When I was a kid, my father had a little handy man business on the side that he called Elsewhere. His slogan was, "When you've tried everywhere else, try Elsewhere." That's sort of where I am in my life. I lost my main source of income the Friday before Thanksgiving in 2008. Since then I've applied and applied for jobs, I've pitched and pitched projects, but nothing wants to come my way other than a few hours of weekly freelance writing work. Across 10 states and several fields, I feel like I've tried everywhere else. So, now, I'm trying Elsewhere.
For me, Elsewhere involves creating my own opportunities to contribute to the greater good. It also requires cutting back my overhead expenses so that I can live within my minimal means. Thankfully, service is in my blood and the simplification process has been gradual over the past few years. I've pared down my belongings, trimmed my existence to the barest of bones. Now I'm ready to take the next big leap: buying an old motorhome to live in.
The first step on this journey of a thousand (or more) miles is to crowdfund the motorhome along with a few eco-friendly retrofits including solar panels and a compost toilet. Earlier this week, I launched an IndieGoGo campaign toward this end. Because I'm not one to ever expect – or solicit – something for nothing, my pitch is this: For every $20 someone contributes, I'll volunteer one hour of my time to help a charity organization do some fund-raising or content creation or whatever else they need me to do. That way, not only does each donation help put a roof over my head, it also indirectly goes toward helping a lot of others in more need than me.
And then it's go time! Living a location independent life demands that you plan really well and then let go. You can never harness the flow; you can only ride it. I'm a Taoist at heart and one of the verses in the Tao Te Ching states my life's ambition perfectly: "In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don't try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present."
Me and my little stripey dog, Jalla. Photo credit: Erike Romer. Used with permission.
I've made similar paradigm shifts in the past. In 2009, I sold off most of my stuff, packed up my Jeep Liberty, and hit the road with my dog. From Southern California, we headed north, visiting friends in San Francisco, California, Ashland, Oregon, Portland, Oregon, and Vashon Island, Washington. Then I hopped the border and landed at a WWOOF farm just outside Victoria, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island. I spent two wonderful months there just following the flow of the day, ticking tasks off my to-do list without stress or strain.
When a bit of restlessness set in – along with a yearning for my beloved Catskill Mountains – I set off on a cross-country jaunt to New York State just in time for the glorious eruption of fall foliage. After a few months there, I did a casual drive back to Southern California, stopping off in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Lake City, Arkansas. Car trouble forced me to, sadly, cancel plans to hit New Orleans, Louisiana, Houston, Texas, and Tucson, Arizona. Upon my less-than-triumphant return to SoCal, I was welcomed into a burgeoning little eco compound in Ventura which is where I've been for over a year-and-a-half.
The main fields at Red Damsel Farm in Victoria, British Columbia. Photo credit: Clare Day.
Because of the high costs associated with driving a motorhome that gets a mere 10 miles per gallon (at best!) long distances, I'll likely keep to the West Coast on this latest adventure. Right now, I'm thinking my four bases will be WWOOF farms in Southern California, Northern California, Southern Oregon, and the Gulf Islands so long as I can find suitable places to park my life for a few months at a time.