Sunday, July 23, 2017

If ever I were to settle

No, not here

My father retired shortly before I turned sixteen. My parents wanted to move back to where they grew up but they were concerned about uprooting me in the middle of high school. They asked me how I felt about their plan. I shrugged. It wasn’t like I had much going for me in the way of a social life. There was nothing about the geography or culture or anything else that would make me want to stay. Sure, I thought. A change would be… different. It might even be better.

Two years later I left home for college. There were no tearful goodbyes. I was eager to move on. I remember thinking, Can I go yet?

When I finished school, I was off to the big city, off to a career, off to the next adventure.

I enjoyed changing locations. I still do.

That’s one reason I didn’t buy a house until I was 44 years old. I didn’t want to be committed to a place beyond a security deposit and 30 days’ notice. No anchors.

Then I went a little insane and bought a house. It was what everyone was doing. It’s what grownups did. It was a great investment. Yadda yadda yadda.

So I stayed put and rooted. Then I rotted. I became stagnant and depressed. I wanted to move on, but there was the damn house to deal with. By then it was 2008. I had to wait out the housing crash and the recession. But finally… freedom.

If I ever had the classic yearning for a small plot of land where I could live out my days, that yearning is gone. But I know nomads who still carry that desire with them on the road. Many of them are traveling in search of The Perfect Place. Some have found their dream acreage and want nothing more than to park the rig and call it home. Others are building earth ships with all the off-grid luxuries. And perhaps some hope to create utopian anarchist communes. Or something.

But let’s say someone slipped into the Rolling Steel Tent one night and performed a personality transplant on me. Let’s say I woke up wanting to stay put somewhere. What would that somewhere be like?

Well, unlike the homesteading types above, I would not want a place in the boonies, far from people, civilization and resources. I already have that. For free. It’s called boondocking.

More like here

No, I’d want the opposite. I'd want what I don't have. I’d want to live in the middle of a large city. Someplace similar to Manhattan where I could step out the door and into the middle of all sorts of interesting, entertaining, enlightening things. A place with all the resources I could possibly want within walking distance. But incredibly cheap. And with perpetually great weather. That place doesn’t exist.

So I’ll keep wandering as long as I can. Maybe I’ll drop by the homesteads of former nomads. But I won’t stay forever.


  1. Have you been to Sequim, WA? I haven't but I hear so many good things about the place I wonder if it would be a good settle in one. You could go check it out for us, right?

    1. I must have passed through there many years ago on the way back from the peninsula. I remember nothing about it. But given that it's Rain & Depression Belt, it would be off MY list. But some people like that weather.

    2. Sequim is in the rain shadow of the Olympics. It's pretty dry. It's also expensive because it doesn't rain much.

  2. A geology professor friend of mine was seriously thinking about buying a large tract of land in Colorado on the Jurassic Morrison Formation. And then retire to mine it for fossils and tracks.

  3. I live in NYC. The other day I noticed a van with some kind of contraption on its roof and curtains in the rear window. It was parked down a side street that I pass on the way to my bus to/from work. When I saw it, I realized I'd seen it there before. Sure enough, it's been parked there several times since then.

    So, one day I walked down the block to check it out. It's an older Dodge Xplorer and it has a bunch of different vents and outlets on its side, a running board, and an RV-like paint job, as well as screens in some windows. When I passed by, the little screened windows were open. I didn't want to be too nosy, but with a quick glance through the windshield, I could see closets and a bed in the back. Aha, I found a vandweller in the heart of the Upper West Side.

    They seem to have found a way to deal with the street cleaning rules. My guess is they probably work somewhere nearby. It's a pretty tree-lined street near to everything a city-vandweller would want.

    Last year, I read a NY Times article about a guy in the city who works 9-5 somewhere and sleeps in his car at night (no laws against it here). I also know there is a big RV parked on a side street a few blocks away from my apartment and it looks like someone's been living there a long time. The rents and cost of buying property in NYC are so sky-high, I think there will be more and more people only able to afford being here by living in vehicles.

  4. If NYC had laws against sleeping in cars, they'd have to bust half the cops and all the limo drivers. ;) But, yeah, several years back I saw an article about a guy living in a big Class A parked in Manhattan. It was one of the things that got me considering my options.

    1. Yep, and there's someone living in an RV parked in Brooklyn, who extends his awning and puts lawn chairs on the sidewalk next to it. Apparently, he's well-known in that neighborhood and no one seems to mind.