Posted: March 31st, 2013 | No Comments »
This is a series of posts following my two years on the road…although most of that time was not spent on the road at all.
I lived in Florida for about four months. I went for physical fitness training that never happened and just stayed for the adventure. Although I drove down with the RV, I ended up renting two different homes instead.
Orlando, like most of my trips, was a mixed bag. On one hand, I made some new friends, joined a meditation family, and grew as a person. On the other hand, I got robbed and had a number of lonely, frustrated nights.
I meet a lot of people in Orlando in the strangest of places. Once, I got invited to a pool BBQ party while I was trying to buy a Craigslist blender. My closest friends were the most unexpected mix including a tattoo artist, unemployed guitar player, and self-proclaimed nightlife mayor. For an intellectual, Asian nerd with a Masters in Philosophy, this was a new experience. Despite our differing views, I really did like them all and received some of the greatest kindness and generosity of my entire life.
Also, I was regularly attending sittings with the local Vipassana and Kwam Um Zen schools. I chanted, I meditated, I bowed, and ate with them. I told them I would be going soon and was very thankful to feel like I was part of a family in the short four months I was there. My meditation is a defining and important part of my life, and it feels so nice to meet another that shares that quality.
Of course, it wasn’t always great. I had some horrible living situations. My original plans for fitness training were immediately cancelled. I got robbed which shattered my sense of safety. There were some really lonely days wandering the town by myself. Nothing makes you feel lonely like eating at a restaurant by yourself. There were a lot of nights talking to people and just going nowhere. It took a month before I ever talked to anyone at the meditation places.
Nevertheless, I grew and learned a lot. I went there without knowing a soul. I forced myself out of my comfort zone such as teaching myself how to ride a bike, doing couchsurfing for the first time, and just saying yes to life. After Florida, I believed I could survive anywhere. Although I was sad to leave, the robbery had shaken me up too much, and I didn’t feel like finding another random home to stay. I wanted to go home and focus on work again.
On the way back home, I made a few stops. I spent a day in the Gainesville Zen Center. I would meditate with the Tallahassee Zen group and sleep in my RV by the train tracks. The manager the next morning kindly inquired about my status before I promptly left. I spent a week in Birmingham spending Thanksgiving with an old friend in a sports bar. Finally, I stayed with another family in Atlanta before doing the long journey back home for Christmas.
Despite all the ups and downs, I felt a great deal of peace and equanimity after Orlando. I kept in mind a Zen teacher’s words, “I don’t know, and that’s okay.” Likewise, I had a new perspective that it is ignorant and arrogant to speak negatively about Life as if I were the Master and Life, the Servant. I am just the wave, Life is the Ocean. No matter what happened, there I was. Still alive. Still capable of laughing and connecting.
However, I would decide afterwards that I was done with random Craigslist roommates. I would only stay with friends or by myself from then on. In the next year 2012, I spent a few months in Delaware puzzling over my future fate. Eventually in the Spring, I visited Korea for my brother’s wedding, moved to Boston for a while, and then got back in the RV in earnest to travel west for the Pacific.
Posted: March 15th, 2013 | No Comments »
I can’t believe I’ve been living in Boston for three months now. It certainly doesn’t feel that long.
One reason is because I have a lot of old friends in Boston which has lead to less novel experiences. When I was living in Florida or on the road, I felt compelled to always be doing something since I didn’t know anyone.
Don’t get me wrong, it is very nice to have close friends nearby. But, there is always this dynamic of growth vs comfort.
So, I haven’t been writing much lately. The RV Odyssey already feels so long ago. The TV show, The Office, has a joke that Andy comes back from a sailboat adventure, and he wants to tell everyone all the insights he had on his trip but already forgot them. I feel the same way except I just don’t feel as inspired anymore.
Nevertheless, I plan on continuing my writings soon and at least finish the RV saga. Only got eight months of story to get through, and half of it is uneventful living at home. I’ve got a lot of material already written, just need to polish and finish it.
Like any blogger, I’m always wondering how much to reveal about myself? My public writing versus my private journal. I think my heartfelt writings where I wrote without any filter resonate more, but there’s always that nagging future worry of the wrong person reading it.
Actually, the real issue is wanting to project a positive life image. When in fact, most of life is rather mundane, challenging, or painful. And it’s hard to write about that kind of life in an engaging way without being boring or coming off as a victim. Most people want to read about successful stories, want to idealize someone as a role model they can identify with and follow. I know I’ve done it before. Hell, everyone does. To a certain extent, I think it’s necessary and healthy. But why can’t we have heroes who also have flaws, who are also human?
I’ve spent years trying to master my diet, exercise, productivity, doing side businesses, living in a RV, and so on. I’ve covered a lot of ground which I’m happy about, but I often judge myself harshly for not meeting my original goals.
So, going forward, I want to finish my writing of the RV sage of 2012 as well as cover a lot of my past successful and less successful mastery attempts like internet businesses or exercising.
