The minimalist day planner

My Minimalist Day Planner

A few months ago, my partner introduced me to the Day Designer. I used their print-at-home version for a few days in an attempt to add some sanity to my busy days.

But I was finding they weren't quite what I was looking for. I wanted my day planner to help codify two habits into my day:

  • Gratitude journaling: The Five Minute Journal from Intelligent Change is all about enriching your day-to-day experience by prompting you to think of what you're grateful for each day. I really appreciated this idea, but wanted to integrate it into my daily planning routine so it would be more or less automatic. So I decided to ask myself each day three things I'm grateful for.

  • Pomodoro technique: I use the Pomodoro Technique religiously when I'm working. Not only does it improve my focus by encouraging me to stay on task for short bursts, but it also helps me frame my tasks into more tangible 25-minute blocks as opposed to the vague notion of minutes and hours. To help track my time, I added two tomato-shaped checkboxes for each hour of my day planner to track 2 25-minute pomodoros and 2 5-minute breaks.

My Minimalist Day Planner

Download the Minimalist Day Planner (PDF)

The freedom of less


For the past two years I've been devoted to the pursuit of less and fewer: Less debt. Less stuff. Fewer commitments. Less driving. Fewer expenses. Less social media. Less drinking.

And suddenly I'm finding myself with more: More money. More attention. More time. More meaning. More fitness. More freedom.

It hasn't been an easy journey, but it has been a simple one. There are just two principles that have driven me here:

  • Spend less than you earn.
  • Strive to be happy with what you have.


Rewind back to late 2014. I had just moved to Seattle with my girlfriend at the time and was living the yuppie dream. We had an apartment with a sweet view and we went out drinking a few nights each week. I didn't spend beyond my means, but I generally spent the money I earned each month. I'd buy new computer equipment, recording equipment, or clothes. And what I didn't spend went toward servicing my student loans. Our monthly rent was $2,275/mo, which was pretty standard for our neighborhood.

Then something hit me. I realized I'd been holding my student debt for almost a decade. There was haunting symbolism in that. Each month I made a $400 payment to Sallie Mae. It felt normal—as if that was the way things were and that I'd be paying the loans for another decade. My balance at the time was somewhere around $30,000. The amount was a far cry from the student loan horror stories you hear from graduates nowadays, but it still made me nauseous to think about paying them off.

I decided enough was enough. It was time to rid myself of debt once and for all. I tallied my monthly expenses. I began eliminating all non-essential spending. I told my friends I could only go out one night per week. I took on more client work to help pay down the balance. And before long I paid them down.


It's hard to describe the feeling of being free of the shackles of debt after having known it for so long. I felt like I could breathe again. I knew the money I earned was now mine to keep. I knew I was in control of my time for the first time since before college.

Or was I?


Despite my temporary hustle to pay down my debt, I realized my living expenses were out of control. My girlfriend at the time and I parted ways, and I was stuck servicing rent at our apartment. I did the math, and realized that if I suddenly lost my income I could only sustain my lifestyle for maybe two months.

For the remainder of my lease, I labored to reduce my expenses where I could. I dined out less. I found a new affinity for lentils. And I took on more client work so I could save and invest at least a little bit.

And then I met my current partner. She and I moved into an apartment in Green Lake, which is a much less expensive Seattle neighborhood than Capitol Hill. My rent dropped from $2,275/month to just $1,067, with my partner covering part of the $1,600/month total. That meant I just reduced my rent by 53% overnight. Woo-hoo!

But you get what you pay for. In Seattle, a 2-bedroom apartment for $1,600 is a steal. But it was right next to a busy street and it sounded like there was a highway in our living room. Our bedroom window faced an alleyway. We didn't have the luxury of laundry in our unit. And the appliances, while working, were outdated. The refrigerator smelled like rotting milk. The apartment had terrible ventilation problems.

All of this would have been tolerable if we had a compelling reason to stay in Seattle. If either of us had a lucrative or meaningful career that was reliant on our physical presence in Seattle, it would have been worth it to tolerate the cost. But I work from home. At the time, my partner was working a part-time retail job. What were we paying for, exactly?

