I hit the road almost a month ago. During August, I’ve learned that people are good. I’ve gained courage and self-esteem. I’ve become hopelessly uncertain and confused, but also that it’s okay. I’m starting to focus my goal for this RV trip towards challenging and eradicating my social anxiety. But, no matter what, I’ve fulfilled my dream. I drove cross country. All 3,400 miles. I made it to Oregon, to the Pacific. I could finish today and feel successful.
Everyone has suggested that I write a journal of my RV travels. Story telling is a new challenge for m because I prefer listening. So, it feels weird to share my story especially when it feels like everyone’s expecting a classic road trip novel like Pirsig’s Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Steinbeck’s Travels with Charlie, or Kerouac’s On the Road.
In truth, I don’t know what I’m doing or even what I want. My plan had a different order:
— The Original Plan
Two years ago, I planned to make money online. Quit my job. With my passive income, I would buy my RV and travel around for a year or two without being constricted to a time schedule. I could camp for weeks in a National Forest or live in downtown Manhattan.
Instead, I ended up buying the Rialta RV first, and I’m still working. I’m very grateful for this job, but it’s still a job. Also, the other challenges are here:
— Road Challenges
I’m an introvert. The center of attention is fun sometimes, but I prefer having one on one interactions with people. Although I’ve gotten better after living in a bunch of cities, it’s still a hurdle to befriend a new person, to take that first step.
I want to meditate everyday but it’s hard to find time or places to sit while on the road. I would ideally sit for at least a hour every day. Instead, I try to do more dynamic meditations on the move.
I’m a wannabe entrepreneur. I tell myself I should be able to work every day on a business, a book, coding, learning a new skill, or something. Anything besides wasting time reading facebook, news, reddit, hackernews, and everything else.
I don’t enjoy museums. Nor am I the biggest outdoors man or nature photographer.
While traveling, the pressing questions are how am I going to do my job, and how am I going to meet new people? When I’m staying at a friend’s house, or I’m renting a home then it’s easy. But on my own? I worry where can I park? Where can I work? How will I meet people?
Actually, I’m pretty confident that I can find parking anywhere. Indeed, I know places to park in Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Orlando, Chicago, and Boulder, and Portland.
— Meeting People
But meeting new friends? In Florida, I meet all my friends from weekend nights in I-Bar as well as from the Zen meditation group. I also made a few random contacts from meetups, invitations to a party while buying a blender, and my many roommates. In Boulder, I thankfully had a few friends from college in the area, but I also meet people from the Buddhist Geeks conference I volunteered at and most randomly, the amazing girl I meet at Naropa’s library.
Most of the time, it’s complete desperation and trying until I succeed. Sometimes, I’ll go days without any meaningful social contact, and I’ll meet someone somehow, somewhere. It’s a human need to be seen, to be heard, to be in relation. Acknowledged. Hugged. That manic and excited energy I have from traveling must come out through my body language too.
Luckily, people are really nice to travelers. Maybe, it’s the mystique of being a cool traveler or maybe it’s sympathy for knowing how hard it can be to start over in a new place. I feel like every American inherits some deep urge to travel cross country. It’s just in our history and culture. And it offers a convenient excuse that this traveler won’t be around very long so no long term issues if he turns out to be weird.
— Ambivalent Feelings
Sometimes, I marvel at what I’m doing and feel grateful that I am capable of even doing it. Not burdened with student loans or manic work hours keeping me in one place. On the other hand, I often feel adrift, confused, and uncertain where to go. I wonder if anyone misses me back home. If I’m taking a useless, prolonged adolescence or a Campbell-esque Hero’s Journey. Perhaps both. Perhaps neither.
However, I also yearn for a demanding career that would occupy my every thought, a girlfriend to share a house with, and a local community to be a part of. For now, I’m a vagabond. I’ll explore the extremes to find my happy medium.
Sometimes, I worry that I’m leaving something good. That I should have stayed where I was and planted roots.
In Florida, I had some great friends and a great meditation community. I was going to the gym regularly and living healthy.
In Boston, I lived very close to my best friends, I was being ambitious and productive in my work, and never felt alone.
In Boulder, I felt a spiritual home. The perfect place to take spiritual discipline seriously and transition into a related career. I meet a girl I fell for deeply. I meet others at the conference that felt like my spiritual brothers and sisters.
Now, I’m in Oregon among old friends again. Oregon, so far, feels very grounded. Each of my friends doing a DIY skill whether it’s homebrewing, baking bread, or making jelly. The neighbor has an entire chicken farm in his backyard. Life is slower, easier, happier here.
The last few miles driving to my friends’ house, as the Temptations played in the background, and the sun was setting, I felt overjoyed. Perhaps because I was coming to the end of a 14 hour drive. But also because I was finally fulfilling my two year dream of buying a RV to take to the west coast. To have finally completed this journey that has been just an idea in my mind for so long and to have this fiction become a reality.
My experience on the road has taught me that most people are good. That it is not so hard to meet new people. That old friends and friends of friends are still out there, willing and ready to connect. That, we, as busy Americans are so hungry for connection yet so fearful of having to deal with a weirdo.
Two results have seemed to result from this trip. One is a sense of increased self-esteem and confidence. New reference points for my brain to show that I am capable, that my dreams can come true. That even the worse times are usually followed by the best.
Another result is the lessening of fear and growing comfort with uncertainty. Usually uncertainty breeds doubt, anxiety, and misery for me. Instead, I’m learning to live without any clear plans beyond the week, without knowing where I’ll be parking or staying tonight.
A corollary is a belief that I could almost live anywhere in any condition. Everything constantly changing apart from my job yet I’m doing just fine. Each place I move to feels reveals a sense of new identity. It’s jarring how quickly I get acclimated to a new location, how quickly it feels familiar as my home.
The only fear remaining is perhaps the threat of poverty. I’ve worked my entire adult life and a lot of my young adult life. The idea of living w/o an income source still unsettles me, frightens me. A part of me almost wants to be unemployed to see if I could find the strength, the hustle, the smarts to find my way out on my own.
It was wildly amazing to me that many of the people I meet in Florida were just like this. They came to Orlando with little or no money. Some of them didn’t fare too well. Others eventually found jobs and thrived. It gave me optimism that I could do the same.
— New Goals?
If there is any single goal for this RV trip it is to eradicate any social anxiety, to fulfill that Daoist ideal of wei-wu-wei, action through non-action, to become flexible and strong enough to make a home anywhere. To approach strangers, to connect with people.
Because it’s never been about the outside for me. The scenery. The museums. The parks. The animals. Life is just an opportunity, a dojo for where I can train my character.
Can I meet new people outside the bounds of work and school?
Can I be content and indeed joyful with minimal possessions, expectations, and plans?
I’m starting to think that I’m attracted towards difficulty, towards hardship. Maybe, I’m addicted to that catharsis after facing a fear or passing through a challenge. Maybe, my greatest growth will be in those very places where I know absolutely no one and have no idea what I’m doing.
At the same time, I do deeply yearn for a home and community again. I’ve been drifting around the past two years. For now, I’ll keep moving.