June 30, 2014

Tiny Home vs Van



One evening while traveling we pulled into a tiny town. The local mall happened to have a tiny home on display in the parking lot. Feeling a kinship between this diminutive domicile and our own Lilliputian lair, we nestled in next to it for the night.

The next morning I had a sunrise walkabout in the parking lot and gopher field next door. I couldn't help but notice that the tiny home and our van were very similar. The tiny trailer home had some information posted in the window making a comparison possible.

The tiny home was 7 feet by 14 feet. Our van is 6.6 ft by 17.6 ft.

Our van is a bit longer than a standard tiny home, almost as wide, and not quite as tall.

The tiny home has a small porch in front which is about big enough to store one bicycle. Our van's wheelchair lift can be used as a porch for one to sit on, and the back rack has room for three bicycles.

Our van  is well constructed, and so was the tiny home. Inside though, the van wins hands down. The little house on wheels had a front room, a back room with two bunks, and a sleeping loft. It was nice, but that was all that was inside.

Our van on the other hand is completely self-sufficient. We have a bed, a single burner camp stove, 25 litres of water, a wash basin (actually it's an oven roaster doing double duty until we get to our destination), a cooler for food requiring refrigeration, and last but certainly not least, a commode.

We also have a "loft" over the bed area that acts as a large storage space. 2 small kids could sleep up there comfortably.


In the end they are similar, but right now I prefer the van.
The tiny home information did say that a photovoltaic system was included, which is something that Linda and I do not yet have. While we can live without electricity, having a no-emissions method of producing power would make things a bit more comfortable and convenient.

Bottom line on the tiny home was $18,000, and you would still need a vehicle to tow it to its destination. Our van cost us $8500 ($5500 plus our old truck), and it moves on down the highway just fine on its own. With the extra $10,000 dollars we could live the nomadic life for a long time.

That's it - for me, the van wins.

June 27, 2014

Moving On With Less

Notice: This van stops for spontaneous jams and sing-a-longs.

“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”
- Jack Kerouac

After almost a decade of living a beautiful, quiet and contented lifestyle on the ocean, it is quite a change to find ourselves following that endless white line and living a nomadic lifestyle. Fulfilling a lifelong goal, we are now living out of our van with everything we own in the world.

Unlike any other time we have done something like this, on this round we have no other stuff anywhere. There is no additional crap lurking in a basement, or attic, or storage locker. No one is holding anything for us. What you see is what you get.

This is everything. Just what we need to travel, to eat, to sleep, to live. No more.

While we were living simply in our beach side home on the Pacific, we always wondered if we could take things further. We could, and we did, and almost a month later, reality is setting in.

Now that we have passed the "what the hell are we doing?" phase, and the "we are going to die out here" phase, we have begun to settle into the hypnotic rhythm of the road. We are charmed by the beauty, the simplicity, and the vitality of living this simple, stripped down unconventional life.

All our old routines and habits have been thoroughly dashed upon the hot highway of life where new challenges and thrills are a constant occurrence. And to support us, just enough stuff to get the job done.

Like Jack Kerouac, we want to spend our time being mad for living. We want to honour the free thinkers, visionaries, philosophers, rebels, and all those with an insatiable wanderlust and perpetual love for adventure and the unknown.

Freed of the trivialities of a settled life, now more than ever we have the time and space to question life, and our own existence. To feed not the "why?", but the "why not?".

For example, why not stop the van at any moment and have a spontaneous jam?

See you on the road.

June 25, 2014

Death And Letting Go

Letting go now prepares us for the next stage of our existence.
"Only by letting go of our grip on all that we ordinarily find most precious--our achievements, our plans, our loved ones, our very selves--can we find, ultimately, the most profound freedom."
- Philip Simmons (1957-2002)

I have spent the last 17 days talking to my mom about life, and death. More than ever before she shared stories of her childhood and early life, her desires, dreams, and dead ends. I could sense that she was getting more serious about letting go of it all.

Mom is approaching 80 years of age, and has 2 inoperable brain tumours. She wanted her wishes to be noted while she is in control of her faculties, and made it clear that she is "ready".

In fact, mom is so serious about detaching from this material plane that she spoke of entering a serious de-cluttering phase. I was excited about her willingness and encouraged her to cut the crap out of her remaining days as soon as possible.

In way of starting her project, she offered me all manner of things to take with us on our journey. It was very generous, but I told her that there was no way her crap was going to become my crap.

I told her we were also on a crap-less diet, and although Linda and I may not pass on soon, we are looking for the same kind of freedom she is seeking. All I could offer is moral support and to let her know that we need to stick together on these difficult preparations.

