Five Things I’ve Learned This Year

They say an addict never forgets the day he or she last used. The day I will never forget is June 10, 2010. That afternoon I walked away from a perfectly delightful, ordinary life to become a homeless wanderer. One year ago today.

It’s been quite a ride—overwhelming, scary, exhilarating, incredible. I’ve learned to hitch up and back up my trailer without embarrassing myself too much. I’ve learned to ferret out sweet and often free places to “guerilla camp.” (I’m collecting photos to show you.) I’ve met some wonderful people and some weird ones. I’ve tried to put myself in the presence of God every day.

I’ve learned a lot this year. Obviously, I’ve had a lot of time to think, and I’ve found myself in unforeseen circumstances, both pleasant and otherwise. Here are some of the lessons learned:

  1. Weather rules. Just before Memorial Day, it was winter in the Rockies. Pines were blanketed with snow in the high passes.

    May 25 in the Rockies

    Today, the heat index (kinda like the wind chill) is over 100 degrees in Iowa. Since a trailer is simply a tent with hard sides and primitive electrical and plumbing systems, you are extremely vulnerable to the elements. A thin fiberglass skin is all that separates you from whatever’s happening on the other side. And as we continue to learn, weather is powerful, indomitable, and uncontrollable. You can listen to your weather radio and decide to stay put or make a run for it, but when weather hits, all you can do is to ride it out and hope for the best.

  2. You can’t do everything. You know the frenzy—another tour, another trail, another natural wonder. It’s just over the next hill, just one more day, just another ten bucks. While I’m still sorry I missed some things—the Devil’s Garden trail at Arches, the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie, I remind myself that I’ve already seen a lot and that I have nothing to prove—to myself most of all. I don’t, for example, have to hike the final ascent to Angel’s Landing today. I don’t have to squeeze painfully and gracelessly through the “Crawl-through Arch,” like the other folks on the Fiery Furnace tour. It’s nice to have lost the obsession to do it all.
  3. On the other hand, I HAVE done this. You know how it is with dreams. Sometimes they happen; a lot of times, the pleasure is in the dreaming, and too often, it’s a heap of stir and no biscuit. Now, whenever a niggle of doubt crosses my mind about whether I’ll really travel through Latin America or take the Trans-Siberia Railroad, I think, Well, you’ve done this. Who knows if I will follow through, but I have more confidence in my resolve—unless I fall back on #2.
  4. This is only a means to an end. The goal of this adventure is to achieve a simple, unencumbered life. With less stuff to carry around, it’s easier to be mobile, to be available, to be responsive, to be free. So, the end isn’t just to travel around in a trailer, but it is to need less, to possess less, and to see more. And eventually, maybe this material disengagement will seep into my spiritual bones, where it might become something like poverty of spirit.

I thought I was doing pretty well, living in a space the size of an office cubicle. Until I met Melissa. She is traveling with everything she owns in a van, and she is loving it. (I still have stuff in storage.) She is wondering if she can get away with living in her van when she starts her PhD program in Tallahassee this fall. Don’t know about you, but I’m impressed.


5. I’m in better physical shape. When I left home on June 10, my right shoulder hurt, my knees hurt, and I had some weird nerve issue in my left hand. Early on in the trip, I threw out my back lifting the dog into the trailer. I remember thinking, Man, it’s a good thing I’m doing this now. I won’t be able to in a couple years.

Then, a few months ago, I realized that nothing hurts. I still can’t leap up from a squat, but my knees are working just fine. And although I haven’t weighed myself since I left, I’ve lost the generous midriff I started out with. It feels great to be cheating time a little. Maybe I’ll be able to climb to Machu Picchu after all. When I do that Latin America stint, you know.


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16 Responses to Five Things I’ve Learned This Year

  1. Friend of Drew K 14 June, 2011 at 8:23 am #

    After spending 2 years in a VW (15 years ago) and heading back out in 2 years, it is easy to feel the rhythm of the road in your words. The essence has always been in the journey! It is biblical in nature. I look forward to talking when this grandchild in born.

    • Kate 15 June, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

      Amen to the essence! I look forward to talking, O Friend of Drew!

  2. Your Even More Envious Niece/Illegally Adopted Daughter 13 June, 2011 at 7:53 pm #

    And you’re favorite illegally adopted daughter/niece…

    • Kate 15 June, 2011 at 4:03 pm #

      Since it’s all in the family, I don’t think there’s one illegal morsel to our relationship–and you’re welcome to come along! Anytime, Niecie.

  3. Cary 11 June, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

    Kate, sorry you didn’t get to Salida. You were too far north in CO. We were dry (tho windy) all of May. Can’t believe you are so far east already.
    An odd coincidence – I was in a brand new shop in town and it’s called Wanderlust Road and the name reminded me of you and I started telling the owner about you and your name and I realized that it was June 10 and KNEW it was your trip anniversary. Just thought it interesting. Anyway, we’re sorry you blew on by us, we were hoping to give you some more insulation for our CO weather! Cary and Ed

    • Kate 15 June, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

      Wow. I don’t think we ever talked about when I left. You must have been channeling…something.

      I’m sorry to have missed you, too. I had check out where Salida was, but I blew by because I’m due in MI in a week.

      Tell them at Wanderlust Road to check out my blog–their namesake, sort of.

  4. Erik 10 June, 2011 at 11:00 pm #

    Love this post. Your self-reflection is refreshing. Continued blessing on your journeys!

    • Kate 15 June, 2011 at 4:07 pm #

      Thanks, Eric. Glad you’re on the road with me.

  5. Marvin 10 June, 2011 at 10:45 pm #

    ….. a year in the life…. and so many have tagged along to share in the treasures you so graciously pen with your words, wit, and wisdom, topped off with the incredible pictures….”This land is your land…….from California to….(wherever you´ll be goin´).

    Can´t wait to see you around a Michigan campfire, perhaps soon. Travel lightly, breath deeply: a favorite ¨refran¨ se me viene: “Salud, Dinero, y Amor…..y el tiempo para gozarlo” ¡Viva el viaje, Kate!

    • Kate 15 June, 2011 at 4:10 pm #

      Well, I got the health–one out of three ain’t bad. (I got the luv, too–to which all these responses bear witness.)

      See ya around the campfire.

  6. Your envious daughter 10 June, 2011 at 8:42 pm #

    Lesson # 6 you should always bring your daughter as a travel companion… you haven’t learned this yet. but you will… oh you will.

  7. Marcia Davis 10 June, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

    I’m just loving your blog, Kate. You go, girl! Or not. (See #2.)

  8. Lois 10 June, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    “Heap of stir and no biscuit.” That says so much…

    You’re an inspiration!

  9. Anne 10 June, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

    Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights;
    it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent in the ideas of living.
    (Miriam Beard)

    Congratulations on your first year – it’s hard to believe it passed by so fast!
    I remember you talking about this for so long and I am glad that you’re enjoying it so much, even through the rougher times. Reading your blog is like traveling with you; such a pleasure! It’s been great to “see” you getting into the grove and turning into a real camper after being a little wimp in the beginning.
    I am really looking forward to read about what ever comes next (and the Machu Picchu – I am sure you’ll do it).
    Keep traveling safely! Love and hugs from across the ocean!

    • Kate 10 June, 2011 at 4:30 pm #

      Thanks, Anne. Those of you who travel with me help me feel connected and not so solitary. I think of you everywhere I go; I “see” through your eyes and wonder what you’d like to read about.

      Machu Picchu will happen–come along!

      • Anne 11 June, 2011 at 1:42 am #

        I will for sure!