I just watched the van-camping couple next door leave. They came in last night, after dark, and are now gone. To them, probably early, but it is 10:00 in the morning and I have lived half a life already. They have stayed here before, in the same spot. They know the drill. These last two times I did not see their receipt for payment. As is customary at these sites, one gets a registration envelope at the welcome center, fills it in, including payment for your stay, and puts the actual envelope into a box. There is a smaller portion with details of your stay that you affix to the identification pole at your camp. This lets the caretaker know you have paid, and communicates the site availability to the rest of the folks who may be looking. During their first stay, this van couple did that. These last two nights, when they came in late and left “early”, I never saw the receipt at camp. I am making an assumption they did not pay. They also know that the caretaker historically does not come around until much later in the day.
OK, I get it, everyone is trying to save a buck where we can. I understand all you did was sleep. I assume somebody either peed outside or used the outhouse at some point. Perhaps a minimal use of the resources available. But, you did have safe place to sleep, did you not? You did have water and a toilet available, did you not? You should still pay. Do you know what that money does? Do you know why payment is important? It pays staff to keep an eye on these places so douche’ bags don’t desecrate them. It pays for trail maintenance and clean restrooms (as clean as you can get an outhouse) and toilet paper. Those dollars help insure that the camp sites will be cared for and preserved and available for future use.
Hey, look, I get that you are short on cash. But, who chose to live on the road, anyway? I have yet to read anything by anyone who did NOT choose their travel way of life and who was FORCED into being homeless and unemployed. Perhaps those folks are just quiet on the web sites and Facebook groups. However, when we intentionally choose this way of life we are taking on the obligation to help support that which supports us. Buy that forest permit or duck stamp or even a hunting license. All those funds go back to help preserve that which we are so intent on enjoying. Those dollars are headed to the folks who will make sure we are safe in our camp spots, that we actually HAVE camp choices, that we have clean water when we pay for it or a nice fire ring or picnic table. Hell, sometimes we even get free showers.
It is easy to take advantage of little, out of the way places like this camp. There is one caretaker that drives by at least once per day. We chat, which is nice, and he asks if I need anything. He collects the fee envelopes and checks out the entire place. I like knowing this person comes by. I like knowing that I have a resource, should I need it, and someone to keep an eye on my camp. I like having drinking water near, even if I have to carry it a little ways. I think camping is my biggest expense. I hate that there are now reservations systems and I hate that they all charge “convenience” fees. Convenient for who???? That’s like those phone trees that say their menu has changed in order to provide better service. Oh, shut up, your menu did NOT change and you are just stalling. Fuck off. Your fees are NOT convenient. Let’s not get started on that ONE person who reserves a spot for ONE night in a two week period. AHHH!! I hate that.
Anyway, I like the amenities, I like having someone around, I like that we even have these places. Sure, I am breaking my budget to pay for camping. But, am I? I planned for nearly a year for this lifestyle. I arranged my entire life around this choice. I read on the web sites and group pages about the women who work for months on their vans or cars or whatever they will be living in. Looks to me like planning, right? Looks to me like you are making a choice on how to live, where to live, and that you are fully aware of the financial implications of your choice. Oh, you cannot afford a camp site? Then you better know how to find BLM or Forest Service land, or the nearest Walmart, or even a rest stop that may let you sleep for a few hours. This is YOUR plan and I assume nobody forced you.
I signed up for this, as did dozens and dozens of others. I made this choice and while I really like to save money when and where I can, I also know where those dollars I do spend go and what service I, in return, receive. Shit, you think it’s bad now??? Wait until you have to line up to see Old Faithful or when there is no parking at the Grand Canyon. These places get so busy and so crowded and are in desperate need of management. Mostly because of stupid people. Oh, yes, they are special and do NOT have to stay on the trail. What boundary sign? Then their kids run all over, outside of the boundary, throwing fast food garage out the window. That boundary is there to preserve the sanctity of our natural world. Those trash cans are there to use, and if they are full, take your shit back home! These places are NOT for you to be special or get that photo or carve your initials. I have to remember that my dollars are helping keep these places and this information sacred.
Even if it hurts a little, please do your part. Pay where you have to, stay on the fucking trail like the sign says, and remind yourself this is what you signed up for. If you did not, and you are homeless and unemployed not of your own doing, please get in touch with social services wherever you are and they can direct you to resources to help you get back on your feet. Agencies are all over that can help.
For those of us who live on the road by choice, our pocketbooks may hurt now and again, but we all know the remedy for that. We can volunteer, trade services, or pick up temp work. Minimum wage is more than $0 per hour anyway.
As a follow-up – when I left the rain of camp this morning to head into town, I noticed one of the garbage containers was full. It was full of a mattress, some sort of dog bed or lounge chair, and some table parts. These things were not there yesterday or last night. There is a chance some random person off the roadway stopped in and used this dumpster as their own personal garbage service. At no cost to them, I might add. Then again, perhaps is was the van couple. There is no way to know. There is no doubt, however, that whomever it was, that person or persons did not pay their way. My camping fees did. I paid their way. Not happily, I might add.