We both love attending cultural events that a big city like Seattle hosts. But we're also both generally homebodies. I can't speak for my partner, but as I've gotten older I've found myself valuing a nice home. Not a big home or a flashy home or anything like that. I value a home that feels like home. A place that's comfortable. A sanctuary. And our place in Seattle was anything but that.

Then we took a trip to Eugene, Oregon. And it was right then I knew I'd found my new home. I just had to convince my partner it was the right move. After a few long discussions, we decided upon a cozy house in the hills. Rents in Eugene make me feel rich! Here's the cost breakdown for my last three apartments. Notice the precipitous drop in price per square foot:

Location Monthly Rent My Share $/sqft
Capitol Hill, Seattle $2,275 $2,275 $3.79
Green Lake, Seattle $1,600 $1,067 $1.60
Eugene $1,395 $930.00 $1.27

My partner and I cook almost every day and eat most of our meals in. We have a morning coffee and breakfast ritual. We own only one small car.

Because of all this, my mandatory monthly spend is only around $2,000. That covers rent, food, and utilities.

For every $2,000 I have in the bank, I can sustain myself comfortably for a month without working.


I'm not sure there was a specific moment when it happened, but it changed my relationship with work forever.

It was the moment when I realized the psychological power of capital. The power of money is hardly in the material things it can buy. No, the true power of money is in the way knowing you have it changes your behavior.

Because I know I'll be able to pay my bills for the foreseeable future without working, the way I treat my client work has changed dramatically.

No longer am I desperate to please clients in the short-term. I remember bending over backwards, compromising my values and my health in order to make sure I'd continue to get paid.

Now instead of engaging with clients purely to get paid, I do it to serve them and their interests. Conveniently, money tends to be a byproduct of this service.

The beauty in having capital is that you're free to walk away from toxic client relationships. And you're in a position to vet new relationships with more scrutiny before it's too late and you've made promises you cannot keep.

The irony too, is that by maintaining a low-expense lifestyle I'm able to charge more for my services because I know I don't need the work. This doesn't mean I don't respect my clients' needs and constraints. In fact, minimalism has led me to respect them more because when I work with clients, I treat them like people instead of paychecks.

My desire to make it in my career has subsided as a result. If you're ambitious you probably know what I mean by wanting to make it. It's that sense that if only you had a few more markers of success, you'd finally be happy. You know what? I've acquired a few of those markers over the past decade and none of them made me happy. I've had luxury apartments and fancy dinners and $15 cocktails. I've been lured by big salaries and bonuses. None of it made me happy. Truth is, most of the things that make me happy don't require money. So why do we keep chasing more of it?


So what do I live for now?

I live for meaning. For cups of coffee with my partner in the morning. For quiet bicycle rides. For losing myself in complex programming problems. For being a disciplined learner. For the pursuit of art. For excellence.

I live to be curious. To be valuable. To serve others. To contribute. To live each day like it's my last, but knowing what that means for me.

I live to be free. To recognize that money is important not because of the stuff it can buy but because of the freedom it can buy. The freedom to breathe. The freedom to spend an afternoon writing an article for my blog instead of working to pay off a BMW.

To me, happiness is knowing if I died tomorrow I'd die with dignity. I'd die knowing that up until this moment I spent my days in accordance with my values.

A luxurious lifestyle would be nice, but it's not necessary for a life well lived.

Feng shui for programmers

My office, in command position

I'm fascinated by the subtle changes that make a big difference. The optimizations that only take a bit of time and thought, but which fundamentally improve our lives. This weekend I stumbled upon one such change by accident.

I'd heard of feng shui through popular culture, but never really took the time to understand its principles. All I really knew is that it was "bad feng shui" to have your bed against the same wall as your bedroom door. And while the boldest claims feng shui practitioners make should be regarded as pseudoscience, it's still worth examining whether there are parts of the practice that can be appropriated in order to live a better life.

