Five years ago I was served an eviction notice for non-payment of rent. I was terrified. I didn’t want anyone to find out. I had been concealing how desperate my finances were. I went to the eviction hearing not knowing what would happen. The landlord and I came to a payment arrangement, and I went to work. I pulled twelve and sixteen hour shifts, seven days a week, to pay my rent debt. I didn’t tell anyone why I needed the shifts, or the money. I just got it done. It took five months of working a hundred-hour work week, every week, to pay off. It nearly destroyed me. If my adult children read this before we talk, this will be the first they’ve heard of it.
Two months after paying off that debt, faced with the annual rent increase, I knew I couldn’t keep on as I had been. I gave notice, moved as much as I could into storage and hit the road to think things through. Leaving was chaos. Things were left behind inside, and on the curb, I didn’t cleanup and I’m surely not the landlord’s favourite ex-tenant.
I got in my truck and drove off; camping, sometimes in a tent, sometimes sleeping in the truck. It was glorious. In the four months I spent on the road, I saw amazing sights, met wonderful people and learned about the history of the place we call Canada. I also learned, I need more than can be crammed into a Chevy Blazer to keep myself, and my pets, comfortable. I moved to Vancouver, into a basement apartment in my brother’s house. Family is wonderful; basements, not so much.
I searched to find a way to live a life that matched my values; one that afforded me the opportunity to support my ailing father, to spend time reading, writing and indulging my loves of learning, new places and meeting people, and last but not least, a lifestyle that minimized my participation in a neo-capitalistic system I was increasingly dissatisfied to be part of.
I wanted a place to live near my Dad that would allow me to keep my dog, cat and parrot and had windows. I had to be able to afford it.
I dreamed of finding a place filled with light, close to a park, and a good coffee shop. On a bus line with good service. In walking distance to a library, a community centre, a grocery store, and a doctor’s office.
These are not big dreams. They are simple dreams, shared by many. I thought it would be possible to find an affordable, traditional place to live in Vancouver where some of these dreams would come true. I could not find such a place. As I kept searching, I began to think about non-traditional options.
The more I thought about non-traditional options, the more I liked them. Non-traditional matched the way I felt and reflected my values while allowing me to continue the activities I loved. To live sustainably, within my budget, I didn’t have to become a hermit in the forest, I could join a community of people living in vehicles.
I knew I could live in a vehicle; I had done it for months on my road trip. I remember how amazing it was to drive to the end of a road, out onto a beach, build a fire and watch the sunset. I also remember how much less amazing it was to keep myself and my pets fed, healthy and happy with only the things I could fit in the Blazer. Now I was thinking of living a meaningful life, which included being a care partner for my Dad, who lives in Vancouver, from a vehicle, so it needed to include some of the comforts of home, like heat and air conditioning, a bathroom, and a kitchen. Travel trailers are built with all those things, they are much more affordable than housing and can be moved to be near parks, community centres, whatever.
Best of all, a trailer allowed me to take my Dad on one last epic road trip, Vancouver to Cape Spear, Newfoundland. We even went to the Viking Village. Along the way we read the journals of people who witness the beginning of the Battle of Duck Lake, we found towns founded by our namesakes, and learned of the miseries imposed by residential schools from people who had been there.
By deliberately, consciously, choosing to loosen my ties to a particular place, I can share in more places. I made time and space, not just for adventures, but to join the community and life of many places.
Last week in my fear of being judged poorly, I was reminded, yet again, of the difference between being not ashamed of a choice and being ready to announce, loud and proud, that same choice, in public.
In my floundering to not say, I live unhoused, I failed to clearly say, I am nourished and sustained when I spend time in Mount Pleasant. That I regularly seek out the people, places, and experiences that can only be found in Mount Pleasant and I am connected to the community and places of Mount Pleasant by my choice to stay, play, volunteer and create there.
Living in a trailer gives me time to care and support my Dad and time to read, write, travel, take seminars and volunteer; I see art, visit museums, spend time with friends and family. Choosing to live in a trailer affords me the opportunity to express my values by living as lightly as I can on the land while enjoying a lifestyle that makes me happy to be alive.
Some days I spend at the park, watching the sun play on the water, the grass grow, or the shadows move across distant mountains. Some I spend playing cribbage, walking and shopping for licorice with my Dad.
It is a privilege to choose this lifestyle and everyday I wake up glad I chose to.