Trekking Westward

1/18/2020

When I finished building my camper and finally set off into the world with it, I imagined myself picking up right where I left off. I remembered the feeling of flow and zen I had achieved towards the end of my travels in the van when I finally had it all figured out, where even when things went wrong it felt like everything was going just right.

I failed to acknowledge how different things were going to be this time. When I began my journey east, it had been over a year; I was a different person. I had a different rig with different pros, cons, and needs. It was going to take some time to slip back into the flow of things.

Heading out this time, I know better than to expect my journey to feel the same as an old experience and am open to letting it be a new, organic venture. I have been stopped visiting home for a lengthy five months and am now setting out with the accountability on my shoulders of holding down a job while travelling, which will change things for me immensely. I am ready to take things moment by moment.

With that said, I do still have some expectations set for this trek. I have a plan for my first month or so out west and I intend to stick to it, an optimistic venture based on my past findings.

1/20/2020

It is day three and I am ten hours out from destination number one: Quartzite, Arizona. If you have been following along this probably sounds vaguely familiar to you as I have been trying to make it here for THREE YEARS. I am driving non-stop to attend RTR- a travelers’ meetup and convention. And I am finally going to make it.

I’m on a sunny highway road, desert on either side of me as far as I can see. New Mexico is repetitive and boring to drive through, and yet somehow beautiful. I am thinking to myself that for some reason, I feel like I could pull over anywhere in this state and just stay forever and I would be happy with that. The red dirt and the small-town feel would keep me entertained. I shrug off the thought and my focus goes back to my driving.

I’m listening to the truck humming along, when suddenly, I hear it. Silence. I’m still rolling down the road but the truck isn’t running anymore. I pull over and give it another go and it starts right up. I think its weird but don’t feel too concerned as the truck has never given me mechanical issues, it is nothing like Big Blu.

Even when it dies again and I have to pull off the highway, I still remain optimistic.

A dirty tank of gas I figure, blissfully unaware that the bad luck sequence has begun. I route to the nearest gas station to dilute my tank only to find the station abandoned. A trio of nice men happen to be loitering in the parking lot and fill my tank with some spare gasoline they have in their trunk. I start back up and figure I am fixed. Six minutes later, it dies again.

I get to the next gas station and fill the tank the rest of the way up. I check the oil, the fuses, the battery, the belts, and the plugs. Nothing is out of place. And yet, I can only get as far as around the corner before the truck plays dead again.

This sequence will turn out to be a $600 fix and 1 week-long hold up, rendering me absent from RTR for year three in a row. At least from here things can only get better and I make a new plan to set my direction. I have used up my whole paycheck and am unsure of the trustworthiness of the truck, but am setting out nonetheless.

Over the next two-week period I will lose reasonable function of my stove, fridge, heater, taillight, and just about the entirety of my emergency break. The front jack of the camper will be unexplainably knocked so far forward that the bolt will spiral right out of the siding and the pressure will shatter my front wall. It is situations like this that would cause a sane and normal person to think that the universe has spoken and this isn’t meant to be.

As a good friend told me:

“Everything you are doing is against the norm, so everything is going to fight you. Everything. You need to remember why you are doing this, it is to fight against the norm! So keep your head up and moving forward. You will get this fixed and things will line up.”

 

2/28/2020

 

As it turns out, my friend’s words were true. I did not make it to RTR, money has been tight, and many of the mechanicals that went out in the camper are still only semi-operable. But my change in direction has led me to many opportunities and experiences that would have otherwise never had the opportunity to unfold.

I was able to tour the national parks of southern New Mexico including White Sands and Carlsbad Caverns. I had the chance to reunite with old friends from the road and make tons more as well. I volunteered at an art and music festival where my camper became a mini house party with amps and psychedelic lights set up inside. This event opened many doors for future experiences down the road as well. (Be sure to stay tuned!)

I had the opportunity to camp at an isolated commune outside of Tucson and enjoy the beautiful hiking and scenery in the area. I met a group of other full-time travelers and spent a weekend boondocking with them out in an airfield west of Phoenix. We attended a bizarre event miles down a washed out dirt road in a small clearing in the middle of the desert where people gathered to play with airplanes, paramotors, rvs, art, and explosives. A new friend in the group even allowed me an opportunity to have the exhilarating experience of flying on a paramotor trike.

