In one of my first posts on this blog, I wrote about how a ‘brush with death’ accident changed my perspective on life. That changed perspective led to one of the more major changes I’ve made: two years ago this month, I closed my apartment in Providence, put my belongings in storage, and became a vagabond.
Why? For one, as much as I loved my apartment and Providence, I had been thinking for several years about leaving New England. One way to figure out where I wanted to live next was to un-tether myself so I would not be seduced by my comfortable living situation into staying.
For another, I had thought much about my desired lifestyle, which included traveling, making long-terms stays in other countries, and spending time with my family and friends. One way to achieve that lifestyle, I thought, was to start living it. Since I couldn’t afford to spend extended amounts of time in other states and countries and keep an apartment as a home base, I chose to give up the apartment.
What’s it been like? Well, the challenges have been many and there’s been many a time when all I could think was ‘what a long strange trip it’s been.’ Here’s what I can tell you about the experience.
In the first eighteen months, there was not one month when I didn’t miss the loft apartment I left. I still miss it sometimes, but I’ve moved on enough that I can’t see trying to recreate that living situation.
It can be hard to establish a routine when you’re staying with someone or in a space only on a short-term basis. That’s been hard for me because I find it easier to get the important things done if the mundane details of life, like what to eat for breakfast and doing laundry, are accomplished via routine.
Even knowing that my priority in a couple of the short-term rentals was to do other things, I have not been able to resist reorganizing the kitchen. My rationale is that I make my own meals and to do that every day for two months without being able to find utensils and spices would drive me crazy!
There have been times when I was coming up on the end of one living situation and wasn’t yet sure what the next would be. That has been very stressful, but it’s worked out each time.
I have missed my ‘stuff,’ but not as much as I thought I would. Most of what I’ve missed is my clothes, which is odd since they are not a priority for me. However, one does get tired of wearing only the things that fit into a suitcase and it’s annoying when you’re in a place long enough for a season change and you don’t have the right clothes for the temperatures.
On the other hand, there have been times when, as I closed my storage space door, I said ‘miss you, stuff, but still having adventures.’ I’ll go further and say that with the perspective of two years of not living with my stuff, I got rid of a lot of it this summer.
If one has stuff in storage, it’s good to be organized. I labeled boxes of clothes, shoes and papers as needing to remain at the front of the space, which paid off when I was back in Providence this winter. It was snowing constantly and I needed my snow boots. There they were, at the front of the space, and in a clearly labeled box! (The dressy shoes I needed for my nephew’s wedding were another story.)
Spending extended amounts of time with my sisters and friends has given me more exposure to lifestyles different than my own and made me realize there are things I want to incorporate into my lifestyle. It’s also confirmed for me that no matter how appealing those lifestyles, they are not mine, even if I sometimes would like them to be.
I could not have done this without the support of friends and family who gave me a place to stay when I was passing through town on my way to someplace else or when a living situation came to an abrupt end, as when my mother died. The friend who manages my mail has earned an especially shiny star in her crown.
This lifestyle has strained every bit of my flexibility muscle but on the other hand, I’ve realized that I’m fairly resilient. For example, there have been a couple of times I’ve had to be talked off the ledge when a rental wasn’t what I expected from its description, but I’ve managed to settle in and keep moving on my projects.
At its worst, it’s been six different bedrooms / kitchens / bathrooms in four months. At its best, it’s been extended stays in Italy, months with my sisters and their families, working in person on creative projects with my sister Nancy, and the opportunity to visit my mother on a regular basis in the months before her death – and all of that has made it worth it.
I’ll end this with this snippet of conversation from a dinner with friends last winter:
Me: Omigosh, it’s almost time for my bus back to town.
Friend: Don’t worry about it, I’ll give you a ride home. [long pause] Where exactly is that now?