Wow, did that go by fast! That Aerosmith song comes to mind, “… a month on the road and I’ll be eatin’ from your hand”. It does not feel like a month, but then again, I do not know what that would feel like. The biggest challenge so far as been this unstructured time. No visits or work or volunteering lined up. That has been a challenge to entertain myself, find a purpose, yet stay fairly close to home for these first few weeks.
I am often asked how it is going or what have I learned about myself. Gee, it is fine and nothing really. Honestly, it is pretty anticlimactic. I mean, I learned how to live in my tent, at camp sites, in new and different towns. I learned that I do not do cold very well and the tent does not and cannot stay warm or protect me against the outside temperature. I do stay dry and enjoy the sounds of rain. I have learned about the best breakfast for me, and am getting better about dinner. Basically, I just learned how to live. Where each thing is packed, where to hang my jackets or clothes I want to use again. I am getting the hang of the laundry mat. Pretty boring, I would think. Just the various aspects of my new life. Snore.
I spent a lot of time asking others about how they do this, hungry for tips and tricks and insights. Teach me, Obi Wan! That, too, was a let down. I said this before, and I stand by it now, nobody else can prepare you. Nobody! You have to learn for yourself what works for you and how best to care for you and what makes you happy or anxious or what you want to see and how you want to see it. How much money you do or do not spend, what activities you participate in or take advantage of, where you camp… all of that is so subjective and unique and individual. My daughter harps on me because I am paying to camp when there is probably free camping on Forest Service or BLM land fairly close by. Yup, I know. I like having a picnic table and some sort of toilet and water. I like being closer to town so I can have stuff to do. There is a group of women who live in RV’s and vans and are always looking for free camping. I get it now, when you have paid thousands of dollars for your rig and will pay twice what I pay because you need electricity and hook ups and pull through sites. If you are self-contained, you can just pull over and park and sleep and have all you need. That makes a lot of sense. I paid just under $300 for my tent and am probably $1000 into all the other gear, if you throw in modifications to the Jeep, more like $2500 as a generous estimate for the entire shooting match. I get about 20 miles per gallon when driving – yeah, I know it sucks. But, if something breaks down I just return it. My major purchases were from REI and that was on purpose. I know I have one year from the time of purchase to take it back and that is great insurance. The other things, well, they are not as expensive and what does not work, gets donated. I may pay $14 to $25 per night to camp, but overall I think I am saving a ton of money on this experiment.
Longer term, I think about some sort of vehicle to camp in or with as a way to mitigate my vulnerability to the elements and give me more flexibility. I would really not want to pull anything at this point. If I did buy, that means the Jeep goes into storage and I will add a motorcycle. That makes me smile, as I miss riding already. But, then, I think of the extra expenses of sewage and water and propane, camp sites and gas and all the things that can break down or go wrong, then my entire house goes in for repairs. It changes the game and increases my expenses and I would have to be ready for that. Anything I did buy would be paid in cash, so no payments. But, that would come out of my future house down payment. If there will be a future house, that is. But, all the rest would be more than I pay now. Way more. Then again, I may be able to work more given my new ability to hit Amazon centers or be an actual camp host and live in the RV. I consider these options for longer term and will keep my eyes and ears open to learn from others and research vehicles. There is a trade, but that scale can quickly tip if I am not mindful. More things to consider.
Anyway, this post is just about status. I am fine, all is well, no great insights or words of wisdom or leaps of personal growth. Just me, living outside, riding my bike, hiking around, reading and writing. I am happy to report that I still have not shit in the woods. I am prepared to. But, not so far. That is just one of the things I can live my entire life without doing.
I suppose in this new life even an outhouse is an amenity.
Thanks to anyone who reads this, and those who do not but are still in my corner cheering me on and asking about me and sending me messages. That means the world to me and helps me stay confident and positive and supported and loved. I am looking forward to hitting town soon, seeing friends, and having some company. To be honest, I am looking forward to being only steps away from a toilet in the middle of the night. Ahh, the little things.
I did it. I just biked what I think is the longest four miles of my life. OK, so maybe not my life. Perhaps the longest four miles that I can remember. Ok, well maybe not that, either. Definitely the longest four miles of THIS trip! Yeah, that’s it, the longest four miles of this trip. The longest four miles because of the Sisters Art Walk.
I knew there was some sort of parade tonight and I knew it started at 4:00. I drove to town earlier to hit the library, work on my web site, run some errands. All well and good. I got back to camp and got ready to ride into town. I did not want to park the Jeep in town all day so I drive back to camp after errands to safely park her in the shade. Fussing about getting ready to ride I was looking at my rear bike tire and saw something that looked like a rock. I will just remove that rock. Oh, shit, now there is a hole and air is leaking! Wait, that was not a rock, whatever the fuck that was left a hole and air is spewing from my tire. Hisss! I am helpless to stop it. Shit. Load up bike and take it to the shop I rode by a couple times. The bike shop that is by the fruit market where I am buying super awesome strawberries that I am putting all over my morning cereal. As long as they are a little sweetened, they taste great. I could use some fruit that is not a blueberry. I am really sick of blueberries. But, I digress.
Totally accommodating bike shop, fixed my tire and I bought a repair kit, one inner tube and some tools to get the actual tire on and off the rim. Sticker goes on the top case. Thanks guys!
