AirBNB: the Controversy

AirBNB launched in 2008, then called Airbed & Breakfast. Over the next two years, the company boomed, changing its name to AirBNB and reaching 1 million nights booked in 89 different countries by the spring of 2011.

AirBNB quickly became a well-known alternative to hotels. It is attractive due to its affordability, personalized home feel, kitchen space for cooking to further save money, and friendly hosts available to give information and tips about the city from a local’s perspective. A growing number of people choose AirBNB over hotels, and hotel lobbyists as a result began to battle against the current practices of short-term rental companies like AirBNB.

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AirBNB remains largely unregulated, existing in a legal grey area. Normally it is considered OK if you are the owner or you have the owner’s permission as well as the permission of the other residents in the building. If you or a roommate are living at least part of the time in the apartment, then technically it is perfectly legal in the US to use the apartment additionally for AirBNB purposes, as was determined in the 2013 NYC court case against Nigel Warren, whose fine of $2,400 was eventually lifted, with the help of AirBNB, after proving that a roommate was there for part of the time.

The legal war continued for a year between AirBNB and NYC, but throughout that time AirBNB more than doubled its guests served, from 4 million to 9 million in only 8 months’ time. Eventually NYC gave over the information of its hosts who rent out multiple properties without its main occupant present, but given that they number in the tens of thousands, it is still a daunting task to enforce regulations even when they are established.

Cities across the country are grappling with these questions.

Like New York, Santa Monica banned short-term rental of entire homes when the host is not present and additionally imposes a 14-percent tax when a host rents out a room in his house.

Cities, one by one, are establishing their own rules. San Francisco residents are now permitted to rent out homes for a maximum of only 90 days a year. In Philadelphia, the maximum is 180 days and hosts must also pay an 8 1/2% hotel tax to the city.

In many markets, Airbnb and similar short-term online rental marketplaces are technically illegal, but lax enforcement of existing laws has allowed these entities to grow exponentially in size.

Their increasing popularity, together with unclear regulatory structures, has prompted many local governments to examine new ways to tax and regulate these companies.

Airbnb has led aggressive outreach programs in several cities, engaging local officials, agreeing to collect and pay some taxes, and pushing for favorable rewrites of local planning law.

Hosts are responsible for filing their own income tax as self-employed real estate business owners. AirBNB has begun including a hotel tax within their fees in many cities, and the number of cities included is growing. It is a relatively slow process, however, as AirBNB must work with each city individually. In fall of 2014, AirBNB began collecting a 12% occupancy tax from guests and hosts to pass along to the government of their behalf in Amsterdam, San Jose, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.

The main problem remains that most of the apartments are zoned as residential, and therefore to be perfectly legal, in additional to paying all taxes, hosts much check zoning laws and possibly be required to register the business and get the apartment approved for <30 nights occupancy use.

What makes this not very straightforward is that the majority of hosts let only one property–their own home. The number of hosts that have multiple for-profit properties listed on AirBNB is only about a maximum of 1 out of 10 in most cities. Therefore the law would be applied differently to different hosts on AirBNB, which makes regulating AirBNB as a whole unclear.

Vijay Dandapani chairs the New York City Hotel Association:

“We have a fire command system, security systems that give you protections from intruders, and so on. The moment you get into converting your house into a hotel, which is de facto what is being done nowadays, none of those protections are there.”

The question is: how much freedom do people deserve? These are properties either they own or another owns with whom they have a contract and consensual agreement with. We aren’t required to have such stringent standards for fire command and security systems in our own homes, even when sublet for at least 30 days, so why does it suddenly become an issue when renting for less than 30 days? I suppose the line must be drawn somewhere, but the line seems to be pushing its limits against personal freedom and our own responsibility for the consideration of our own personal safety.

This is a community issue. If the neighbors in the apartment building have no problem with the use of the apartment as a vacation home, then it’s really none of the state’s business what the apartment is being used for. I could be knitting 24/7 in my residence and selling my self-made scarves and sweaters to all the strangers kind enough to stop by–it would be absurd to prosecute me for refusing to declare this as a business.

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This is where it becomes interesting, because the state doesn’t care much about 5 or 10 scarves being sold every once in a while under the table, but to sell 30/day every day, advertise, and put a sign up on my door saying “Welcome, come inside and buy my knitwear!” Suddenly there is pressure to pay income tax and it becomes a question whether I am illegally using a residential zone as a commercial one.

