Fixin' fences in Kansas, 2010
Ever-so-often, I will be asked how I manage to do the things I do. I suppose it's in that curious manner of how one really lives Outside the Box, or perhaps it is a general curiosity of my own personal adventures, roaming from town to town, in that feral, bardic way that people dream of?
I'm not quite sure which of these might set one's imagination on fire, so I will attempt here, to answer some of these queries of living outside of the constraints of the "daily grind."
Firstly--if you are reading this with fresh eyes, know the short story of my weird life: I'm a traveling teacher, writer, artist, and have been to Alabama, Florida, New York, NJ, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, and Vermont pursuing and documenting self-reliant, Outside The Box people and stories for three years. It has been an amazing, surprising, heart-breaking, humbling journey--and the funny thing is, I hadn't planned it at all like this.
I was a performing artist in New York City, you see, as frenetic as any producer and artist in a highly competitive and highly expensive city, would be. I had the typical "day job" that I worked with clenched jaw to complete every day, and would come home frazzled, just to do a thing I love which barely paid the bills. When the economics of the country took a swan dive, I simply looked for another fine opportunity, and since there was a whole heck of a lot to be said about self-reliance when keeping your bills down (there's a lot of money to be saved when you grow your own food and make your own stuff, especially in the city), I turned to all the old stories of my parents farming background to guide me. Beekeeping, gardening, and livestock had me as spellbound as dance, music, and folk art. City Mouse meets Country Mouse, indeed!
Before I knew it, I was in a film for my beekeeping, and that lead me to the great opportunity of teaching beekeeping in Iowa and Illinois teaching the methods to dealing with those wee, feisty, stinging livestock...and I've sort of never stopped. So I guess you could say I owe it all to bees!
How does this story pertain to you? You need not open hives to live this type of unconventional, or voyaging life...in some ways, you won't even have to leave the life you have (for those who fear losing their jobs, or who don't quite wish to go as far out on a traveling limb as I have).
For me, Living Outside The Box simply means living life on your own terms. There is no one correct way to do it. I will say the one essential ingredient that will probably get that cake baked, though, is CLEVERNESS. While there is a certain idealism that surrounds free-spirited living, there is also a sort of "organization" about it too. At least, that is what has worked for me. There are some Lucky Joes that always seem to get along by flying by the seats of their pants, but imagine what could get accomplished if they put little planning behind it? Living outside of conventional constructs means thinking fast on your feet, but enjoying the ride, as well.
Alternately--and perhaps ironically--freedom actually may mean giving up a few things, as well, and that is an important crux to note. Indeed, how often I have heard people lament that they could go off on a "gypsy adventure" for however long. I wonder if they realize that past those shiny, romantic images of kerchiefed lasses in glorious fields of horses and wagons, that living like that requires few possessions, the constant leaving of a solid community of friends or family, and the literal or figurative worrying about where the next meal comes from. And frankly, most folks don't want that.
At the same time, I don't suggest you tie a satchel to a long stick and head off on a dirt road. You can live you amazing life however you want. Again, cleverness, a certain amount of fearlessness, and being willing to go out of your way to attain your true life is going to get you the high score in this game of life.
I've thrown together a few bits and pieces to help with this strange Vagabond Soup, a treasure-trove of small advice I've found is helpful towards your Outside Of The Box Living (and, wittily, I shall be teaching such things in a workshop in New Jersey on May 16)....
1. Long term traveling requires money. Gas, food, it's all a reality. If you have no money, learn to save like the devil (which is what I did). If you really don't like living on the cheap, you will not do well...unless, of course, you have lots of money.
2. Saving money requires discipline and creativity.
Old stand-bys always help:
Cut up your credit cards
Learn to make stuff to sell
Barter like it's going out of style (it really should be making a comeback)
Get a skill that's in high demand or, better yet, with which you may travel around a bit. Learn to like places like Freecycle (freecycle.com) or Craigslist (craigslist.org) which offer free/low cost stuff
Goodwill and thrift stores are your friends
3. Outside Of The Box Jobs can be had, for those of you who do not need to travel, but still feel trapped amongst claustrophobic walls, artificial lighting, and heavy deadlines. This bevvy of occupations are unconventional, indeed! However,
don't mistake unconventional for easy--you may need degrees or other requirements to pursue them. Of course, anything worth having always needs a little legwork, right?
Park Ranger or Outdoor Tourguide - Are you athletic? Love the outdoors? Love people? Get them all together here!Farmer -If you love working in the dirt, love growing plants, love working with the seasons, and you know how to roll with the weather punches, this is for you!Logger - It's a pretty lucrative job for physically active folks who can work big machines and love the out
Photojournalist - If you are great with a camera and can network, you might find yourself traveling around the world!
And there are plenty more such jobs, that can be found with little research.
4. Other stuff.....
If you are ever so inclined, use hostels or stay with friends, which will save on hotel fees.
Learn to be a problem solver. Your trip will sometimes have several unexpected twists and turns, and you will have a far easier time if you learn to problem solve those things that come your way.
When traveling, learn to pack light. Trust me, half the stuff you won't use, and less stuff means faster getting around from place to place.
While you won't necessarily get dirty, if you are the kind that is afraid to break a fingernail then, in my opinion, you are missing out on half the fun. Yep, in my world, you MAKE the mud pies.....
Learn the art of making friends wherever you go. They will be helpful along your way, sometimes offering encouragement, sometimes offering a place to stay. You really never know. Conversely, make sure you are a good friend, as well.
Truly the world could benefit by the such fellowship.