The Decision To Live On The Road

“I’m a minimalist. I can walk through Walmart and not buy anything.” Jackie Heyen

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Have you ever considered walking away from the expectations of mainstream society and dedicating yourself to a life of simplicity? Is simplicity a sacrifice or a way to demonstrate happiness with less? Could you find happiness with less? What if simplifying your life meant quitting your job and trading life’s creature comforts for a motorcycle and a teardrop trailer?

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With 24 square feet of livable space, what would you pack for a life on the road? Could you live without a bathroom? Imagine not having a permanent address? How would society define your new way of living? Would you be labeled as homeless, nomadic, a full-time traveler, or simply adventurous?

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Meet Jackie Heyen and her dogs, Poco and Nube. Jackie is a Facebook friend who came to visit me while I was living in Vermilion Cliffs, Arizona. Four years ago, Jackie decided enough was enough. Enough of the financial stress, enough of working several jobs, and enough of working her life away instead of living her life.

As a motorcycle owner, Jackie had spent five years researching the possibility of living on the road. With her depression worsening and her eating disorder resurfacing itself, Jackie decided she needed to make a drastic change in order to save her life.

In late October 2012, Jackie left sunny Kingston, New York to begin her new life on the road. Bound for Kentucky, Jackie found herself riding directly into the path of a category three hurricane.

Shaken after almost hydroplaning on the freeway, Jackie exited the freeway and called her father.

Playing it safe, a shaken Jackie exited the freeway and rode the backroads until the storm subsided. Little did Jackie know, she would later find comfort and encouragement from fellow drivers as she made her way back onto the freeway.

Jackie survived Hurricane Sandy and completed her maiden voyage to her parent’s house in Kentucky.

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Six months before Jackie left New York, she decided to shave her head. Jackie explained, “I think I did it for control. Everyone was always telling me who I should be, how I should act, and look. I use to have nightmares about losing my hair. As my hair got longer the nightmares became more frequent. During high school, my hair was down to my butt. My nightmares happened daily.”

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Jackie says, since shaving her head her nightmares have stopped.

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Jackie felt that shaving her head symbolized taking control of her life and the decision to live differently. Being bald created a sense of freedom and empowerment for Jackie. From a societal perspective, bald women are seen as weak, disadvantaged, and undesirable. Pop culture has accepted and normalized male baldness; however, it offers no complimentary role to women.

Potential employers struggled to embrace the idea that Jackie wanted to be bald by choice. It seemed society could only understand female baldness if it was illness related. Tired of the discrimination and the looks of pity, Jackie stopped shaving her head.

As her hair grew out, society now assumed Jackie was a man. Public restrooms no longer felt safe. To this day, using public restrooms continues to be very stressful for Jackie.

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Since being on the road, Jackie has worked various jobs around the country. In Florida, Jackie spent six weeks as a sound engineer with a traveling puppet show, worked the holiday season with Amazon in Kentucky, and house sat in rural New Mexico.

Jackie said, “My favorite job was working as a photographer’s assistant at Wallace Street Photographic Emporium, in Montana. It’s an old time photo studio that specializes in sepia portraits. The owners brought me in as part of the family. It was a relaxed job, where I could just be me. We got along; we would have dinner in the evening and drink moonshine together at the end of a hard day.”

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By the end of the summer, the owners of the photography studio invited Jackie to travel to China. In exchange for assisting them with their seasonal family move, Jackie would have the opportunity to explore China and Thailand.  

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Having never left the U.S.A. before, Jackie spent three weeks traveling through China and Thailand.

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Jackie feels life on the road has given her a better quality of life. Jackie explains, “Many people think I’m sad, which I don’t understand. I’m the happiest I have ever been.”

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For the remainder of the night, Jackie and I chatted about our travels and people we have met through social media.

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Jackie and I first met on Facebook through the Full Timers RV Community page. I had been researching alternative ways of making a living on the road and Jackie offered her opinion and advice regarding potential L.G.B.T.Q. job discrimination.

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Even though I had gained the constitutional right to marry someone of the same sex in all 50 states, I could still be fired in 28 states for being gay.

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The following morning Jackie and I shared breakfast before she headed back out onto the open road.

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I wondered if I would be able to live on the road with just a motorcycle and a teardrop trailer. I had sold myself on the idea of building an adventure cargo van; however, I quickly reminded myself I have lived with much less on trail.

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As Jackie and I took a final photo together, I asked if she missed living a ‘normal’ life. “I don’t miss much from the normal life except the occasional bathroom to myself. I don’t belong in society anymore… it doesn’t make sense.”

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And with that, Jackie headed south on Highway 89A bound for New Mexico.

Follow Jackie’s travels at http://www.jhblueroad.com/

Interview Videography by  http://www.martinmondia.com/

 

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