And finally, the change in plans allowed me in essence to have no plans. Which leads me to where I am today. After spending time wandering and boondocking in an array of beautiful places throughout western Arizona and southeastern California, I have settled in to camp on the shores of the Salton Sea. I will be experiencing yet another lifestyle- that of a California State Park Volunteer and a camp host. This opportunity will allow me to get my ducks in a row before heading to my next destination, which I think you all will be excited to read about.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Nice to meet you. Come on in.

In my last piece, I touched on the role strangers play in my voyage. It doesn’t matter if it is a conversation in passing, a life-long connection, or an anonymous message of encouragement… each and every person I meet on the road influences myself, my perspectives, and most of all my travels. Naturally, the people I stay with make the biggest impressions. Now I know I haven’t shared ANY of my travels out east this summer yet. So I want to take you on a journey into the homes of the kind, generous, wonderfully enjoyable people I had the privilege of staying with this summer.

 

Story 1: Ani

I had a week to kill between marketing events I was working for an organic lettuce farm in Cape Charles, Virginia. A Google search brought me to a park in Lewes, Deleware that offered camping, free bike rentals, and access to a private beach on the Atlantic. I was inside the office asking about alternative places to camp, since their sites were all booked up. The rangers and even a few of the guests had caught on that it was my tiny home on the truck parked out front and had worked up quite a bit of excitement. They were asking to take pictures and telling me about a tiny home convention taking place on the coast in just a few weeks time.

“You need a place to park for the night?” I heard a woman say behind me. “I love your little home and I think its great that your out here traveling around by yourself. You can park in my driveway over night.”

Parking in Ani’s driveway overnight turned into a multi-day adventure. That first night we sat outside by a fire sipping wine and just chatting, getting to know each other. The next day she called off work to spend the day with me. We picked up fire roasted tomato pies from a local brewery and headed to the pool with large drinks in hand, ignoring the obvious storms rolling in.

“You know,” she had started when we got our laughter under control over her story of losing a kite out in that field over there.

“My son yelled at me for bringing you into the house. You’re crazy mom, he said. You live by yourself there and you don’t know anything about this girl. She could be a serial killer. But I told him I met you and I knew you were harmless. And I have a niece, and if she were doing what you’re doing I’d hope someone would do the same for her.”

“People say the same thing to me all the time, that its dangerous doing what I do. But you know, I’m still here aren’t I? And I’ve met some incredible people.”

Ani’s generosity didn’t end with her friendship. I was overwhelmed by kindness with the amount of support she offered me. From things to improve the quality of my daily life to suggestions on how to make money and advertise my blog. She had found clippings in the newspaper of an old VW that reminded her of me and added it to the bag of goodies she was sending me off with. She even added a bottle of wine to share with my friend who was coming to spend her birthday in Virginia with me. All she asked for in return was a postcard from my next destination.

 

Story 2: Terry

Fast forward a few weeks. I find myself at the Outer Banks- the coastal peninsula of North Carolina. I have a week to spare while I wait for my parents to drive into town to visit me. I am in a bit of predicament however as I am between checks, fresh out of money, and have limited gas in the truck. The peninsula is small and boondocking is unlikely here, so I decide to search my Couchsurfing app for a place to park for a day or two in order to buy myself some time. This is how I met Terry.

In the Outer Banks, tourism is huge. Locals work the restaurants and the tourism industry all summer. The town fills up with people, traffic, excitement, and chaos. This is balanced by long quiet winters spent relaxing at home. Some even come to town to work the summer season and then take off to travel the world during the winters. Terry fills his winters with his art and enjoys this time of solitude. During the summers, he works leading open air vehicle tours on the beach highways where the wild horses roam. During the summers he also hosts a great number of international students and Couchsurfers, such as myself.

Terry is an older gentleman with a young, wild spirit. The dwelling he invited me to make myself at home in is a quaint beach house with a beautiful wrap around porch, in which we would later end up on while trimming the wild herbs we foraged from nearby parking lots for dinner. He lives just blocks from the beach, making it an easy night-time bike ride to go lay in the sand and look out at the stars. Out back there are comfy bench seats set around a fire. Beyond the fire is a footpath that leads to the trees we slung our hammocks from in Nags Head Woods, the same trees that I stumbled sideways into after spending way too long in said hammock and throwing off my equilibrium.

In the mornings before Terry left for work we would take the dogs for walks in these woods. They are rescue dogs that he has been slowly urging to trust humans again. They were raised in China where they were being sold on the street with a package of noodles… for soup. His girlfriend bought the soup packages and discarded of everything but the pups, bringing them home to live a better life. Some have adjusted better than others, but all are living happy, healthy lives.