A YouTube search for "feng shui office" turned up tons of self-proclaimed feng shui consultants recommending placing your desk in the command position. For the layman, this just means that instead of putting your desk against the far wall with your back to the door, turn your workstation around so you face the door with your back against the wall:

Command Position

The theory behind this is that the wall behind you provides you some sort of energetic support and that by facing your door, you're open to new business entering your life. If that sounds woo-wooey, you're not alone. But being a bit of an interior design enthusiast, I couldn't help but spend an hour rearranging my office to see how it felt to face the other way.

When I did, I was struck. I feel more open and in control sitting at my new workstation---and yes, I'm aware how new-agey that sounds. There's just really no other way to describe it.

I do wonder though: Is part of why I feel better with my desk facing into the room that my periphery is more expansive? Rather than looking out onto a wall directly in front of me, I'm now looking at the entire room. I wonder if there's some biological response of which I'm unaware.

If you have the luxury of having a dedicated office and your desk currently faces the wall, give the "command position" a try. I'm curious whether you feel the same empowerment I do.

How do we know when we've arrived?

I've had a fire under my ass the past couple months.

I think in part it's my fear that I'm getting older and too comfortable. If you're over 30 and in the tech industry, I'm sure you can identify with this fear. It's crippling to think you might be rendered irrelevant, and even worse when faced with the irony that it's because you're too experienced.

And really, all of this stems from our tendency to compare ourselves to others. To think that if we're not running a big company or sitting on millions (or billions) of dollars from an exit, we might not have fully self-actualized.

But something struck me last night as I was getting ready for bed. I tried to imagine my ideal future. Have you ever tried to do that? For me, the canvas was blank. Or at least out of focus. I couldn't really define what it was I was after.

Is it money we're after? Sure, financial independence and certainty would be better than not having it. I don't know about you, but I love to work and often find myself restless on days I'm supposed to be relaxing. How is money going to fix any of that?

Do we want recognition? I love to foster connection and think it would be fun to speak at big events, to autograph books, or to have a cult following on Twitter. But when I close my eyes and imagine myself in those shoes, I'm actually more stressed out and feel under tremendous scrutiny. I think we tend to idealize being culturally significant, but fail to recognize the tradeoffs.

So what is it?! I've been leafing through Tony Robbins' Awaken the Giant Within. For me, the most illuminating point he makes is that material wealth and cultural significance don't create lasting contentment. It's actually our contributions that give us lasting joy.

It bears repeating: The investment with the greatest existential returns is a gift given unconditionally.

Granted, Tony Robbins is the king of pop psychoanalysis and if you want to hold his statements to the fire of more rigorous inquiry, I don't blame you. But when I inquire about my own life, chasing fame or fortune has never made me contented. And my tiny brushes with both have left me feeling hollow and unfulfilled.

Gratitude and charity, on the other hand, have always, 100% of the time, left me feeling energized and capable. What's even more striking is the irony that gratitude and charity inevitably lead to fame and fortune. Who doesn't appreciate and honor someone who gives to others without asking for something in return?

I'm writing this as a reminder to myself, but I hope it's helpful for your journey as well. The path to contentment and wealth is paved with kindness, gratitude, generosity, and contribution. These are difficult to enact each day because we're constantly bombarded with messages that lead us to believe the contrary.

Things I wish I'd known at 20

I'm turning 31 in less than two weeks. In tech nerd terms, that means I'm basically an ancient relic. There are a few things I wish I'd been told, and other things I was told but wish I had listened to. If you're a young aspiring geek about to excitedly enter a career in technology, maybe I can save you some heartache in your twenties.

