Moments of Clarity Are Not Answers began in November 2010 as a space for me to share some fragments of my journey. I hit the road on September 18th 2010, a few months after graduating from college, and lived as a nomad for two years, traveling by car, bus, train, foot, and thumb with a pack and a guitar and rarely more than a few dollars in my pocket, guided by intuition, dependent upon providence, wandering aimfully, adrift in the world and rooted within myself. Following my time on the road, I continued to experiment with creative ways of living, always in search of a conscious path true to my own self and my commitment to my development as an artist and activist. I’ve explored themes such as discipline & spontaneity, community & solitude, wanderlust & home, the nature of society, non-dependence on money, faith & prayer, beauty & gratitude, the relationship between art & life, etc. Over the course of my journey I’ve maintained this blog (though at times sporadically) in order to honor, through writing, some of what I’ve had the privilege to experience; I, like all artists, hope that by sharing my work, I may somehow contribute to the world here and there a shard or two of beauty.
Summary of the Journey
For a long time I had known the longing to wander. I graduated from college with the usual fears and uncertainties. I admired the people I knew who had made semi-seamless transitions into meaningful professional careers, but those people seemed to be the exceptions rather than the norm. Everybody seemed so intent on polishing resumes and taking internships and lining up interviews for jobs they didn’t find particular interesting anyway out of some vague sense that those were the things they were supposed to do. Yet what about dreams and longings, inner and outer exploration, tasting the thin edge of life and seeking a raw experience of being human? I knew so many people who felt so empty. I felt empty just thinking about it: spend the majority of my waking hours toiling away at something I’d rather not do just so that I could afford a place to go home to and sleep in order to wake up and return to my job? There had to be another way to live.
Immediately after graduating from the University of Miami, I spent a couple weeks with my family in the DC area, and then I moved out to a cabin in the mountains of northern California to spend a few months writing, meditating, camping, and reflecting on what I wanted to do. This period of relative solitude became a transition from the known into the unknown, and I plunged ahead with the conviction of the ignorant. Miami and my college friends had felt like home, and I severed those ties a bit too hastily because I had thought that was the necessary thing in order to be truly free. Then I panicked. Just as I took the leap, I faltered, and all of a sudden I no longer wanted to travel, to be on my own, to explore this strange idea of freedom I’d been developing—I just wanted to go home. But it was too late.
So, lonely and homesick, I walked out the front door of the cabin and attempted to hitchhike across the country back to Miami in search of some vestige of an old home. I didn’t bring any gear or maps and I didn’t know anything thing about how to actually pull off the trip. On my second night out, I wound up getting myself dropped off in a terrible and remote place and I was stuck outside in temperatures that dropped to nearly freezing. I had to build a fire and crouch next to the flames for hours and hours until the warmth of morning returned.
Long waits between rides and a splitting headache fed my feeling of despair. On day three, I was ready to give up, only there was no way out except to continue. I finally made it to Flagstaff, Arizona, and by chance a girl I randomly met on the street bought me a bus ticket most of the way across the country to New Orleans. A few days later I arrived in Miami, dirty and exhausted and in search of something that was now only a beautiful memory. Of course, I didn’t find what I was looking for. A month later I was in New York City and Boston, and after a few good conversations with old friends, the idea for this blog was conceived. In Washington, D.C. I picked up the old car I had driven at school, and then I began heading west back to California just to pick up the stuff I’d left out there. It was somewhere among the bales of hay across Nebraska that I realized I was on the road.
On my way down the coast of California, I tried to slow down and settle into what I was doing. This is what you always wanted, I reminded myself. In Monterey I sat by the sea for a long time, watching red dusk settle over the Pacific, and I took stock of my situation. I was alone and I was terrified. But I had a car, nearly everything I owned packed inside, and a little bit of money. I had no plan, no destination, no obligations or commitments, and I could go anywhere and do anything. I tell you this all simply to highlight the fact that taking the leap was a very scary period of time for me. This was not easy. But it was one of the most powerful things I’d ever done, and a great feeling of freedom did come. But the freedom did not come from severing ties with my old life and hitting the road; it came from plunging headlong into my fears and surviving.
