I have lived in North America for most of my life and have only been vaguely aware of the luxurious space in which we live. I became more aware of it while traveling the Alaska Highway last summer. Many times when I was ready to pull back onto the road after a fuel stop or an overnight campground stay, I would look both ways for an opening in traffic… and not see another vehicle in either direction. Really. As far as the eye could see. Nobody.
I was repeatedly surprised — and a bit unnerved — at the vastness of it all.
Canada has a population density of 9 people per square mile (the US has 48). That amounts to a lot of uninhabited space. I have had anxiety issues in traffic before, usually in the middle of a 5-lane-wide traffic jam in some inner city. But out in the vast and lonely stretches of the Alaska Highway I almost had anxiety issues of another sort imagining what it would take (and what it would cost) to acquire help in case of a breakdown when the nearest town was hundreds of miles away — and there was no cellular service anyway.
The reality of our isolation was profound. We were quite truly and utterly alone.
And now there’s another sort of space situation that we are facing, but it has more to do with elbow room than the availability of roadside services.
After four years of downsizing, first from a 10-room house to a one-room log cabin, we have finally sold both the house and the log cabin on our 30-acre property of 42 years and are hitting the road in a 29-foot fifth wheel. Fortunately, we have already tried it out for awhile, traveling the country for the last year, but we still had the Michigan property and plenty of storage space for our stuff.
We were able to be extravagant about what we kept while sorting through our lifetime accumulated stash, because we had enough room to store everything.
But that is no longer true.
So we are moving the last of our keepsakes into one of those self-storage units and will inhabit a tiny mobile space for the next few years. They say that that sort of close co-habitation will either cause two people to bond inseparably… or make them kill each other!
Our salvation from cabin fever has always been the great outdoors. We have lived in rural Michigan for most of our adult lives and could safely walk or bike the side roads or the pathways and lanes on the property. Shoot, I had a private route mapped out — and mowed — for jogging a mile without even leaving the property.
But part of our reason for selling the place is the brutality of the Michigan winters. The cold and ice and snow brought about a virtual house arrest as it were, trapping us inside for a third of every year.
For two active retirees who like to get out and walk several miles every day, that’s not good. And we are doing something about it. We are heading south during the wintertime. Now we’ll be looking for new open spaces, new bike lanes and boardwalks and walking trails in every new place we live over the next years, hopefully in places where we need not worry about slipping and falling on icy roads or sidewalks.
We’ll be looking for other extravagant spaces. Nature trails and wildlife areas and rail trails and beaches. Especially beaches.
Because Americans really do enjoy an extravagance of space. Even RV-ers living in their highly efficient but tiny mobile spaces.
(Just think, you could have been born in Macau, the most heavily populated country in the world, with a population density of more than 73,000 people per square mile.)