Since Valentines Day, 2009 I’ve been performing an unplanned simplicity experiment – to live freely without the encumbrance of a fixed place to live – at least not in a place I planned to stay.
I never imagined it would be for so long – instead I’d presumed that my intransigence would lead to something permanent when the time was right… But I just kept going. Partially because I was having fun and enjoying the experience – partially because even though this kind of lifestyle lends itself to spontaneity, I tended to plan ahead, which kept me moving, and in rather nice/random places.
These included: i) a modern place overlooking San Francisco in Twin peaks ii) a flat with 3 mad ladies in the lower Mission – iii) my parents home, London -iv) June Lake, the Sierra Nevada – v) Corona Heights SF – vi) Castro, SF (Harvey Milk’s old flat) – vii) The Mission, SF – viii) my van – all over California, ix) my parents, London, again – x) A beautiful place in Watamu, Kenya with my friend Tim, xi) the house I built, Kenya xii) my parents… now starting to wonder why they’d spent that education money.
I’ve mostly loved being free from leases and mortgages. I’ve lived in houses with people I’d previously not met to a stint with great friends in a beautiful house in Kenya and also, as part of the boomerang generation, a good few months with my long-suffering parents.
When I returned from Kenya, I wasn’t ready to settle – despite being away for a few years, I still wanted to be free – hence a stay in Berlin and beyond…
Over the last few months that has changed. I want a home. Writing this on the plane on the way back from San Francisco, tired having spent the last week crashing on friends floors, sofa as and in spare rooms – I can happy say that I’m done for a while. I embraced my free-living spirit but it is time to settle, at least for a while.
[Written later - I met a rather beautiful Dutch lady on the plane after writing this above, who told me she'd been living as a nomad for 5 years, spending 6 months walking the Pacific Coast Trail and teaching sustainability at Universities. I suggested that nomadic living meant not having a community or developing lasting friendships. She said that although there are lots of goodbyes, there were also lots of hellos. She was clearly finding joy in her arrangement, despite the drawbacks].
There is something hugely empowering about feeling free of a need to have somewhere – to be able to explore without baggage.
But I never achieved the monk-like status. Regularly, I felt attached to those places. Despite the whirlwind of environments which sounds fun, exciting and non-stop – I actually spent a lot of time alone.
I’m not great at week-night activities like salsa, theatre or courses. Continual movement means that in order to maintain a healthy social life you have to be gregarious and head out to engage, which isn’t always my natural inclination – especially when working hard during the day.
On Tuesday I move, again, to Bristol. This time I hope to stay put a little while. There’s something to be said for putting down roots and having a place in the world. I know that my feet will begin to itch after a while, but I might try to recognise the propulsion isn’t always healthy.
I’ve learned from these many moves that it’s not about accumulating things around you. The three suitcases in the hold of the plane are testament to the fact that It’s better to shed as much ‘stuff’ as you can, whether permanent or temporary and to invest in the people, community and culture of a place.
For now, I will travel light to Bristol – in terms of what I’ll take with me, but I’ll try to invest in the place when I’m there – in the community and in friendships.
(written a few weeks ago, a ‘Westcountry loving ramble’ will be posted shortly).