Where Dat? Who Dat?

Eleven weeks it’s been!!!

We were in Florida and now we aren’t. Instead we’re in a different state. It’s called Louisiana. This section of it is known as New Orleans and it has buildings of all sorts of attractive colors and shapes, shapes and colors. We spent 39 days in Florida, where we met many wonderful people and did many funderful things.

People are always asking where we’ve been, where we are and who we’re with. We’re not always great about clarifying that on this thing (see the “About Us” for why), so here’s a fun list to do just that. We like lists. These are the places we’ve slept and how we knew the people we stayed with. We’ve seen many others in between.

Side note: Yes, we possess an affinity for geography. We like to think of borders as handy indications of place and culture (which they can be), but it’s important to remember how seriously these imaginary lines can affect people’s lives in real, significant, often heartbreaking ways. Borders serve as arbitrary designations for separation, upheld by people with arbitrary power and often used to exert arbitrary oppression on others. We hope you take some time to reflect on that as well as you peruse our list and accompanying photos.

1/13 Brooklyn, NY (friends!)
1/14
1/15 Grantville, PA (friends!)
1/16
1/17 Hunt Valley, MD (friends!)
1/18
1/19 Rock Creek Park, DC (camping!)
1/20 National Mall, DC (camping!)
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1/21 College Park, MD (couchsurfing!)
1/22
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1/23
1/24
1/25 Charlottesville, VA (friends!)
1/26
1/27 Chapel Hill, NC (friends!)
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1/28
1/29
1/30 Wilmington, NC (friends!)
1/31
2/1
2/2
2/3
2/4 Athens, GA (friends!)
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2/5
2/6
2/7
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2/8
2/9
2/10
2/11
2/12
2/13
[Lake joins the crew as we depart Athens]
2/14 Port Orange, FL (friends!)
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2/15 St. Augustine, FL (camping!)
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2/16 Port Orange, FL (friends!)
2/17
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2/18
2/19
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2/20 Merritt National Wildlife Refuge, FL (camping!)
2/21 Melbourne, FL (couchsurfing!)
2/22
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2/23 Cocoa Beach, FL (couchsurfing!)
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2/24
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2/25 Melbourne Beach, FL (new friends from random encounter!)
2/26 Florida National Scenic Trail, FL (camping!)
[Lake departs pre-dawn, leaving a note]
2/27 Melbourne Beach, FL (those new friends again!)
2/28 Delray Beach, FL (camping!)
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3/1
3/2 Hollywood, FL (couchsurfing!)
3/3
3/4
3/5 North Miami, FL (camping!)
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3/6 Miami Beach, FL (friends!)
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3/7 Key Largo, FL (couchsurfing!)
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3/8
[Daniel joins the crew as we cross paths in Islamorada]
3/9 Key West, FL (camping!)
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3/10 Key Largo, FL (new friends of friends!)
3/11 Key Largo, FL (new friends from couchsurfing!)
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3/12 Midway Campground, Big Cypress National Preserve, FL (camping!)
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3/13 7-Mile Camp, Big Cypress National Preserve, FL (camping!)
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3/14 Fort Myers, FL (friends!)
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3/15 Arcadia, FL (random encounter/yard-camping!)
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3/16 Siesta Key, FL (friends!)
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3/17 Siesta Key, FL (camping!)
3/18 Bradenton, FL (friends!)
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3/19
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[Mark departs on foot while we’re out disc golfing, leaves us a note]
3/20 St. Petersburg, FL (friends!)
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[Daniel departs on foot after we hit the post office on the way out of St. Pete]
3/21 Gainesville, FL (friends!)
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3/22
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3/23
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3/24
3/25 Wal-Mart parking lot off Route 90, MS (car snoozing!)
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[Katie joins us via flight from Portland, ME… the cooler Portland… get it? So punny.]
3/26 New Orleans, FL (friends!)
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3/27
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3/28
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3/29
[Katie leaves for Maine by plane.]
3/30 TODAY! N’Awleans remains awesome!
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I should call my grandmothers more often.

– Adam (w/ Jesse)

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Mike and Emily

My friend Mike from Fitchburg was 17 years old and got into an argument with his mother, Emily. So he walked out of their apartment and got on a bus to see his grandmother in Leominster, the town immediately to the south. Then he realized he was stuck there, indefinitely, and wouldn’t see his mother again for years. He couldn’t come back to Fitchburg, and if she went to Leominster she’d also be stuck there and separated from her husband and her other two kids. So she went back to her job as a paralegal.

