Friday, September 30, 2016

Joe Omundson

my car is for sale!

I am selling my 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit. 4-door, hatchback, 1.6 liter diesel.



It is outfitted as a camper car. The driver's seat is the only seat. Think of it as a tent on wheels -- a very wind-proof tent that gets 45 MPG and plays music. Obviously you can do whatever you want once you buy it, but it will be best suited for someone who wants to continue to use it for this purpose. It could also be an efficient cargo/delivery car.


As a camper car it has:
-Bed area along passenger side: 6'6" long, and could be increased to 7'3"
-39 Ah deep cycle auxiliary battery
-Solar panel to charge the aux. battery (can also be charged from alternator)
-Battery powers stereo, 12V outlet, and ventilation fan
-Storage underneath front of bed
-Small shelf for storing clothes, holds speakers too

Interior view - also notice solar panel on roof

Looking toward rear of car; shelf, speakers, ventilation fan

Ruggedized interior (truck bed liner), no more rotting carpet

Storage under front of bed

A respectable amount of head room

This car is running reliably. It is my daily driver and I have lived in it for most of the last 2 years. I would not hesitate to take it on a cross-country road trip, as I have done several times in the past. These engines supposedly last quite a while so I suspect it will run a good while longer.

I'm sentimentally attached to this car, but I keep feeling the pull to minimize further and live from a backpack. So I think it is time to part ways.

I am the 2nd owner of this car. I bought it in September 2014. The odometer was broken when I bought it, and it read 203,000 miles; I repaired it right away and now it reads 237,xxx. The person who sold it to me said it was not broken for long but I have no way to verify this (it was sold to me by a 3rd party). Never wrecked, no rust at all underneath, only a couple of cosmetic rust spots. Original paint job is holding up well.

Here is a list of the work I have done since buying the car:

-Fixed shift linkage problem
-Took out rear bench and passenger seat
-Fixed throttle cable
-Replaced door posts
-Replaced fuel filter
-Replaced glow plugs
-New windshield wipers (still working OK)
-New tires (now at maybe 30%)
-Got a passenger side mirror
-Improved door handle ease of use
-New struts
-New tie rods
-New horn
-Fixed the odometer
-Improved steering column rattle
-Installed a decent stereo/receiver w/ aux jack, CD player, radio etc.
-Wired in some decent sounding Polk bookshelf speakers
-Made a plywood platform to serve as a floor/bed, w/ a hinged part in front to access storage underneath
-Had the windows tinted
-Made some convenient blackout curtains w/ magnets in the edges; they deploy and store very quickly
-Installed new clutch; new transmission fluid, adjusted clutch cable, etc.
-Got a new driver's side sun visor
-New rear brakes
-Installed auxiliary battery; powers the stereo, 12V charger
-New master cylinder
-Replaced the plywood platform with a custom sheet metal one, for extra headroom
-Installed 100W solar panel on roof
-Installed small ventilation fan, also powered by the aux battery
-Removed carpet and insulation, used Al's HNR as an insulative layer
-Coated the whole bottom of the car interior with truck bed liner for a durable surface
-Built a shelf in the back for clothes storage and to hold the speakers in place
-New headliner

Known issues:
-It burns oil
-Windshield fluid line is broken
-Rear defrost connector needs to be repaired
-If parked uphill with nearly-empty fuel tank, sometimes the diesel siphons out of the engine back into the tank and the fuel system needs to be bled
-Windshield wipers have 2 settings: off, or full speed

Update 2/27/2017: Instead of asking for a certain amount of money, how about you make me an offer? I'm open to all offers. I don't care as much about the money, I just want to see the car go to a new owner who will use it and care for it well. Tell me your story and your plans :) As a reference point, I bought the car for $3000 and invested $3000-$4000 fixing it up, but I'm OK taking a pretty big loss on that amount.

joe.omundson@gmail.com

Thanks!

