In the days after I talked with my friends about using self-care to enhance their creativity, I saw them internalize the message by eating more fresh foods, meditating as a group, and taking an afternoon off to swim in the Yuba river. In just a short time they were vibrant and joyous as if they had never fallen into a slump; more importantly, after they dedicated themselves to self-care, they accessed crucial, nuanced elements that brought completion to several songs. When they played me a few tracks I was spellbound by the gravity and emotion of the music; one song even brought me to tears.
Witnessing my friends gain immediate, fruitful vitality and accomplishment spurred me to nourish my inner artist with greater depth.
I began by writing a list of fun, compelling, and invigorating activities to feed my soul and refill my creative well (as Julia Cameron would call it). To my surprise, as I reviewed my list, I found many hobbies like gardening, juicing and playing piano that I couldn’t do often — or at all — while living on the road. I realized I missed them like long-lost friends.
I turned my inner eye to the loneliness, uncertainty, and aimlessness I’ve felt in the past year from living homefree. I thought of the time and energy I’ve lost from worrying about where I would go, which friend could host me, where to write, and how I could shift the moving parts to make it happen.
For the last few weeks I’ve taken a break from constant travel and have stayed in a cottage on my aunt and uncle’s property. It’s the longest I have stayed in any one place for the last year! But could I call it home?
Despite the difficulties of homelessness, I love the thrill and adventure of transience. I love the way it’s forced me to grow and stabilize in the present moment. Settling into one place felt like it could end my carefree, rolling stone lifestyle.
But what does my inner artist want?
I walked out of the cottage to a nearby pond. Standing beneath pines amongst lupine I felt the beauty of the landscape seep into my bones. I breathed deeply listening to the freedom of birds singing from the trees. Still water reflected clouds, and looking into its depths, my mind became quiet.
Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have a home again? I thought of all the comforts a home would provide: a grounding place to go back to; a sacred space for meditation, prayer and writing; my own bed. I love domestic activities; they enrich my life and nourish me. With a home I could cuddle my cat, play my piano, plant some flowers, and create a space and momentum for words to flow. A home would make self-care easier and diminish my greatest stressors. It didn’t have to mean an end to my glamsient ways; if I wanted, it could make glamsienting more sustainable.
I turned back to look at the cottage — yes, I would make this my artist’s home.
A few days ago, I wanted to hike somewhere I had never been before. I chose the Loch Leven Trail in the Tahoe National Forest because of the picturesque lakes, waterfalls, and railroad crossing I saw online. On the drive up I eagerly anticipated the new adventure.
As soon as I arrived, however, the unfamiliar terrain made me uneasy. Eventually, I found the trail marker — an old, weather-worn, small, wooden sign nailed to a tree. It was so inconspicuous, I was surprised I saw it.
Stepping onto the trail, it took me several minutes to orient myself. I walked along boulders, often intuitively choosing the direction; many times the trail split into deer paths. I felt a growing nervousness. It would be better to do this hike with a friend. I thought of going back. But no! My glamsient life is not about limitations! It’s about freedom and adventure! Instead of turning around, I built cairns to mark my route.
As I hiked, loneliness settled deeply into my heart. With a friend, building cairns would be fun, we would laugh when they fell and see who could build a better tower; we wouldn’t be scared because we would have each other. By myself, it was a response to real fear — getting lost in the wilderness, alone.
The loneliness grew: it wasn’t just this hike, it was a continuation of loneliness I experienced since I began my glamsient journey a year ago, as if it picked up where the previous lonely day had left off, compounded by the ones before that.
Keeping to my mindfulness practice, I stopped and encountered the loneliness. The pain diminished under the light of awareness, and once it did, I meditated on feelings of love — the eternal wellspring of love.
Despite my efforts, however, the loneliness kept returning. I knew following sadness into despair was not the way; it is a pattern in my past, and I am leaving that behind. But when would the loneliness stop, so I could just enjoy myself?
I may have been climbing a mountain, but I was climbing on the inside as well. I was fighting between who I have been and who I want to be. And every internal step began to feel more and more tired.
I kept going; trying to remain present; building cairns; listening to trickling streams caress the trail, sliding down rock faces that once housed glaciers; watching tiny waterfalls cascade over tree branches; hearing the small sound of a grey frog bellyflopping into a puddle when I startled him.
Turning a corner, I came upon a snow patch! I was elated to see snow this close to summer, but then I was overcome with loneliness because I didn’t have a friend with me to share my joy. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I be happy just to see it by myself?
