My time is running out. TransWorld is just about a month away. After that, I’ll spend about a week or so finishing up the Forgotten States Road Trip. After that – if my landlord honors our agreement – I could be asked to vacate my apartment at any time. So the pressure to figure out where I’m going to go and what I’m going to do is definitely mounting.
My struggle can be boiled down to a choice between two distinct, different, and -some might say – contradictory goals.
On the one hand, I’ve got my lifestyle goals. I want to be as economically-independent as I can possibly be. I want to slash my expenses, live off the grid, and be self-sufficient. I’m striving for simplicity and freedom.
On the other hand, I’ve got my haunt passions. I love building props and corpses. That requires materials, tools, a proper work space, access to utilities, and investment. That runs to my minimalist tendencies.
It’s a seven-ten split.
It’s not that there aren’t options. But every option I’ve considered has had a major drawback of some kind. For example, I could do other types of haunt work that don’t require as much overhead – such as consulting or attraction reviews. But that would force me to betray the haunt work I really like – corpses and props. If I pursue my haunt passions, I necessarily need some base of operations. Cheaper alternatives like trailers and warehouses have legal issues. I could save money by trading my vehicle for my bike, but then I sacrifice my ability to travel, as well as a reliable form of shelter.
When faced with the seven-ten split, the trick to picking up the spare is to hit one pin at just the right angle to knock down the other. Seven-ten splits are incredibly difficult to nail, but they’re not impossible. There is no perfect solution that is guaranteed to work, but if I can aim for the angle most likely to succeed… And so I’ve been mixing and matching different strategies to try to find the best combination for success.
The common theme here is avoiding traditional housing. Even if I have a good job, I don’t want to be dropping several hundred dollars on an ordinary home or apartment. I want something cheaper so I can either afford to live on less money or use the extra money I do make for other purposes (such as travel). I also want to avoid close-quarters living (e.g. apartments) so I don’t have to modify my behavior in consideration of uptight neighbors.
All of these options are ideally done in a location with a climate milder than that of Wisconsin.
Feral Off-Grid Living Pros: It’s the ultimate option in terms of cost and self-sufficiency. No rent. Maybe no vehicle expenses, either, as I would probably trade in for a bicycle. Cons: It’s basically illegal. I’d either be trespassing on private property or disobeying land use rules of public property. Even if I own or rent the land, regulations require a foundation and utility hook-up. My survival skills do not include hunting and foraging, so I would still have need for income to purchase food. No place for the few possessions I still have (esp. electronics and haunt equipment). To choose this option pretty much rules out a haunt career of any kind.
My Vehicle Pros: I’ve got some experience doing this. I already own the truck, so I don’t have to pay for it. It’s the ultimate in mobility. Cons: It has the least amount of living space and cargo space. If offers the least amount of insulation from extreme temperatures. And eventually, this truck will die and have to be replaced. To get an equally-reliable replacement means someday having a new vehicle payment. This problem exists in every contingency (except one where I replace the truck with a bicycle), but this problem comes sooner if I live out of my vehicle on account of the increased mileage.
A Trailer Pros: There aren’t many. This option has really fallen out of favor with me. It has more cargo space than just living out of my truck, and I can carry the trailer with me via the truck. Cons: All sorts of legal issues with plopping one of these babies on land. Trailer parks are a form of close-quarters living. Parking one on other private property may be illegal pursuant to municipal codes. And in any event, I have to buy the trailer and still pay rent for the land it sits on. The rent can be comparable to a cheap apartment. And trailers don’t have the best reputation for solid construction or long lives.
Cabin in the Woods Pros: Isolated living in a presumably low-maintenance and inexpensive structure. Enough storage space for my few possessions, tools, and materials. Cons: Might be difficult to find one of these to rent, as the owners probably use it as a seasonal home or retreat. Doubt I’ll have enough money to buy one – even one that is run down – outright. Plus, I’m reluctant to assume the burdens of home ownership again.