The shared economy has reintroduced power to the people and the community by introducing platforms that create free, largely unregulated markets. This is a good thing. There was a time with the government kept out of people’s business for the most part. The power and control of the government has continued to increase and the internet is making this a great deal easier for them. The idea that every bit of gain we make must be shared with the government is absurd in my opinion, but the government prefers to control and profit from all markets, always. Free markets are so natural–people are attracted to freedom and personal/mutual gain, which is why services such as AirBNB and Uber grow exponentially and very quickly overtake heavily regulated markets.

I have no qualms with the income tax, but I personally think the hotel and occupancy tax is unfounded. Again, you have to draw the line somewhere, but I favor privacy, personal freedom, and decisions based in the immediate community for such limited scale uses of property.

Even so, like many hosts, we simply wish to continue doing what we do; if we have to make less money by paying an assortment of taxes and fees, then so be it. But it will be great when the day comes when we hosts no longer have to feel like we might be doing something wrong when everyone directly involved is happy and we are contributing to the vitality of a booming free market.

 

 

 

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Is Human Behavior Unchangeably Hardwired?

Instincts are so powerful that we lose ourselves in them–they compel us, control us, and drive our desires without the requirement for any modicum of conscious awareness. They make us feel most alive, most “right”; in many ways, they make up the foundations upon which our identities are built, the center to which our personalities are relative.

Instincts are coded in our genes; they originate from past behaviors that guaranteed the preservation of those genes by driving us to survive and procreate.

Behavior in practice has changed over time, insofar as genes have continued to evolve due to sexual selective pressures as well as the effects of changes in our cultures. Cultural evolution is very similar to genetic evolution, with its analogous ‘meme’ behavior, a term coined by Richard Dawkins, representing cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.

Research in the fields of genetics, neuropsychology, and paleobiology yields evidence that, despite drastic changes in our environments, cultures, technology, knowledge, and general realities, our deepest, instinctual genes have remained largely unchanged from the emergence of homo sapiens 200,000 years ago. People today still behave in ways that aided our survival during the Stone Age.

You can take the person out of the Stone Age, evolutionary psychologists contend, but you can’t take the Stone Age out of the person.[1]

Sexual selection is the only genetic selection left in the modern world, as selective pressures for survival are no longer relevant in our society. Intelligence, physical attractiveness, and economic advantage still effect our sexual choices, although in the first world it is a growing trend that the more educated people are having fewer children and the least educated are having more, but that is beside the point.

What culture and social conditioning tend to do is not change instincts and emotions, but redirect, suppress, channel, and otherwise control the expression of them.

A good example of this is found in human sexuality. Sex is one of the most deeply ingrained instincts we have, short of our basic instinct to stay alive. But the impact that culture and individual psychology have on sexuality is quite extensive. I am not speaking of sexual orientation, but the ways in which sexuality gets channeled, directed, and expressed.

One theory for sexual ‘deviancy’, or abnormal sexual preferences and fantasies is that instincts, as strong and powerful as they are, must be channeled and compartmentalized to preserve the integrity of one’s social conditioning as well as one’s own ego and personal identity. A team of researchers in Canada recently found that, interestingly, nearly half of people surveyed were found to have at least one type of sexual perversion. [2] Perversion may just be a way instincts get channeled and expressed in a way that can be compartmentalized as a ‘game’, where behavior is reserved for certain roles that are kept at a distance from the participants’ primary identities.

In short, it seems instincts, at the core, are impossible to change.

To continue on the example of sexuality, in the Victorian era, there was widespread sexual repression, which is what likely caused the boom in the “hysteria” diagnosis, which doctors treated with handjobs, leading them to invent the first vibrators to save their hands from fatigue. [3] 

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[Cadence Theatre Company]

 

Japan is seeing an unprecedented decline in sexual activity, coined the “celibacy syndrome”. [4] It is an open question whether sexuality is getting channeled and expressed in other ways, in a Freudian sense within Japanese careers or online in Japan’s ever-growing online and virtual reality communities. And if it is not found elsewhere, it could manifest in the negative sense: as loneliness, despair, and feelings of alienation. However, if that is not the case, it is also possible that, after Japan’s economic and natural disaster history and its increasing urban development and cultural futurism, Japanese people could be seeing a decline in the sexual instinct itself.

Japanese people could be seeing a decline in the sexual instinct itself.

 

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Tokyo

 

What is interesting to note is that we have already seen a drastic change in human behavior. It happened during the development of the first cities. For hundreds of thousands of years, humans engaged in incessant tribal warfare until the development of the first cities, which was necessary for the development of civilizations. Cities allowed for more specialized activities to develop, but they required strangers to get along. People had to learn to extend courtesy and empathy to people that weren’t a part of their inner circle; they had to project their group mentality onto a much larger circle, which required humans to suppress their hostile natures.