In all this pain and conflict, I had to sit on a rock to center myself. When I did, tears came to my eyes, and I let myself cry. I stayed present with my sadness; it was joined by doubt. In my glamsient life, wasn’t I walking a new and unfamiliar path? I had chosen to become a glamsient to fulfill a deep need to self-actualize artistically, and it had since grown into a journey of deeper consciousness and spirituality. But if I was so lonely on this new life path that I couldn’t enjoy the trail under my feet and the unfolding adventure, what was the point?
Suddenly, the path I had chosen a year ago didn’t make sense. Suddenly, even though it had seemed right at the time, I felt like I should have never left my easy, comfortable, former life. I had a nice home and a large group of good friends. I hadn’t been deeply satisfied, it lacked substance and felt restrictive, but at least I never felt like this! Why would I ever leave that easy life behind?
Certainly, the past year of glamsient living gave me moments of unparalleled joy and, although I have a lot of work to do, I have grown as an artist — producing more and better work than before. Taking the time to dive into my spirituality has created greater meaning and presence in my life. Moving towards greater consciousness has helped me become aware of and break habitual attachments and patterns. But couldn’t I have done all this, couldn’t I have made the same artistic and spiritual gains, and still kept my familiar home and nearby friends? Wasn’t this new path counterproductive if I felt so miserable and conflicted in this present moment?
I looked out past the trees to see billowing clouds above the snow-capped mountains articulated by jagged points and crags.
“Help me,” I said through my tears, a voice crying out in the wilderness. “Let me see the Truth.”
For no reason in particular, I turned to look behind me. There I saw a small pine tree with a curved trunk growing out of a rock! I laughed through my tears. I have long identified with trees growing out of rocks; my spirit seems to me like it springs from a hard and lifeless place and it is only through the sheer power and persistence of the Creator that my soul survives and thrives. I even have a tattoo on my leg of a tree with a bend in its trunk — just like the tree I saw before me.
As if I were given an immediate answer to my cry, the Creator spoke to me through the small, bent tree: “You are never alone. I am here, watching, listening. Feel me. Feel my Love. You belong on this path — this unfamiliar, new path. The struggle you feel is your spirit breaking the chains of illusion. Your suffering is an illusion created by your mind from false ideas and parameters of happiness. Have faith in this path; I illuminated it in Truth a year ago. I led you here. Trust your creativity; it is my gift to you; it will heal you. Trust your dreams; I gave them to you and I want them to manifest. Trust that as you follow your dreams, you step closer to Me and your own divinity.”
Hearing this message with the ears of my heart, I felt a sense of comfort and strength wash over me. Without leaving my former life, I would not have gotten to this very moment on this rock to encounter the Spirit that tore through my sadness with Truth. Without leaving my former life, I could not embark upon this new journey that is filled with inspiration, expansion, meaning, and authenticity. With renewed support, I closed my eyes and allowed the air to dry my tears. I saw myself scoop the dark and painful emotions from my heart and surrender them to the Divine. In the open space a love, whole and gentle, spread outward with a vibration so complete that it softened the edges of my being.
I stood up, and with faith in myself and my journey, continued hiking the unfamiliar path.
On my way down the mountain, I passed several cairns I had made. One even helped me when I couldn’t find the trail. When I saw the parking lot, it seemed I completed an incredible journey, not just a couple miles.
Getting into my car, a half-grown pup ran over to me, smiling and wagging it’s tail.
“Hey, buddy,” I said.
His owner, wearing all khaki including a floppy hat with the chin strap pulled tight, approached us. “Finishing up?” He asked.
“How was the trail?”
“Beautiful. I love hiking. I would have preferred to hike with another person, but the time alone was –.”
“Eventually. I was pretty uneasy at first.”
“Understandable. You know, there’s a lot of hiking groups in this area. They go around and hike all the peaks together. You should check it out.”
“Thanks! That’s a great idea.”
“Have a good day,” he said.
“I will,” I replied, sure of my words, “you, too.”
Helping homeless people is particularly close to my heart since I, myself, have been homefree for the past year. Earlier this month, I heard about this community farm that supports the homeless with organic food — and I felt compelled to help.