More photos: http://imgur.com/a/zOq7x
I kept some records of my outfitting and repair process here: http://forums.vwvortex.com/showthread.php?7042527-Life-in-a-Rabbit
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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Joe Omundson

in(ter)dependence

I used to think that becoming "independent" was one of the main goals of my lifestyle experimentation. While I do still strive to have the freedom to do what I please, my perspective on the concept of dependence has changed.

Here is what I realized: independence is a myth.

Independence is defined as "freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others." ("Others" probably means "other humans", but I'll leave that open-ended.)

The thing is, life simply can't operate on independence. Dependence is the reality of how life exists. Everyone is dependent on the support of others. Most of us exist in an economic system where we depend on our employers to give us money. We depend on other people to create businesses which give us the things we need in exchange for that money. We depend on farmers to grow our food, factory workers to make our products, engineers to design clean water systems, etc. The more we earn and spend, the more our existence depends on the work of others.

But even someone who uses no money and survives as a hermit without any human contact is still dependent on countless organisms for their survival. They need plants and/or animals to become their food. Plants rely on nutrients that exist in the soil, and on water, and on energy which has traveled across space from the Sun to the Earth. Our climate maintains itself as a balance of many different variables and we depend on that system for a habitable planet. We need bacteria in our gut to extract the necessary nutrition from our food. Indeed, every person is deeply connected to many other life forms and nobody can survive independently.

Yet the word independence still makes us think of a certain idea. Supposedly, independence is the freedom to do what we want, when we want. The ability to make our own decisions without someone else's permission.

I prefer a different word to describe this idea. Autonomy: "freedom to determine one's own actions, behavior, etc."

The word autonomy comes from greek "auto" (self) + "nomos" (law or custom). Perhaps the etymology makes more literal sense on a national level, as an autonomous nation is a self-governing one; but I think it can also be applied on a personal level. If I have autonomy, then it is me who determines my customs, my rules. Autonomy describes freedom of action while independence describes a lack of connection to others. Autonomy is a mindset, a set of mental DNA that changes the way we interact with others.

The thing I realized is, autonomy doesn't actually imply an absence of dependence. Autonomy exists as one of many forms of interdependence. Independence is fictional, so interdependence is the only option; the only thing that changes is how we interact within interdependence.

Autonomy includes the freedom to depend on other people in any way we choose, in order to satisfy personal needs and contribute to the world in the best way we can. Since our personalities are so complex, it is helpful to realize that there are a wide variety of life paths that can be chosen.

Everyone has the same basic needs of food, water, shelter, love, community, accomplishment. Some of us have special needs beyond that which may be caused by health status or life situations. On top of that we have vastly different preferences for how we interact with others, how we spend our time, and how we meet our basic needs. A strong, experiential sense of self-knowledge enables the kind of autonomy where we are able to decide for ourselves what patterns will govern our lives most effectively; our individual life strategy. When we apply this strategy intentionally to our daily lives, we find forms of interdependence that boost us rather than hold us back or hurt us.

Perhaps what works best for one person is a stable life that is very closely tied to others -- a spouse, kids, family, a career, and a day-to-day experience where the activities chosen are based mostly on meeting other people's needs. If this is what someone knows works best for them, then choosing a married, settled lifestyle is in fact a wise use of their autonomy even though it is not very independent.

Perhaps someone else is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum: they don't want to be bound to others at all, don't care to have a family or a job, and desire the freedom to travel anywhere at any time. This person would do well to learn street smarts, make friends with all kinds of people, and learn to give and accept freely. In order to move through society, they still need to depend on other people's effort and support. If done skillfully, this dependence is not limiting, but freeing; they will find support anywhere they go. This is also a wise use of autonomy.

However we depend on others, the important thing is to do it in a way that aligns with our individuality. When we delegate our mental autonomy to outside influences (country, religion, tradition, etc.), when we allow our life patterns to be governed by others, there is a higher risk of feeling trapped in a system that does not promote our own health and happiness. These other systems which can so easily dominate our lives do not necessarily have our best interests in mind.
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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Joe Omundson

self love, self fear

Something I have said before: the opposite of love is not hate, but fear. If we truly fear something we will not be able to love it. When we live without fear we do not hesitate to connect with the people we are drawn to. Pure love dispels fear.

