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 leak is a good excuse for bamboo.

It's been raining and hovering around 40°F for the past two weeks straight here in Portland. As a result, my trusted land yacht (RV) has faced the plight of condensation in all its orifices. And so, I figured, my wet carpet must surely be a result of it raining inside, right?


The plastic tubing connecting my water pump to the faucet had sprung a slow leak, and was dripping water all over the inside of my kitchenette unit, down onto the carpet in front of my bed. I'd impressed myself countless times with my seeming natural handyman talent (this kid deals in bits and bytes typically), but this one was too much stress for me to handle.

My trusty Craigslist contractor came to the rescue, but had a caveat: The carpets needed to be ripped out. With that much water seeping through to the subfloor, chances of salvaging the wood below with the carpets in place were slim. And so, reluctantly, I started the process I had hoped to put off until I reached sunnier pastures. It was time to go bamboo.

Wood Jerry! Wood!

At the inception of my grand lifestyle experiment, I decided I wanted to remodel most of my RV with gorgeous hardwoods from Bamboo Revolution. Their work is most prominent in the interior of Coava Roasters, with which they happen to share a space. When I saw it, I fell in love.

The installation is still a work in progress, but I have a hunch the improvement will be night and day. I don't know what kind of masochist wants carpet installed in their home, but I'm glad to make a swift exit from that club.