When I was there, I learned the farm does more than just give away food. Jon, the Gill Tract Farm manager, told me many ways the farm helps its community: it acts as an open-air research facility through which researchers have found sustainable and environmentally-friendly alternatives to pesticides and herbicides; it has a medicinal herb garden with over 150 medicinal herbs available; they’ve hosted over 100 free workshops to teach and inspire; neurology patients use the farm for physical therapy; preschool through university students take experiential farming and gardening classes; women’s painting groups paint at the farm; and since June 2014, they’ve harvested over 30,000 pounds of organic produce and distributed that for free throughout the community. The ways in which Gill Tract gives to the community is as boundless as the earth.
I loved volunteering at the farm because I knew I was making a sustainable difference in the community, especially for the homeless population. The plants I put in the ground would continue to give to the farm (with bees) and the community (with harvest).
I felt invigorated to create change for a noble organization, but the joy in my heart was soon replaced with anger and frustration when I learned the Farm is under serious risk of closure.
The rich agricultural land that makes up Gill Tract is also prime real estate. UC Berkeley (the owner of the property) has been trying to close the farm and sell the land for commercial “development.” Though UC Berkeley has owned the land since 1945, UC’s recent and hostile stance against the farm has stirred community outrage. Astonishingly, the university has locked the farm gates numerous times, disrupted research, cut down orchards, thrown out honey bee hives, and kicked out community members with riot police. Thousands of community activists have taken drastic measures — including occupation farming — to save their beloved Gill Tract Farm. The controversy even inspired the documentary “Occupy the Farm.”
According to Jon, the farm manager, the fight isn’t over: “the farm was once about 100 acres…the university has sold the majority of it and wants to take the last 20 acres and pave it over in cement and make it into a giant parking lot to have a grocery store, a shopping center and to tear out all this agricultural land.”
It’s hard for me to believe that UC Berkeley would shut down the Gill Tract Farm when it provides multifaceted benefits to the community, but the farm doesn’t generate money; perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised since public universities are strapped for funding and routinely mismanage what they do receive.
Now, with almost zero funding from UC Berkeley, the farm needs help more than ever. Jon explains “there are a lot of ways that you can plug in or lend support to the farm. We are open Sunday through Thursday for volunteering, workshops and activities. Get down here, get your hands in the soil for a couple hours and I can guarantee you, you’ll leave here with a smile on your face. It’s a way to revive yourself physically and emotionally. And it’s a way to help out the community.”
If you’re not interested in getting your hands dirty or you’re not in the area, but you want to help the cause, Jon says, “people can call the UC and tell them to rethink their position on the farm; email the governor, the board of regents president Janet Napolitano, UC Berkeley Chancellor Dirks, Sprouts Market (the linchpin of the shopping mall). We really need support.”
Our community is only as strong as all our members and we can help each other significantly, but only with organizations like The Gill Tract Farm. Not only does the farm give the homeless population organic food, but progressive research on the grounds can (and has!) provided the larger community with sustainable agricultural processes. Plus, the farm inspires people to create food sovereignty, learn about plants, and retain a connection to the earth. People in the Gill Tract community don’t have to own a piece of agricultural land or have all the know how to reap the benefits of an established, thriving organic farm. This makes it vital to helping community members live well without a lot of funds — the very backbone of glamsient living!
Glamsient living brings gloriously beautiful highs like last week’s spontaneous adventure to Carmel Valley for a bourgeois picnic with Linney.
Yet with all the fun times, perpetual travel can be tough; insecurity, loneliness, doubt, and fear can all creep in at a moment’s notice. Even when I’m with friends and family, without the comfort of my own bed and my own home night after night, glamsient living can be (and has been!) emotionally exhausting.
Last month, for example, I stayed at a cabin for a week, which was fantastic; however, I thought I would be there much longer and was ready to be stationary for a spell. I brought little things to make me feel at home: crystals, crafts, magnets, stationary and extra books. I felt so happy to decorate and enjoy the place with my special little things. Then, unexpectedly, when I was packing up to leave, I stopped as I took the magnets from the fridge. I burst into tears. In that moment, the magnets became a symbol of home, and taking them down made me feel displaced, like I didn’t belong anywhere.
To meet and transmute these negative emotions I have to return, over and over, to the present moment — and let me tell you, it is the perfect antidote to what ails me. As zen master Thich Nhat Hahn writes: “Your true home is in the here and the now. It is not limited by time, space, nationality, or race. Your true home is not an abstract idea; it is something you can touch and live in every moment. With mindfulness and concentration, the energies of the Buddha, you can find your true home in the full relaxation of your mind and body in the present moment.”
When I quiet and calm my body and mind, when I move into the present moment, I feel my heart opening to my true home that is always available. It provides the greatest comfort.
