The question begs itself – why are some people so moved that they hit the road? They forgo that which is most common in our polite society and live life on the cusp, on the edge, on the fringes? Why DO people do this?
Here is what I have found out so far.
Some folks are youngsters wanting that last rush, that last taste of freedom before they dive in, head first, to conventional life. These are usually college students in between terms, post graduation, or having left higher education altogether to “find themselves”. They really are not lost, they can just no longer hear their own voice. They leave for a couple weeks or months and travel in the US or abroad. The over-romanticized notion of backpacking around Europe. Some have money, some are financed by parents, and yet others just figure it out as they flit about on a wing and a prayer. This group tends to be young, traveling with a boyfriend/dog/partner or in a group of like-minded folks. A temporary solution to an immediate sense of discontent. Rock on and I hope you find yourself, or at least your own voice.
Some are traveling and working in combination. These are photographers, journalists, artists, tutors… there are a number of jobs that, as long as you have some access to technology or electricity, you can perform and that will bring you an income while you journey about. Some of these folks will travel to sell their wares, such as painters or jewelry makers, while others are looking to record stories, such as photojournalists working with breast cancer survivors. Yet others in this group are hoping to sell their heartfelt stories as a way to pursue their passion of travel and have a means of support. Perhaps they are on the road full time and perhaps just part time and it seems to depend on the presence of a more standard job or the nature of their current source of income. I read of one woman who lives in her RV full time and has a full-time job. That is just her preferred choice of housing.
I have found a group of folks who are paid in some way to travel around and tout the wares of this or that company, cause or social issue. Perhaps this is to promote the equipment the company makes, teach a sponsored wilderness survival skills class, promote some health issue, or perhaps to promote the Leave No Trace modus operandi. These jobs generally last one season, more than likely a summer. Some of these jobs may include writing or posting on web sites, some more mobile and involve travel and all of your gear and/or equipment is provided. Perhaps you travel to a regional outdoor gathering or show or event. I equate this to being a vendor.
Then there is a group out here like me. We are just doing our thing, living our lives, having experiences as they come. We do not have a grand purpose or motivation. We are traveling alone. Maybe we have a dog or a cat, but alone otherwise. We have saved or sold things or divorced well or are actually retired, but we are for the most part self-supporting. Speaking for myself only, the point of this sort of travel is just to be. To live and see and do and experience all that the world has to offer. Well, not all. Just my little corner of it. I have no grandiose plans to drive through Canada or Mexico or South America. If I go to Europe it will be to visit my daughter in Sweden. I pick up side work when and where I can or want to, and volunteering is also on my agenda. However, I do not want to schedule myself so thick that I am out of time to just wander. I am not of the mind where I will answer to anyone or work on their schedule. I am out here for me and me alone right now.
It is this wandering that soothes the savage beast. The autonomy that has called to me all these years. This deep desire to be and do and think for myself. Sure, there are stresses that come with not having a plan. There are unknowns that keep me awake at night and questions that may never get an answer. Aren’t there always? It seems to me that no matter who you are or how you live there are unanswered questions, things that keep you up at night and parts of your life that you wrestle with. Should I take that job? Marry that person? Get that dog? Buy that outfit? Join the gym or run that marathon? You worry about your bills, your kids, your house, your drinking, your parents, or you just worry.
I have questions and worries and doubts, too. The difference is the context and the nature of them. I worry about bears in my camp and when I will shower next. I contend with spiders on a daily basis and how long my ice will last. Which trail to take and when to visit town. There are always things to which we must attend, always chores and items that need looking after. Folks who live on the road have merely shifted theirs.
I have taken a radical approach to live my life in a way that makes more sense than nearly anything I have done thus far. I hear of others that have made the same choice and I hope to meet them at some point. Living on the road means that we do not have a mailbox, that we do and do not have the internet, and we may not always know how to reach or recognize each other. We are out there, out here. I look forward to meeting some of my kindred souls, some folks who live on the road, live on the edge of society, or who choose and alternate path. I hope to learn a thing or two from them and connect in a way only we can.
Salute to our way of life. Prost to a good camp site. May you always have ice in your cooler and a full charge on your computer.