“I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing.”
“But the world, in its present state, is no place for princesses.”
~Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog
I’m here to explore what kind of work and lifestyle choices can help me to wrestle this beast of an economy to the ground. It ain’t always pretty.
For the past six months, I have been living in a borrowed RV trailer on a two-acre plot of Old Vine Zinfandel vines in Sonoma. It’s not the first trailer that I’ve lived in, and who knows? It might not be the last. This is a means to an end–a strategy intended to buck the heinous Recession Era rental system, and help me squirrel away cash in hopes of someday owning my own place.
Until that happens, I am living in a gypsy wagon–and if you call it “glamping”, I might sock you.
Glen Ellen, California. Site of my fabled gypsy wagon.
I am familiar with the term, however: Five years ago, I moved into in a sleek little silver bullet of a trailer on several scenic, manicured acres in West Sonoma County. With a marriage on the rocks and struggling freelance business on my hands, I hardly felt glamorous. Still, my new digs were admittedly a page out of Dwell : framed by Redwoods and with a sparkling swimming pool, hot tub, and fire pit with starry views. Friends thought me brave and crafty for scoring such a spot, and were eager to help me celebrate the place. Glamping, indeed.
It was a super sweet spot until the owners–a mortgage broker and construction foreman–were forced to move out of their beloved family farmhouse and, themselves, claim the trailer. Sign o’ the times.
Petaluma, California. 2008. God, this place ruled.
Cut to 2012. The rental market had swung dramatically in favor of owners, and I’d fled a series of rentals due to rent hikes. Never mind that I’d steadily worked more than 50 hours per week (in a luxury industry, ironically)–I simply cannot keep up with rising rents. Rather than plunking down more unnecessary cash to another desperate and opportunistic landlord, I ask my aunt and uncle if
I can borrow their 35-foot travel trailer.
They generously agree, and I slip on my gypsy shoes.
Some of you might have romantic notions about living in a travel trailer. I won’t dispel them, because guess what? It’s pretty rad. I have indeed been able to do all of the following:
- Trim the fat: purge my belongings to the absolute basics.
- Imagine taking off at a moment’s notice and hitting the road (even if I never actually do).
- Know that I am less beholden to “the Man” than most folks. Revel in that liberation.
- Save money like a mofo.
On the flip side, I have recurring fantasies about material comforts that I rarely considered before. On certain evenings after a long hard day, I long for these three extravagances: fluffy white duvet, plasma television, and colossal bathtub. These longings have not only parlayed into a raging Pinterest addiction, but induced guilt of the spoiled-princess variety: Like, who am I to crave television? I haven’t owned a television for a decade.
Besides, lack of material comfort is not the real con of trailer living. The real con of trailer living is that I still don’t own the property where the trailer sits. So I remain at the mercy of the owners. Anything could happen.
Anything could happen, such as: The property could be foreclosed. And it was. Yes, Really. The vineyard I staked out this past spring was claimed by the bank, then resold to a developer. So next week, I’m hitching up the trailer and moving again, all because of someone else’s financial disaster.
(Don’t worry: By now, moving is an art that I have practiced till it’s become a well choreographed dance. I’ve got this shit down.)
While current trailer life is not as idyllic as it was back in the shiny silver bullet, I draw absolute satisfaction from it. Every time I pull up the bumpy drive, I think of how my dad always told me to “take care of my own little red wagon”–to take some personal responsibility. That’s a phrase that gets thrown around a lot in this political climate. I’d like to reclaim it, because taking care of myself is one of the greatest skills I can learn, one that allows me to care for others.
Strangely, nesting in my tin can palace is a way of deeply caring for myself. I dig it. Now, wanna guess where this caravan is headed?