  1. Programming is hard, but (usually) it's not an emergency. Enjoy yourself and don't sweat the day-to-day.
  2. Ideas are worthless. Execution is everything.
  3. Learn how to solve problems, not how to use the latest tech. No one ever hired a builder because they were really good at hammers. They hired them to build a house.
  4. Avoid lifestyle inflation. Live like you're middle class, even if you make six figures. (American median income: $51,939)
  5. Save six months' worth of expenses in a savings account as fast as you can.
  6. Keep your recurring expenses as low as possible. This means things like rent, debt payments, utilities, and your gym membership.
  7. Stay out of debt. If you're in debt, eat dog food and work until you're out.
  8. Remember your colleague with the big house and nice car probably makes about the same you do. Also remember they're probably stuck in their job paying for them. Choose mobility.
  9. Don't buy a house unless it's a really, really good deal. Even then, probably don't.
  10. Commuting to an office eats more of your salary than you think.
  11. Fall in love. It keeps you out of bars, in bed early, and attentive to your work.
  12. Eat lots of vegetables. Allocate time to cook.
  13. Invest in ergonomics. Stand at work.
  14. Listen to others unconditionally.
  15. Learn basic yoga postures. Practice them daily.
  16. Take frequent breaks while working.
  17. Drink lots of water.
  18. Avoid alcohol. Especially chronic use, since it becomes difficult to notice its negative effects when you're always hungover.
  19. Track every penny you earn and every penny you spend.
  20. Buy a small, inexpensive, efficient car.
  21. Run your household like a business with shareholders.
  22. You're going to be old and sexually undesirable someday. You're likely more attractive now than you'll be at the end. Enjoy that.
  23. Give to others spontaneously.
  24. Don't let your salaried job get in the way of your own dreams.
  25. Don't let your dreams be diluted by the day-to-day challenges of your salaried job.
  26. Don't let Apple tell you the things you need to buy.
  27. Chat and email aren't actual work.
  28. Choose clients and employers based on how you get along, not on how much you get paid.
  29. Symbols of status matter, but the symbols aren't your car, house, or clothes.
  30. Enrich yourself with knowledge and art. They're inexpensive hobbies and you'll always be fulfilled.
  31. Your parents are wrong about a lot of things. But they're also right about some. Choose your own path, but respect their guidance.
  32. The world is in peril. But it's always been that way.
  33. Gratitude is effective therapy.
  34. The best time to start has already past. But the second best time is right now.

Why I stopped drinking alcohol

Disclaimer: The following is my personal account of stopping drinking. If you're a happy drinker, I don't want to alienate you. I was once a happy drinker myself. I wrote this post to help sort out my own feelings about alcohol with the hope it could inspire others. I hope it's not mistaken for preachy evangelism!

There are books about how to be a better lover. Books about how to improve your physique, how to eat healthier, how to live longer, how to become more in touch with your spirituality, how to get more organized, how to be happier.

I've read most of them.

I've read most of them, and sometimes while reading them I had a drink in my hand.

I've spent a significant amount of time on self improvement without ever seeing the elephant in the room: My use of alcohol (and cannabis, for that matter) were decaying my potential more than any of my other behaviors were.

But alcohol gives you courage. Alcohol doesn't give me courage. In the end, it makes me a coward. I feel ashamed. By morning, I feel remorse. Courage is the ability to take action in spite of fear. Alcohol doesn't make me courageous. It makes me reckless.

But surely alcohol relaxes you. But it made me tense to begin with. Drinkers aren't more relaxed than non-drinkers. According to popular culture, non-drinkers are uptight. But I've met a lot of uptight drunks. And I sure don't feel relaxed on a Saturday morning in the throes of a hangover.

But how will you socialize? The same way I always have. I'll just be sober instead. I'll go to bars with my friends. I'll order virgin cocktails. I'll drink soda water. Nothing will have changed, except I'll be in control of my actions. And I'll wake up with a smile.

You don't drink? That must be boring. No, actually. Sobriety is pretty awesome. I've had more profound life experiences in my last few weeks of sobriety than in the previous months using alcohol. When I'm not shorting my pleasure circuit, I'm forced to seek pleasure in real-life experiences. Friendship. Adventure. Life.

The alleged benefits of drinking alcohol are illusory justifications for the continued ingestion of an addictive substance.

They're the same justifications a junkie uses to get his next fix of heroin or a smoker uses to accept his purchase of another pack.

Well, no different except that we're all okay with our alcohol addictions until catastrophe strikes.

But I don't want to wait for catastrophe.