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Artist’s impression of two tribes at war

 

It seems that humans can change their instincts. It takes a very, very long time, and it requires significant social and circumstantial pressures–significant enough to override the very behaviors that allowed us to stay alive until this point.

This is good news, because human nature is horrible in many ways. We still exhibit tribal mentalities to the extent that war and racism are still very much alive. It is the hope of many of us that future generations will live in a world one day without destructive hatred, inspired by instincts no longer appropriate to the world we live in.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

[1] https://hbr.org/1998/07/how-hardwired-is-human-behavior

[2] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3484266/Are-pervert-Study-suggests-half-deviant-sexual-acts.html

[3] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/all-about-sex/201303/hysteria-and-the-strange-history-vibrators

[4] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/20/young-people-japan-stopped-having-sex

The Evolution of Fame

Fame is a rapidly evolving phenomena in society. The form it has taken and means it has been carried have changed drastically over the centuries, albeit slowly. However, in the last century, since the invention of the radio and television and now the internet, fame is evolving at an overwhelming pace.

In ancient times, few people were capable of writing histories, as literacy was not widespread. In many early societies such as Egypt and China, all that exists of history is a list of kings.

The first recorded “individual” in history is considered to be Akhenaten, a pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt, who ruled from 1351/3 BC until 1334/6 BC. He attempted to shift the predominant religion at the time from polytheistic to monotheist–namely the solar deity, Aten. This was a major proposed shift, and he would go so far as to place a ban on images other than Aten and erase inscriptions of other gods and pluralities around the kingdom.[1] Akhenaten was the first person that you get a sense of. Not just a name and list of what they did, laws decreed, etc., but a sense of their minds and ideas and character as a person.

Individuality, its expression, and its preservation in recorded history has since proliferated.

The desire for recognition and universal praise is natural to humans and we have been seeking it out probably ever since humans developed the ability to give praise. In ancient times, however, fame was often reserved for royalty, leaders, and military heroes.

Fame is generally carried through the times in proportion to how much the individual changed and influenced society and its members. The most famous person who ever lived by far was Jesus, and he achieved this by influencing the majority of people’s belief systems, the way they view the world, and to this day he influences the behavior and thoughts of billions.

How we conceptualize present day fame is drastically different. Fame is now often earned from people’s ability to entertain us, and entertainment is just about the most fleeting type of experience there is. Sometimes entertainers cause movements, which are founded on deeper ideas rooted in individuality, freedom, creativity, and the normalization of previously underrepresented and oppressed groups within popular culture, such as what Ellen Degeneres did for the LGBT community and Kim Kardashian did for body positivity.

Another article written on this subject notes how differently actors used to be regarded:

Actors were once considered the lowest of the low in many parts of the world. While the ancient Greeks tended to hold some actors in fairly high esteem, the Romans were not overly fond of them. Many were slaves, or considered to be people without any morals, capable of performing any lewd act on stage if asked to do so. Actors were definitely not favorites with the philosopher, and Roman Emperor, Julian the Apostate.

In Britain, a general anti-theatrical feeling pervaded the upper echelons of society for a very long time. The Tudors were particularly suspicious of actors, believing most to be up to no good. Acting was viewed as a “profession” of beggars and drifters. People who gave nothing back to society. The entertainment and happiness of the humble masses mustn’t have rated too high on the list of priorities for the Tudor Government. [2]

History used to be written and culture molded by the most educated, intelligent, and talented people alive. This has been turned upside down by globalization and the popularization of the internet. Now culture is being molded by the average: if people want a voice in the larger community, they must tailor their content to align with those of average intelligence [3].

In addition to this, the sheer number of influential voices is growing exponentially. People are fighting tooth and nail to gain recognition and prominence, and the younger generation is opting for more superficial means of acquiring this: via social media, Vine and other basic entertainment, and You Tube channels.

This social change is occurring in parallel with increasing levels of individualism:

P. M. Greenfield’s (2009) theory of social change and human development predicts that, as learning environments move toward more complex technology, as living environments become increasingly urbanized, as education levels increase, as commerce develops, and as people become wealthier, psychological development should move in the direction of increasing individualism. As a value system, individualism prioritizes the independent action of the individual as well as the development and expression of individual character and personality (Individualism, n.d.; Stein & Urdang, 1966). [4]

Studies show [5] that there is evidence for this: the use of individualistic words and phrases have steadily increased in music and literature since the 60’s. Individualistic words and phrases include but are not limited to “unique,” “personalize,” “self,” “all about me,” “I am special,” and “I’m the best”.

