Grit Blogs > Folly Mountain Girl

And I Woke Up Here

Rima AustinI get a lot of questions from people wanting to know why I live the way I do, or how could I live the way that I do, and furthermore, why would I want to live the way that I do? I decided to share it with everyone so here is the “nutshell” version.

After graduating from Tennessee Technological University, I went on to pursue the brass ring. I volunteered at the local PBS television station until I was hired on as the membership coordinator. I was still thinking that journalism, no matter the medium, was where I wanted to go. However, my life was stressful and I was not content. It wasn’t until the summer of 2013 that my life changed dramatically. A friend of mine, Jason Mackrill, seeing how stressed I was all the time, suggested that I leave it all behind and hit the road. By this time my children were grown and happy in their own lives, and I really had nothing to hold me back, so I sold everything I owned, and my friend and I left town in a full-size 1987 GMC van and went on what I now call the “Hippie Trip.”

Traveling gypsy

Lunch

For three months, we crisscrossed the West and camped everywhere we went. We meditated on cliffs looking over the Rockies in Colorado; we bathed in icy cold mountain streams in Montana; we sat in the drum circles formed by the wonderful free spirits at Rainbow Gatherings. Our meals were food we received at food banks throughout the West and cooked on a gas stove and our coffee made in a French press. When our cash ran low, we did what almost every other wayward traveler did making their way from east to west, we “flew a sign.” With nothing more than just a suggestion about giving, written on a piece of cardboard, I stood on corners from Casper, Wyoming, to Helena, Montana, and then back again. It was a wonderful experience.

Church on back road in New Mexico

Moab, Utah

During our travels, we ran into so many wonderful people who have almost nothing to give, but if you needed it, they would, without question, give someone half of it. The beautiful people, whom for whatever reason had no home, would lean on each other in times of need and when times were good come to celebrate it with each other laughing around campfires. I never pried into anyone’s life asking about why they were there, only listened if they wanted to tell their story.

Eventually, toward the end of the summer, we had to start making our way back. As we traveled back to East and got into Oklahoma and further, I noticed that the sentiment toward the homeless was not as receptive as it was in the western states. We were looked at with disdain and told to get a job, and by the time we got into Tennessee, we rolled into town on fumes.

Rainbow gathering Montana

Rainbow gathering sleeping hippie

I was not worried because I knew we always had a home to come back to, unlike a lot of the friends we had made while on the road. After returning to Tennessee, I ventured to some of the food banks and saw how incredibly lacking they were compared to the ones, say, in Montana or Colorado. I knew what I wanted to do, I wanted to not only improve the food systems in Tennessee but expand beyond that. I want to teach the people within my area of Tennessee, whose resources are severely limited, how they can live sustainably on what little they have already located in their backyards.

The van and tent

Jason and the pre-homestead

Ever since returning from my trip, I have restructured my entire life. I now live on a 5-acre plot of farm that has been in my family for generations. I have a two-room cabin that I intentionally built with no electricity and no running water. I use a propane heater to stay warm, use solar lights to read by, and gather my water in jugs. I have five raised beds in a fenced-in garden and a dilapidated barn that I plan to someday renovate into a shelter for livestock.

My life is beautiful and more importantly, stress free. My dream is to have a completely sustainable farm and to eventually convince my hometown to invest in sustainable communities. I have never before, whether in my personal life or my professional life, been as focused and passionate about something. Starting out small is my plan and then I’ll go wherever the ride takes me.