Name: G.H. Garrett
“Quit b*tching and start a revolution.”
I am an altruist, a park ranger, a thru-hiker, a trail-angel. I have a brother, a sister-in-law, a protege, a hero, and a fantastic array of friends. I currently work for a state government, which pays below the poverty line in a high cost-of-living area. I live in a self-converted minivan and retreat to the mountains at every opportunity. I have more important things to do with my dollars than sleep in a stranger’s spare room.
Living simply is a dynamic equation. It’s not contained in a certain set of actions or determined by a minimal standard of possessions. It’s relative, and balances between tangibles and intangibles. I couldn’t live exactly like my present version of simplicity were I married with 3 kids. And I hope to be that someday. But for right now, I’m doing something else. In principle, I see living simply as having few enough possessions and few enough scheduled commitments that you are living in the now (interacting with your surroundings, interacting with your people) and accomplishing your meaningful priorities.
A post office box and a pool membership, and even a temporary storage unit, is way cheaper than rent. I no longer have the storage unit, though I admittedly have free use of some basement space with a friend. Economically, I’m too Scottish to shunt everything on impulse. Environmentally, I was born Green before Green became the new Black. My basic furnishings and household goods will see regular use in coming years. Tonight, I’m delivering my classical guitar to the safekeeping of a musically-inclined hiker friend who is still in college and can’t afford new instruments. I’m not a techie and I find something wholesome in turning pages in a book and having photographs on the wall. When I was 22, I got a cell phone – ’cause it was less expensive than a landline, and I moved around a lot. I secured 3 college degrees without ever owning a computer of any kind. I do, as of this year, own a laptop. It easily backs up my writing, and having outgrown the open labs of academia, it takes a lot of stress out of modern and transient job searches. Ironic to me is that frequenting Starbucks every few days for Wifi is part of my present simplified life.
How I got here:
I grew up in rural small-town America, so it was hardly rife with materialism as far as North America goes. Not all the roads were paved. Not everyone had indoor plumbing. We ate well. I wore hand-me-downs. I hauled and stacked more firewood than most people have ever seen. I was slated to a predictable responsible existence. I did well at what I was told for the first two decades of my life. But I wanted something more and have increasingly failed miserably at expectations. I wanted to make a difference in the world, person by person. The timeline of my life in the years since boasts a visually chaotic array of jobs, residences, and relational connections all over the country.
The immediate catalyst to my current living situation came one night last November. I’d been living in room-for-rent situations because it was all I could afford. I was frustrated with even these living expenses in light of trying to pay off my first debt (a combination of education and auto incurred the 12 months prior.) I was frustrated with coming home to awkward social settings and poor security as comes of moving in with strangers. Discovering bedbugs 3 weeks into my latest partially furnished residence put me clear over the edge. I packed everything I owned into my mini-van and left immediately in the dark. I was dumbfounded. And homeless. In spite of all my carefulness and hard work, homeless. By force. For about 12 sleepless hours. Then, I was homeless by choice. I was tired of moving all the time. The solution to paying off several thousand dollars of debt, and saving twice as much for my next hike had suddenly dropped in my lap. I’ve been rockin’ the suburbs quite deftly ever since.
Where I’m headed:
My dream-of-a-lifetime was to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, a 2,181 miles continuous footpath from north Georgia to the upper limits of Maine. I did this two years ago. I thought once I made that a reality and accomplished this journey, I could move onto a sticking with a legitimate career. It wasn’t an immediate realization, but I will never get over it. Nor will I assimilate to societal expectation. I belong even less than I did before. The journey of a lifetime is not something one comes back from. I’ve unearthed my addiction. Next spring I will take on the Pacific Crest Trail, 2,665 miles from Mexico to Canada. Living simply supports my intermittent unemployment for long-distance hikes, and the resources to trail-angel for others in the between years.
How I want to change the world:
I suppose it would be hard to argue that I value preparedness and survival capabilities. Me and my backpack walked the east coast in 23 ½ weeks under whatever the sky chose to dish out. My brother called my wheels “The Homestead” long before I was officially living in them. They’ve been deemed both a “magical place” and the “zombie-apocalypse safe-zone” by others. It’s a unique mix of simplicity and self-preservation.
I would also affirm the sentiment “quit b*tching and start a revolution.” I live my values as a lover AND a fighter – just never a hater. I may not hold vast influence in the world but I intend to be part of the solution not part of the problem. I support a return to natural and sustainable materials- that if it’s synthetic, it should be reusable, not disposable. I’m a proponent of positive mental attitude, cross-training various athletics, yoga, minimalist footwear, whole foods, nature and wilderness. Ingrained in my conscience and moral fiber are the concepts of grace, forgiveness, and taking the high road. As a long-distance hiker, I have to throw in Hike Your Own Hike. Beyond that, leave all things and all persons better than you found them.
“And never underestimate the power of a mini-van.
I mean that both literally and metaphorically.”
Support G.H.’s favorite cause at https://www.ijmfreedommaker.org/campaign/1018.