For a while now I've recognized this pattern in our interactions with the world around us, but more recently I've realized the same concept is true when applied to our internal lives. Self-fear and self-love are incompatible.

Fear of self, at least by one definition, is called autophobia.

We are often afraid of certain aspects of ourselves. Maybe it is a similarity to a negative role model, embarrassment over certain feelings, an undesired bodily trait, or a primal urge we wish we didn't have. Maybe it's an exceptional talent, a huge capacity for love, a strong sense of empathy, or passionate anger towards some injustice.

When we fear these parts of ourselves, being faced with them is uncomfortable so we self-distract in many different ways. We live in denial and project these traits onto other people. We isolate ourselves, or avoid isolation at all costs. We strive to fill our perceived emptiness in order to feel OK, with material gain, addictions, social status, or any number of other vices. We perceive life as a struggle, something inherently painful and confusing, and decide that this experience is what's normal. True fulfillment is a fantasy we don't expect to achieve. Many people develop mental illness and dysfunctional patterns.  These are coping mechanisms. Our fear is buried deep inside us and it feels like an inbuilt part of our personal topography, and the coping mechanisms come to feel natural too.

We don't know if other people are feeling the same way or if we are alone in our despair... because we are too afraid to talk about it in the first place. We hide our pain, our longing for connection, our hopelessness. These are taboo. Many of us don't know what we truly want or how to get it. We don't understand where we hurt or why. We feel trapped in what our lives have become, in what other people tell us should make us fulfilled, in the expectations others have of us.

But it doesn't always have to be that way. The root of all this is our autophobia. Fear is inhibiting love again, in this case self love; knowing, accepting, valuing, and caring for ourselves. It leads to a numbing internal blindness which skews all of our interactions.

What would happen if instead of fearing ourselves, we loved ourselves exactly how we are? If we smiled at our problems with the knowledge that everyone has them, and working through them is a normal part of life? If instead of fighting ourselves, we let whatever is inside come to light? If your answer to that question is that something terrible would happen -- notice that! That's the fear I'm talking about.

Here is what I think we can do: let's work towards not being afraid of any part of ourselves. Our unlimited potential for growth, our darkest thoughts, our most secret sexual urges, our out-of-control habits. Let's learn about ourselves and accept that we are who we are in this moment. It is what it is. If we live in constant hiding from our own reality, we are missing perhaps the most important part of being alive. We live with an illusion of who we are rather than a lucid understanding.

Let's allow this process to happen apart from any attempt to change ourselves. There's time for that later.

When we know and understand ourselves, we can start to untangle the ways we've been woven together. We recognize what is our true nature and what has been artificially adopted due to social pressure. We figure out which things in ourselves are necessary to part ways with, and which things we need to learn to embrace. Often, it's simply understanding ourselves which naturally leads to change. The change that happens is then in line with reality, it's organic and productive. When we try to change ourselves by forcing our external actions and the only motivation is to conform to society's expectations, it's never sustainable. Real change is more integral than that and even if it does require regimented action, it's motivated from within rather than by a desire to appear a certain way for others; and that gives us the energy that is required to follow through.

Getting to know ourselves is a great goal, but how can we do this practically? I have some thoughts on that but I'll save them for a future post. (EDIT: that post is here)
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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Joe Omundson

Portland to Moab

Yesterday I arrived back in Moab to finish my 5-week journey. There are so damn many things I could write about right now! For this post I'll mostly narrate my travels and then maybe after that I'll have some more philosophical things to write about.

At the end of my last post I had arrived in my friend's basement room after a long day of hitching. I barely left that room for the next 4-5 days, and it was perfect. I rested my knee which I had injured on the hike and took it really easy. I guess I needed a few days alone indoors to settle down after my travels. Many thanks to my friend Krystle for her unwavering generosity in spite of the fact that I made her womancave basement smell like hikertrash, farts, and weed (OK maybe that list is a bit redundant).