I met a Belgian guy who was bicycling from Vancouver to San Diego, and we traveled down the coast together for a few days. Then I began making other friends, playing music on the street, taking time for myself to watch the sun fall into the sea. I had some good conversations with old friends who knew me, and I spent New Years in the Joshua Tree desert of south central California, meditating and fasting and considering the old idea that a person might be able to feel at home in the world. I zigzagged back to the ocean in San Diego, and then I plunged into the southwest and began to head east across the country. I needed to actually learn how to do this, I realized, because I was going to run out of money soon.
I’d always had a strong aversion to money. What bothered me wasn’t having it; what bothered me was the idea that not having it should somehow be a limitation. I’d encountered enough inspiring quotes and movies and books and blogs to believe that it must be possible to travel without money, but I had no idea how to actually do it. I wanted to, though. I wanted to prove to myself that it didn’t matter if I had $5,000 in a savings account or $5 in my pocket—if I wanted to travel, then I could travel, sustainably and indefinitely. So I began learning how.
My first free meal came from a girl at Domino’s. I walked in around noon, told her that I was traveling through, and asked if she had any burned pizzas or messed up orders that she was planning to throw away. She told me to come back around 5. I came back at 5, and she took one look at me and called into the kitchen, “hey, throw in a large pepperoni!” She just smiled and gave me the pizza.
In the following months I read a lot of blogs, I learned a lot from other travelers I met along the way, but mostly I just experimented. I learned which restaurants and coffee shops would give away food and which ones had corporate policies forbidding it. I learned how to dumpster dive and salvage fresh healthy foods that would have otherwise gone to waste. I learned how to find safe places to set up camp in unfamiliar cities. I learned how to fly a sign and how to busk and make money with a guitar. I learned how to get information about free food and stealth camping from street people in new places, how to fill up a tank of gas for free, and later, how to safely and efficiently hitchhike over long distances. I learned that it was impossible to go hungry: that the things we need will come to us. I began to understand that people want to help each other. But we are all so isolated from each other to the point that we have forgotten how. Sometimes all you have to do is ask. Clear messages are best. When you put “Current Needs: New Journal, Pens, Clean Socks, Lunch” on a piece of cardboard and sit in front of a store, it’s amazing how people react, how quickly they rush inside and emerge proudly holding out a spiral notebook and maybe even extending an invitation to spend the night on their couch. I learned that starvation is a spiritual condition too, and that we are starving for the opportunity to be generous. So I learned how to accept things and allow other people the opportunity to give, and whenever I had food or extra supplies, I would share it all with other travelers and homeless people. I learned how to make eye contact; in cities, nobody does it because it’s a sign of aggression; you assume other people are out to hurt you. Travelers sit on the sidewalk and make eye contact with everyone, because they assume people are going to help them. The things we believe are going to happen, happen. And that’s when I began to learn about manifesting: we have the power to attract into our lives whatever we choose. What we need will come. Not a day would go by that I’d be lacking. Once in Nashville I was walking down the street with a traveling girl and a minivan pulled up and rolled down the window—“hey, do you guys want some sandwiches?” I’d begin to get hungry and then realize I was walking under an apple tree. It got to the point where I’d have no idea where my next meal was coming from or when, but I knew that it would come, and soon enough. So I began to trust, to let go.
At first, living outside of the normal boundaries of the economic system was something I did out of logistical necessity. Then it became an interesting challenge. Then it became a spiritual practice. Then it became a radical political act. It was a little startling to realize that non-dependence on money has actually been criminalized in this country. Why are many dumpsters locked at night? Why is it mostly illegal to sleep outside and to stand on the side of freeways? These regulations are upheld in the name of public safety, yet it’s not illegal to gamble, smoke, drink, and do plenty of other things that are far more dangerous yet make somebody a lot of money. I started reading more and kept honing my skills as I traveled on through the south, back to Miami once more, and up the east coast to D.C., New York, Boston, and New Hampshire. Meanwhile, I continued to write, to explore the dynamic between travel and home, and to examine myself, to identify my fears and weaknesses and strive to confront them head on.