I don't want to spend the best years of my life slightly numbed. I want to feel the full breadth of my human experience. I've spent so many of those special occasions---the ones we're supposed to remember forever, the ones we're supposed to cherish---inebriated.

Alcohol impairs my judgment, costs me money, wastes my time, sabotages my health, numbs my experience, constricts my mind, and makes me ugly. It does all of these things without offering tangible benefits.

Drinking alcohol prevents me from being the best version of myself.

So I stopped.

Your best candidates demand to work remotely

Tuesday morning. It's 6:32am. You yawn. You stretch and turn over on your side. No alarm woke you up. You, like most highly-productive people like waking early. You rise, stretch again, and don your bathrobe. You go into the kitchen. You press play on a podcast, leisurely cook yourself a healthy breakfast, eat, and then make coffee. It's 7:41am.

You sit at your desk and decide on your first task. You work, with no interruptions, for 1 hour and 54 minutes. It's 9:35.

Most people are still stuck in traffic, but you just clocked nearly 2 hours of completely uninterrupted work.

You take a break to stretch and make some more coffee. You check your email, because you know checking your email before you complete your most important task of the day is the best way to ensure it won't get done. You process all your email. Inbox zero. It's 10:00.

You have a brief, 5-minute meeting with your team members. You do this every morning. Once the call is over, you work again, with laser-focus, for another hour.

It's lunch time. You make a healthy salad for lunch. You spent only 28% of what it would have cost to buy a comparable lunch at a restaurant. You take your time washing the dishes.

You decide you'd like to take a walk. You take a leisurely half-hour walk around the neighborhood. You remember you need to buy some toiletries, so you stop at the grocery store.

When you return to your house, you sit for another two hours of uninterrupted work. Your superior is thrilled with your output. You are thrilled with being able to work on your terms.

It's 4:35. You turn off your computer and go spend time with your family and friends.

If you work remotely, it's likely you're familiar with the lifestyle I portrayed above. Thousands of programmers, designers, writers and other creative professionals are working remotely and enjoying the fruits of a self-driven, telecommute lifestyle. And thousands of companies are reaping the benefits of sourcing the best talent by allowing them to work on their own terms.

The Best Will Demand It

If your organization doesn't allow remote work, it's not attracting the best talent, because the best talent will demand to work remotely.

Remote work is becoming more common, and your best talent isn't having a hard time finding employment with remote-friendly employers.

The best talent has invested in creating a home workspace tailored to their personal tastes. They have created the ideal place for their productivity to flourish, and you didn't spend a dime. They've created systems that enhance their unique work style and culture.

Your best candidates are self-motivated, outcome-oriented people. Why would someone self-motivated and outcome-oriented want to spend their entire day in an office? They want to be spending their days productive when they can be, and enjoying life when they run out of steam.

They recognize the finite nature of time, which is why they strive to do excellent work for you while reserving the right to enjoy mid-day leisure.

Creative knowledge work is unlike the industrial and clerical work that came before it. There is no longer a linear correlation between hours worked and productivity. A programmer who works eight hours in a row will not produce twice as much as a programmer who works four hours in a row. I have personally found that I reach my productivity ceiling at around four hours' work in a day. Why are you requiring your team to stick around for eight hours straight?

A Broader Base of Talent

According to Payscale, the median salary for a senior web developer in San Francisco is $102,157. In Seattle, it's $83,903. That's an $18,254 difference, and they're happy to split it with you.

If you're hiring for a San Francisco company and you source your developers from the north, you could incentivize your candidates with a $9,127 salary increase over their local Seattle options, and save $9,127 per year compared to hiring someone in San Francisco. It's a win-win scenario for both you and your new hire.

With hyper-specialization becoming more common for technical workers, hiring outside your local metropolitan area also means you're able to find talent with experience that better matches your organization's needs.

When you offer a relocation package, you incur the additional risk that your new hire won't be the star player you thought they'd be. You'll have lost the airfare, the moving expenses, and the time spent interviewing and training them. When you hire remotely, your hiring costs are minimal.

