I have been a vagabond since April 1, 2010.
On that date, I moved all of my possessions out of the room I was renting in Cedar Park, just north of Austin, Texas, and began living full time in my 1986 Chevy G30 diesel box truck, affectionately known as Big Red.
Big Red was originally a “hotshot buggy”, a US Forestry Service vehicle that transported men and equipment to fires wherever they happened to be; the vehicle record showed that it served mostly in Arkansas, then Mississippi. I traded my car for it with a district fire chief in San Antonio who needed to get it out of his driveway “before my wife divorces me.”
For the first 23 months, I lived as an urban nomad in and around Austin, with the exception of a late-summer 6-week journey to Maine and back; Austin is a fantastic place to be an urban nomad, as there are places to shower for free, the police are generally pretty chill about such things – as are Austin’s residents – and wifi connections everywhere.
I very much enjoyed this time, and even though Big Red had many problems, including a failed transmission, the adventure of every day life was absolutely worth the headaches.
When motor mounts go bad…
In March of 2012, I launched myself onto a greater adventure, setting up Sunday morning services as route-markers throughout the southwestern United States, and accepting every invitation that came my way to gather with folks and share music with them. I did 100 gatherings in 100 days, making my way through Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, California, Colorado, and even Kansas and Alaska by the time the 100 days were up.
Big Red died on Day 75 just south of Pueblo, Colorado. I put out a distress call to my online “audience”, who rallied to make sure I could finish the tour. I did so, and when it was over, I released Big Red and 99% of my belongings – including 18 years’ worth of journals – allowing myself to become a vagabond with no home and no vehicle, free of anchors and free to serve those who desire to receive my gifts at close quarter through being a Host.
Since then, I have lived and eaten and rested and played with dozens of gracious and generous Hosts, many of whom I am certain will tell you that having me in their space was an extraordinary experience. There are a few who wouldn’t tell you that as well, I’m sure, as not everyone is really ready to receive my gifts in such a direct way, and I’ve also had to learn the finer points in the art of being a great house-guest.
One such Host had this to say recently in a discussion on Facebook:
I had the privilege of sharing a house with Shawn for several months, it was one of the best most generative times, I have experienced. If you can get him to live with you, Do it, you’d be blessed. He has carried me back from battle, figuratively speaking. He has inspired, me challenged me, catalyzed my growth, etc. We will dance around the same fires forever. Most Respect & Most Gratitude mutually given and received
He’s referring to a six-week period during the summer of 2013 when I stayed in his home with he and his family; his wife was recovering from cancer treatments, and while recovering from a nasty stomach bug I picked up in Mexico, I helped usher in a new era of creativity and harmoniousness within his family structure. Such a joyful assignment!
Here’s a fun little video I made with the girls one day – a homemade production of “Annie”-ish:
Other examples have perhaps been not quite so dramatic, but beneficial nonetheless; I haven’t asked for testimonials as of yet, but I am sure there are others who have been similarly affected by my presence in their homes. Perhaps this post will generate a few!
Meanwhile, I’m sharing all of this for a few reasons:
1. Four years as a vagabond feels like something to celebrate!
2. I’m always looking for ways to share “my story” – and because my story seems to be so dense and rich with experiences, taking a little piece of it like this and focusing in on it helps to further hone the main points.
3. I am currently challenged to find a way to communicate that I am something of a unique phenomenon, and that my work does NOT begin and end with the time that I spend onstage – that I am actually a provider of value everywhere I go, including (and perhaps especially) for the folks who invite me into their homes and provide a spare bedroom or apartment so I can rest and write and work on recordings and videos and whatever else I’m working on. The perception seems to be that I am taking more than I give – while I am always striving for, and more often than not achieving, the opposite.
4. I would like to grow this aspect of my offering to the world; to make Hosting Troubadour Shawn a sought-after experience, where you know that when I’m coming to town and I stay with you, you’re going to have fun, you’re going to have conversations that rock your world and open up vast new realms of inspiration and motivation to go after the things that you want in life, and you’re going to feel great knowing that you provided a clean, comfortable, welcoming landing place where Great Work has been done.
I am truly grateful for the generosity of my Hosts – past, present, and future – and for the opportunity to make my presence be a boon to all who take me in, and I look forward to continuing to provide inspiration and fellowship to those who choose to embrace my presence as a wandering troubadour in their space.
What about you? Are you down for Hosting Troubadour Shawn in your space? What kinds of things would you want to talk about and/or do? How would you like me to contribute to your immediate environment? And WHEN?
You can either share privately by email or in the comments below.