I want to talk about the inspiration for my lifestyle. Ten years ago I met a family who would strongly influence the way I think and go about life – here’s the story.
Irthlingborough, England. 2006 or so. My family and I were at a conference with a hoard of american expats living all around western europe, people that I felt were my extended family in a lot of ways. Third culture kids who didn’t belong to one country or another but felt most at home with those having similar growing pains. We all looked like fairly normal people on the outside; we were trying to fit in. All of us except this circus of seven bohemian wanderers in our midst. For us kids, at least they were the cooler than a polar bear’s toenails. Everyone wanted to be friends with them. They told us campfire tails of living in tents, trouble with the cops and crossdressing. I wanted so badly to be one of them and dance their technicolor dance. Liz, in particular enchanted me.
My family decided to take a trip up to Orkney, partly so that Liz and I could see each other. This teenage girl had done so much more in her time than I thought was possible – the Camino de Santiago? And the way she described it as a pilgrimage too. Our families were very different. Though it would be patently false to say that mine lacked creativity, their house burst at the seams with imagination with an inflatable bumble bee hanging from the ceiling and an arts cooperative out the back. “My family doesn’t do things on a schedule like yours. The door’s never locked, people just come and go as they please” Liz observed.
Then when we left, I didn’t see them for a very long time but I followed them on blogs and kept up with Liz on bebo, then facebook. But as these things do, communication became more and more sparse. I got updates from their page every now and again – the house truck, Lizzie’s shaved head, Europe, Morocco, Indonesia, New Zealand. Maybe I could travel some day.
When I was in the second year of my studies at Nottingham I was presented the opportunity to transfer to a foreign University for a year. There was no question in my mind where I was going of course. As far away from the UK as possible – New Zealand. I obviously hoped that I might bump into the Joneses, but save for a brief meeting with Abbie before she jumped onto a plane back to Europe, that was not to be the case. Nevertheless, this is where the family’s influence started to become apparent. In the space of one month I was hitchhiking, dumpster diving and letting my long hair dreadlock. Then on my return to the Nottingham I moved into a tent and began the institution of the freegan feast. I felt truly alive for the first time in far too long. My plans after finishing my master’s was to wander the earth, penniless and with open eyes.
But that was not to be. I moved back to my home state of Oklahoma and began teaching at a local university. I had hopes of maybe hitchhiking around South America when my time there was done, but who knew how long that could be. Maybe it was time to give up those ‘childish’ dreams. And then Liz called me from Portland, “I want a travel buddy.” I don’t think I took her seriously at first but I drove down to Texas to see her and her family anyway. In that ramshackle band I felt at home.
Things quickly fell into place. We bought tickets to Belgium, I quit my job and drove to Portland. We have our own home on wheels now too – Django the Jeep.