On the Road

Lauren LaRocca
5 min readJun 7, 2019

Why I chose to live nomadically as a freelance writer after being laid off by my full-time magazine employer.

I’ve moved a lot throughout my life, and in recent years, I’ve continued to downsize with every change of address, although never quite to this extent. This time, I downsized to a tent and will be living on the road. I’ll be driving across the country for the second time in my life, but it feels much different. Because there is no home to return to, just open road, where some blend of magic and mystery meet, where the future is expansive and unwritten.

A couple days ago, I packed all of my earthly possessions into a truck and drove it to Pittsburgh, where they’ll be stored at a relative’s house until, well, further notice. I kept what I needed for an unknown amount of time on the road — essentials like clothes, camping gear, and a pretty large bin of journals and books and field guides.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to live nomadically, if only for a little while — pitch a tent in the wilderness areas along the way, visit the quirky towns and tourist towns and ghost towns, see all of America. This year, I’m gifting myself that opportunity. I’m viewing it as a sabbatical of sorts, not from work but from the 9–5 life. I’m excited, intimidated, open, nervous, all depending on what day it is. Or hour. Mostly though, I feel more aligned with who I am and how I should be living, more than I ever have in my life. That said, I also felt forced into this lifestyle.

A little backstory: In 2017, I uprooted my quiet life to take a magazine job in Baltimore, after having stayed at a steady job that I loved for 12 years. I’d lived out in the country throughout my entire adult life and was living at the time on a small property that backed up to 20,000 acres of West Virginia wilderness preserve (that was my backyard). Moving to the city was a shock to the system, but I pushed through and worked harder than I ever have in my life. Then, 10 months into the job, I got laid off, when the company decided to make staff cuts.

I was mostly numb at first, which then turned to panic. How would I survive? How would I pay my bills? Where would I move when my lease was up, if I made it that far?

And then one morning, instead of waking up with raging anxiety, I woke up with a solution, as if it had been delivered to me in my sleep. When my lease was up in May, I would live on the road.

I began freelance writing and editing immediately and was able to make ends meet through the winter while loosely planning this rendezvous with the road.

This is a choice, yes, but my options were pretty limited. I looked for another full-time job but never found one. Meanwhile, finding a landlord who will let you rent month-to-month is near impossible — which I’d need, in the event that I did find a good job somewhere and had to relocate. Finding a landlord who will rent to you when you don’t have “steady” full-time employment is also near impossible, even if you had 13 years of steady employment prior and damn near perfect credit.

Could I have gotten a job at a grocery store somewhere, maybe supplement my income by writing? Sure, but why? And where?

Complicating the matter is a little thing called CIRS, or Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome. Living with this condition means that I become ill when I live or work in buildings that have unsafe levels of mold mycotoxins, which my body cannot detox on its own. The real kicker is that an estimated 50 percent of buildings in the U.S. are unsafe for people with CIRS. And the specific mold test needed takes weeks to process. So again, what landlord is going to wait three weeks for me to test the place for mold?

So: work a horrible job at minimum wage and possibly be sick every day from mold exposure while living in a place you can’t leave for a year, or live in a tent, out in the summer air, and continue working as a freelance writer and editor without being tied down to place, all while seeing America. Which would you choose?

And no, I don’t have any health insurance.

Meanwhile, while living in my tent, I got news that I’d won a prestigious national award for an article I’d written for the magazine that laid me off. I suddenly felt as if I were living a parody of my life.

But then I remind myself of why I’m doing this.

People keep asking why I’m doing it, so I’ve had a lot of time to think about it. Some of my answers: freedom, wilderness, inspiration. And I want to see America. And I have a raging thirst for wilderness after 18 months of city living. And traveling will allow me pockets of time for spiritual retreat in beautiful places.

People keep asking how long I’m going to be on my road trip. I have no way of knowing, and this is a way of life I’m choosing, not a vacation. I’m just paying attention, listening, feeling it out. Would you ask someone how long they’re going to be in a relationship? It’s kind of like that. I’m romantically involved with the road. Anything could happen.

I was on the hamster wheel for so long, churning out copy for newspapers and magazines. I burned out 10 years ago. Some people seem to be able to keep up with it, but even when I could keep up, it always bothered me that I was putting my own creative work on hold while I expended all my energy on writing that never really felt like it was authentically “me.” Needless to say, I’ve been working on a lot of my own projects.

Are there times when I think I should be scrambling to find full-time work and saving money to buy a house and do the thing every other 37-year-old woman seems to be doing? Obviously. But that stirring inside me never goes away, that longing to be traveling and writing, that freedom and expansion. I feel most like myself when I’m in that space. And what are we all wasting our time doing, if we’re not aiming to find that center of gravity, our own true north, that space of creation where we come most alive?

A version of this was originally published at https://karmarocca.wixsite.com/dearroad.

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Lauren LaRocca

Lauren LaRocca is a writer, astrologer, and folk herbalist living in Northern New Mexico.