Over the past few years, I’ve had this fear I keep on the backburner regarding retirement.  Sure, I’ve got an RRSP that I contribute to but I don’t have a pension plan.  I’ve read more than a few articles that state that by the time I’m eligible to retire, retirement won’t be a thing that exists.  I know I’m in my late 30s and retirement is still a way off, but I can’t help having that worry in the back of my mind.  Granted, I live in a country that has a much better social safety net than our neighbors to the south, but it’s still worrying knowing that if I was forced to retire, I’d have considerably less income than I do today.  Also, I don’t want to work forever, you know?

Following the market crash of 2008 that not only destroyed the housing market in the US but also wiped the life savings of many Americans, many of those affected walked away from their homes and communities hitting the road in customized vans and RVs looking for short-term employment.  Reporter Jessica Bruder followed a handful of these men and women as they worked in Amazon warehouses, for agricultural harvests, and as “hosts” of campgrounds across the country, among other jobs.

These jobs offer little pay for what can be described as grueling work.  I can’t tell you how many times I was close to crying while reading about these older Americans working these punishing shifts inside of Amazon’s warehouses.  They’re covering miles and miles of concrete every day and struggling to hit time-targets while keeping their aging bodies healthy enough to maintain the brutal consequences of the job.  You miss a shift, you miss a paycheck.  You’re a cog in a machine and you’re just as replaceable.

However, feeling sorry for these “vandwellers” is the last thing many of them would want from you.  While they’re living paycheck to paycheck, they also champion the fact that they’re debt-free.  They’re getting to see the country and are forming deep, lasting friendships with those they share the roads with.  Also, many of them also want to keep working but they exist within a system that prefers youth over age and experience.   I suppose there’s something to be said for the endless optimism that is shared by Americans who think their big break is just around the corner, even if America’s ruthless system is designed to keep people in these positions forever.

I suppose maintaining a positive attitude is essential to surviving this life mentally.  One of the founders of a website designed to help Americans successfully make the transition from living in their homes working a nine-to-five job to living in their van often speaks about that first night and how it’s likely one of the darkest in your life.  It’s almost like allowing your mind to form a callus, so that this way of life is not only possible, but maybe even enjoyable?

Given all that happens on a daily basis because of roughly half of the apathetic men and women in the United States government who not only demonize social programs and socialized healthcare, but would rather keep their boots on the throats of Americans struggling to get by, it’s hard to find a belief that the system will change drastically in the years to come.  People should not need to spend twelve to fifteen hours a day filling boxes full of disposable shit from China in order to afford a tank of gas and a cup of instant noodles.

One thought on “Nomadland

  1. I’m quite a ways from retirement as well but I have similar worries. One thing that helped make me feel somewhat better is my uncle pointing out that the elderly vote more than anyone, so it’s unlikely that retirement programs will ever go away completely. Shifting that burden to younger people is still a problem of course.

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