In a sense, the increasingly substance-less content output fixes itself in the long term: it’s influential only in the very short term. A vine that gets 10 million views because it made 1 million people laugh for a minute will fade into oblivion rather quickly. Even Kim Kardashian, one of the most famous people alive today, will be completely forgotten in a couple generations’ time, because what she doesn’t offer is substantial influence. Gossip, entertainment, and fashion/beauty obsessions are not enough to keep affecting people for centuries. Luckily, what effects people in the very long term will always be what is deeply important to the human condition: world views, values, belief systems, philosophies, and real knowledge.

Millennials should be striving for lasting fame, and since lasting fame is hard to come by, short term fame might just be a fad destined to fade away once the majority of people realize how unfulfilling the superficial rat race is.

What is interesting to note is that society is trending toward a limit of information processing, not that of the internet and technological data processing (as far as we know, that’s boundless), but of human information processing. We simply can’t direct our attention to everything at once, and this inevitably puts a limit on how many people are able to be known by us.

Before this limit is reached, it seems the sheer amount of people we know of continues to grow while the depth of our knowledge of them decreases. It’s the difference between deeply knowing the intricacies of Aristotle’s philosophy and historical context versus knowing nothing but the name, image, and genre of contribution of a particular celebrity.

There is now a lot of energy invested and money being made off of one of the newest and fasted growing categories of research: SEO and social media optimization and Youtube, blog, and general website promotion.

Many people are beginning to wake up to the dynamic and interactive, rather than static and limitedly informative Internet. A our lives become increasingly intertwined with information networks, our feeling of “presence” becomes increasingly dependent on our presence within the online world.

I could write everything there is to know about me–every memory, every thought, and every secret, and I could post it all onto the internet, to last there for all of eternity. But 500 years from now, who will search that information, how much will that information influence anything in the future? This is the general question of fame in this dawning age, and the answer for all of us, however well-known, is yet to be evident.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akhenaten#First_.E2.80.9Cindividual.E2.80.9D

[2] http://weeklygravy.com/lifestyle/the-evolution-of-fame/

[3] https://pjmedia.com/drhelen/2016/03/06/the-curse-of-the-high-iq/2/

[4] http://greenfieldlab.psych.ucla.edu/Media_studies_files/The%20value%20of%20fame-1(1).pdf

[5] http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0040181

10 Ways to Travel While Broke

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If you are an educated citizen (or at least a smart, open-minded person), above the poverty threshold, and living in a first world country, chances are you can travel internationally.

International travel is reserved for people with lots of disposable income, you say? Think again. What is stopping you from traveling isn’t a lack of monetary resources, but a lack of key knowledge, the necessary amount of fearlessness, and the belief that if there’s a will, there’s a way.

This list will hopefully chip away at the first and third problem. Fear, however, is a problem only you can solve.

 

  1. Rent out your house/apartment/room on AirBNB for as much of your trip as you can.

    If you have roommates then you will have to get their permission, but you can offer them a percentage of the income, at the very least to compensate them for meeting people to give them a key and for cleaning. If you live alone and have multiple bookings, ask a friend to do these things as a favor, or you can hire and train someone. It’s worth it, because if you live in a city, then it’s likely that the money you make will pay for your rent/bills and then some. This way you won’t have to save as much, and you can take unpaid time off if you don’t have enough vacation time saved up and your boss doesn’t mind.

    Doing this will make it so that the only costs you need to worry about is what you spend abroad, and sometimes your trip can even pay for itself.

    If you’re anxious about people canceling and losing the income you are depending on, don’t be, because you can make use of AirBNB’s Super Strict cancellation policy: “For a 50% refund, cancellation must be made 30 full days prior to listing’s local check in time (or 3:00 PM if not specified) on the day of check in. If the guest cancels less than 30 days in advance, the nights not spent are not refunded.”

    If you don’t like the idea of renting out your space, then you don’t want to travel badly enough.

  2. Buy your plane ticket some months in advance.

    Doing this will allow you to effectively pay for your trip in installments. Now you’ll have some months to save for your food, accommodation, transportation, extra fees, and entertainment. And these things can be incredibly cheap, if not free (see 4 & 5).

  3. Cut down on expenses in order to save prior to your trip. 

    Let’s look at a typical week for many Americans:

    Monday: $4 coffee at a cafe

    Tuesday: $10 eating out

    Wednesday: go to the store, buy $10 deodorant instead of $3 one because you think it’s fancier

    Thursday: $10 movie theater ticket price

    Friday: $30 spent on a night out drinking

    Let me ask you one question: how much do you want to travel? Really badly? I figured; life is short. You need to start reflecting that desire in your daily choices though. On Monday, you make your own coffee. On Tuesday, you cook your own meal. Wednesday, buy that $3 deodorant. Thursday, wait until the movie goes out on dvd and then stream in online for free (I never told you this though). Friday, throw a BOB party in your apartment or at a friend’s house. Total money saved: $61. In 5 days, you saved enough for 3-4 days in Thailand (see below).

