There’s been a theme of discussions about my lifestyle lately. Each conversation tends to word it differently, and each person has different points of input to give on the general subject. The theme is a very negative one, unfortunately. It can be wrapped up in a few questions. How does this lifestyle suck? What are the consequences and costs that this lifestyle entails? There’s more, but those both sum up the general consensus. In two days, I will have been living this lifestyle for two months, and I feel that I can begin to put some input on just what it is really like in these negative manners.
When I began, I set myself up with extremely low expectations. I expected it to suck so bad that I would seriously consider changing my mind within a couple of months. I expected everything to go wrong and to find myself lost, confused, and a complete mess. I set about for months, researching and considering all of the ways that this lifestyle could possibly suck, and I set myself with expectations to experience them all to the fullest extent I could imagine. I even told myself that there would be negatives and consequences worse than anything I could imagine, and I came into this expecting to find them.
I also set myself up with hope that it would be nothing but positive and awesome. From the start, I hoped that everything would just magically work out in ways I couldn’t even dream of. I would always find an awesome camping spot, I would always be in a positive mood about every aspect of the lifestyle, and nothing bad would ever happen.
Nothing has met my low expectations. My hopes also haven’t exactly come through to fruition. The bare truth is that the reality is somewhere in between my low expectations and my high hopes. At times, this lifestyle has already been closer to my hopes, but at times, it has been closer to my expectations. Other times, it just plays out right in the middle. I am very happy with that outcome, and before continuing into details, it is worth mentioning that every negative, every consequence and cost, has been completely worth it for me so far. I still expect that to turn around, and I still hope that it will only get even more worth it. If the pattern holds, it’ll keep being worth it.
The Starting Costs
First and foremost, the cost of starting this lifestyle. For me, it was not cheap. It continues not being cheap. From buying a new car to getting any supplies I needed to make it work, it’s been expensive. The solar setup cost thousands of dollars, the car was an investment over $30k, and other small things added up. As much as the idea exists that this lifestyle saves a lot of money, the truth is that so far, it hasn’t.
In fact, two months into living out of my car, I’ve probably spent hundred of dollars on things that are completely gone. Things that I thought would be nice, but in practice, turned out to be a waste of time and money. The preparation stages contained a bunch of this coming and going, and two months of actually living the lifestyle has only brought about more.
I bought I don’t know how many different storage containers to try out. I have one now, and am looking to replace that in the future. I have tried out multiple different systems for minor parts of this lifestyle, and the results are that I don’t even use those systems at all.
There’s things sitting in my car right now, taking up space, that I’m considering getting rid of, despite spending as much as a few hundred dollars on them. They seemed cool. They seemed advantageous. Turns out I don’t even use them, and am finding the space they take up in my tiny little home may not be worth the cool things that I thought I would be able to do with them.
Instead of paying off my debt faster, I’m still paying it at the same rate, and I’m still broke. I expected this, but I hoped for better. This, so far, has been perhaps one of the lowest points. I retain my hope that this will improve with time, and I will begin to pay off my debt faster and money will be much less of a concern in my life. That is one goal of my life today, and my hopes remain high.
But money isn’t the whole story.
Loneliness, Boredom, Depression, Anxiety
The loneliness of this lifestyle is probably obvious to many people. I meet a lot of interesting people everywhere I go. I cherish the time I have with long-term friends and family, but it is infrequent and unreliable at best. Meeting more like-minded people, which was not a large part of my life before starting this, has actually been particularly special. To be honest, the loneliness felt in a crowd of friends is worse than that felt in a crowd of strangers when those strangers are of the same mind as you. In that respect, the loneliness has been much better than my expectations! However, there are times spent completely alone, with no one else around, and no means of contacting anyone else, for that matter. I thrive off of that alone time, if my personal “batteries” are low, and I will seek it out when I need to “recharge”, but sometimes, the balance is skewed and it becomes easy to fall into feeling very lonely. I have felt this several times, but it is not a big issue for me. If anything, this has been closer to my hopes for this lifestyle, only occasionally dropping to the lower expectations–and then only for a time.
While talking about loneliness, I’ll hit another topic: love, romance, whatever the hell else is in there. It’s not that there isn’t potential for it in this lifestyle. People find it, and it’s not at all impossible to find it short term in a location, either. On a larger scale, it’s a small priority in my life. I really gave up the potential for finding long-term love in my life in exchange for this lifestyle (although, who knows? Stranger things have happened). This doesn’t bother me, but it is a thing worth noting.
There’s a bigger problem when it comes to emotions, though. Especially after a particularly active season, boredom finds its way in. I have so many things to do, it’s amazing that I can get bored at all, but it happens regularly. And when it does, it doesn’t come alone. With it comes all of the unpleasant demons. If I haven’t resolved some thought in my mind, it will hitch a ride on the boredom train to set up camp for the day.
With my backpacking and roadtripping experiences of the past, I’m familiar with this one, and I got into this lifestyle looking forward to it being a major part of my life now. On a long hike alone, or a long drive alone, the demons always came with me. I never liked running from them, so I spent time with them. Investigating them, learning them. My “I am a Survivor / I came through this / I am Stronger and Better because of it” is integral to how I deal with these times. They are not there to torture me. They are there to teach me something. Something I need to learn for the benefit of my future.
