Orlando to Birmingham : On the Road Again

Last night, I slept in the RV. Railroad Square. Tallahassee. Near Amtrak station.

Daytime, constantly falling asleep. Nighttime, trouble sleeping. Fear of criminals, police, or property owners. Loud rain noise. Trains passing by.

Woke up at 7am this morning, property manager spots me, and we chat pleasantly.

Financially, this RV makes no sense. I’ve barely used the refrigerator, stove, or bathroom. Just driving and sleeping. My Nissan would of worked. The gas savings could have covered hotels. But no RV, no trip. I only went because I planned to live in the RV. It’s funny, I ended up renting the most expensive housing instead. Nevertheless, I likely would never have done this if I didn’t buy the RV.

I got this RV without ever seeing one before. I thought within 6 months, I’d be hitting the road full time. But I’m still edging into it. How far I will go is hard to see.

My mind’s a blank slate. Life is very simple when constantly moving. Only concern is food, parking, and working. No expectations, everything is new. I’ve also been meditating with a Zen school the last four days across three cities. They are all different yet all the same.

Tonight, I’ll drive six hours to Birmingham to stay with my friend Frankie for Thanksgiving. Then, onward to Atlanta. Eventually back to Washington DC and home to Delaware.

Leaving Orlando after 3 Months

My house(s)

Big expectations are always a disappointment. Surprises are always a great joy.

Tomorrow, I leave Orlando. Why did I come here? What did I learn?

Three months ago, mid-August, I was depressed. A year had passed since leaving Washington DC and graduating with my Masters. All my grand plans had fallen.

At the time, I was intentionally living at home with my parents to save money after having spent my life savings on a RV which was constantly breaking down. I was fighting bitterly with my parents. Many of my friends were starting their graduate programs. I felt stagnant.

An opportunity appeared. An expert, physical trainer was offering free training for three months in Orlando. It could be a life changing moment to work one on one with him. I shot him an email and was approved. Less than a week later, I hit the road.

I knew no one in Orlando. I didn’t know where I would sleep. The weather back in Delaware was just cooling off while Orlando would be in the 90s for several weeks or months. Living in the RV would be suicide.

Funny enough, the trainer had sent an email saying the program was postponed/cancelled indefinitely the day I left, but I missed it. I thought about leaving but decided to stay on the chance that he would resume the program.

Now, I had no reason for even being here too.

I’ve had a new roommate every three weeks. A total of 7-8 people in 4 different sets and two houses. One of whom may of robbed me of over $1,000 of my material possessions. With the exception of one roommate, I’ve been stressed out with the rest.

But, I learned important lessons. If I’m going to live with a stranger, choose an older guy at least in his late 20’s so the weekday partying is out of him and has a stable job. I also learned the worse part of getting robbed isn’t the lost of money, but the resulting fear of living in your own house. The first few nights, I had difficulty sleeping and kept a hammer by my bed. The fear has subsided now, but I still double check my windows and locks.

Yet, I am happy I stayed here as long as I did.

My first two weeks here, I made half a dozen, solid friends that I’ve hung out with every week since. I meditated with a local vipassana and Zen group twice a week. I did koan practice for the first time. I did a weekend retreat in Gainesville. I meet a new person every week. The diversity of people I’ve meet here trumps my past six years. I developed deeper connections here in three months than I did living two years in DC. Although, one of my best friends lived in DC so I had less incentive to meet new people.

A big part of the success was the mindset of, “I don’t know what I am doing, but I got nothing to lose, and everything to gain.” Initially, I went to the bars thinking, I have to at least make the effort of being there. My biggest fear coming here was that I wouldn’t make any lasting friends, but that quickly dispelled the first week. I went to these meditation circles not expecting anything but ending up meeting some wonderful people and possible future mentors.

I lived more in these three months than the seven months I lived at home with my parents.