Commuting is Expensive

In America, the average commute to work is 25.5 minutes. That's 51 minutes per day, or 4 hours and 15 minutes per week. That equates to a 10% pay cut: 4 hours of unpaid time for every 40 spent working. But that's not the worst of it.

The average per-mile cost of operating a sedan in America is $0.60. Assuming a 30-mile round-trip commute, that's $18 per day, or $90 per week spent commuting, in addition to the opportunity cost of the lost time!

Consider an average-salaried San Francisco senior web developer. They make $102,157 per year. Assuming they work 50 weeks per year, for 40 hours per week, that means their effective hourly rate is $51. When we apply their effective $51 hourly rate to their time spent commuting, their opportunity cost lost to commuting is 4.25 hours × $51 = $216.75 per week. That's an annual cost of $10,837.50. Add the cost of operating the car, and their effective salary dropped $15,337.50.

Commuting has turned your candidate's $102,157 salary into $86,819. That's a 15% effective pay cut. Armed with this knowledge, how many of your best and brightest candidates do you think would agree to a daily commute?


Remote workers enjoy a lifestyle that cannot be valued in dollars. They are high-output, self-motivated professionals who recognize the opportunity costs associated with mandatory office hours, and so they seek employment with firms that also recognize these costs. The life of a remote worker is richer and less restrictive. This richness and freedom will translate into better work for you.

A holistic approach to happiness

My homemade salad in a tiffin

March was a turbulent month for my body and mind. I had just terminated the lease on my apartment in Portland and was in the process of moving into a tiny RV. Every day was rendered more burdensome by persistent rain, gloomy skies, and an unnerving sense that the rabbit hole of my anguish would burrow ever-deeper.

And so, I set out on the open road in a blaze of escapist glory, thinking I was destined to find happiness outside myself. At first, the distraction of the road combined with the glimmer of sunshine provided me with the fulfillment I so craved. But, as with all stints of pleasure, it was short-lived and transient.

When I returned to Portland, I sought to properly investigate the source of my anguish. Why did I find myself in a constant state of yearning and escapism? It wasn't my friends, nor my surroundings, nor the weather, nor my work. I had tailored each of those to my liking--moreso than for most people have the opportunity or will. If none of those things, then what?

Fast-forward to this weekend. Within a 24-hour span, I discovered a film and a book, the likes of which would change my life. The film is the recently released, critically-acclaimed Forks Over Knives. In it, the documentarian examines The China Study, the famed 2004 book examining the relationship between the consumption of animal products and illness, in the context of the Western diet.

I was well-aware my diet wasn't optimal, but I knew my attentiveness toward what I put in my gullet was more than most Americans, so I thought little of it. But when I realized that certain foods, in adequate daily quantities, could reverse diseases like cancer, multiple sclerosis, and coronary artery disease, I was astonished and sought to completely revamp my diet to meet and exceed those criteria.

Forks Over Knives evangelizes a strict vegan diet and claims meat, dairy, and even fish are not necessary for, and often detrimental to, a healthy, disease-preventitive diet. Being a curious little bugger, I never let one driver steer me down the street. After all, veganism is generally regarded as a veritable tightrope walk to get adequate levels of B vitamins, and essential amino acids. Dr. Terry Wahls, a now-recovering multiple sclerosis patient, gave a TED talk detailing the diet she used to kickstart her brain and find her way out of a wheelchair and walking again.

Now, rather than eating out for two or more meals per day, I go to the grocery store shortly after waking up each morning, buy a bunch of dark leafy greens, one colored vegetable, one bunch of herbs, two pieces of fruit, and a bag of seeds or nuts of my choosing. All of this becomes the basis for two heaping servings of raw salad. You probably think I'm malnourished, but I've never felt so alert and alive. My craving for "mood enhancers" like caffeine, alcohol and cannabis have diminished substantially, almost to the point where I find their use to yield a net negative effect.

Okay, so I've got my body on the path to proper nourishment. On to my spirit...

