Today was one of those lovely days where I had big thoughts on my mind- big, life altering thoughts. The type of meandering of the mind where I was contemplating all that I am, all that I’ve created.
I wrote a letter to my private email peeps on the TinyLetter, stating why I had been silent for so many weeks and contemplating the type of words that might best fit their needs and the next step in my journey as a nomad.
I left my RV, stepped out into the desert sun and went for a long walk. Across town- and really, I use the word “Town” loosely- there’s a lovely lady with a small bus converted to an espresso producing thing of beauty and I had a craving for that bitter liquid gold. And she truly knows her shit! Finding espresso in this one-horse town that doesn’t come from a packet- or McDonald’s- is not a common occurrence.
I let all the thoughts that I’d just put in my letter run through my brain a I walked through the desert wash that runs under I-10 and ends up at the big swap meet in town. I tried to find the people I encountered on this walk charming. I didn’t find them charming- I found them old, white, very large and consuming mad amounts of cheap shit made in China and shoving deep fried snickers wrapped in bacon into their grills. I tried to remain open- truly, I did- yet the specter of judgement and anger started to creep in.
Why do all these people need to consume all this cheap crap? Why does this town even have giant swap meets that sell all this garbage? When did this town go from selling and trading real gemstones and minerals, filled with miners and prospectors, to buying and selling plastic back-scratchers, twirling iridescent yard art and fried Twinkies?
Why, people, why?
I made it to my espresso oasis and the owner greeted me with her warm smile and invited me into her bus. I then struck up a conversation with a photographer- or ex photographer. He was a paparazzi photographer and photojournalist from the 80s/90s and made alot of money doing so.
“I drove a Lexus. The women, the people, they all looked at me different, because of my car!” Or his exclamation went something like that. He was blown away at the life he used to live, a life filled with Los Angeles’ wild times and high-end luxuries. He had the Beverly Hills home, he had the girlfriend and he rubbed elbows with the stars.
And then he left it all. All of it.
He hopped on a bicycle and headed for a cross-country journey to NYC. He had plans to start a studio out there, continue his work and branch out after a few months of reflection and soul searching. Instead, he ended up taking a drastic left turn in Washington state, literally, and hopped a ferry to Alaska- or something like that.
He then went on to describe his wilderness experiences. He lived off the land, went from riches to nothing, and one day found himself woken up by wolves.
That’s right- wolves.
“I had wolves licking my face and my sleeping bag. And I was too tired to do anything about it. Wolves!” Now, I’m assuming there might have been embellishment in his story a little, but still, his come to Jesus moment involved wolves in Alaska.
That’s kinda cool.
And we talked for quite awhile about living a simple lifestyle. He spoke so warmly about his life now, his bicycling and his big old Buick. He lived in RVs, camped, lived off the land, gardening, whatever he felt like. He had the luxury of time and he walked away from a life in Beverly Hills to do it.
We warmly spoke of living in Airstreams, yurts, campers, tents, tipis and both knew about the adventures of Dick Proenneke. He understood my desire to live in an RV better than I did.
This truly spun my wheels for the rest of the day. Even if the wolf thing was an exaggeration, it’s still an interesting visual. He knew something wasn’t right with his life. He knew that the shiny car he drove and the perception of the people who saw him in the car didn’t belong to him. This did not fit. It wasn’t his true self. Now, even with the struggles and trials that a life off the radar- off the grid- can provide, he had peace. He had laughter. And he was happy.
I contemplated this as I walked back to my RV- aka The Writer’s Cave- and truly put somethings of my own life into a better perspective. While I’ve never had the Beverly Hills lifestyle or salary from my work to reflect that level of external validation- I’ve never needed to escape into the wilderness and have wolves like my cheeks to wake me up to an authentic existence.
I know, shocking revelation for a person who, I’d like to think, has a rather high level of self-awareness.
I began to revisit my Airstream Daydreams this evening. In fact, while walking back from my lovely barista, I saw a tiny canned ham trailer for sale. I stuck my head in and glanced at the set up. Now, it’s about one step above living like a nun, but it was cute and had the essentials. It started spinning my wheels even faster.
Maybe I could live in an Airstream, and live off the land and not be considered the next Ted Kazinsky.
Maybe I can have a vegetable garden and live on the cheap and not have to adhere to the standard urban lifestyle- farm removed from my food and its source.
Maybe I can create a bubble to live within that protects me from the suburban lifestyle I’ve spent my adult life avoiding and still not isolate myself from community and people. I do like people- most of the time- even if I am silently cursing them for not seeing how their actions are enforcing the ills of our society.
Maybe I can live on my own terms, in my own manner. Well, duh, of course I can.
For those of you who have never lived out West or spent more than the occasional week vacation out there- the difference is strong and it’s distinct. And the East Coast has a very different mentality, one that puts me on edge and shocks my energy in ways that takes me days- or weeks to recover.
So, anyway, my point being here, do we really need the wolves to kiss our cheeks in order to open our eyes to the life we’re living and how far removed it may be from our true selves? Can we not incorporate a life that reflects our real desires- not the need to fit in to other people’s myths or society’s narratives?
And can I maybe stop trying to fit into the narratives that exist and just be my fine, freaky self if I so desire? Do I need to wait for the wolves to knock on my door before I just accept that I find RVs more charming than homes with foundations? Do I need to have the external validation of others to feel like my desire to figure out how to live totally off-grid is more than a fad or an attempt in rebellion- or total insanity?
Can I finally make peace with the fact that I simply do not have the desire to make a million dollars with my photography and play the game that I know I’m totally capable of- and sometimes get excited about- but know that the things I’ll have to sacrifice to reach that scale are too sacred to leave exposed and unprotected while undertaking such an endeavor?
Maybe my chance meeting with the former photographer was more than coincidence. Maybe he was my message and his story was validation from the Universe that I’m doing just fine.