Eventually, it was time for me to be on my way. I met up with my great aunt and we had a nice lunch together. She took me to my mom's house, where I spent the night, and met my newest cousin (2 years old) for the first time -- their family was visiting from California.

Hmm -- I'm noticing that I want the story to feel "complete" so I'm tempted to narrate every thing that happened, but for most readers it's probably not very interesting to read about me catching up with my friends and family, even though to me it was a great part of my trip. So I will focus on the hitchhiking parts. In summary, after seeing my mom & family, I went to Corvallis and Bend to visit some friends.

I didn't need to hitch on the way to Corvallis, I got a ride with family to Salem and then my friends picked me up there. I spent one night at my friends' house, who were again quite generous with food, drink, and entertainment. In the morning, one of their roommates kindly drove me the 15 miles to the junction of hwy 34 and I-5 so I could start hitching toward Bend from there.

My plan was to take hwy 34 & 20 straight to Bend. So I got to a good spot on the east side of I-5 and started putting out my thumb. Eventually the oldest-looking car I'd seen in an hour stopped for me, and I got in. When I told him I was trying to get to Bend, the driver informed me that it was completely closed due to a landslide, and I'd have to detour up through Salem. Bummer! That meant a more complicated route with more rides to hitch. But I was glad I found out as soon as I did. After a couple hundred yards he pulled over and let me out. I thanked him and started walking back to I-5.

Something interesting about Oregon is that it's the only state I've hitchhiked in where it is legal to walk along the side of the interstate and solicit a ride; normally I'm restricted to onramps or highway shoulders. I thought I'd try this new freedom and so I started walking down the onramp to get to the freeway. As I was walking past the merging lanes to get to a safe spot to wait, I held out my left thumb, and someone stopped for me. Well, that was easy! I walked up to his car, and as I was opening the door and noticing the strong weed odor pouring out, I heard a voice that sounded like it was coming through a radio -- "are you just hitching a ride?" At first I thought it was inside the car, but then I heard it again and looked around; a cop had pulled up behind us and was talking to me over the loudspeaker. I indicated that, yes, I was just hitching a ride (I wonder what else he thought we might be doing?), and he said "OK, good luck" and drove off.

Some people might have been sketched out by the weed-smelling car, but I could tell the driver was a harmless type of stoner who would have probably been less capable to drive while sober because he's always high. I wouldn't want to ride with a drunk driver but stoned drivers are more tolerable for me. So I got in. The guy was a grower from Eugene, making a delivery to a dispensary or something. He had buds sitting out on his dashboard and packed a pipe which we shared. When it was cached, he cleared out the ashes by turning the pipe upside down and knocking it on the gearshift (or whatever the equivalent in an automatic is called), and packed a different strain. He was from Eugene and I don't remember much of what we talked about. Conveniently, he was taking the same exit I needed to get on hwy 22.

My next ride came from a gal who was on her way to work. She drove me maybe 15 minutes east. She was very sweet, kind of quiet, but would laugh in this really adorable way at certain things. I felt like we could have been friends. She confided that she'd been off meth for 8 months, and because she'd been stuck for several months in a bad situation in California at one point in her life, she knew what it was like to need a ride somewhere. I felt so privileged to have had the opportunity to see her kind graciousness and her painful past at the same time. She was 100% real with me.

That's a beautiful thing about hitchhiking: because we both know our encounter is of a short duration and we will never see each other again, it creates a certain kind of safe space to talk about personal issues. Not everyone wants to go there, but sometimes people open up about their lives in ways that they probably wouldn't tell most of their friends. I don't mean to inflate my sense of self-importance, but sometimes I feel like when I hitchhike I am offering a spontaneous, unconventional form of therapy. I listen without judgment. I hold space for people to talk about what's hard. I share honestly from my own experience. Sometimes we just sit silently. And, always, I express my deep gratitude for their willingness to stop and give me a ride, which is easy to do because I feel it so strongly. When they offer to go above and beyond, by offering me a ride that's out of their way or giving me food or money, I make it clear that I absolutely don't expect anything like that but if they insist, I accept enthusiastically. I believe generosity is a form of therapy that benefits the giver, and it is much more rewarding to give to someone who is appreciative than to someone who feels guilty for receiving and turns down offers.

