaning oneself with baby wipes and trail scrub, then rinsing off in frigid mountain streams. Uncomfortable is shitting in the woods when it’s 35 degrees out. Uncomfortable is talking to strangers, or people I’m familiar with but haven’t yet met in person.
The word Adventure can easily be swapped with Uncomfortable. In the framework of this journey — my pursuit of a dirty good life — uncomfortable is synonymous with adventure. Embracing what is uncomfortable is growth. Shitting in the woods is an adventure. Living somewhat “off-the-grid” is an adventure. Seeking courage, then speaking to someone about depression, is an adventure. To note, these short exchanges of dialog are similar to a zone 4 sprint workout, my heart races and I find myself short of breath. But, I remind myself this journey is about adventure and growth so I suck it up, stable myself by leaning against the table, then spew out what just may be incomprehensible mumblings. I am then satisfied with myself for pushing through the workout.
I am grateful for these experiences. Pushing beyond comforts and seeking adventure increases my awareness of the little things that make this life enjoyable. I am grateful each time the van makes it up and over a mountain pass, despite what my white-knuckle grip on the steering wheel may project. I am grateful when the sun comes over the mountains in the morning and warms the van. I am grateful that the two times the van didn’t start we weren’t miles deep on an unnamed road unable to get help. I am grateful when we find good coffee roasters, used book shops, or $2 tacos in a new town. I am grateful each time I get an email notification that a client has paid an invoice, it equates to additional time living this minimal and essential lifestyle. I am grateful to find gluten free items in restaurants — and GF beer options at the local pubs. I am grateful my travel mate hasn’t packed it in despite it being hard at times dealing with the elements and my occasional tendency toward grumpiness. I am grateful Arizona doesn’t observe daylight saving time. I am grateful to be exploring less traveled trails by bike and by foot. And, I am stoked to have experienced trail runs in Ketchum, Bishop, Mammoth, Red Rocks, Zion, the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, and Prescott. Today I am particularly grateful we sacrificed this month, spending more nights at dispersed campsites and Walmart parking lots to allow for a couple days in a Whiskey Row hotel next week. A hot shower, prepared meals, and a night with headroom have become much appreciated luxuries.
Essential living makes one truly appreciate the essentials of living. Having less to take for granted increases life enjoyment.