This photo is the last place we slept in our trailer. It was a gorgeous location that softened the blow a bit as we learned that our camper frame had failed. The timing coincided with a planned break from the road as we flew back to the Midwest, so all in all, this has been a gentle catastrophe. For these past six weeks, we’ve been staying with friends, doing our work, and navigating the warranty process. It’s a painfully slow process.
So, we are just fine, but life feels uncertain. We’ve gotten pretty good at uncertain, but this is pushing the boundaries, even for us. All the service techs and the metal fab folks we talk to say it can’t be repaired. We’ve been talking with the manufacturer and today we head back to California to meet with them and sort out our next steps. We are assuming that means a new rig.
Someone said the other day, “So you are actually homeless?”
And if you wanted to be quite literal…yes, I suppose that’s true.
But not really. We have an address where we get our mail. We have friends with spare bedrooms. We have family who will always welcome us. And we have money in the bank. We could rent an apartment, buy a home, or even escape to the south of France if we wanted to. That would be a poor financial choice, but we could actually do it.
But in this past year, we have spent time with people who are actually homeless. People who have lived under bridges. Been kicked out of shelters. Run out of options. That’s different. It doesn’t even compare.
Being on the road for a year, we’ve seen a wide range of marginal living. Stories that are hidden from the suburban day to day. A community of folks I never really knew were out there.
Even in the affluent suburbs of Palo Alto, California, you’ll find a trailer park with full time RVers, braiding their kid’s hair at night in front of the trailer, and driving to work in the morning to do construction, or cleaning, or cook your next meal. Housing is expensive in Cali and paying $75 / night to park your camper is still cheaper than rent in a bad apartment.
Depending on the campground we choose for the night, we might settle in with retirees, millennial adventurers, disabled vets, or folks who are one car repair away from despair.
In Washington state, I met a guy who was driving a motorhome held together with baling twine and duct tape. Vintage 1992 or so.
“This isn’t going to last much longer,” he said. “But I forgot to make a million bucks before I was laid off.” He’s doing the best he can to live the American dream. But I worry it’s going to come to an abrupt end for him. There wasn’t much of a safety net.
Not everyone who is on the road is “living the dream.” Some of them can’t afford a home any more. Some of them are teetering on the edge. Some of them still find joy and show up when their neighbors need them. There is community out there, even when the prospects are bleak.
We are doing just fine. In a sense, this is self-imposed, even as it feels uncertain. But I’m glad for this uncertainty. I’m humbled by the discomfort and the glimpse into other stories. Wherever we go, we find good people who are willing to help. And that gives me hope.
We are all a little more vulnerable than we believed…and we are all a little more connected than we knew.
Be kind to one another. Life can be hard.