Today in the car, after an unfortunate visit with boring and expired family members, I had a thought–
I just want to go home.
Yet curiously enough, when I thought of the “home” that I wanted to go to, I didn’t think of my house nestled in Morris County, the house that I have lived in for most of my life, where my family is, my childhood friends, my blue room, my dumb animals. Instead I thought of a different place– the beach house I rented at school and the room that I lived in for a measly three months, which I shared.
When I am old and gray, the time I spent in that house compared to the years that I have will be incredibly inconsequential. A few short months in a house that I had only seen once before, a house where I owned nothing inside it but my clothes and my bed sheet (and yes, just one, because the other one was my roommate’s). Yet, that will always be a time that I remember, in a room that I shared with my best friend (and a room stuffed with beds so I ended up sharing it with a lot of other people too). It was a house where we threw parties and danced on the same countertops that I learned to cook in. Where my friends would light fireworks in the front yard and try to jump in the closed pool and spray the fire extinguisher for fun. It was where we stumbled home a countless amount of times, and where we tried to catch kittens in the backyard and poked around through our landlord’s endless amount of stuff hiding in the damp basement.
It doesn’t matter how much time you spend in a place. It doesn’t matter if it’s your car, an apartment you spent a weekend camping out on the couch, or an otherwise forgettable house in an ordinary neighborhood. What makes a place home isn’t how much of your stuff that you can jam in there. It’s the significance of the people that you get lucky enough to be shacked up with.
I have a confession to make.
As much as I love to wander, I also love my house. My house on the hill with my dear animals and blonde mother feels like a battery pack in which I can stop in between wherever I have to be and I can eat some food (for free, mind you) pet the cat, sit on my awesome bed, read a magazine, and change my clothes (again). However, a major problem is presented when you opted to spend your summer working an hour and a half away from where you live.
You end up with a new home. And that is your car.
At first, I was a little anxious about having to literally pack up everything I could possibly need (gifts for happy hosts, cooking utensils, sports bras, clean underwear, stuffed animals) and stuff it into my dear Ford Focus, since I often forget things and end up having to make some pitstops. But there’s something raw about living out of your car. As I drove out of the wilderness where I live for the first time to embark on one of my many journeys, I realized:
I don’t need anything.
Yup. That’s right. You don’t need your running clothes, because you can run barefoot down the boardwalk. You don’t need clean clothes, because you can wash them in the sink. You don’t need water bottles, because there are water fountains in the local department store. You don’t need anything. You can relax.
And with this came a freedom. For once, I wasn’t worrying about how I was going to stop home and run these silly little errands that don’t really need to get done anyhow (Read the mail? Why bother). I didn’t worry about anything. Instead, I put the to-do list away, left my phone in the console, and went about my merry way. Having nothing solid to do is refreshing, wonderful, new. Stay out a few extra days? Who cares. Miss the Saturday morning workouts? Whatever. I would rather spend my time with the ones I find, the books I come across, or the scenery I stumble upon anyway.
We would like to think that we are free travelers with the endless opportunity to run amok, living out of our vans and eating what nice passerby hand us. Unfortunately, this is not the case. As with all things, travel and adventure has a high price, even when you’re just trying to get to the next town over.
Where I live, in the middle of nowhere, every place that you go costs you a fortune in gas. I feel like I find myself filling up my tank yet again every three days. However, on those days where you’re groaning in the car and handing the nice man every dollar that you made the other day from behind the desk, consider this– what else would you be doing with this money? Buying some beers? New t-shirts? No. You didn’t. Instead, you spent it on something that you will have today, tomorrow– hell, the rest of your days. You have the great times that you spent with friends, or maybe even alone, going somewhere that you love (or somewhere that you escaped and then went back home, yet again somewhere that you loved).
One thing that a friend pointed out to me the other day was the app Gas Buddy (which is free!) which compares both the distance and prices of gas stations all around where you are. You don’t have to make an account, either– just enter your zip code and you can see the varying gas prices around, all posted by other irritated travelers, just like you. You would think this self-sustained app would be a bit unreliable, but surprisingly, it seems like some people are really committed to posting gas prices.
Another tip that I found in a magazine or something was to fill up your tank in the morning, when the air is cooler. This will allow you to get a little more bank for your buck because the gas will be denser and you’ll really be getting that “full” gallon.
So be proud, soldier. Drop a couple bucks on gas and get in the car. Make sure you put a pillow in there, though, in case you end up sleeping in the car again.