Sometimes those demons bring with them a bout of anxiety and depression. That’s never fun, and can often zap the enjoyment out of an area I would otherwise love. It would be easy to just move on and hope that the next place will perk me up a bit, but I’ve mostly avoided that unless there were non-emotional factors leading me to move as well. Primarily, I simply view these times as revealing to me something that I need to face. A demon that I need to face in combat and win over. The depression and anxiety are nothing but an indication of something I haven’t resolved, but which I can resolve.
That anxiety and depression actually is something I did not expect too much. It thoroughly surprised me the first time it came. Following my mindset I described above, I will embrace it, despite its unexpected initial arrival. It is a consequence of this lifestyle, and already, taking it for what it is has put me in a better mental place than I was in before I began this.
The day to day exhausting conundrums
With the larger topics covered, there’s something that is often touched on, but many people looking at this lifestyle overlook. That is the day to day parts of life that can be exhausting and create a lot of problems in themselves.
Where the hell am I going to go to the bathroom (worse in a busy area with no bathrooms…)?! Where am I going to dump my garbage? When I need to get out of a spot real soon, where am I going to go next that will actually work for my needs? Can I even find a spot to camp that will work for me right now?! Where can I refill on food, water, and other supplies without spending an ungodly amount? Do I have enough water to wash myself, or do I just need to deal with it? Did I update my blog, and if not, how much do I want to update it with?
When I get into camp, I have to setup everything. When I leave, I have to tear it down. If I need to run into town, I have to tear it down and then setup again, meanwhile hoping that someone didn’t come and take up the spot I had–that has actually happened.
There isn’t much for easily cooked meals or even much room for a ton of variety from day to day, right now. Grocery shopping means trying to buy only what will fit into my own container, but enough to last me at least a week–preferably two weeks–at a time. I don’t have a means of keeping it cool right now, so the food can’t spoil. I still want to experiment every time, but it can get exhausting real fast, especially if I’ve emptied out my food container beforehand.
All of this can be pretty exhausting after a while. I actually expected worse, and as I adjust more and more to this life, I’m just getting used to it. It seems to be getting less exhausting, overall, only because I’m getting more and more used to it. Some things, however, I still haven’t figured out for the day to day, and those are absolutely exhausting trying to figure out (for example, dealing with garbage at some locations).
The Comfort Struggle
If the day to day gets exhausting, it would sound nice to get some extra comfort, right? Well, that’s in limited supply in my lifestyle.
The best thing in the world is when I’m in a spot with great trees or something to hang my hammock on. The hammock is amazingly comfortable, and I love it, especially after a long hike, or just any long day, really. It is simply great to lie in the hammock and enjoy the outdoors.
Sometimes the hammock isn’t an option. Sometimes, even if the location would support the hammock, I didn’t get a tarp up over it in time or some other stupid thing, and so that doesn’t work.
Rain. Thunder. Lightning. The threat of flooding. Wind. Being stuck in the car for hours or even days at a time. Having to retie the solar panels to the top of the car while being soaked with rain pelting you with the feeling of a thousand pebbles hitting you in the face. Heat in the 90s or even over 100F. Lack of shade. Smelling terrible from sweating or some other unpleasant hygiene madness, and not wanting to do anything significant about it, because survival is more important for the time. The debate about washing dishes that occurs sometimes. The fact that my air mattress still isn’t as comfortable as a real bed, and the car gets claustrophobic sometimes to add to it. The constant assault of bugs, despite every attempt at subduing them. Gear failures, all too often occurring at the most inconvenient of times. Not having a toilet, so having to walk half a mile to a secluded spot to dig a hole, and then carry the soiled toilet paper back to camp to throw away in the same trash bag that holds every other trash item–meaning that trash bag gets to smelling really bad (I have a bag that seals that in, so it doesn’t smell up my car itself). Living in the car and having smelly clothes–especially socks after a while of hiking in shoes, when I do that–that add up to a funk you just can’t escape until you clean it all out thoroughly.
This lifestyle lends itself to amazing discomforts. Add even a little injury or soreness, and all of those things get exponentially worse, and injuries and soreness are just another consequence of this lifestyle. Spending all of this time outdoors, adventuring and having fun, brings with it a higher potential for getting injured, and much more regular soreness.
There is even more! I’ll refrain from adding more at this point. This is quite a long post about all of the negatives and consequences already.
Even as I type this and think about all of it, I sit here saying to myself, “Yeah, it’s all totally worth it!” I gave up comforts of a more “normal” life, and go through some deeper troubles than such a “normal” life often gives. In exchange, I picked up a freedom that exceeds my highest hopes. Although I pay a price for this freedom, it is ultimately priceless, and no cost would be too high to experience it.
The lifestyle may not be for everyone. Some may read this simple post and say to themselves, “Nope! Fuck that!” As for me, I was made for it. All of the negatives are just part of this giant adventure, and I would have it no other way!