Note: Sorry this one got posted so late. I think it took five days for me to get around to this one.
The trip is now officially over. I returned to Green Bay yesterday (Monday, August 8 – it might be a few days before I have enough data signal to get this uploaded). I am now in Nicolet National Forest, at a favorite campsite of mine, where Remy and I are going to spend the next few days. My goals while I’m here are to reflect on my journey of the past five weeks, contemplate my future, and get myself mentally prepared for the next few steps of my journey.
Day 34: St. Louis, Bloomington, Rockford, Madison
Day 35: Madison, Waupun, Oshkosh, Green Bay
Trip Analysis: By the Numbers
Distance Traveled: 15,455 miles
Time Spent on the Road: 35 days
Hitchhikers Picked Up: 5 people
Countries Visited: 2 (United States and Canada)
U.S. States Visited: 18 (Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho*, Montana, Washington*, Oregon*, California, Nevada*, Arizona*, Utah*, New Mexico*, Texas*, Oklahoma*, Missouri, and Illinois)
Canadian Provinces Visited: 2 (Alberta and British Columbia*)
Time Zones: 3
States and Provinces that I marked with an asterisk (*) are ones I had not visited before this year.
Nights Spent in a National Forest, National Park, or other Natural Area: 15
Nights Spent at a Highway Rest Stop / Rest Area: 11
Hotel or Motel Stays: 7
Nights Spent in a Wal-Mart Parking Lot: 1
Nights Spent Couchsurfing: 1
Money Spent on Fuel: $1,990.88. (Budget: $2,500)
Money Spent on Food and Ice: $637.81. (Budget, prorated over 5 weeks: $250)
Money Spent on Tolls & Parking: $54.77. (DEN, SFO, YVR, LAX, and OKC)
I’m not including money spent on motels since those were optional indulgences on my part. Nor am I including auto repairs and maintenance. Apart from an oil change in Portland, my repair costs are inflated by (1) starting out in a piece-of-shit van that I should not have bought in the first place and (2) picking up with a truck that was nearing the 100,000 mile mark and would be needing new brakes.
In my defense on the food budget: I bought meals for two other people on two separate occasions, plus I failed to take ice into account when preparing the budget in the first place.
Asking for Favors & Blown Opportunities
I was very excited to see my friends in Madison whom I hadn’t seen for so long. However, the brutally honest truth about my motivations to see them were to follow-up on a possible job connection that I had discussed with one of them earlier this year.
I hate receiving gifts, asking for help, asking for favors, having people wait on or serve me, or otherwise receiving acts of kindness and generosity. There are many reasons for this – I won’t get into that now. The point is – just arranging to have this dinner with my friends was awkward because I couldn’t possibly imagine that they didn’t know what my ulterior motives were.
But we did have dinner, and the entire evening I was looking for a way to bring up the subject. I couldn’t imagine how it would be possible for us to go through the entire evening without the subject coming up, but somehow, we did it. I kept waiting for them to open the door because I didn’t want to just blurt out that I was looking for a favor. And I waited and waited and waited, and the opening just never appeared. They even asked me to spend the night, and I still couldn’t make it happen the following morning.
Pissed at Myself
Needless to say, I am pissed off for my cowardice. I should have just been blunt and put it out there. But in my paranoid mind, asking for such a big favor would be insulting to our friendship, particularly if they didn’t open the door on the subject for conversation first.
I’m also really pissed off because… I gave up everything for this; my career, my home, my possessions – all so I could be one of the few people who could actually afford to survive on a meager living as a haunter. I cannot give up on this dream so quickly or so easily.
And now, my paranoid mind is trying to interpret and decipher the hidden meaning of why they avoided asking me things like “what are your plans for the future?” or “what are your plans to find a job?” or “do you plan to do any haunt work this season?”. It feels to me like they deliberately avoided the subject, which makes me wonder why. There are any number of options. Maybe they wanted to see if I would have the guts to ask. Maybe they knew that what was discussed last spring is no longer an option.
I could spend hours hypothesizing the meaning of their silence and I would drive myself mad.
It’s not like I don’t have other options. In fact, immediately after I left Madison, I proceeded to reach out to the haunted house directly to see if they needed help. If they don’t respond, I can still go back to my friends in Madison, eat some crow, and ask the question I should have had the guts to ask in the first place. And if the answer is no, there are two haunts in Green Bay I’d consider working at. I could also look for haunts in Madison or Washington state. Or I could give in and take any one of dozens of other jobs I’ve thought about taking in lieu of haunt work.
I’m not even in a rush to find work. I’ve still got plenty of money saved and can survive for quite a long time as I am right now.
But there are a few problems:
- I’m going to have to figure out shelter or a living situation before winter gets here. Right now, I’m enjoying mild weather, but this won’t last. I don’t want to pick a shelter until I have a job figured out first. Even if the job is only temporary.
- It’s already a week into August. If I’m going to do haunt work, I’m rapidly running out of time to do it this season.
- The sooner I find a job, the sooner I can stop drawing on this money I have saved, which I would like to use either to buy a travel trailer or to travel to Europe (or both). The longer I’m unemployed, the less this money will stretch.
So technically, I’ve been homeless for five weeks. And yet the past two days have felt very different from the past five weeks. I noticed this when Chad (my friend who I visited yesterday) was explaining to his son that I no longer had a home, but was living my life day by day.
In a way, I haven’t been doing that over the past five weeks. I had an itinerary. I had a structured plan. Even though I wasn’t living in a home and – in fact – never knew where I was going to sleep each night, the itinerary gave me structure.
Now that structure is gone. I could stay here in Nicolet for one night… two… three… At this point, I truly am adrift with no clear purpose or obligation. Now I really do feel homeless. Of course, I know how to survive like this. I might stay here in Nicolet for a week, maybe. (I’ll have to go in for provisions and to check e-mail.)
So it is a little disorienting right now. Like I said, I’m going to take my time here to unwind. I will reflect on the past five weeks and contemplate my future. And more importantly, I want to reconnect with nature in a way I haven’t been able to since I was at Mount Hood National Forest. I think if I can get myself back into that primal mindset, it will bring about some clarity, help me refocus, and provide my motivation to move forward.