Posted: January 28th, 2013 | 1 Comment »
My college mentor once asked our class, what is the definition of bliss?
The class replied with random guesses such as a feeling of great happiness or a reunion with the divine.
It’s funny how much we really don’t know that we think we do.
My professor replied back, “Bliss is an unconditional joy that is not dependent on anything.” One does not acquire bliss nor is it the result of something.
Bliss is everywhere. When you look at a child playing, you see bliss. This type of radiating joy that has no room for other thoughts.
Yet, so many people walk around in misery and suffering.
When I was in San Francisco, one of the practitioners talked about his insights after returning from his first retreat. He said he realized one day that happiness was a choice. The ping of pleasure from acquiring a new toy or accomplishing a goal is nothing like the abiding bliss that’s always available right here, right now.
I remember on my first retreat feeling a surge of great empathy and love. It was almost delusional that here I was just sitting with my legs in physical pain, but all I felt was a great expanding joy and bliss to simply be alive.
Pure happiness came from removing away all the obstacles that I placed myself in the form of expectations, disappointments, desires, and judgments.
I still remember this quote from Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov by a child on his deathbed:
The first birds of spring were flitting in the branches, chirruping and singing at the windows. And looking at them and admiring them, he began suddenly begging their forgiveness too: “Birds of heaven, happy birds, forgive me, for I have sinned against you too.” None of us could understand that at the time, but he shed tears of joy. “Yes,” he said, “there was such a glory of God all about me: birds, trees, meadows, sky; only I lived in shame and dishonoured it all and did not notice the beauty and glory.”
“Mother, darling, it’s for joy, not for grief I am crying. Though I can’t explain it to you, I like to humble myself before them, for I don’t know how to love them enough. If I have sinned against everyone, yet all forgive me, too, and that’s heaven. Am I not in heaven now?”
Of course, I want to be clear that I’m not saying that circumstances are unimportant or that ambition is bad. The path is in the middle. We still have to go about our lives doing things. But, it’s an invaluable gift to know that there’s a completely free and always available ground of joyful being. All I have to do is remember and reconnect with my bliss.
These past few years, I have been pursuing a lot of great ambitions including traveling in a RV, starting a business, or getting physically stronger. In the end, I never really accomplished what I originally intended.
This past month, I made a conscious choice to relax. Before, I had a lot of end goals that made a lot of sense, but I was forcing myself along the way to get to those end goals. So, I would inevitably fail because it’s impossible to brute will one’s way through life every day. I still am pursuing a lot of activities, but they are journeys that I enjoy walking. For many of these paths, I have no idea if I will ever reach the end or what the end product will look like. But I can stay in my bliss pursuing them.
Posted: January 16th, 2013 | 2 Comments »
Continuing series of posts covering my two years around the United States with my Rialta RV
Late October 2011
“Hey boss, sorry to call you like this on a Sunday night. Umm, the thing is….
I just got home. And I think I’ve been robbed…
They got my laptop…
I don’t store passwords on my computer, but, we should probably change my company password…”
That was a Sunday night returning home to find my house door wide open. Someone took all my electronics. No signs of forced entry. But I should trace back to the beginning a month before.
In October, my ghost of a roommate decided to leave abruptly. This left the guy I was subleasing from, Matt, in a bind since his name was on the lease. But, he quickly found a new roommate, a coworker at his sandwich shop job. He was a tall, blond surfer looking young guy with a motorcycle and a great love for reggae, weed, and women. Probably in that order.
The two of us got along well enough and hung out sometimes. He wasn’t very organized, loved to party, but he was also really easy going and had a big heart.
But, one Wednesday evening, he brought a “friend” over. An older, homeless and unemployed guy who believed he possessed clairvoyant intuition and healing massage powers.
After he gave my roommate a massage, they went out to drink somewhere. But, this crazy guy came back at midnight in a panic about his lost medicine pills and a sickening tightness in his chest. He slept on my roommate’s bed, and the next morning called an ambulance. That was the last I saw of him.
A few weeks later, a bill came from the hospital. His ER visit cost over ten thousand dollars. He lied and gave our address since he clearly couldn’t afford anything.
My roommate regretted bringing him over.
I thought that was the end of it. But one Sunday morning, there were numerous odd signs in the house. First, my roommate was scared that his “friend” had broken in and stolen his cellphone. Second, there was a puddle of water spilled in the living room and a smoked cigarette in the toilet.
I brushed it off thinking it was the antics of my reckless roommate. After a few weeks, the truth was revealed that he was a real bum. He couldn’t pay rent and had been accused of stealing at work. Matt, the man on the lease, got in numerous arguments with him with each side threatening to call the police. In a desperate plea for cash, my roommate tried to sell his beautiful bicycle to me for less than $100 bucks.
Meanwhile, I tried to remain aloof and neutral, wondering how my luck of roommates was so bad in Florida.
