Thriving in a Bad Economy
I was just on my forum reading some of the new posts, and what leapt out at me was the number of people who are coming to vandwelling because their lives have been devastated by the terrible recession we are in. Many are being laid-off from jobs they held all their lives and were sure they would retire from. Now they can’t find another job of any kind and are losing their homes.
I first became aware of this in 2008 when the traffic to my website suddenly jumped up to a tremendously higher number of hits. Then I started getting emails almost daily from people who had lost their jobs, their savings were running out and they were facing foreclosure on their home. They knew that very soon they would literally be homeless and they were writing for me on advice on how to live in a vehicle. Of course I always wrote back and gave them all the help and encouragement I could. I still get those emails and there are still many cries for help on the forum.
It’s hard not to conclude that our world is changing, and not for the better. At one time there was a social contract that if you played by the rules (went to school, got a job and worked hard) everything would be fine. That’s no longer true today. You can do everything right, just the way society wants you to do it, and still end up broke, alone and homeless.
One other thing I noticed on the forum was how often people would write in and say that they were in this awful economic situation, but their family (most often their children) and friends had not offered them any help. So for many it is a double-whammy, not only had society let them down economically but their families had had also failed them.
Many parents are blaming themselves for the way their children turned out, but I’m not so sure they are right. We don’t raise our children in a vacuum. In the long run, they are just as influenced by their schools, peers and media as they are by us. I used to ridicule the old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” but I don’t any more. Whether we like it or not the village has a tremendous influence on the child, so I had better make sure it is a positive influence and if it isn’t I need to work twice as hard to offset the negative influence.
I believe our society is fundamentally flawed, and it has taken a long time but the flaws are finally accumulating and we are seeing the affects. The tremendously negative effects of the global village are coming home to roost.
The world we live in is changing, and not for the better. I personally don’t expect things to ever go back to the way they were. Chances are many of you reading my blog right now are here because at some level you are aware of the flaws in our society and are looking for an alternative, or have been forced to come here because of the bad economy.
I’m nowhere near smart enough to think I have any solutions for society’s problems, but I do think vandwelling is the best way out of this mess for individuals. Capitalism works so well because it appeals to the greed in all of us: “I want more!” So we work hard and get more. But that isn’t enough, so we keep working hard and we keep getting more. For a very long time that has worked really well. Consumerism kept us all on the treadmill buying more and that created growth and the bubble just kept getting bigger. But now that the bubble has burst, how will we ever get it started again? I’m a big believer in Peak Oil, which says that we have reached the peak of oil production. From now on, every year, world-wide oil production will decline. We aren’t going to run out of oil, we have run out of cheap, easy to get oil, so from now on the price of oil will just keep going up with an ever increasing demand.
The result is that our economic problems will just get worse, not better and I’m afraid we will continue to be disappointed by our loved ones. The problem is that capitalism creates a cycle of selfishness “I” want more. Everything in our society revolves around perpetually increasing and feeding the greediness of “I.” To make us even more greedy, the media created the concept of “I deserve more!” And so the entitlement generation was created. Helping each other in a time of need doesn’t help me get more, and since I deserve more, I can’t take the time to help you.
How does all of this apply to us, people who have chosen simplicity and mobile living? Vandwelling says just the opposite, of consumerism: “I don’t want more!” In fact vandwelling goes even further and says, “I want less!” That breaks the cycle of selfish greediness. Life is no longer all about getting and accumulating stuff, it’s about simple pleasures and a life lived well. Happiness, not things, becomes our goal. So we can thrive in economic bad times, because all we want is enough food to eat and a little gas to put in our vans.
But because there is no happiness without a community, village or tribe, we soon find ourselves coming together. That is the only possible explanation for the success of the gathering of vandwellers at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous and of my forum. When we reject the siren call of capitalism, we need people to fill the vacuum in our hearts, so we start looking for each other and coming together. If the economy improves, we will be happy together. If it doesn’t we can still be happy on our own.
Since you are reading this, I believe we must have kindred spirits; we are brothers and sisters in our own little village. That’s the reason there is a standing invitation for all of you to join me in my camp, we are “kin.” You are always welcome. And if you are far away, you can always write me with any questions you may have.
My wish for all of you is less stuff and more happiness!! Bob
It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents us from living freely and nobly.