Only in the Movies

Alsea bathroom

Tiny bathrooms.

This morning, as I was brushing my teeth in the Alsea River Campground (and Marina)’s tightly quartered bathroom, a young Amish woman (probably early to mid 20s) entered the room and met my gaze for a fleeting moment, before ducking her head and abruptly averting her eyes. She was robed in a manner that no skin on her body or hair on her head was showing; obviously, this was how I determined anything about her–sans her height and approximate age.

Amish

Real life Amish girl. Kidding.

I told Levi about the incident because we spend ~100% of our time together and any tidbits of amusing restroom fodder make for great conversations. Also, despite the depth and breadth of our travels, we don’t really run into Amish people (we also don’t hang out in the Midwest or Northeast all too much, so that’s not wildly surprising, I suppose). We’ve encountered and chatted up people from myriad walks of life–border patrol agents, wealthy retirees, zealots, yogis, teachers, lawyers, recovering addicts, and countless others. But when thinking about this Amish woman and how we ended up in the same campground, I immediately realized that my intimate knowledge of these people comes from watching documentaries. What a bizarre realization.

Zomb Crop

This is approximately how excited I look about life most mornings. 

What later struck me is that she could’ve been thinking the very same thing about me (were she privy to Netflix). I must’ve appeared as a completely peculiar being–my disheveled, bright red morning hair, hot pink Betty Boop-covered robe, tattoos, piercings, and silver sequined flip flops. How strange and unusual (“I myself am…”–anyone?) I quite possibly might have appeared to this person.

On the flip side, perhaps this traveler is far more cultured when it comes to the varied lifestyles of American people than I could ever be, and she didn’t give me a second thought. Regardless, sociology is fascinating and is one of the best parts of being on the road as a lifestyle. You never know who you’ll meet, or run into, or end up being BFFs with on social media. When you’re on the road all of the time, it’s not vacation any longer; it’s not taking a road trip. It’s your life. So you start appreciating and viewing things differently than ever before–at least, I know I certainly have.

Traveling has perks that can’t be explained; only experienced.

 

 

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Home Scared Home

Earthship

Earthship compound outside of Taos, NM

Since I can remember, I’ve been intrigued by the notion of “home.” Hell, it was the only broad-enough topic on which I could conceivably fathom focusing my entire thesis portfolio for my second master’s degree, so it’s safe to say it’s fairly preeminent on the list of things that matter to me.

This isn’t a quantifiable or simply defined idea. I’ve moved around a lot in my life and have not yet ever owned a piece of property or a brick-and-mortar. The pop-up camper in which my tiny family currently lives is the closest thing to an actual “home” I’ve ever had, and I absolutely love it. But I’m still seeking.

One of the–if not the–most important reasons for setting off on this travel adventure was to find a spot in the lower 48 that could possibly be considered home for at least part of the year. As idealists, we’ve reckoned ways we could have multiple dwellings to prolong our “climate surfing” for a while, but even this idea is fraught with challenge. To begin with, I presently have an insanely awesome job (right–this doesn’t sound like a challenge. Wait for it.). Not only can I do my job from anywhere I have internet access, it combines all of my education, teaching, and writing experience into one happy little ball of professional goodness. On top of that, I’m honing more wordy sarcasm skillz and pop culture referencez than I knew possible. But all good things will end and the pragmatist in me accepts this fact, though the optimist in me is in full-denial, shaking her head and rolling her eyes (and maybe even sobbing a little).

The Fallen

This might or might not be exactly how I feel about losing my job.

So I won’t have this job for eternity. More and more jobs are becoming remote-optional, but the whole “finding-a-job” process is blech. And being in a place where there’s the possibility of finding a job that occurs in one location should probably top the list of reasons to move to a particular locale.

There’s also the simple fact that owning multiple residences is tough. The process of procuring a house or land is time-consuming and frustrating on multiple levels. And the idea of settling is not something either of us are willing to commit to. “Give me death before you give me complacency,”–or something like that. Who says I can’t have it all? This is America–I’m young and free–there are so many ridiculous maxims that could go here and don’t at all express what I’m really feeling.

We’ve been on the road for almost 17 months now. We’ve traveled from our home state of Colorado to both coasts and back again. And there is not one single place that can be considered the “perfect” home. I have contentions with and qualms about every single place we go, no matter how beautiful, accessible, or fun. Colorado’s winters are too long and miserable–though it’s a wildly beautiful place with the largest concentration of people we already know and love to pieces. The PNW’s rain and fog is enough to make me cry for days into buckets of anything-but-Starbucks because I’m trying to stay awake through the gloom–even if it’s got a wonderful amalgamation of ocean and forests. Austin was fun and the people are amazing, but I don’t really want to live in a city, and especially not one with such horrific traffic (Denver–I’m looking at you, too). Savannah is also compelling for a few reasons, but it’s so far from so much of the things we love. New Mexico has the nature, wonderful locals, and cheap housing that make it super-desirable, but there’s virtually no water (lakes, rivers, oceans) in the places we’ve explored as possible homes.

