how a cross-country trip led me to buy a piece of rural land

My partner Cj and his friend Tim digging into our first building site. 

I THINK THAT WHEN IT COMES TO DEFINING THE QUINTESSENTIAL MILLENNIAL, I’m not far off. I work online. I have a large amount of student loan debt. I don’t make much money, but I still travel. And I have some obscure artisan side hustle going on — I upholster custom motorcycle seats. The only big factor that really sets me apart from most of my generational group is that I now own a piece of property and it is nowhere near a significant city.

This past April, I spent the morning of my 27th birthday in a credit union conference room signing mortgage paperwork. When I walked out the door, I owned 12 acres in a small Maine town with 1,500 feet of frontage on the Narraguagus River. I should mention right off that I didn’t do this alone, although I could have. My name is on the deed, but half of all the money put up came from my boyfriend. Even though we don’t have any plans to get married and don’t have any kids, we were both fed up with the idea that all our rent money, for years, had just been going to a landlord. So we took a big risk as a couple, not legally bound to each other in any way, and pooled our money together to buy a piece of property.

The land was $25,000 and the 15-year payment is $188 per month.

I have not spent the past few years looking at properties and pouring over Zillow. In fact, the thought to buy land didn’t seriously occur to me until just a month before I actually made the purchase. Cj and I left Maine this past Christmas and took two months to drive to Baja, Mexico. We put 17,000 miles on my ’99 Ford Ranger and basically went everywhere in the south and southwest. Some places, like the entire length of Texas and Santa Fe, New Mexico we went to twice, maybe even three times.

A lot of great things happened on this trip. I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time. I finally got to see why everybody loves California so much. We did make it all the way to Mexico and my friend let us borrow his KLR650, so we got to do our remaining miles of the Baja Peninsula on a motorcycle.

But seeing the country in such an intimate way also solidified a lot of what I have been reading in the news and online for years. There is so much waste, pollution, and dependence on oil out there. I have written about this in other essays but I seriously thought the LyondellBasell oil refinery was the actual city of Houston while driving through at night. I can’t tell you how many times I saw people burning trash, or how many times someone looked at me funny because I asked where their returnable bin was. When I bought something in Ensenada, the store clerk was floored that I didn’t want a plastic bag. When I finally told him that the reason I didn’t want a bag was because I thought they were bad for the environment, he threw up his hands and said, ‘Who cares?’ [read more]