About Me

It's always difficult to write an "About Me" page... especially one that doesn't end up sounding like someone's weird Personal's ad or Resume...

Some would say I've lived an unusual life, but in reality I just got lucky.  Really lucky.  I learned the hardest lesson of all in life while I was still young:  A life worth living is best lived on your own terms.

At just 24 years of age, I found myself achieving all that the general consensus of my family, friends, and society at large deemed worthy: a damn good paying job that I actually enjoyed with a great company in the heart of Washington, D.C., a very cool apartment with a view of the Washington Monument filled with all the latest and greatest toys, attractive furniture, stylish clothes, all the accouterments of success.

I was miserable.  24 years old, with everything I'd been told I needed to do and buy to be happy and I was absolutely miserable.

I will never forget one night in particular, standing on the balcony of my 26th floor apartment, looking out over the night sky of Washington, D.C., a glass of a nice quality wine in my hand, looking out at all that power and money represented, and suddenly shouting out across the night sky: "Is this all there is?"  I started crying and couldn't stop crying for two days.  Seriously.  Total meltdown.  Good thing it was the weekend.

But between all the tears I had a damn good heart-to-heart with myself that basically came down to this:  Why am I doing this when it is not making me happy?  Sure, everyone else is happy for me, but I am not happy.  What is all this work and struggle for if I can't do what I really want to do in life, every day of my life?

And what I wanted to do was roam.  Explore.  See the world. Go wherever the road took me, follow whatever opportunities for learning and satisfaction that the universe provided me, live simply and experience every day as if it truly was the blessing that each day really is.  Stay when I wanted to stay, leave when I wanted to leave.  Travel.

It wasn't enough to have expensively framed pictures of gorgeous landscapes on the wall; I wanted to see the world with my own eyes.  Smell the air, feel the breeze, meet the people, live in the cultures, experience for myself.  And the first place I wanted to go was my favorite of those framed pictures on my wall: Greece.

I walked into work and said to my boss that I was going to go to Europe.  He said sure thing! It's a great place! When do you want to go - I'm sure I can arrange the vacation schedule around the best airfare times... I said no, not on vacation... I'm giving notice... I'm going to go to Europe and roam around and I don't know when I'll be back or how long I'm going.  He advised me to think about it for a while ... that he'd be willing to give me an extended sabbatical even, if I wanted ...

During my lunch break that day, I found a ticket wholesaler near downtown and purchased a one-way ticket to London, England for a whopping $170, leaving 12 weeks from that day.  I went back to work, and at the end of the day I walked into the office of my boss and said, "I thought about it.  I'm leaving in 12 weeks, is that enough notice?" then went on home.

I turned on the TV when I got home and all over the news, on every channel, there were videos of cheering people with sledgehammers banging on a big, graffiti covered wall, pulling sections of this huge concrete wall down with their hands.  It was November 9th, 1989, and the Berlin Wall was coming down.  I sat up all night long watching the cheering crowds, tears of joy streaming down my face, as I felt all the walls inside myself, the walls of my society, my upbringing, all my internal walls collapsing all around me.  I felt their freedom as my own.

The hardest part of any decision is making the decision.   I had made the decision to break down the walls of my own fears and choose to live life on my own terms, and my terms were that I was not going to live life as everyone else said would make me happy, but decide for myself what makes me happy.

Of course, the overwhelming consensus from family, friends, coworkers, and society at large was that I was crazy: You can't travel overseas alone.  So I did it.

As it turns out, I didn't get to leave 12 weeks later, the airline I originally booked my flight on went out of business or something (I honestly don't remember) and the wholesaler wasn't able to get me another flight until April of 1990 at the same rate, but that was okay because it gave me that much more time to train my replacement at work, sell all my stuff, research and more.  But eventually, on the 26th of April, 1990, I boarded a flight to London with my backpack, my bicycle, my diary, and a sense of adventure and wonder that has never since left me.

I spent the next nearly five years bouncing around Europe, the South Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, and the Caribbean.  I traveled by bicycle and backpack primarily, but also did a lot of traveling by bus, rail, and car.  I worked at hostels, hospitals, campgrounds, t-shirt shops, volunteer work, cafes, bars, national parks, ski resorts, city hotels, taxi driving, airports, electric companies, ranches, half-way houses... anywhere I found myself someplace where it wasn't time to leave for a while, I easily found seasonal or part-time work to continue funding the next chapter of the book of my life.  Throughout this time, I started writing about my experiences, which eventually led to the opportunity to sell my articles to a variety of magazines that paid me triple the going rate if I was willing to let them publish it under another author's name.  Hey, they'll even throw in the occasional plane or train ticket... hotel room... Ghostwriting.  Hrm... you want to pay me to do the two things I love in life the most: traveling and writing?  That was an easy decision!  While never big bucks, those articles helped keep me on the road.

