“Living this traveling life has given me everything, I am free, I am happy, and I am wild!”
If this sounds like you, perhaps taking a moment to consider how you got here is in order.
For us, it was hard work, yes. I run a web design business and make a little side hustle writing for various websites around the Internet. But it was also luck. We hit the road in 2008, and while the information and ability to work online weren’t nearly as prevalent as they are now…let’s face it, if it would have been much earlier I wouldn’t have had the cell service connectivity to roam as I wanted nor perhaps even have become an entrepreneur.
No matter how any of us came into this life, some amount of luck was at play.
So as television commercials and billboards, grocery store flyers and Facebook all constantly remind us that now is the time to buy, buy, buy in preparation for making everyone you know a little happier to have more junk to shove into a closet or shuffle off to Goodwill come January, maybe there’s something we as a traveling community can do to help those in need, and those places that we love to travel to so very much.
Here are a few ideas.
Help the Less Fortunate in our Country
While we’re sticking our feet out the back door to frame our next Instagram shot and taking pictures of ourselves half-dressed on our surfboards, there is a whole class of full-time RV and vandweller out there who is not doing this because they want to, but because they’ve been driven from their homes. They often consider themselves homeless. They are often natives in parts of the country where their rent has been tripled or worse by richer people who gentrified their neighborhoods and left them with little other option than to round up an RV and–all while they continue to work–make due with it.
There are a multitude of ways to help the homeless. While handing out change may help some, it’s typically discouraged as there’s no way to know what that particular person will spend the money on. That may be fine with you, and it may not even be a bad thing, but without knowing the person in question, your spare change will likely go further if you donate to a reputable organization that will do something more with the money than grab a quick meal.
Not all charities are created equal, of course, and places like Weingart Center in Los Angeles will make sure your money not only goes toward making a better life for people who have found themselves in a less fortunate situation than us, but will do more than just feed and shelter them…the Weingart Center works to get them back on their feet. The company says that for every $10,000 they raise, a person can be reintroduced to “normal” society. They help them get a place, a job, and work their way back into a life where they’ll then be free to choose their own path.
Not all of us have cash to spare, of course. Places like Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission have plenty of volunteer opportunities–from being a receptionist to serving meals to those who could use one. Sure, there’s a “Jesus saves” aspect that you may or may not agree with, but at the end of the day your time, your face, that goes a long way, sometimes just as far as a big check will. As someone who spent a year truly homeless as a teenager, I can tell you that getting through the cold nights and loneliness can be overcome a helluva lot more easily when you know there are people who actually give a damn enough to sacrifice their own time in order to give you a hand up. Seattle isn’t the only city with services like this, Google “homeless shelter” in whatever area you’re in to find an organization near you that is, no doubt, always looking for volunteers.
Give Much Needed Supplies to People in Other Countries
Organizations like Oxfam take your donation and turn it into a goat.
Quite literally, the first year we donated to Oxfam, they used that money to give goats to families in Africa. It’s the “give a man a fish, feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, feed him for life” mentality where you don’t just help someone in need, you give them the resources to help themselves.
Reach Out to Friends without Family Nearby
A simple way to help someone in a meaningful way is to reach out to people–travelers or otherwise–you know who might not have family nearby. Spending Thanksgiving with you and your family–as crazy as old Uncle Jack might be–might be just what some wayward wanderer or new transplant needs, instead of spending the holidays holed up in a Cracker Barrel pretending like the table next to them can actually hear their desperate thoughts of Thanksgiving’s past flushed down the toilet all because they chose to leave their hometown in the rearview mirror.
Save a Whale!
Or whatever. We traveling types tend to spend a lot of time in nature enjoying the astounding beauty that the world offers when you just take a minute to get off of the highway and listen to the birds sing.
There are no shortage of charities out there protecting one species or another, but again, doing something good during the holidays doesn’t have to involve spending any money. Just head out to the nearest beach or forest with a garbage bag and a stick and fill it up with as much litter as you can find. When you think of it, it’s amazing really–especially in the United States–that our government keeps so many places wild and largely free, it’s the least we can do to help preserve the pristine nature these lands we spend so much time in deserve.