Before leaving on my trip, there were many people who feared for me. There were people who were afraid my car would be stalled, that I’d get kidnapped by the KKK in middle America, that I’d get jacked, or I’d meet some kind of weird fate that will take me off the grid. What really happened was the opposite. I believe most people including myself are afraid of the unknown, uncertainty, and the unpredictable as well as the uncontrollable. This trip was all of the above and is STILL one of the best and safest experiences of my life.
As much of a safety net that urban or suburban life in a single city provides, it also has many pitfalls as well. Most people believe that staying in one place and working and “grinding it out” is the most secure way of living. I’d like to counter that assumption by pointing out that a number of things can go wrong in a typical suburban work situation:
– Getting a reamed out by a boss
– Paying bills, missing bills, or over looking bills
– Worrying about credit, debt, savings, and the all foreseeable “future” all the time; even if that spoils the present
– An over dependence on technology
– Major distractors: consumerism, technology, happy hours/bar scene/club scene – in my opinion, all of these distract us from the fact that the system we work under is flawed and that is prevents us from manifesting our potential and innate talent as human beings (more on this later as some detail oriented individuals will point out how I’m so “vague” about talking about talent, potential, or “meaning”).
– Rush hour traffic or basically any traffic in busy local roads and highways – I, myself, was hit by a vehicle last May and
– Health – the “grind” or any career really sucks the life out of us. I recall a particular period back in February or March of this year when I had worked a particularly hard day :
10am-1pm – Tutor at University Writing Center
1:15pm-2:45pm – Eat lunch, freelance as a tutor for a private client
2:45pm-:4:50pm – Drive to work with a client for a private tutoring company
4:50pm-6:45pm – Drive through rush hour traffic to work with another client for same company
6:45pm-9:30pm – Coach Martial Arts
9:30pm – 10:30pm – Close up, talk with student, arrive home
That night when I walked up the stairwell of my apartment, I felt a sharp pain underneath the left part of my chest, and my left leg almost gave out. The left part of my body was a little numb, but being a martial artist, I willed myself and the left part of my body into action and completed the stairs.
– Typical drama and crises: there is always a friend in crisis every week or month (or yourself) that you have to tend to, personal or work drama, something in the house or the car that needs to be fixed, some new expense that must be attended to
– Personal obligations: weddings to attend, meeting up with friends, novelty events (concerts, movie screenings etc.)
– Chores: buying this or that, running that errand, shopping for groceries cleaning that laundry, mowing that lawn, dusting the house etc. etc. etc.
– Staying fit: working out and exercise takes a lot of time
– Actual health conditions: allergies, medication, doctor’s visits etc.
Among all the above factors, there are MANY things that can and do usually go wrong. Even a successful life with a good home, savings, and regular work there is just too much stress and too many things to attend to on a weekly basis. That in itself is: physically and mentally draining, most of the activities lack meaning or a deep purpose, and things can and do go wrong at any misstep which people call “life” (ie – losing job, car accident, mortgage problems, paying bills, sudden change of health etc.). I think this debunks the fallacy that regular, mundane life is in fact safer and more secure than a life of travel or a life with fewer guarantees. A life with fewer guarantees could possibly yield a happier, more carefree life without piles and piles of obligations, the harshness of churning it out in an empty, broken capitalist society, and the health problems that can result after a prolong period of living in this way.
In the process of trying to earn a living in my local area in Takoma Park, MD, I have found the most damaging factors to the health are: the nature of daily work and living, traffic (very clogged, stressful, and lots of distracted drivers), and the several near-death accidents that I avoid (I find technology has caused people to become more and more distracted). The nature of daily living is so stressful, meaningless, and never-ending. In addition, the system that we work under has much to do with it: a capitalist culture in which there are private owners and therefore employees to fill in the work. According to Marx, we are basically used as “tool” to function the machine as opposed to individual living entities. His Theory of Alienation dictates that as time goes on we will become more and more estranged from our work, ourselves, and others. Hegel believes we’ll lift from a period of ignorance to self-actualization, and Weber or Durkheim (another sociologist) believed that a society built upon rationalization and beauracracy will lead to unhappiness (a lost of magic and enchantment).
