Tuesday, September 27, 2011

First Encounter With the Law

12 September 2011, original date of writing
Transcribed from travel journal

This morning I awoke to what I thought was bright sun breaking through my eyelids. I opened them to find not sun but the blinding beam of a flashlight shining through the car window, inches from my face. To say I was startled is an understatement. "Police" was called out, followed by an immediate attempt to open the driver's side door. You know that awful, sinking feeling you get when you're speeding down the highway and the lights of cop car suddenly show up in your rear-view? Multiply that by 10 and you'll get a small appreciation of what waking up to that feels like. My mind was still running sluggish from sleep, but if I didn't play this cool I'd end up in lock-up for the night. I've been there before, and while it was an eye-opening experience as long as I live I never want to go back there. Ever. I unlocked the door and opened it for the officer, passing over my driver's license as I did so.

"What are you doing out in your car"? The officer asked.
"Sleeping" I replied, putting as much annoyance into the word as I could to communicate the fact I didn't appreciate being suddenly woken up. I'd decided to get out of this I needed to play the part of the ignorant, pretending to have no idea sleeping in the car could wind me up in jail.
"Are you homeless"?
"No" I muttered. "Just kicked out"
"You've been evicted"? "When..."
"No, no.... not evicted. I have a place, my girlfriend kicked me out is all"
"She ok"?
"Yeah she's ok" I said, with a touch of unintentional sadness. "She's just going through a tough time right now".

They bought the story and let me off. Obviously I'm lucky on that front, but I created some serious new problems for myself. First off the cops now had my name on the computers, and the two officers who found me would likely recognize my car if they saw it in the future. Secondly I gave them my old address, a location over a mile down the street. I'm glad they didn't ask me why I wasn't parked near my own address, because I would not have been able to come up with a convincing answer. Lastly I was caught in a spot only two blocks away from the garage which I use to store all my stuff, a place I visit daily. My "home base" basically. All this together has forced me to adapt new strategies.

First off- no more sleeping in the car. It used to be on weekends my shift would end at 12am, and instead of wasting time hiking out and setting up camp, I'd find a quiet spot on the street and sleep in the back. No longer. If I'm ever caught in the car again there's a possibility an old report will come up, in which case it'll be the lock-up for me. Can't risk it.

Secondly I must now be careful where I park my car because my car is extremely distinguishable. There's no doubt those two officers who found me in my car will be able to recognize it in the future, and if it seems to be parked overnight by a certain city park often, they might put one and one together and do a sweep of the bushes. Not good.

Finally I should take care to limit my time in that area. Period. It's difficult because my base of operations is there, but it would cause questions if they notice that I tend to spend so much time over there, while my "address" is a mile away.

Yes I'm being a little paranoid with my precautions. Anyone in my situation has to be. It's really easy for me to see this "guerilla camping" stuff as a game, but I can't allow myself to forget there's real consequences if I allow myself to slip up. Suffice it to say if I screw up and end in jail my "guerilla" days will be over. It wouldn't be more than a slap on the wrist and one year of "no same or similar", but if I stayed the course and got picked up a second time the punishments would get real. I must keep my mind open to all scenarios and not allow myself to get lazy and take shortcuts. No more sleeping in cars. From now on I park my car away from wherever I'm camping and hike it the rest of the way. If I'm ever caught chances are it'll happen because I let my guard down. Staying alert, staying paranoid, means staying out of jail.

First Week in Review

9 September 2011, original date of writing
Transcribed from travel notebook

It's been one week since I started my adventure, though already it feels like much longer. Before I moved out life seemed to be flying by, each day represented only a short window of time to get things done and there never seemed to be time left over to actually live. I was stuck in the rat race; my weeks would come and go in the blink of an eye and I wouldn't have anything to show for them. I lived constantly with the fear that one day I'd wake up to find myself an old man with a wasted life. I can happily say it's not the case anymore. Ever notice how much more time there seems to be during the day when you're camping? The regular household distractions aren't there to steal time (and thus life) away from you; you wake up in the morning to the sun rising and the whole day is yours. This is how the first week has been and it's amazing.

So yes the experience has been good to me so far. Every morning I've woken up to the first morning rays of the sun feeling invigorated, well rested, and completely ready for the challenges of the day. There has been some stressful occassions along the way (i.e the first night, finding out not all snap fitness locations have showers, being forced to find a new campsite at 11pm, etc), but not once since I got started have I questioned my decision to do this. Honestly it's been a blast, and while I still have much work to do to make this a working lifestyle, I can see things only getting easier as I adapt.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Not the Start I'd Envisioned

Prologue to earlier entry
3 September 2011, original date of writing
Transcribed from travel notebook

Wow where to begin...
So I have the first homeless night under my belt now. Didn't go as expected. Here's the cliffnotes from the days leading up to this memorable occasion:

  • August 28th: After getting only five hours of sleep the night before (packing for the big move-out) I woke up early to hit the paintball field with some friends. Put every ounce of energy I had into destroying the opposing team, and destroyed they were. Time was short, and I ended up going straight from the paintball field to my friends cabin a few hours north, at which point we all drank until I passed out. It gave me a few hours of sleep.
  • August 29th-30th: Lot's of drunk, very little sleep.
  • August 31st: Managed to get two hours of sleep on the way back from the cabin. Arrived to my place at 3pm and immediately started packing.
  • Sept 1: Still packing. Haven't stopped except to sleep 3 hours. I continued to pack until 3am Sept 2. To total it all up that's 10 hours of good sleep and 15 hours of drunk sleep over a period of five days going on six with a shitload of physical activity mixed in. This is where the story begins.


