I rarely tell my parents about my projects. Buying a van and living on the road was too much to hide. My parents are conservative about lifestyles. They want their son to climb up the corporate ladder, to settle down, buy a house, have kids etc. They want to see me achieve their vision of happiness.
I choke at the irony of my parents’ advice…to be responsible. My old man was a revolutionary in the 70s. Inspired by Che Guevara and Karl Marx, he had it all: socialist ideals, a full beard and long hair. He was the leader of the Moroccan student union (UNEM) for a decade. A union that stood for human rights and freedom of speech in a country that had neither. He was exiled in France for 5 years. Many of his comrades met a bitter fate. They were sent to the infamous Tazmamart prison, and ended up tortured, mad, or dead.
My mother too declined conformity. Since her teenage years, she fought for gender equality in a deep patriarchal society. She believed women’s freedom should start with financial independence. In various ventures, she empowered women through education and entrepreneurship. My parents rebelled against a society and political structure that oppressed them. They were often on the edge, putting their life in jeopardy to advance their ideals. What is living in a van compared to criticizing a totalitarian regime?
I love my parents and I’m grateful they’re both alive and healthy. We talk a lot and disagree a lot. Becoming a full-time gypsy was another disagreement. I figured the smoothest way to announce my new adventure was to tell them it had already started. They disapproved my nomadic lifestyle but I was financially independent, so they resigned to it. The apple does not fall far from the tree.
Ibra dropped me home. It was time for a chat. They were reading in the living room. I poured a cup of coffee, sat down and began:
- I started a new project I want to tell you about
My dad raised an eyebrow, his look a mix of curiosity and apprehension.
- I am gonna buy a van, convert it into a mobile home and travel in it for a while.
That was it, I dropped the bomb. Pheeew! It was more relieving than releasing your bladder after a long exam. Looking at their face, they expected much worse. My dad asked:
- You’re going alone?
- No, with friends and people I meet on the road
- How will you do with work? You know they won’t accept that. You will get fired if they find out
- Yes, you can also get hit by a car if you cross the street!!
Shit! I got defensive and lost my cool. The habit of finding problems instead of solutions always irritates me. I took a sip of coffee, a deep breath, and added:
- Listen, I already made up my mind. I have been a nomad for 2 years now and living in a van is the same thing but cheaper. I tried it twice in the Canaries and I loved it. If I have your support on this, it’d be great to share this adventure with you. If not, that’s okay too.
Still no reaction, I added:
- The worst that could happen is that I get robbed and lose all my things. I could also get fired, out of money and having to look for a new job. There is always the credit card. Plus, my friends can host me in case I need to get back on my feet. There isn’t much to lose. Timing will never be better. I have no kids, no responsibilities and I want to do this while I still can.
That sounded better in my head. They barely reacted. Their faces showed helplessness and quiet desperation. The silence voiced their concern. They were worried, afraid of what I might become.
I thought of involving them to cheer up the mood. They were both scientists after all, logic was our common ground. I told them about Ibra, the two vans I checked already, my budget, Patagonia…all of it! I tried to get them interested, any hint of engagement would be a good sign. They were not convinced. Then I told them I was going to work with Ibra as a mechanic apprentice for the upcoming months. That sealed the deal. They knew I was serious.
Seeing my determination, they started helping me. I love my parents! They brought up the points I overlooked: car and health insurance, emergency fund, phone backup, repatriation, etc. All the important but boring things a responsible traveler needs. I won their approval. We were on the same team.
The next morning was my first day as a mechanic. I had the gloves, a beginner’s enthusiasm, and no idea what to expect.
Ignorance is bliss...