I don’t know what to call what I’ve been doing this last year. If I call it traveling, that seems to insinuate I’m on vacation, and most of the time that is not what it feels like, nor was that the intention. When I tell people I’m living in a van, or try to make it sound better by just mumbling that I’m “camping” or “hanging out” for a bit while attempting to change the subject, I definitely feel like a bum.
I’m not homeless. I’m a drifter. That’s the best word I can come up with. I want to live everywhere and nowhere. I want a romantically arduous and extraordinary life that challenges me, changes me and leaves me exhausted but deeply satisfied. I want the mountains, deserts and oceans to take my breath away and I want to find out what’s holding all of us back from getting out there and DO-ing what we imagine. Too much to ask? Nah, but it takes as much hard work, patience and PITA management of daily pressures as climbing a corporate ladder.
After a year of whatever kind of living you want to call it I’ve had glimpses of extraordinariness, along with inescapable monotony. There are echoes of all my previous life’s problems along the road, magnified by our circumstances and the inherent inconveniences. I’m learning to grow beyond the tiny pot I’ve planted myself in, but also recognizing roots I’ve developed that I tend to discount. Here’s some of the dirt I’m digging through…
One: Eat Burritos
I like bean and cheese burritos. Somehow, despite the processed tortilla and gluten and dairy and legumes, bean and cheese burritos fit into my slowly waning disordered eating rules. If a bean burrito is one thing that I can choose to eat without hemming and hawing (though I do kick myself for not opting for more green stuff) and without post-meal guilt, then just eat the damn burrito. Every day if necessary. Stop trying to find new things, stop trying to make a decision in the grocery aisles, stop stressing about the next meal. When money is tight, kitchens are non-existent and it’s 100 degrees out, make the easy call and buy the burrito. Also, beer goes fine with burritos because they both start with “b” and I like alliterations.
Pay attention to what stresses you out and minimize choices around that. Pick a go-to and just go.
Two: You Can Have Too Many Hats
Literally and figuratively. I used to hate hats on me. Now I am constantly on the lookout for the next perfect one. There are five of mine hanging off carabiners on my side of the van and at least as many of Paul’s set along the dashboard. That doesn’t include winter beanies. I do realize that it is likely no one else notices my hat is different each day.
We are constantly trying to reinvent who we are, what we do, what we represent. I don’t think either of us are inauthentic or really even know how to masquerade as anything we are not, but, we are afraid to pick which hat looks and feels best. The ones that work best are the ones that I don’t have to go back to the store five hundred times to look at again and again before making a purchase. Gut instincts are not to be ignored.
Three: I Am A Comically Bad Dresser
Following the fashion discussion from above, I truly only wear about two or three outfits each season. And I don’t care. I also don’t care that my definition of “outfit” is somewhat lenient. I think outfits are supposed to match, maybe. I’m not certain mine do. From the look on Paul’s face more than occasionally, I’m guessing mine don’t. Unlike the obsession with hats, this is nothing new, but traveling has confirmed certain priorities are true to me.
Living out of one bin suits my particular lack of priority regarding fashion (and, uhh, cleanliness I suppose). I’m not missing all the stuff I packed up in boxes and left in my parents’ garage. What part of life is a struggle against your priorities, and how can you make peace with those?
Four: It’s Possible To Be A Saver
Except for the hats, I have found that I can in fact save money. I have NEVER, ever had extra money in my bank account for more than maybe two weeks. Seriously. Now I am either so motivated or so scared that I actually have a good padding along with the confidence that I am not hopeless.
When you put yourself into new and scary situations it’s startling what kind of strengths you find.
Five: Lone Wolves Are Only Cool For Awhile
Having taken many fantastically rewarding long road trips on my own, I had no intention of traveling with a partner ever again. Along with my historic intolerance of close living quarters and people in general, those experiences reinforced my identity as a lone wolf, a somewhat selfish I just wanna do my own thing, don’t need no one, kind of chick. Truth is, I must have been incredibly lonely in that old world. Self-preservation is a bitch.
Traveling feels refreshingly less lonely than living in a world ill-suited to my ethos. Which brings me to number Five-and-a-half: I like people. I’m more comfortable, I don’t feel trapped and I am dying to find out what all these other folk are doing out in the big wide world. And, shocking to myself even, I do believe that going slowly crazy together in the tiny, but very heavy, box on wheels is far better than losing it all alone in this big world would’ve been. Challenging each other, tolerating each other, picking each other up off the trail after we trip, trying not to laugh, laughing… all of it is a satisfyingly frightening new experience.
Six: I am a Sufferer
I wanna be tough; I wanna get dirty; I want to subsist on beans and tortillas. Nothing’s that hard once you get used to it. Or…
Seven: It’s Not Suffering If You Choose It
And if you find value in the struggle. And if you really, really like bean burritos.
Not knowing where I might sleep tonight, or knowing it very well might be along with the big rigs off Hwy 6 after a long night shift at work, is far more acceptable to me than a Sunday night spent lamenting and dreading the next work week trapped in a cubicle in heels because there’s a mortgage and home improvements and cable bills hanging over my head. That’s suffering. For me, at least. Everyone chooses their individual discomforts, and likewise prioritize their comforts. That said…
Eight: I Suffer To A Fault
I fail to optimistically set my sights on better living. I accept circumstances and deal with them to a point that keeps me from believing I deserve more comfort and ease (and money!). Stop with the martyr crap.
Moving forward, in hopes of creating even more mobility, the points to remember seem to come down to these: pick something and just give it a go; stop creating distracting choices and follow the gut; and if there is a more comfortable way of doing it, without conceding any instinctive priorities, accept the opportunity.
One last important note is to remember the AWESOMENESS of wherever I am, however I am able to move and all of the life surrounding me.