Multiple people have started asking me whether or not I am beginning to have any regrets about choosing this lifestyle. The truth is, beyond a doubt, I am not having any regrets about this at all.
Disclaimer: This is a long post with almost no pictures. Just me rambling about existential bullshit. There is no “too long; didn’t read” version, because I don’t feel that a short version is truly appropriate for my thoughts. I would love your attention to read this, but that is up to you alone.
I’ve hit a few rough patches already, and things that are difficult to deal with. Ultimately, they actually make it ever the more worth it all to me. They further develop this life philosophy and identity of the tattoo on my back: “I am a survivor / I came through this / I am Stronger and Better because of it”.
I came up with that saying with the help of my therapist at the time a couple of years ago now. I was struggling with PTSD and substance use issues, and for the PTSD, my therapist introduced me to EMDR therapy. That is a pretty crazy therapy technique, and it ultimately helped me get out from under the PTSD I was in. Part of that therapy, however, was creating a new identity by which to link things that had happened in my past. This simple, three thought phrase was what we came up with, and it has become my identity.
I got the tattoo on my back of this saying shortly after ending my therapy sessions, because I found it to be the most meaningful thing in the world to myself. Furthermore, I chose to put it on my back, because not only did that just seem like a good spot for a first tattoo, but it was putting a strong phrase on a vulnerable spot. Although I cannot see it without looking in a mirror, I am always conscious it is there, and any hardship I face, I am reminded that as a survivor, I will get through the new hardship and become stronger and better as a result. It is an identity that is not limited to the past or even the present; it opens up unlimited potential and future for me, and with every day, it only gains ever more meaning. With the PTSD and substance use, I had a very limited identity–one set in the past, to the things that happened then–but no more; now my identity is free to grow in infinite dimensions.
All of this brings me to one thought that has occurred to me as I am asked about having any regrets. I have said, “I only regret not starting this sooner!” There is truth to that, and at some point, it occurred to me that 5 years ago seems to be the perfect time that I “should” have started this lifestyle.
5 years ago, I was working in the Emergency Department of a hospital, as a medical Scribe. I had also gotten a part-time job as an independent contractor doing computer programming. I decided, that summer, to take 2 weeks off of the Scribe job and go on my first big, solo road trip. I did. I came back still burnt out on the Scribe job and quit within months, focusing on the programming job full time. Eventually, that led to a full-time, salaried position within the company, which is the position I still hold today.
In a lot of ways, it makes sense that I could think of that as the perfect time to have started this. I didn’t have nearly the debt that I have now, and financially, I was doing great. The dream of this lifestyle was already running deep in my bones at the time, and I would have loved to have started it then. It would have been an amazing time to ditch all commitments that I had and start this lifestyle.
Let me take a step back and describe that time in my life. I wasn’t yet diagnosed with PTSD, and hadn’t started therapy for it yet. This new identity of mine didn’t exist–I was still “the kid who got fucked up by this event!” Furthermore, I was still having significant issues with substance use, drinking and doing other drugs heavily and regularly–daily, even. I felt completely out of control of my life, and that only spiralled further out of control as I returned from that first road trip.
The first road trip was amazing. It awakened a sleeping sense of adventure that has only grown. Thinking back that that would have been the perfect time, I have the thought that not pursuing this lifestyle then only led me further into the hole that was the drugs and alcohol. There’s some truth to that, but I was not the Survivor then. I was the victim, and the alcohol and drugs were my way out. I don’t think following this lifestyle would have helped as much as the thought sounds credible: I think the alcohol and drugs would have simply followed me.
It was also that year that I hit my own rock bottom of sorts. Things happened, and I felt the worst I’ve ever felt in my entire life. For the first time in my adult life, I reached out and entered therapy. My girlfriend at the time and her family helped me find a therapist, who I became very comfortable with in the years to follow. This is the therapist mentioned above, who helped me form my new identity.
