In 2014 when I started investigating the idea of living on the road, I didn’t realize that actually doing it would be so monumentally misinterpreted. I didn’t know that making a choice to take the life I was given and do something out of the ordinary with it would alienate and isolate me from virtually EVERYONE I knew. But, it did.
At least that’s how it seems.
A year into the project of renovating our first camper, we still hadn’t moved in yet, we hadn’t taken it on the road once. I could feel the judgement and hear the disbelief as I heart-fully explained that it was a really hard time for us. I’d been written off. Friends stopped calling, family didn’t know what to say. It was almost as if we’d gone off the deep end and everyone was rolling their eyes at us. The few people who did communicate their versions of support said they were “jealous” and “vicariously living through our life” or “proud that we were really going for it” which also felt kind of like their obligatory and nervous response to our impending failure.
Now that we’re on the road, living full time in a trailer with less than 200 square feet of living space, I’m pretty sure that it’s harder than ever for most people to understand us. Our intentions are still widely misunderstood by the general population beyond their perception that we want freedom from responsibility, just like any other millennial (hard eye roll).
The truth is, choosing to go about life this way is harder than the alternative. There are still responsibilities, albeit very different than in ‘regular’ life. Waking up every day with the freedom to choose what to do, where to go and when to get work done is harder than waking up with a much shorter list of possibilities. Normal life, the normal American life to which I am referring, is routine, predetermined to an extent. Boundaries are in place and we exercise freewill within them, going about our days feeling fulfilled by those choices. Until some of us are not anymore.
As humans, the idea that we want options is something I believe is placed on us by socialization and marketing. We don’t want options, we want to be told what is good. We want personalized selection of all of our wants and needs delivered right to our door. Options are harder. Possibility is harder. It’s easier to stay in our lane, to make the comfortable choice. Our time is our own once all the schedules are me, the boxes are checked and we feel accomplished, then we can unwind and do it all again tomorrow.
Seriously? F that.
I find it difficult to articulate my thoughts on this but let me try because I feel like it’s an important distinction. I get the feeling that most people must assume that this lifestyle is an easier choice than doing what’s socially expected of us. I can understand why, we’re just out here dithering around in beautiful places, averting responsibility and cheating the system. Essentially avoiding any of that real life stuff that everyone else has to deal with…and while I get it, not everyone can make a choice or a change how they live their life…it’s still rather demeaning and invalidating for me personally. Based on the few topics of conversations that come our way nowadays; “Where are you now?”, “How’s the weather?”, “You guys must be having so much fun!” it’s clear that our life is comprehensively misunderstood and so, inadvertently degraded. It seems as though the simple act of choosing to live differently removed our option of ever feeling sad or unhappy or needing support or a good talk and invalidated all of our problems.
The number of times Justin and I have had this conversation in the last year has to be proof that it’s not just me being sensitive. We can’t be the only full time travelers to feel this sense of division and downright disassociation. And while I know that it is our own, very privileged choice that is causing us to feel this way. I also know how trivial it is in comparison to the exclusion, inequality and divisiveness in the world, I still can’t help but take notice and connect how even this, a simple (and likely) unintentional form of withdrawal and alienation came so naturally to people.