Practicality of my plan (RE: Ray) from Jeremy
I received these two questions in an email from a man named Ray in regards to my plan to travel the country and basically gather fodder for writing. These are those questions:
1. What do you have to offer those you are seeking to understand? You’ll listen and not judge, which is great - but you’re still asking for the commitment of another’s time. What do they get out of it?
2. I love the idea of traveling on a dime - but where do those dimes come from? Do you have savings? Or do you take a stab at picking up minimum wage jobs? Will those cover your housing?
The following is my reply:
Well, Ray, it seems to me that most people are more than willing to engage in conversation. They like providing their input because, well, they like being listened to. People like to know that what they think matters and listening someone listening provides them with that. Of coarse not all people are comfortable talking; not all people have time to spare. But I still think that most people like to talk, give their advice, give their opinions. A good conversation is in itself a reward. I’ll quote a song from the Avett Brothers to illustrate my point: “Aint it like most people, I’m no different// We love to talk on things we don’t know about.” And if that’s true, which I believe it is, how much more do people love to “talk on things” they DO know about. When people talk about their lives they offer experiences, opinions, and stories and I think those things are valuable.
As for your second question, practicality, I do have some savings and I have a car that I bought with my own money which is paid for. Think about this: how much of the money that you make goes for the basic necessities of food and shelter? Now how much of that goes to things that are not necessities? For the price of what someone might spend on a car payment, car insurance, cable/phone/internet package, and a cell phone with unlimited data and texting, (Roughly 800/mo total) I could easily provide myself with basic necessities in a fixed place. However, the internet has made things a lot easier for the modern day vagabond. Websites like couchsurfing.org make shelter for the night basically a non-expense. City parks of small towns often provide free camping. Even for state campgrounds you can easily come in after the ranger leaves for the day and leave before the ranger returns in the morning and not have to pay for camping. Companies like Mega Bus offer $1 tickets to the first person to reserve a seat on a bus and $5 tickets are not abnormal either.
The reasons that most people do not opt to travel on a dime are these:
1. They have other bills to pay aside from their basic needs like rent/ mortgage, car, insurance, loans, credit cards, phone, tv, internet, gym membership, netflix, gas, miscellaneous monthly subscriptions, etc… So they can’t afford not to work because whether they use those things or not, they still have to be paid for.
2. They have an obligation to someone else like a spouse or their family.
3. They have become accustomed to a certain living standard and are unwilling to leave it.
4. They are afraid of the unknown.
Travel can be quite cheap in the US if you have more time than money. You can get to just about any state west of the Mississippi with 4 buses or fewer. That means that you can get to any of those places for anywhere between 5 and 30 dollars if you have the right mixture of planning and patience. The cheapest way to travel from there is to bring with you a collapsible bicycle or a pair of rollerblades. Armed with this, a tent and a nearby public library where you can either schedule a couch to surf on or find a nearby campsite, your only expenses become food and bus fare. Another thing to consider is this. With this unconventional method of travel, think of how many people you can be exposed to. Riding the bus, waiting at a transit station for hours, campgrounds, couch surfing, spending your time in free public places… You become exposed to many more people during a week than most people ever do working a full time job. Most people see whoever they live with, work with, and drink with and that’s about it. Their circle of people they see on the regular is probably fewer than 20. Of coarse the life of a perpetual traveler is something that would grow exhausting and I probably wouldn’t be able to sustain it for forever, but it is something that, as an aspiring writer, I think would be a treasure trove of characters and stories.
Sorry, I got a little off topic there, but what can I say, I love to talk and think and plan and write… so there’s a little bit of everything in this response. Hope you don’t mind! – Jeremy