In my experience, glamsienting requires presence of mind. I practice meditation consistently to return home over and over again no matter where I am located. Of course, I still feel a wide range of emotions and sometimes I get swept away by them, but meditation is — hands down — the best way I can take care of myself. It is a practice I will take into every season of my life whether or not it includes glamsience.
And therein lies the silver lining. Ultimately, the benefits I get from practicing meditation everyday to remain happy makes me happier (go figure!) and more peaceful; it also gives meaning and value to difficult emotions when they arise.
Coming home to the present moment has opened the door to the sweetest, most wonderful home I’ve ever had, and better still, it goes with me wherever I go!
This morning, Linney invited me to her mountain retreat in Carmel Valley, California. On such a beautiful day as today, of course I accepted.
When I arrived, I walked the path to the main house and saw purple wild flowers and yellow dandelions had made their springtime debut. The mountainside was green and the air was warm. Birds sang and danced on the beautifully twisted oak trees and new, vibrant leaves sprouted from bare branches.
Once inside, Linney and I got straight to catching up on our latest glamsient adventures, and most importantly, making a bourgeois picnic.
A bourgeois picnic is any smattering of fine foods like gourmet cheeses and herbed crackers, tapenade and berries, bell peppers and humus, fruits and champagne. Personally, a bourgeois picnic is my favorite part of glamsienting. No matter where I find myself, a bourgeois picnic makes me happy; it can make even a run down wharf feel fresh!
Today, Linney had heirloom tomatoes, basil and mozzarella so we made a quick caprese salad. When we finished, we were still hungry, and so we put together a plate of assorted cheeses, rosemary crackers, blueberries, honey and fig jam.
“Aren’t we lucky to live where all this food is locally available?” She asked.
“Absolutely,” I said, looking out over Carmel Valley to the Pacific Ocean. The sun was setting, casting a soft light across the landscape. “This bourgeois picnic is divine.”
“We do pretty well for a couple of ratchets,” she laughed.
As night fell, a symphony of frogs serenaded us while we watched the lights turn on in Monterey and the stars fill the sky.
Tonight I am in the palace hotel marveling at the crystal chandeliers; marble pillars; candelabras; and high, stained glass, arched ceiling. I sit in the corner of a comfortable, blue banquet couch; I touch it’s soft, yet strong fabric and notice golden rivets adorn the borders. I feel natural on this couch. I am wearing leather boots that I bought in Spain, and a long shawl. My hair is shiny and my makeup is soft. Looking at me, nobody would imagine that last week I slept in a friend’s van.
The waitress brings me Organic Emperor’s Jasmine tea in white set. The silver utensils are polished to perfection — I see the stained glass ceiling reflected in the curvature. A revolving tea strainer rests in the cup. It is so ingenious that I’m surprised I haven’t seen one before.
I love the grandeur and luxury of the hotel; the orchids and gold moldings; the yellow stone walls; the tall, mirrored doors. I would live in the Palace Hotel if I could. (I’ll start with one night — when I have the budget!)
Most of all, I love my longtime friend, Torin Martinez, who is finger picking his amplified acoustic guitar in the middle of the salon. Just a moment ago, he was improvising on the piano and singing — all while the guitar played harmony. The sound is rich and layered, and without looking, I’d think there were at least two or three people playing. But Torin performs solo; he uses pedals to record the guitar and then plays over the loop. With this technique, Torin turns himself into a one-man band.
And his voice — it’s silky and smooth like a fine chocolate.
Artistic patronage is as old as history, and Torin finds himself in a fruitful situation similar to many of the greatest artists (and glamsients!) of all time. Although he is not directly funded by a nobleman, the Palace Hotel supports Torin, allowing him the resources to pursue his own musical career composing and producing R&B and Hip-Hop.
If you’re in San Francisco, the palace hotel is worth a visit, especially when you can catch Torin play there every weekday from 5-9.
A few nights ago I met with a group of friends in Nevada City, CA at Three Forks Bakery and Brewery. The five of us sat at a large, sturdy wooden table; our group consisted of three musicians, a photographer, and me (a writer). We spoke of art and politics, festivals and hiking, our latest projects and our recent travels. The restaurant buzzed around us.
