Not something you pretend – nor is it any sort of joke. Depending on who you are, the very word brings a host of emotions. For some, thoughts of traveling to and fro without any hangups, for others visions of no good bums avoiding real jobs and real life. For some it evokes family – one where the roots were pulled up in some distant place and there was no choice but to set off in search of a prosperous life elsewhere. One thing is for sure, the real world is not in books, not in maps, not in your mailbox or here on the web. It’s wherever you are at any given moment – and as a free human being on this planet, I get to choose when and where that place is.
Like every other life choice, this one has it’s consequences. When you make your bed, you’ve got to sleep in it. No consierge to complain to, no labor board to help you. You must make everything work or be miserable and go back to the box, beholden to a boss, a train schedule, the banks. This is not for us – we know. We were there for many years, struggling to keep food on the table while chasing our passions. Like being a drunk with only vinegar to drink, the taste quickly sours and the gut becomes rife with discomfort.
We certainly didn’t set out to become gypsies of any sort. We both grew up in the bosom of America’s great dream, nestled in our beds under the watchful eye of our families we experienced only that which they and our surrounding society desired us to. Our setting off was quite the disturbance – first demanding answers to why-how’s and where-to-fors, then harboring a somewhat disconserted attempt to comprehend the nature of our journey. In it, we’ve learned volumes about ourselves, our families, our upbringing and our society as “modern Americans.”
Truth is, maybe I’m a conspiracy theorist of sorts, of possibly a soul born at the wrong time. I enjoy real freedom and all the struggle that goes along with it, the end of which one reaches into their pocket and pulls out a group of skillsets that you never imagined were coming to you. As necessity is the mother of invention, willingness will drive out competence every time. In my estimation, freedom gets you to a place that most often presents itself as a conundrum – at times choices must be made to simply “deal” with the ramifications of the freedom you’ve chosen. In our case, boat life trumps all.
Safety of family and crew, seaworthiness of our vessel – all are tied up in a neat little package of “get to work and fix it NOW or you don’t make the next port.” That’s how we live, how we support our lives. Food, parts, musical gear, funds for the goods that we sell, consumables that the vessel requires; and I haven’t even mentioned the calls and emails yet. The ones that get the gig, convincing everyone from the small venue owner to the festival committee that we belong on the bill. Our experience of boat life has truly been a great window into the mechanics of the “have-to’s and the have-not’s,” and the lot of baggage that goes along with. What it has not meant is borrowing what we do not have, taking what is not ours, and complaining when things do not go our way.
If freedom means nothing else, it is a testament to will. Pitting yourself against the “odds” that your peers may bring up and realizing that life is tough no matter how and where you conduct its detail. And with the 1,000 ways there are to “skin the proverbial cat,” the most valuable lesson is to realize for yourself which way best suits your happiness, the one that will allow you to become the individual you see when you look at the mirror and only wish you could throw a line to and pull through to stand next to you and then to meld with, blending both the reflection and reality.
What is it that begets freedom? Money and wealth? Family? Societal staus? Education? What if it were just the ability to make the descision you deem best at the time without having to answer to anyone but yourself for it? Such a simple thing, it seems, but a complicated path no matter what society you live “in.” In some the mere reading of a particular book will get you thrown in the kettle. In others, the more ridiculous you act it seems the more you are rewarded – humanity’s rhyme and reason have beeon quite off for some millenia. There are so many permutations of this – thin vs fat, white vs brown, poor vs rich. That will never come to an end, nor will the changes in what is thought of as desireable to any given society.
What also never changes are the possibilities that come when individuals shed the norms and make an attempt to just be human – to live, to forage, converse and produce from within their souls and minds a thing unique to their own experience – no ads, no sponsorships, no awards and no glory. Existance at its simplest. We then have to look at our universe as a thing upon which we have a profound effect, where our interactions with every aspect of it mean something like a map we leave behind for those who remain.
In our wake, the wake of the gypsy, we hope to leave our humanity with a sprinkle of art to remind those we encounter of their own. We are living proof that if you put in the hard work, you too can pay the bills.
Christel and Jarad Astin
Stell & Snuggs