  4. Travel to Southeast Asia. 

    You can eat meals for as cheap as $1, ride in a tuk-tuk across town for ~$3, and accommodation is also quite cheap, with some hostels offering beds for as little as $10/night. You can still enjoy yourself, with plenty of natural, beautiful scenery that is free to experience, such as the beaches and unique geology found in southern Thailand. You can even go out without much worry, with cocktails sold for as little as $3-4. Thailand-Beaches-4

    Siem Reap in Cambodia is a must see, with it’s famed ancient ruins and the iconic, massive trees overtaking them. A taxi from the airport to the city center, for example, is only $7, and though there is a $20 entry fee into Ankor Wat, you can rent a bike for $1 for 24 hours so you don’t have to pay the $15/day tuk-tuk fee. If there’s a will, there’s a way. Oh, and it’s really fun to ride the mopeds in Southeast Asia, for only $5-6/24 hours.                                                                                                                                                             Picture-478-Version-2.jpg

    To explore prices of world travel, you can visit this website, which lists up to date prices for various travel costs.

  5. For the more adventurous, try couch surfing. 

    Since it’s launch in 2003, couchsurfing.com has grown to over 7 million active users in countries all over the world. You can browse profiles and choose people to contact for your requested dates, and the accommodation they offer you is completely free. Sometimes you’re stuck with a couch, but other times you can luck out with your own private room.

    Upsides: 

    • It’s free
    • You meet and befriend locals
    • They introduce you to the city from an insider’s perspective

    Downsides:

    • Safety concerns
    • You are obligated to spend time with your host
    • Sometimes you have to sleep on a couch

     

    For the safety concerns, there are ways to make couch surfing very safe: choose profiles with many positive reviews and if you’re a girl, your best bet is to stay with female hosts. And the second downside isn’t a downside if you are in the mood for that social interaction. So all told, couch surfing is a great resource to at least taper your trip with, to save money and to see the place you’re visiting from an insider’s perspective.

  6. Two words: Wow Air. 

    Wow Air is a new Icelandic airline, subsidized by their government as an incentive to attract more tourists. There’s a ticket from Los Angeles to Paris for as cheap as $200. The dates for these prices are limited and you have to be careful with their extra fees, but if you plan it right, this is an incredible opportunity to save money on the largest travel expense: plane tickets. You have to stop over in Iceland, but who cares? Iceland is beautiful, and you’re going to Paris!

  7. Take up a part-time online job. 

    These days there are many ways to make money online, so you can continue your income stream as you travel. If you have already grown your online money making career as a blogger or with an online business, then great. If not, then one easy possibility, if you went to college, is to become an online tutor. Instaedu pays $20/hour and they hire pretty much everyone. Another possibility is to create a passive income stream by self-publishing an ebook . Pretty much everyone who is a least a decent writer has a shot of making a good amount of monthly income this way, if they choose a good niche and do some research on how to go about it effectively.

  8. “But I want to go to Europe.” 

    Cook most of your meals in hostels, opt for buses, couch surf half of the time. It’s possible. Europe is the most expensive continent to travel, but there are ways to get around this. Trains are fast and pleasant, but train tickets can add up. Often times if you plan in advance, you can find plane tickets with budget airlines across the continent for as little as $30. If you’re on a serious budget, you won’t be able to eat every meal at a restaurant and you might struggle to see all of the museums, but it’s still possible to survive on $10-20/day.

    I have a friend who paid only $1 to transport a car from Italy to England. On the way to England, he went to Austria and Germany. This is a great option if you want to see more than just a few cities on a budget.

    It’s also worth noting that eastern Europe is vastly cheaper than western Europe. A beer in Prague, for example, can be as cheap as $1. Europe is economically diverse, and as a traveler on a budget, it’s a good idea to make the most of this and avoid cities like London, Zurich, and Copenhagen.

  9. “I am barely getting by, steeped in student loan or other debt.”

    If you are surviving where you are, you can survive at a different location.

    Once again, save up your paid vacation time and rent out your space on AirBNB while you are gone. That way, the extra money you need to travel comes from the money you make from renting out your space while you’re gone.