Of course, I am not a therapist and indeed it goes both ways. Many of the people who pick me up are in fact helping to heal my heart and it makes me feel warm. There are some very kind and generous folks out there.

My next ride was one of the more sketchy ones I've had. When he pulled up in his beater pickup truck, I tried to open the door but it was locked. He made a motion like "go ahead, just open the door." I tried again... definitely locked. Finally he leaned over and fumbled with pulling up the latch. I thought he seemed a bit drunk, and he likely was. I thought, "this is probably one of those times where it might be wise to make an excuse and turn down the ride." But I was a bit slow to decide. I ended up getting in. I'm still not sure if it was truly a bad idea to ride with him and I need to become more firm about turning down rides, or if my deepest instinct was actually that he was safe despite the feeling that he might have been drinking. The truck was loud, and the guy rambled and told stories the whole time I rode with him (mostly about previous DUIs), which was fortunately maybe only 15 minutes. I couldn't quite understand everything he said but fortunately he was the kind of guy who didn't really notice if I was reacting appropriately. The funny thing is, he actually drove very well, never swerved at all or did anything that felt unsafe. In his rambles he said a couple things that I thought were actually pretty insightful, about money and happiness. In the end I liked him.

The next time I got picked up was by a couple, which was a first for me. I kept hearing a chirping sound and was confused... were they listening to an audio recording of bird sounds? No, that would be weird. Then I realized the gal driving had a baby chick sitting on her shoulder. They'd picked it up in town when they went to the store. They were driving about 20 miles to Detroit, where they would drop me off and head to Breitenbush hot springs where they worked. But then they started playing my favorite Blackbird Raum album and we got to talking about that, and not long after that they decided to drive me all the way to Bend! It was 80 miles past their destination. We stopped at Breitenbush first to drop off the bird, then continued on to Bend, where they dropped me off right at my friends' place. So that was cool. They wanted to go to Bend anyway to check the dumpsters of some outdoor gear stores, which apparently will sometimes throw away decent gear if it's been returned and can't be sold. I liked these two, I felt they had a very respectful dynamic between them, which isn't always common. The guy was also pretty negative about certain things, and only had bad things to say about the place they were working. I kind of understand that mindset and it seemed like it stemmed from a desire for true equality and authenticity, but still, it would have been a little hard for me to be around him for an extended period of time.

So, I made it to Bend that day in pretty reasonable time, considering the detour I had to make. I stayed there 2 nights and enjoyed catching up with good friends. We went rock hounding and out to a concert. Though I don't see my friends as much as I'd like, one cool thing is seeing how their lives progress in intervals of several months at a time. One of the friends I visited is someone I had a huge crush on from hiking the PCT and it was kind of hard to go through the process of having those feelings reawakened and letting them go again. It's all just a learning process I guess.

The next morning, I started hitching at about 9:30 after my friend drove me to the highway. Bend had been my last planned stop. Now I was free to get to Moab however I could manage. My plan was to stay on hwy 20 all the way to Ontario and then take I-84 down the same way I'd come up. But... this didn't quite work out. I hitched until 1:00, and 3 people pulled over, but all of them were going a different way, turning off the highway in just a couple miles. I turned them all down in hopes of finding someone who was going farther along the 20. I got tired so I went off the road a ways to relax for about an hour. When I got back to the road, I decided to be more flexible if the next person wasn't going exactly my planned route. So at 2:15 I finally accepted a ride with a guy who was going to Prineville.

