A completely routine sort of day here in the desert. Wake. Breakfast. 5 km walk. Write. Nap. Another 5 km walk. Town. Smoothie Treat. Dog Park. Recovery Meeting. Home. Write.
So, I’m going to write about “Freedom” instead of those things. Because I’ve been thinking about it all day. I recently asked a great bunch of nomadic women what they received from life on the road, or what they hope to receive when they get here. Today, I’ve been reflecting on their thoughtful responses.
Freedom got the most mentions, hands down, and that got me thinking. I hadn’t used the word “freedom” myself, but I’m aware that I do now feel quite free! In a way I hadn’t felt before this journey. But free from what? Free to what?
As difficult as it is to return to memories of this, the word that arises from the past is “hopelessness”.
After an injury there were many things I couldn’t do for a long time. Walking was painful. Exercise was painful. Thinking was muddled. I didn’t have the concentration to read or write. The only thing I did for the longest time was colour, and roll little paper beads. I couldn’t keep track of time or dates. I lost big chunks of time and I had a hard time maintaining conversations. A loud noise would set off a chain of physiological effects that left me shaky and disoriented. I slept an awful lot.
It was about a year before I started seeing improvement. When I felt better, I got some plants. And when the plants didn’t die, I brought Pippa home to live with me, hopeful I would experience similar success 😉 I began to manage a routine around her care, routines and training. Having Pippa to love and care for every day made a huge difference in my life. Having her love in return might have saved it.
Another year passed and I was somewhat less muddled but not able to work. I took on some projects (volunteering, and some classes) but struggled to sustain them. I was encouraged to let go of the old roles I had and find a new way of living that was easier on my system.
That’s when I decided I needed to live closer to Nature.
This journey wasn’t so much about “hitting the road” or living nomadically in the beginning: I just needed to feel my feet on the earth. Swim in lakes. See stars. Hear birds. Intuitively, I just knew Nature would help heal my frazzled nervous system and help me get back my walking legs.
But it all started with needing certain freedoms I now recognize I’ve found.
I needed freedom from the noise and what felt like the chaos of city life.
I needed freedom from my apartment, where I felt like a prisoner because I was avoiding the city outside my doors.
I needed freedom from what felt like a sentence of “disability” which was eating away at my self-esteem. That label felt like a dark and endless tunnel and no matter how long I squinted into the darkness, no light was appearing at the end.
I needed freedom from social isolation, which was becoming more and more habitual. There was a paralysis setting in and a need to take action. For reasons I don’t totally recall, I decided to begin driving again. I had sold my car, fearing for my safety on the road (and everyone else’s) two years before. I bought the van and everything else grew out of that decision.
I have soooo benefitted from the freedom to move about as my health determines is best. If I feel comfortable, I stay, if I feel uncomfortable, I make changes. If I need to be close to people, I park close to people or go to a town. If I need distance, I seek more solitude. This freedom to respond to my state of mind on a daily (or even hourly) basis is built into the experience of travel naturally.
This may seem a small thing but I struggled a lot with feeling trapped, and have a strong “flee” response when anxious. This lifestyle has normalized movement and flexibility. Now, moving from one place to another brings feelings of curiousity and pleasure, not shame because I “need to get away” from something. And because my symptoms are so much better, I often move now simply because I want to, and not because I “have” to.
The expectations of others in this community help me to feel better too. Out here, among many other introverts (or those who prefer solitude for other reasons) people are respectful if, and when I need space and don’t question it. The expectation is that I take care of myself. Because there are so many others “like me”, needing space is normalized and respected. The RTR and the WTR helped me learn this.
I feel free from media influences that were taking up a lot of space in my life, post-injury. I’d never had cable TV, but after my injury I subscribed, and promptly became addicted to CNN of all things (gawd, that’s hard for me to admit). It’s wonderful to be free of the insidious trickle of high adrenaline news, images and other consumer-heavy messages that come with living in a house, in a city. That includes advertising for fast food, as well as messaging about what it takes to be “valuable” in today’s society and what I “need to” buy. I am now free to create “reality” for myself. Out here I have a direct line to my inner voice, and don’t have to fight through all the other voices to get to it. Although not quite free yet, I am finally healthy enough to begin addressing and healing from addiction.
The life I am choosing now makes room for new ways of thinking about myself, my life, the world and what I have to offer. It gives freely of sunshine and starlight, hot springs and desert walks. . Out here on the road, I am free to take care of the child inside me who needs to play in the sand and paint rocks. Out here, I am free to explore what being “me” really means. And when I know myself better, I am in a better position to take care of myself. And when I take care of myself, I am in a better place to be of service in the world.
Now, this journey is so much more than simply getting close to nature although that will always be an aspect of it. I’m finding myself more freely forming new connections with people (rarely feeling isolated now) and free to take the time to know myself more deeply without all the distractions and daily time commitments of a traditional “home” in a city.
I encourage anyone living on the road to spend a bit of time thinking about your relationship to “freedom” …. it’s a wonderful little voyage inwards, full of surprises. 🙂
What are you experiencing freedom FROM? What are you now FREE FOR?