    If you’re jobless, stay in a monastery, sign up for WOOF, become an aupair, or work for a hostel. All of these things provide you free room and board.                                         studentloandebt

  10. Realize that traveling isn’t generally as expensive and scary as you think. 

    You can often end up spending less while traveling than you would at home, if you travel between leases and are able to cancel your phone contract. So you’re not spending money on rent, bills, and your otherwise relatively high standard of living. If you want to travel, you have to be willing to make sacrifices. You have to want to experience other countries and cultures badly enough to be willing to forgo the many comforts of our first world lifestyles.

    In terms of the fear you have, in order to travel you need to realize two things: (1) you don’t always need to feel in control of everything in your life and environment, and (2) other places have logic and order just as in your home country, it’s a lot easier than you would expect.

 

If you feel hesitant about whether traveling is a possibility for you, don’t blame your financial situation. Blame your attitude, your standards of living, and your fear. If you want to travel, you have to be open to adapting your attitudes and temporarily reducing your standards of living.

If you consider yourself to be open-minded and adaptable, then consider the possibility that the excuses you create for yourself are masking the real thing keeping you from traveling: fear. Dig deep, and face head on what it is that’s holding you back. Push past your comfort zone and don’t allow your dreams to get stifled by pessimism. It’s something to work through. Read tips about how to find the courage to take a break from work to travel and volunteer here.

 

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.

Explore. Dream. Discover.

H. Jackson Brown – P.S. I Love You

 

 

Interview with a nomad: Dale Walker on alternative living

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Dale Walker and the Dalai Lama. Sept 22, 1984.

There’s a race of men that don’t fit in,
    A race that can’t stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
    And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
    And they climb the mountain’s crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
    And they don’t know how to rest.

Dale Walker is a nomad with a thirst for freedom and the wanderer lifestyle. He’s currently 51 years old. He grew up in a small town in Iowa with three brothers and four sisters. He has an interesting story to tell about his adventurous youth and philosophy of life.

Hi Dale Walker. Thank you for agreeing to do this interview for me.

As you have already told me, you ran away from home at the age of 12 and made it 100 miles before getting caught and spending a night in jail. What motivated you to run away from home that day? Did you have problems at home?

No, there were no problems at home. I simply wanted to be a child star and set out for Hollywood. I bought a bus ticket only as far as Omaha, Nebraska so the local ticket agent wouldn’t know my ultimate destination. I planned to buy the ticket to California from Omaha. Fortunately though, I was detained before I got that far.

What was it like spending a night in jail at 12 years old?


The night in jail was supposed to be an object lesson. I was still close enough to home and it was early enough in the day that my parents could have come to get me right away. It was a small town jail with only one cell and there were no other prisoners. They fed me supper, I slept, then my mom picked me up the next morning.

 

So your parents picked you up and what happened next?


There was no punishment. My parents understood that kids will be kids. 
I just went on with my life, taking up a job at a cafe.My life got a lot more complicated later that year though. My sister died in a tragic car accident two days before Christmas. She was only sixteen. The last time I had seen her alive, she had introduced me to marijuana. She told me to quit smoking cigarettes but never stop smoking weed. Then a few days later, she was gone. Makes me sad to write about her even now, forty years later. It affected me quite deeply. I was pretty much on my own after that. My parents had their own grief to deal with and gave me free reign to handle mine. Mom told me later that she thought I blamed God.By the next summer, I’d fought my way into the cool kids clique. They wouldn’t let me hang out until I challenged George Fritz to a fight. He knew how to fight and I didn’t. He kept punching me and I’d fall down but I always got back up. Finally he said, “Please don’t get back up.”

I replied, “I’m getting back up.” That made me one of them.

Then I met Mark Woods. He was older, 20 or so, and had been to Altamont where he’d overdosed on LSD. He lived with his mom and all he had to do was mow the lawn. He subcontracted that chore out to me though and paid me with an album, an issue of High Times, and a joint. That’s when I learned there was a true counterculture. High Times reported on it and the albums, such as CSNY’s Four Way Street and Black Sabbath’s Bloody Sabbath, gave me a feel for it. I’d smoke the joint, read the magazine, and listen to the music.

I took a lot of drugs then, uppers, downers, and LSD. I grew my hair out and became a freak. I made friends with other misfits and we raised hell. We got drunk, stole cars, and broke into buildings. We cruised around on the gravel roads and raided deserted farmsteads for gasoline. During this whole time, I was still working and saving money. Then I got caught.

I was sent to a juvenile detention center for a three week evaluation. I had a few more run ins with the law after that, but I mostly spent this time getting new girlfriends and hanging out with friends. I was a popular guy.

