Not Like Kerouac Anymore

So the elation and subsequent deflation of my earlier attempt to get into a park warden position has fully passed today, and I’ve turned my mind and body towards more practical matters. Namely, the act of moving my physical possessions from one abode to another. This has raised some interesting – and apparently timely – questions in my mind.

I’ve never had to sign a lease or obtain tenant’s insurance in the past, as I have lived with my (very generous) parents these 23 years. However, living on my own in Woodstock gave me a good taste of the independent lifestyle. Presently, I can’t imagine moving back into my basement apartment – even though it’s free.

In Kitchener-Waterloo, demand for housing is high and landlords seem to live as literal lords with complete control over the actions, finances, and freedom of their tenants. My first experience with this was a property management company, which appears to exist to charge people (both tenants and landlords) money without providing due service (Money Smarts Blog). I was perfectly willing to jump through all of their bureaucratic and paperwork-related requirements, but this company’s lack of service and the failure to communicate was astounding. Most rental and permanent housing in Kitchener-Waterloo is well out of my personal price range, and is unlikely to become more accessible in the near future.

It seems that many young people my age, who are unhindered by demands like children and family, are taking to living in their cars until they decide to settle permanently (Sommerfeld, August 28th, 2013). This may sound an unlikely option, but the article by the Globe and Mail that I reference here states that this practice “echoes that earlier rite of passage: hitchhiking across the country” (ibid). During periods of hard economic times, financially vulnerable young people have historically taken on risky and yet adventurous modes of living; this version of life is particularly prevalent in Jack Kerouac’s iconic novel “On the Road“.

Such connections between the past and the present fascinate me – but I do have to wonder if, in our fast-paced, modern world, we can be like Kerouac’s characters and escape the bureaucratic paperwork and financial haggling over our every-day life choices. Does freedom of physical movement and economic mobility still exist?