Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Life Update!

That "big announcement" that I alluded to in the last post?

The Western Road Trip is happening. Right now, actually.

Dave and I left Raleigh on a Tuesday and drove up to the Blue Mountains, spending the night in Asheville. From Asheville out of the mountains and across the plains to Little Rock, Arkansas... then out of the plains and through the forest, across the Mississippi and south into the hot Tejano emptiness to Austin, Texas... from Austin to the empty, searing, parched, wild country of western Texas.

Along the way, we couchsurfed with some excellent people who have given me plenty of encouragement that I'm headed in the right direction, which always seems to be West.

So we ended up in Big Bend National Park. That deserves its own post. In fact, west Texas deserves its own post, too.

What's the plan? Right now, I'm taking it one day at a time. We talk to people and that's how we decide where to go. Seems like we keep running into the right people! Most likely, we'll stay in the Southwest (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, southern California, and southern Utah), unless it warms up enough to head north of the 35th latitude.

What is life like these days? All of our stuff fits precisely into the back of Dave's Toyota Matrix. I've got the necessities; much of my wardrobe is exactly the same duds I've been wearing for the past year. Just keep sewing up the holes. We can sleep in the back by piling our bags and crates onto the driver's and passenger's seats, which is very convenient. Most of the time, though, we sleep in a tent. We've been doing "primitive" camping: bringing in our own water, digging our own latrine holes, and using headlamps for light. We've made all our food with one pot over a single campstove flame. Chow has been pretty good thus far; recipes forthcoming as well. In my opinion, hardly "primitive." Exactly what I need; nothing more, nothing less.

What do we do? During the day, we're either hiking or driving. Dave does most of the driving, because I get too sleepy and distracted. In the passenger's seat, I prep snacks, change the music, try not to sleep all the time, and beg Dave to stop at everything I find interesting (which is too much).

How am I affording all this travel? I get asked that frequently, and I don't think most folks understand exactly how short our shoestring budget is. The other day we spent a little under $40 for groceries, buying 34 items, and that will feed us for days. Twenty bucks total for the both of us for camping the entire time we were in Big Bend (one $10 night outside the park, one $10 backcountry permit). Gas is expensive, of course. At some point, I'll do a few budgeting posts about how I saved for this trip and what my principle expenses have been (I'm a former analyst—you betcha I kept track).

By picking up odd jobs and seasonal jobs, I could probably live like this forever... or until I wanted to have a community or to buy land or to go back to school or to have a kid. I do find something approaching profound in being forced to live in the moment, to be present to enjoy today, to leave tomorrow to take care of itself. Still, eventually I'm going to want to do one or more of the above things.

So what's next? Due to a combination of family and personal factors, we'll be back on the east coast sometime this spring. Dave and I are looking at jobs back in the Finger Lakes and northwards. I might want to go back to school (though I'm not ready to say what I'll be studying). If it looks like we'll stay put, it might be time to put our names on a piece of land. I like the idea of buying a yurt: one, it's sturdier than a nylon tent; two, I dislike debt and a mortgage is just that; three, we can always pick it up and move again.

There's my update. What's new with you?

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