I was still anxious about leaving the Jeep in town, given all my food and supplies and the sun and stuff, so I drove it back. Original plan commence – ride to town, see this parade, and get some beer. Cool, plan in place. Ride starts. Beautiful day out here, sunny and warm and full on 50 SPF for this chick. Loaded my pack with water, snacks, extra clothes in case it gets cold, first aid kit, bike lock, hat, etc. I am ready to take over the town.
I was a little early so I explored around a bit. There is a place with the word HOPS in it and I had been trying to stop in but they are always closed. Now, they were open so I stopped. I can barely write this without laughing. This guy has a spa where you take a bath with hops and malt. LOLOLOL Like you brew yourself. It is supposed to be good for you. What the FUCK ever!! What a bunch of horseshit. What a waste of malt and hops. I am still laughing. Good luck, buddy, I hope you stay afloat and that folks who do not drink beer will soak in wort.
A new world record for the shortest parade ever! Like, literally, it ended at 4:05. It was some artsy thing for the kids to march and play drums and wave streamers or whatever they were doing. It was cute and sweet and clearly important to the kids. Oh, and the high school band marched. I swear, in another life, that was my buddy Andy at the helm! Just shorter and heavier, but same haircut and basic features. I had parked the bike for the grand event and was walking around town. Parade started, and within five minutes, parade over. Cool. Small towns rock.
I stumbled into some female centric art shop that caught my eye. Nice paintings with cartoonishly shapely women in bright colors and smiles and laughs. Really positive images that I totally loved. The shopkeeper said something out loud about getting her chocolate and wine ready for Art Walk. My ears perked up. Wait, what? Free wine and chocolate? Please, oh knowledgeable shopkeeper, tell me more. Ends up, just after the five minute parade, an Art Walk event started as a way to feature local shops, artists, and auction items. There is a fundraiser Saturday night and this is the prequel. Yeah, whatever. That is fine and good. But, Michelle is interested in the free food and wine. Do tell. Oh, look, there is list of venues and there is music and food and alcohol. Score!!
I got my map and set out to cover the town. Me and my backpack and my biking clothes and my camp hat. Yup, all the fashion icon. Fuck them, who cares. I made my way around the town, getting everything from red to white to pink to bubbly wine, Crown Royal (oh yeah!), nuts to cheese to Chex Mix to some portabella thing, from Snickerdoodle cookies to brownies to chocolate tarts to some melted chocolate glob. Nobody here needs dinner or drinks, no way, no how, not me! I had scored and was having myself a ball eating and drinking my way around this little enclave. I did enjoy the art and actually saw a couple pieces that moved me big. There was a musician that totally rocked my world and she even did original songs. Lovely, to say the least.
I was not greedy and did not load my plate. I was polite and appreciative and made pleasant conversation when and where appropriate. In the end, I went back to the original female art place and let the worker person know how much I appreciated her guidance and suggestion and what a ball I had. We talked a few more minutes and I told her I had to bike home. It was just about four miles. She questioned my ability. Ha! No biggie. I got this. I have biked farther. Famous last words.
I hit the louvre and set out. I knew it was relatively flat and there would be little traffic. The sun was in my face, which thankfully was mitigated by the brim of my bike helmet. I was fully loaded with the 50 SPF and ready to ride. Yeah, all well and good while under the influence. But, it did not take more than 15 minutes and my ass started to hurt, my legs burned, and my HooHoo screamed GET ME OFF THIS THING. Yeah, it was not long and the road ahead was long and empty. I have a video and if I can figure out how to post it, I will include it. I could not see the end of this long and straight and sunny road. But, my body wished it was at the end.
This is stupid, I told myself. I had biked 3X this many miles before! WTF body? What is your problem? A few free appetizers and some alcohol and we go to hell? Come one, now, you can do this. I mean, you got out here. You did it already once before. Time for intensity mode. Head down, looking at the road, mind focused on each movement, not on the discomfort or rubs or what hurts. We have only the motion of the pedal, the arm movement that can help each rotation, and the breathing that we shall keep under control. Not looking ahead, not stressing how far, not feeling the weight of the backpack, just here and now and in this place and making the bike move. It does not have to be fast (and it was not) and it does not have to be pretty (maybe a little weaving), but we have to get there. One foot in front of the other, one rotation and then another. One breath and then another. You got this, you signed up for this, you earned this with all that free food and alcohol. What a score that was, huh? Smiles and momentary distraction. Ok, wait, bet back into athlete mode. Focus!
Yes, I made it. No, I did not die. Yes, my ass and my HooHoo are a little tender. My back is sweaty and I am sure my feet stink. But, I did it! I got all the way home and I had a great time eating and drinking my way around town. Score a fun evening, score free stuff and score enjoyable music and conversation and visual pleasures. It was a great ending to a good day. Organic, mostly unplanned, and leaves me sated and happy. Sure, the alcohol and chocolate help. But, so does the random five minute parade, the super awesome local music and the great chat with the worker-bee at the female oriented art store. This. This is the shit I signed up for. This is it.
WARNING: If you are easily offended, just skip this one. Thanks.
I have been a camper for years. I have already talked about the different ways we camp and some of the different people who camp. Today I am upset because somebody stole the wipes I left in the outhouse. The fucking out house!! Whose wipes did you think they were, anyway??? You know they were not yours, right?? I am pissed.
