Absolute Zero –The Penniless Freedom of the Backpacker

brokeI’ve been broke before.

In fact, I’ve been completely broke far too often in the last few years.  So broke that for weeks at at time, my diet consisted almost entirely of 2 minute noodles.   So broke that I’d buy 4 liter boxes of $10 goon (box wine) and get blackout schwasted before going out in an attempt to save money the bars.  So broke that I stopped paying my credit card bills months ago (help!).  But that’s what happens when you live your life on the road, and I guess I’m kinda used to it.

I’m always looking for work and when I have it, I never plan farther ahead than my next plane ticket.

Sure, I may not be able to afford that fancy new plasma TV (it wouldn’t fit in my backpack anyway) but what this lifestyle does afford me is freedom.  I have the freedom to pick up and leave whenever I want and go wherever I want (funding and visas providing).  It’s exciting.  It’s adventure. And it’s honestly the only way I know to how to live these days.

People mention office jobs and girlfriends and all the color drains out of my tanned, endless-summer face.  I think I may be allergic to responsibility.  Sure, it would be nice to have a bit of money in my pocket – it would certainly make life a lot easier in some situations – but how much of our freedom must we sacrifice for financial security?  I’m not ready to give up this life just yet. I’ve grown to really love being a gypsy – I think this life suits me.

I’ve been back in America for two months now, and I’m absolutely broke.  Absolutly.  For the longest time, I had six dollars, and that’s just not a good feeling.  I wouldn’t leave the house for fear of spending money.  Reckless and riotous living got me into this situation, but the closer my bankroll gets to zero, the more miserly I become.  I held onto that six bucks for weeks! I finally had to relinquish it to the gas pump after I got called in for a job interview.

I’ve been working on some freelance writing projects, but the pay is meager at best, and I’ve been scouring Craigslist for any kind of work (I’ll wash dishes!), but had little luck.  It was easier for me to get a job as an illegal immigrant in Australia than it has been to get work here in America.  And they even pay more Down Under.  Blame it on the economy, or maybe on my own lack of ambition, either way, something here just isn’t working.

I’m staying at mom’s house right now (free room and board) and I’ve been on a serious detox simply due to lack of funds.  I run and I swim every day and physically, I think I’m in the best shape of my life.  I feel good, but I also feel like something is missing.

So I’ve already started planning my next escape.  Maybe I’ll head back to Australia for another summer, this time with a work visa in hand so as not to get deported.  Those Aussie East Coast beaches are calling my name!  Or maybe I’ll try my hand at teaching English overseas.  South Korea?  Dubai?  Not sure.

Maybe you can help me decide?

In other news, I have a really fun weekend planned, with the return of The Shauna after many years exiled in the far reaches of the Hawaiian Islands!  Also Brian and Erica’s house warming BBQ in Oakland and Meghan’s birthday in San Francisco.  Oh yeah, life is still good, to be sure.  And I took in the recycling from mom’s house, so now I’ve got a couple bucks to spend at the bars.

Woo! See you there!

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  • Josh

    Justin my friend,

    Jobs are beyond overrated. When my friends talk about buying houses and their miserably boring jobs I reflect on what my life must look like to them, and I realize that for all the boring shit they can put up with, and all the responsibility they seem to have, they could never live my life. Once the travel bug takes you it’s hard to settle back down. Meet me and Thomas in Africa in 2010 — seriously though, I think we can have some fun with lions and alcohol. :)

    Get back on the road my friend, it’s where you belong.

  • Kelly jones

    Ohhh noooo! This worries me. You’ve been there for two months and no job luck? That’s promising. At least I can be a gypsy too…at least for a while. Meh, I’ll actually need a source of income as soon as possible.haha

  • Jennifer Frances

    What happened to taking the bus on the road to SA?

  • Dmitri / River

    Hey man,

    Cool post. I was just looking for advice for traveling without money. Actually, I have a couple grand and a well-paying office job, but I’m kind of fed up and I’m wondering whether I will be able to survive if I just get a ticket to travel and get myself stranded somewhere. In fact, I wanted to go to South Africa. You see, I was in California between ages 11 and 23, and now I am deported to my native Kazakhstan, where I feel totally trapped. Totally trapped! I’d really appreciate it if you could share some tips about traveling. I want to go but I have the usual insecurities about getting stuck somewhere without money and not being able to leave or eat or something. What’s it like, man? Thanks, I’d really appreciate any feedback! Dmitri

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