Friday, July 22, 2011

sitting, waiting, wishing...

"There is no telling how many miles you will have to run while chasing a dream." -Author Unknown

At the beginning of this life-changing epic adventure, I had no idea what was in store. All I knew was that it was better than the alternative. According to our culture, at my age I should be throwing myself into the grind of work and paying bills without question. A majority of people in this world believe that this is the only option. You find your little place to live, you get the job, you pay your bills to live in your little place, rinse, repeat. I threw all of this out the window. I wasn't happy. I wasn't even slightly satisfied with what this life had to offer.

I have been on this road curving and speeding away from the known into the great unknown. Tomorrow is a question and even today can be uncertain. It has been nearly two months since this blog has seen any action and that is unfortunate but so were the circumstances. After much trial and error, our VW guru Eddie has finally brought the bus back to life! It has not been easy being stuck in Guntersville while the summer goes on around us. Matt and I had to forego a lot of the plans we had made this summer to get the bus back in running condition. If you know us at all, we still had a good time. We were able to attend the Bonnaroo Music Festival for free and see some of our favorite bands including Mumford and Sons. Most of the time, we worked odd jobs and hustled for money. Just recently we traveled down to Birmingham to sell art at What's on 2nd? and Matt received the good news that one of his art pieces was bought by the Birmingham Museum of Art.

There were moments that came as a great test for our ability to persevere. For the two weeks that we were without the bus, we lived in a tent outside in the Alabama heat. With no bus to work on and hardly any jobs for us to do, it was not hard for us to begin to resent the situation just from boredom. One morning, we woke up in a terrible mood. As far as we knew, no progress had been made on the bus for over a week and a half and our monetary situation was looking dire. At this point, both of us were upset, hot, and feeling pretty helpless. Matt and I decided that we were not holding up our end of the bargain. Through the strange workings of the universe, our situation was not getting any better because we had said we were going to be making art and working hard and instead we were just moping. That day, we turned our frowns upside down and began painting again. I guess the cosmos had it in for us because the next day we received a call from Eddie that said he had figured out what the problem was with the bus. Although our immobility this summer could be seen as a curse, we have quickly worked to make it a blessing and we are more motivated and inspired than ever.

The next few weeks are crucial ones in our relationship as well as our first test for the life we have planned on the road. Our plans are simple because there are no plans. We have things in mind we would like to do and will do our best to work towards achieving those goals. This weekend is one of great importance because we will be heading down to Eddie's in Gadsden to do the final repair work on the bus before packing it up and finally becoming the gypsies we hope to be. Over the next few weeks, we will be traveling around the South doing everything from seeing Furthur play in Atlanta to selling art on the streets of New Orleans.

I felt the quote at the top was very fitting. Dreams are not unobtainable but they do require the extra effort to pull yourself out of the ordinary and launch into the unknown. The miles may be many and they may even be endless but I believe it's much better to be on that road than sitting, waiting, and wishing.

Monday, May 30, 2011

to feel the free wind on my face

The Renovation Station!

The gutted inside (before cleaning)

Matt's stealie stencil on the engine tin

The engine in process

So sitting in the back seat of a Mustang with the windows down on a 9 hour drive to Florida was not exactly the "free wind on my face" I was looking for but I have the good company of two of my best friends and the journey will be worth the rewards. It's been a few weeks since I said goodbye to Birmingham as my home and I feel like the fears I had in the process have all pretty much dissipated. The world has begun to work in mysterious ways. It's as though any time I feel like things are going tough I am handed the tools to make it better. I guess it's a bit like grace and grace has helped my patience grow.

So much has happened since Matt and I left Birmingham to begin a new path in our lives. As soon as we arrived in Guntersville we began working on pulling out the old engine in the bus and putting in the new. We took our time and I feel like we put a lot of love into that engine. I will strongly suggest that if you ever buy an air-cooled Volkswagen that you take the time to learn every in and out of the engine. We have a little bit of work to do as it still will not run. I think we have narrowed down the problem but we hope to have a VW guru to double check before we throw another new part at it. To make the time pass, we started on the interior renovations and gutted the inside yesterday. The new floors inside the bus will be laminate hardwood for easier cleaning (and beauty!). We are also re-doing the larger cabinet to suit us better. We tore out the old canvas top and I have plans to sew up a new one made out of old sailboat sails and part of an old tent. Not much longer and the bus will be worthy to be called our new home.

I think my mentality has survived well through all the setbacks and crazy adventures life has thrown my way recently. I keep waking up in the middle of the night occasionally not knowing where I am. The first week in Guntersville I kept thinking that I was still in my old bedroom back in Birmingham. Although I am disoriented sometimes, I feel like I am exactly where I should be. It's been tough work too--we usually get up fairly early in the morning and work until the sun goes down. With all the aching muscles and exhaustion, I could not be happier. I feel like I have finally arrived in my life and can begin being fully involved in it rather than just going through the motions. It's here. It's happening. I feel a free wind blowing on my face.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

what a week can do...

The past week of my life has been a roller coaster ride and I'm glad that I have kept my plans flexible. Life threw a lot my way but probably the most tragic were the tornadoes. After watching bits and pieces of Tuscaloosa rain down over my house and a near miss here in Southside, I was blown away to see all the destruction that has occurred in the my wonderful home state. I'm sad that in my current situation I cannot help much. Once we are out of Birmingham, Matt and I plan to help my mom clean up in Guntersville for a few weeks. It'll give us some breathing time to do all the renovations for the bus as well. We did have to cancel our first trip to Wakarusa but I honestly think that it's for the best.

It was also sad to learn last week that my brother (who is also my roommate) lost his job at the J.Clyde where he had been working for nearly 3 years. It was also exciting to know that in two weeks he had found a new job in Atlanta and a new place to live with his girlfriend. This made things a little hectic for us at the house since we are having to move EVERYTHING out instead of leaving most of it for him. Because of this, I am not going to be able to paint the mural in Birmingham.

It's nice to see these seemingly awful events as blessings in disguise. Although I may not have the free time I thought I would while still in Birmingham, the busy schedule is making the time fly. May is always a crazy month and it helps me to keep a good attitude and take things one day at a time.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

to pass the time...

It's been a crazy winter and it's already turning out to be a crazy spring. I'll feel like I can breathe again when Birmingham is permanently in my rearview mirror. I've spent the past couple of months preparing myself for one of the boldest moves yet. I think I have finally come to terms with the fact that I am choosing to be "jobless" and "homeless". I put the terms in quotes because I know I will always have a home and regardless of whether or not I will be fully employed, I will always be working.

So how does one go from working full-time and living happily in a place for two years to going on the road indefinitely? I can tell you it's not easy. First of all, you've got to save money. That's the hardest thing to do when you are still paying bills and will still be paying bills even when heading for the hills. Second, you've got to make sure all debts are paid. This one has been hard for me as I incurred some pretty awesome debt last summer. I am finally gearing up to be able to pay all this off and live a debt-free lifestyle. Beautiful, isn't it? The third thing I had to do was find a partner in crime. This was not as easy and straightforward as the first two although I think I couldn't have made a better decision. Matt is very savvy when it comes to matters of the road plus he makes a very good bodyguard. I don't know if I could do it without him. Once all this was done it seemed like the plans fell into place and we actually have quite a summer ahead of us.

Many have asked me where I plan to go and I usually respond "everywhere!" but there is a plan. In a few weeks, the bus will be fixed and very shortly after it arrives here in Birmingham I will be leaving. Our first "stop" is my mom's house in Guntersville to do some much-needed cosmetic repair to the bus. This includes making a new canvas pop-top and a few minor things in the inside. This will also help me a bit because I'll be able to visit with my family before I go. Our first place we are locked in for is Wakarusa in Arkansas. Matt and I plan on volunteering for the festival in return for the price of tickets. After Waka, we have talked about heading up to St. Louis for a bit to visit some friends that he has up there. If we have some time to kill, we'll head over to Appalachia for some hiking before heading to the ROMP bluegrass festival in Kentucky. There's a few weeks between that and our next stop, All Good Music Festival. We plan on doing some more hiking and possibly visiting NYC to see my friend Allison. We are also volunteering at All Good and then heading from there to the largest rainbow gathering in Pennslyvania. After that, the schedule is unknown. We may stop back by Alabama for some rest or head straight out west to see Colorado and Utah and the like. I'd like to leave my options open for the opportunities that arise and see where the wind wills me.

For the time being, I am waiting...patiently. I have been doing a lot of art and taking on some projects too. My co-worker, Spencer recently offered wall space at the musician's co-op where he lives. I think it's appropriate that Birmingham will get one last "Laura masterpiece" the size of a two story building before I leave. There's a few odds and ends that need mending before I go but otherwise my heart is ready for the road.

Monday, February 28, 2011

ideas, dreams, plans...

