What We've been up to
Sunday, August 22, 2021
1 hour of unfocused stretching
3 cups of black hawthorn berries collected
Slowly brewed, chocolatey dark coffee sipped while staring at nothing in particular
A casual kayak float down a river, catching back eddies multiple times to make it last longer
Some period of time spent swaying in a hammock next to Ben, neither of us talking, staring at the edge of the trees against the sky, or the splash of trout in the river
When I’ve been asked by friends and family what we’re doing right now, I make a quick calculation about whether the person asking wants to know the real answer (see 1-5 above), or an answer that fits more perfectly into the standard American lifestyle. For those seeking the latter, I have an assortment of canned responses. These responses are generally true as well, but don’t place emphasis on our lived daily existence and past experience.
“We’re taking time off after both burning out from our jobs.”
A more accurate statement would be, “working in a cutthroat capitalist country during a global pandemic revealed to us how employment (for profit and nonprofit alike) in our country is inherently flawed to protect the wealthy, and run the workers so ragged that they have no energy to fight the systems that oppress them. Oh, and this type of system actually makes workers physically ill.”
“We’re looking for a little piece of land somewhere and thought it best to travel around and visit places we’ve looked at.”
A more accurate statement would be, “We’re traveling around and doing whatever the heck we want and if by chance we stumble on something in the west that is even remotely in our price range (aka under $100k), we may consider buying it. But let’s be honest, that probably doesn’t exist.”
“We’re exploring new places for as long as we can afford to live in the van.”
This is actually true, but has become dictated by heat and smoke, so could more accurately say, “we’re exploring places in the west that aren’t smokey and aren’t on fire for the next few months until we can’t drive the van anymore because it’s 2-wheel drive.”
I’m sorry if you are the recipient of one of these half-true responses. I’m working on unabashedly telling people the truth about this “trip”, as it’s been a learning experience for me too.
Over the last two months, I’ve been learning how to just exist, without feeling the need to “do” something, “make” something, or “sell” something. We saved quite a bit of money and negotiated a buy out of our rental in Bend to be able to do this, and it’s a real privilege. It's not cheap, it's not something everyone can do, and we know that. It won't last forever. We thought we would have enough money for about 4 months, but we will see if we can stretch it longer. Even with the savings, it took a solid month for me to not obsess over every penny that we spent and to dissolve the fear that I wasn’t “making enough money” to keep us going.
When I finally let go of whatever requirements I had made for myself for this trip (I’m going to really grow my graphic design business! I’m going to write a cookbook about camping food! I’m going to really harness my drawing skills and create a series of illustrations of X!) and realized that just re-learning to exist in the world was actually more fulfilling and energizing than trying to make the next buck, I felt my entire body and mind unwind.
We’ve been living in our van Wilfred the Snail for 2 1/2 months now. For just over a month I’ve practiced living truly day to day. I don’t have a schedule. Most of the time we don’t have internet or cell service. I don’t set my alarm, and I don’t add guilt to whatever time I’m going to sleep or waking up (this is new to me). Some days we have a plan to hike, or kayak, or drive, and some days we don’t. I don’t keep a journal. I don’t work out. I do art when I feel like it. One day each week I do the work that makes us a little bit of money, and I really like that day of the week because it’s not every day.
We move slow because it saves us money (gas is really expensive when you’re driving your house), and because it’s just more satisfying to see things slowly. You notice more, your senses experience more. Ben jokes whenever we go on a hike and it takes us 5 hours to walk 5 miles because we’re caught up in looking for things like mushrooms/berries/whales that it’s our “PR [personal record]”. We don’t always move super slow, but when we do it creates balance with the days that we hike 15 miles with 40 lb packs.
So that’s what we’ve been up to, in a few different spots across the northwest, for the last little bit. It’s f*cking fantastic.
PS There will probably be more writing to come, when I feel like it :)