Warehouse Pros: Plenty of storage space and a proper work area, isolated, and likely with all of the utilities I would need to do my work. On a per-square-foot basis, the cheapest rent I could pay for an existing structure. Cons: Municipal codes usually prohibit residing in a warehouse. Even if able to avoid detection, a landlord might not be so forgiving. Industrial space is rented out in much bigger spaces, so the overall rent would likely be much more expensive than an apartment.
Crafting Props & Corpses Pros: Crafting is my passion and best talent. Cons: Questionable demand and market. Requires space and a proper work facility. Difficult to generate the volume necessary to offset costs and cover living expenses. Shipping corpses would be cumbersome and expensive.
Touring Grand Guignol Pros: Another significant passion, and one that would include travel. Cons: Would require a crew (even a small one) that I’d have to be able to pay. It’s a tremendous undertaking that would likely require substantial early investment. The market for theatre has been on the decline since WWII.
Travelling Builder, Consultant, or Reviewer Pros: Low overhead, very little needed in terms of tools or equipment. Can travel. Cons: Constantly having to find paid positions with haunt owners who expect everything to be done on a volunteer basis. And constantly having to find work as I relocate.
Georgia On My Mind
Thinking about warehouses got me to thinking about barns. And thinking about barns got me to thinking about Georgia, for some reason. And ever since then, Georgia has been on my mind.
Georgia would have some decided advantages over the Portland / Seattle area.
- It’s closer to everything I’ve ever known. Atlanta is 930 miles away from Green Bay. That’s less than half the distance to Portland or Seattle. Yes, I want to put some distance between myself and my old life. But the prospect of being 2,000 miles away was making me feel more isolated than I wanted to be. Visiting friends in Wisconsin wouldn’t be quite as burdensome. And I could continue attending TransWorld.
- Behind New York and California, Georgia has the third largest film industry in America. That means locally, there might be more demand for my particular talents and crafts.
- Even in the mild weather of the Pacific Northwest, I would routinely be subjected to temperatures cool enough to make me uncomfortable, depending on how I chose to live. Winter weather would be considerably more comfortable in Georgia.
- I have a bit of history with Georgia. I was a biology major in college with plans (until my junior year) to go to medical school and work as a virologist at the CDC in Atlanta. Also, one of my fondest college memories was an Ultimate Frisbee tournament in Savannah, when my team stayed at a beach house in Tybee Island.
- Almost none of my friends want to remain in Wisconsin long-term. I already know where a few of them are thinking about moving to, and one of those locations would be very close to Georgia. In fact, the lot of us considered moving to Georgia to start a joint haunt business venture for the very reason I mentioned earlier concerning the film industry. It’s not inconceivable that if I head down to Georgia, most of us might reunite at some future date. Certainly more likely than if I go out west.
- I haven’t done the research yet, but my gut instinct tells me that the cost of living in rural Georgia is going to be substantially less than out west. Finding alternative housing in Georgia might be easier, too.
- Hartsfield Airport competes with O’Hare as the busiest airport by flights and passenger volume. It is home to Delta Airlines, also in competition as the busiest airline with United Airlines. Again, I haven’t done research. But my instinct is that it would be a lot easier (and cheaper) for me to find flights to Europe and other overseas destinations. Maybe not as easy or as cheap as flying out of ORD, but almost certainly better than flying out of Sea-Tac.
There would be some drawbacks, though.
- The trade-off for warmer winters is having to cope with Georgia’s summers, which are described by climatologists as “long, hot, and steamy”. Like most people, I despise temperature extremes. But I am more tolerant of heat than I am of the bitter cold. Easier said in February, of course. Not sure I would have said that last July when I was frantically looking for a motel in west Texas.
- Georgia is very red. It hasn’t voted a Democrat for President since 1992, when Clinton narrowly beat out Bush for Georgia’s electoral votes. Georgia is in the deep south where racism and Bible humping is even more rampant than it is up here. To say that Georgia strikes me as hostile territory (in spite of traditional southern hospitality) would be an understatement.
The idea of relocating to Georgia may be less than one day old, but on the whole, the prospect of moving down there makes me feel a lot more comfortable than the PacNW did. So I’m going to do some homework and re-evaluate my options in the context of relocating down south. See if I can’t feel a bit more at ease doing it this way.