Living free at its finest…
I’m driving through vineyards and ranches on rolling hills in the back country of northern Oregon fully taking in the vibrantly positive energy of the lush beauty around me, the wind rushing through the van and gently blowing the curtains into the cat in the back seat who is playfully swatting back at them as they thump the side of her face. I am still holding onto the raw experience of the Rainbow family gathering just weeks prior and have currently just left a mind opening day of yoga, meditation, healing, and thoughtful contemplation at the Ananda community. I am thinking about my life on the road, my writing, and my recent experiences with the few intentional communities who have welcomed me into their homes to take a peek at their daily lives.
I had recently been contemplating how to narrow a focus in my writing… how to find a way to make a difference in the world through my travels.
“This is it.” I said aloud to myself.
When I left for my journey I had told people my goal was to find a way to live with a commune or an indigenous tribe for a period of time so I could experience the drastic difference in their way of life, and more importantly so I could learn from them. I want to learn to heal, to journey through space and different dimensions, how to live mutually with the Earth, and how to grow spiritually and spread that light to others. But I found myself thinking… why just one?
Why not spend my time going from community to community and learning from all of them; experience their many forms, styles, and value bases. And this could be the focus of my writing. I can share these perspectives and the knowledge I learn and help others to grow while also helping to spread awareness and limit stereotype-based judgement about people choosing these alternative lifestyles.
I turned into a beautiful pull out overlooking the Columbian river at the very border of Oregon and Washington. I had plans to travel the entire Oregon coast. I also now had plans to sit down tonight and contact every community I could in Oregon.
If you’ve been reading you know what’s coming next: my plans changed.
I was sitting in the van half way reading a book titled The Elegant Universe and half admiring the cat as she bounced around the tops of the seats chasing nothing when I noticed someone in the distance watching me smiling. I waved hello and he invited me to his rig for a beer. We stayed up late drinking, joking, and philosophizing life. I knew we were going to get along great when a slightly unstable homeless man talking to us about his scruffy friend mentioned that his buddy is stressed out because he owns three neighboring towns. The young man’s response was a nonchalant “Well yeah, that’s a lot of responsibility”. Compassion for the homeless and the ill-minded is a biggie for me.
We soon realized that we were both going to be traveling the entire coast of Oregon. He had two weeks to do it… I had forever. So we agreed to reconvene in the morning and travel it together. Two weeks has never turned into two months faster in my life.
We spent the next day celebrating my 6-month vaniversary and my first time on the American west coast. We spent the morning drinking canned wine and burning green on the beach. We spent the afternoon doing donuts in the sand in his truck. We spontaneously jumped out of the truck onto the beach to attempt some acrobatics and ended up playing, making sand angels and stick pictures. We made a pit stop to check out a wrecked ship from hundreds of years ago still semi in-tact on the beach. We spent the night way out in the wilderness chatting for hours upon hours next to a bonfire.
We lived life like champions for two months. We lived without a care, spending every day beach hopping and every night deep in the wilderness. On the rare nights we spent in town we spent them barhopping and wagering dinner duties over games of pool. We cooled off in countless creeks, dove off cliffs into the cleanest body of water in America (Crater Lake), and kayaked through over-sized rivers. We climbed inside of the world’s largest Myrtle tree and hiked among the giant Redwoods. We experienced a solar eclipse at the first point in the path of totality from the top of a mountain side. We lived without abandon.
I felt some cognitive dissonance considering I had just had this profound moment where I realized the purpose of my travels, maybe even my life, and then put it on the side burner to go have fun. But I quickly realized this was a once in a lifetime experience: to live truly young, wild, and free. Plus, not everything needs a purpose. Sometimes you just gotta have a ball.
This lifestyle was a dream… the dream. I quickly realized this path to freedom and joy was right at my fingertips. And everyone else’s for that matter. To make matters even more brilliant, I later realized that the day I had this realization matched a date I had written in a trance in my journal next to the word ‘happiness’.
And we learned so much from each other on a daily basis. I taught him to take time to do the things he enjoys instead of only catering to other’s needs and to really step back and appreciate his surroundings… to recognize the present moment and cherish it versus taking the fleeting moments of life for granted. He taught me to care less of what the other people in society are thinking and what their opinions, values, and judgments may be and to do whatever suits my current mood, want, or need no matter how ridiculous it would seem to a regular member of standard society. As the street kids would say, he brought out the “rrrrrggg” in me.
Meeting someone from a very different background from you and then instantly spending 24/7 with them for over sixty consecutive days is a very unique way to test yourself, teach yourself, and grow yourself. You go through so many experiences with a complete stranger who has quickly become the most familiar thing you have. It’s strange. It’s wonderful.
After blowing off multiple jobs and a bachelor party he began to feel the pressure to return home to his responsibilities. He headed south to California and I began trekking north to meet a friend for a movie night in Washington. The next day he called me and offered me to meet him in southern California. He said I could stay with him rent free and he even had connections to get me working on a farm. I began flying south with high hopes.
As usual, the van charts our path.
Boom. The van begins to chug. I pull off the highway into the rural abyss and pop open the back to let the engine cool down. I see a spark plug has blown out.
“Thank god, a problem I can fix.” I think to myself.
I gather my tools and hitch out to the nearest automotive shop to get a new plug. My ride is an elderly man who tells me tales of living on the road back in the day, hustling people in bowling, and ditching many cars on the side of the road when they burnt out on him to walk to the next town and get his next beater. The man had lived the dream and was a true inspiration. He was quite the character to say the least.
Upon arriving back at the van I realized the head was stripped. A young girl stopped to help me and quickly came to the same realization. I could not fix the van myself. I called my parents back home who finagled me a free tow by swindling AAA. While waiting I was gifted with yet another visitor. I soon learned that the man who rolled up in the truck was a die-hard dead head living on, and operating, a local peach farm. He shared some green and left me with his information in case I was in need of a place to camp that night.
The tow driver came and told me he knew what we were up to, but took me and the van anyways. We also shared some green as he warned me of the danger I was approaching. The town I was being towed into was not a safe place. In fact, it has the highest rate of human trafficking in the country. He highly suggested I not stay in the van and I not walk alone.
Entering the town I instantly felt this sketchy vibe. I felt uneasy about my next move, which I of course had not prepared for. I got to the mechanic shop and locked myself in the van until I could arrange a hotel room and an Uber… luxuries I typically forbid on my trip for financial and experiential reasons.
I got to my hotel room and felt much more secure. I settled into bed with a stupid TV program playing in the background thinking I was settling in to a relaxing night.
What happened next was the most disturbing thing I have ever experienced.
Check out my next post to learn about what I witnessed and live through my continuing ups and down on my journey south.