“Its amazing how many people asked us during a weekend we were vending last month … “So Leaf, where are you living these days – you seem to be everywhere?” to which i replied “We live everywhere.” they often respond back with something like “No, I mean where do you live?” and we say “We are nomads.” They say, “where is your home base?” and the truth is we have a mailbox and storage unit in Hood River and a storage unit in Phoenix Oregon. When they find out we live in tents or sometimes crash in a small cargo trailer, you can see the natural judgements and thoughts flash across their eyes, and suddenly without words their “gypsy” friends become different in their eyes. We hid our situation very well. “Nomads” follow “resources” … and we do that, living on the road in many ways. Originally by choice. Now by the economic climate here in the U.S. We simply can’t afford first & last month rent plus security deposit in a landscape where rents are so extremely high. We live paycheck to paycheck, and its not enough to provide that. Nor is our income sources, sedentary.
(1) I was a “temporary” contract archaeologist who accepted projects all over the Pacific Northwest that often changed locations every two weeks from Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, or Northern California. They provided camping sites or hotels, perdium, and about $15-20/hr to hike looking for artifacts and archaeological resources. There is often instability of schedule, location, and companies like to cut corners anyway they can not concerned with how it affected their crew members. “Field techs are a dime a dozen” was said by some crew leads. These projects were often 10 hour days crunched together in 6-8 day long gigs. If everything went right, we had another project after a 6 day weekend break. During that time, we did our second job (2) Vending festivals and events. These too, were unstable. You never know how much you’ll make or spend, sometimes coming out at a major loss or profit, and often just breaking even. These days, outside of community or spiritual/hobby based events who’s costs are compassionate and fair, most of the bigger higher attended events rape the merchants wallet with extraordinarily high booth fees forcing losses or just breaking even. This is why we no longer vend those events. Yes, it takes lots of money to make some money. This destroyed us when we experimented with a storefront in Ashland Oregon, and was the root of our fall after we had rose to a manageable life as technogypsies.
Working for the man, getting fat in a cubicle, and losing time with our child seems to be the inevitable future. The “technogypsie” lifestyle jobs of a multi-talented tinker doesn’t seem to be working anymore (archaeologist, researcher, web designer, graphic artist, tarot reader, body painter, merchant, craftsman, performer, magician, artist, actor, GIS specialist, photographer, writer, blogger, clergy, lecturer, and teacher). After doing this for over 26 years, I get it … it just doesn’t work. Its funny though, with how much we travel, often friends and family are disillusioned to thinking we’re doing well since they often see us exploring a new part of the planet each week. But feast or famine, it’s really hard, more than one experiences with paycheck to paycheck. Perhaps that’s why the “donate if you like this story or tale” button at the bottom or the top of the blogs, reviews, or travel tale pages “never” get used. You’d think if someone enjoyed it, buying a drink or help fund the journey would say “I want more”. It doesn’t.
I know I’ve inspired many to follow a gypsy-like path, but fail to say its not a slice of cake. We’ve got great dreams and passions we’re striving towards that led us down this path from being theatrical pirates (www.piraterelief.com), to photographing, documenting, researcher, folklorists, and historians (www.technogypsie.com) to artisan and craftsmen (www.treeleavesoracle.org) … our three companies that sometimes provide funding for life’s needs, but never something one can rely on. Not on a nomadic path at least. The times of success with those was when we were rooted and nested. We’re talented and we often make more than other’s at events, which makes me very concerned about how respected or sustainable this lifestyle can be after 26 years of practice. I’m tired, I’m weary, and often lately feel like giving up and becoming a sheep in the 99% slaving ourselves to larger corporations losing our souls and time with our families. I just don’t know what to do anymore. But we want a home base, a house or yurt, somewhere to call home. It’s been too long.
The Rise – Yes, one day long ago there was a “rise”. After working for the “Man”, in true reality “the Feds” and “the people”, and private companies … I left Microsoft, .dotcom companies, stable archaeology jobs serving the State, Department of Defense, and National Park Service to try this life out. I would often work a full time long term job to build up resources then quit, travel around as a “Technogypsie” and doing all the above for my own companies and always vending events because it was fun, a community, and inspired my artistic desires. The final walkabout from that life was in 2011 when I left desk job, cashed in my 401 k and sailed tall ships in Australia, backpacked across Europe, taught a field school in England, and helped build a Celtic dragon for the Irish at Burning Man. I was out of money and by 2012 was ready to do my cycle again of working for the man. Then I met the love of my life from Ireland and moved back across the Great Pond. Feast or famine living in Ireland we followed love and made it work, though struggle hard we did. My mom was ill so across the pond we went to help out to the God/dess forsaken place of South Carolina. We made what we could of it, and fortunately did, as we got to spend two months with her before she passed. Then came the birth of our son, and that required extreme funding once again working for the Department of Defense, developing apps. After he was born, with some inheritance to fund us, we traveled across America to follow the Technogypsie path again in 2013 to the shores of Oregon.