His kindness shows in his work with his dogs as well as his openness of his home and self to others. During my stay with him he gave me full access to his bikes, kayaks, and his car. He even lent me money to go into town and get a famous Duck Donut breakfast. He took me out sightseeing, on a tour with his work, and to every bar and eatery we could find on the peninsula. He made it a personal obligation to make sure I didn’t miss a single thing in my time on the banks. He sent me off with a really cool model VW bus, the book that opened him up to the world of foraging in his youth, as well as boxes of leftover chocolate bars we had used to play a silly game of Jenga.

 

Story 3: David

Chart way back up north to coastal New Hampshire and enter the creation of the unique, quirky, and artistically minded fellow named David. I was drawn to David by his unique story. He had conjured up an image in his mind of his dream home, inspired by architecture he had seen in his travels to Mexico and South America. Being the kind of person that sees no boundary as to big to get in the way of your dreams, he set out to build that home himself. With no prior experience and the help of a few friends, he created a gorgeous estate just minutes from the town marina where you can step onto the lot and feel like you are instantly transported to a beautiful villa in an exotic country far, far away.

The home is breathtaking and damn near indescribable. However, my favorite part of his masterpiece is what lies out back. David has built a cascading patio that begins with a small dining area surrounded by plants. From the fountain ahead where the ducks like to gather and play, a mosaic path leads off to the side yard where there is a giant fire pit built down into a hollow concrete base. A tier below the fountain brings you to the large picnic tables. And yet another tier down is his salt-water pool over-looking the forested edge of the marsh land beyond the line of his property. The pool is lit at night by the large fountains at either corner where it meets the patio ledge. Only instead of water, these fountains spit fire.

He could easily rent his space out for weekends at a time to travelers, honeymooners, and families looking to escape to the beach. Instead, he has decided to open himself and his creation up to those on the wandering side. He has hosted hundreds of travelers. As he explained, he would rather connect with people and hear their stories than just rent the place out for extra cash.

The gorgeous scenery and luxurious amenities definitely added to my stay here. But the most inspiring part of my weekend here was David’s energy. He lives so entirely wrapped up in the present moment, glowing with enthusiasm and passion for what and whoever sits in front of him at the moment. Anything goes, and at any time. Morning swims. Trekking to the duck house to see the new babies at two a.m. My first night there he even made an elaborate multi-course meal to be shared among a group of strangers brought together under his roof served at the king-like dining room table at midnight. For complete lack of the right words to ever get the brilliance of his personality across to you…. living with David was like getting a glimpse into a pure spirited, totally left-brained, artistic prodigy.

Bonus points: There is now a baby boy duckling named after me living on an estate in New Hampshire, meeting new wanderers, day and night.

 

Story 4: Gary

I was between David’s place and my next destination a few hours north in the White Mountains where I would be taking a 6-week job at a quite idyllic sounding retreat center. I had about a week before I needed to check in. I figured there would be plenty to explore along the way, but it turned out to be a pretty plain straight forward drive up. I was bored, and it was hot. I was on the look out for something to do and a way out of the heat. I remembered an app a couple I had met at David’s told me they used to meet people along their way, it has different filters so you can look for dating, friendship, or business and they said they used it for all three and had a lot of success. I downloaded it and started talking to Gary, asking him for suggestions on where I could find a place to go swim in the area. Conveniently enough, he lives on a lake.

I pulled up into Gary’s driveway expecting to stay for a few hours and then go crash at the local Walmart for the night. I ended up staying until just hours before I needed to be at World Fellowship Center almost a week later. I’ve never had an easier time getting along with someone. We would sit and just bullshit and laugh until we were in tears for hours at a time. We spent a lot of time walking around the woods and his neighborhood. That first night we even jumped in the lake… a HUGE regret as it was ungodly cold and led to a miserable buggy walk home. We ended the week with a drive down to the ocean where we spent a day on the sand and in the arcades, and a night with his friends in a private box at the Badfish show.

But the story doesn’t end there. When Gary got word that World Fellowship Center was NOT AT ALL what it advertised itself to be, he came to the rescue. He knew how excited I was for this opportunity and had a hunch I was not going to be happy with the way things turned out. I came back from work one day to find my ‘lot’ for the next six weeks completely transformed. When I left, it was an uninviting patch of thigh high, tick infested, weeds with my camper clumsily dropped into the middle of it. By the time I returned it was cut clear and treated for ticks and mosquitoes. He had dug me a fire pit and set up a seating area for me, including a ceramic outdoor incense burner. He surrounded my site in solar lights so I could find my way to my home in the woods even after the sun set. At the base of my stairs was a mat that read “Home Sweet Home”. It had to have taken him hours to do all of this.