Of course, I’m lying. That would NEVER happen. His name is Carlos and hers is Fabiola. His grandmother lives in Tijuana and her college education has her cleaning rich people’s mansions’ toilets. You and we made this happen. Whether we did it with our vote, our not bothering to vote, or our decision not to do anything the other 364 days of the year, there is now a giant fucking fence and a bunch of poor saps with guns to make sure human beings can’t cross an imaginary line in a northward direction.
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But now, YOU and WE have a chance to change this situation in a pretty fundamental way. With pressure from people like everyone and anyone, this year our Congress will pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill. It will issue visas to all non-criminal undocumented people in the U.S., ending years of living in fear of detention, deportation, and separation for over 11 million people. It’ll provide some sort of (probably long and onerous) path to citizenship, avoiding the creation of a permanent underclass and involving a lot more people in the collective project of creating a more democratic, just, and sustainable society. And hopefully it’ll make it significantly easier for more people to move to this country freely and legally. What kind of world is it where my t-shirts can come from Honduras but my friends can’t?

So this will happen, if we make it. Republicans in the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” have already agreed “in principle” to the legalizing visas and, just last week, to the path to citizenship. But we still have to get enough votes in the Republican controlled House of Representatives. So write your representatives! If there’s a rally where you live…GO! We promise they’re more fun than going to a bar! Our immigration system has been terribly stupid and inhumane for years. Let’s get this done, for Mike and Emily.

– Adam (w/Jesse) [from Gainesville, FL]

And Sometimes We Get Sad

I’ll sit in a beautiful campground, on a beautiful night, with amazing people, and just feel fucking…dejected. Like my balloon has no air and my life has no purpose. Like every bit of happiness I’ve ever had was just me improperly understanding that only sadness is real. Like being sad, or empty, is just a lot more comfortable than being happy, or smiling. Fuck, smiling seems like such a silly thing to do. Why would you ever feel like flexing that odd combination of minute facial muscles? So I go to the car, get the ukulele, and improv my way into the chorus that will now feel like the perfect reflection of my soul, or heart, or fucking neurons or whatever, roughly 15% of the time. “What’s the fucking point of anything?”

And then by the midpoint of the next day I feel so fucking amazing, because the world is so beautiful and so much fun and everyone wants to learn Spanish. There’s hiking, and gators, and we feel like explorers and thinkers, and there’s a real chance immigration reform with a path to citizenship might happen this year. And honestly, what could be better?

And then within a day or two I’m feeling unsmiley again. And I do a week of this oscillating thing. And it just feels dumb. And I apparently now start every fucking sentence with ‘and.’ In our lives, in general, we usually try to connect our emotional states with things happening in our lives, or thoughts, because there is a cause-effect relationship, some of the time. Things make us happy. Some shit makes us sad. But I think we over-reach; we try to find causes for all our unhappiness. And I think it’s clearer than before that I have no reason for this shit. The days I’m sad are no better or worse than the other days. Sometimes my brain chemicals just produce unhappiness. Or maybe it’s that I’m lucky and my brain usually creates more happiness than the average person. Or maybe it doesn’t. Maybe other people are happier. Maybe happiness is different for everyone and can’t be compared.

And then it’s time to go kayaking and I’m fucking pumped. Or it’s time to eat a piece of bread and I’m fucking pumped. And then life is wonderful?

– Adam

Everyday Life Is Amazing

And every day life is amazing.
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In Islamorada (a few days ago, weeks after Mark flopped down on the Carolina beach pictured above), we pulled over to watch the sunset on the water, and then lingered to gawk at the super-abundance of stars overhead. I spotted a figure trompin’  along the roadside, backpack and all. His name is Daniel.
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He just got finished with ten years in the air force, the launch buttons for nukes at his fingertips. Now he’s wandering with a straw hat on his head, a copy of Vagabonding in hand, and a willingness to give in to the tides of chaos – to let the path choose him. At least for a few weeks. And before he goes back to Colorado, he’s apparently gonna travel with us for a bit. Which is awesome.

And the world is awesome. And its people are awesome. Mostly. And we can do better. I find myself saying a lot these days that I think the key is providing the right context. I talk a lot about problems of distribution. That we have enough stuff, but not enough mindfulness. A lot is being said, but there’s not enough time made for listening. Ads bombard us and information eludes us.

We have too many empty homes to accept homelessness, too many resources to accept people dying of curable illness, and way too much food to let a billion go to bed hungry. Look at all this amazing food… from a dumpster!
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And no, we haven’t gotten sick, not once.