Heart tree

Aww.

I am the living embodiment of that BS “Home is where the heart is” aphorism. But I also want a place to put our things, to  paint the walls, to “nest,” if you will. Since this is the goal, at times, it becomes oppressive and all-consuming not knowing where home will eventually be. Sometimes, I feel frightened that there because there won’t be a perfect place, I’m going to be forced to settle. I’m down with having to change–even when it’s hard. I do it all the time. But settling takes more effort and has never been my MO. I think everyone has something in life that makes them scared, whether it’s feeling as if they’re not living up to their “potential,” or feeling trapped in a hopeless or horrible relationship, or anything in between. I’m acknowledging my own fear and continuing to figure out how to work with it, mold it, make it work for me. Which I suppose it has, in a way, since I’m sitting here writing something personal for the first time in months.

Thanks, fear! Next stop–home?

Typewriter

Thumbs up to fear–and words.

 

 

 

Be Kind

1991

When Levi woke me from my slumbers this morning, I was in the midst of a terrible nightmare. In it, I was me, now, in all my current happy and confident Devon-ness, but I was having to deal with and kowtow to some of the bullies of my youth. I stayed in bed for quite some time, intentionally feeling the heaviness this dream left in my chest, and thinking about how to put my thoughts and emotions into words.

My youth, like many people’s, was split into a dichotomy of home and school life. My amazing mother gave me outlandish confidence by imparting to me that she believed I was the smartest, most beautiful girl in the land. In our Boone apartment or in the round house on Beech Mountain, NC where I lived while attending middle school, I believed her.

Old house

And then I started middle school.

And the bullying began.

When I talk about bullying, I suppose it should be clarified that until I dealt with high school bullies, there was no physical violence incurred. During my time at Avery County Middle School, I was subjected to psychological warfare in the form of the “popular” girls telling my friends I was a freak and subsequently being left without anyone to commiserate with about the ordeal. I remember all too well the feeling of my face aflame when the lead girl mocked my thrift store pants in seventh grade Biology class, or during World History that year, the same girl passed notes to my friends saying, “Let’s all not talk to Devon today. Isn’t she weird?” One of my “friends” was kind enough to let me know that no one would be talking to me anymore, due to my inherent weirdness.

I was weird–and still am. It’s a lot easier to embrace when you’re not surrounded by heavily religious and terribly athletic 12 year-old girls with raging hormones and insecurity complexes. I was one of the shortest kids in class until I hit 12, when I rocketed up to 5’8″ in a single summer. I was desperately shy and quiet–and had my feelings wounded more often than not by things many others would have ignored or brushed off. I was in accelerated classes and read huge novels on my hour-long bus rides to and from school; we always lived a great distance from the schools I attended. I had healthy food in my bagged lunches–not candy bars and chips–and my present obsession with thrift store shopping was imparted to me as early as the age of 7. In middle school terms, I suppose these facets make one sort of a weirdo.

The bullying continued after moving across the country from North Carolina to where I began and attended high school in Estes Park, Colorado. But it wasn’t to the same degree. And at 14, I found punk rock and had friends who didn’t care what the “popular kids” said to or about me.

I preach on occasion about the notion of “being kind” because of what actions and words can do to people. When I was bullied in middle school, I walked around with a perpetually upset stomach, praying for the snowstorm that would close school for a couple of days. I had no clue there would be remnants of those emotions still haunting me into my 30s. I woke up feeling slightly ill today, but am thankful for the words and the person I’ve challenged myself to become. Being subjected to bullying is one of the many, many reasons I know it’s easier to practice kindness.

Down the line, you may well thank yourself for doing so. And others will, too.

OP

The Border Town

Beast

“That’s awesome,” the steely-eyed, bearded bartender announced as we made our way to the counter in the dimly lit bar. There was but one local watering hole near the town of Naco, Arizona and we’d located it after a tiring week slaving away on our respective internet-based jobs. The Beast Brewing Company was situated in the back corner of a square parking lot in a shopping mall; the only other open business at 6:00 that evening was the laundromat next door where surly locals sucked cigarettes while waiting for their permanent press to dry.

“I’m sorry?” I asked, reaching down to pat the head of a silvery brown pit bull eager for affection. I assumed the bartender might have been referencing one of my copious tattoos; this is often how people begin conversing with me about the large amount of ink I’ve obtained over the years. At first, it was peculiar and caught me off guard, but I’d become used to folks randomly saying, “Nice!” or “That’s awesome,” in my general direction without prior provocation.

Awesome

“My dog. His name’s Awesome,” the bartender repeated, sounding only slightly miffed. We smiled and slid onto our stools. Clearly, we had found the place to be for the evening. We happened upon Bisbee and the nearby Naco mostly through word-of-mouth—and an eagerness to escape from the nightmarish RV park where we’d been staying in Tucson. This was roughly our twelfth straight month of traveling, and the horrors of RV park life spanned the gamut from black mold and handfuls of six- or eight-legged creatures invading your privacy in the public bathrooms, to forcibly witnessing other residents’ domestic proclivities in the wee hours of the night. The utterly un-aptly named Miracle RV Park was situated in a less-than-savory part of the city. We were assigned a spot in the front of the park next to the highway where every night sirens whined, drunks and addicts wailed their night songs, gunshots and oversized motors rang out with unceasing frequency. Neither one of us got more than a couple hours of sleep each night. And the bathroom situation in that park was, in a word, bad.