In response, or in addition to my little vent, I want to acknowledge the etiquette that goes with camping. Oh, yes, there is a culture, there are written and unwritten rules. There are even expectations (like not stealing my fucking wipes) that I am compelled to acknowledge. As you read this, know I welcome additional insights for anything I may have missed.
First, there are the posted rules. The campgrounds I have been in, developed or primitive, all have a registration station. Like a welcome mat but on a sign. Generally, you will see the location name, who owns or operates the area, standard rules, maps if applicable, and pay station. Information one would need to know should a ranger stop in or get a complaint about your behavior. There are no excuses for bad behavior, as the rules are right there. Oh, and the ranger will stop in or drive by. They always do. Additional guidelines include fees, campfire limitations, wood gathering rules, if this is a bear or cougar area, pets and leashes. Some of the rules seem obvious, like not shooting your gun for target practice, and some not so much like how long one can stay or if you can or cannot gather firewood. They are posted and clear. If you choose to camp here, you agree to these rules as they are laid out. Cool. Got it. Don’t be a dick. Roger that.
Second are the unwritten rules. Those that are part of the culture of camping, or living on the road, or being out of the doors. Some we learn because we fuck up, some from observation, and some we come by intuitively. These include things like the wave. When one sees someone else at a nearby campsite, and if you should make eye contact, it is courteous and common to wave. Just a simple hand up, nothing fancy, not like a parade wave, not like an aerobic movement. Just a hand. This serves as a recognition that I know you are there and you know I am here. Nobody is inviting conversation or a visit. This simple gesture communicates an acknowledgment that we are sharing a space and we know and recognize that. Here I am and there you are. Enough said.
It is also polite to speak a simple greeting when passing by, or running into someone at the bathroom or shower or water spicket. A simple “Good Morning” or “Good Afternoon” will do. Some folks strike up a little chat, and that is perfectly fine and within bounds. One may become suspicious if somebody walks by with no words. I know I do and I will be watching you closer from that point forward. Again, it is more a recognition that we are here, outside, sharing space, sharing amenities, if there are any. We will probably hear each other at some point, or at least share campfire smoke. Besides that, now I have seen you up close and am even more familiar with what you look like, how you dress or other personal characteristics. Another step to familiarity, just in case you go missing or are wanted at some later point and I will have to give a description to the authorities.
Third, campsites are like homes. Whether it is a tent or a trailer or a car. I am sure this will come as no surprise, I get quite possessive about my site. One shall not walk through a site, unless there is some emergency. One does not simply invite themselves in, no matter how public the space. One shall not touch or otherwise disturb anything at someone else’s site. Unless, again, there is an emergency with a fire or a pet or something. At one camp, the folks thought they could tether their dogs and leave camp for a time. Well, those clever dogs just pulled their tether out and off they went on their own grand adventure, dragging their lead behind. In that case, a knock on the door or taking the dogs back to the space may be in order. In all my years in all sorts of camp sites, I have never had any problems with space invasions or theft. Never. Thankfully!
Anyway, these are boundaries one must not cross. Kids, well, kids can be oblivious and run amok and sometimes they just wander over. OK, forgive the kid and then explain the rules. The kids will only behave as much as the parents demand. Still, kids will be kids and they are not always good listers or remember-ers. Younger children can be a drag when they cry and carry on and have tantrums and such. We do choose to live outside in these public spaces. Babies are still babies and, at times, are inconsolable. They wake up during the night and pity the fool who think they can successfully bargain with a two year old. Most parents do their best, but there are always fucktards who don’t care at home and care even less when camping. I have had that kid and that baby, so I get it. Please be mindful and maybe Junior is just not into camping, either, and it is time to go home.
Pets, on the other hand, well they can actually cause damage to things at camp. I once watched a dog wander in and out of someone else tent and then pee on said tent. I would have murdered that fucking dog if that was my tent and I would have seen it. I get that you want Fido to return to his natural roots and roam free. But, keep your fucking dog out of my camp and away form my things. I have had dogs come into my camp and eat from my garbage while I was gone. The owner was a little upset that Fido ate something she did not know about. Again, not my problem if you keep your dog under control. Then there is the barking. Those little dogs are no more cute when they bark their fool heads off as they big dog whose sound carries for miles. Just this morning a dog was barking at camp. Then, there was a response. Oh yes, Fido, some creature let you know that you are just a meal and if you get loose, a snack you shall be. It was either a large bird of prey, a wolf or a big coyote. It was a new sound for me, that was for sure. No matter. Fido shut the heck up once word got out a formidable predator was near. Good dog.
I know a lot of you out there love your dogs and they are your kids and you plan your life around them and all of that. I support you in your choice. I am not alone when I say that I do not love your dog, I do not share your love of dogs, and I really want nothing to do with it. I do not want to pet it or meet it or have it slobber on me or jump on my clean clothes. If I wanted all of that, I would have a dog. Have your dog and love your dog and have a great life together. Please leave me and my camp and my space out of it.
