Over the past three days, I’ve done a lot of thinking about what my life will look like after this trip is over. I think I’ve made considerable progress. And I might have a stoner chick to thank for the idea that sparked my imagination.
For all the miles and hours I’ve logged over the past two days, I haven’t progressed much on my itinerary. Most of these past two days were long commutes between distant stops.
Sunday morning, we left our campsite at Maligne River and drove up to Maligne Canyon. Then we headed into Jasper to restock some provisions before making the arduous journey to Vancouver. I might have gotten a lot more thinking done this day had it not been for the thunderstorms and forest fire smoke we had to contend with. Although there was a long line at the Peace Arch U.S. / Canada border, we made it through the second and final border crossing with no harassment or problems. We went a few miles down I-5 and slept at the Custer Rest Area.
Yesterday, we drove a long and circuitous route around Northern Cascades National Park and then did the same to get into Olympic National Park. It took approximately 600 miles and thirteen hours of nonstop driving to get that far. But before we even did that, we stopped at The Joint in Bellingham, WA to get our first taste of legalized marijuana.
For as much as I truly hate the Twilight film series, one thing I like is the scenery. I’m not sure if the series was set in Washington state, filmed there, or both. But I know it’s one of those three, and now I’ve had a chance to see western Washington’s luscious and thick forests firsthand.
I’m just outside Olympic National Park now, where we’ve made camp overnight in Hoh Rainforest. I always thought rainforests were the exclusive domain of tropical regions on this planet. I never thought I’d see one up here in the United States. Many of the roads pass through tunnels of evergreens and other trees, a refreshing respite from the sun and heat. Moss and vines hang from trees like something you’d see in a Tarzan film.
Coming down from my experiences on Saturday and subsequent blog post, I spent much of Sunday trying to figure out who I am right now and who I want to be when this trip is over. Increasingly, I came to realize that I do not want to give up this nomadic lifestyle, but I also know that what I’m doing right now is not sustainable in the long term.
I figured that a lot of my confusion stems from the fact that since I don’t have a clear idea of who I want to become, I therefore have no clear path to achieve that goal. I think of myself as a “haunter” or a “nomad”. But those labels are just the vehicles by which I express myself and express my values.
Re-Evaluating My Values
I concluded that I needed to seriously consider what my driving values are. I spent a lot of time pondering, and came up with three questions to help me identify those values.
- What factors am I considering when I think about my future residential and occupational plans? For each option I’m considering, what are my primary concerns or questions? What do those factors and concerns tell me about my values?
- Setting aside the romanticism of gutter punks and tramps – what specifically is it that I truly admire about Zombie and others like him?
- What specifically was it about the polo shirt and khaki-wearing plastic people that bothered me?
After considering those three questions, I arrived at five values. I checked after the fact, and three of my five values match up with the five core values of The Minimalists. I mention that because it’s how I know I’m on the right track and thinking of values rather than identities.
She is my family and my sole responsibility, other than to myself. I can suffer. I can be uncomfortable. But I can’t allow her to suffer for my decisions. Any home I make has to be a safe place for her. Roommates would be ideal so I have people to care for her when I’m away travelling or working.
Health and Safety
I feel healthier now than I have at any time in the last 11 years. Mentally, leaving the practice of law has lifted a burden from my head. Emotionally… well, let’s just say that some nerve endings long thought to be dead have been re-animated in recent days. I can feel again. Physical recovery will take a long time, but I feel more energetic, stronger, and more limber. Stripping away modern conveniences has allowed me to achieve this new level of health, and I want to keep the momentum going. I want shelter, clean water, and a safe place for my dog. And not much more than that.
Relationships with Others
This spans the whole spectrum – from romantic relationships to casual acquaintances, and what communities I can identify with, be involved with, or contribute to. I want to open up more toward strangers, be more social and less introverted. I want to be a better friend to my friends.