After a round of drinks, we ate together in my favorite manner — family style. Between the five of us, we enjoyed a multitude of salads, small plates, pizzas and desserts all made, for the most part, with locally sourced, organic ingredients. Collectively, we indulged in a wide array of the eclectic menu; choosing independently, we brought an assortment of tastes to the table. We took each other in unexpected and unplanned directions, and the result surprised even us! Each dish, distinct and flavorful, brought new notes to our palette. We all loved every dish we tried — and that’s not an exaggeration!
Life within a community is rich. We try new things we never would have tried on our own; the people around us bring their unique flavor and tastes to the table. We can have more and try more through our networks. Sharing our joy and passion multiplies our happiness; sharing our gifts and talents increases our ability.
So it is living a glamsient life. In the beginning, Linney introduced me to the glamsient lifestyle and my friend, James, made it possible; to keep the glamsient times rolling, I have created work and trade relationships with my friends and family for money, housing, and furthering my career as a writer — something I never did when I lived an insular 9-5 life.
Immersing in community is a vibrant effect of the glamsient life. Now I am more connected in mutually beneficial relationships with the people I care about and I can focus more on my art. Travel and luxury are amazing facets of the glamsient life, but a stronger sense of community is the true glamor in glamsient — I feel more inspired, vital, and productive than ever before. Just as the family style dinner at Three Forks allowed me to dive deeper into their menu than I would have on my own, living more fully in my community has taken me in new directions and added new meaning to my life.
I am truly grateful for my community!
By the way, if you visit Three Forks in Nevada City, try one (all!) of my favorites: the pozole, the Aw Snap and If I Only Had a Grain salads, the bacon-date bread, and the lemon tart. Enjoy!
Linney, now the media director for her local NORML chapter and no longer homefree, introduced me to the glamsient lifestyle. We met at my friend James’ Lightning in a Bottle pre-party.
When I walked onto the property, she was sitting with James and a few others next to the salt-water pool. Everyone was in festi-attire. Each unique, yet typical: cat ears, gypsy pants, leggings, crop tops, tie dye, faux fur.
Linney stood out. She wore a crown made with large pieces of smokey quartz crystal and a see-through little black dress. Gold jewelry sparkled on her ears, neck and wrists; a diamond ring on her right hand glittered in the sun. A long, pashmina scarf draped from her shoulders. She poured a glass of red wine.
James gave me a bear hug when I walked up, but he was mostly preoccupied with his mirror, so I sat down next to Linney.
“Hello!” she smiled. Her teeth glittered like her diamond ring. “Want some wine?”
“I’d love some.”
“Here,” she handed me the glass she had just filled. “I’m Linney.”
“Chelsea,” I said.
“How do you connect with us?” she poured herself a glass of wine.
“I know James. He gave me a ticket.”
“Me too! I think he’s bringing most of us here. He gave his favorite broke friends tickets. Cause he wants us to be there with him.”
“Seriously?” I couldn’t believe it. “How many of us?”
“Maybe, like, ten or fifteen.”
I did the math in my head — more than $3,000 on tickets for his friends. Damn. Wow. Here I was thinking I was special.
Linney laughed, “he’s the best kind of eccentric rich guy: generous.”
“Indeed… To James,” I said, raising my glass.
“To James!” she tapped my glass with hers. “The only reason we’re here.”
“So, you’re broke, too? Hard to believe.”
Linney laughed. “Yep. I’m a hobo!”
“No way! Me, too!” I laughed along with her.
“You are?! Oh em gee. James finds all the bohemian strays and gives us homes.”
“That’s so funny. I thought I was the only one who lived on his land.”
“Almost everyone here lives on one of his properties. He has so many. You can tell the ones who don’t because they are his rich friends.”
“I would’ve thought you were one of his rich friends!”
“Really?” She looked earnestly into my eyes.
She flipped her hair over her shoulder and laughed at the sky, “I’m rich in fun!”
Nine months ago I began my life as a glamsient, although I didn’t know it at the time. The lifestyle wasn’t on my radar; I didn’t know it existed. Of course, people were living as glamsients, but I didn’t know any. To my knowledge, they weren’t calling themselves glamsients either — when it came out of the ether and into my mind I googled it and nothing! (Not even urban dictionary!)
Yet here I am, nine months later, living as a glamsient.
The glamsient life hasn’t been easy; living on the road (I’m homefree, not homeless) came with emotional difficulties. Unexpected twists and turns could make life feel erratic and unstable, but the highs of glamsient life — from wine tasting in Carmel to lounging fireside in the Sierras — kept me going. Now that I’ve settled in, the twists and turns no longer make me road-sick; now I feel a sense of unfettered adventure.