Saturday, May 14, 2011

Vagabond, or Not?

Something is really bothering me. Well, a few things are really bothering me but I want to talk about one specific bother: the vagabond life.

By definition, a vagabond is someone with no home, no roots and no ties. A vagrant. A tramp. A person aimlessly drifting from place to place. Reading these last few posts I realize that I sound less like a vagabond and more like a homebody.

I think I have mis-titled my blog.

In my mind, this vagabond life of mine was supposed to incorporate a lot of travel: riding the rails, boarding buses, seeing what there is to see and doing what there is to do. It appears that while aspiring to be a vagabond, I overlooked the fact that I need to earn a living, and in order to do that, I have to incur some ties. Like: being at the same place at the same time the people who hired me expect me to be there. And, actually performing the functions that they hired me to do, or else they would fire me.

Of course if I get fired, then I can truly be a vagabond. I wouldn’t be able to be a vagabond in China; the Chinese don’t even like Chinese vagabonds. They only want foreigners that are willing to work for their keep – go figure! I want to stay in China and I am willing to work for my keep, it is just the more I work, the less of a vagabond I get to be.

Another aspect I totally overlooked while dreaming of vagrancy: I’m not as young as I feel (or act or look). Society says I only have a few more productive years to go and then it is out to pasture with me. Well… a few means about twenty. But still: unless I want to burden social systems or worse! My children, I’d best get to earning some money. Not just enough to live comfortably now but enough to live comfortably when I’m released from my societal obligation to work.

Maybe I’m wrong but I don’t believe that vagabonds think in terms of their retirement.

So: am I a vagabond or not? Well, I aver that I have a vagabond spirit and a homebody body. Beg pardon but I like having a bed to sleep in and I like a few creature comforts. Not many; just a few will do me. I also like to not be hungry, and I like having a bath regularly. Here is another odd quirk about me: I like respect. Not just self-respect, which any self-respecting vagabond may well possess, but also respect from my fellow man. All of these things would be unattainable if I didn’t have at least a few ties. I guess you could say I am a vagabond with pretensions.

So, if I have a vagabond heart while incurring and maintaining some ties to society, why haven’t I done anything about it? With my minimal working schedule and my accommodations provided for me, this set-up is a vagabond-at-heart’s dream! But I’ve not vagabonded nearly as much as the situation allows for. Why?

The first few months here I spent my time getting acclimated, learning my way around and holding fierce debates with myself over whether I’ve made the worst mistake of my life, walking away from everything I had in the States. The next few months I spent in front of any available heat source, and I had no desire to face the world outside where there was only cold air blowing and snow falling. Recently I’ve had to try to figure out what was trying to kill me (see Plain Stir entry) and then I had to get my body back in shape and moving – both from the panic of what I still think was near-death condition and from being virtually sedentary all winter.

And now? Now I’m saving every Fen (penny, in Chinese) I can in order to return to the States for a visit in a little over 2 months. And what will I do while in the States?

Ah, that is where the vagabond comes in! I will go from place to place, on the bus and by train, seeing the ones I love and the sights along the way. I will have no ties and no obligations, no commitments and no deadlines. I will be living with what I can carry – or roll around in my super-convenient roll-around duffle bag. I will be mostly dependent on the goodwill of those who might welcome me in for accommodations. I will have money to buy food so I won’t be hungry, like ye average vagrant might be, and some of that money will go for inexpensive but clean hotels along the way. I won’t have to beg for fare money and I won’t have to stow away on buses and trains because I can pay for my tickets. That is a bit of a relief. But still: it will be more of a vagabond’s life than I’ve lived here. The ‘vagabond with pretensions’ theme persists, I see.

When I return to China after the summer visiting those I love Stateside, I vow to do more traveling and sightseeing than I did this year. I will ride those buses and rails to exotic sounding destinations like Wu Dong Shan, Shenzen and Guizhou. I will go see that giant Buddha statue by the river in Chongqing. Maybe I’ll even go to Urumqi and see the Gobi desert… in the summer months, of course. It will be too cold in the winter months do to so.

Maybe my blog isn’t mis-titled after all.

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