Enter The Power of Now by Eckart Tolle. Typically I don't gravitate toward mainstream bestsellers as the source for great inspiration, but there are always exceptions. This is a big one. Tolle has re-taught me the duality of being and self, a distinction I hadn't forgotten but one I had certainly neglected in my daily life. Whenever I find myself becoming anxious, fearful, or stressed, I focus my attention to the beauty of the moment I'm living. After all, the past and future only exist as recollections and projections in our minds.

This led to another realization, the likes of which Tolle couldn't have discussed in his 1999 book but stares me straight in the face in our twenty-first century age. If past and future are mere products of ego, if self and identity are ailments of our own making, then what does social media represent in that context? The ultimate manifestation of our egos in digital form? Are all the texts, tweets, status updates, and constant social noise causing us anxiety of which we're hardly aware? Does the comment I receive on my Facebook post, pushed straight to my phone and ready for my consumption the instant it is published, the most iconic example of non-presence, non-attentiveness, and unconscious living imaginable?

tl;dr Eat your fucking vegetables and be here now.

Affluence, transience and identity

I've been living out of my tiny RV for two months. My comfort level with the arrangement is growing steadily, to the point where I almost always get a good night's sleep in my vehicle. But there's still a nagging uncertainty amidst my gratification that I'll be caught and prosecuted for my behavior, the likes of which bears no harm upon others and has less of an environmental impact than a normal, modern living arrangement.

When I was in San Luis Obispo, I decided that its downtown core was much too alluring to spend my time driving between it and a campground on the outskirts of town. And so, despite its illegality, I spent the night in my RV parked on the street beside a law firm. I made sure my presence wouldn't upset anyone and kept my profile low. I awoke peacefully and didn't have any issues.

The next morning over coffee, I executed a quick web search for "RV parking in San Luis Obispo" and came across this article. Turns out, SLO has enacted an ordinance banning RV camping from their streets in an effort to combat vagrantism and the drugs and violence that come with it. Yet another instance of combating a problem by enacting more laws, rather than approaching it with discretion and common sense.

And so, I had three options. I could continue to spend my nights on city streets and risk being harassed by the police, I could find a campground on the outskirts of SLO and pay $45/night for 100 square feet of cement in an area with no amenities or attractions, or I could realize how unwelcome I felt and head home. I headed home.

Here in Portland, we're constantly at odds with how to deal with homelessness and vagrantism. Our downtown core is littered with their trash and our shelters have lines longer than swanky brunch cafes on a late Sunday morning. And yet, we continue to uphold laws prohibiting camping on public grounds and ordinances prohibiting long-term camping on private lots. In my short experience as a vagabond, my most striking observation was that my ability to be productive was drastically reduced when faced with the question of where I would sleep that night.

Now that I'm back in Portland and sitting pretty in my girlfriend's driveway while contributing my share of rent each month, I'm reminded that I'm still living an illegal lifestyle. Because of zoning ordinances in our city and most others, I've effectively erected a second domicile in a lot zoned for single-family occupancy, which if used regularly, constitutes a zoning violation. Luckily, I've got a laundry list of alibis if the city asks any questions. "This is my mobile office and I live in the house with my girlfriend" is what I'm sticking with for now. But the fact that I even have to consider having an alibi for completely harmless behavior (and in a time of increasing rent fees, one solution to the affordable housing problem) makes me cringe. Why should it be illegal for me to occupy a perfectly suitable dwelling on private property?

My RV lifestyle has granted me new perspective on homelessness and vagrantism. Despite my affluence and ability to get a hotel room or rent a house at a moment's notice, my reluctance to do those things means I face many of the same problems and vulnerabilities. I seek to live a happy, peaceful existence and have chosen minimalism as my path. It's too bad it's illegal for me to do so.

A few thoughts…

I was leafing through my book of Buddhist scriptures and found a quote I really admired:

“As rain breaks through an ill-thatched house, passion will break through an unreflecting mind.”

This inspired me to write a few observations I’ve been formulating in my head lately:

  1. We fear what we do not understand
  2. Our longevity is arbitrary due to death’s innate inevitability.
  3. Purpose is synthetic; however, this does not invalidate our need to pursue it.
  4. Truth is general belief.
  5. Deceit is the sin from which all sins stem.