As I prepare to move to a new place, where I have a house and a job waiting for me, I am in limbo for a few months without a single specific address to call home. My own choices have kept me largely in motion over the last several weeks, which means that I haven’t spent more than three consecutive nights in one place since I was in Iceland in the middle of May.
Sometimes I wonder if I should have just rented an apartment for these awkward weeks.
But you know what? There’s a silver lining, and that’s that I have the rare opportunity to see many people that I care about, all over the eastern seaboard and beyond (including, in the last six weeks, Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and California). To do that successfully, I’ve developed a few habits that I thought I’d share, just in case you ever find yourself embracing your nomadic side. In no particular order, here’s my advice to staying sane while practicing the fine art of couch surfing:
1. Be flexible. Even though there are certain things I like to do – write, run, cook, etc. – this period in my life has reminded me that there are actually all sorts of ways to get those things done, or to not get them done, and I will be fine. It’s temporary. It’s all an experiment in finding other ways of being, which is actually kind of a nice change.
2. Remain grateful. So many people have welcomed me into their homes. They feed me, let me use their washer and dryer, give me space, and give me options. It’s amazing and incredible. I’d be crazy to not see how much love surrounds me. And I may be many things, but I am not crazy (at least not in that way), so I try to say thanks, and frequently.
3. Buy drinks. So many friends have insisted on buying me dinner that it’s kind of ridiculous. I can hope that one day I’ll actually be able to repay them when the opportunity arises, but for now, I pick up the tab for cocktails or coffee whenever possible. When it starts to seem like a lot, I remember that I’m not currently paying rent anywhere, and then buy another round.
4. Embrace minimalism. I’m traveling lightly these days, rotating through a few favorite dresses and a couple of carefully-chosen shorts, shirts, and pants. Everything is machine washable. I look the same all the time, and I don’t have to stress about what to wear; instead, I go with what is clean and weather-appropriate. It’s awesome. Try it.
5. Keep cash handy. Today I spent a whopping $42 (ahhh! $42!!) in tolls, which is a good reminder that I should always, always have more money on hand than I think I’ll need, whether for an unexpected toll or an old-school, sans-parking-app meter. Plus, I don’t want to offer to buy drinks and then discover the bar doesn’t take credit cards. This isn’t amateur hour.
6. Buy a quart-size Ziploc. I shove travel-size toiletries in that baggie like my life depends on it, and thus feel ready for anything, even an unexpected flight (which hasn’t happened yet, but maybe soon!). It makes me feel oddly self-sufficient, way more than the accomplishment itself actually deserves.
7. Carry multiple toothbrushes and deodorant. Seriously, I have one of each in every bag. No one wants a stinky house guest with halitosis. No one. Added tip: though I love the idea of it, I tried that homemade deodorant the other day, and let’s just say it didn’t cut the mustard, if you know what I mean.
And, probably the most important (thus rendering my earlier claim that these were included in no particular order untrue):
8. Reciprocate. All of the magnificent people who have opened their homes to me have an open invitation to stay with me pretty much anytime they want. Come August, I have a guest room, a laundry room, and plenty of space in the bathroom for extra toothbrushes. Plus, the ocean is just around the corner.
Admittedly, this isn’t really what I expected to be doing at this point in my life, but a month from now, when I climb in my little gray car and start the drive across the country, I’ll surely look back on this strange and unexpected time with nostalgia. Tonight, I’m in Brooklyn, with a snuggly mattress of my own and the cool air of a brand-new air conditioner breaking the July heat.
As far as limbo is concerned, it’s not too shabby. Not too shabby at all. Now if you don’t mind, please excuse me; I have to go reapply my deodorant.