This post is a summary of 2013, and my attempts at living a ‘normal’ life in a stick and brick home. It turned out to be a very interesting year because it was The Year of the Floods. I have written a series of posts that are more detailed, but realize that most of you may not have the time or interest in reading the entire story in detail, so I wrote this shorter version. You can find the series under the category 2013~The Year of the Floods, they are listed as # 1-11.
In 2013, under pressure from friends and family I decided to try living a ‘normal’ lifestyle. By that I mean; get a full-time- year-round job, rent a stick and brick home, and settle in for a life of being in one place with the constant struggle to pay the bills, in exchange for a fixed roof over my head. Before doing this I extracted a promise from my well-intentioned loved ones; they had to promise that if this didn’t work out, they would never give me a hard time about my lifestyle choice again, and just let me follow my own heart.
On July 1, 2013, I moved into a quaint little cabin in the mountains. I did this because I had finally found a full-time-year-round job in this town where year-round jobs are a rarity.
I then committed to having a home, as I could actually afford year-round rent.
I did this mainly for my parents, who didn’t like the way I was living and who felt I should get a real job and a real home.
The cabin was a quaint little thing at the end of a dirt road, and had a few items of furniture and a bed. I moved my stuff in, which took about an hour, including putting everything away, and the few belongings I had didn’t do anything to tamper the echo of the almost empty building. In the weeks that followed I did my best to settle in, and spent a lot of time wondering what to do with my time now that I was in a home. I spent hours at the thrift store buying things to fill the empty void in the room, and to fill the bare cupboards that had glass fronts. I spent most of my time away from the cabin, because I grew bored inside it. I could only read for so long, and I couldn’t afford cable or internet. My biggest joy was the wildlife outside, so I spent a lot of time sitting on the deck, or gazing out of the window. Basically I was doing the same thing I did when I was living in my car, except it was costing me a lot of money.
Shortly after I moved in the weather turned bad, and it rained and rained throughout July and August and into September. I had booked a bunch of backpacking trips on my days off, because I was desperate to get away from the town and my home, but each one was cancelled due to the appalling heavy rains.
Then on September 9, 2013, the Colorado floods began, and on September 13, the rushing, gushing waters turned this part of the world upside down, quite literally.
Rocky Mountain National Park and the surrounding mountains couldn’t hold all the rain that had been falling for months, and especially from the past few days when the raine had turned torrential, and all that water flowed into the ravines and creeks, and then carried flood mud into the town of Estes Park, and right through it towards the two canyons where our two main highways were located. The St.Vrain River, the Big Thompson, and North Fork of The Big Thompson Rivers, and all the tributaries and seasonal creeks rose to historic levels, and proceeded to flood the town of Estes Park, wipe out many roads (including Hwy 34 & 36), destroy many homes, and seriously damage several small communities down in the canyons (Glen Haven was almost wiped off the map).
After the flood, the town ended up being cut-off from the rest of the world for over two-months, with the exception of one windy, and sometimes dangerous mountain road. A drive to the next town took about five-hours instead of forty-five minutes. The place I worked at was flooded so badly, that it was red-tagged and deemed unsafe to enter and I lost my job. The rest of town was pretty much shut down too and non-residents were required to evacuate, and though many businesses opened quickly, there was no-one here to spend money. People couldn’t come into town without providing proof of residency at the checkpoints, and all seasonal residents had been told to leave the Estes Valley in order to save resources. There was no sewer for much of the town, the infrastructure was damaged, and the list goes on… It was a mess. (You can read all about it in the longer version). This also meant that there was no work available, and even some of the business owners were forced to visit the local food bank. In late November (Thanksgiving) a temporary road was completed to The Front Range, though it was rough, and there were a lot of road works (which continued for years afterwards). November, December, January, February, March passed with practically no money coming into this town, so there were no jobs available.
I quickly ran out of money, and couldn’t pay my rent any longer, but my sweet land lady let me stay due to hardship, and I buckled down to helping her with as many things as I could in exchange. She (was then) 88-years old, and wanted to learn how to use a computer, and trust me, she got a lot of lessons.
I scrounged for firewood to heat my small cabin, I got food from the food bank until they turned me away at the end of December because I couldn’t provide a lease on my cabin (Yep, a church-run food bank turned me away because I couldn’t pay rent and despite still having a home, couldn’t provide a lease, and they wouldn’t accept anything else as proof of residency). I received $139.00 a week for about two months from unemployment, then that too came to an close at the end of December.
By February 2014, I’d had enough. Although the town of Estes Park is truly beautiful, I’d grown tired of it. There was nothing to do and no money to do it with anyway. That small town became a minuscule town, and the winter weather didn’t help. The winds were the worst I recall in years, the cold colder than this town had experienced in decades (as most of the country also experienced that year), there was snow every day and still no work available. I sat in my cabin with my gloves, hat, coat and down boots on, and wouldn’t allow myself a fire until I could no longer feel my fingers. I was rationing my heat and food. It was a serious struggle, with little joy. One day I went out into my car and sat in it while wrapped in my sleeping bag, along with the occasional burst of heat from the engine, I found it was easier to stay warm in that small space than it was in the cabin. Ultimately, I made the decision to end the struggle and return to living in my vehicle. I’d lost my job during the flood, and was so disgusted with the treatment I’d received from my employer afterwards, that there was no chance of returning to work for her again.
I then sold off all the things I’d purchased over the months, and prepared to get back on the road and out of Estes Park. Once I started to sell my belongings, my enthusiasm for life returned and I found myself looking forward to living in my vehicle again. I found a renter for the cabin, then at the beginning of March I moved back into Mitzi.
I’d tried living a traditional lifestyle with a year-round job and a stick and brick home, and through no fault of my own had lost it all. No-one could say that I had deliberately sabotaged this attempt, because it was purely an act of nature (God). I’d given it my all, even when I had no money coming in I tried to keep that home, but ultimately it ended up as it always ends up for me whenever I try to have a home…I lost it all.
And this my friends, is one of the reasons I choose to live the life of a Nomad. I’ve learned that the less a person has, the less they have to loose, and the freedom that comes from owning so little far outweighs the pleasure of owning the stuff… at least in my opinion.
And so this ends the summary of my Attempt to Live a ‘Normal’ Life.
Since then my family and friends have kept their promise. They no longer try to convince me that living in a stick and brick is better for me…I think they have finally accepted that I was born to be a Nomad, and that this is the life for me, at least for now.
Like I said in the beginning, this is a summary. The whole story is written in more detail in an 11-part series, under the 2013 category. It covers the flood, and more.
Until next time, savor the journey, and when life throws you curve-balls always follow your heart, it rarely lies.
Roxy ~ a Nomad for Nature