I think I’ve been coming off as independent and self-sufficient.
Well, I am independent. I don’t want anyone telling me what to do. I want to make my own decisions. I want to follow my own path while listening to my own drummer. But self-sufficient? That’s not really been happening. Since I started this journey of unusual living, I’ve been helped by strangers and friends.
After I left my not-very-nice boyfriend in the middle of the night, I ended up homeless for three months. I was spending my nights outside in a sleeping bag given to me by someone I’d just met, carrying everything I owned in a backpack from the same fellow. I mostly ate food given to me at a food bank, and I brushed my teeth in a rest stop restroom. But even with such a simple existence, I didn’t make it alone. A couple of new friends took me into their homes once or twice a week to feed me dinner and let me shower or bathe. Vendors at the outdoor arts and crafts market where I sold sage sticks (and later hemp jewelry) slipped me granola bars or leftovers or (on a very few occasions) a five or ten dollar bill, which I used to buy supplies. One grizzled old horse trader bought me a sandwich one day and gave me a pep talk about how he liked me because I showed up every day and did what I had to do to earn my own way while not asking for nothing from nobody.
When I was lost (meaning after I left the boyfriend and dropped off the face of the earth) friends from my past lives sent out a search party to find me. I was found, and so many people from my past offered love and support in the form of dollars and open invitations to sleep on their couches and in their spare rooms. I used those dollars (and dollars I had earned myself in long days of selling my handiwork in the wind and the sun and the heat) to buy myself a van and go on a fantastic, epic journey where I met new people who became friends and offered me new and appreciated love and (mental and physical) support.
From Mt. Shasta, California, I ended up North Carolina. A wonderful housed-up road sister I’d just met invited me into her home to share Thanksgiving dinner with her family. A couple I’d met at the Bridge on Labor Day weekend welcomed me at the inn they own on the Tuckasegee River. These folks put me up in a suite, fed me, gave me clothes to wear. In both instances, these people barely knew me but treated me like family.
From North Carolina, I ended up in a major Texas city where old friends turned over their spare room to me, fed me, entertained me, gave me access to their laundry room and their internet service, AND gave me a pair of beloved cowgirl boots. Beginning to see a pattern here?
I could go on and on. I could tell you about my Computer Guy who’s helped me out financially several times, as well as making this very website possible. I could tell you about the walk-the-talk young Christian couple who rescued me (and a mentally unstable young man friend, his dog, the woman he was in love with, and her six-month-old baby) in Hot Springs, Arkansas; drove us all to their home in Southern Louisiana; then with the help of their church paid for my bus ticket back to Texas (at my request) and sent me off with a new purple backpack and a few dollars in my pocket. I could tell you about a different set of friends (college buddies) in Texas who took me in, gave me the guest room, fed me, included me in their Friday night extended-family time, loaned me a car when I was without a van, bought me a piece of memory foam for my new (to me) van, and helped me with my insurance payment. I could tell you about the kind and generous people who gave me gas money so I could get to my job in California last summer.
In the comments to my March spending report one of my readers said,
your expenses were close to $600 for the month. Were you able to earn at least $600 during the month?
My response was
No, I didn’t earn $600 in March. I have been living off the money I saved from working last summer and fall. That money is just about gone…
Anyone who has been paying attention is going to wonder what’s going on when they see my April report in a few days. At the end of March, I said I was almost out of money, but the spending report is going to show that I spent a bundle of money on tires (that is a saga for another day) as well as a bunch on insurance. And how did I afford to stay in a room I found through Airbnb while I worked scoring standardized tests? The answer is that I’ve been making it through with money I’ve earned through house sitting and Craigslist jobs, as well as with gifts and loans from people who care about me.
I don’t know how long this way of life is going to last for me. Right now, it doesn’t feel sustainable. I’m tired of being a burden on people, and I worry that people are getting tired of taking care of me. I’ve been stressed a lot about money in 2016. I know money is just a social construct. It doesn’t even matter and it’s not even real (right?) until transmission fluid is leaking or the fuel pump goes out or the metal threads are showing on the back tires (all of which have happened to my van since February).
I think I’ll have to save $2,000 (of an estimated $5,000 gross income) this summer to make it through the fall and winter of 2016 and the first part of 2017 while being able to take care of any van emergencies. Of course, I when I’m not work camping, I’ll fill in with side jobs if I can get them.
I can’t think of any clever, upbeat way to end this post except to say I’m so grateful to everyone who has assisted me, ever, but especially in the last four years. (And if I you have helped me, and I failed to mention you specifically in this post, please don’t think that means I don’t feel gratitude for everything you’ve done for me.) My life would be impossible without so much help.