Two years ago I went on a trip where I lived on a converted bus for a week and did a tour of America’s National Parks. I had with me only what I could pass off as hand luggage (in other words, not much). I slept at the back of the bus with the comforting chug of the engine surrounding me.
Every night we brushed our teeth in a Walmart bathroom and I can think of very few other times in my adult life where I have been that content. Before I joined the circus, when I had bills to pay and housemates to juggle and commuter trains to catch, I would often find myself thinking wistfully back to that week, where everything just seemed so much simpler.
But that was only for a week. As a wise girl once typed, seven days living in a bus does not a nomad make. Would I still love the lifestyle without the gorgeous sunny weather, stunning landscape and someone cooking me dinner every night?
A big part of my motivation for joining the circus was to test-drive a transient lifestyle without having to sell all my possessions and buy my own van. I’m three months in now and feel pretty confident. Having experienced every kind of weather the English summer has to offer and parking in some truly uninspiring locations, I believe that yes, I want to live a life of constant motion.
The act of moving on, always pushing forwards regardless of weather or ticket sales or drama, leaving behind nothing but a sawdust ring and muddy tire tracks, starting afresh again and again and again, has settled firmly in my heart.
And right at the centre of my heart lays my bunk. A logistical marvel constructed entirely out of wood and nails, it is my little cubicle of calm in which I can hunker down when the circus gets a little to…well circus-y. So small that I can’t stretch my arms out without knocking something over and have to prop my feet up on the sink when laying down flat, it nevertheless has a perfectly miniature window and a lovely stable door, both of which I throw open at every opportunity to marvel at the fact that I really am living in a field.
On move day, the day we pack everything up, pull down the tent and move from our current ground to the new site where we will be spending the next week, all the caravans and wagons leave before we do (because we still have to pull down the tent). Watching the wagon that contains my bunk bump over the grass and turn out onto the road is the most bizarre experience. My whole life is in that small wooden cabin whose door I have to tape shut with duct tape. The feeling of loss once it is gone is huge. Until we arrive at the new site later on that night, I effectively have no home.
And that is the fundamental difference between the type of travelling I am doing now and the kinds I have done in the past. Previously I’ve either been going somewhere with a specific purpose in mind (a job or university namely) or I’ve been hostel hopping with my backpack. So I’ve either been heading towards an established physical dwelling for periods of three months plus or have had to make a new home for myself at each new hostel.
While both certainly have their merits, I found myself either getting itchy feet or burning out. I needed something in the middle and along rolled the circus. Moving week in, week out provides a comforting sense of routine and I have all the creature comforts of home (my bed, my books, my little window) right there to greet me and provide a sense of familiarity at each new place. It’s pretty much ideal. The only hard part is going to be figuring out how, or even if, I’m going to be able to stop.
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