A month ago I moved out of my house, stuffed my Toyota 4 Runner with the “essentials” and became a traveler. I’d long imagined this day as I planned and plotted my escape from all things normal and boring. I’d read the tales of other travelers, spoken with those I know who have taken to the road full-time, and did my best to adopt the mentality of an explorer. Then, I slept in a Walmart parking lot.
Plans are funny things. You spend lots of time thinking things through. You consider the options, make your list of pros and cons, and generally try to see the future. But plans never last. “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” – Helmuth von Moltke
The Enemy On The Road
In this case my enemy was a very simple thing. Plumbing. I will tell you here and now, indoor plumbing is not over-rated. When you wake up in the middle of the night, sleepily stumble your way to the bathroom, take care of business, and stub your toe on the dresser on the way back to bed, there’s a thought you don’t think. That thought is: “Is this bathroom open 24 hours?”
Because in the whole consideration of inconvenience that I have encountered on the road thus far, taking a leak in the wee hours of the morning is a far more interesting endeavor than you might have considered. Let me illustrate. I’ve been “adventuring” all day. Taking pictures, exploring abandoned mansions, and seeing where the wind may take me. It turns out that the wind takes me to a Waffle House, because the wind knows I still have work to do and I’d better caffeine up and log some hours! So there I am, tucked away in the corner booth of the of that glowing yellow box of all night interstate cuisine, drinking vanilla coke and snarfing down some of Burt’s Best Chili. Drowsily tapping away at my computer, I realize that I’m not going to last much longer. I grab the bill, pay the nice waitress with the punk rock hair, and trod off to The Runner to find a place to sleep.
Imagine, if you dare, man butt pointed to the sky, hairy legs wiggling their way into a sand colored Toyota…
It doesn’t take long to find a Walmart in the South (most of them welcome overnight travelers), so I pull in, find an inconspicuous parking spot, then very conspicuously get out of the driver seat and proceed to stuff all 6 foot, 250-ish pounds of me up and onto the sleeping platform I’d built in the back of The Runner. Imagine, if you dare, man butt pointed to the sky, hairy legs wiggling their way into a sand colored Toyota at an unnatural angle and altitude, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of the spectacle late night shoppers were treated to.
Finally, I’m in and snuggled up in the surprisingly comfortable mobile digs I’d fashioned. With the sounds of college-aged employees gently wrangling stray shopping carts which were softly singing their jangly wheeled songs, I drifted off to sleep. Then in the latter part of the 3 o’clock hour, the 2.78 liters of vanilla coke I’d taken hostage earlier that evening had staged an uprising and were demanding freedom. Now the fun begins.
Remember how we were talking about that sleepy stumble to the restroom in your house? Well there’s no such thing here. You wake up and are issued notice from the William Wallace of beverages, and now your poor sleepy brains says, “No worries, man. Just pop next door and… Oh, yeah. I hope that Walmart is a 24 hour one.”
Now the scene I described earlier happens in reverse and somehow with even less grace as I awkwardly thrust my giant pearly white man legs into the night like some kind of pasty white werewolf. I manage to rake my ribs on some essential piece of gear I’d brought along, and fall the rest of the way out of the car as my bladder goes all Apollo 11 on me “That’s T-Minus 1 minute to complete and total compromise of the pantsular region.”
Cue the fastest parking lot crossing known to man.
Turns out that it was a 24-hour Walmart, and I didn’t have to claim this particular one as my own territory. And that night I learned the first of many lessons about full-time traveling. For all the things I planned for, some things will slip by me. Also, RV’ers have this on me: Toilets. All that said, it’s much like the rest of life. You can plan, and that’s good. But don’t be super attached to that plan, because inevitably, you will drink too much vanilla coke and nearly pee yourself in a Walmart parking lot.