“Dude, are you homeless?”
It was an unexpected question from a friend I made recently. And I denied it. I didn’t know what to say and I wasn’t ready for it.
It’s an especially tricky question to answer because homelessness has such a stigma. And it shouldn’t, because every person and every person’s story is different.
(How much do we judge the homeless just by looking at them — without ever knowing their story?
I know that’s something I’ve been guilty of. And although I’m interested in their stories, I never have the courage to ask.)
I don’t consider myself “homeless”, per se, but if I am, I volunteered.
In 2009, I quit my job as a Senior Artist at Rockstar Games, terminated the lease for my apartment, and sold or donated everything I own.
(I say “sold everything”, but I mean everything I couldn’t fit in my car. I do have a small storage unit in Las Vegas where I keep super important things like a really cool garlic press, a coffee grinder, and a really fast desktop PC that I bought in 2007. I can’t wait to boot that bad boy up.
I used to store about a dozen gym towels there, but I really couldn’t live without those.
There’s other stuff in my storage unit, but every time I visit it, I always surprise myself with what I sold and what I kept back then. The “Great Purge” happened so quickly that it’s hard for me to remember what survived.
One day I had a lot of stuff. A couple weeks later I didn’t. And while the stuff I kept is apparently stuff I didn’t think I could ever live without, it turns out I was wrong. Well, except for my gym towels. I was totally right about those.
So it’s a lot like Christmas morning every time I make my way to Vegas and I see what I actually still own.
“OMG, this is like the best garlic press ever!”
Although sometimes as I dig through boxes I’m like, “I kept this!? Why the hell did I keep this?”
It’s funny how what we give value to can change when we spend some time without it.)
So I quit my job, terminated my lease, and sold everything.
Then, as I was about to embark on my journey, something came up (with a friend) and I went and lived with him for 9 months.
This 9 months gave me time to “enhance” my pending adventure.
What was originally going to be a personal journey — some traveling, some photography, some writing — became a project that I would share with others around the world via the Internet.
I wanted to use the experience to connect with people in a meaningful way — not something that’s terribly common through social media.
And then in 2010 my real journey began.
I became part of a real-life choose-your-own adventure — criss-crossing the country and letting people tell me where to go, who to meet, and what to do.
It was self-funded, so I slept in my car each night as a way to conserve resources.
(I sought out sponsors, but never found one. I guess sponsors kind of have to find you. And aside from being approached by 3 reality TV casting directors, making a couple TV appearances, and being written about in Spirituality & Health magazine, I mostly flew under the radar. And I mostly still do.)
Since I rarely spent more than a couple nights in one place, and covered nearly 60,000 miles in the process, sleeping in my car made sense.
Hotels or even just campsites are expensive. I could have tried couchsurfing, but didn’t because I had a tricky time keeping a schedule or knowing where each day would lead me. And I have to admit, I really, really liked the turn-on-a-dime freedom I had.
But even without the need to pay for lodging, all the driving I was doing still made my adventure very expensive. Not to mention other expenses like food.
As my project (and travels) essentially came to an end about 18 months later, I continued using social media to share my ongoing experience. I had an audience that was still interested in what I was posting — and I’d made some great friends, too. So why not keep doing it?
But because my travels ended, I had to find other things to write about. This is when I started focusing more on humor & entertainment mixed with the occasional life lesson I’d learned. Though the process was sort of gradual.
And then, somewhere along the way, I made it official — I would voluntarily live in my car for 1,000 days. I’d already been doing this, but simply set an end date as a challenge and incentive to go on. Since my cross country travels had ended, it was a way to sort of reframe my adventure.
This became my personal “1,000 days of discomfort challenge” and an extension of something I desired when I started my journey — which was to intentionally push myself beyond my comfort zone as a means for personal growth.
It’s just that somewhere along the way 1,000 days turned into 5 years (this May).
I have volumes of things I could say about this experience, and occasionally it comes out in my posts (I mostly write about what I learn from my experiences, not what I lived through to learn them), but in short, it’s been interesting, it’s been hard, and it’s been rewarding.
But, I don’t want to do it forever.
But until I stop, I continue to learn valuable things. And I share these things with people who follow me.
Thoreau went to the woods because he wished to live deliberately. I went to my car to do the same thing.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” — Henry David Thoreau
It worked for him. It’s working for me.