Just in case you are one of those directionally challenged folks (get lost in your own back yard), please no sneaking around. Sure, walk by quietly if you must, but to wander off into the woods or to the bathroom and then reappear unexpectedly in someone’s camp site may warrant all sorts of havoc. A dog should alert their owner(s), which can cause alarm. Someone like me may pull a gun, still others may draw any number of weapons and stand at the ready. We are, as established, protecting our homes. We may also feel vulnerable in such as way that a fabric tent cannot offer adequate protection from anything. We are more exposed out here, perhaps more isolated as well. Perhaps our sense of safety and security just got ramped up a bit. If you find yourself unexpectedly in someone’s camp, please make yourself known. Own your error, assuming you made one, and apologize for the breach of protocol. Things happen out here, too, and best to own your mishap then find yourself in a tussle you might lose.
The last part of this that I have not quite figured out is when and how to breach the protocol and strike up a conversation. I am camping alone. I mean, that will be obvious to anyone within visual range. I have seen others who are camping alone. Mostly men, which brings in a completely new complication when we get caught up in gender roles and expectations and fears and all of that. But, let’s take gender out of it for ease and simplicity. The rules get fuzzy when you are alone and others are alone. Can or should you cross the unwritten boundary and stop in for a chat? At what point do or can or should you strike up a more meaningful conversation? I mean, for many of us, that is part of the journey. Meeting new people and sharing stories, recommendations, touching lives for just a few moments. That can make these experiences so much richer. Then again, we are dancing on the lines of camp etiquette and it just got more complicated.
Most folks do not come to the outside to carry on as if they were home. They come to escape society, not create a new one. But, there are those of us who this IS our society. This is our culture and our neighborhood. I intend to pay more attention to this part, as I would not mind some company now and again. I would not mind hearing someone’s story or listening as they shared part of their life with me. Then again, I do not want to open the door to a constant stream of traffic that forms every time my physical presence is at camp. Being “home” is not always an invitation for socialization. Then again, it may be fun. Then again, I am probably over thinking this as I often do with most things. Analyze it to death, toss and turn it, giving that thing way more time and attention than it deserves. I could just let camp be an organic experience, whenever and however someone shows up. Just let it happen or be or unfold. Perhaps that, again, and as this adventure continues to show me, is probably my greatest challenge. Stop trying to DO and just BE.
But, I am still upset about the wipes. That was a couple dollars I do not have. Oh, I think I know who it was, too. There was a couple in a huge RV that only stayed one night. In addition to the swiping of the wipes, I am guessing the same person also left the lid up on the toilet and the door to the outhouse open. Well, Miss Thief Pants, everyone knows you keep the lid down (theres a fucking sign) and the door shut!! Lid down for smell and door shut to keep bugs and critters out. That couple left and the door and lid have been in place ever since. Off with you, Miss Thang! Miss Wipe Swiper! Be Gone!
The tempest it rages deep in my soul,
Tossing, turning, burning, on a bed of hot coal.
It screams, it cries, longing to escape,
No longer sleeping, this mighty force is wide awake.
It is the itch that can find no relief,
It is the unsettled feelings of longing and disbelief.
It’s the eyes that cut right through your heart,
It’s the restlessness that will tear you clean apart.
The longing to run, turn my back and just run.
Never mind who I am or what I have done.
Let it all go, throw caution to the wind,
Let it all go and become quite unhinged.
The fantasy of freedom shouts my name,
The desire to live in a way that is never quite the same.
Feed this beast, this longing to be free.
Unleash the tempest that will truly unleash me.
In the end, it does not matter.
I know a lot of different kinds of people. I know folks with money, and without. I know folks who are uptight and snobby, and I know folks who are down to earth and overly giving. I know earth muffins, mother-Goddesses and crunchy granolas. I know avid outdoorsman and women, survivalists, rednecks and hicks. I know Mexicans, African-Americans, Natives, Whites and unknowns. I know lawyers, accountants, farmers and retired folks. I feel the folks I know run the gamut of societal sectors, income brackets, educational levels and political sides of the house. I know all these folks and I appreciate them all.
In the end, all that does not fucking matter.
I connect with folks from nearly every walk of life, nearly every side of this complex cube of living, and nearly every way one chooses to be in the world. The funny thing is that I have something in common with someone from each of these groups. While it seems we should be different, we share something that brings us together. We have something to talk about, connect over, a common bond we never would have found had we only passed each other by.
I know I am unique. I know that I am uncommon, as I have been called to my face. I know I do not really occupy one space and I am OK with that. In fact, I am usually proud of it. I do not respect you for your title or your income or your height or your education. I will respect you if I find something different in you, something that you know or that you can teach me. I have to see something in you that I do not possess, that I may admire, or that I can never attain. It is in that small slice of the other that I find the way we are the same. Does that even make sense?
I am comfortable enough in myself to not be intimidated merely by your pedigree. You have to prove yourself to me. No matter what you bring to the table on paper or your business card or with your title. You have to back that shit up or I will not give you the time of day. My respect, my trust, my recognition of you still has to be earned. I mean earned the old fashioned way; you have to bring more than your wallet or your degree or your physical strength. You have to bring your integrity, your humanness, your personhood, your essence, your honesty and your humility. You have to keep it real with me or you mean nothing. You may out house, out car, out paycheck and out educate me, but you still have to earn my respect, my notice, and be worthy for me to see, honor and spend time with you.
I have recently learned this when the person I was with spoke in millions where I speak in thousands, and yet another person close to me speaks in hundreds where I speak in thousands. I learned that we have other things in common, other areas where we both are learning and growing. No matter your bank or asset balance, when we talk over beers or coffee we are the same.
Often times we look to those we view as superior and we lust after what they have. We see them as more of a person, more valued, and perhaps even more desirable because of their fancy job or houses or jet-set life. I challenge you to set all that aside. Put away the wallet, the financial statement, the degree or certification, and even the paycheck. Meet me person to person, then, and only then, can we realize our mutual worth. What we mean to each other is not attached to our external points of perceived value. Oh no, my friend, not at all. What we mean to each other goes far deeper than that cash stash or that fancy car or those houses you own. What we mean as people is only dependent upon what we have to give to each other, what we have to share, and what we have to learn and teach.
When we meet person to person, not one of those superficial and external areas matters. When we meet as humans it is only as humans that we find our common ground, our value and our meaning to one another.
I value my training buddy who taught me that his financial value compared to mine is a mute point when we have so many other areas to share. I value our friendship and the time we spent. I value that our value is on our common and shared interests, our shared approach to life, and our shared hobbies. I value him as a human being and it is my honor to share our common interests and, therein, we find the value.
Cheers to common ground!!
I started a new book today. It is about a journey. Not just travel, not just a trip, but turning it into something with and of purpose. Something that we have been called to do, that we hope to learn from, that will challenge us and at the same time cause us to grow in ways we cannot imagine. I think that is what I have done. I may be on a walkabout, on an adventure, or as some would say, THE adventure. I think I have started a pilgrimage.
I was moved from deep within to do this. I was called, if you will, to this journey and to perform the preparations that got me here. This was not just some cockamamie idea that came to me one night in a drunken stupor. I have struggled with these feelings my entire life. I worked hard to come up with the solution to the angst, the discontent, to feed the beast that was tearing me up inside. I struggled with the answer, I wrestled with the beast until we came to an understanding. Now, since I made this choice and put this plan into action, and now that I am living it, the beast, she sleeps. She is content and quiet. She rests.
I can’t say that I am on some amazing spiritual journey or that I will come back with all this wisdom or the cure for cancer or anything. I am not trekking about to bring attention to anything in particular or increase knowledge (because raising awareness is bullshit and not measurable and what the fuck does that mean anyway?) about some important cause. I am just here, writing and thinking and pondering and reading and hiking and biking and washing my hankies in a bucket and peeing in the woods. No story for the 6:00 news, not here, not really. Nothing earth shattering going on.
But, to me, this is everything. I have gone all in, and then some, to make this happen, to bring this vision to life, to make this dream a reality. I left nothing behind. Well, except my stuff in storage. But, come on, I get to have that, don’t I? I did get rid over over half of my worldly goods. That must count for something! I went through the emotional pain, the highs and the lows, the fears and the adulation, the anxiety and the excitement while I prepared to make this most significant change to my life. While I prepared for my adventure, my walkabout. While I prepared for my pilgrimage.
I never really thought about this undertaking in those words, within that context. I associate pilgrimage with some journey in tribute, or in homage, or in honor or memory of someone or something lost, taken away, or unattainable. A pilgrimage to put to rest that person, place or thing that has us in pain. I suppose I was in pain. I suppose I was at a place where I was mourning myself, my sacrifices, feeling the loses of what I was not, did not, could not be or see or say or do. That life that I never had because I was busy with the “have to” part of being a responsible adult, a mother, a wife, a daughter, an educator, employee.
I once had my roles stripped away from me and that was like my psyche being peeled off. I was left naked, exposed, raw from the experience. I had to define myself all over again, without those roles, without titles or worldly goods. I had to define myself with just me. Raw, naked, exposed. What did I have? Me. Myself as a person, not as a title or as a role. Not as a measure of what I owned or the job I had. Just me. The me that walked right into the hands of God. The me that found a faith that is unwavering, that runs deep and true. Me that knows wherever I go, wherever I am, whatever I am facing, I am never alone. Never. Strip it all away and the only thing I am is a child of God. I know this to be true. It is enough.
But, wait, how did that get me here? Did I have some vision from God? Did I have some dream at night? Some epiphany in the shower? No, nothing like that. I wrestled, I struggled with my life and the choices I had made. I battled the beast and I was losing. When this idea of a walkabout, of leaving all I had built, all I knew, all I had attained came to me, I felt a sense of release I had not felt before. I felt an energy so strong and so powerful I could not look away. Then I thought that this was crazy! Leave my home? My stuff? My good paying job with great benefits? Leave my health insurance and retirement contributions? Leave safety and security? The only answer for me was YES. Finally, may life started to make sense. My purpose became clear and my actions crystalized. I had to do those things that bring me the most joy in this life before there was no more life to live. I had the means, I had the capacity, I had enough knowledge and skills to build on. The path became more and more clear. The beast started to calm.