By the way, I never did make it to Greece.  You see, throughout 1990 borders were opening up across Eastern Europe... countries I never heard of were opening the doors to visitors... Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary... I kind of got sidetracked by all the wonderful exotic places to see that were previously off-limits or very limited to Western travelers.

In late 1994 I found myself in Colorado, where much to my surprise I discovered this that this was a good place to maybe, just maybe, consider the possibility of home base.  I decided to go back to college, got ripped off by a scholarship search scam, got pissed off about it, and started a little website called FreSch! Free Scholarship Search that became kind of um... popular... to the tune of nearly 10 million hits a month within six months of starting it... built it using Notepad on a used 386 computer with a dial-up internet connection... hrm... maybe I could make some money doing this by selling advertising ... nah... it'll never fly... but let's create a page and call it "Advertising Information."

After all, the overwhelming consensus at the time from family, friends, coworkers, and society at large was you can't make money on the Internet.  So I did.  From my bedroom.

Suddenly I was a bit of a, erm, well, celebrity, I guess, in some circles... companies, universities, scholarship organizations, and news media were flying me all over the country to talk to students and parents about paying for college, interviewing me, asking how to avoid scholarship scams, how to apply for and win scholarships... stuff I myself didn't know a year earlier but wow now I'm some sort of expert?!?  Me?! And they are paying me to do all this traveling? All because I took the time (albeit a lot of time - I was obsessed, spending 60 or more hours a week learning and researching everything there was about scholarships and financial aid) to research it and give the information away for free on this thing called the internet because I thought if I gave the information away, it would hurt the business of the scammers?

What a wonderful world, eh? Actually, it got really crazy there for a while... but I gotta admit it's really cool to watch yourself interviewed on national news channels like MSNBC and CNN :)

Anyways, the universe chose to provide me with the best of both worlds, yet again, earning money doing something I loved to do (write) about something I'd become really passionate about: a college education while giving the proverbial finger to dozens upon dozens of scholarship scams!

I realized that Colorado was not only beautiful, but a fabulous place to travel from.  And since I was working from home, you know, something else that the general consensus was you can't do but I did it anyway, I could live anywhere.  So I decided to buy a house.  I had no credit, no "real" job, no husband, but I wanted to own my own little piece of land, I wanted a home base of my own.

The general consensus, of course, was that you can't buy a house with no credit and no job. Especially as a single self-employed woman. So I did it.

In July of 1999, I decided anywhere was a really small cute old house that needed a lot of work in a really small rural town of barely 950 people out on the wide-open high plains of eastern Colorado, a town called Calhan.  A small town, barely one square mile, 35 miles from the closest Walmart, surrounded by dozens of miles of wide open grassy fields and breathtakingly beautiful blue skies... a town of friendly, often eccentric, people that accepted me even when they didn't completely understand me, that welcomed me with arm-fulls of home-grown zucchini and teenagers galore willing to mow my yard and fix my fence for a bowl of ice cream and some cookies...the perfect home base... paradise.

Over the years, I continued to travel, but now it was in a 2000 Ford Focus with tent permanently stored in the trunk, trips of a few weeks here and there, a weekend or two, whatever I felt like, whenever I felt like it, wherever the road led me. Because I could!  The dot-com bubble burst, many of my partners slowly went bankrupt, eventually the advertisers dried up, the craziness of website success faded away, and I was grateful for it because I was burned out, it was time for me to get back to chasing my own dreams instead of teaching others how to chase their dreams.  I sold FreSch! to a small company that promised they'd keep it online and update it - they eventually sold it to yet another company who other than connecting it to their own scholarship database has left it unchanged, much to my chagrin at times as I still get occasional calls about it!

In 2008, I actually finished college myself, completing a dual bachelor's in Philosophy and History - only took me exactly 25 years - just as the economy crashed.  My savings were nearly gone, the publishing house I still ghost-wrote for occasionally got bought out and liquidated, the few businesses in Calhan were closing, all my closest and dearest friends in Calhan were losing their homes and moving elsewhere, gas hit $4.00 a gallon making travel even in my economic Focus costly... I knew it was time to leave but was trapped in a house that I not only could I not sell, I could not even get a Realtor to list it for sale.

So I got a ... gasp ... job.  $9.00 an hour.  Working as a customer service agent for a major credit card company.  Dreadful stuff... but at least I got to work from home.  Telecommute, as they call it nowadays.  What I learned about what happens behind the scenes at credit card companies is ... frightening.  The only reason I didn't go insane with that job was I got to sit at my desk with my dogs asleep at my feet, step out on my own front porch whenever it got really stressful, and the people I actually worked with were really  awesome.