 

I’m very sorry to hear about your sister. You left again at 15 and hitchhiked for 7 years. Where exactly were you hitchhiking and did you ever visit home again during this time?

 

My first trip was back to Florida to see some girls I’d met at Disney. They didn’t like me anymore though and I ended up on the street in Fort Lauderdale. I slept under the Las Olas Street bridge. I got a job at a state park the second day I was there and rented a place. I threw a party almost right away. I wanted to thank all the street people who had helped me that first week. I let a guy move in with me but he was a prostitute and a junkie and I couldn’t abide that so kicked him out.

That’s when I met Roger. He was the first of many true nomads that I would meet in my life. Roger spent ten years living in Century Park in Nashville and had spent the last year living as Jesus on the beach. He had the look. He supported himself picking magic mushrooms and selling them on the beach. I often call this phase of my life “Magic mushrooms with Jesus.”

That was the summer I turned 16. I went back home later that year but no longer fit (if I ever had) and shortly left again. This time for Seattle. Over the next five years, I hitched to 48 states, 9 provinces of Canada, and even to Mexico. I went back home many times and even went to college for a semester. By then though, the road knew my name and kept calling for me.

So after these 7 years, from the age of 22, you began traveling with your own vehicles. Where did you go and why? What was different about this experience, having your own vehicles to travel with?

My first car after all that hitching was a 2-ton dump truck, a 53 Chevy. It had been my best friend’s truck and his mother gave it to me after he was beat to death. Of course, I needed money for gas from then on. I had a little money from odd jobs and drove to Missouri. I met some tree-planters there and became a reforestation technician. Over the course of the next ten seasons, I planted more than a million trees. It was seasonal work and the money didn’t last all year so I also collected scrap metal and also relied on gratitude as I had hitchhiking. I also continued to travel everywhere. Missouri to North Carolina to Oregon to Arizona then back to Missouri. By then, I had a traveling companion, a woman who had hitched almost as much as me. We spent four years together.You mentioned to me that at some point you met the Dalai Lama. When and where did that happen and what did you take away from the experience?

This is a great story. I was hitching to Charlottesville to visit Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson who had always been one of my heroes. I never made it to Monticello and instead, got a ride with someone going to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Tibetan Meditation Center in Charlottesville. This was just a few days before the Dalai Lama was to arrive in DC and the monks gave us invitations to a small reception to be held at the Tibetan Meditation Center in Washington DC. I stayed with my ride and his family. They had a commune in the 
mountains West of Staunton. We tried to see the Dalai Lama at the

Washingtom Cathedral but it was full to capacity when we arrived. The reception we were invited to was the following day and I spent the night camped in Rock Creek Park across from the meditation center.

Everyone was excited when the Dalai Lama arrived. I have a picture of that moment and the look of joy on every face is so profound. I didn’t really know much about him but he in some way recognized me. Just before his arrival, the monks had informed everyone waiting that His Holiness would not be doing the Kata greeting. He did it with me though.

The one thing I remember from his talk is when he said that he was no different from anyone else except that he’d had the benefit of training since he was a child. I fell asleep during his talk. There’s a whole thing about falling asleep in the presence of the Dalai Lama. In retrospect, it was like getting a years worth of inner smile training in a moment.

 

Eventually you met your wife and had two children. How much has your philosophy of life influenced how you raised your children? What did you do for a living while you were settled down?

 

I don’t know if I ever really settled down. I lived on the mountain for ten years on an old homestead where I lived rent free due to having a bad accident with the deputy sheriff. I came around a blind corner on the wrong side of the road and ran into him head on.
Totaling a cop car made me a local and the old home-place was my reward.The mother of my children was a gypsy bellydancer when I met her and we had our children at home. Although we had a midwife there who actually delivered them, I’m the attending physician on their birth certificates. We raised them the natural way. Up on the mountain, they called people like us “wholesome people” because we were into natural
foods and the simple life.We moved off the mountain when they were little though and for many reasons. It was partly because of Y2K. I asked my neighbor if he was stocking up on food just in case. He said, “No, I have guns. My neighbors have food.” That’s when I decided to move us back to the Midwest.I worked in a factory then but before long became a scholar. I’ve earned a couple degrees. It made me smarter but it did not magically make me career oriented. I’ve had some rewarding jobs working with people experiencing homelessness and with people who suffer from mental disabilities. Now I’m just counting the days now until my youngest graduates and I can go back on the road. My kids now? One is a hippie just like me. She is an incredibly talented young woman with so much potential. I’m glad she had me and blessed that I had her. I think we saved each other. My mom left home at 15. I left home at 15. But she didn’t have to. God, that gives me tears to write that. I feel so trapped being housed when I could be free on the road but the blessing of spending this time with her trumps everything. I’m not made for this culture.

