Escape the Gilded Cage
Long ago I developed my own concept of the ‘gilded cage’. That’s how I think of modern life. You think you’re free? Why don’t you go to the beach today? Think you own your home? Why don’t you stop paying taxes and the mortgage? Think you can manage your consumerism with self-discipline while being constantly bombarded by advertising? Good luck.
Somewhere down the line we made choices and now we have to live with the responsibility… That’s the existential response anyways. But why does virtually everyone pursue the same modern lifestyle even though most of them are clearly miserable? Could it be that we’re not playing on a level playing field? Doesn’t it feel to you like the game is rigged?
I realize that most people are willing and able to shove these thoughts into the back of their minds. I’ve never been able to do so. Like a canker sore that would heal if I could just stop tonguing it, these ponderings surface just when I think I’ve forgotten them. I convinced myself a long time ago that the game is rigged. I’ve pushed my way through a whole lot of social friction to achieve my simple lifestyle. I hate to think of the person I’d be if I hadn’t.
After living this boating lifestyle for so long, I’ve grown incredibly sensitive to the social stresses of modern life. I feel it acutely when I have to spend three days each week in town. Stresses that most people are blind to. The subtle coercive forces that get us out of bed each morning and make us go to a place we’d rather not be. When I think back on the kind of person I was when subjected to a never-ending stream of that stress, I can’t help but think, “God, what an asshole that guy was.”The constant stress and coercion of modern life turns people into bad versions of themselves. I’m not the only one who thinks so. It was vindicating to read Bruce Levine’s piece on why anti-authoritarians are diagnosed as mentally ill. Sailing and vandwelling are tools to step outside of the authorized way of life. To step away from the part of you that is a neighbor, and an employee, and a tax payer, ‘responsible’ and ‘self-disciplined’, and has all the obligations and expectations that come along with those labels. I’m not talking about hedonism. I’m talking about freedom of choice. Every obligation is like a pebble of stress – individually almost weightless, but taken together, a heavy burden.
I can’t help but feel a sense of horror when I look at all the humans trapped in their gilded cages. That’s certainly how I felt when I looked in the mirror three years ago. I wanted to find a better way to live. I know there are many people out there like me. Awake, who want to get out, and are looking for the tools to do so. That’s going to be the focus of my upcoming book.I can’t decide if I’m a throwback or a man before his time. I am unable (or unwilling?) to thrive in the stresses of the modern lifestyle. Instead, I’ve found a way to thrive outside the norm. This last weekend was a perfect example. My cost of living was a little gas and food to eat. I anchored, so no moorage or rent to pay. I collected Blewit mushrooms for dinner under the watchful eye of a bald eagle. The solitude of my little wind-swept paradise made me feel as though my soul had just taken a shower. I thank all the benevolent forces in the universe that I’ve found the one place on earth where I can achieve peace: aboard my boat in the San Juan Islands.
I’ve never fully identified with the label ‘prepper’ because it implies hording, particularly food and guns. I don’t do that. I don’t need to. I could meet my basic needs with what the wild provides. But thankfully I don’t have to, I can take advantage of all the 21st century technology and infrastructure. Not just computers and solar power, but food preservation, super thin but high-R value insulation, and composite building materials. I’ve combined the natural world and modern technology to form a low-impact, comfortable, and inexpensive way to live and travel. Am I ahead of my time or behind my time? Or have I arrived just in time?
I’m actively trying live on the hook as much as possible from now on. I want to show people what it takes: not much. It takes $5K to $10K to get a boat like mine. It takes a passionate pursuit of True Wealth to maintain the lifestyle.
I wish there were more people out here doing what I’m doing. I think it would make the world a better place.