Avoid Excess / Have an Authentic Connection to the Natural World
I’ve come to realize that material possessions tend to form bubbles that isolate us from the real world – whether that be in the form of computers taking the place of person-to-person contact, conveniences and “travel toys” that keep us clean and comfortable when we’re pretending to enjoy nature, or the mindless pursuit of consumerism at the expense of more important things. Strip that stuff away, and you begin to feel more in touch with the real world.
The Freedom to Pursue Passions
That’s what this has all been about, right? Quit the job and sell the house so I can afford both the time and money to pursue my passions. If we can’t, won’t, or don’t set aside the time to pursue passions, then life has little meaning.
What Is Passion?
I know I’ve written about this before, but it’s so important that I think it begs to be restated whenever I get the chance to.
Passion is not the same thing as aspiration. Aspirations are merely what we want to do. Passions are something we get lost in. They make us forget to eat. They make us forget to go to sleep.
You can be passionate about something you don’t aspire to be. You might get really invested in playing video games, but don’t necessarily want to grow up to be that 40 year old man-child still glued to the television set in his mother’s basement.
Alternatively, you can aspire to be something you’re not passionate about. I was that way with writing. I wanted to be a horror novelist, but I never set aside the time to devote the craft.
Also understand that passions are not interests. Interests are things that you take notice of. I take interest in astrophysics, quantum physics, and microbiology. In another life, these might have been passions, but not in this one. I don’t devote my life to these studies. But when I hear about them, they grab my attention. They are interests, but not passions.
How do you find your passions? Through exploration. Try new things. Don’t try to force one of your interests or aspirations into becoming a passion. Just explore, and observe which activities draw you in to a place where time and space begin to lose meaning. When you find those things, then you’ve begun the process of honing in on your passions.
Crafting an Identity
Now that I’ve got those five values hammered out (and I’m feeling pretty confident that I’ve identified solid values), it’s time to craft and mold my gothic, nomadic, punkish identity around those values.
The Bellingham Idea
En route to Northern Cascades National Park, I stopped in Bellingham, WA to a marijuana dispensary so I could purchase weed legally for the first time. The clerk at The Joint was a young stoner chick. I always get a kick out of chatting with the guys who work in headshops – they’re fun people. But this girl was something else. I didn’t catch her name, but I did give her my card and I am hoping that she reaches out to me sometime soon.
She asked me where I was from, and when I told her what I was doing – man, you should have seen her face light up. I thought she was going to spontaneously combust, she seemed so happy. Although I didn’t get to learn much about her in our short interaction, it seemed clear that I had bumped into yet another kindred spirit.
I must have mentioned my conundrum of wanting to remain homeless, because she made a suggestion of a mobile home. Initially I dismissed the idea because that just never seemed like the right fit for me. But over the next 12 hours of driving through Washington, it occurred to me that her idea bore some merit.
I am already beginning to dread the end of this trip. I’m already a quarter of the way through Phase 3 just two weeks in – I know this trip is going to come to an abrupt end much sooner than I anticipated. I haven’t even gotten to the desert southwest yet, where I’m CERTAIN the sun and heat will keep me sprinting like a barefoot beachgoer on scalding hot sand.
I really don’t want to abandon this lifestyle, either. Yeah, I know – finding a safe place to sleep and clean water is a daily grind. I do look forward to taking a hot shower and sleeping in a flat bed. But despite those grievances, I’ve gotta say – I’m getting used to them. And as crazy as it sounds, I’m actually enjoying being homeless.
But this is not sustainable. I cannot afford the fuel it would take to keep me warm in the winter and cool in the summer. This trip will have to end when it ends. That doesn’t mean I want to yield to a traditional home or apartment. What’s the compromise? How can I have my cake and eat it, too?
Well, a mobile home might be the solution that fits my values.
- It’s a safe space for Remy. It would be bigger than the truck, affording her the ability to move and stretch more than she can now. And while I don’t know much yet about the places one might park a mobile home, I’m guessing the outdoor environments would be rather friendly for a dog.