The Fall – we took our inheritance to gear up to start a store in 2014. We hastily agreed on “Ashland” as the location without doing some very important ground work and research. Sunk our funds into a high priced location just off the main street that failed to catch the crowd. A city destroyed by escapee Californians who pumped the cost of living to California extremes leaving a populace without funds to buy things in stores, most of the locals going to Medford to shop because Ashland was too expensive. We watched our accounts dry and diminish paying several thousand in expenses monthly without the sales replacing those expenditures. We couldn’t afford a house in Ashland, so we stayed in our RV for $400 month at a local campground, and sometimes slept in our shop. It wasn’t working. Come a hard winter in 2014. In February 2015 we saw a bank account just under $1,000 knowing we couldn’t afford another month at this rate. We had no choice but to sell our RV, our only home and take the first job offered to us. So in April we moved down to Southern California for a flexible desk and field job as a Archaeologist for only $23/hour at 30 hours a week. We couldn’t afford housing. We lived in tents and our cargo trailer for a half a year rotating county parks with camp fees of $14-30 a night. We finally brought together first/last and deposit for a one bedroom apartment in Riverside, and quickly realized we were not going to make it month to month. So the first job offer back in the Pacific Northwest we took in Oregon that October. The current one I’m still working as a “temporary” contract archaeologist. Work lasted from October to November. Then the snows came and we literally were snowed in at a primitive tea house on a friend’s property with no work, and no vending (as our merchant trailer got snowed in) for over 3 months. We were penniless losing everything. After the snows melted in 2016 we were back to our current lifestyle still struggling and still not affording what we needed to get a place again. Debts from surviving last winter still burdened us as we saw signs of the soon to come new winter. Feelings of terror come with the chill of the infamous Game of Throne’s saying “Winter’s Coming” is true to our heart.
What to do? Even though unemployment rates are low, jobs that pay what we need to survive don’t seem to be plenty, nor pay enough for us to settle down somewhere. Applications wented flying, but no bites seem to take hold. That led us to continue the Gypsy path we’re on … instable temporary archaeology work until October or November here in the Pacific Northwest and vending the remaining cheap or cost-free events left for the summer and fall (diminishing) and hope to build up enough funds to become snowbirds for the first time in our life following work and events south, Pirate festivals in Florida and archaeology fieldwork in the southeast or Arizona. If only we had a fifth wheel or RV again, lodging wouldn’t be the concern as camping in tents during winter just doesn’t make it. Not to mention the incredible wear and tear on two vehicles with a cargo trailer pulling all the merchandise for events. What if a breakdown scenario cursed us?
Truly both of us needed jobs to get a place. My work wasn’t paying us enough for the three of us. She’s having similar struggles with finding a job. Why is it so hard? and the shocking truth is … we’re not alone. Everyday we’re meeting others who have to live out of their trucks or cars, camping where they can (which free or available campsites disappear daily as communities don’t want nomads, gypsies, travelers, or homeless to live near them so they make those sites go away). The only difference, many of those friends don’t have kids. Which makes this lifestyle even more difficult in terms of places to lodge. Costly at best. You do the math for a safe State park camping site at $30/night adds up to a decent apartment especially when you add in gas. But one cannot get a apartment or place without first, last, and security and proof of a job to show you can continue payments. Its a struggle many of us are facing today. So there you have the hidden truth … we’ve been hiding for years. Some close friends have picked up on it or suspected it, and have sent unexpected pay pal help when times were extremely dire. You have no idea how much you saved us during that Winter of 2015.
Our Dream: We own land in Ireland. We have the opportunity to move back and buy Etain’s old family home. But unemployment in Ireland is scary and outright unbearable. We’ve experienced that. America has more resources for such times of hardship. Not to mention a expired passport we can’t afford to renew, finalizing a very
expensive citizenship path to America (over $3,000 paid, another $1,000 to go) that we can’t afford before we can actually leave the country if we could. But once we do, we want to live part time in America (Summer doing festivals and archaeology) and rest of the year in Ireland taking people on Sacred Tours of Ireland, writing books, and teaching a field school on our land. That’s our goal. 9/1/16 update: This dream is no longer possible as we are no longer together.
So there you have the rise and fall of a life of your nomad friends. The founding fathers of the term “Technogypsie, Techno-Tinker, and Techno-Nomads”. A life full of excitement and awe, fun and artistry, but feast or famine. Its not the slice of cake you think it is.
We’re open to suggestions, advice, inspiration, or help along with this journey in any way possible. If you know of work my skills will fit, please forward on the details or i can send you on a vitae. If you know of events that we can do with little cost, please let us know or resources of where we could stay along this journey of getting back on our feet.
So I wrote all that in the middle of August which was never published until now. “The Fall” of this lifestyle took a nose dive as my wife left me for another, and flew off for another life elsewhere leaving me and my son having to pick up the pieces and move. Move we did where friends, extended family, and community is … back in a house with family and looking for the desk jobs or work at home opportunities. The nomadic life has come to an end.
Adventures for sure will be always be a part of our life, but the nomadic life will no longer. It is time to nest and place roots. We thank you for your guidance along the way.
The Tales of Sir Thomas Oisin Leaf, Lady Etain, and Prince Cian are now just the tales of a father and son exploring the world around them.