I finished my Wyoming mule deer hunt not with a heroic roar but with a whimper. After five days of hard hunting I never got in range of an animal. My primary memory is walking the dry, wind-torn plains avoiding cactus and dehydration, missing my family, friends, and the ocean an incalculable amount. I drove Starflyte from Wyoming to Santa Cruz in 21 hours flat. I started at 4 a.m. and arrived at 1 a.m. the next morning, stopping only for coffee and gas. I took Highway 80 across the ghost-white plains of Salt Lake City, past the dystopian casinos of Nevada, and over the crisp Sierra Nevada Mountains. With my windows down late at night, I drove over the curvy road into the Santa Cruz Mountains and smelled my first redwood tree since I had departed four months prior. The familiar scent turned me into a 12-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert, and I let out a deafening high-pitched squeal. When I finally pulled my ’97 Ford RV into my driveway, my mind and vehicle were in a state of disarray. I was finally home, exhausted and ready for a hot shower.
During my time on the road, I subleased the room I had rented for the past 12 years. Now that I was back, I had to make a decision: should I move back in or save cash and continue living in Starflyte? The comfort of my home was so seductive. Basic amenities like a couch and working sewer line now seemed palatial.
But then there was my stuff. Confronting the mountain of possessions I had accumulated over the years triggered anxiety that began in my lungs and slowly worked its way into my trachea. I had enough clothes to keep a favela warm and more wetsuits than there are days in the month. It was a spiritual moment of reckoning when I realized that I owned six tennis rackets—and I don’t play tennis.
My mind mirrors my environment. When I look at the ocean, for instance, I entertain bigger ideas. Although walking through my old house was comforting, there was also a shade of numbness, stagnation, and adolescence.
While on the road I learned that it doesn’t matter how long you’re living out of a suitcase, you only need four T-shirts, two pairs of pants, and a nice button up in case you’re invited to a party or summoned to court.
So, I decided to move out of my house, live in Starflyte, and chase swells around the West Coast through the winter. Come springtime I’ll either be John Steinbeck or Ted Kaczynski. The first step on my path to minimalism was to lay my mountain of stuff in my backyard like a gigantic tapestry of shame. Most of it was superfluous adventure gear, ironically holding me back from adventure, so I donated 80 percent of it to my upper-middle class friends in need. Not only did banishing the mountain of stuff offer more relief than a two-pound turd, it ironically felt better to give it away than it did to get it in the first place.
Starflyte represents a middle finger to consumerism. When I invited one friend inside his eyes softened and he said, “Wow, this is all you need.” It was like in a flash he took the red pill and woke up from the Matrix. The next day he texted me a photo of his new RV.
I now write from Starflyte in silence, a flickering candle my only object of distraction. Since downsizing I watched the documentary The Social Dilemma and have taken the same aggressive cleaning approach to my phone, uninstalling social media except on weekends, using color filters to make my phone display black and white, and enabling parental controls so I can no longer look at porn.
I am miserable.
I want my stuff back. I want to be entertained with something other than a fucking book. Be warned: the second your mind has even a chirp of breathing room, it betrays your ego, offering self-reflections that undercut the narrative that other people are responsible for your problems. To avoid confronting these emerging truths, I’ve taken to purposely make Starflyte messy just to conjure a distraction. The space is so small, though, and I own so few items, that I clean her within minutes. The previous owner should have informed me that Starflyte came with an F-350 engine, spare set of keys, and spiritual reckoning. Not only that, the flip side of learning to value stuff less is that people who do value stuff see you as less. A look of pity crosses their face as they walk by and take in my faded decals, salty wetsuit draped over the hood of Starflyte, and Jimi Hendrix album blaring. To these judgemental queefs my go-to response is, “Want to come inside and smoke some meth?”
Who knows, maybe I’m on the verge of enlightenment. Wasn’t Buddha homeless for a stint? In fact, I remember seeing a life-sized Buddha for sale online—maybe I’ll buy it and keep it in the passenger’s seat, so I never forget the importance of living with less stuff.