Hard Work, Damnit!

Hard-work2

I’ve received a variety of reactions regarding my lifestyle ranging from “Oh wow, I love it” to “Are you out of your mind?” to “Whatever works for you”. Some people think I am living the hippie dream and others think I am in desperate need of some serious mental health services. I won’t pretend that I don’t care what others say. However, my actions typically reflect my own motivation and goals. In other words, just because I don’t enjoy hearing negative comments, doesn’t mean I am going to change my life tomorrow.

A few weeks ago, I received a reaction I couldn’t have anticipated. I was spending the holidays with relatives who live a couple hours north. I was having a great time: frequent excursions to the mountains, game nights with friends, catching up with family, and some lazy days sprinkled in between. During one family gathering, I got talking with my stepmother.

“When are you heading back home?”

“Oh, probably around the 15th”.

“The 15th???”

“Yeah”

“Don’t you have to work or things to do?”

“No, I decided to take a month of.”

“Hmmm.”

Her “hmmm’ was full of contempt and disapproval. Her reaction communicated so much more. How dare you take a month of? Don’t you know that HARD WORK is the only right way? The American way. The principle this country is founded on? Don’t you know how our forefathers… blah blah blah (I’ve heard it all before).

Now, why exactly should I feel bad for other people’s lifestyles? You need a upper-middle class house, new clothes, eating out on a regular basis, 4 kids, and those fancy phones, laptops, tablets, and kindles? Well, then you better get to work! I want to be close to nature and a warmer sleeping bag this year. Oh, and time. Which I can afford.

In addition, roughing it can be just what it sounds like: rough. The constant cold during the winter can wear down anyone. Living without amenities can be frustrating and exhausting. Keeping oneself healthy, fed, and safe can be challenging. So, while I am very pleased with my current life, it is anything but easy.

You have a great life going or are on your way to live life to the fullest? Ignore the negative voices that try to force their opinion on you. Freedom is about making your own choices. Sometimes that means making very unique choices. Be proud of your ability to choose. You don’t have to be another sheep.

Advertisements

Finding the Needle in the Haystack

5622017346_faa36e72ca_o

I had spent over three months looking for an apartment and slowly but surely realized that I would have to give up my life and work every waking hour of my day to pay for an halfway decent place. The previous two semesters were spent in an outrageously overpriced on-campus apartment ($1000 per month) that I had to share with three life-sized barbies who seemed to have been displaced from their jobs as hookers and now invited their customers home. Although the drama, fights, and mean fridge notes were rather entertaining at times, I was plain miserable at this place.

The last apartment I looked at, before ripping the “Apartment Guide” in shreds and moving into my tiny mobile home, was slightly below budged and seemed nice enough to go check out. The studio was on the top floor of an old Victorian style house. The neighborhood appeared friendly: no questionable establishments in sight and not too much traffic either. As usual, I arrived early and took the time to walk around the house. As far as I could tell, the house consisted of one large apartment on the bottom floor and two smaller studio apartments on the top floor. Although the property was not “well maintained”, it was reasonably clean. As I waited for the owner to show up, who was 10 minutes late already, another potential tenant joined me. I can´t remember his name, but he looked about as desperate as I was. And of course, he began sharing his story with me: Lost his job, wants to go back to school, crashed with friends, and broke up with his girlfriend. I considered telling him not to share these details with the landlord, but decided against it and instead continued listening.

After another 10 minutes, the owner walked onto the property seemingly unaware of his lateness. He greeted us with a smile and immediately began talking about the apartment and, for some reason, his current tenant. He explained to us that he was very close to all his tenants and counted on everybody´s openness and respect. According to him, he had never had any difficulties with any of his tenants and intended on keeping it that way. “Doesn´t sound bad”, I thought to myself, as we walked up the wooden stairs.

