The quest for ‘home’ |

The quest for ‘home’

Derek Franz
Open Space

“Homeless. I’m homeless,” I said to myself in 2008, suddenly horrified upon realizing what I had done. I’d quit my first steady job out of college and moved into my Subaru, intent on roaming with the wind and rock climbing as much as possible.

It was that intoxicating time of year when summer days seem endless and ambitions grow like weeds. The rivers were high. Mountains beckoned. All roads were open if only I could get out from behind a desk that was no longer taking me where I wanted to go.

Resigning my position was the decisive moment when I cast aside notions of the traditional American dream, which might be simply defined as owning a house, raising a family and grilling in the backyard, squandering the rest of my sunsets in beer-buzzed bliss. In retrospect, though I’ve enjoyed elements of that life from time to time, it has never been entirely for me. There is something more, but don’t ask me what it is. All I know is that my search began earnestly in 2008.

How many of us are completely satisfied where we stand this moment in life? If you’re like most people, there are probably at least a few things you are actively trying to change. Perhaps it’s advancing your career to make more money; or you’re trying to meet a suitable mate; or maybe you’re trying to find a sense of contentment and reason in the midst of life’s chaos and tragedy. Maybe you prefer to simply think of it as a quest for “fun.”

But how can it be fun to live out of a car to climb, or kayak, or ski more often? Climbing, for example, is as much of a suffer sport as anything, especially when you don’t have a shower to wash the grime out of cuts and rope burns. Not only that, but there is often a great deal of loneliness in this lifestyle. Yet I see more young adults doing as I did, including the four people I work with and many of our friends. I meet more every day.

These devoted monks of “fun” often work hard for several months and then blow their nest eggs on extended adventures, only to do it all over again. I didn’t last very long that way. Maybe I found what I was looking for in a sense. Still, the way I live is not traditional, and I am clearly not alone. I believe our values are shifting. More people are waking up to the fact that the old world of domesticated resources and convenience leaves us wanting, and I wonder what it is we quest and suffer for.

We must be looking for the experience of which our inherited world robbed us. Just as a child who inherits a great company may wonder what he is really made of in terms of self-sufficiency, so do we children of the modern age. The old wilderness of our forefathers is all but milled to the ground. The wilderness left for us is even more challenging for it is less tangible — the turmoil of the soul, to which no money or possessions will calm, though such things may numb us to varying degrees.

While living out of the car, cold and alone in the desert, the realization of being homeless brought me to my knees. It also set me free. “Homeless” is a matter of definition and I had to overcome my former notion of it. I am my home, and where there is love, there is warmth and fellowship. This has been echoed through past generations, so once again I am not alone.

So here are more of these young adults, giving up on the pursuit of wealth in the name of happiness. I posit this shift is happening because mankind is still chasing down the definition of that ephemeral flame. A daunting, terrifying conundrum in the quest of true happiness is that it may not fit with our shortsighted, micro-managed designs on the future. Happiness is a state of the soul. Therefore, it is essential for each person to find his or her soul — that mythical essence — and some people don’t even believe in souls!

Make no mistake: Though our technology is advanced, we are still the scared, fragile cavemen waking up to a new, mysterious world. There is much to learn about our inner selves and the life we share and fear — struggle and pain are essential to help us find our way.

I say this now because I am not immune to feeling like a lost, crying child. I’ve gotten a bit too comfortable blissing the days away lately. I forgot the reason I quit my second real job last December — to pursue my own writing — and I wasn’t writing as much because I was indulging in the summer weather. Suddenly my finances ran dry and slapped me back to attention and the quest I’m on, of which is where my true happiness lies.

In 2008-2009, I eventually hit what might be called a “rock bottom.” Thank God for that. Now when I shiver beneath the trees and glittering galaxies in the sky, and recall what I’ve already been through, I feel closer to home than ever before.

— “Open Space” appears on the second and fourth Friday of every month. Derek Franz lives in Carbondale and may be reached at

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