As 2009 draws to a close, Kate and I find ourselves in the desert of New Mexico taking a bit of a hiatus from our travels. In part because we found that trying to do one of our shows or visits became more difficult as the holidays approached, in part because we wanted a chance to visit with family and friends, and finally because we needed a bit of a break from the rigors of the road.
So what have we learned in 6 months, 32 States, and 17,000 miles of traveling? Well, first of all it has been an incredible journey so far. We have met a multitudinous array of people, and virtually without exception, from North to South and East to West, these people have welcomed us warmly, treated us kindly and opened their hearts and their homes.
Sure, there were a couple of jerks, like the guy who sprayed the side of our vehicle with gravel when he became impatient in a line of cars and did a “burn out” next to us. Or the gal that sat there in front of a gas pump and finished a long cell phone conversation while our Airstream sat sticking our in the road and snarling up traffic. Or the vandals that decided to take a hammer to the side of our vehicle in New Mexico. But these were pretty minor annoyances in comparison to the hundreds of people that toured our Airstream, or the dozens that offered us a place to stay, a warm meal, or a hand with anything we needed. Many of these people were family, many were friends old and new, but many of them were complete strangers, and as we count the days to Christmas we are counting our blessings as well.
We also learned, and hopefully taught many others that you can reduce your footprint on this planet without giving up all the comforts we often take for granted. Yes, you have to make adjustments. Like turning the water on and off as you shower, which saves a remarkable volume and still leaves you feeling fresh and clean. Or how to operate a composting toilet, which although is a bit more work, the feeling you get from NOT flushing down several gallons of fresh drinking water each time you get rid of your excrement actually makes you feel guilty when you do use a regular toilet. But the biggest thing we learned is that although we lived with a lot less, we still lived in relative comfort and style, and that “giving up” things doesn’t have to be sacrifice, indeed it can be a joyful liberation.
Sometimes we learned that which we already should know. Like how the fact that our water is a finite resource becomes painfully clear when you have only a 30 gallon tank of it, and you have to think about where that next 30 gallons is going to and coming from. And as we predicted the Airstream has become for us a microcosm of the real world, and of our planets potential future. A world where water is in short supply, where our waste of all types must be carefully recycled, where when it gets hot or cold outside, it gets hot or cold inside, where a safe place to sleep at night is not a given, and where each of us considers more carefully the effects of our actions on the environment.
The first thing you learn from small space living is that no matter how few material possessions you take with you, you need less. During months of preparation for this trip, we carefully went through each item to determine it usefulness, and like many travelers we have been shedding items ever since. When you think about it, we are all just travelers on this planet. Here until the end of our journey, we will either leave it clean and ready for the next round of visitors, or trashed like some funky campground full of pop bottles, candy bar wrappers, and cigarette butts.
Our children and grandchildren are the next visitors to this campground people, what on earth will they find? We all use too much, we are all guilty, and if there is even a glaciers chance in hell of stopping catastrophic climate change, we all have to do more to use less. Here in this great country that we have been blessed to be born in, where nearly all of uses more than our fair share of our precious resources, will have to bear more of the burden for change or the less fortunate people of this world will suffer terribly as our resources become increasingly scarce.
Decidedly, not everyone we met agreed with our views. Indeed some disagreed passionately. But what was interesting is that everywhere we went, people were willing to talk about it. I remember in the 1960’s when the war in Viet Nam was raging and the struggle for civil rights had reached its peak, and it seemed like most everybody was on either one side or the other. War protesters and civil rights demonstrators were beaten in the streets by the police who were clearly aligned with the powers that be, whether it was the military industrial complex or the institution of racism, and meaningful dialog was hard to come by.
But today, and I believe due in a large part to the courageous struggles of the 60’s that changed our society forever, people seem at minimum willing to talk, and frequently willing to listen. However as they say, talk is cheap, and as we just learned in Copenhagen recently, we can talk a lot and get little or nothing done. The time for action is upon us, and personally we have decided to act. We hope from our actions will come results, and from those results, a chance to keep learning more about how we can shape the future. We hope you will continue to join us.
Best wishes from the road!
John & Kate