He had a pretty interesting story, he worked in a fire lookout tower for several months every year. He had just been up there alone for 21 days and was coming down to town for 2 nights. I picked his brain about that job, since I've considered doing it myself, and he said he could probably help me get a job in a tower near there if I emailed him in a few months. He took a slightly wrong turn which ended up being OK except we had to wait maybe 20 minutes for some road construction. We were pretty like-minded in our views on lifestyle and religion, and I enjoyed his somewhat eccentric enthusiasm. He dropped me off at the eastern edge of Prineville and went back into town; I hitched for another 2 or 3 hours with no luck. I could tell the vibe was much more rural and redneck-y. It seemed like most of the women who drove by were afraid even to look at me, and some of the men jeered or did weird things as they passed by. Eventually the sun got low and I started to think about where I could sleep. I looked at google maps and decided to walk about 3 miles to an area that looked possible. I walked past irrigation ditches, fields full of grasses and cows, farmhouses. Eventually I made it to my spot and made my bed on the ground without bothering to set up my tent -- it looked unlikely to rain, and the tent would have been more likely to attract attention from the highway which was still in view. The sunset was beautiful. It got sort of cold overnight but I was OK.

In the morning I walked 1 more mile to get to a lake where there was a big pullout spot, the best hitching option I could see on the map. I filled my water containers from the lake and started hitching. After about an hour with no luck, a vehicle pulled in and it was my same buddy from yesterday! He was heading up to the tower for another few weeks, which meant he could take me maybe 15 miles down the road. He went a few miles past his turnoff to get me to a spot with an adequate shoulder and dropped me off.

The first car that came down the highway was traveling pretty fast, and seemed unlikely to pull over, but I tried anyway and they slammed on their brakes to pick me up. As I would find out later, the only reason this guy encountered me at all is because he'd taken a wrong turn earlier in the morning and driven 25 miles west instead of east. When he realized his mistake, he turned around, and there I was. He wanted to get breakfast/lunch at a cafe in John Day and he bought me a burger too. He was an athletic 24 year old guy who was wise beyond his years. It turned out he was driving all the way to Las Vegas that day, and I ended up riding with him the whole way. We took the small highways as much as possible and I got to revisit a lot of the same route I took on a roadtrip earlier this year. We almost ran out of gas once. It was an awesome ride. 13 hours in a car with a stranger is not guaranteed to be a fun or comfortable experience, but we had a lot in common, found some good conversation topics, listened to a funny/interesting audiobook, and became friends. He was doing a project where he takes 1 photo of people he encounters on his journey and does a quick audio interview to go along with it, so that was fun. When I got out of the car I just started laughing because it was so warm... almost midnight and probably at least 75 degrees. It felt awesome.

I've been working on some of my hitchhiking skills, including knowing how to get dropped off at the best place to catch the next ride. So before we got there I located an onramp to I-15 N (the freeway I'd need to take to get to Utah) which had enough of a shoulder to hitch, and also had some deserted land nearby where I could spend the night. It worked out great. I easily found a safe place to camp, and in the morning I walked to the onramp.

It took almost 2 hours to get a ride. It feels like people in Vegas are a bit jaded and wary; I had a hard time even getting a wave from most people. I was actually expecting to be standing there for 4+ hours so I was quite pleased to have a ride that fast. It was a mom with 4 kids in a minivan. She had passed me once, and I remembered her being one of the few who smiled and waved back; she said she felt like the universe was telling her she had to come back and give me a ride, so she did. They were on their way to family reunion. She was only traveling about 15 minutes up the freeway before her exit, but I was very grateful because she took me to a Love's travel stop and from there I would have a much easier time. As she was dropping me off, she asked if I had money for food, and I replied that I had plenty of food but no money. She gave me $10! That was a first. What a rad lady. If I ever have kids, I want to have them with someone who picks up hitchhikers with our kids in the car. So many people default to fear and distrust, but fear is the opposite of love and I am always so encouraged when someone in a socially-perceived "vulnerable" position decides to love instead of fear me. Because I'm super harmless! At the same time, I do understand why women in general might be more hesitant to pick up a male hitchhiker and I totally don't blame them for that because I think it's not their fault that men have proven untrustworthy in their lives.