But the problem of distribution is not just one of stuff. It’s also about ideas, conversations, kindness. Somehow our culture has gotten very, very fucking comfortable being isolated, ignorant, and scared, willing to accept dumb rules (like the idea that beaches can be closed, that police should arrest homeless people for simply sleeping while no one’s prosecuting the Wall Street bankers, blah blah blah). I, for one, am not (we, for four, are not) comfortable with this.

I think a damn good context for conquering this isolation, this problem of distribution – and sure, maybe I’ve got some confirmation bias spilling out of me here – is one where money is removed from the picture. When I walk up to the shop counter and ask for a conversation and there’s no money to cheapen the interaction, now it’s all about me as a human and them as a human. The same goes for the hotels and the houses,
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the street corners and the parks,
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the mini golf courses and the marinas.
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You give someone a chance to have a real conversation or an opportunity to share and blam-o, all that shit we learned from Sesame Street and kindergarten comes pouring out.

So as I sit here outside a Starbucks with yet another free beverage (this time a vanilla latte with extra espresso… hell yeah!) – courtesy of yet another group of employees who yet again are willing to give generously, speak openly, and act kindly – I can’t help but laugh at how much I let bills and money and soul-sucking jobs working for tax-evading corporations neuter my ability to truly live. Now instead of feeling trapped in compromise, I’m simultaneously doing good for the world and having a hell of a good time living in it. Every day.
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Maybe this has been the luckiest eight weeks ever. Maybe for us to defy so many conventions day in and day out and still come up with piles of delicious and healthy food, liters of coffee and ever present smiles… maybe I’ve gone off the deep end of naive optimism. But I don’t think so. I think we’re touching a nerve. And I think it’s deeply rooted in the spinal column of humanity.

I fall asleep to the sound of waves lapping the shore and sing to myself, “another has been found, another ocean on the planet, given that our blood is just like the Atlantic.” We are in this together and in this ocean is the capacity to do a world of good. So maybe a cop kicks you awake once in awhile and fumbles through trying to legitimize the irony of a beach where by day it can be lined with cars, but by night no one can sleep on it. And maybe you’re in a city that condemns sleeping on public grass but thrives on the commercialized alcoholism of college kids paying money for simulated sexual acts. And maybe I’ll lose my shit next time I’m playing my ukulele on the sidewalk and I hear a drunken spring breaker holla down from his resort balcony at some young woman, “you better shut your mouth before I fuck it.” Maybe next time after calling him out for being rapey and classless and sounding like an asshole you’ll read about me spending a night in the slammer.

But I doubt it. Because there are too many people serving free hot breakfast for the homeless just a block away. There are too many people who give whatever they’ve got even when they have next to nothing themselves. There are too many Dars giving away farm-fresh food, too many Caitlins giving away phones to use for free, and too many energetic, progressive, inspiring 90-somethings like Esther.
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And in a past life, before I realized food and coffee and shelter and kindness were all free, I suspected this type of thing was possible. Because there are also too many people like my friend Jason, whose face lit up when I told him, in the basement of the beautiful Wonder Root, that we were leaving to travel the world indefinitely and he knew what I meant and told me, “you finally made the leap.”

So I’ll leave y’all with this. Jason doing what he does best in another part of Florida, just North of here:

In love with everyone and everything all at once,
Jesse

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What if everyone did what you’re doing? (Part 3!)

Alas! This is part three of our three-part blogtacular. If you need to catch-up, or want to relish in some beautiful nostalgia, here is part two and here is part one.
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Let’s go to the funnest* and most speculative form of the question. What would happen if everyone lived without money? Is a world without money possible? Let’s consider this a, hopefully brief, introduction to the economics of the kind of free-access anarchism we advocate as an ideal plausible organization for human society. (Note, we also firmly believe that there are other less drastic changes to our society’s functioning that could have real positive effects.)

Ok. First, we don’t want to replace money with a barter system. Bartering is just a really inefficient form of the kind of transaction-based economy that money facilitates. We’re arguing for “generalized reciprocity” or a gift economy. You do what you can to contribute and you take what you need. (This corresponds pretty closely to Marx’s “from each according to his ability to each according to his need.”)

To get an idea of what this might look like (before we start addressing some objections), start with today’s society and how it could change with the elimination of money, in simplified form. At first everyone does the same things, except jobs that deal exclusively with money disappear. There are no more banks, bankers, insurance companies, credit card companies, or debt collectors. There are no more cashiers. No one has to do payroll at FedEx. You don’t have to pay rent or a mortgage. You have no more medical bills.

