The culture shock continues. It's hard to describe what a good time we're having. They say the grass is always greener on the other side, which implies that once you jump the fence you’ll wish you were right back where you were.... Maybe the secret to happiness is to keep hopping over fences? We spend almost every day with friends. Sometimes we're lucky enough to have things overlap between friends like an awesome poker night with several in one place, but on one day we had to juggle schedules for a lunch-date followed by happy hour followed by dinner plans in order to see three different groups. Not exactly easy on the budget, but such a fun day! We have many friends yet to see, but are trying to get around to soaking up time with everyone as we can. In between, we deal with culture shock.
Everything around us seems to move so fast all the time and everything seems so built for longterm commitment. Commitment. Even the word seems laughable right now. We went from making decisions after breakfast about where to spend the next day or when to cross from one country into another, and now everything wants us to sign on the dotted line with where we will be in a year.
Want a space to call your own rather than sleeping on friends’ couches? 6month lease as a minimum. Want internet in that apartment? You actually save money by getting cable tv as well, and almost everything has a 12month commitment. And try doing any of the above without having a phone number to put on the application... Cell phone plan (to fill out the other apps, but also helps connecting with family and friends)- two year commitment. Really? Want a data package to go with that so you don’t have to drive in circles looking for that restaurant you can’t remember the exact location of? More commitment. I know we signed all these contracts before without a second thought, but now- in a period where we are searching for what’s next, it all seems like traps set by society to lure us in and make us conform to normalcy.
That said, were blending in as best we can. And yes, we’re now walking around with a cell phone (granted, its a flip phone from the 90s). We also are getting used to carrying a wallet, and keys, and all the things that come with having stuff. And of course, with all this stuff comes the need for a place to call home. So we rented a short-term apartment.
This was a tough decision for certain. The thing we most returned for was making "home". Settling down a bit without moving everyday. Nesting and entertaining and playing with friends. But our homes in Portland are rented, and we have great tenants that we wouldn’t think of removing, at least until we decide to stay long term.
We discussed buying a van or delivery truck and stealth camping in the back (insert fun design/build project here), but we’d have to hide out daily rather than living the way were seeking...and entertaining in the back of a van isn’t as great as it might sound. We could try to find a garage or small room somewhere to squeeze into but again we want space to be creative and have the room to build/make things. We could cohabitate with friends, and several were kind enough to openly offer space for us, but after a few days that’s not really fair to them and their lives/needs, nor to ours. Looking through craigslist was nothing short of eye opening as rents seem incredibly high relative to the low nightly fees we've grown accustomed.
We also find ourselves with firmer ideas than before about how we want live, and our impact on the environment. We want to be someplace simple yet green. Centrally located and easy access to the things we need/want each day. In a neighborhood and community that shares our ideals and hopefully in a building that does the same. To have a connection to the outdoors and as much natural light as we’ve grown used to in the bus. If i had my preference we would find somewhere i could design/build a tiny green home or live in almost nothing...that seems to fit how we live now. It seems really difficult even to find a small studio apartment, as the population at large wants larger rather than smaller. As we looked at apartments we realized in most cases we could do without at least one room (even when looking at 1 bedroom units).
What we found was a decent balance. A LEED certified building that supports our beliefs in green, environmentally friendly building practices and happens to be in the heart of the neighborhood we used to live in. Fairly close to the epicenter of all of our friends, hopefully meaning we can walk most anywhere we need to go. I was also able to convince them to rent to us month-to-month, so we can continue looking for ways to live here more cheaply.
Our rent for this tiny one bedroom unit is easily more than all of our living expenses for a month in mexico. That hurts, but it’s nice to have a place to call home even if its a bit empty without furniture. We are slowly moving in, which is culture shock in and of itself. We visit our "storage" to find what little things we kept before leaving. Items we felt like we couldn't live without, yet as we look through we could easily part with almost all of them with only a well timed yard sale. Not a lot of furniture however...so our place still feels a bit like we're camping; except for most our needed day to day items are still in costa rica with the bus. Even the tiny move seems a bit awkward. A borrowed car, no boxes or bins; just a car-full of stuff crammed into the back seat. When we moved in Vancouver we stumbled upon this Eco-friendly reusable moving box company and not only avoided throwing away a ton of cardboard but did it more cheaply (and it was our easiest move ever). Where is Frogbox when you need them? How does every city not yet have one of these?
Regardless, we now have a place to call home. Its a big empty concrete room, but its got a ton of natural light and it’s giving us what we’ve been craving. A place to nest and to call home. A place to stretch out and relax. Hopefully soon, it will also be a place to entertain and a place to create.