Askin' you nice, now,
Keep the mother rollin' one more time ...
The Grateful Dead, 'Here Comes Sunshine', 1973
During the two years that I worked as a driver (1988 and 1989) I personally drove more than 150,000 miles, which means that I traveled more than 300,000. I saw every state in the union (with the exception of Hawaii and North Dakota) and I met hundreds of travelers from all over the world.
I was living the dream.
Feeling the Burn
When I first started working for the Green Tortoise I tried camping out on the busses at World Headquarters, but the total lack of personal space got old fast. I got a room in a house with some people through the Roommate Referral service, first in the Mission District, and then later in the Haight. This helped me feel a bit more rooted, but I felt like I was never there (and my roommates did too), so I didn't really bond with any of them. After sitting still in Portmouth and being at the center of a large network of friends I felt like I was in the opposite situation in San Francisco; moving all the time, but close to no one.
Self portrait taken after a long night's drive
White Sands National Monument
near Alamogordo, NM
The Bubble of Travel
I found that one of the greatest challenge of living a life on the road is that most people don't live that way. Most people have a life in one place with occasional short forays into the world beyond and a swift return to the familiar. For this reason I learned early in my Tortoise career to avoid the post-trip get togethers to which I was often invited. On the bus I was the cool guy in charge, but off the bus the Europeans went back home, and the Americans went back to their normal lives. When we would meet after the trip they would look at me strangely, realizing that while this guy with no home, filthy sandals and grease-stained clothing might have been interesting on vacation, but not someone who had a place in their life long-term. I was a fish out of water off the bus.
I lived in San Francisco, but wasn't there much. I was meeting hundreds of people, having a marked impression on their lives, but I wasn't really making lasting friendships. Aside from the folks that I worked with I wasn't an integral part of any community. It was a bit like living in a bubble, and it got very wearing. I wasn't just traveling for a time like the passengers on the bus, I was travelling all the time. I had found total freedom, and it was like a prison.