The Big Picture –
By Glynn Wilson –
MARION, Va. – We made the drive down U.S. Highway 81 out of Maryland and into Virginia on Monday on our first migration south for the winter in the camper van, making it to a familiar spot along Hungry Mother Creek, one of those many babbling brooks we have found where sleeping comes easy.
While dodging the wind from the strong jet stream that tends to pummel this part of the world, and in between passing the many trucks along this busy stretch of interstate, I would occasionally glance up into the mountains at the exists to now familiar places like Front Royal, Luray, New Market and Woodstock.
I have driven this way many times over the years making the trip from Alabama to Washington, D.C. and I always found this part of the Appalachian mountains beautiful and intriguing. But it was a different feeling this time. Now I know what’s in those mountains. I have seen them up close.
We stayed on the ground outside in many of the campgrounds in and around the Shenandoah National Park over the past two months, sitting by the fire listening to the owls at night and watching the deer and bears in the early morning light.
I met many of the people who work in these places year around, even when the campgrounds are closed for the winter. And I met many travelers who pass this way on a regular basis or who came and saw for the very first time.
Most of the migrating campers I met along the way are already down in Florida for the winter, sort of like the Whooping Cranes which fly south and land there every year. I feel like I’m closer to my Native American ancestors by taking up this quest, although their migrations were much harder and took way longer on foot or horseback.
They literally had to survive on what they could hunt and gather. Everywhere we went on this trip there were grocery stories along the way.
They only had smoke signals to communicate with nearby tribes. We have the Internet and can talk to people across the globe.
I am not retreating totally from the modern world in this quest. In fact my plan is to set an example of how to live simply and cheaply and have as little as possible an impact on the planet, while at the same time still enjoying the good things about modern society. I don’t think I’m dreaming when I think it is possible to have it both ways. To live with the best of both worlds.
My friend Bob Wells, who was just featured in a new documentary on mobile living, likes to talk about the “millions of Americans who are living lives of drudgery, mediocrity and even misery” who “need to hear the good news that they can finally be happy by choosing a frugal, simple and mobile life.”
Many others are still in economic despair after the Bush Great Recession and, he says, “they desperately need hope and help for their grim economic situation.”
In today’s column, Wells cites a Gallop poll that has been going on for 12 years and includes interviews with more than 24 million American workers and shows that 70 percent of Americans dislike or even hate their jobs.
“A full 20 percent hate their jobs so much they are actively doing everything they can at work to harm their employer,” he points out. “Another 50 percent dislike their jobs so much they’ve ‘checked out’ and are just doing whatever it takes to not get fired.”
Anti-Depressant prescriptions in the U.S. are at extraordinary levels, up more than 400 percent in the past few decades.
“Why are we so depressed?” he asks. “The rate of suicide in the industrial world is drastically higher than the Third World. Why do so many of us kill ourselves?”
He concludes that unhappiness with the American Dream is at epidemic levels. He is finding happiness by getting outdoors and living in a way that does not require “working for the man” and commuting in rush hour traffic to a job you only come to hate even as it barely sustains you.
My thinking on it goes like this. Every job I’ve ever had, working for a newspaper chain, owning my own business or teaching at a capitalist university, had certain rewards. But at the end of the day, all I ever earned was enough to pay the bills and get by. Rent on an apartment. The power bill and phone bill. A few groceries and the occasional night out for fun. That’s what life is for most people, here and around the developed world.
At some point it is worth asking the questions: What do I really enjoy doing and how can I sustain myself doing that? Instead of repeating the same pattern of doing something you don’t necessarily love and even coming to hate if you do it long enough, all while never making enough to get ahead anyway?
Would it not be better to find a way to do what you love and do it in a way that is so cheap you don’t have to work for “the man” and get by living in the same place where life is frustrating a fair amount of the time?
I mean the people living in the north and south bitch about the weather for much of the year. If you live on the road, if you don’t like the weather you can simply move on. If you don’t like the place you find yourself in, or the people, simply head on down the road.
That’s my plan anyway. At least for the next little while.
By exploring the towns and meeting the people here I have a better insight into what life is like and what the people are like. Perhaps I will find a place I want to stay longer and settle down. But for now it is about time to break camp and head on down the road a little further. I want to see a little more of North Carolina on this trip before ending up back on the Gulf Coast in Mobile.
They are predicting snow showers for Wednesday. With any luck we can snap some pictures.
Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you are happy where you are, with your career or job and everything about your life. If not, consider hitting the road in a camper van. Hey, it’s working for me. I’m outside every day. If I don’t like the weather I can pack up and move on down the road.
See you down the road, on the trail or the Net.
© 2014, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.