Johnson: The Less is More gospel of Simple Glenn
Boonie Boondocker, my roving curmudgeon (but evolving) RV pal, thought I should meet a fellow wanderer friend—a “minimalist” type who lives in a van. Okay. I’m fascinated by out of the box people, especially those who live fulltime on the road. So Boonie nudged a destination-less wanderer’s path toward Lovely Ouray.
Glenn rolled up our driveway in a VW Vanagon with dimpled red paint, obviously applied with a roller. On the van’s roof was an array of solar panels, 500 watts! “Good Lord, what are you powering up in there, a centrifuge?” After pleasantries he showed off his meticulously custom built interior…beautiful woodwork, exquisitely designed; the guy is a craftsman. Then he explained how the Vanagon’s weak link is its engine, and that he replaced it with a “salvage” fuel injected Ford Focus motor that’s more reliable, powerful and gets over 22 mpg. Gee, I didn’t dare mention my gas guzzling, non-solar motor home to a guy whose path is so light, so blithe, it floats like a balloon, impacting Mother Earth with a gentle green kiss on the cheek, as opposed to my carbon footprint's sledgehammer blows to her head.
Glenn is 44 and free. He authors “To Simplify” (www.tosimplyfy.net), a blog about his choice to live minimally and reduce “possessions” in exchange for a freer, less polluting life on the road. “To Simplify” is well articulated—a fusion of sardonic wit, self-deprecating humor and common sense—a good read for “greenies” and wander-lusted, freedom-seeking dreamers.
It is said that every new acquaintance alters one's course in life, if only imperceptibly. A new “out-of-the-box” way of looking at one’s status quo is often inspired by an encounter with another point of view. I felt like “Simple Glenn” was one of those encounters. He didn’t set out to save the planet, change the world or become a well-known Internet Evangelist/Guru on Simple Mobile Living Lifestyles. It was more a matter of reducing stress and living a freer lifestyle with less rules, less traffic and less “stuff.”
So here’s an intelligent, talented guy who lives happily in a van and has everything he needs. Glenn spat in the face of America’s corporate brainwash…that we can spend our way to happiness. If you read Glenn’s blog you’ll better understand and appreciate his reductionist theorem, how we are programmed from birth to consume. “America is the most wasteful country on our shriveling planet.” We are suckers for glitzy ads—bigger, better, newer—and accumulating “stuff,” material possessions that enslave us to “treadmills” and reduces freedom by essentially dooming us to a life-sentence of indebtedness to the “Company Store.”
In the course of living out his “sentence” as a professional musician in the siren filled bowels of LA, there came a moment of “truth or consequence” for Glenn: "There's got to be a better way." He toyed with the idea of living a simpler life—rethought the consumerism Modern Living Media says we lemmings can't live without. Some will shake heads at Glenn as being extreme, while others drool at the exponential potential for the freedom, choices, and time such a lifestyle affords. Being male, restless and an unrepentant wanderer, my flickering flame of polite curiosity suddenly morphed into a blowtorch. Read on, freedom seekers, for knowledge is power.
In 2009, after selling 98 percent of his “stuff” and using up the entirety of his last rent payment, Glenn put LA in the rearview mirror and launched a new minimal/mobile lifestyle. He was even featured in the LA Times and on Yahoo News for his unique frugality and assertion that he lives comfortably on less than one thousand dollars a month while traveling the USA. You will find him camping almost anywhere it’s free: National Forests and BLM lands, creek-side to cityscape. His small van is ideal for “stealth camping” in parking lots or on side streets of major cities in the middle of vibrant downtowns. It’s free…no mortgage, no rent, just options. Glenn is not irresponsible nor is he poor; he eats well (grass fed beef), has health insurance…is debt free with a savings account. For him, the traditional “American lifestyle” is wasteful, costly, restraining and time consuming. “Time is our most precious possession, for without it nothing else matters.”
Glenn readily admits that it’s not for everyone. There are pitfalls to a minimal/wandering lifestyle, like finding a likeminded woman, for starters. He is fortunate to have an Internet gig, one that more than funds his “less than a thousand dollars a month” cost of living. But Glenn’s not worried if it blows up. “After all,” he says, “I can stop and work here and there and make that kind of money.” And if the economy blows up, well, “I’m perfectly positioned; I have nothing to lose.” Small “footprint” equals big Life. Less is more, and “freedom beats an office dictatorship hands down every time.”
Mark Johnson is a restless soul who lives in Ouray, Colorado with his wife, Bobbie. He is happiest when exploring the West's nooks and crannies, hiking, climbing and mountain biking. He authors two "wanderlust" based blogs: www.Artfulrvadventures.com and www.Boxcanyonblog.com.