LIVING UNSCRIPTED: A Life of Couch Surfing

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I wasn’t quite sure that anyone would really understand my resistance to settling back down in to a routine when I got back from my six-month travels, but when I gingerly mentioned to one of my investors that I wasn’t ready to unpack my bags — “just yet,” she responded with “I’d love to lose my furniture…Just get rid of it and travel.” Her husband was in the backseat, listening in to our conversation and wrote me in an email later that week, that he, too, would love to break free the shackles of responsibility and take the time he’s earned, to do/see what he’s always wanted to do/see — while he still can.  They’ve actually done a good bit of exotic traveling in the last few years but always on organized tours for specific amounts of time, not open-ended and certainly not by the seat of their pants.

In fairness, I couldn’t afford to do it any other way than how I did it: through a couple of house swaps, a working farm, an inexpensive B&B for the few nights I did actually have to pay for a roof over my head — and some quid-pro-quo(s) for having given out-of-town guests the key to my kingdom over the years.  The last time I left the USA for an extended period of time, I was 22 and stayed away for two years. I had my whole adult life ahead of me when I returned to my home turf — and have been living it ever since.  This time I was 59 when I left –and away for six months.  I can’t do the math, but I betcha the ratio between time spent on the road when I was 22-24 and the lifetime I had left at that point, is about the same as the ratio this time around, at 59, being away for six months and the amount of life I have time for — before heading off into the twilight zone.

What I wasn’t expecting was my teenage, 1970s rebel-like refusal to replant my feet on solid ground when I re-entered my home-zone, but I’m honestly not anxious to hit the road running.  Au contraire, I’m living life as far out on a ledge as my acrophobia will allow, taking my sweet time and not tackling any serious subjects for as long as possible (like how to handle never-ending financial issues with my ex). I’m sure both my business and my pleasure play big roles in justifying my obstinacy, i.e. having committed to only one Broadway show that doesn’t preview until November, I’ve got most of the summer off before having to go into full swing on production/advertising and marketing issues post Labor Day (giving me additional time to play) — and having kept my relationship with Bond, James, respectfully in-tact during my absence, we agreed-to a fact-finding extension through Labor Day to determine what exactly we have/are with/to each other (which includes accompanying him on a business trip to South Africa – OMG!!!!).  And because we’re not majorly committing to being long-distance lovers in a mutually exclusive relationship – just yet, I’ve been dining with the Ambassasdor on occasion, exchanging texts and emails, keeping him at bay but curious none-the-less how that relationship might ultimately play out.

Staying true to my promise-to-self, not to haul up any boxes from my storage unit and switch-out my wardrobe, I continue to live in the present as if still on the road, albeit on my own home turf.  Couch surfing. I’m traveling, for the first time in my life with my favorite pillow, crashing in friends’ apartments and moving from one to another as they slip out to their vacation homes and/or vacate for other destinations. If need be, a living room couch (or a blow up floor mattress) is more-than-adequate as my sleeping space; I’m not complaining. My only concession: I organized my moving from space-to-space to begin with out-of-town visits so I could rent a car (since I wasn’t paying “rent”) and move around more easily with my luggage.

A reasonable rental car deal allowed me to go from the communal house my producing partners and I used the first two weeks in June (for a 12-performance run of our musical in development) to my beach house at the end of Long Island… And from there to a suburb outside of Boston to spend time with my kids and their kids.  After two weeks there, I gave up the car and headed back to NYC for 9 days, narrowing down a plethora of offers to reasonably alternate between a friend’s fabulously funky loft in the Village – -and Karen’s penthouse studio on the Upper West Side, responsible for watering the plants in the former and feeding the cats in the latter.  (There may be plenty of couches, but there’s no free ride.)

Sooooooo, I’m feeling free enough to think about alternative ways of working my business and alternative ways of living my life, all of it seemingly logical because I’m not uncomfortable making alternative housing arrangements.

I have to admit, however, that it does feel a bit odd to be opening up my suitcases on somebody else’s living room floor back in my own city, not to mention, seeing the insides of their kitchen drawers — but it is incredibly practical too. Accidental spills on a carpet (that called for a pricey professional fix resulting from a fairly comical failed attempt by my old Nanny, I SOS’d in my state-of-emergency) and replacement flowers aside, whatever task I can perform in exchange for lodging is a lot less than the price of a monthly sublet, and I really don’t need one (sublet) for another three months.

So here I am at 60, happy to accept kind and generous offers from friends, to surf on their couches, use their teakettles and get intimate with their showerheads, hoping to stretch it out for as long as I reasonably can.  Opening up my mind and body to living differently is becoming a metaphor for opening up both to unlimited opportunities (albeit funky), and I’m enjoying the freedom.  Freedom to reacquaint myself with my city in a new neighborhood, freedom to step back in to show business with a fresh perspective and freedom to take off with Bond, James, on yet another overseas adventure.

And what really amazes me is that after a lifetime of breaking barriers, I’m tearing down yet another, living a different American Dream for a new generation of empty nesters, many of whom seem to be reassessing their own commitments to love, habitats and an uninhibited desire to live their passion.  No longer intimidated by what we now know are life’s temporary blimps, unburdened by under-aged child-responsibility and having gained various levels of financial independence, we’re throwing caution to the wind and saying with Cheshire-cat smiles, “why not?”

NOTE TO SELF: Life’s good. Really good.   And so it is.

About Shaz

I’m 59 and never expected to be divorced and, having raised a big family in the city I grew up in, to be still living there now completely on my own. My parents are gone and my grown children have opted for smaller towns. My father passed away this past February and my children suggested I take off and make a world tour of all my friends overseas…In piecing that together in my mind, I imagined taking a boat across, as I did the first time I went to Europe with my grandmother, as a teenager – and in that vision, I imagined taking those first five days and writing. Writing about where I’d been, writing about what I want, writing about the crossing over from my past to my future.

In reestablishing myself as a single woman, I’ve made new connections with some fabulous women and realized I’m not the only one going through this; there are other women out there who are also on a journey to becoming whole again. I hope my personal adventure will help us all find humor in the aging process –and confidence in following our hearts.