- A mobile home would not only encourage, but necessitate a continued minimalist lifestyle. I would be less likely to fall back into the old bad habits of modern life that kept me unhealthy for so long.
- If residing in a mobile home community, I might be more inclined to be more social. At the very least, I could filter out all the pretentious snobs who look down their nose at anyone living in a mobile home and attract the types of friends I want to surround myself with.
- With the minimalist lifestyle that would accompany a mobile home, I could continue to live more authentically and be less influenced by consumerism.
- I wouldn’t have to worry about messing up a rental unit with latex spills or blood paint splatter. In a home of my own, I could do my messy craft with no consequence. I could display my work for my mobile neighbors and maybe even sell my stuff to them. OR… I could do this…
I have serious reservations about posting this idea here. For one thing, it’s like announcing a birthday wish out loud. You’re not supposed to do that.
For another thing, this idea depends pretty heavily on one individual. I don’t know if that individual is reading this blog. I doubt it, but he might. If he is, then mentioning this idea here is really awkward and probably self-destructive.
This individual is currently my best potential prospect for finding work when this trip is over. We had a conversation earlier this year during which he made strong hints that he could hook me up with work, though no promises or specifics have been made. I do not want to put undue pressure on that individual or give him the impression that my survival depends upon his generosity.
But it’s such a promising idea that I can’t help but to write it down for future reference.
The last time I spoke with this aforementioned individual, I knew that he was planning on setting up a haunt business in a city that I’m willing to live in. There was an outstanding question of his timeline. He alluded to me continuing to offer legal or financial service within the haunt industry.
Assuming we could come up with an agreement and he was willing to engage me in this manner, then this is my idea / fantasy:
- I buy a mobile home and park it somewhere on the business property. In exchange for security services and routine patrols to protect sensitive and expensive haunt equipment from thieves and vandals, I would get a free space to squat and access to electricity and water.
- In exchange for some minor financial advice or bookkeeping service (not sure what he had in mind, exactly), a small stipend so I can afford other living expenses like groceries, cleaning supplies, fuel, and insurance.
- I continue doing haunt work: in-house construction, in-house acting, building and selling corpses and props (in-house, contracting out, and public sales) and use the money I raise from those activities to fund future travels.
I think this, or some variation of it could work. But again, it depends on the willingness of my friend. But even if he’s okay with this idea, his timeline might not jive with mine. So if I do get a mobile home, I’m going to need a Plan B for income, as a stopgap measure at the very least.
Questions and Concerns About a Mobile Home
Even before I do that, I need to make sure a mobile home is the right option for me. There’s still so much that I don’t know and need to learn.
- I don’t know the difference between a mobile home, an RV, a camper, a trailer, or a tiny home. Show me pictures and I might properly identify them. But I don’t really know the detailed differences, or the pros and cons of each.
- How mobile is a mobile home? What would be the relationship between a mobile home and my primary vehicle? Does one tow the other? Do I need a second body to help me move them? I’ve seen mobile homes hoisted up on bricks to keep tires from going flat. How do they do that?
- How much does a mobile home cost? Does buying one mean kissing off Europe for 2018?
- Where can I park a mobile home or lease a lot? With a small enough vehicle, could I conceivably use the National Forests indefinitely? I need to review the camping regulations.
- I’m assuming – the number of people who live in mobile homes and trailers – that electricity and water are issues that are considered in the construction and parking. But I still need to learn about how they work and what I need to prepare for. I also need to learn about mail delivery, or whether I will need a P.O. Box.
I intend to spend one night in a hotel during each phase of this trip. Next time I do, I’ll use the Wi-Fi to do some research on those questions. The next time I’ll stop in a hotel will probably be in Portland, but it’s only about 450 miles away.
I could be there as early as today, but since I was just in a hotel room last Thursday night, I’m going to try to drag my heels here in Washington. I spotted a cozy cove by the Pacific Ocean about 30 miles from here. If it’s still vacant, I’m going to try to bum around there all day today. Otherwise, all the stands between me and Portland right now is Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens.