Have you ever left society, before? I don’t mean run away to a cabin in the woods for a few days or some beach vacation, but actually leave? Leave, quit your job, and sell everything you own, get in your car and drive until everything looks forgotten to the sands of time.
Because, that’s what I did and, well, it’s different.
It wasn’t an easy decision. I had a lot going for me. I had a decent paying job and wasn’t always stretched for cash. I had a lot of friends I cared about, and was even slowly breaking back into the dating scene. By all accounts, I was the most independent and stable that I’d ever been in my life.
And yet, I was miserable. It’s not an original story—there are a lot of Millennials out there like me. My job might pay me a living wage, but its stressful, frustrating, and absolutely not the field I majored in—English, of course. Having a lot of friends is fantastic, but it’s impossible to see each other because of conflicting schedules, and we’re all quietly hoping for the apocalypse. Like I said, it’s not an original story. I wanted more time to write and be myself, I wanted more money to do the things I wanted, I needed more flexibility with how I lived my life. And, the rest of my family was already living that #vanlife.
In 2017 my parents sold their business, the family house of fifteen years, and have since been living in a Bluebird Bus that they converted themselves. Both my brothers also have their own rides, a Dolphin RV and a VW Vanagon.
At first, I didn’t think that type of life was for me. I liked stability, I loved books and wanted a library, I wanted a salt-water aquarium, I wanted a vegetable garden—and none of those were compatible with a life on the road.
And yet, here I am, joining the nomadic adventure a year and a half late. I’ll admit part of seeing how they lived on the road made the idea enticing. But they still had their problems to deal with—new and old ones. I’d have to give up a lot of the conveniences society provided. No fast Internet is a deal-breaker for most folks.
But before I knew it, I had decided to join them. I needed a drastic change. I was doing everything right and I wasn’t satisfied. I think I just got so disillusioned with capitalism, that I had enough.
In October, I quit my job, sold everything that wouldn’t fit into my VW Golf and by November, had met up with my parents in Southern California. That’s where I’ve been since, not far from a town called Bombay Beach. It’s a place where it looks like the apocalypse already happened, welcome to your post-apocalyptic dystopia!
Maybe I’m just relieved that everything around me looks as lost and broken as the world these days. And yet, even here, there’s hope.
Everywhere else is turning to ice, but spring is in full bloom here. Everything is turning green, and there’s a lush carpet blooming over usually barren landscape. The stray cat that adopted us just had kittens. I feel like I’m slowly healing, learning how to love my life again. I want to contribute to something more important than money.
Of course, I still need money. As much as I would like to avoid society entirely, I still need to buy food and gas, and I have a phone like everybody else. I grumble about Facebook and use it anyway. But what reserves I had managed to save up during my time with a fulltime job are beginning to dry up, and I still need to convert my own house on wheels. Actually, I need to buy it first. It’s not all lazy days and relaxation. But for the first time, I’m not worrying about the future—I’m taking it one-step at a time.
I’ve got no more excuses. So here I am, writing it all out. Keeps me accountable that way. I’m a writer—I’m tired of trying to be anything else. This year everything’s going to change, and I’m ready to see where it takes me.
Wu Wei is the newest family philosophy. But I like to think of it in the immortal words of Hoban Washburne, “I’m a leaf on the wind, watch how I soar.”
TO WRAP UP
Change is incoming and I’ve got a lot to do. This here is my chance to focus on writing and if I don’t take advantage of it now, I might as well hang up the hope of ever making money through my writing. They always joke that the hardest part about writing is the writing part, but it really is as simple as that. I’ve talked and talked about being a novelist, and yet all I’ve got to show for it is fanfiction and as much as I wish otherwise—fanfiction just isn’t something you can make a living off of. I’m still going to write it, never fear, but it’s going to have to take a back seat until I can support myself.
This here is my current favorite bit of writing advice, from Cheryl Strayed:
“You have to surrender to your mediocrity, and just write. Because it’s hard, really hard, to write even a crappy book. But it’s better to write a book that kind of sucks rather than no book at all, as you wait around to magically become Faulkner. No one is going to write your book for you and you can’t write anybody’s book but your own.”