I see kids like this all the time in Portland OR. Crusty Punks. Gutter Punks. Freegans. Walking around in a monotone pack, usually with a scruffy dog who doesn’t know any better. (Dogs are wonderful companions in that way.)
I’m always interested in their story. Not that I ask. The layered gray clothes, half shredded and overly worn, always intrigue me. I start thinking about the amount of time and what circumstances got those clothes to look like that. And then this leads to the people themselves.(warning some graphic images here – add related) Many scenarios play through my head. Random evening news teen statistics and my mother’s childhood warnings discussed in our awkward but important talks ranging from drugs too sex start to influence the story in my head. I look into their faces and realize that they are close to my age. I wonder if was their choice or another unfortunate predicament.
For some reason I want to believe it’s their choice to live that way. And I’m like “Good for you, F the system!”, and all. There seems to be reactive anger in this choice though. Even a defeatist point of view. By their physical appearance alone, they are making a major statement about the state of our culture and society. Time and experience are values regarded higher than money. Visually the monotone appearance is that of unity through the choice of what the norm would call struggle. It’s a return to our roots in a way. This perspective is all hopeful and positive though; something I see beyond their worn appearance when I look into their youthful faces.
Ed Buryn’s book and guide Vagabonding in the USA written in 1983, as found in the Whole Earth Catalog under the Nomadic section, is a resource for people who are also interested in choosing the value of time over money through the transient lifestyle. The Catalog seems to make this point through out it’s pages. But the Vagabonding motive, unlike these contemporary crusty kids, seems to be more about exploring self through travel, not denying self by rolling over and getting fucked up all the time.
“The Internet enables me to make my living – any time and place – and share my life and ideas online like an open book.”
Now, this guy has his roots in hitting the road in a beat up VW like so many stereotypical sole searchers, but the fact that he’s making cash from wandering around as a lifestyle seems a little insincere if not a joke. Maybe, he believes he deserves it, having lived the life for so long. He also rides around in a Winnebago which he calls “My Destiny”. (Similar to this.)
Jessica Degroot’s message is a positive example that seems to be more fitting with the values learned from time spent in wanderlust. Here the values of community, people, and time over money, extend beyond self indulgence for the benefit for others. She says ”We really shouldn’t have to choose between career aspirations and family aspirations, but before more of us can do this, we need to continue to push for more flexible organizations, supportive public policy, and progressive conversations at home.”
I’m not advocating to be a stay at home family member, nor am I saying we should all hit the road and live the transient lifestyle. But there can be values learned from travel exploration that we can start to incorporate into our understanding of values and ways of life if done in a positive manner.