My other daughter is a beautiful young woman too. She’s more traditional but in a very non-traditional way. It’s taking her longer to mature than her younger sister but she is doing great. I love both my girls. Let me add that their mother and I separated when my little girl was just ten. The younger one stayed with me and the older lived with her mother. I’ve been a single dad all these years since.

Where do you see yourself going from here?


I’m liquidating and going back on the road. This time by bicycle. My daughter let me spread my wings last year. I traveled as much as in the old days. I made three or four hitchhiking trips, two long bicycle 
tours totaling more than a thousand miles, and several road trips. (I still have a car but not for long.) I put my understandings to the test
on these journeys and have a solid philosophy that works magic. I’m also now an elder of my tribe, I get a lot of respect and am well known.
I would like to ask you one final question. What does freedom mean to you?
To me, freedom is some small measure of awareness that time and space are illusions. There’s only here and now. Freedom is to remember that the whole is integral to the essence of every little part. There’s no here without there nor now without then. John Lennon said it best, “Let it be”.

Thank you for your time and sharing these details, Dale. You have had such an interesting and alternative life, living it exactly your way. I wish you all the best as you continue to wander. 

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels…

Our culture has a fascination with heroes and heroines, rebels, and misfits. We glorify them in pretty much every movie. They are the ones who save the day, who shake things up, who complicate the story and make it interesting.

Over the course of history, our society has begun allowing and making it possible for more and more individuals to make a lasting difference in this world. Any individual in the US can now start business with the possibility that the business that will become famous at the scale of millions of knowing people. Celebrity has become a kind of shared economy and meritocracy in itself, with the widespread use of social media and Youtube. Anyone can post a video to Youtube, and if they are interesting, have value to add to the community, and are unrelenting in their efforts, they can quickly become rich and famous.

The age of entrepreneurship is booming, and the many pioneering it can be described as daring, determined, and creative individuals, the successful of which are also adding value–copious amounts of it. The competition for value itself is unprecedented. Let me give an example. There is a market teeming with competition for websites that claim to teach you how to become successful at hosting on Airbnb. Success itself is exponentially growing, with many piggybacking on the success of others to the extent that demand will allow.

There is something fascinating happening in our world today, and that is the turbulent balance between creation and consumption. Each of us has one foot in each, but some are determined to capture success, to live deeply and meaningfully, or to rebel from everything everyone tells them they should do to live deeply and meaningfully. The less you consume and the more you create (either for others or yourself), the more of an individual you necessarily become.

Beyond this growing relationship, there is something else interesting happening here. Many pursuing fame are doing so in shallow, easy ways: perfecting their comedic vines, getting 20k followers on Instagram, and selling out by writing how-to ebooks on how-to-be-successful.

These people I believe are not unapologetic “individuals” in the sense I previously described. Their fame is like delicious, gooey, triple chocolate cake everyone jumps for in their moments of weakness only to completely forget about the experience a week later. They won their game, but their game exists within the confines of a very limited amount of time.

What I want to focus on here is the heroes and heroines, rebels, and misfits. We all seem to take a stance towards them: we either want to be them or decidedly do no want to be them. Conformity is oh, so sweet. The feeling that you truly belong is a christmas by the fire, opening presents with your dear family kind of feeling. There is a price to pay for everything, however, but for many that price isn’t a loss that really pains them.

Those that want to or can’t help but be them, however, have a more difficult road ahead of them. The thing is, no one can escape their instinct to desire the sense belonging. The heroes and heroines, rebels, and misfits must know themselves very, very well. Because since they can’t find their places in the world, they must make their own places. They have to create their own world and build their own bridges. All of us have at least a little of this spirit in us. The sooner you realize that life is generally what you make it, the better.

Once again, the world is creating more and more individuals and people desperately trying to forge individuality. Two things are in opposition to this: the comfort and pressure to conform and consume and the overwhelming competition amongst the creatives.

I believe the greatest thing anyone can do for both themselves and the world is to rebel without disengaging. Even the protagonist in Mr. Robot, an anti-social, anxiety-consumed addict and skilled hacker decides he wants to do what he can to change people’s lives for the better. This makes him more interesting, it makes his life more interesting, and he gets to actually interact with other human beings. Regardless if your endeavors are geared toward fame and fortune or if you’re a misfit tucked away in your mother’s basement, life gets a lot more interesting for the former if they rebel and a lot more interesting for the latter if they engage. As long as you welcome the price you pay, the world we are living in today welcomes you.