Road trips provide excellent opportunities for reflection, introspection, and self-discovery. For me, TransWorld and the Forgotten States Road Trip were no exception to this rule. The trip gave me plenty to think about in terms of my future plans – where and how I’ll live, and how I’ll earn a living. Unfortunately, I’m left feeling like I’m back at square one.
Where I Want to Live
Before I went on this trip, I was seriously considering moving to Atlanta, Georgia. I haven’t completely ruled it out, but I now feel pretty confident that won’t happen. I realize that Atlanta can be subject to winter weather just like here in Wisconsin, but I was expecting that to only be the case for a couple weeks in January or February. Temperatures in the 30s and 40s in late March?! I did not expect that. Moreoever, I’m not keen on Atlanta’s size – both in population and traffic. It took a great deal of time to travel outside of Atlanta’s dense core, and I wasn’t overly impressed by the countryside I did find.
But one of the main reasons I was considering Georgia is that they have the third largest film industry in the United States – I thought I could maybe find outlets for my particular talents in that industry. But for reasons I’ll explain later, I’m thinking that might not be a smart move for me. And if we take the film industry out of the equation, Georgia suddenly loses almost all of its appeal.
In fact, I’m ready to write off everything east of the Mississippi River. Although the east half does have some gorgeous gems, I’ve been reluctant to move east of where I currently reside. I don’t want to move into a region of more dense population. I’ve had this attitude for quite some time (including last winter when my friends were discussing managing a haunt for a mutual friend out east), but this trip really reinforced that notion.
The Olympic Peninsula is back on the table (Seattle-Portland region), but I’m still hoping to find a home slightly closer to Wisconsin than the Pacific coast. Although there are a great many gems hidden throughout the country, I’m focusing on Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico. I still need to study the various climates in this region to narrow my focus further. But without a question, my main motivation is to find somewhere warmer or – at least – milder.
And of course, I want to avoid large cities, even the ones out west. So Denver, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City are out, right off the bat.
How I Want to Live
This is the one category that I may have made some progress in. I’ve pretty much decided to become someone’s roommate. Having a support structure for Remy is going to make it easier for me to find employment and be away from home for longer periods of time to work. Not to mention the support of having some friends right away after I’ve moved to a place where I know nobody.
Being someone else’s roommate is the simplest way I can think of to live without the commitment of land ownership or a lease agreement. Now I don’t necessarily want to live in someone else’s home or to lose the privacy I currently enjoy. But if I look at this as a temporary arrangement until I can figure out a better living arrangement, then I’m all for it. I think it would be unwise to attempt a more radical home living style until I’m settled into a new location and have some income coming in.
How to Earn a Living
I won’t repeat the story here, I’ll just refer you to my previous comments about the corporate-consumer vibe I noticed at TransWorld this year and state that I am increasingly uneasy about tying my passion and my craft to my livelihood.
What I mean by that is: I don’t want the pressure of having to produce to earn a sustainable living wage. I don’t want to deal with bosses who think I’m not cranking out products fast enough. I don’t want to deal with customers who are never satisfied, always bitching, and want something for nothing. I’m fed up with haunt owners who are too cheap to pay their build crew and acting staff. I don’t want to be constrained by time or budget requirements. If I keep my craft as just a hobby, then I retain the ability and freedom to do art and not have it be compromised.
Similarly, I don’t know what I was thinking with the film industry. Do I really want to get into bed with multi-billion dollar studios and production companies? Do I really want to deal with a competitive atmosphere, where I’m under constant pressure with respect to budgets and time? The industry is constantly involved in litigation over ownership rights to various properties. Do I want to put up with that drama? Do I want to deal with non-disclosure agreements? Non-compete agreements?
Fuck no, I don’t. I can’t imagine anything ruining my love for my craft faster than getting into bed with this industry. I mean, yeah, it would be awesome to work on a horror film set, or to work with James Wan. But is the chance of fulfilling these fantasies worth the cost? I don’t think so.
That leaves me with the unenviable task of figuring out what sort of work I would be willing to do for money.
If I do attempt to make a business out of my haunt craft, I think I’d rather avoid selling products. There are too many complications involved that I have no experience with – sales taxes, shipping, product liabilities, return/refund policies, and much more. I have experience with service-oriented businesses, and I think a performance-based business would be substantially similar.
I am certain that I want to fish around for a seasonal job. It’s pretty important to me that I get at least 3 months off each year to pursue travel and – if I’m not getting enough time in during the rest of the year – to pursue my craft and other haunt work.
Two other thoughts that have crossed my mind are to reconsider digital nomadism and to consider becoming a snowbird. I may be able and willing to remain in Wisconsin during the summer, if I can head to the southwest in the winter.
As always, I’ve got my work cut out for me. But now it’s crunch time. Per my agreement with my landlord, I could be asked to move out at any time now. Plus, my savings is starting to inch closer and closer to zero. I can hold out a few more months, but I really want to get these things figured out and executed sooner than later.