In the summer of 2011, I arrived in Boulder, Colorado and completely ran out of money for the first time. I had friends there, and I had vaguely intended to stay for some time, perhaps live a bit more traditionally for a little while. Instead, it suddenly became very clear that I was not really a part of society, but I was also not really living on the street. I was straddling some confusing line between the two cultures, and I felt out of place and alone. Old issues and struggles started to reemerge, and some serious existential homesickness began to grow. I also realized very quickly that surviving in one city without money was completely different than living on the road. Suddenly I didn’t feel like a penniless traveler anymore—I felt broke and homeless. Over the next month, the longest I’d spent anywhere since beginning the journey, I went through a crisis of faith, purpose, and identity. I was at my lowest point since leaving California nearly a year earlier, and I was just about ready to give up.
But then, one warm evening at a table outside a coffee shop, I overheard some people talking about the northern lights. Something stirred and ignited in me, and all of a sudden I knew exactly what to do: put everything I had been learning to use. It was time to go. So a few days later I left Boulder and embarked north. The five thousand mile journey to Alaska took me 30 days, and it felt like a culmination and celebration of everything I had been trying to do. Going to a faraway place tugged at the wanderlust that had filled me with longing long before I even started traveling, and being in an unfamiliar part of the world spurred me to meditate on home each night as I set up camp. One evening, on the way back down through British Columbia, I suddenly felt at home in my body—and I perceived for a moment that the sleeping bag was the home of my body, the tent was the home of my sleeping bag, the campsite was the home of my tent, this expedition to Alaska and back was the home of the campsite; the earth was the home of my journey.
I reconnected with an old travel companion in Vancouver, and together we journeyed down the west coast; we feasted from the trash cans of Pike Place Market in Seattle, wandered the streets of Portland, and cruised down the stormy gray Oregon Coast. I was at a Food Not Bombs feeding in Eugene when I first heard about Occupy Wall Street. I was immediately seized with a powerful passionate energy. I watched the videos of peaceful protesters being met with violence and brutality, and suddenly nothing mattered more to me than standing beside them. I continued down the coast to the Bay Area and then took flight across the country as fast as I could to New York. There, I joined the Occupy community in Zuccotti Park and I applied everything I’d learned about surviving on the road to surviving on the streets of New York as a full time activist. I spent four months there; I found my place in the Communications Hub, connecting people, organizing actions, marching in the streets, getting arrested, attending meetings, interfacing with local churches, and feeding people.
I left New York in the spring. I made a huge loop down through Florida, New Orleans, Mississippi, and Tennessee, working with other organizations and combining my travels with activism. I also focused heavily on writing. When summer arrived, I hitchhiked out towards Colorado again and from there embarked on a circuit of the Rockies, the Pacific Northwest, the west coast, and the western desert. This chunk of the journey quickly became about inner guidance. I had no plan and no route. It didn’t matter where I went; I still carried the same things with me. And the surrounding environment was almost irrelevant in comparison with the people I met, the sunsets I witnessed, the moments I shared. Once again, food and shelter came naturally. I manifested whatever I needed. My trust in the universe began to deepen; it wasn’t a huge leap from having faith in a coming meal to having faith that I was on the right path through the world. I trusted that if I listened to my heart closely enough, I would know what I needed to do.
Throughout the entire journey, this blog has been a home, a way to keep grounded. Yet during this summer, I began to question the role of writing in my life. I realized that I was identifying too strongly with the stories I was telling, and a few people challenged me to try letting go a bit more in my writing. As a result, many of the more recent pieces have been less about storytelling and more a direct funneling of emotion and memory onto the page.
And the journey goes on, as I continue to explore, question, grow, and cultivate my ability to express myself. I continue to wander aimfully, adrift in the world and rooted within myself.
This blog, Moments of Clarity Are Not Answers, is the record of this journey.