Since I've been traveling entirely in the western portion of the U.S., I've encountered a number of people living on the fringes of society, some by choice and some to survive. Some live in their cars. Others in tents. Still others create homes out of buses, vans, RVs, airstream trailers, etc. I'm currently in Taos, NM, a place known to attract artists and writers. Many of them live in Taos Canyon where I'm currently camping. It's just close enough to town to be convenient to necessities, but deep enough into nature to feel remote and private. There are lots of what most of us would consider temporary shelters in the Canyon, but for the residents, this is home.
In the campground where I'm staying, the people I've met are not vacationing, they are living in small vans, camper trucks and RVs indefinitely. One couple is retired, another man was is a downsized mortgage banker who has lived in his pop-up van camper for the past year and a half, another woman is a single mom with two teenager daughters living in a truck camper. I had no idea people were living this way until I bought an RV and started living this way myself.
Yesterday at a cafe in Taos, I met two other people who are traveling indefinitely. One woman and her partner are house sitting right now with plans to keep traveling. She said her parents, who are in their seventies think she's crazy to travel this way. Another man said he had started to build a house in Taos over six years ago and is back in town to try and sell it. He is sleeping in a tent inside his house because there are no windows in the house.
Staying in truck stops and Wal-mart parking lots, I've noticed lots of people parked there sleeping in cars, vans and trucks. It's mind blowing and I know for certain I've only been exposed to a tiny glimpse of what I'm hearing is a growing trend. Many people simply cannot afford to own or rent a home right now. The old, traditional American lifestyle is eluding them. It's part of the reason I set off on this adventure: to see for myself what was working and what wasn't working with this old way of life. I'm a firm believer in the share economy, pooling resources and living cooperatively since it's obviously more sustainable than everyone owning and renting separate resource-dependent dwellings. Living in separate dwellings is also not emotionally sustainable. People are lonely and touch-deprived as well as under stimulated and under supported creatively.
I knew all of this before I set out on my travels, however, now that I've seen people living on the fringes firsthand, via living that way myself, I'm convinced that we MUST change OR DIE! We need to help each other and not simply view people living on the fringes as misfits, ex-cons, drug addicts or failures. Yes, some people have major problems, but many of the people I've met have had a series of downturns, but are creative, responsible, healthy people who have a lot to contribute, but right now are busy trying to survive.
As part of my travels, I'd like to give a voice to some of these people so that their stories can be heard with the intention that we can broaden our perspectives and remove some of our assumptions about the way we're all living. This of course, will be part of a much bigger plan to build community, but first, its important to see how much community is really needed.
Stay tuned...I'm still getting up to speed with my video and sound set-up, plus getting people to agree to be interviewed. It will happen. I promise. Hopefully sooner than I think.
If you have any experience living on the fringes, please reach out to me. I'd like to interview you OR invite you to write a guest blog post.