As a reader noted in a recent comment on my post about our culture's compulsive busyness, "My theory is all this busyness is just avoidance. Avoidance of reality and mortality."

That's it. We distract ourselves with stuff, crap, and constant go, go, go. But not me, or Linda, and not my mom. We are trying to face reality, and engage the process of letting go. We want to live better, and eventually, die free.

June 24, 2014

Do Nothing



The world would be a much better place if people would do nothing more often. Generally people want to do something all the time. This tendency to motion and busyness can be dangerous to humans and other living things.

I am guilty of mindless busyness sometimes too, and it is no wonder. I was born and raised in the land of perpetual, systemic busyness - North America. Here the way to success is to just do stuff, and it doesn't really matter what.

Keep moving. Go faster.

Whatever you do, don't stop. Ever.

Unless you have a herniated disk, in which case you have an unlimited licence to do nothing.


June 21, 2014

Seeing Simply

Impression, Sunrise, Claude Monet


"When you go out to paint try to forget what object you have before you - a tree, a house, a field or whatever. Merely think, here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow…"
- Claude Monet

Electric Hogs And Fossil - Fuelled Dinos

Harley-Davidson is introducing an electric-powered motorcycle.

"We think that the trends in both EV technology and customer openness to EV products, both automotive and motorcycles, is only going to increase, and when you think about sustainability and environmental trends, we just see that being an increasing part of the lifestyle and the requirements of riders."  
- M. Levatich, president of Harley-Davidson

I find it interesting that at the same time the dinosaurs in Canada's federal government are giving a green light to the old fashioned notion of the Northern Gateway Tar Oil Pipeline project, a major motorcycle company is announcing their first ever electric motorcycle.

Fossil-fuelled climate change deniers have been put on notice again - your dirty energy era is coming to a close.

The pencil pushers at the Harley company can obviously see something our politicians can't (or at least are refusing to acknowledge). While the rest of the world is going renewable, Harper and the rest of his Petrosaurs are trying to build a petro state.

For example, a forward-thinking individual could ride one of these electric hogs all the way across Canada. Emissions free.

“We want to do the right thing for future generations…change is inevitable as we move toward more sustainable energy choices. There is a readiness among Canadians, an exciting time.”
—C. Misch, vice-president Sun Country

Thanks to a new initiative along the longest national highway in the world, the Trans Canada Highway, a person can ride or drive into electric recharging stations along its 6000 km length. And for now, they are all free.

The innovative folks at Sun Country Highway know the same thing that Harley-Davidson, entrepreneurs, and millions of North American citizens know - the future is in electric vehicles and renewable energy, not fossil fuel pipelines through pristine mountain ranges.


"Canada continues to resist action on addressing its major emissions growth problem - the rapidly increasing greenhouse gas pollution from oilsands production.”  
- Simon Dyer


June 18, 2014

Sanctuary



Although our quest is temporarily suspended while I am under the care of a local healer, we are certain of what we are looking for when we resume.

A sanctuary. A zone of survival. A safe haven.

We are seeking a place of peace and beauty. A quiet garden to tend to while being nurtured in turn by its green growing magic. We are on a quest for a place we call sanctuary.

However, sanctuary is not only a place 'out there'. The poet Rumi tells us to remember that the entrance door to the sanctuary is inside each of us. Likewise, Buddha says not to look for sanctuary anywhere except inside ourselves.

Who am I to argue with teachers like that?

Perhaps I can find my inner sanctuary while occupying an expansive garden with little hidey holes here and there. Places I can drag an easel, paper, watercolours and brushes for a few hours of painting contemplation.

I can't think of a better place to find inner peace than a garden with green niches harbouring camouflaged benches for reading a good book, or watching birds, or just sitting and thinking. Or better yet, just sitting.

Our quest is for sanctuary.


June 14, 2014

Breaking Free



I love spending time with my mom. She always tells me "what an easy baby" I was. Always smiling and contentedly watching sunbeams. But I guess I had my difficult side as well.

Mom also always reminds me of how I quit kindergarten a few days after it started. She supported my decision 100% then, and still does.

As I have strove to colour outside the lines, I have used the keys that my mom and my dad gave me growing up. These have been supplemented by a host of reading material that filled in the spaces.

One of the early books that fanned the flames of my desire to break free was by Robert M. Pirsig.

“He felt that institutions such as schools, churches, governments and political organizations of every sort all tended to direct thought for ends other than truth, for the perpetuation of their own functions, and for the control of individuals in the service of these functions. 
He came to see his early failure as a lucky break, an accidental escape from a trap that had been set for him, and he was very trap-wary about institutional truths for the remainder of his time.” 

― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values

June 13, 2014

Stop

Happy spine - happy human.


