Can we appreciate, for a moment, how amazing the word vagabond is? It sounds so much more glamorous than “drifter” or “tramp”. There is something mysterious, something rugged about the word.
The official definition is: vagabond, noun, one leading a vagabond life.
…alright. Thanks, Merriam-Webster. That clears it up.
Oh, here it is: vagabond, adjective, moving from place to place without a fixed home; wandering; of, relating to, or characteristic of a wanderer; leading an unsettled, irresponsible, or disreputable lifestyle.
Now, obviously when a word has multiple definitions, they don’t necessarily all apply to the situation. They may in my case, though. I’m irresponsible with my money and I don’t focus as much on the things (read: writing) I should be treating more seriously. I don’t necessarily think those flaws are a byproduct of my drifting nature. I just found that additional definition to be applicable to a degree.
Anyway, I’m moving across the city today, to an apartment closer to work and easier on my wallet. It’s smaller, but I don’t need much space. Home, to me, has for a long time merely been a place to sleep, shower, and store my shit.
When I was 16-17, I was a rebellious little asshole. I had found out I was adopted. A new high school opened up, altering the zoning just enough that I had to switch to the rival high school. I didn’t have many friends my age. So I moved out and my grandparents, God bless them, let me. I lived for six or seven months with my co-workers from the comic shop I was at at the time. They were all older, over 21, so we drank a lot of booze, smoked a lot of pot, took a lot of mushrooms, and made a lot of memories. My grades suffered. I made a lot of poor decisions. I don’t regret it though, because I learned a lot about family, friendships and myself from that time.
I moved back in with my grandparents around May of 2005. Moved out again with a couple friends in the winter, into a sprawling, barely furnished three-story mansion my step-dad was trying to sell. I had a happy relationship there that went sour out of nowhere, turned into a bad break-up and a string of poorly advised one night stands. My step dad sent strippers there to stay one weekend without telling us and hired a meth head housekeeper who did far more damage to that house than three drunk, horny 19 year-old guys.
My stepdad and I had another of our falling outs. I moved back in with my grandparents who had moved into a new home. I graduated high school and went to Europe for three weeks. I came back and we moved again.
For the better part of two years I stayed at the house on Winchester St. I longed to leave, was sick of the long winters, the cold, the feeling of hopelessness that hung over me. My friend RJ and I talked about moving to Australia. Then Los Angeles. In the spring, we said, or mid-winter at the earliest.
Then RJ’s relationship with a terrible person ended terribly and he called me up, already into his cups, and said nope, September it was, period, no negotiation, he was leaving with or without me. I went with.
Our move to Los Angeles was an ordeal best saved for another time and our time there full of insanity. DJ, our third Musketeer, left after a month or two to return to Anchorage. RJ stuck it out for five months before moving to Seattle.
I lasted eight. I loved it, but it was hard. I was completely out of my element and I didn’t handle it well. I got into a relationship and botched it, was barely skating by financially. Something needed to change.
After eight months of L.A., I moved back to Anchorage for four. I saved money, lost weight, felt good. Moved back to Los Angeles for three more months. Made a mistake, lost my job, lost some friends, had to move again.
A quick aside: I have always felt like the type who can fit in anywhere without ever truly belonging. I bring this up because in Los Angeles, as stressful as it was at the time, as much as I ended up fucking it up, was the first and really only place I felt I should be. I worked at a company with easily a hundred employees in store, none of whom knew me when I started, none who knew anyone I knew. I didn’t have decades growing up in a city or cultivating rumors around myself like happened in Alaska. The friendships I built were based entirely on my efforts and personalities, and when I fucked everything up and lost it all, the friends who stuck by me proved to be genuine.
Anyway. Moving from Los Angeles began my stint sleeping on couches, floors and futons. This lasted for the better part of two years.
I moved to Seattle to live with RJ. I was there three months. Then we moved to Redmond, into a nice two story apartment with a fridge perpetually stocked with cheap beer and whiskey and furnished from a Peruvian lady who sold everything she owned before moving back home to her family. She tossed in with little blender for free. “For protein shakes,” she said. “Or margaritas,” RJ and I replied in unison.
After eight months in Washington, I was starting to get homesick. In 23 months, I had been in Alaska for four. I missed my friends and the familiar sight of the mountains. I decided to come back for 4-6 months to visit. That was almost three years ago.
However, just because I was back in Alaska, it didn’t mean I got settled. Brandyn convinced his wife to let me crash on his couch for a few months. Joe lent me his couch. My stepmother and littlest sister lent me their floor (technically their couch, but the floor was cozier). I stayed with my uncle for a bit.
At some point, I moved in with my friend and her boyfriend for a good six month stint. I managed to get a hold of a free queen-sized mattress from a bouncer I knew. I fell in love while I lived at that house and she wrecked me not long after I left. Back to Joe’s couch.
Things got really fuzzy around this point for a few months because it’s when my grandfather passed away and I was a wreck. I eventually got my shit together and moved into a spacious two-story place on the hillside with Matt (from the aforementioned mansion) and RJ (who had relocated back to Alaska as well). Five or six months there, during which we played a can-kicking street hockey game in traffic, did dangerous things with fireworks and created a fake Mexican holiday with shooter-filled piñatas, barbecue rib-stuffed turkey and a lot of pictures of Rick Astley.
Then I moved again. My friend Megan had just bought a house and needed roommates. I was looking to get off the hillside and move somewhere closer to work, so I asked and she accepted. It was a beautiful house. Two stories, four bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms. New development area, so it was quiet. Easy-going roommates. I spent 11 months there.
Eleven months. The last time I spent more than six months in a home, let alone one with my own bed, was almost ten years ago.
Eleven months. The longest I’ve spent some place in close to a decade and it’s still under a year.
So I’m moving into this new place. Smaller, but I don’t mind. Older, but who needs fancy? I’m moving into another new place, a place I know is temporary but will probably stay in through the winter and likely at least until summer. All I can think about, though, is how I buy air mattresses because actual mattresses are too cumbersome and expensive for how often I move. How I’ve accumulated a couple boxes of things in the the years since I’ve been back, but if I needed to, I could condense everything I need down to two suitcases. How I used to think it was neat running into people and surprising them because they didn’t know I was in town. I was everywhere, man. You couldn’t keep a handle on me.
Now I just feel restless and aimless and rootless. I have wanderlust but I also crave the stability of my friends who have settled down.
Just one of those things I’ve got to figure out on my own, I guess. Primarily because I’m shit at making a bindle.