But I hated that my time was no longer my own, not even in my own home.  Following a schedule, rules that made no sense, lying to customers...  Something had to change, and fast, but I couldn't see how... I wasn't even making $900 a month but my mortgage and utilities were $1060 a month...  I started selling off the various stuff that accumulates when you have a home base to make ends meet.

Then in December, 2009, the FDIC shut down Amtrust, the bank that held my mortgage.  A few months later, I received a letter from the FDIC stating my loan had been sold, to send payments to this other company, which I did... turns out the letter was a scam, so now I was behind on my payments and no way to catch up.   I still couldn't sell my house, the FDIC would not negotiate a forbearance, I kept paying but was constantly 3 months behind because of that scammer.  Eventually in late 2010 the FDIC sold my mortgage *for real* to a company called RCS, who immediately started foreclosing proceedings on me.  By immediately, I mean EIGHT DAYS after they purchased my mortgage note.

Those research skills that served me so well when I built Fresch and worked through my Bachelor's degree came out in full force.  Turns out RCS wasn't licensed in Colorado, and if you're not licensed, you can't legally collect on a debt.  If you can't legally collect on a debt, I can't be considered in breach on that debt!  I successfully forestalled the foreclosure proceedings, forced RCS to produce the original mortgage signed notes, found myself interviewed on TV again, got the Attorney General to issue a cease-and-desist order to RCS... things were looking up... I might have a chance to not only save my home base, but get a better mortgage in the process and possibly even help others in the same position I was in.

Then on December 31st, 2010, New Year's Eve, a record-breaking cold-front crossed over the beauty of my beloved eastern plains of Colorado, freezing everything in its path... snapping electric lines, killing cattle, freezing pipes... by 8 p.m. it was -40°F.  That's also -40°C,  by the way.  I watched my kitchen faucet freeze in front of my eyes, even though it was running.

By 3 a.m I had no choice.  I had no power, no water, no heat.  I boiled some water on my ever-faithful campstove, filled up several empty 2-liter bottles with hot water and wrapped blankets around them, then packed me and my dogs in the car, with my Macgyver'd hot water bottles and some spare food just in case,  and headed out on treacherously icy roads to the nearest friend I could find that still had power on, Brianna, who lived 13 miles away ... a drive that took over an hour.

The cold snap lasted four days.  When I returned back to my house, everything was frozen.  Even the toilet.    Frozen solid.  The power was still off, but at least it had warmed up enough that the propane was flowing again from my back-yard tank.  I began boiling water and soaking towels, wrapping the hot wet towels around my pipes, my toilet, everything.  I sorted through months' of canned food that had burst from freezing, to see what I could save ... I shouted with joy when the water started flowing... and apparently no burst pipes anywhere!  Joy!  But the power was still off, so I returned back to Brianna's, 13 miles away.

It dropped to -20 that night and stayed there for the next three days.  I didn't get to return home again for another three days... back this time to above-freezing temperatures and a flooded basement.  Still no power, but now because the water flooding my basement and crawlspace had shorted my power.  A wonderful neighbor loaned me a pump, I got the basement deflooded, and discovered the lining inside my furnace had been irrevocably damaged by the water.  The weather warmed up just to cold-snap again several more times over the next few weeks.

I had no power, no water, no heat... which meant no way to telecommute which means I lost my job.  The next few weeks were a nightmare of trying to do what I could to repair the damage during the day, spending the nights at Brianna's, while waiting on the insurance adjuster to finally show up.... then a three foot section of my basement wall imploded from the freeze/thaw damage to the 105-year-old concrete ... just to hear that homeowner's insurance does not cover below-the-grade damage.  

Estimated cost to repair all damage:  $38,000.  Amount of damage estimated to be covered by insurance: $1,800.  Amount of my deductible:  $2,000.  You do the math.

I managed to rig around the shorts and restore power to ONE electrical outlet.  I was able to get the water running again to the kitchen sink, but the pipes to the bathroom were beyond redemption on my now non-existent budget.  I kept one bucket of water filled in the bathroom to flush with.  I closed off every room in the house except the living room, hung quilts and blankets over every door and window to reduce heat loss much as I could, and had just enough power to keep one single electric heater and two electric blankets (for the dogs!) going each night as needed. I didn't know how I was going to do it, but I was going to figure a way out of this mess, one way or the other

Then mold started showing up.

For the first time in my life, the general consensus was right: I can't live like this.