To be clear, I am not running away. I am running towards. I am leaning in so hard that I am nearly on my face. I am doing each and every thing that brings me the most joy in this world. There are struggles and challenges. Although, I have figured out how to keep my ears warm when I am sleeping on my side. You see, I have a mummy bag. That means it is a sleeping bag designed to mostly sleep on your back, all snug and warm. It also has a hood and this great neck shelf leaving exposed only your nose and mouth. However, when you turn on your side your ear gets cold. Now I sleep with a neckerchief, or bandana as some call it, and put that over my ear or my nose. Problem solved! Aside from that, I have challenges with the weather, with staying warm, with where to lay my head after I leave one place, with remembering where I put things, with the money I see flying out of my bank account. Sure, there are things. There will always be things. The trade off? I go to bed when I want, wake up when I want, or go back to sleep if I want. I read, write, hike or ride my bike. Today I swayed in the hammock and read a book. Then, I sat in my chair and finished the book. I drank tea in the morning and wine this afternoon. I felt the warmth of the sun on my face and the gentle breeze as it blew my hair in front of my eyes. I strolled down the road just because.
Yes, I signed up for this. Despite the cold, despite any of the other challenges, this is what I wanted and this is what I have. What I say and do and who I meet are still unfolding. I feel early in this, I feel it is too soon to make any conclusions or decisions. I have a lot of miles yet to cover. But, heading into week three, I am fine. I am happy, I am relaxed, I am at peace. The beast still sleeps. I believe her content, too. I do not know what this journey will bring or what it will look like farther down the road. Then again, I do not have to. I have to be here, now, in this place with this reality, acting on whatever is happening in my environment. I have never lived so much in the present as I am right now. It feels good. I feel good. This is good.
I am on a walkbout. I am on a journey to live and learn about myself and the vast expanse of the world around me, to connect with my loved ones and meet new comrades, to see new places and have new experiences. I am on the adventure of a lifetime. I am on a pilgrimage.
I am enamored with wide open spaces. I love looking out and not being able to see the end. I em enthralled with unending horizons and roads that disappear into nothing. I am getting my fill here by the ocean. The beach just goes on and on and on, never ending. I mean, it seems as if you could walk it for days and not run out of beach. It amazes and intrigues me.
I am not sure where this infatuation came from. I had no views as a kid. I mean, I grew up on the suburbs of Detroit, where it was flat and littered with cement and houses and strip malls. There were no mountains, no seas, no vistas to take your breath away. During my childhood, we spent a couple vacations on one of the great lakes, not sure which one, and that was pretty close. Those lakes are so big you cannot see the other side. I only remember playing on the shore, with the black slate rocks and trying to see who could get the most skips out of their stone. We had to be careful walking around that shore as those edges could really cut you, too.
I love being at the top of the mountain, even if the climb there scares the literal shit out of me. I like the vantage point of being able to see the weather coming at you, watching it for hours on end, as the clouds form, storms track, suns set and rise. Something about being at a vantage point just makes me feel good, feel centered, feel whole. I feel part of something greater than myself in these places, yet I feel part of it, too.
Perhaps it is a visual representation of what I believe down to may core, that I am merely a small part of this world, of this Universe. I am merely one grain on these sands of time, small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps it is my deep rooted sense of God and of something greater than myself that overtakes me when I see a landscape or seascape or mountain-scape that I know is more powerful and timeless and endless that I will ever be. Reminding me of my smallness, yet of my place in this world. Reminding me of the enormity of this place of which I am a part.
I am in awe of these places, these views, these embodiments of nature and of our world. I am mesmerized by their brilliance, their strength, their infinite power and grace. The fact that they have been here since before time was time, and that they will be here long after any memory of me is gone. I spend moments just staring at these places, watching the clouds turn, watching the tide come in and out, listening to the sound as the winds blow. Sitting in the presence of such greatness humbles me, vexes me, puts me in a state of awe.
I have lived in houses that had a view of sorts. Something out the window to see. I would arrange my furniture to face that window. Like it was a TV, the view was the focal point. I could, and did, sit and just watch out the window. Look at the weather, the clouds, the cars or wildlife, whatever was happening had my attention. Maybe I would be playing a little computer game or playing on the internet as well. But, in between whatever I was doing, I would stare out the window and watch. It was comforting. Somehow I was connecting with that thing that was greater than me, that vast expanse I have been so enamored with. Even if all I could get was a little snippet of a view, just a taste of what was really out there, I needed to see something.
If or when I decide to settle into a stick house again, I must remember this part of who I am. I must live somewhere that I can see. I mean see for miles, for days, for ever. I must see the weather, the sky, the mountains or the hills or the sea. I must see something that is greater than myself so that I am reminded each and every day that there is something out there that is greater than me. So that I am reminded of the beauty and the power and the awesomeness of my world. So that I am always humbled, always in awe, always with that sense of place in such a wonderful, amazing and dynamic place. So that I am reminded of home.
IIt occurred to me during my little walk this morning, that I am not camping in the previous way I knew camping. I am not looking to “get away from it all”, go to my happy place as a way to recover from not living enough in a happy place, go somewhere to recharge and reboot, as an activity that I love yet cannot get enough of and that gives me the freedom and space to do the things I enjoy. I am finding out, as week three unfolds, that this all means something different now. This is living. This is my life. I am running to, and not from. I am IN my happy place.
