The following is an unedited, stream-of-consciousness personal journal used to experiment with different subjects outside of assignments and to practice free-writing. It shouldn't (at all) be viewed as a portfolio of polished work.

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Moving Back into My Car (Just for a Night)

There’s no reason I can’t sleep in my car like I used to.

Several times after my return from life on the road I felt homesick. Initially, I was staying on a friend’s couch in the middle of “Suburbia”, Salt Lake. It was odd to be stationed in one area, especially in an area away from wild things. But I was stoked on the novelty of having fridge access and a full shower.

But novelty wears off (that’s pretty much built into its definition). When it did, there were many times that I’d lie on that couch, wishing I were back in my car. It was my own space; I could write, work on photos, talk to my family, sleep, contemplate life, and no one would interrupt.

It took me a few nights of sending wishes into the dark ceiling overhead to realize that if I wanted to sleep in my car, why shouldn’t I? Was there some reason (beyond social mores) that being in suburbia should stop me? I'm an adult, dang it. I'll sleep wherever I want. 

I grabbed my sleeping bag and headed out the door.

Minus the neighbors’ porch lights, it was dark. I fumbled with my keys, hopping from one bare foot to the other to keep them from freezing on the concrete. I felt like some weirdo sneaking into a banged up car in the middle of a driveway. A weirdo with a puffy down sleeping bag.

But then I was in and I didn’t care anymore. I assumed the position I knew was most comfortable for sleeping in my Mazda, rolled down the windows an inch and fell asleep in the driveway.

It was the best night of sleep I’d had since moving to the city.

Fast forward to living in British Columbia. I’m not in a city; the town I live in only has 10,000 people and it’s surrounded by mountains, lakes, streams, waterfalls, and sweet smells. It rains often. The air is cool. Birds sing. I can open my windows and not worry about people taking advantage of my trust in humanity.

Every day in four walls here feels closer to being in nature than it ever did in Salt Lake City — even in that city’s mountains.

But dang it, I still feel trapped at times. There are lots of reasons why, but primarily it’s because I don’t feel safe outdoors in certain times of the year. It’s not the humans.

It's the grizzlies. 

I live in their country and I don’t know how to handle that. Growing up in Florida, we had alligators. But they were predictable — they lived in the water, and we humans figured out how to avoid them.

But grizzlies? I’ve never lived anywhere with grizzlies. Unlike gators, grizzles live on land, same as me. They walk on trails just like I do. And I’ve heard they’re feisty when protecting cubs or getting their fill for hibernating season.

This pretty much means they’re feisty as long as they aren’t sleeping.

I tried to shake my nervousness about going out there alone in their territory by telling myself things like: “They are more scared of you than you are of them.” But then I contemplate how little that would console me if I actually did end up being swiped by a bear’s paw. I mean, there were kids were pulled out of tents just miles from where I lived in Utah — and that was by black bears.

I’ve got those and grizzlies here.

Then there’s rain to contend with. It rains here, a lot. Strangely, seems like folks don’t enjoy camping or hiking or doing much of anything in the rain. I’m not of that mindset; I love the sound of rain hitting the walls of my tent, I like how it makes the air sweet when I’m falling asleep. I like that it keeps things cool so I don’t wake up in the morning feeling like I’m roasting because the sun is turning my tent into an oven.

But people won’t camp with me in the rain, and it rains here a lot, and in grizzly country, I won’t camp alone. (Kids being pulled from tents — remember?)

As a result of all these conditions, in nearly a year of living here I’ve slept outside a total of once.

I don’t feel awesome about this number. In fact, with some external prodding that included statements that made me defensive about my independence, I got pretty upset.

I looked at my car. It’s a new one I’m having to lease (that is its own story). It's not the comfy one I lived in. This new car has also become a caveat against me taking off at will to camp because the lease dictates how far I can drive. 

So, as I was saying, I looked at my car. And as I looked at it — after being challenged about my independence; after realizing I’d only slept outside one time in a year; after realizing that if I wanted to do anything, I’d have to do it alone; I grew indignant. This one thing, whose sole purpose was to provide mobility, was playing into my feelings of being trapped.

Leases are dumb.

Defiantly, I went back inside, grabbed my sleeping bag from the closet, and headed for the door. It was getting dark. It was raining. I didn’t roll down the windows. But I didn’t sleep in my driveway.

I drove away.

I spent the night in a place where I would have rather slept in a tent. But people are scared of the rain and I am scared of grizzlies. So I did the best I could and slept in the new car. Once the rain let up, I rolled down the windows an inch and let the sweet, cool air rush in. Birds sang. And I wasn’t worried about anyone (or any bears).

I was in my own space. I read without being online, I wrote using only the research stored in my head. I listened. I saw the last light leave the mountain. I felt myself get hungry and not have a way to do anything about it since I didn’t have a fridge.

And I fell asleep. It was the best sleep I’ve had since moving to British Columbia. 


  1. This is so great. I have had similar feelings about camping alone since moving to Washington. Not because of grizzlies, but because of crazies. And when I mention camping alone, everyone around me is visibly afraid for my safety, which makes me question myself. So frustrating! I'm glad you found some comfort and a way to get good sleep. And thank you for sharing.

    1. Marjorie, that is completely normal. I think fear is healthy — to a degree. We need to assess it and either rule it out or allow it to rule out our decision. But I do think that for most places, we're safe to camp alone. After camping for three years, I only had one incident (and it was in a town); however, when I lived in a town, I had incidents at my apartment at least a few times a year. Here's something I wrote about that:

      I think it's great you're listening to your own caution, but allow your bravery to speak out, too! :)


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