But I am exhausted. I’m tired of constantly having a new roommate or house to move. I ended up losing over $1k of electronics in addition to having to buy a new laptop. I need to save some money. Well, I want to save more money really. While I do really like the people I meet, I don’t really like the city of Orlando itself. It’s not an ambitious city nor a densely populated one.  I walk down streets wondering where is everyone? There’s no real public transit except the bus. Most of my friends live far away and/or can’t drive. Also, there are some new people closer to home now that I want to see. Friends in Phila, DC, and Delaware that won’t be so close again.

However, the thought of coming back to Florida in January has crossed my mind. Many times.

Right now, my priorities are on two things.

First, what my future career be? I can only work my current job so long before it’s sold or I’m exhausted. I’ve worked my current job for almost seven years now. I have several, possible career paths, and I’m just working down the list until I find the right one. I’m blessed to have that luxury. But I also have spent a lot of time and preparation to have that flexibility.

Second, what am I doing with this RV? I’ve owned this RV for almost a year now. I’ve slept less than 7 days in it. Logged less than 4,000 miles in a year. I still am a bit wary of living in it and uncertain how I would work while on the road. Taking calls in a coffee shop is surprisingly very stressful. Why do they play such loud music and why is everyone so loud? There’s a lot of different options here too to figure out.

“Everything I am not made me everything I am.”

Everyone has this self-story about who they are. Their interpretation of their life. For a long time, I saw myself as an outsider and basically a loser. My parents were poor immigrants. I didn’t have the opportunities and experiences most of my peers had. After school, I was working for free at my parents store. (Funny, I got my current job from talking to one of the customers who is now my boss). The only good thing I had were my computer skills and my high grades. Neither of which I considered great accomplishments. Over the years, starting in college, it seems I’ve been expanding myself. Pushing my comfort zone with new people, new experiences, new talents.

Exercise, diet, cooking, public speaking, writing, meditation, drugs, relationships, installing solar panels on RV, music, dance, money, business, living with 20+ people, and so on. Some of them were failures and deadends. Some of them went well.

Now, I’m pretty well off. I got a great education for free. I got a good job. My health is at its best. I have lifelong friends. I’m not enamored by lust, power, fame, or greed. By most respects, I’m doing more than well. By world standards, I’m like the top 5%.

But there are still several things on my list to cross off though. That’s my karma. Weaknesses I still want to make into strengths. Experiences I still haven’t encountered. Lives I still want to live. Sometimes, it seems the list only keeps growing. Other times, it seems rather small.

This November month I’ve been stagnant. No gym. No projects. Falling into old patterns of television, video games, and what not. The only positive has been the amount of meditation I’ve put in. Processing the robbery and preparing to let go of Orlando. Also, along with my self-story, I have a constant question that defines me which is, “what’s wrong? how do I fix it?” Meditation helps calm my mind and quiet this constant question away to remember that life in the present moment is always perfect just a it is.

Last year, I came back home from a similar situation. I was living in a great house with two good friends. It was the ultimate young man’s lair. Arcade machine, pool table, bar, parties, big screen tv, and so on. But I wanted to go home to save money and establish productive habits. I wanted to be better. And once again, almost a year later, I’m doing the same trip back home. Except, I don’t plan on staying home too long because I already know how toxic an environment that is for me. I’ll make my next big decision in January.

I always planned on leaving around November and then December with the possibility of staying longer. I didn’t think I could get attached to a place so quickly in just three months. But, then again, I clearly forgot about my experiences in New Orleans (1 week) and China (1 month).

There’s at least ten people I’m seriously going to miss here in Orlando. If one or two things were different, I might of stayed here for the long run. But, it is fruitless to think ifs and buts. And I never did the big tourist stuff. National forests. Countless Beaches. Space shuttle launch. Fishing. Amusement parks. Miami. I guess save some for next time.

Everything changes. Everything stays the same.

Life is “I don’t know” and that’s okay.

This post is a story I tell myself to make sense of don’t know.

Everything in life is a lesson and a gift, but when you have trouble digesting, you call it a burden.

hmm i guess there are bad surprises actually….like getting robbed or getting a new roommate. still, i’d take the surprise over the expectation.