The diagnosis? Herniated disk in the fifth lumbar vertebra.

Doctor's advice? Stop.

So for now, Linda and I are living in beautiful Nelson, BC Canada with my mother (who is one year shy of her 80th birthday). As far as being stranded somewhere along our route, this is the ideal scenario.

After the 'Angels in a Blue Bus' incident, in which the universe delivered an accessible van to our front door while simultaneously taking our truck away, it is hard to believe what has been delivered to us this time.

Best of all is I get to have an extended visit with my mom. While she was the first official stop that we planned, we weren't sure how long we would stay. Now it looks like mom will get to take care of her boy longer than expected. I am fine with that. These are precious moments.

My dear mom Margaret is being very generous, and when I apologize for invading her life with our chaos she says that our need gives her life meaning and purpose. She is caring for the caregiver, enabling me to take it easy so I can continue to take care of Linda.

So I get to spend day after glorious day sitting with Margaret and Linda, my two favourite women on the planet, conversing, laughing, crying, eating, and enjoying each other's company.

Another of my favourite women, my sister Kathy, also lives near Nelson. Her and her partner live the kind of life I aspire to live one day. Perhaps not as soon as I expected, but some day I would also like to live in a beautiful home surrounded by nature and powered by solar panels.

It is wonderful to see them, their chickens, huge garden, and their 4 gentle, intelligent and unique children who were raised on 'the mountain'.

Grandma lives in a suite in a small house in downtown Nelson. And who of all people should occupy the space on the main floor of the house?

A doctor. A doctor who is a back specialist. Just what I need - someone to help me make my back happy again. And all I have to do is go upstairs and rest a while on the decompression table.

In the meantime the blue bus is resting happily in mom's back yard. We are resting happily inside the house in mom's warm, loving embrace.

We are stopping. For now.


"Where's the fire? What's the hurry about?
You better cool it off before you burn it out.
You got so much to do and so many hours in a day."

- Vienna, Billy Joel

June 11, 2014

Simple Morality

What is the right thing to do?

Morality is simple. Virtually every major religion can be boiled down to one easy to understand concept. Don't be an asshole.

No one automatically deserves to be happy just because they are alive. You have to work at achieving happiness. How?

By not being an asshole. Some people find this easier to do than others.

Immanuel Kant once wrote, "Morality is not properly the doctrine of how we may make ourselves happy, but how we may make ourselves worthy of happiness."

Every religious text has the same advice for becoming worthy of having happiness flow into your life. They just don't state the Golden Rule in quite the same way I do.

You will find no mentions of assholes here, but you will certainly learn how to avoid becoming one.

It's simple.


Taoism

"Regard your neighbour's gain as your gain, and your neighbour's loss as your own loss."


- Tai Shang Kan Ying Pien, 213-218

Christianity

"In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you."


- Jesus Matthew 7:12

Sikhism

"I am a stranger to no one; and no one is a stranger to me. Indeed, I am a friend to all."


- Guru Granth Sahib, pg 1299

Unitarianism

"We affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.


- Unitarian principle

Native Spirituality

"We are as much alive as we keep the earth alive."


- Chief Dan George

Zoroastrianism

"Do not do unto others what is injurious to yourself."


- Shayast-na-Shayast 13.29

Jainism

"One should treat all creatures of the world as one would like to be treated."
- Mahavira, Sutrakritanga

Note: I do not think that any of you are assholes. However, you probably know one or two, in which case you might kindly refer them to this post. If reading this rehabilitates even one A-hole, I will consider it to be a worthwhile effort.

Thank you.

June 9, 2014

On The Road: Super Simple Living

For the next while home is wherever our blue bus is parked.

It's official. We have initiated launch, and are on the road heading east. I wish I could could romanticize it all and say that it has been a freedom-filled fun fest, but so far it has been a daunting challenge.

It is hard to do super-simple living. Our blue bus feels spacious, but 120 square feet is a far cry from our former 586 square foot palatial condo. Throw in a wheelchair, three guitars and a bunch of other stuff, and easy tasks are all of a sudden quite difficult.

But as JFK said before sending people to the moon, we don't choose these things because they are easy, we choose them because they are hard. In other words, we can't find out what our limits and capabilities are in luxury and comfort. We need to face adversity or struggle in order to test our mettle.

It is good to find out that one can "cope well with difficulties or to face a demanding situation in a spirited and resilient way", whether you are going to the moon, or doing an extreme downsizing. This is exactly what has been happening for Linda and I on the first leg of our quest.

We are beginning to find our road legs and develop the routines that make super simple living not only possible, but exhilarating as well. The pay offs for our efforts are already rolling in.

