Tag Archive: nomadism


Summer on Mars

Yep, the Mars One plan is totally bonkers. The are many ways it could fail to get off the ground, and even if it does land people on the red planet, there are a million catastrophes possible waiting for them. AND YET… It also makes my nomad heart pound with excitement. It’s audacious, imaginative, hopeful… the kind of crazy that just might possibly work, and if it does it will be remembered as brilliance. And, in my heart I think that even if it does ‘fail’, its significance as the first attempt at making a home on a new world will make the effort and the lessons, and even the losses, absolutely worthwhile.

Possibly the maddest part of the whole scheme is the highly counter-intuitive idea of choosing astronauts out of the general public and training them later. But perhaps it makes good sense: at least as important as any other factor in the success of the mission is the psychology and interactions of the crew. So even more than scientists or pilots, they need optimists and good communicators. That’s where… go ahead and call me crazy (a special kind of stable craziness is required, after all)… I think I have a solid chance at this! Most of us gave up on ‘astronaut’ as a career sometime in elementary school… but maybe, just maybe, it’s still possible!

Ideas need preparation, and twenty years ago my mind became well-prepared for this one when I read the Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson, a “hard” sci-fi take on colonizing the red planet: phenomenally well-researched, delving into Mars’ geology, the psychology of the colonists, the social and economic developments possible with a fresh start on a new world, the technical challenges, and the wild possibilities. The reality could be much darker, but I don’t care, the possibilities boggle the mind, and vastly outweigh the risks. If I were given a chance to be a part of it I’d take it in a second. Yes yes yes yes yes!!!!! Of course yes! Talk about going nomadic!!!

So I put in an application. Check it out, and be sure to rate me with lots of stars!!

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Staying Nomadic

Holy overdue blog post. Coming back from my road trip last year there was so much to write about, then all those van repairs busted up my flow, and since then I just haven’t had the heart to try to get caught up. But I’ve been concerned about the misimpression people were getting when they stumbled onto the site and saw the trouble I was in last winter and the lack of entries since then. And my concern became acute when I got asked about the blog during a job interview over Skype! I didn’t get to update it in time for my employers, but that put it on my to-do list for sure, and now here I am ready to fill you in with a quick point-form update…

  • The van got fixed, at great expense, thanks to a small but very timely little windfall and some help from relatives… thank you Kayla, and Dixie, and even Roscoe!
  • I spent the winter working overnights at a cold-weather shelter, back with my old employer. It was my first time working in 2 years; also my first time working as a vandweller. I have to say, it was pretty great. I was saving up money for my next round of school, and with the combined effects of not paying rent and my much better developed budgeting skills (compared to when I was working before, making twice as much money) I was astonished at how much I was able to put away.
  • I continued to work on various little architecture-related side projects, trying to become better prepared for the work term position I would have to find, come summertime. I learned autocad and brushed up on other design software, I volunteered on a shed project with a community garden, and I did some work with a company that installs and maintains living roofs.
  • I spent a lot of time at the beach!
  • I got a bike, and I have to say that was really wonderful. In two and a half years of living in a van, my only complaints were 1) that I missed cooking, and 2) I really missed having a bike. I suppose I could have strapped one onto the outside of the van somehow, but with risks of weather and theft and with general annoyance and ugliness of things strapped onto the roof, I never bothered. Instead I stored it in my friend’s shed, and for much of the summer I parked near her house and rode around Vancouver happy as a clam.
  • One day I got a note on my windshield from that very same friend’s neighbours asking me not to park in front of their house. That’s only the second time it’s ever happened to me, because I usually don’t park twice in the same spot, and I usually choose spots that aren’t associated with one house. No one has ever approached me in person to say that I shouldn’t be there. Granted, I don’t think people often stop to wonder if there’s someone in the van: no light gets out, and it’s only on rare occasions that anyone would see it rocking. But it’s not exactly inconspicuous either, the windows are still covered in maroon shag, after all.
  • I spent most of the month of August house-sitting for friends, and that was a real blessing. I can handle almost any temperature at night, but by then I was working more overnight shifts, and sleeping in a van in the daytime in summer is just not possible. Hot hot hot!!!
  • I applied to various positions at architectural offices, and late in August I got word that one of them (the very one that I desperately wanted) wanted me! It’s called ERA Architects in Toronto, they specialize in heritage conservation, and they do amazing work. I think it was the van that got me the job; during the interview that was most of what we talked about!
  • I decided I didn’t want to put my van through another cross-Canada trip just yet, so I packed some things, parked the van in my mom’s yard, covered it up to protect it from the pine needles and the bird poo, and I flew out to a new life in Toronto.

I’ve been staying with my dear friend Danielle, who lives about a block from my work, but on October 1 I move into my new place. The last time I paid rent was 34 months ago, can you believe it??? Feels weird. People ask me if it’s a relief, having a bed and a shower inside. The answer is “it’s alright.”

Van Kinbaku

I usually avoid the word ‘homeless’ when I’m talking about this project. I use words like ‘nomadic’ instead because I want to convey my excitement about it, and the fact that it’s a choice, not a necessity. And when I talk to people they get it, but I can almost always sense a little bit of concern as well: that word ‘homeless’ is lurking around the corner. So I want to reassure everyone.

For the last 11 years I’ve been working with an organization that provides a range of housing options to people who have a history of homelessness, so I’m very aware of the vast differences between my kind of homelessness and the real thing: I have the power to make this end if or when I want to; people won’t be able to tell from looking at me that I’m homeless and treat me poorly because of it; the shelter that I do have is very comfortable  and safe compared to, say, a piece of cardboard under a viaduct; my life is not going to be a daily fight for survival; my childhood will never contain the kind of horrors that most people who are homeless have survived. So it’s not just that I want to avoid the stigma of the word homeless; it’s also that I have no right to claim it.

The project is about home, definitely. It takes away the traditional walls of home and asks me where the new walls will be. Is my home shrinking to the size of a van, or is it growing to the size of a city? Can it be a network of invisible lines connecting the couches of all my friends? This city feels full of people who love and support me, but what will it feel like if I leave the city? Could home really be everywhere?

In short, don’t worry, folks! My guess is that what I’ll feel at the end of all this is a deep sense of homefullness.