Redefining the American Dream
Yurts at Poncha Pass - Colorado Yurt Rentals and Sustainable Building Workshops - Photo of Chris in ground of Earthship

Written by Chris

April 21, 2018

What is the American Dream in our modern world? What is your dream? Many will read these two words and have instant recall of a house in the suburbs, a big house at that, two cars, a couple of kids and a stable job… and of course that nice fence. Sound familiar?

Like a mirage, this may be the “stated” dream but for millennials, also known as the Y generation, I don’t see it. With student loans topping a trillion dollars nationally, auto-loans also at a trillion dollars, and now national credit card debt over a trillion, our generation is the debt saddled one. Often working two or three jobs, we are always competing with automation and a consistently rapid changing job market. This is not a complaint, but facts of the time and the challenge we find ourselves in; excessive debt and a sand table for job stability. Yet there it is, the non wavering American dream…. That said, I see my generation chasing this dream because that is what is offered and pushed. A 30 year mortgage here, a car payment there, add those student loans and suddenly “the man” owns you and your next 20 years. Perhaps it is ok though if you stay the course; in 30 years, you will have that dream.

But is that still our dream? Increasingly, I see people hacking their lives. Young adults are living with their folks longer, they are buying vans and teaming up to pursue passion over ownership #VanLife. Family planning means more people are having kids later in life, following their dreams first compared to our parents who could afford it all. What I get from this is a shift in the American Dream, a new dream is emerging, one in which our generation is pursuing a zero debt lifestyle. It may not be ubiquitous as the consumer push, pulls people into that false social status search, having to drive that new car, got to have Amazon Prime and Netflix, need that Spotify account and Apple I-phone 8… why not make it a 10 for a cool grand. Never have there been more monthly auto payment options than now. Plug in, hit the feeder bar daily, keep your head down for 30 years, and it will be “fine”.

Yet that undercurrent continues, and as I see more and more people hack their lives and choose debt freedom vs. that old American Dream, I wonder what our country would look like in 20 years if we were the generation to say no to debt; to pursue passion over material goods; to craft careers that matter to us vs. taking the next paycheck because we have to. If we can be free of debt, we are free to choose our own future, pursuing the work that is of value to us which inevitably will be tied to the current times, enabling us to shift from jobs under historic extractive principles to those of increased balance; both environmentally, socially, and personally.

So why am I discussing the American Dream now. To be short, I found myself considering the idea of buying a house, just like the millions of other Millennials moving into their adulthood. But the market is crazy and the idea of spending 30 years of my life dependent on having a stable job to pay off a roof over my head was heart breaking. 30 years of my time for shelter just didn’t make sense. So I set to hacking the situation. What if I bought an Airstream and parked it on some land?

An affordable, elegant, and sustainable solution for housing

It might have worked if #VanLife was not a trending Instagram feed right now filled with those already hacking the situation. Then I revisited the idea of Earthships and in my time on the Mesa, found the most elegant one bedroom, one livingroom house, fully autonomous from the world and the resident had spent $35,000 in materials to build it. Imagine being able to buy / build a house for $35,000. Can you see the freedom? Can you imagine not having those mortgage payments? Working 5 years at a job instead of 30 to retire? Where would you go, what would you do with that freedom? What hobby or passion would become your lifestyle?


Did I mention fully off grid? …There go those monthly auto draft utility bills…

If we are going to be the generation of change, of walking the line, we need to be free to live our truth and in order to do that, we need to be free of debt. In crafing this retreat at Poncha Pass, a core learning experience  will focus on this principle and I hope people from near and far will come and experience what that elegant solution looks like and perhaps they too will pass on suburbia in pursuit of the new American Dream; freedom.

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