And it still didn’t stop there. On my first day off, he took me out exploring all over the White Mountains to scenic overlooks, rivers, and places he camped growing up. He took me into the tourist town and brought me to all the cliché gift shops. My favorite was the famous Zeb’s General Store where we got bottled orange soda, chocolate covered everything, and a big bag of gummy candies. We ended the night with the best Mexican food I have ever had in my life and an assortment of flavored margaritas.

AND IT DIDN’T STOP THERE. Gary continued to come up and visit and make sure that I was enjoying my time in New Hampshire. We drove to see Washington Mountain. We met out at Portsmouth beach where we got rained on all day. We spent nights outside chatting with his friends and neighbors. We went for a boat ride out on the lake. He would let me go spend all day at his house doing laundry, enjoying the AC, and giving Morgan the run of the place whenever I felt I needed to get away. And when my job was finally over, we road tripped up to Maine so I could give him a taste of my life on the road.

I owe Gary quite a lot. Was it not for meeting him, my time in New Hampshire would have suffered greatly. Instead I am left with a stockpile of great memories, and a friend to this day.

And there you have it. You have now gotten a taste as to how it feels to step into a strangers house, and call it home.

An Ode to Strangers

Traveling alone is a wonderful way to gain insight into yourself. Beautiful scenery, laughable moments, feelings of awe…. all taken in without the need to share it with another being. It isn’t something most people take the time to think about, but humans have come to rely so heavily on having someone else there to confirm the experience happened once time moves on and becomes a memory. It is almost as if we can’t be sure that the sunset is beautiful, or the incident is funny, unless we can bounce the emotion off someone or something else first. Experiences, moments, and sensations come and pass so rapidly when one is put out into the world beyond their comfort zone. And when taking this on alone, one must learn to appreciate each moment for exactly what it is, without any need for validation or sharing.

On first attempt this is quite difficult for most people, yet it gradually causes the self to learn and to grow. This experience becomes a unique, special blip of time that is kept just for the self and no one else. This makes the moments seem more and more grand.  Everyday monotonous tasks take on a kind of play-like nature. The ‘self’ or rather one’s own consciousness becomes an escape. A sort of secret world in which no one and nothing has access to.

Research shows that people begin to pick up traits from the ten people they spend the most time with. We pick up qualities from facial expressions, sayings, behaviors, and attitudes to even physical appearance and core personality traits. We are all slowly acquiring pieces of our best friends, family, and co-workers. While traveling solo, there becomes ample opportunity to get to know exactly who you are, what you want, and what it is that you do when there is no long term outward influence on your daily decisions, perspectives, and habits.

Yet with this said, the solo traveler owes a significant amount of the incredulity experienced in the journey to the people who make their way into the story. Some encounters are seconds long, some last weeks. Some may find their way to carry forward indefinitely through phone calls, letters, and memories. These wondrous people help to instill a sense of dumbfounded astonishment that would not prevail on such a deep level without these connections to break up the absolute solidity of the voyage.

From the quick encounters, such as the person in line at the grocery store who turns around and rattles off recipe ideas for the very few clearance items in the cart or the man at the pull off by the beach who stops to share a mind-bending video clip about energy waves and creation through intention, to the chance-meetings that turn into week long rendezvous of whatever nonsense is to be found… these connections, usually viewed as a bonus of the lifestyle instead of the main objection, are ironically enough what brings it all together and makes the story the epic novel it is destined to become.

Stay tuned.

FrogSong Co-Housing Community

A day visit with a unique community in the small town of Cotati, California.

Frog Song Co-Housing in Cotati California was the last community I visited in my journey before the van broke down on me. In the midst of everything that was happening, I never did get around to sharing my experience with them, which is a shame considering how welcoming and generous the members I visited with here were to me.

I remember encountering a few of their members walking down the street before I had even made it to the residence. They were centrally located in town, a fact that granted both pros and cons to the group: they had the opportunity to rent units to local businesses, bringing a profit to the co-housing structure, however it was inconvenient in the fact that they sometimes got stragglers trying to cut through the grounds after leaving the bar late at night. The members were dressed rather eccentrically and laughing with joy as I encountered them. They gave me directions to the unit I was looking for and went on their way, leaving me to wander down the pathway on my own. I noticed as I walked through that most of the other individuals didn’t seem to be the eccentric type off the bat and seemed to be going quickly about their way… unaware that a non-member was among them. I found my way to Peter’s place and we began my tour.