Fence

The park in Naco was decidedly better. Located roughly three blocks from the border of Mexico and the imposing wall-fence that separates our two great nations, we still heard gunshots and coyotes yelling throughout the night. But the bathrooms were spotless and the people there were pleasant and mostly hung out on the adjacent golf course throughout the day, rendering the park itself quite silent. The town of Naco offered virtually nothing in the way of entertainment or convenience; there was no grocery store or gas station within the town limits. There was, however, a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Station and an imposing fleet of vehicles that we saw quite literally everywhere we went. The previous day, we had taken the Walrus hiking in the Coronado National Forest and on the way back down the trail, ran into an agent on foot patrol. We stymied his progress down the sharp and winding mountain path, bombarding him with questions.

Coronado

“They’ve got so many ways to get through,” he told us candidly, referencing the Mexican immigrants who illegally crossed the border in Naco and the surrounding area. We were perched on a treacherous edge of the path. “If they run down something like this, I don’t even bother chasing them.” We gazed downward and understood: one wrong step off the path could mean a broken ankle—or worse. “They have special footwear and can evade the infrared detectors. They know so many tricks. A few years ago, they were coming over in the 100s—no way we could’ve caught them all. Pregnant women, little children.” Coming from a landlocked state nearly 1,000 miles from the Mexican border, we weren’t privy to the situation as the agent reported to us. This was fascinating.

“What’ll it be?” the bartender finished serving a young couple in business attire and came over to where Awesome had posted up in a chair next to us and was languidly hanging out.

“We’ll do a couple of your Sandman pecan porters, please,” Levi told him.

Tiny living? Try it first. Trust me.

Tiny home

Tiny homes and tiny living are still all the rage, thanks to reality television sucking it up and regurgitating the concept to the masses in high def. We’ve been advocates of this ideal for years now–the downsizing of the commodities that overrun daily existence, the smaller footprint in a world becoming too rapidly gentrified, and the closeness that comes from sharing your meager living space with another human being all sound inviting in theory.

In practice, it’s an entirely different bag of cashews. For the past 15 months, my significant other, our 100-lb chocolate Labrador, Walrus, and I have been actually executing “tiny living.” For the first three months of our adventure, we lived and worked in a tent. Then we upgraded to a pop-up camper and thought we were living large.

Camper

The camper is awesome in a lot of ways. It’s got a little propane stove, a wee fridge, a king and a queen size bed, a table and benches, a toilet, indoor and outdoor showering facilities, and a reasonable amount of storage space. It’s comfy, light enough to be towed with our Jeep, and has heat and a fan. After existing in a tent and on the ground for three months, this was a HUGE step up. But it’s still in the vein of tiny living, so we didn’t feel as if we’d overstepped any of our personal ethical boundaries. The absolute best part about living in the manner is being able to be mobile. We’ve got internet-based jobs, so work on the road is altogether possible–and this isn’t something many people can say.

Fast forward a year. We’ve traveled the country over and back again, from sea to shining sea–through the Midwest, deserts, and mountains the country over. And while the camper’s fabulous in many ways, what we didn’t consider was how the lack of air conditioning would affect us when hitting up Vegas in the fall, or Austin in the spring. How 10+ mph gusts of wind could make us feel like we were going to literally blow away and sitting through the tiniest rainstorm was much like I imagine living in a popcorn maker would be–sans delicious buttery aromas. As much as we’ve downsized our personal belongings, somehow we still struggle to locate free space to set down our coffee cups each morning. We’re not slobs, per se–we’re definitely not the neatest and cleanest people in existence, either. There are no doors to hide behind if you need a minute to yourself and every breath the three of us breathe can be (and is) re-breathed more than once.

Tiny living is–ahem–amazing. It’s a fantastic experience and anyone who is even remotely interested in the concept should try it. Try it. Things you never imagined would annoy you can and will. But great and unexpected things you never imagined experiencing or feeling also occur. This is merely a word to the wise: invest in a tiny living experiment before going all out and committing to a tiny home. You don’t want to end up crying or pulling your hair out on the daily.

Screaming

Don’t let this be you.

 

 

Broken

Redwoods.jpg

I am utterly lost right now. As a self-admitted control freak, I am spiralling out of control and I don’t know what to do but cry. And turn to the words.

My father died unexpectedly last week. I was 1,400 miles away. I’m back in my hometown now, and alone–only partially by choice.

I thought maybe hanging out in public would allay the tears. But people continue showering my family with unexpected love and kindness in this time of darkness and it makes the grief flow.

I must remind myself: Time is an illusion. Events transpire; pain abates–or it doesn’t. Don’t box in your emotions or let others dictate your personal process. There is no formula. Let it happen.