We often feel like we’re walking a tightrope with this trip.
At the end of the day, we have an aim: all 48 states in 5 months, without spending a single cent along the way. It’s tough, and it takes trial and error, but we sometimes wonder where the line is between resourcefulness and manipulation.
Conversation on the road often takes the same twists and turns: where have you been, where are you going, what was your favourite part, what was the worst bit… and we find ourselves giving the same answers to a lot of the questions. We mostly love it – it might seem tiresome to have the same conversation over and over but we’re at a point where the trip seems normal to us, so to have people react with surprise and amazement reminds us we’re doing something pretty cool by most accounts. It motivates us. When you can’t pay for gas or buy and cook a meal for your host, knowing you’ve at least given them a story to tell of that time they picked up hitchers is something at least.
What it also means is that we can rehearse answers.
In the same way comedians rehearse jokes and figure out the best way to tell them, we find we’ve rehearsed answers and know what to say to get the biggest laugh, the most questions, the lowest jaw drop. And there’s the line. The tightrope.
Here’s an example. When conversation in a car turns to where we’re staying that night, we often truly don’t know. We have a tent with us, so that’s our go-to when we don’t have a couchsurfing host, but it’s hard to answer a question of “where are you staying tonight?” when you are very well aware that saying “we’re unsure yet, but probably our tent” means that person might offer a place to stay. It’s ‘worked’ before. In fact, we often find ourselves hoping they will offer. Is that bad?
We could be hyper-aware of this fact and answer with more confidence: “We’re staying in our amazing tent – I love camping”. Again this answer would be as truthful as the last, it’s just phrased differently. And it would likely assure the asker that we had a place and were happy with it.
Both truthful answers, both provoking a different predicted reaction. Is the fact that we are beginning to be able to accurately predict the answer a sign that we have crossed the line from resourcefulness to manipulation?
Being on the road without money means we’re reliant on others for progress.
When we hitch hike, we’re asking for a lift. When we couchsurf, we’re asking for a place to stay. When we need food we’re asking for food that would otherwise be thrown away, raiding food already thrown into dumpsters or offering our services as floor sweepers or table wipers or dish washers. We never directly ask for anything more from the people we meet, but does an awareness of where a conversation might lead mean the same thing as a direct ask?
We’d love for you to let us know what you think in the comments. It’s a difficult one, with probably no right answer. It also would vary country to country – the fact we’re doing it in a country like America means a lot compared to if we were doing the same in Guatemala. Laura Bingham did a great job on her moneyless journey across South America by giving clothes and other items to families that helped her out.
So far we have never felt that we’re putting anyone out, and would absolutely refuse an offer if we felt like it was coming from a place of guilt or any sort of reluctance. In the same way someone says “stay as long as you want!” but as normal human beings we all know there’s an awareness of ‘overstaying your welcome’, we feel we can detect the boundaries and act accordingly.