I am not always sure where these epiphanies come from, why the lightening bold hits where and when it does, or what finally allows me to hear that whisper from beyond. But, I will start with what a beautiful morning it is here. Sure, the neighbors who work a local highway job were up early to get to work and the garbage did get picked up. That was noisy and unexpected. But, after they all left, the quiet crept back in and the birds continued their cackle, I fell back asleep for another two hours. I was in bed by 9:00 last night and not sure what time I fell asleep. I had a rough day yesterday due to some IBS that incapacitated me and had me sitting down all evening. The good news is that I cranked out nearly an entire book, rocking in the hammock and sitting in the sun. Not too shabby, despite the pain. By bed time, I was fatigued and ready to will it away. I must have slept 9 or so hours, maybe bordering on ten. I have some residual issues today and I will have to be careful to keep it under control. Perhaps a good day to rest the body, drive to town and just look around.
I woke as the sun was cresting the hillside. I am in a gully or sorts at a river damn-created lake. I cannot see the horizon, but the views of the hills and the water are nice. Because I could not explore yesterday, I made my tea just after I got up and took it for a walk around the park. There is a marina just over the hill that I am on and I explored around there, talked to the owner a little, walked out on the docks. Just an easy meandering, getting my bearings sort of stroll. Oh, and thankfully there are free showers. Once again, score on the shower. At least I am getting something useful for my money. I poked around, walked the entire park and back. The sun continued to rise and the few people here started to stir. It was nice and I did not mind a few morning greetings from other folks. We compared notes on cell service, or lack thereof.
That is the other part about all this. Another of my goals from my previous camping experiences was to get away, from people, from the business of society, from those things I did not like. Now, I am alone all the time. Especially when traveling in my car. Yup, totally alone. Now, I do not mind having others around and I am not craving being completely isolated at a campground. Sure, I get tired of errant city noises like traffic and barking dogs and screaming children. I am not a fan of that sort of camping. But, I find that I like having some people around. First, it gives me something to do when there is no cell service. Like built in TV, and I am sure I provide the same entertainment in return. I nearly sold a ticket to a guy watching me set up my tent the other day. Nothing else to watch except your neighbor. In my case, I can see parts of the marina, and I can hear nearly every voice, so I watch the folks bring their boats in and out. Now that’s entertainment!
I feel like I am not “camping”, per say, I feel like I am just living. My goals are different and my purpose has changed and what I need or want out of camping has shifted. Sure, it was nice to forgo a shower for a week or so, because I knew one was coming as soon as I got home. But now I am excited to have one around, though I still do not shower every day. I will shower the morning I leave, on the off chance the next place does not have one. This particular camping concept, this idea of the changed meaning, has just started for formulate in my consciousness. I think part of it is that I am staying at fairly developed camp sites, which cost me on average $20 per night. I realize some of you shudder at the expense, yet others applaud how little I pay. I can charge my phone and computer in the bathroom, which I am the only user at present. I cannot get signal anywhere, but I am not trying that hard. I will hit town later today or tomorrow for a bottle of wine, which would have been great yesterday to help with the pain I was having, and explore a little bit. I think I will have some more things to donate and that just feels good, lightening my load when I can. Tuna anyone?
I also realized that I had no guidance in finding a place to be yesterday. Nothing spoke to me, nothing jumped out. Radio silence from the Universe. That sucked. I am sort of relying on that vibration to guide me, and I felt nothing. What did I do? Turned down a random road following some random sign just because I was tired of driving. Here I am, about three miles down river off the highway at a sparsely populated little oasis. Hmm, perhaps that was the Universe talking after all. Perhaps I was just not listening very well. Perhaps I actually AM right where I am supposed to be, $20 per night and all. Perhaps there is a purpose after all and I am just too dense right now to feel it. Perhaps.
I will continue to let this “uncamping” concept wash over me, think about it, and let it develop and mature. I am still fairly new to this adventure, to this way of life, and I am still figuring it out. I am feeling more and more grounded with it, secure in my equipment and my gear, in my choices thus far. I am enjoying just killing a morning, waking up late, drinking my tea, having a little walk, and now the writing. Seems I just ticked off everting on my list of what I wanted out of this experience. Perhaps that alone is worth the price of admission.
I know it has not been that long, but man, the lessons are pouring onto me! Like the lessons, the writing is pouring OUT of me. This feels like a vacation, but then again, it is missing the quintessential element of a timeline. Sure, I have to move camp or pay again or whatever, but I am NOT on a timeline to return to anything. Not for about three more weeks. Even then, I have decided how I am spending my time. I made that schedule by choice. So there.
I am sure as this adventure unfolds, what I learn will grow and develop. Perhaps it will slow down and I will start to learn and grow more as a human being. At present, I feel like my growth is in the understanding of this journey, the nuances I must master, and those I must let go. Changes I can already recognize and things that I cannot even begin to comprehend.
For now, I will share those things that are front most on my mind, in my experience, or that have given me pause. I will be curious to look back, six or nine months from now, and see what lessons are presented to me then. Here we go:
At this time, these are the highlights of what strikes me, what I am challenged with, or what has given me pause. Overall, things are well and I am making adjustments as needed. I am finding my way and learning more every day. I knew these first few weeks would be about getting my “sea legs” and that is what has happened. Hey, at least I am out here doing it! I need to give myself credit for having done that which I set out to do. I made the bold move. GO ME. Foibles and fumbles and fireballs be damned.
To the journey, each and every part, CHEERS!