He walked me through the grounds and showed me all the different housing units and taught me the different names for each area. We walked through a workshop, a music room, a guest house, and the kid’s play room. We walked past a playground and a jacuzzi tub along the way as well, however my favorite part of the tour was the garden. It was a beautiful array hosting a wide variety of food products. The garden opened up to a long valley where the kids could run and play and the community could hold events such as baseball games and picnics.

We stood in the valley as we spoke about the community’s start back in 1999, and their eventual move in-date in 2003. He explained the logistics of the community to me, including volunteer work days, community meals, and email boards for gatherings and inquiries for assistance (for example needing a ride to the airport or advice on soil type for a plant). He explained that most members are pretty good at staying involved and helping out, but like any other community there are slackers. A unique trait I noticed in this community was that they were actually accepting of the fact that there will be slackers instead of being upset about it. ‘I wish everyone contributed and did their share, but it is what it is and we do fine without them’… was the basic opinion I picked up on through members at Frog Song.

Peter dropped me at David’s house to speak with him about his previous intentional living experiences and travels for some time before coming back around to walk me to the dinner he was sponsoring in my honor. Here I was able to see the community in action. The dinner team that evening came before the group and read aloud the menu in a very playful way and a few of the children came before the group to speak about the results of a fundraiser they recently held. During dinner many members came to introduce themselves to me and offered me advice and insights for later in my journey. I really enjoyed my time sitting and chatting about travel, politics, veganism, and Buddhism with the group.

After dinner I had the rare privilege to interview a much younger member of the community! An incredibly intelligent and fascinatingly extroverted young boy shared with me his personal experiences growing up in a co-housing community. He was incredibly articulate, my paraphrasing of our conversation comes no where near the elegance and grace he portrayed as he spoke with me. He explained to me that he moved into the community from a regular housing structure a few years back. He still sees his old friends, but really loves living in community! He gets to play with kids of all different ages, there are always activities and sports to be played, and he loves being part of this big, supportive family. He only wishes he could have lived here sooner! He tells me all of this as he zips around the play room, sharing all the best spots with me. He left the biggest smile on my face of anyone I have ever interviewed.

And finally, I met with the last member of the community for my day. This David happened to be one of the first members of the community and was able to give me the run down on much of the history and logistics. I enjoyed getting to know the ins and outs of the community with him, however there is one point he brought up that sticks out the most to me due to his sheer honesty. He tells me that, contrary to popular belief, intentional communities are not a wonderland! Visiting communities for a day, a week, or a month gives you this idea that they are smooth operating, happy-go-lucky places with it all figured out. It seems like you could move in and every day would feel like your living in a utopia. That is precisely how I felt after visiting my first share of communities, and it’s how many people participating in intentional living will imply their daily life is like. David explained that he felt the same way getting ready to move into his first community as well. However, it can be a real headache! You are living and cooperating with a large amount of people from diverse backgrounds with interchanging wants, needs, and values. There are many hiccups, debates, and conflicts to work through. It is not a utopia, nor a wonderland. However, it is worth it in the end in his opinion.

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Maitreya Mountain Village

For two weeks I join an off-grid village in the Siskiyou Mountains. ..

Continue reading Maitreya Mountain Village

The Beginning of the End of an Era: Part 2

This may be the end of the road with Big Blu, but it is not the end of the road in through and through.  Continue reading The Beginning of the End of an Era: Part 2

The Beginning of the End of an Era: Part 1

After a two-week hiatus from my journey I return to continue on blissfully unaware of what is lurking ahead of me…. Continue reading The Beginning of the End of an Era: Part 1

Russian House: Restaurant and Communal Living Trio

A recap of my time living in a Russian restaurant off the historic Highway 1 in northern California… Continue reading Russian House: Restaurant and Communal Living Trio

Two Acre Wood Co-Housing Community

An exciting visit with a Co-housing community that got its start nearly 19 years ago in a funky northern California town… Continue reading Two Acre Wood Co-Housing Community

The Coaching House

A shared living space dedicated to a model of supportive coaching acquired from the Academy for Coaching Excellence…

Continue reading The Coaching House

My journey around the world, one community at time

%d bloggers like this: