In 2014, Rebecca and her partner John left her lifelong home of Oakland, California in search of a better life. Their journey will take them to the Catskills in New York State, and eventually onto a converted school bus in which they will travel America.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Introduction: Leaving Everything I Know

View from my parents' porch in Oakland, CA

My name is Rebecca Lloyd, and this is the story of how I left my 9-5 life in the San Francisco Bay Area and ran off to the woods of New York State. Eventually, it will be the story of how I then left New York State to travel the country in a converted school bus with my partner.

I am a published writer in my forties, and have lived in the San Francisco Bay Area my whole life. The last thirteen years of that life were spent with my partner, John. I supported us with a mid-range office position that would have done the job in a sane economy. Unfortunately, the region no longer has a sane economy. Gentrification and local landlord corruption has sent rents skyrocketing. My salary, meanwhile, remained the same, and our health issues prevented us from seeking other income. We were debating what to do about a year ago when a series of violent crimes in our already unsafe neighborhood pushed the issue in the worst way possible.

I could go on for pages about what it was like to live in a place that had not only the typical problems of a slum apartment, but three break-ins, two police lockdowns, street fights and screaming domestics multiple times a week and by the end, an average of two shootings a month. But for now, let's just say that I didn't sleep much, my anxiety disorder was constantly being triggered, and all I could think of was getting out. When my partner came home and told me that he had had to seek shelter from a drive-by in progress just walking to the transit station, I knew that we were done with Oakland.

Friday I had my last day of work with Alameda County, where I had done every type of clerical and office support work possible for over thirteen years. It was a job I was happy to have, and I regretted having to leave despite its lack of ability to support us long term. I left friends, co-workers, and the illusion of financial security behind. As I walked out the door to go have a good-bye dinner with a work friend, I felt dizzy, tired, relieved, and terrified all at once.

Lucky doesn't care where we go as long as there's food and a couch.

In three days, I take my two Emotional Support Animals (aka Lucky and Velcro, the Thundercats, and/or the Flying Derp Brothers), present all relevant paperwork, and go flying across country. I'm going to join my partner of fourteen years and his parents in the Catskills, in Ulster County, New York. There, I plan to seek both part-time work and freelance assignments, and save money while we train in some skills, help my in-laws on various projects, and prepare for mid-May, when the funding comes in for the next big project in my life.

The idea to convert a school bus and live in it has been in our heads for over a year. When my in-laws offered us sanctuary at their place while we built the thing, we jumped at the chance. Our budget for the build is pretty tight, meaning that we will need to find creative ways to raise money before, during and after the build. Meanwhile, I will be chronicling the entire experience on this blog.

I'm pretty apprehensive right now, simply because I haven't been on a plane in twenty years and it's all the way across country. I have all my papers in order, I have a plan, and I still know that it's going to be hard. Pet relief areas exist on every leg of the flight, and I will need to use them a lot. I'm fending off attacks of the "what-if"s on almost an hourly basis, answering them with logic or dismissing them with the knowledge that I'm smart, resourceful and have help in my journey. I'm bracing myself to be a bit of a wreck when I get there, and for the cats to be pretty damned stressed as well. But it's crunch time. The only way out is through. We'll manage. And once the trip's behind me, the real work can begin.