The Challenges and Rewards

It’s difficult to know where to begin. On August 20th we passed the one week mark on our trip. On that date I wrote the the following. Please not this all took place before reaching Wyoming and things have developed so much further in just three short days. But this was part of the experience and I would like to share it.

One week ago was the 13th of August; that was the day we hit the road for the Gentlemen of the Road music festival in Walla Walla, WA. That day was one month to the day from the first time we set foot in a tiny house suspecting that the veryย one we were walking through might be our future home. That didn’t work out for various reasons, but it got us thinking intensely about what the future might hold and what we wanted to make of it. The 13th of July was a Monday and by the following Friday we had decided that now was not the right time to move on a tiny house and we conceived of the first incarnation of what would become Ambling Full Tilt.

Only one month and so much has changed! We have no jobs, no home, the stuff that filled our 800 sq ft apartment and the 5×8 storage unit we had have been mostly downsized (a large pile remains to be sold when we return, but it is as good as gone); no two days are alike and it’s rare for us to spend more than one night in the same place. It has not been easy.

The environments have been challenging; from temperature extremes to conditions of insane amounts of dust and/or a smoke-filled atmosphere – we’ve lived in the fallout of major wildfires ever since we left. And these challenges were only dealt with after the challenges of finding “camp sites”, which is surprisingly difficult if you’re trying to avoid Wal-Mart and truck stop parking lots. Finding provisions is difficult, the refrigerator will only keep things cold overnight, so we’ve spent a lot more on food than we had planned. Sleeping has been hard going; I rigged the hammocks twice during the night of the 19th and that culminated with one of the seat belt anchor points slipping off while Dani was laying it in. We ended up sleeping on the floor (again) and I barely could sleep I was so cramped. I worked on the hammocks a lot the next afternoon and things have worked well ever since, though some minor adjustments still need to be made to them. Cooking and washing up have gone as well as could be expected, though we’re still learning how to shuffle all the bags and boxes efficiently. I’ve had three showers in the past ten days, which is a pretty good number. I’ve only had enough free time to read one chapter in Walden. This entry is the only substantial thing I’ve written while on the road; a far cry from what I had hoped for. All that to say: this has been hard.

A couple days ago I realized I was scared. Only when you get in the thick of “adventure” do you find the time to deeply appreciate what it means to “have no home” and to “have no job.” It affords a lot of time to realize just what an anomaly this is. “Normal” folks probably won’t understand. They’re playing the game by the rules, and now I am not. Is that okay? There have been vagrants since civilization was invented. But never before had I pictured myself as one. Now I am one. Reality of that kind tends to sink in when you’re crammed into a little ball on a van’s floor, sweating in the stagnant night’s air, unsure of when you may find another shower… as the weight of the situation sinks in to your bones you realize there are no guarantees that it won’t be like this forever. There are no guarantees that it will not actually get worse. And the fear can creep in…

…then you realize you can abandon the whole pursuit. You can go back home, look for steady employment and have a fresh start at building that normal life you used to enjoy. The one where shelter, food, a shower and even a toilet were always a given and close at hand. Who would choose this path of wandering? And what kind of a life is this to cultivate for a loving partner?

All that ran through my head that night of sleeping in a ball on the hot van floor. It was a little surprising to me,. given all that I’ve gone through these past couple years; I’m no stranger to fear and rarely does it give me a moment’s pause. But it had it’s grips on me then. Yet I knew that if I abandoned this trip I would regret it for the rest of my life. Sure, sometimes things can be pretty damned hard, but I remember why I made this decision in the first place: one can always go back and live in the “real” world. But the only way to find out what’s on the other side is to actually climb the mountain.

Amidst all these fears and doubts one thing has become very clear. On August 19th the following things happened: I saw bighorn sheep; they were grazing and lounging on the side of MT 200. I saw blue birds on the wing. I saw our fellow camp denizen, a cotton-tail bunny we named Scamp, flit, hop, pirouette and the wriggle in the dirt with unmatched gusto; perhaps a tick or perhaps just cavorting, who can say? The following day a mother elk led her calf grazing through our campground; they nibbled in peace all the way through. Later we had a whole herd of them mosey through so close you could touch them if you chose to (we didn’t)…

All of these things – all of them – were firsts in my life. And when I can sit outside with the perfect breeze in the perfect sunlight with the perfect birds singing and perfect small animals scampering about, I realize this is my home now; the planet Earth. Wherever we are, this is home; and we love each and every place as home.

If I die tomorrow, this realization makes not only all the effort that went into this trip worth it, but all my life leading up to this moment worth it as well. Life is perfect; even in its imperfection. I couldn’t hope for it to be any other way than it is.

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