The Sophisticated Dirtbag Defined

recognizing dirtbaggery as the philosophy it is; one based on the process of self-realization, personal adaptation, optimization, and ultimate freedom

 Ben sprinkled a little dirt on the roof to play by the rules.  Extra point for the pillow.

Ben sprinkled a little dirt on the roof to play by the rules.  Extra point for the pillow.

What does it mean to be a dirtbag?  Certainly one of the most socially relevant, but baggage-heavy terms in paddling, "dirtbag" seems to mean whatever folks want it to mean.  Can you be a dirtbag when your every move is funded by family trust?  Can you really be a dirtbag if you drive a $55,000 truck or Sprinter Van you paid for by working for the man?  Conversely, do you have to truly live at poverty level, or grovel and sleep in the dirt on a daily basis to keep your official dirt card?  

We've all seen folks at the river here and there that seem to do the term justice, easily woftable in their eschewance of proper hygiene, for example (It's possible I'm referring in the third person here)*.  And proud is the young soil-dweller who is riding in style behind the wheel of a metallic blue 1985 Mazda 626 with 461K miles on it - is it such a sin to be a single-feature auto buyer?  And what else really matters besides rain gutters anyway? 

Undeniably, "dirtbag" has even evolved into an identity itself - not just a style of doing certain things, or philosophy, but a fashion that has been processed and packaged into good honest product by our capitalist economy. Oh the irony, since this overstep betrays the ideals behind the very term itself. Good ideas become movements. Alas movements catch the all seeing eye of marketing experts, who then tap them for marketing plans, and thus the cycle repeats; ahem,  #vanlife.

So everyone's understanding of what it means to be dirtbag is going to vary of course.  To me, dirtbag describes a particular method of facilitating a desired behavior or circumstance. It's a way of getting what we want and to where we want to be that requires less participation in the excessive, materialistic, growth-at-any-costs consumer economy.  Now, no man/woman is an island, and as many already suspect, we have little wiggle room on how much we choose to participate in the economy that surrounds us. This is a zero-sum game, and you're going to spend all of your dollars at the company store whether you like it or not.  But it's not a matter of if, but how, you do so.  For example, the tendency for our economy to develop a product for every single little nuanced situation in our daily lives is a reality we have to step out of the box to notice (Note the Banana Slicer). 

The more the economy adapts to our needs, the less WE adapt, and the less creativity we use to overcome our own daily challenges.  If you have a device for slicing each little thing you might slice, how good at slicing are you going to be?  I'm probably preaching to the choir with many readers here, who have already taken steps well beyond those I have developed, in order to minimize their impact, lower their dependency on buying stuff, and live a more purpose-driven, intentional life.   

 Steel Reserve, West Coast style.  Back home these may not deliver, but out west, they run 24 ounces at 8.8% ABV for a buck eighty.  These men should be commended for their thrifty fix, even if it tastes nasty.

Steel Reserve, West Coast style.  Back home these may not deliver, but out west, they run 24 ounces at 8.8% ABV for a buck eighty.  These men should be commended for their thrifty fix, even if it tastes nasty.

I frankly don't have the real answers to the underlying questions behind our need to seek the inner dirtbag.  Yet we seek it, whether out of principle or sheer prudence.  I ashamedly admit that though I value the former, it is the latter that motivates change in my behavior.  We only have so much money and so much time.  Wasting either is one and the same.  

If you've got nothing, and are just getting by, you're already a dirtbag.  From Ketchup soup to hitching rides to the river, you're flying the flag.  If you're wealthy and don't have a worry in the world, it's easy enough to deck out a Sprinter and hit the road, with a romantic aire the likes of which may or may not be emulated within the pages of the latest Patagonia catalog, you dirtbag, you.  However, for the majority of us, who are somewhere in the middle, it can be pretty hard to live dirtbag by choice, even if under the most occasional, token circumstance. And it's at this surficial, first-step level, that I'd like to, on occasion, share some tricks I've picked up along the way that assist in the realization of personal goals, by way of taking a little less of the "bundle" that our corporate handlers would prefer us to take.  They just want us to be thoughtless, happy consumers, not self-realized, adaptable beings.  Not as a DIY guru, but as a fellow victim of the machine, I welcome you to use any or none of these silly little tricks to disentangle yourself, if only in spirit, a tad bit more from having all of your decisions made for you.  It is in this light that I present The Sophisticated Dirtbag.  

Stay tuned for the next post, where the Sophisticated Dirtbag takes a look at how we can embark upon a week-long paddling trip to the west coast on a budget, and some of the tricks that make it possible.