2 September 2011, original date of writing
Transcribed from travel notebook

To say I'm tired is an understatement, but the sun is out and, everything considered, life is pretty wonderful. Last night however was everything but.

After finishing moving the last of my furniture out of the house I was dead. Well worse than that, I was so exhausted I felt that death would have been an improvement. All my muscles ached, putting one foot in front of the other was a huge endeavor, and my mind had sucken into sleep-deprived delirium. Still I gathered my pre-packed backpack with all my camping gear and set out to find a place to sleep. After driving around for awhile I found a park down on the river I'd never been to before. I parked the car and went out to give it a look. It was 3:00am.

Stepping into the park I thought I'd found Eden. The trees at the park edge stood tall and stoic as their leaves whispered in the wind. The breeze itself carried with it the cool damp air from the river granting a welcome relief from the oppressive humidity. As I entered the park two young foxes leapt out onto the trail ahead me, so involved in their play they failed to see me. I stood for a moment and watched the kits chase each other through bushes and around trees. "I've made the right decision", I silently told myself. "If there were a sign that I've done the right thing, this is it". The kits ran off and I continued down the trail, descending into the dark unlit woods.

A cry shouted out in front of me immediately shook me out of my revelry. Another muffled yell- someone was in pain. I stood silent, wishing I had had the foresite to arm myself with something before going into an unlit park forest in the middle of the city. More noises ahead, rhythmic now. My eyes adjusted to the dark and I managed to make out a couple in front of me, the woman bent over a park bench and the guy behind her. Yuck. No way I could set up here, not after seeing that. As I turned around to leave the sharp snap of a twig gave me away. I stopped in my tracks, still hoping I could get out of there unnoticed. I was out of luck. "Oh my god someone's watching us!" the girl began to yell. I started walking again, letting the girls hysterical voice fade away as I came out of the woods and back into the spotlights on the street. 3:30am. The search continues.

Not long after I found a second situable location. It was a small community with a giant hill placed in the middle of a flat field. The hill looked decidedly out-of-place in what was otherwise a completely flat neighborhood. Not quite as picturesque as the first place but in a pinch it would do. Plus it had been left partially wooded and seemed like a good spot to dissapear in. After climbing the hill I found the summit crisscrossed with running trails, leaving me no flat area to lay down on without running the risk of being found by an early morning runner. Halfway down the hill I found a tree that offered a fair share of cover while also decreasing the steep slope to something near-managable. The mosquitos there were terrible, so bad it literally took effort to avoid breathing them in, but with my legs ready to give out at any second it was an easy decision to set up there. I layed out my foam pad and hung up the mosquito net from the tree. With no delay I climbed inside and was asleep seconds later.

I awoke about an hour later to find the lower half of my body outside of the net covered by mosquitos. Apparently my body had been slowly sliding down the hill as I slept, and now I had quite a few bites to show for it. I crawled back into the net and returned to my sleep, only to wake up a short time later to the same problem. By now my legs had received roughly four dozen mosquito bites. I tried to go back into the net to get more sleep, but by now I couldn't help but feel like bugs were crawling all over me. It was clear I wasn't going to get much more sleep here, so I packed my stuff up and returned to my car. It was drawing near to 5:30 am and the night sky had already begun to lighten. It was time to abandon the camping idea and car camp.

I drove around for awile before finding an out-of-the-way street that dead ended on a railroad. It was low income, but didn't seem dangerous, and there were a few mixed cars on the street. Enough cars that my car wouldn't stick out, but with enough space that I could park and sleep without fear of being noticed by the people going out to their cars in the morning. It seemed perfect. I reclined my seat and once again was lights out within seconds.

I awoke around 8:30 to the sun streaming into my face and a fresh breeze rolling through the windows. Still far from well-rested I miracously felt wonderful. This warm sun beating down on me symbolized the dawn of a new life. The transition was over, I was free. Good time to head to the closest diner and celebrate over an omelet and coffee. Smiling I put the keys into the ignition and turned. Click... nothing. I turned turned them again to the same response. I had forgotten to turn the lights off. Dead battery. No worries, I had an emergency jumper in the trunk for just this occasion. I took it out and plugged it in. Still nothing. A quick check of the emergency jumper made it clear that it too was dead. No time for celebrating yet.

