Early Revelations from the Road
Eight weeks ago was my last scheduled day of work. Since then I have been even more mobile than I had been for the previous six months, when I began this experiment in alternative dwelling. In those eight weeks I have been in Colorado (Littleton and Ft. Collins); Wyoming (Saratoga, Cheyenne and Pine Bluff); Nebraska (Bushnell, Grand Island, Lincoln, Bellevue, South Bend, Mahoney State Park), and Iowa (Monona County and a day trip to Sioux City).
I am acclimating fairly quickly to the nuanced lifestyle changes and want to capture a few of my early thoughts while I remember them, so here’s my list.
My natural learning style (a combination of immersion and obsession) is allowed to flourish when I have few scheduled activities.
In temperate weather, I like to wear an outfit two days in a row. Especially dresses.
Wearing runner’s “compression shorts” under dresses makes me feel like a kid who is free to go across the monkey bars.
Access to refrigeration is overrated. Nice to have when I am staying with someone, but very easy to get along without. No cooler, no trips for ice, doing fine so far. The best tip I received along these lines was to buy a bag of mixed salad greens at the start of the day and snack on them, finishing them by day’s end.
I use a lot of washcloths compared to the average person. This isn’t new, just more notable while traveling.
For whatever reason, I can’t seem to get enough bilateral and/or rhythmic movement, such as walking, hula hooping, swinging, dancing, crawling, playing catch.
I am entertaining myself by seeing how much ambidexterity I can develop. I ate sushi rolls with chopsticks using my left hand the other night. Very slowly.
About two days a week I just crash. Once I stayed in a recliner much of the day watching hula hooping videos on You Tube.
My levels of joy, positive expectancy, physical activity, laughter, and what they describe in T.A. as the child ego state have all increased. My outgoing communication (phone calls, letters, blog posts, Facebook updates) has decreased.
Dreaming (or recalling dreams) has all but disappeared. Recently, I woke myself up saying a sentence, but couldn’t recall the dream that prompted it.
Virtually nothing feels urgent.
I get mildly troubled or irritable on days when I am transitioning from one locale to another, especially if I am somewhat undecided which direction to go.
Sometimes when I am leaving an event, I start driving and have to pull over because I don’t know where I am going to.
Multiple people have given me a key to their house or made me feel welcome to stay. I had to devise a strategy for organizing the new keys and storing them safely.
Staying somewhere the first time has some slight anxiety or awkwardness to it, but that seems to dissipate or disappear on subsequent visits. It especially disappears when I can help in some way that doesn’t require instruction. (For instance when I am comfortable knowing how to load and start their dishwasher by myself, or learn what foods I can contribute to the kitchen that make them happy.)
I carry less food and less clothing than I did previously, and way more toys. (Yo-yo, slingshot, a ball to practice throwing for kayak polo, biking gear, kites, and hula hoops are all traveling with me so far.)
When it happens that I am in a public locker room (like on the night I played kayak polo at Prairie Life) I luxuriate in having lots of time and space to shower and dress. Maybe I feel I am imposing in other people’s bathrooms? Haven’t thought this through.
Morning coffee hasn’t always been convenient. But when it isn’t I can usually go get some nearby. I could do better by taking my pour-over device along with me.
My sleep schedule rarely matches that of those around me.
Alone time is either too scarce or too prevalent, most days. Achieving balance in that area was a problem long before this lifestyle, though.
Internet connection has occasionally been a problem, but that has primarily been on the days I spent at my own farmhouse, which has none. Sometimes people don’t know their own password or have it wrong so it can be challenging to get access in that situation. Plus, I hate to press the issue since I am a guest.
I stopped applying even the tiny amounts of make-up I had been using, and cut my hair short. No nail polish on fingers or toes.
I am very moved by time with loved ones. For example, a new rush of affection comes up in me when I find I am in town and can go to my Monday night support group. The known faces, routine and environment elicits such love that I want to beam at people. Seeing long-time friends or being in their houses (even for an afternoon visit, or a baby shower) also brings up this grateful, warm, safe feeling. (Having said the word safe I am not aware of feeling unsafe otherwise, but something is getting triggered by the familiar.)
I carry my own laundry detergent, and find most people want me to feel welcome to use their washer and dryer. Since I hang-dry things, I have to decide if I am going to be somewhere long enough for the items to dry, or only wash items small enough to hang on my travel clothesline in my Explorer.
Friends frequently start a phone, text or email conversation with me by asking me where I am. Often, it turns out that what they really want to know is whether I am nearby and available to see them. Family members also ask where I am, and they seem more likely to just want to know, in part to gauge whether I am safe.
Initially, I was leaving things at people’s houses if I thought it likely I’d be staying there again, like extra food or toiletry items. Sometimes this arose because I had something in their refrigerator, like eggs, that I couldn’t easily take along. In the past week I decided to address this and have cleaned out or greatly reduced my stored “stash” of belongings in spaces I have been staying. (The hold-out is washcloths. I have extra washcloths stashed two places, at least.)
My McDonald’s disdain continues to diminish. It has reliable wi-fi, and if you work at it, you can get food that isn’t too expensive and not too bad for you, like oatmeal and coffee and milk. Their hours are good, too.
Self-care tasks that used to feel like drudgery have started to feel luxurious. Even flossing has become weirdly joyful.
Being or having the sensation of being self-contained is a wonderful state for my psyche. I revel in it and realize it is impacting my self-esteem. I like myself better. I feel more capable of caring for myself and my daily needs.
Agreeing to the simplest plans in the future is almost impossible for me. I can, however, say yes (or no) to things that are happening today. Several people have expressed irritation with my inability or unwillingness to commit to events/dates/schedules. I can see it is impacting my relationships, and realize those who have not expressed irritation may just be exercising tremendous patience.
So much seems possible. I look at videos about Burning Man, or a friend talks about a trip to Peru, or I consider walking across the panhandle of Nebraska, and I feel no sense of restriction or limit. I can go places. How long I stay somewhere is determined by entirely new factors, many of which I do not yet understand.
My perception of time has dramatically changed. Recently a friend and I were discussing going to Alaska this summer. We decided to postpone it because we’d prefer to stay there several months when we go, and our time constraints won’t allow that this year. I need loads and loads of time around things now, and a three week trip to Alaska seemed wrong, like it would be far too rushed.
Along those lines, sometimes I am unsure what time of day it is – as in I think it is afternoon and it is close to 9:00 p.m.
I’ve seen Martin Sexton in concert, been to a swing dance lesson, practiced with my slingshot, helped start a controlled burn, walked 21 miles in one day, hiked Garden of the Gods, Arthur’s Rock, and Pine Bluff, went into the flotation tank for an hour, bought hula hoops, attended beginner’s yoga, sat in hot mineral springs in the river, examined wolf tracks in the gravel, helped paint the nursery, planted flowers in two gardens, visited the goat farm, and sold my bike.
Not once in these last two months have I gone to a location where I had never been before. In fact, I have spent a great deal of time in places where I lived or grew up. Today I am writing this a short distance from my elementary school and high school, and am heading out to eat a burger and fries at Stella’s, where I recall going first with my parents when I was about eight years old.
If you have read all of this, I’m impressed. It seems more like notes to myself and might be pretty uninteresting to others. That said, I am here beaming at you, thankful you made it through.