I decided I was going to get what I could together, buy a small cheap used RV, and just head out to wherever I could find a job ... just roam and let the road decide where the universe would provide for me.

Family and friends thought I was nuts, and the pressure applied to me was strong: it's time to settle down for real, to get yourself a "real" home that isn't a constant remodeling project like my 100+ year old house was... move someplace civilized where medical care and shopping are within a mile or so instead of a roadtrip away... my mother's cries of "I'm not getting any younger, Laura, your mother isn't going to be here much longer, I'm lonely and miss having my kids around...I don't want to worry about you any more... you're not getting any younger, Laura, you don't want to live like that when your 65..." were difficult, impossible actually, to ignore.

Instead of listening to my heart and choosing what was best for me based on my own terms,  I actually  listened to the general consensus and decided to move near my mom in Las Vegas, Nevada, where I bought a small single-story townhome a mile from Walmart... a nice practical place...a good investment ...  where I could find a real job... I sold everything I possibly could, threw out hundreds of now-moldy beloved books and clothing, donated shelves upon shelves of not-burst canned food to the local food bank, I even sold my fence!  I squeaked and eked out every last cent I could from my possessions, said goodbye to my plum trees and devastated grape vines, packed up my beloved Ford Focus and for the last time, drove down Highway 24, rippling grassy fields standing sentinel as I faced into that beautiful huge sky I loved so much for the last road trip I would ever take from my beloved home base, and headed to Las Vegas.

I took the southern route through New Mexico and Arizona, as there was a snow storm heading through Utah and western Colorado.  Plus, it's a little bit longer, and as I knew this was going to be the last road trip for a while, I wanted to stretch it out a bit... and then ...just as I crossed into Arizona... I heard a noise that struck fear and loathing in the very essence of my vagabond soul... the engine... no... not this... loss of compression... barely moving... no...no... not my car...

Forty miles down the interstate, unable to get faster than 20 miles a hour, I pulled into a Ford dealership where the experts decreed what I already knew: The engine of my beloved Ford Focus, a car that had never once failed me in 11 years of ownership, that trustingly and reliably carried me for over 189,000 miles of random and sundry road trips across the country multiple times, was gone.  Dead.  Blown.


(I'll fill in the rest of the story here later today that leads up to Now, time for me to get some sleep! Not much left, I promise!)


  1. Wow an amazing story, can't wait to hear the rest of and see where you are today.


  2. You're my first comment - and I'm not even officially "live" yet! :) Where I am today is Las Vegas, for about 4 more days. I'm packing up and selling the small townhouse I purchased last year and getting out of here. I'm buying a smallish used RV and hitting the road, with plans to just roam the country for a while till ... well, for however long it suits me. As the sale of my townhouse happened FAR faster than I could have ever imagined, I am in a mad-rush to get everything done, hence why I've not finished the above page and haven't gone "live" with my new blog yet. I decided this vagabond woman will focus on Vagabond Woman starting in about a week, when I hit the road :)

  3. How great your townhouse sold so quickly, but I'm sure you have so much to get done now. Looking forward to hearing about what type of RV you buy and of your travels. Found your blog from your comment over at Interstellar Orchard. Happy Dance for hitting the road and your blog going "live" very soon!!! ; )


    1. Tina - I'm leaning towards a used 1986 27' class C Jamboree, but might end up with a newer 22-24' Minnie Winnie - still haven't decided :)

  4. Hi Laura, not sure if you remember me, but we were friends for a while when you were in San Francisco back in oh, 1993? Anyway, came accross this site purely by chance! I'm back in the UK (after a few years in philadelphia). I hope you're well and that you find another spot to land sometime soon. Good luck with the site, and I check back to see if you reply (or even remember me!)

    1. SIMON!!! Omg YES I remember you! And no joke, I was JUST thinking about you last week, wondering whatever you got up to in life! I've this huge box of old letters that I started digitally scanning back when I was still in Colorado, and whatdayaknow, letters from you were just scanned last week :) (Actually it was a four-drawer file cabinet of letters and photos that I started scanning about three years ago, partly to free up space, partly because some were deteriorating badly, and partly so I'd never lose them - a big project that'll be the subject of an extensive post eventually!)

      Supposed to close on the sale of this place tomorrow, so I'll be without 'net access/computer over the weekend, but hope to get in focus on this blog and my next life chapter over the next week or so ;)

      Hope life has treated you well, Simon! Looking forward to hearing from you again!

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  6. Laura,

    Are you still about? Do you have an e-mail address?


    1. Yup, I'm still about although I've been very much sidetracked from this project lol! My email is goinggreyfast at gmail dot com hope you are doing well!!