My efforts to work, pay bills, and get out of debt have led to many outrageous incidents in the past 5 years:
– Fired from two jobs
– Laid off from one job
– At least three jobs that had no more work for me without actually letting me know ahead of time
– Two car accidents and one car that broke down on the road
– Late fees from landlord for the first time I was late in 3-4 years
– Cockcroaches and later bed bugs in my apartment complex
This demonstrates that anything can and will happen even in more seemingly secure living conditions.
Having been on the road for just over a week, I have not experienced even a little bit (perhaps the occasional tailgating because I drive an old car) of the above problems. Most of the drivers on the road (I took I-95 South from Maryland to North Carolina, and I-40 West across the country) are relatively polite and would pass me if they think I’m driving too slow. I was pulled over once in Oklahoma for driving too slow (given a warning) and once in Texas for appearing lost while leaving a campground and then ticketed for not having my seat belt on (great). Those incidents are on the lower side of stressful compared to the life I led in Maryland as a young working professional. In addition, I’ve learned new ways of making a living and getting by such as pitching a tent at a campground (it has showers and bathrooms) which only costs $10-20 a night, how to be more resourceful (buying a lot of groceries ahead of time and living off them instead of eating at restaurants), have been recommended websites where I can find: freelance writing jobs (www.freelancewritinggigs.com), inexpensive living (www.airbnb.com), and volunteer work in exchange for food and shelter (www.helpx.net – costs a small $25 to register).
I’ve met some super friendly people on the road including two Texans that gave me $40 as a donation when I told them my story. They told me: “we Texans look out for others and keep our doors open at night.” Quite beautiful. Well, they also told me that every Texan packs a gun because of the local culture and despises Obama because of his decisions on the oilfield, but we still had friendly, civil conversation about politics (they happened to have agreed when I talked about the positive qualities about Obama: his policies on women’s rights and education for example).
I almost met a nice traveler named Ted who has been to so many places in this country and even in Mexico and has so much knowledge about the process of traveling. I was blessed to have met him. If anyone knew how to survive on a budget and how to stay safe and happy on the road, it would be him. I offered to help him co-author or work towards a book because that’s what I do now, and I’d like to seem someone with his kind of knowledge to be able to inspire and educate others to give this lifestyle a try: for a short term retreat opportunity or as an alternative lifestyle to the whole work, mortgage, family, and retirement path. He is an awfully friend person too and I would like to learn as much from him as possible as a friend and mentoree/student.
In conclusion, the road is fun, open, embracing, contemplative, exhilarating, and educational. Everyone should attempt it at some point because they’d be surprised at what they can find. Also, being on the road takes me out of my immediate environment and gives me the perspective on how when we get older we eventually surround ourselves with the same environment and life situation on a day-to-day basis and that sort of fogs our perspective, learning opportunities, and ability to appreciate the greater and broader things in life. Traveling and the road can help with that contemplating and settling issue – I’ve learned so much about myself and life in just the past week.
In the near future I’d like to blog on: My Trail of Tears (letting go of the past), blast the 40 hour work week and 9-5 requirement, and get in some good Sociology writing. While not the worst place to live in the world, a capitalist society certainly has its limits, pitfalls, and plethora of inequalities. I hope in the future that I can help change that process within the system by having people question the ideology and mechanisms of our capitalist society and help people to make change on an internal and grassroots level. Who knows, perhaps our society can move away from a capitalist society without any changes in our democracy. I am not Anti-American, anti-democracy, nor anti-indivdiual, but I am anti-oppressing the soul, anti-conforming to the status quo and society standards without questioning, and anti-lack-of-opporutnities-for-all-people.
Have a great day! I’ve recently downloaded 150 pages for free on Emile Durkheim, one of the founding fathers of Modern Sociology from this link on Google (it’s a PDF). Take care!