I woke up with my hands feeling jittery. Not quite trembling noticeably, but the vibration was there. I had packed up most of my things the night before, and just had some clothes to stow away. I think it started two days before, when I spray-painted “RestartExperiment.com” on all sides of my camper, in preparation for my ‘round-the-country exploration.
“Well, shit. It’s official. No turning back now,” I said to myself as I finished up the last few stencils. “I’m committed now. The snowball is rolling. What the hell have I gotten myself into this time?”
Leaving is art, science, joy and torture. I’ve had a lot of practice in it lately, and it has become even more concrete of a reality in my life the last month.
Since I sold and left my house in Austin, I’ve been leaving and arriving and leaving again on a regular basis, usually within just a couple days. I pack, leave, travel, arrive, unpack and do it all over again.
It’s important to understand that this is not just “travel” for me. It’s not like a vacation or business trip, where I can look forward to getting back to my home, my bed, my partner and animals. I have none of that. So leaving (and arriving) is my life right now.
Although I had left a lot over the past nine months or so, it had never been quite as challenging as last weekend. Although this experiment has been ongoing and I started traveling the U.S. last month, last Saturday was when I actually packed up my camper and drove away from Texas.
As I coped with the trembling that loomed just under the surface of my body, I pressed on. I had made a decision and I was sticking to it. This all felt so wrong, but so right. Wrong because I’m doing things backwards, or just different, than typical American life.
I’m supposed to have a home to come back to, instead of carrying it on my back like a snail. I’m supposed to have a full-time job to support me and give me insurance. I’m supposed to have a partner who travels with me. Or at the very least, I’m supposed to know when I’ll return. But I have none of that. All those fundamental securities that make it easier to leave…are absent for me.
These thoughts burned through my brain as I climbed in the driver’s seat of my F350 and cranked up the diesel engine. And before I put it in drive, I had to think not just why I was doing this, but IF I should do this. “Well, what’s the alternative?” Get a regular job while I ponder next steps toward the life I really want. Spend weekends at bars so I don’t feel the loneliness. …The list goes on, stuff I had already done. Stuff that burns time while I only dream about living out my freedom. That was the alternative. …Yeah, fuck that. I’m leaving.
The first hour was tough. All my insecurities surfaced. The trembling made its way out of my eyes in tears. Scared tears. I have no idea how or if this will work out. And sadness came out too. Thoughts of failure in life surfaced. Money failures. Marriage failures. Career failures. “…And now I’m a homeless wanderer.” I would not press down these thoughts or feelings. There was no use in the repression. It had all come to a head, once again, similar to how it did when I left for Costa Rica. And I was dealing with all these thoughts, with no cushion.
I was leaving not to run away from my insecurities, but to run toward some vision for my life, that, while it doesn’t make complete sense to me yet how it will work out, just feels more right for me.
These are things I think about almost every time I leave another place. I go through the routine, which is getting smoother now, of carrying my two little backpacks with basic clothes for a couple days, computer, phone and camera. Packing, unpacking, re-packing. “Why am I doing this again? How is this going to work out?” I ask myself. And I hold onto those questions, not just because people everywhere ask me that as I have left, but because we all ask ourselves those things, whether we are leaving or not.
“Why am I doing this? Is this really what I want? What is this really all about? How is this going to work out?”
Leaving is slowly getting easier for me. Not just because I’m getting used to it, but because I’m realizing the value of leaving. Because leaving is showing me what else is out there. And besides, I’d still be asking such things if I was staying.
People who stay have big questions about their life. People who leave do too. I think maybe the people who are staying are watching the ones who leave to see what could happen. We who leave are the guinea pigs. I’m perfectly fine with that. I’ve stayed for most of my life. I’ll stay again sometime, and I look forward to that day. But right now, I’m leaving, and driving head-on into the questions.