Ever since I can remember I was told to create a home with a white picket fence. Preferably in a quiet suburb. Ideally, big enough for myself, a partner and some babes. Hell, if the yard was well groomed and their was a nice car in the driveway that’d be even better!
When I was 7, my father sold his townhome, all our belongings, and moved into his car. And I was ashamed.
When I was 13, my mom and stepdad bought a 6 bedroom home in the suburbs and I asked them if I could have my eighth grade graduation party at their place. And when everyone arrived I was proud.
When I was 19, I moved into my first apartment. A home of my own. I collected furniture, painting art to hang on the walls, decorated for the holidays and filled the home will good smelling candles and home cooked meals. And I felt successful.
When I was 21, I packed my belongings into storage unit and moved into a 80L backpack. And I felt momentarily liberated, still knowing I would return to create a home and would once again feel successful.
When I was 22, I returned to the city I attended high school in. I spoke with a friend who had just graduated about his view of success. And I felt frustration when he detailed the mansion and 3 cars he saw as success.
When I was 23 I sold half my belongings, flipped my SUV Luna, and made her my home. And I felt disappointment when I scrolled through my Facebook feed to see my friend’s new homes receiving 200+ likes and my photos of Luna paling in comparison.
Now, at 24, when people ask where I live, I smile and explain that I don’t have a permanent address. Their response is always the same. A nod, timid smile, and look that says, “Oh, that’s an interesting choice. I’m sure you’ll figure out theirs a better way later.”
This weekend my family and I drove up to the French Alps from Geneva, Switzerland. We stayed in a Chalet without water, plumbing or electricity. I played cards in candle light, I peed in the snow illuminated by the moon, I cooked atop a wood-burning stove. I breathed mountain air and gazed upon stars I’ve never seen so clearly before.
Simultaneously the voice of society played in my head, listing improvements to breed successful homemaking. The heat that should be installed. The attic that should be transformed into livable space. The shower and running water that are essential for comfort. In society’s eyes the chalet was charming for an evening; but in no way a successful home.
This sentiment would no doubt be shared by the community I grew up in, the shows I watched on television, or the pictures I saw in Seventeen magazine.
But to me, the chalet was everything my successful home would be.
It is tucked high atop the mountains, down a one-way road.
It requires connection to the land to live and prosper with mutual respect.
It holds the freshest air one can breath and the clearest stars one can see.
It practically screams “I am the perfect spot for a mice-catching cat.”
It begs you to cook atop a wood burning stove, slow and steady.
It requires no electricity bill, instead many candles and lighters.
It allows you to shower under the evergreens.
It shades you as you pee outside, free as ever!
It encourages you to read, write and play cards, disconnecting from your devices.
It does not ask you to stay, knowing your spirit is as wild as the nature around it, and that at some point you will leave to roam the world.
It’s just right, hikes nearby, hard but pleasant work to be done, and a constant sense of peace and connection.
No picket fence, or manicured lawn, no plasma screen TV, definitely no fancy kitchen and absolutely no bathroom at all. But successful nonetheless, perhaps even more so!
I hiked the snowy alps surrounding the chalet, mulling over society words, whispered in my ear, alongside my idea of a successful home.
I thought about every person who has asked me, “So when are you going home” or, “Why would you live like that?” or “Don’t you miss having space?” orrrr, “What about your future?” and rolled my eyes. All these questions revolve around the same idea of success. Homemaking. To be viewed as successful I must, create a cookie-cutter home, with tons of space and a future consisting of desk job working or child rearing.
As I climbed higher into the mountain, and breathed the soothing mountain air, I came upon a huge group of mountain goats. Creatures who run wild down mountain trails without fear, in tune with the land, free within their home. And so, I parked my butt on the snowy ground and watched them live in their version of success.
Watching the goats, I realized, successful homemaking comes in all different forms. I have made my home in my car, and will again come Spring. I have made a home out of an 80L pack and a 55L pack, hostel beds and plane seats, and found greater peace, joy and growth there than in any home I’ve ever lived in.
To live life alternatively is not a failure.
I once believed that the only way I could be happy was to buy the home, and make the life everyone wanted me to have.
Now I shudder, imagining my life trapped within the concrete walls of a 5000 square foot home, unable to travel because my mortgage payment is through the roof.
Instead my future holds more stamps in my passport, more miles in my car home, and maybe, just maybe, cat and a primitive cabin (reminiscent of the chalet) that releases me to wander, no requirement to return.
I am not one to settle or to white picket fence build. I know the same is true for so many of you sweet readers.
SO here’s what I have to say to all of you. Let everyone else’s confused of judgmental looks roll off your shoulders, let their idea of success be just that, theirs, not yours.
Instead, do what you love, watch other creatures exist in the world and learn from them, build the tiny home, throw your belongings in a van, put up an outhouse instead of installing plumbing, live out a backpack, flip your sedan into a home.
ALL of that ya’ll, is homemaking. You get to the make the home that’s right for you, and that home can change every damn day and it is STILL VALID.
It is still successful. Because it is what you want, what makes you happy, what brings peace, joy and love to your heart — that, whatever it is, is the best home you could ever make!
With love, from my backpack home,