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The time has come that I’ve found myself returning to a life on the road. That is, the way of the dirtbag. Admitedly, the last time I began such a journey I was in a bit more sour state of mind.
Many things have changed since then, but surprisingly, many have not. For the purposes herein there are a few distinguishing aspects that stand out to me about my frist 10 days returning to a lifestyle of nomadic wanderlust.
1) I Never Really Left:
I spent 104 days of late summer / early fall weather living in my car last year. I signed a 12 month lease for an appartment, which was a nice space, but never was a home. As a dear friend pointed out to me, nothing had really changed. Quite litereally I was camping inside of an appartment, detrimentally socially isolated, and essentially paying for a really expensive storage unit and a whole lot of square footage that I wasn’t using.
My response to my friend was that the world had somehow tricked me. In the early stages of my first dirtbag experience it was perfect. Then, months later (due to demands specific to my professional life), I resigned from that lifestyle and tried to be more domesticated. As such, financial folks might say I was in a better socio-economic status, but really, I was working more to spend more, for things I didn’t need and ultimately just as (if not more) unhappy.
2) Lessons Learned and Better Strategy:
Previously I thought I had planned things out really well. And, true, some things I did. However, the thing that caught me most off guard was how much time I spent sleeping in my car even though I top-of-the-line camping gear (mostly this had to do with convenience and logistics). You never see the knockout punch coming. That said, I sleep great on the futon / bed I built out of crash pads in my trunk / backseat. As an added bonus, I needed a storage unit to house the (removed) backseat(s) anyway, so that meant I didn’t need to throw away all of my worldly posessions.
The only things that go with me everywhere are the bare essentials (clothes, climbing gear, camping gear, kitchenware and food). I’ve slept so well in my trunk that I’ve actually wondered where I was for a split second when I woke up. That is a world of difference from 100 nights of so-so sleep awkwardly crunched in the shotgun seat.
3) Proximity and Logistics:
Piggy backing off of #2, there are many differneces between the “traditional dirtbag” and a “suburban dirtbag” like myself. People have asked me about life on the road and inquired about embarking on such a journey themselves. My biggest piece of advice is to decide how long (which will determine how) you want to do this. Truly nomadic dirtbagging means you have to be willing to work whatever job is availiable at the present time. More specifically, you need to be willing to do whatever you need to to feed yourself. You better get real comforatble with ketchup packets and dumpster diving – and it won’t hurt if you know how to turn a wrench or wait tables. That is if you’re planning on dirtbagging endlessly or at least without an end in sight.
However, in my circumstances I’m trying to hold down a steady job – a job I love mind you. And as such I’m a little more tied logistically.
The difference between my two dirtbag chapters is that before I was burning up 50 mile stretches of backroads several times per day. Now, I’m running laps on 15 mile stretches of interstate in (semi)suburban territory. That, and there are at least some signs of life on the streets at all times of day and days of the week. That all adds up when you consider that now I can swing by my storage unit, hit the gym for a shower, and be at work in about an hour. With last year’s set up, that would have easliy been a 2 hour ordeal.
4) Something’s Missing:
A couple months ago I remember feeling like I was “ready to run” again. But, the new incarnation of life as a (now suburban) dirtbag lacks a bit of the mysticism of yesteryear – at least at the present time. I can still feel the steely eyed stare leech out of the corner of my eye sometimes, but the weathered look of the wilderness evades even my longest looks in the mirror. What I’m saying is there’s a certain swagger and boldness (arrogance and entitlement even) that comes with the territory.
Several days per week I’d (roped) solo 3 or 4 pitches or get a couple hours of bouldering in before breakfast. High balls and all around sketchy s*** became far too normal. Once a week or so I’d make the hour long drive to the fitness club I bought a membership at, then push through hordes of treadmill faithful (working hard enough to still watch The View mind you), to get a shower and still get to work before 9:00 a.m. Do you even lift bruh?
5) Coming Home:
This past weekend I staked out a new Wildlife Management Area for camping. The camping was nice, though there was no climbing. It hasn’t rained in months here in Georgia, so there was a clear view of the stars. I had the conflicted feeling that “this feels like home”, where I belong, or at least where I need to be (for now). I’m sure there’s little to no doubt among those who know me personally that I’m a restless soul. And, as such, restless souls have a need to be free…. at all (any?) costs.
6) The Hard Part:
Another thing I realized in the past week was that “most days” are not the problem. Most days I do and did do pretty good. Obviously I learned how to manage, how to get by, and how to make things work. You can patch a sail in the rain. What you can’t do is build a new hull in the midst of a hurricane. The hard part is the hard days – the really, really hard days that leave you pulling out hair, pushing fingers into your eyes, sobbing, and snot running down your face. Specifically, not having anywhere to go with them or anywhere to turn but inward.
Of course I have freinds and colleagues who would more than welcome my reaching out to them for support. That’s just one of those things though that makes so much sense outside of the pocket, but is terribly difficult to see when you’re in the red zone.
At any rate, stay tuned! This wasn’t exactly the chipper post I thought it might be when I started writing, but it is what it is, and it ain’t what it ain’t. More stories of a (new) life on the road will be coming shortly!
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