The therapy was intense over the next two years–seeing my therapist every week, sometimes twice a week, until it became less towards the end and we terminated our sessions, feeling comfortable that I could handle the future again alone.
It wasn’t until after the PTSD was less of a concern that I had any success with sobriety. Even as that grew less, I struggled. However, I took up an interest in substance abuse counseling and began schooling for it, which I almost finished. The classes themselves were intense forms of therapy for me, and going on 3 years ago, I finally began a lasting sobriety. I ended up deciding the substance abuse counseling role wasn’t for me, because I was particularly not fond of the lifestyle it dictated, but I consider the classes I took for it invaluable to my personal life and sobriety.
Many people in the sobriety field say that someone with addiction should not make any major life changes until they are at least 2 years sober. Since finding the route to sobriety that worked for me (not anything formal–I needed to get a home to myself, and a stable frame of mind, not go to meetings, etc.), it was about 2 years before I started my venture to live out of my vehicle, the early dream reborn and followed through.
It took me several months of preparation, all of which was a major life change itself: I had to redefine some pieces of my sobriety that I wasn’t comfortable with (I have a strange relationship with alcohol, and for this lifestyle, I needed to redefine my rules), and my life became more about this future I live today than anything it had been before that.
An argument can be made that 5 years ago would have been the perfect time for me to start, but these last 5 years have been the biggest 5 years of growth in my life that I have ever experienced. 5 years ago, I was caught in the past of 15 years ago, and I had no strategies for dealing with my broken identity. I wasn’t ready to give up commitments that were not compatible with me, and I didn’t have the confidence to face an unknown future.
As much as the thought of regretting not starting this sooner is entertaining, the truth is: this, right now, is the perfect time. There is absolutely no better time. Everything of the last 5 years happened in its own perfect time. Without those years, I never would have been ready for this. Without the 22 years preceding them, I would not be who I am today. Everything has happened perfectly to bring me to this moment–the happiest, most complete, fullfilling and enjoyable moment of my entire life.
I am a quite spiritual man. I spent 10 years of my life cussing at God, at the Universe, at any spiritual entity of sorts that could ever possibly hear me call it an asshole. Tell them, “Fuck you!” every day. There’s times in more recent days that that would seem like a tempting response to things, but to be honest, I’m all out of Fuck Yous to give in that realm of my life, and I don’t see the point any more.
In the last month, I have felt more spiritually connected to every piece of the universe than ever. The only time I have experienced this was times like when I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and felt a very similar connection. At the time of the PCT, it was like the universe was screaming to me, “This is your lifestyle. Chase it!” Now, living this lifestyle, I constantly feel the universe welcoming me, saying, “This is where you belong. This is the right thing.”
When I was in Willow Springs Campground near Moab, UT, I woke up the last morning there feeling physically sick, with lightning crashing into the ground just yards from my car. It was frightening, but it was like the universe was telling me to get the hell out–move on. I listened, and I ended up here in Cabin Hollow near Bryce Canyon National Park. I have felt comfortable here the entire time, and I know this is where I belong in this moment.
Maybe I got away from a lot of people with all of that spiritual talk there, but it confirms my belief: 5 years ago was absolutely not the best time to start this. In fact, regretting not starting this sooner is altogether pointless. I started this exactly when the time was right, and today, I stand exactly where I need to be. Any hardship so far has not been pointless–it has moved me to the right place, away from the wrong place. Every hardship, I have come through, and it has made me stronger and better. The Survivor in me has grown again.
So, ultimately, the real truth: I have no regrets about deciding to do this lifestyle. None at all. I am exactly where I belong, exactly when I belong there. As has been the case all of the last 5 years, and the 22 years before that! Life is amazing, and I see no reason to regret any of it–even the lowest points in my life, I know worked for the better for me, and I hope proves to ultimately be a blessing for anyone else involved with those low points in my life. I am confident that such will be true.