One night we pulled off the side of the highway to bivouac for the night (yes - it was free). After crawling into bed Linda noticed that we could look through the van window and see the stars against the blackness of the sky.

After a while the moon rose above a mountain ridge, caressing the landscape in a soft light.

Toward morning I was woken by a grouse thumping its mating drum beat in the distance. Then just before sunrise coyotes yipping in an early morning conversation lifted me from my slumber. When they stopped there was a sweet silence that is never heard in the bustle and busyness of the city.

I fell back asleep grinning as the first morning light was illuminating a brand new day of super simple living and mettle testing on the road.

Bring it on.

June 6, 2014

Formerly Free Fruits of The Earth

The fruits of the Earth belong to everyone. Equally.

Everything used to be free. There are the good things, which are still free for now, but you will pay dearly for most everything else.

It's pretty hard to do anything without having to spend money. You have to pay to work, pay to play, pay to eat, and pay to sleep. If they could figure out a way to measure and charge you for the air you breathe, you would be paying for that privilege as well.

One thing I really don't like to pay for is to sleep. You even have to pay a nightly camping fee in the back country of national parks, seemingly far way from the tentacles of civilization and the economy.

Things are set up so that you probably have to break the law to sleep for free regardless of where you are. Until recently, it was illegal to be homeless in Victoria, BC Canada because it was illegal to sleep in the open anywhere in the city.

Private property. No trespassing. Do not enter. No overnight parking. Go away and spend some money.

In 1754 Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote on the "horrors and misfortunes" that humanity suffered as a result of the invention of private property. In Discourse on Inequality he wrote,

"The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said "This is mine," and found people naïve enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody."

I am sure the Genevan philosopher would be horrified at the misfortunes suffered by humanity today as a result of "Mine, Mine, Mine-ism".  A small group of humans claim they "own" the fruits of the earth, and the rest of us have to pay to access "their" resources.

Next the greedy will say they "own" the fruits of the Sun and the Moon. And the atmosphere. They will want us to pay them dearly for these formerly free fruits.

But let us not forget that the impostors are wrong. The fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the Earth itself to nobody.



June 4, 2014

Restructuring The Way We Live

Lao Tzu was an advocate of living simply.

There is growing agreement around the world that we need to restructure the way we live. Business as usual will only give us more of the same - environmental destruction, riches for a few, and hardship for everyone else.

We need a better way, but how do we restructure the way we live on a scale large enough to have an effect? Vested interests tell us it can't be done.

They are wrong. We know what to do - live more simply.

Lao Tzu knew that living simply was the answer, and wrote about it in Verse 80 of the Tao Te Ching:



The best state is small,
without too many people,
who have every tool they might need
and don't use much,
have good transportation
and prefer to walk,
can defend themselves
and aren't aggressive.

Their food, their dress,
their homes and ways
are simple and individual
in grace.  They cherish their
traditions, revive old crafts,
satisfy the generations:
their children stay on,

with other states like this so near
that one can hear the barking dog,
the crowing cock across the way,
yet never get round to visiting,
content.

- translation by Michael Rossman

We can't continue along the conspicuous consumer path - it is a dead end. Perhaps it is time to attempt the tried and true methods of simple living and restructure our systems to support less, rather than continue to enthusiastically support the societal lust for more.

Save the earth. Save our minds. Be content.

June 2, 2014

Crap

This is what all advertising comes down to - "Please! Take our crap."

The world is awash in crap. There is always someone trying to sell you crap, rent you crap, and even give you crap. It is insidious and it creeps in everywhere it can, disguised as something you actually need.

After downsizing from a 586 square foot apartment to 275 cubic feet of interior space in a van, I have seen the full extent of my crap. Every. Single. Piece.

It was heavy. Heavy, heavy crap. Heavy in mass and heavy in psychic load.

It was a lot of work to get rid of it all. At times it was hard to give it away. I can't imagine the complications of trying to get someone to pay to make my crap their own. Half the time I feel guilty for burdening other people with my unwanted crap, even if its free and they think they want it.

I would make the world's worst salesperson. "You don't need that, or that or that…"

Sometimes, though, no one wants your crap. You can't even give it away. Many people have a lot of crap of their own already. One more acquisition and the garage is going to pop. Occasionally even thrift shops are bursting at the seams and turn donated crap away.

I like how author John Green puts it - "Crap crap crap crap crap crap crap stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid crap.”

I am learning to better see crap for what it is - a stupid impediment to living a free, unburdened life.

Sure there are possessions that add to life. Keep them. All the other stuff should be flushed.

Sell it, donate it, set it on the curb with a "FREE" sign. Compost it, crush it, cast it overboard. And most importantly, DO NOT bring any more into your crap-free sanctuary. Even if it is free.
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