In the past few months, and in one case over a year, I've met some fascinating women -- all Buddhists, although that may not be relevant -- who are what I guess can be called true 'free spirits'. By that I mean that they don't have permanent domeciles, but roam the country and/or world at will. Yet, they are far from homeless. Their ages vary -- some are quite young, early twenties, others I'd guess to be in their 40's. Their stories are all different, but the lack of domecile and nomadic life ties them together.
When I was in California at the hermitage I met several of these who really stand out in my mind. Two were older, one younger. One of the older ones caught my attention the most, because everything she owned was in her backpack, including a tarp that she used as a tent. She was not new to this game -- had been roaming for 20 years or so, as I recall. She'd come to this location for an annual moonlight kayaking event, had stayed over at the hermitage for a week or so, paying her way with work. She was flying off somewhere else afterward. She'd lived on the lava beaches in Hawaii, spent time in Mexico and places I can't remember. Stayed with friends or in her little tent, or did some housesitting. She was signed up with some housesitting registry. She's probably had paid work from time to time if she's stayed someplace for awhile, but no real job. The thing I wondered the most, but didn't ask, was where she got the money for the plane fare when she traveled. That's still a mystery. She wasn't rich -- or showed no signs of wealth, anyway. Not a trust-fund baby. But she was happy. Cheerful all the time, willing to do anything asked of her.
Another was newer at the game, also one of the older ones. She'd sold everything she owned and quit her job in San Francisco maybe 6 months previously, determined to 'go forth' in the Buddhist sense, but without ordaining. She'd spent some time at a place near San Francisco -- don't think that was Buddhist, but some eastern spiritual practice. Had spent 3 months at the IMS in Barre, MA prior to the hermitage, where she was staying, I believe, for 2 months. She at least had a car, but no home, although she did have friends she could stay with between gigs. She was scheduled to go to Nepal, I think it was, accompanying a nun. She didn't have money -- was upfront about it. Didn't know how it was all going to work, but trusting that it would. And so far, it had. She too, was happy and smiling all the time.
The third was a young woman who'd spent her time after college going mostly to Goenka centers in Europe and the west coast, had ended up at the hermitage doing mostly cooking, but also various other duties. She lived in a big tent that she'd set up in a clearing on the edge of a cliff, on the land, with a great view. She left after about 6 months and went to spend some time with her family then struck out, last I heard, to work on an organic farm. Another happy, smiling person.
Then in September at the Goenka center I met a couple of other young people -- a man and a woman -- who also spent lots of time at various Goenka centers, where volunteers are always welcome and needed for preparing meals during the retreats. He was a gifted cook, she could do anything. Both had great attitudes. She was going on to Chicago, I think it was -- maybe Detroit -- to work with some non-profit group for awhile. Two more happy, smiling people.
Young people like this generally have families to help, whether financially or as a home base, or both. By the time we reach our 40's and beyond, that's not as likely to be the case, if we have family at all.
Over a year ago when I was at Bhavana for the first time, I met a resident who I'd guess to be in her 40s who was also something of a free spirit, with no real home base. She'd spent many years in Alaska, and while I don't know her whole story, at the time I met her she'd been a resident at Bhavana on and off for a year or two, tended to spend her winters in Florida where she taught yoga, mostly to seniors. She's also a writer and gets some income from that. She's been in Florida for over a year now, even has a home base, although it's temporary.
If you're wondering where I'm going with all this, I find a real kindred spirit with all of these women and their many counterparts. It's what I think I should have done much, much earlier in my life had I known it was possible. I've roamed the responsible -- or at least semi-responsible -- way, always having an apartment, furnishings, and a job. There is that in me that wants to do it now, and yet it seems absurd at my age. I would be very happy to pack a few belongings and my computer into my car, and take off, footloose and fancy-free. No home base, nothing to suck up money and tie me down. There are enough Buddhist centers where I could stay and work for varying time periods. But, so far, I'm chicken. I want to do it, but I'm not quite sure I'd like it and then where would I be? I'd like the roaming part, no doubt, and there is a network out there of people who do this and know the ins and outs. Maybe after a year or so of happily making this work in this country I'd be willing to sell my car and try other countries -- Asia, housesitting in Mexico, etc. The opportunities are there -- but what a leap of faith!
I guess the worst that could happen is that I'd end up in some senior housing somewhere, which is probably what I'll do anyway. So why not have some fun in between? And if I'm going to do that, I'd either have to store all this stuff, or buy new [used] stuff wherever I end up. I'm not attached to any of this stuff, would happily let most of it go. There's a new life waiting out there, somewhere. All I need to do is let go and trust, and see where it leads me.
A work in progress
4 months ago