We all have them. First that little inkling of an idea that the beautiful days outside would be better spent outside rather than doing this daily grind. Usually, I would call in a personal health day but that was more easily done when I was in school and allowed a few days to skip out each semester. Then you get the idea that there's more to life than this daily routine you stick to religiously sometimes. Get up, go to work, come home, veg on TV, go to bed...a little variation here and there but let's not kid ourselves. This isn't life. It's a set of motions. I fear that people think this is a place of security. The stricter you become with your routines, your diet, your social interactions, your way of life, the less stress and worries will be come your way. To quote from my blog title, maybe I'm just young, crazy, and totally in love with life but if I were subjected to the 9-5, Monday through Friday job that most people build their own lives around, I would go nuts.

This is one of the many driving factors toward my reasons for leaving the "comfort and safety" of the so-called plan that most people see as life (get a college degree, start your career, find a husband, pop out a few kids, and sign that 30 year mortgage). That, my friends, was never my plan. I realize I have worried my near and dear to death with these crazy ideas but I can only say that once you throw out THE plan, most people fear you have gone off the deep end. It's also sad to say I haven't been able to do much to console my loved ones for I fear too that I am stepping off and into the deep end. I hope I can swim.

I have a plan. Who knows how good it is. Untested. Untried. All drawing from the minds of both Matt and I. I can tell you it will be as good as our smarts and talents and I'd say that both of us are pretty smart and talented people. We'll get by.

As for now, the story of the Lady Wendy continues. She is currently in the shop getting fixed up with a rebuilt and/or brand new engine and will be road ragin' by April. The mechanic that is working on her is apparently the son of the guy that used to work on my grandfather's bus. I'm happy to know she is in good hands although they are not mine. I still have a few renovation plans for the cosmetic parts but this will pretty much set up the bus for the road trip of a lifetime.

The dreams keep coming...the ones where I'm driving that big green bus through shrouded mountain sides and camping in it surrounded by wonderful, happy people. The road is calling and I am answering in earnest.

Friday, October 1, 2010

the adventure of the great Westfalia Part II

Ah...the joys of owning a car nearly ten years older than I am. My Volkswagen Westfalia, dubbed the Lady Wendy, has been sitting in my driveway not running for nearly 10 months now. Originally, I took it to Jim's VW out in Leeds where he fixed the fuel injection but it was still only running on 3 cylinders. He offered to "patch" it for $1200 but I graciously declined. I got the lady towed back to my house where it sat in the driveway from January until a few days ago. I talked to many people about the possibility of coming by the house and taking a look over the bus to see what sort of undertaking I had ahead of me. I was never able to get a single person to come lend me a hand until the end of July. Through some miracle, a man in Alabaster posted his info on and I e-mailed him a brief story of my situation. Within an hour, he called me back on my cell phone and we talked for the better part of an hour going over what I could do in my driveway, the story of the bus, and learning what he could do for me. I called him several times and got an answer each time with the good advice to go along with it.

A week ago, I sold my Camry that I've had since 2004 and finally had the money to put an overhaul on the engine. I called up my new go-to guy and gave him a run-down. I caught him just in time too, as he is taking a full time job at a Honda repair shop and would not be working on VW's in his driveway anymore. He offered to come up to my house after the weekend and take a good look at my bus to see if he could fix the problem in my driveway. When he got here, the first thing we did was test the battery, which was nearly dead. We drive to the auto parts store and buy a replacement battery (about $100). He hooks up the battery and I hop in the front to fire her up. Voila! She's alive!!! Still running poorly though...I shut her off. We take a look over the engine again, checking all the connections and parts and find one thing unplugged to the fuel injectors. Plug it in. Start the bus. Perfection.

If there was ever a happy camper, it is me and the Lady Wendy. I've been driving her daily since Monday and I am proud to say she is running beautifully. It's time to hit the road, folks.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I believe the best feeling is the big sigh I take at the end of the day knowing that I've filled it with everything I can to make myself happy. Today is definitely one of those days I will take that sigh. I've actually been having a lot of those days lately.

The festival is moving along rather smoothly. This past week Matt and I went up to Guntersville to get a perspective on what we need to do to raise the money to put it on and talk to the people involved in the planning and whatnot. As we drove around Guntersville doing the footwork to talk to all the necessary people, it was beautiful to see some of their faces light up when we told them what we were doing. The best face we saw all day though was the lady at Mountain Valley Arts Council, to whom we are donating the money. We walked into her office early in the morning, sat down, and told her what we were doing. Her first question was "who are you?" We both laughed and told her if she could keep a secret, we are two kids who just wanted to do it. But really, how hard is that to believe?

I feel more and more like a little kid every day. I feel like I'm shaving the years off of my life every day when I open my eyes and begin a new day. Maybe this is the secret to the fountain of youth...