And what a relief to get this ride, because it was getting hot. I decided to try a strategy I had not tried before: sitting at the exit of the travel stop with my "MOAB" sign. I've always been standing before, and always at an onramp or a shoulder. But this was too good not to try it. I was ready to be patient and find someone going a good chunk of the distance I needed. There was a wonderful shady tree over my head, and it would provide good shade for several more hours. Hell, I could chill there all day if I had to. A guy in a van stopped, and he wasn't offering a ride but he had placed some food and $6 in a plastic bag which he gave me! I went in to the Subway and got a sandwich. Spirits were high and I felt confident.

Soon, a guy stopped and asked where I was going (maybe he missed my sign). He was going to Denver and would be driving within 30 miles of Moab. Score! I rode with him for several hours. We didn't quite have the same effortless conversation but it was still a pleasant and fast ride. He gave me ice water and a couple protein bars, and let me charge my phone. He'd been in California working for a month and was returning to his home in Illinois. Both of his sons called while we were driving and he had them on speaker phone, and that was really cute.

Now I was really in the home stretch. 30 miles to Moab. I waited 20-30 minutes and then I got picked up by a married couple. One is a mining engineer and the other has started a catering business. Interestingly, both times I got picked up by a couple, they were of mixed ethnicity and the woman was driving. Other than the Latino guy who picked me up in Washington, these were the only times a non-white person gave me a ride. I quite enjoyed these two as well and they are living in Moab pretty close to where I live.

They dropped me off a block from my home and I walked there with a big grin on my face. I fucking made it! Hitching all the way to OR/WA and back, 5 weeks of travel starting with $200! (I received another $200 during my trip as a loan repayment, so my budget was $80/week). I had believed it was possible but now I knew for sure. This was easily one of my favorite months of traveling I've ever done.

Something about hitchhiking is just perfect for me. I find it rewarding in the same way some people enjoy fishing: it's unpredictable, sometimes you have no luck and you feel like you're wasting your time and it's a bummer, you're getting sunburned and your arm is tired. But then a surprise happens when you least expect it and suddenly things are awesome again. I like the unpredictability, the chance to interact with a stranger in a mysteriously intimate way, and it's a hell of a lot easier than walking! I get to be a passenger and really soak in the scenery instead of staring at the road. The slight risk involved keeps it from getting too boring. I like the chance to engage in therapy like I was talking about before. I like how it puts me in a position where my role is simply to accept and appreciate whoever this person is... it's a good opportunity to learn something new and gain a different perspective. Humanity is just so complex and it really highlights how even the "bad people" have good qualities and vice versa.

And, it's just so interesting to do something that is not commonly done. It feels like a chance to get people to think. I am effectively saying to each person who drives by, "I could trust you. I would ride in your car. Will you help? You have a choice to pick me up or not." I think it makes some people uncomfortable to have that option and I hope it provokes introspection. Another thing is, it provides me with the experience of being an "undesirable citizen". Of course it probably says a lot about my level of privilege if putting myself in that position is something of a novelty or something I would pursue... and I'm still wrestling with those thoughts. Only a young, secure, white male would need to hitchhike to gain the experience of being automatically looked down upon for his demographic. And it still wasn't that severe. But it gives me an idea how hard it is when people are constantly looking at you like, "what are you doing here?" I see their fear, contempt, superiority, indifference. I understand a little bit better how it must feel to be a member of the homeless class of society. Even with relatively strong self esteem and mental health, it got to me sometimes. I felt angry and frustrated at the middle and upper class people for callously refusing to help a fellow human being standing by the side of the road in the hot sun, while they comfortably zoom wherever they're going in their empty car with an ice cream cone and a bored look on their face. But, it was a good lesson in maintaining my own balance even when faced with the rejection of hundreds of people. By the end I started to realize it was easier just to wave at them and let it go, instead of becoming bitter and cynical. And in the end staying positive actually helps me get a ride -- somehow I doubt the mom with 4 kids would have circled around to pick me up if we had not waved and smiled at each other the first time.

It feels good to be back in Moab. This is really a special place. I have some processing to do, decisions to make. I won't try to do that here and now. It's nice having my laptop again so I can write faster.
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