Tag Archives: life

In a Van, Down by the River

14 Sep

When I went home for a Californian summer before moving to Australia I tried to explain the concept of living out of a van with my boyfriend to my friends and family. Most people looked at me with horror and asked, “But, how do you shower?!” or “What if you have to go to the bathroom?!”

Others quoted Chris Farley’s famous Saturday Night Live skit where he plays Matt Foley, the 35-year-old motivational speaker who tries to scare kids straight by telling them they could end up like him, “living in a van, down by the river.” I had to laugh to myself when within days of arriving in Australia, that was my exact living situation.

After a day in Brisbane, we started the trip in Minnie Water, NSW, where we discovered a gorgeous beach with clear water, surrounding headlands and not a person in site. We tanned naked and felt as though we’d washed ashore to our own private island. It was pure bliss. Fortunately, time was on our side because after we climbed the wooden steps to the top of the beach access for lunch, car after car drove up and our “private” beach wasn’t so private anymore.

The next morning we had a medical emergency and left our perfect camp spot to drive an hour to the nearest town and find a doctor. We ended up in a quaint little place called Grafton and after the emergency was sorted we decided to make use of our unexpected gas consumption and explore our new surroundings.

Once  it was dark we searched for a place to camp and found a park right on the banks of the Clarence River. We parked next to the public gazebo and made dinner in the picnic area with our portable gas stove. We had free power, free running water, a kitchen, and bathrooms within walking distance, so the fact that overnight camping wasn’t allowed wasn’t much of a deterrent. 

The next morning as we watched the sunrise over the river from the open “boot”, we knew we couldn’t leave. It was the local watering hole and a town favorite picnic spot. Over the course of the next three days locals parked all around us and launched their boats or set up their lawn chairs for lunch and beers while the kids splashed around in the water. Every few hours we had new guests join us under the gazebo for tea, breakfast or lunch. When we got to know some of them we’d tell them how we’d been camping there. They’d reply with, “Is that right? Good on ya!” and we’d tell them how we’d been taking our showers in the river.

On the second night, Matt and I fell asleep early since we’d been waking up for sunrise nearly every morning. We had the trunk of the car wide open, facing the river and just as I was dozing off a security guard woke me up to let me know if we didn’t leave now they were going to lock the gates and we wouldn’t be able to get out until they opened at 5a.m. In my haze I told him that was okay, we’re sleeping here and he just nodded and left.

This is what I love about Australia. The rural small towns, the slow pace, the natural beauty, the wildlife and the lack of crowds. Everyone seems to understand what we’re doing here. They’ve either done it before or wish they could. Most want to hear what we’ve done and where we’re going and they give us inside tips about the best beaches or places to find jobs, but a few look at us like we’re the dregs of society. I feel sorry for those people. I wonder if they’ve ever made love on a beach in broad daylight or if they’ve watched the sun rise over the ocean, with sand between their toes. I wonder if they really appreciate their daily hot showers, washer machines and microwaves or if it’s all become background.

This lifestyle isn’t for everyone and at times I’m shocked that I’m so okay with it being mine. I laugh when we do come across the people who think we’re a couple of strange hippies but, to me this is living and I feel more alive than I ever did in Orange County. Every day is a challenge because we don’t know where we’re going to sleep that night or when our next proper shower will be. But the freedom that comes with this lifestyle isn’t something you can put a price on and it’s not something I can fully explain. So though I spent several days “living in a van, down by the river” it wasn’t a low point in my life as it comically was for Chris Farley’s character.  It was a high one.

Letters to C: Home

15 Aug

July 3rd, 2012

C,

I’m on my way to Arizona, to stay at my parents’ lake house for the 4th with Kat and Lluvia. Last week I took 4 flights, saw 8 cities and have been slowly reacquainting myself with California.

I went to Napa for my mom’s 50th birthday then hung out with Kat in SF and Santa Cruz and did the drive down the coast to her beach house in Huntington, where we stayed last night. And now I’m heading to Arizona…

I live a charmed and blessed life and believe me I’m taking full advantage of my time back here, soaking in this beautiful place before I leave it all again.

It feels so strange to be “home”. What is home when a part of you feels like you don’t fully belong anywhere? Or that you’ve outgrown the places you did? I love this state, I love my friends and family but I see this place for what it is and what it does to me.

I’ve been so fulfilled with my “hippie life” where I’m living out of the van and I don’t know when the money will run out or if I’ll have work. The stresses are there but they’re over real things. It was pure.

Now, in the states, I’m anxious. My chest is tight and I’m insecure about my looks. I care how I dress or what I say and how I say it. It’s like the environment here causes me to doubt myself and all the gossip I keep hearing from everyone just reminds me of how I’m constantly being judged.

It’s a really strange feeling and I’m worried all the growth I’ve done is going to unravel in my few short weeks here. I see myself slipping into the habits I’ve happily rid myself of. It worries me a bit.

These are the people I know and love and this my home country, but now I feel like I don’t belong or that it’s best for me not to belong. I guess what I’m saying is I think I’m making the right decision by moving to Oz and I think you did by moving to NYC.

Take Care,

Alex

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