Introduction

Ford was completely at a loss for what to do next.

“Look,” he said in a stern voice. But he wasn’t certain how far saying things like “Look” in a stern voice was necessarily going to get him, and time was not on his side. What the hell, he thought, you’re only young once, and threw himself out of the window. That would at least keep the element of surprise on his side.
            - Douglas Adams, Mostly Harmless

Let’s do the boring, predictable thing and start at the beginning.

I was born in rural Oklahoma in 1980. At least, that is what I have been told. I don’t actually remember being born, which makes it seem a bit suspicious. I could have been found under a rock, for all I know. People do say that my brother and I look alike, which does seem to support this birth theory; or, perhaps we were just found under the same rock.

A bunch of stuff happened. Then, 26 years after the alleged birthing incident, I found myself in Dallas, TX. I had a good job that paid me good money; a good house; good church; and really good friends. I may have done some stupid things at times in my life; but, at least when it came to stuff like career and education and finances, I had always made what was generally regarded as good decisions. I started working and saving money when I was in junior high; I went to college and got a good degree; and since I was paying for college myself, I learned to live relatively cheaply. I was the sensible, responsible, and some would even say successful single guy.

And, I decided I needed to change.

There were several factors that played into what happened next.

First, there was what I refer to as the “Office Space” moment. In my favorite scene from this movie, the main character is telling someone about his job. He stops himself mid-sentence, though, and says:

“I don’t like my job, and I don’t think I’m gonna go anymore.”

A good line, but my favorite line comes a few seconds later. When asked what he plans to do about “money and bills”, he says that he “never really liked paying bills,” and that he didn’t think he would do that anymore, either.

A great fantasy, if you can get away with it. Of course, getting away with it is the hard part.

The second factor, strangely enough, came from a second movie, which I had never seen. In “You, Me, and Dupree”, the named character in the movie is a couch surfer—someone without a job who simply crashed on a friend’s couch. Dupree didn't worry about bills, because he did not have any bills to pay. A friend of mine saw the movie, and joked that it was his new plan for life: he would quit working and live on his best friend’s couch. He figured he had built up enough goodwill with this friend that he could get away with that for about 2 years. After that, though, his plan sort of fell apart. I immediately saw the limiting factor in the couch-surfer lifestyle: finding someone who will let you stay on their couch. Eventually, everyone will kick you off their couch.

And then it hit me: you will always get kicked off the couch unless it’s your couch. If it is your couch, in your living room, then the only person who can tell you to leave is you.

The final and biggest factor was the realization that I was living out my backup dream. Where I was at career-wise was good, but it was not my first choice. I had always wanted to be my own boss, in some form or another. I wanted to make up my own rules, because I thought I could do a better job of it than the rules that were already in place. There were also things I wanted to do that I had never been able to do, because I had always been working; namely, take off on the ultimate road trip and write about what I found. At some point, though, I had gotten on track to do the normal thing: work for a corporation, be a good employee, and put in your time so that you can someday retire and do what you would really rather be doing. I was in a rut, and it was a good rut, but I could see myself getting on that path and never really finding out if my first choice dreams could actually work in reality.

So…

I quit my good job, rented out my master bedroom to one of my good friends, and moved into my own living room.

No job: check. No bills: not completely checked, but you can stretch savings much, much farther when you have a 3-bedroom house and rent out all the bedrooms. Dream-chasing freedom: check.

Now, I don’t actually sleep on the couch, unless I just feel like it. Taking what I learned from my college dormitory days, I devised a way to hide a bed in the living room, in plain sight. Formal living room by day; bedroom by night.

Not having my own bedroom did not matter much anyway, because I was not going to be there very often. Remember the road trip bit? Traveling does cost money, but I figure I am as good as anyone at doing it cheaply. My 8-year-old pickup is long paid for, and though it does cost more in gas, it more than makes up for it in hotel costs. That’s right: my bedroom-on-wheels allows me to carry tent, cot, kayak, water, food, supplies, wardrobe—pretty much anything I can think of or want. It comes equipped with electricity, central heating, and air. I can camp, or if no campsite is available, I can camp in the truck.

Oh, and then there is the network of couches across the country that I can perhaps use—the product of a large extended family, a lot of old college friends, an alumni network for the company I worked for during my summers in college. An alumni network of people who had to relocate each summer and find their own temporary cheap housing should be sympathetic to my plight. Not plight—opportunity.

So that brings us to this point. At the request of friends, I started this website to track my trip. It may turn into something bigger in the future, but for now, it is just my little travel blog.

 

© 2006 by Kevin McConaghy. All rights reserved.