Next, we do some of the obvious things. Homeless people (650,000 in the U.S.) move into the super-abundance of empty houses (roughly 5-20 million, depending on how we calculate it).
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Medical care is given to all those who need it, not only those who can afford it. Similarly, food (and everything else) becomes available to all according to need, as we shift from production for profit to production for use/human needs.

Manipulative marketing for the sake of competition becomes obsolete.

Then, the overworked can work a lot less. We can make up for those hours with automatization, which should make life easier for workers, instead of eliminating their way of making a living as it does in the current system. And we can also make up for reduced work hours with a part of the huge surplus of labor that a) already exists in the form of massive unemployment and b) is created by the elimination of so many jobs that only exist because capitalism and money exist. There is more than enough labor and human will in existence to create what we need to transition to a sustainable economy based on a smart energy grid, renewable energy, cradle-to-cradle design, etc. – and still provide for significantly more leisure time.

So we see the potential of a system of production for need, free access to all for all, and without the type of means (money) that make massive inequality possible. But what about the drawbacks? First, who would do the shitty jobs? Literally, who the hell is gonna be a plumber? No one, or very few people, really like collecting garbage, jackhammering sidewalks, or cleaning oil off of beaches. And yet we see that people are willing to do things they don’t love when they know that they’re being treated fairly and are appreciated. People volunteered to help after the BP oil spill, not because they love getting covered in oil (usually), but because they knew it was the right thing to do and because people want to and enjoy helping each other. More specifically, I know I would happily do an hour or two a week of some horrible job in order to ensure that it gets done and that no one has to do it all day every day – like they do now. And given how few jobs are really universally despised, an hour or two a week would probably be sufficient. Nearly every person we’ve talked to would gladly do their part as well.

Yet people fear that others would not do their part. We’ll call this the “free-rider” problem. Perhaps it’s some natural suspicion of those we don’t know that makes us assume that they are somehow much less virtuous and caring than those we do know. Or maybe it’s the mindset of economic competitiveness that our society instills from childhood. Who knows. It seems increasingly clear to us, though, that most would be willing to do their part, knowing that the society they are constructing and maintaining is the same one that provides them free access to all material needs – and probably much healthier social relations than we currently have as well.

It is true, though, that there would be free-riders, and possibly quite a large number, depending on the strength of the social pressure to contribute (after all, social pressure is the reason we do a lot of the good things we do in life anyway). So, we must deal with the question, who would bother to work if all work were voluntary? However, our society already deals with significant free-riding, whether it’s wealthy people living off investments and tax breaks or the occasional person who actually decides to try to live on welfare forever. And given that a huge portion of current jobs don’t actually produce anything of value but merely exist as part of the machinery of our capitalist economy, a society lacking those inherent inefficiencies could accommodate a much larger quantity of free-riders, if it had to, though we suspect it wouldn’t.

Finally, our society and our world’s biggest economic issues do not relate to the ability to produce enough for all, but rather in the misdirection of that productive effort toward useless or destructive ends (marketing and stock trading, bombs and coal), toward luxury goods (diamonds and Porsches), and toward a small slice of the world’s population (the “developed” world, and within that, especially to an elite few). Producing for use, rather than profit, and allocating based on need, rather than ability to pay, seem to be enough, at least potentially, to more than offset a potential increase in free-riding. More likely, I think, is that a system without the perverse incentives created by money would better utilize human capabilities toward producing greater human well-being.

So is a world without money possible? I don’t know. Four hundred years ago it seemed impossible that people could choose their own leaders, but now we kinda do. Two hundred years ago it seemed impossible that different “races” could be treated equally by the law, but now we kinda are. A few decades ago it seemed impossible that instantaneous, anonymous contributions to Wikipedia from people all over the planet could render traditional encyclopedias obsolete, but now they kinda have. Will we have kinda replaced a monetary economy with a free access economy at some point in the future?

For now, we’re just living out the question.

– Adam & Jesse

* = Funnest is a perfectly fine word, in that it is widely used, easily understood, and formed by the same superlative suffix used with countless other adjectives. To not use it simply because prescriptivist grammarians reject it would be to bow to the same kind of arbitrary authority that leads to so much injustice and illogic in our world. (You know, the same kind that thinks it can “close” the area where the land meets the sea or assassinate democratically elected South American progressives). 🙂