I enjoyed reading your books online. You put in words the unformed thoughts in my head.
I quit my corporate, well-paying job last year so that I could do something I always wanted to do, which was hike the Pacific Crest Trail. I did it over two summers. I must have walked close to your cabin in the woods.
While I hiked I was living much closer to nature than I ever normally do. And yet I was also living far from it. My ability to hike was completely dependent on modern inventions of plastic and fancy lightweight fabrics and industrialized food and other production. In a way, it was a sort of fourth way, simultaneously primitive and ultra-modern.
Upon my return home and I knew I couldn't step into the cubicle again. The constant striving (and the rejection of those who don't strive constantly), the materialistic worship of money, the work that has no meaning and serves nothing to my body and soul. There has to be something better.
I cannot afford a piece of land. With my meager savings I could buy a piece of land in the desert, but then what would I do? I would be broke. If I went to live on my land, I would broil to death in the summer and freeze to death in the winter and I would not have any shelter to live in other than my tent because I haven't got a handy bone in my body to build something. Even if I could build a house, I could not afford it. And there are building codes you have to follow these days. I don't think anybody can build a home of natural materials anymore. Perhaps I could dump some shipping containers on my land and nobody would know I was living in them. Stealth housing. But I would still need income to purchase gas for a car I would now need because I could not haul water to my tent in the desert without it, and to purchase food because nothing would be able to grow in the desert. But there is nowhere to work in the desert. So maybe I can't live in the desert.
Maybe I should just stay where I am. The climate here allows you to grow food all year long. But my rent is pretty high so I need a job just to pay for that. Normally where I live the cheapest place to rent is at least a minimum wage job's whole month of money.
Hiking for 6 months showed me beyond a doubt that the pursuit of material things does not lead to happiness. I can be happy with very very little. So now I can live a little more simply and my money will go further.
I now have to struggle against the expectation that someone as smart as I am ought to be working full-time at a job worthy of my education and intelligence. I should be more successful, is the way the thinking goes. But with that kind of success comes a complete drain of your life energy in the service of a hungry corporation that only wants more and more from you until there is nothing left at the end of each day. How does one find a job less demanding on your life energy that pays well enough that doesn't lead to a lot of tsk-tsking behind your back?
And so I struggle to find my own fourth way, a kind of partial fourth way, which I think is the best I can do.
In my research, I have read about other people who just walked away from regular society and lived according to what Pacific Crest Trail hikers call "Trail Magic." That's where you trust that it will always work out and somehow it always does. I'm a little afraid of throwing that much caution to the wind. I've also read about people who became campground hosts. I really like that idea and it's on my list of how to survive when I finally qualify for social security. I just have to save up for some kind of RV. And now I've read about people like you who were back-to-the-landers in the 70s. I think this is much less possible now than it was in the 70s. But some of your practical ideas can still work for me. I could learn to make tofu and next time they give out free rain barrels, I'll be first in line.
With each little bit of information, I find more and more that frees me. I can't tell you how elated I was when I learned I could make my own deoderant out of baking soda. I no longer have to buy expensive deoderant and throw away a big plastic applicator when I'm finished with it. It all helps me find my own way.
So thank you for writing your books. I'm going to save them to read over and over again. Diane