“We’re just looking for a place to exist in this world,” I said to Carol, the obtuse Utah state forestry agent on the phone.
It was partly a plea to be heard along with an explanation for why I was asking whether people were allowed to stay in a campground after the season ended. You see, some public venues oust would-be off-season campers and lock the gates, while others simply end site reservability, turn off the water and send the hosts home but allow campers to stay.
My earnest statement was made after she had spun through long-winded answers to questions I hadn’t asked. She gassed on about toilets and water and campfires and roads, but always failed to respond to my actual query. All of this was interspersed with repeated, world-weary reminders from this consummate bureaucrat that she cannot make site reservations. “You do that online.”
She didn’t know I had the call on speaker. Flummoxed by her irrelevant and meandering monologues, Glenn and I were pantomiming and whispering to each other, trying to discover the exact way to rephrase our apparently unique question. We just needed her to listen.
It seemed Carol couldn’t hear my voice over the babble of so many previous callers – not to mention the constant, truly anesthetizing stream of her own words. With her eventual, tangential confirmation that they do not bar the grounds from visitors, we were able to get comfortable (enough) that the little corner of Utah we were targeting was in the latter category. So, we settled on plans to stay in that site beyond its September 30th season end date.
It Takes a Lot of Work to Exist in a Place
We’ve not only chosen to live full time on the road over the next few years, we’ve chosen to do it in a way that summons spontaneity. By spurning our over-planning natures that would have a sequenced sightseeing checklist along with a detailed travel itinerary showing all campsites reserved as far into the future as possible, we’re pushing ourselves to discover places that wouldn’t otherwise hit our radar.
We’re still figuring out what that means in practice, but for now, we’ve decided that having the next four to six weeks planned is as far as we want to go (with exceptions allowed for large venues requiring far-future reservations). In the end, it will likely mean we spend more time on our journey looking for offbeat destinations, which we can chalk up as a benefit of learning more about the areas we visit. We also think it’s worth it to get beyond the predictable, crowded destinations everyone else wants to be in.
Irrespective of any upside, we do know we’re signed up for periodic anxiety as we continuously look for and seek permission to exist in a particular space on this earth.
Being anywhere takes work.
We all trade our efforts for permission to exist someplace.
This is true whether you live in one place spending many dollars you earn from hard work to know where you’ll sleep every night … or you live in many places spending fewer dollars and work hard to determine where you’ll spend the next night.
Glenn and I have chosen this uprooted lifestyle for now specifically to explore: to learn more about this world and ourselves. After my call with Carol, and once I had exhaled all the air I’d held for the words I wasn’t able to get in edgewise, the echo of my plea rolled around in my head.
I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I told someone I just needed a place to exist and literally meant it.
What a basic yet profound human need – a place to be.
For me, this reflection came with expanded empathy for homeless and displaced people. We work so hard to find places to call our own so we don’t have to constantly get permission to be somewhere on this earth. Yet, once you have it, it can be too easy to take for granted – or worse, to feel entitled to it.
The experience also prompted me to avoid showing up like Carol: to be quiet and to hear the voices of others. They also have their own unique questions, and they too are simply seeking a place to exist on the world.
Glenn and I have the luxury of choosing to go back to a more rooted lifestyle whenever we decide it’s the right time and place to settle into our Haven.
Until then, we tread lightly in the world with a renewed appreciation for what it means to belong, on the road.