The apartment was small yet charming. I didn´t mind the kitchen´s low ceiling as I am not very tall myself and the newly renovated marble bathroom was definitely a plus. The bedroom/living room was big enough for my needs and had a big window with a great view. In the middle of the tour, a young women and her girlfriend joined us and simply pushed me and the desperate guy out of the way. I didn´t really care since I had I seen enough, and instead exclaimed that I was very interested in the apartment and would like a copy of the lease. The landlord smiled and explained: “Oh no, honey. That´s part of building the trust. I don´t do paperwork until we´ve built a solid foundation. I usually have people sign a lease after two or three months”. The whole deal suddenly appeared rather fishy and I decided to check with a lawyer friend of mine before renting the place. I promised the landlord to call him in a few hours after he proclaimed how happy he´ll be to have me as his new tenant. I walked back downstairs feeling that maybe the whole apartment hunting madness was finally over. Before I managed to back out of the driveway, desperate guy stopped me. He was visibly upset and began yelling: “The asshole just gave the apartment to the two little sluts up there. Just thought you wanted to know”.

After talking to the landlord and confirming that he had in fact changed his mind 30 seconds after I had left, I began thinking that maybe my tiny mobile home plan wasn´t as crazy as it seemed. After three months of basement apartments with bars in front of the windows; strip joints, bars, and pot stores next door; landlords that look like pimps; and the endless “We´ll call you as soon as something becomes available”, I realized that I was nothing but another easily replaceable rent check. And I was beyond tired of the whole ordeal.

Back Country Camping

I´ve never carried that much gear in my life. During one of my road trips last summer, I decided to visit the Gallatin Range in Montana (just a few miles from Yellowstone National Park) and do some back country camping. Despite not carrying a proper tent and accidentally leaving my jacket at home, I felt like a camel on a mission.

11264975_1464302320542690_5186607195411262067_o

That´s some seriously tall grass.

My mission, I mean hike, began early in the morning at an abandoned trail head off of highway 191. After securing the many straps and belts on my backpack, I began attaching necessary items to my body. I carried bear spray (against crazy bears), a .39 Revolver (against crazy humans), and my old camera. I would have felt like a real back country bad ass if my night pack wouldn’t have given off them insane 90´s vibes. Instead I probably looked like the human equivalent of the leaning tower of Pisa making it´s way through tall grass and lush forests.

11875113_1464299813876274_6732783930254721733_o

The hike took only about 4 hours, excluding a short nap under a friendly old tree, and after checking out the camp site and surrounding area, I began setting up my camp. After I got my fire going and hung my backpack off a tree, I grabbed what I thought was my tent and headed to a nearby field. I found an area which looked even and comfortable (it was horribly bumpy which I realized later that night) and began unpacking the tent. As soon as all pieces lay before me, I realized that I had grabbed the odds and ends bag, which contained half a mummy tent, various strings and other tent related items.

11217515_1464306253875630_77453696781071620_n

After about an hour of attaching strings, tarps, and logs to my so-called tent, I had a pitiful yet somewhat stable shelter for the night. As the sun disappeared several hours later, a powerful storm began rolling in. I hurried to put out the fire and get ready for bed in time. Back country campsites are high maintenance as everything needs to be in order and cleaned up for safety reasons: All food, used clothing, and hygiene articles need to be hung off a tree to decrease the likelihood of wild animals such as grizzlies visiting. Fires need to be drowned using plenty of water and wood-free dirt to avoid forest fires. All weapons (knives, guns, tasers, bear spray, etc.) need to be in their proper location and, and, and.

When I finally finished prepping my camp for the night, the wind was blowing strong and it began raining. I slipped into my shelter and made myself comfortable (well, I tried). As mentioned earlier, I had picked an incredibly uncomfortable spot and due to the raging storm outside had no choice but to suck it up. As soon as my head hit the ground, my airways began closing up. In a sudden onset of stupidity I had brought a lot fewer allergy pills than I needed and was slowly but surely suffocating. After about an hour of agony and panic, I suddenly slipped into a state of complete calm. The storm outside suddenly sounded far away, I felt comfortable, my body was heavy, and a welcoming fog settled in my mind. I curled up into a ball, closed my eyes and fell asleep almost instantly. Thank you body for the emergency shut down!

11145149_1464300400542882_8518091671273050153_o

Yes, I could´ve built a better shelter but I stopped at “good enough”.

The next day was pretty uneventful and is really not worth mentioning. Overall, I had a great time at the Gallatin Range and would recommend it to everyone who would like to camp in Yellowstone but wants to avoid massive numbers of hikers and tourists.