Planet Fitness and Privilege 

Privilege - Chosen Homelessness vs Homelessness Without Choice

Dear Reader,

I write to you from a rest stop picnic table off i-10 W. I am shaded by a dome and lit by a florescent bulb (oh yeah, and the AZ sunlight). To my right I watch the traffic continue to pile up, and to my left a woman in Sketchers stares at me like I’m the strangest oddity she’s ever seen before turning her gaze back to the incredible rock face and blue sky behind both of us.

There has been a crash and my gas tank, for once, is not appropriately full (I have half a tank and 60 miles to go, perfectly reasonable if the freeway wasn’t closed and the gas station nearest me wasn’t non-functional). So here I sit, waiting it out and writing to you.

I guess that’s the beauty of being on my own schedule, I have the privilege of spending the night here if I need to. I may not have the fullest tank of gas ever, but I am still prepared with enough food and water to last me, and my bed and clothing with me in Luna wherever I land — I am indeed, pretty damn lucky.

And that’s what I want to talk about today, my abundance of ease and privilege. 

After a three week layover in Dallas, I have been back on the road for three days and in those past three days I have done some major readjusting to life on the road. 

In some ways everything feels familiar, emptying my watery ice chest and making my peanut butter oatmeal in the front seat. 

But in other ways, every move feels unfamiliar, I no longer have a fluffy bathrobe and access to a shower 3 times a day (yes I effing love to shower, get off my nuts). But this unfamiliar feeling, this shift into comfortable discomfort and the life of freedom I love is very much my choice.

And as I transition back into the life I have chosen, I find ways to make it easy for myself. If you caught my Instagram live yesterday you’ll know I discovered a magical way make my life extra easy. I cracked the code to accessing a free, clean and safe shower on the road. Said shower being found at Planet Fitness.

In Florida, I popped in and out of the local Planet Fitness. Most days my best friend’s mamma guested me in, other days staff kindly let me slide in for free, and above board staff directed me to their website to request a free one-day guest pass.

When you request the guest pass, you simply put in your email and minutes later a barcode arrives in your inbox. This code will be for the Planet Fitness location you requested and all you have to do is walk in, hold out the code for them to scan and you have access to Planet Fitness for 24 hours. This means, you can shower, workout, soak up the AC, and surf the web for free. Hell, I could even shower three times in 24 hours.

So yesterday, in El Paso, TX I did just that, and it worked like a charm. I was sparkly clean and oh-so-very happy!

But here’s the thing folks, just because I can do this, doesn’t mean everyone else can.

I am operating under extreme privelege.

When I walk into a Planet Fitness with my Nike shoes and leggings, my Lexus car key in hand and hold out my rose gold iPhone, I am not questioned. I am smiled at and called ma’am, I am pointed to the restroom and the water foundation. No one pays attention to how long I sit in the lobby to use the WiFi, or my outfit change, wet hair and look of ecstacy simply for being clean once again when I leave.

And ya’ll, because I am clean, because my brown locks have been shampooed and dried into a curl, because my teeth are brushed and my face is washed, when I walk into a Starbucks the next morning and hold out my HydroFlask to the barista, she fills it up with hot water for free with a smile. She doesn’t ask me to leave with judgement. She doesn’t stop me from stepping into the adjacent restroom, or roll her eyes at me as I leave. 

I wander, by choice.

I live out of my car, by choice.

I gave up my home and steady job, by choice. 

And this choice, is a HUGE privilege. 

Living out of my car full time to travel has allowed me to interface with so many other folks who live transiently or without a home, not by choice, but by circumstance. 

These folks who sleep next to me in Walmart parking lots and on BLM land, who do not even attempt to get a cup of coffee from the Starbucks barista in fear of being kicked out of an air conditioned coffee shop on a boiling hot day, these folks who are kicked out anyway, who are made to feel less than human, these folks who are not handed the key to the gas station bathroom because of the cashiers judgement, we may be the same my definition but there is so much more to the story. 

These folks and myself, yes, we both live out of our vehicles, surf coaches, and constantly hop from one city to another in hopes of finding something better or something new, but I have a key ingredient that they don’t have, an ingredient that opens every door that they constantly have slammed in their face, and this ingredient is privilege.

It is not lost of me. I see it every single day. And I am constantly humbled by my ability to choose a lifestyle so many folks had no choice in.

It’s a trippy dicotammy, one that I am still not entirely sure what to do with.

Waves of sadness wash over me, of anger, of worthlessness, like I’m not doing or saying nearly enough.

So, today, I’m finally doing what I know how to do best, and I am bringing light to the inequity I see, to the cycle of poverty and the broken system and the unacknowledged privilege so many of us hold (and often hold over others) through my writing. 

May we all be aware of the people around us, may we treat one another with kindness and as much understanding as we can possibly muster. May we speak to the topics that scare us, the topics that aren’t always pretty and clean. May we put our privilege aside, ask questions, and actually listen to those who have answers.

I hope this post resonates with you in some way and inspires you to check your own privilege, to treat others the way they want to be treated and to listen and learn from folks who have walked different paths than your own.

With lots of love and gratitude, 

Annalise