I began the long walk back to my old house, heavy battery jumper in my backpack, to retrieve my motorcycle which was still parked there. The plan I had in mind was to get on the motorcycle, drive it to my rented storage place, find the A/C adapter for the jumper, charge it up, then bring it back to the car. After walking roughly two miles I arrived at the place I had moved out of only a few hours before. Already dreading the sleep deprived ride on my motorcycle, I shook myself awake and climbed on. I hit the ignition button. "Wrrrrr... ". No way. "Wrrrrrrrrrr... click". It was dead. How it died I have no idea, but I imagine that at the moment some divine being was watching me and laughing.

In the end I had to borrow my previous landlord's truck, drive back out to my car, jump it, drive the truck back to the house, and finally walk the two miles back. Once I was finally back to my car I drove it to the nearest park, laid a blanket in the shade of a tree, and I slept. And slept. And slept.

It might seem like a bad night. It was. It might seem like a brutal morning. It was. But do you know what? It didn't matter. Deep in that sleep I was content. I was finally free.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

One Last Night

27 August 2011, original date of writing
Transcribed from my travel notebook

Tonight marks the last night I will be sleeping in my own room. There is a comfort here I fear will be sorely missed in the coming months. I am tired. So much packing, so much more to do, and no time to do it. As much as I'm relishing this last night here I'd give it up in an instant if it meant all this moving out business could be put behind me.

I'm really beginning to wonder if I'm crazy to attempt this. It's probably the fatigue getting to me, but tonight the task seems more daunting then ever. Have I lost it? I feel I have. The thrill of adventure aside, what kind of person sits down and seriously decides to give up the comfort of home to live precariously in different wooded spots inside the big city? Certainly no one sane. Maybe this is some way to procrastinate getting on with life and choosing a career. Since leaving the military I've been more or less directionless, and my answer is to... live outside? Oddly it does somehow feel like a solution. By moving outdoors I'm forcing myself to focus all my attention in adapting to a new, alien environment. Putting challenge into a life that had become way too complacent.

Perhaps I've just given up on the future. Society too. I hate to admit it but I think it's a big part of the puzzle as to why I'm doing this. Everyone seems to be fighting tooth and nail to get on top of a system that's on its way down. Sooner or later something will happen, life as we know it will change, and all that career advice will be for naught. I can't with good conscience spend the rest of my young life trying to fit into a system that's much more fragile than anyone will admit.

So I'm going to do my own thing here, career experts be damned.

Monday, September 19, 2011

"In Eleven Days I Will Be Homeless..."

20 August 2011, original date of writing
Transcribed from my travel notebook

In eleven days I will be homeless...
It's a difficult idea to grasp. As I make the final preparations to launch into the outdoors it still doesn't feel real, like I'm daydreaming about a life that will never come true. I'm guessing it's a feeling that will persist until I have a few real nights in the bush under my belt. I'm still extremely excited to get started though. I feel like I'm packing for a great adventure; putting the final touches on an expedition I've been planning for my entire life.

One thing I hadn't expected was the immense feeling of freedom that came when I got rid of most of the things I own. We've all heard the "you don't own your possessions, your possessions own you" fight club mantras, so often that they've become fairly cliche. Of course in our materialistic society they're words often said but widely ignored. Personally I always accepted the idea happiness is born internally, and knew that more things won't necessarily make you happy, but I never took it so far as to believe possessions could make you unhappy. Once I started getting rid of my things, however, even the items which I'd once loved and cherished, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Gone are the large flat screen HDTV, the Xbox, the dvds, the clothes I almost never wore... and I feel free. It's been such a profound experience I plan to devote a whole post to it once I get moved out and my new guerrilla life has stabilized somewhat.

Needless to say there is a part of me that worries this will all end up to be a terrible decision. I would not be human if I didn't have that awful doubt lurking in the back of my mind. However every great challenge in life comes with its share of fear, and my only recourse is to learn to embrace it. The fear and doubt are my opposition, they represent all that I must overcome to prove I have the strength to make it through this. They fuel my resolve to see this through and show the world that this can be feasible and rewarding.

The most threatening questions at the moment regard the logistics of what I'm about to do. Will I still be able to eat healthy without an oven or a full size fridge? Can I really fit everything I need in my car? Will this really work? What the hell am I going to do when winter comes??? Then there's the unforeseen challenges I will surely encounter along the way, the ghouls that wait for me in the darkness surrounding the future. These are things that can only be settled by time and experience.

"This is real" I tell myself, but once again I find it hard to accept. I hope to look back on this first writing someday and remember the moment with fondness. I'll read through my old journals and laugh about my past doubts, knowing by then that I had met and overcome them. I suppose we shall see. As I end this entry I am overflowing with feelings: I'm excited, I'm nervous with anticipation, I'm fearful of what lies ahead and I'm itching to begin. So here's to the future and to all of its perils.

I'll be seeing you on the other side.