The next day I went to my usual Sunday Zen night of meditation. Afterwards, Matt called me about the next roommate coming soon while I walked home. That’s when I noticed my side door was open…
I thought, “maybe my roommate came in a rush and took his possessions and left with the door open.” But then as i looked around, I noticed all my electronics were gone. My laptop, my friend’s digital camera, my Kindle, and other items. All gone.
A little later, my roommate actually returned home to pickup his stuff. In a state of shock, distrust, and anger, I asked him twice with cold disbelief whether he stole my shit. He was adamant that he didn’t do anything and blamed his old “friend”. He asked if I wanted a hug?
I never figured out what happened. I hate to believe my roommate who I lived with for a month would be capable of stealing. He was a fun loving guy, and I never once got a bad vibe from him. Even threatened with eviction, he reacted with injured pain rather than anger.
On the other hand, it could of been that homeless guy who had been in the house before. He could of easily climbed in through the bathroom window that my roommate chronically left unlocked.
My first reaction was to call my boss to let him know about the robbery. Then I called some of my Orlando friends to find a place to sleep and reset my online passwords.
The robbery was the last straw and marked the beginning of the end of my time in Florida. I would never feel completely safe in the house again such that for the remainder of my time in Florida, I would sleep with a hammer and a knife under my pillow. I know it was completely irrational and useless, but somehow, having them made me feel better, safer. Also, I would leave my backpack in my RV whenever I left home. Ironically, a year later, I would be robbed again except this time it would be my RV.
Another irony was that I had done a short, one day Zen retreat on the previous day, Saturday. At the end, the Zen master instructor gave a short talk. She said we meditate because something went wrong in our lives. That meditation training helps us recover in times of stress, lost, and hardship whereas most people would automatically react and lose their minds.
At the time, I thought her talk was a negative perspective on meditation. It was warranted considering the teacher was going through cancer, but I thought I also do meditation to be more alive, more aware, and more joyful.
But 24 hours later, after feeling peace at my Sunday meditation, here I was in a state of anger, shock, and fear. The teacher was right. Life, ever full of surprises both pleasant and painful, was teaching me the lesson I had failed to listen to the first time. It was almost funny to me.
I was robbed. Worst of all, I’m pretty sure whoever robbed me was someone I had known. My evaluation of the basic goodness of most people was challenged.
In perhaps the greatest irony, my next roommate who would move in just a few days later turned out to be an ex-con. If there was going to be a stereotype for a big, scary, and uneducated black guy then here he was. Yet from asking me for numerous favors though, I never had any issues with him, and he was just a good guy trying to get his life back together. Heck,, I meet his entire family and gave his homeless friend a ride. He loved to talk about girls with me. Despite his physical size, I saw him anxious and vulnerable a lot of times wondering if he would get a job or where to go.
A week after the robbery, I would have a heated argument with Matt about me leaving a month early, and him talking about keeping one’s word. I was pretty pissed off that he said that considering his former friend had bailed on him as a roommate and then his next tenant didn’t pay rent.
So, as the perfect Orlando winter climate began settling in, I was ready to leave Florida. I wanted to return home to recover where things were boring, safe, and predictable. By mid November I left behind Florida forever for Birmingham where I would spend Thanksgiving with an old friend in an empty sports bar.
Posted: December 25th, 2012 | No Comments »
I sold my Rialta motorhome a few weeks ago.
After two years, it was really difficult to sell the RV. I didn’t really expect any serious buyers when I put up the Craigslist ad, and she wasn’t on Ebay. My plan was to postpone any decisions until the Spring.
But, it turns out there was an interested buyer. He showed up on a Sunday to take a look. He called two days later. And a few days later, I gave him the keys, and he gave me cash.
In the end, I realized my current lifestyle was not suitable for living full time in a RV. If I didn’t work a full time job and stayed on the West Coast then maybe RV living would work. Up until the end, I still thought about traveling south for the winter…it was the right decision though. Even during my western travels, I thought about selling her. But I still miss her. Walking down streets, I automatically still look for parking spots and have to remind myself that I don’t own a RV anymore.
Soon after selling the RV, I moved to Boston into my friend’s new house.
Tonight, all of us went out for Christmas dinner in Boston’s Chinatown. Every single restaurant was packed full with mostly Chinese people.
It was about two years ago that I drove the RV back from South Carolina through rain and snow. I was scared, excited, and anxious about what the future would bring.
But it was nearly 12 years ago that I flew to Boston by myself and fell in love with the city. Later, I would visit again when I was applying for colleges. I knew I wanted to live here, but I ended up going elsewhere repeatedly.
Now, the RV is sold. After two and a half years jumping around the United States and living way too long with my parents, I have a long term home again with some excellent roommates.
In some ways, my daily life now is far better than it was in the RV. Some of my closest friends live nearby, and I love the neighborhood. Yet, in other ways, it’s a lot more boring. There’s no more excitement of constantly traveling. Most days are the same as the one before.
It’s exactly what I need and want right now.