The Kindness of Strangers and Trusting the Universe

The Kindness of Strangers and Trusting the Universe

Written by Emilie

Topics: Northwest Quest

Hi multipod friends,

Last week I sent you guys an email about a big adventure I’d been on recently. I got so many responses that I decided to make my story public (well, more public) and publish it on the blog. If you enjoy what you read and would like to receive more personal updates and stories from me, be sure to sign up for the email list in the green box at the bottom. I tend to get a lot more personal in the emails than I do on the blog.

I hope you find this inspiring.


In preparation for my Northwest Quest, I drove all the way up to British Columbia last weekend, only to find that the trailer I had driven there to buy was in far poorer condition than I had been told. The fridge didn’t work, there was rust, it was incredibly disheartening.

In that moment, I could have said “fuck it, I drove all the way up here and transferred all this money into my Canadian bank account. I’ll just buy it and deal with the problems later.” We so like to avoid backtracking on things we’ve already invested time and money into. But sometimes jumping ship is the smartest option.

I told the seller I would need 90 minutes to think, and I parked myself at a Tim Horton’s. The first thing I did was track down another person I’d been in contact with. She was selling a Boler trailer, too, but we hadn’t spoken in a week and at the time she thought someone else was going to buy it. Who knows, maybe they hadn’t sold it, though I couldn’t imagine how that could be. It was one of the nicest trailers I’d seen, with a custom 50s-style paint job and an 8-track installed in the wall.

I dialed the number, my heart racing. Left a message explaining the situation. Told them I had about an hour to decide.

Then I waited. Waited.

30 minutes later they called me back. The trailer was still available! “If you decide to drive out here, we’ll give you some coffee and a meal. We’re in no rush to sell it, we just want it to go to a good home.”

I drove another 3.5 hours east to Kelowna, B.C. It was one of the most beautiful drives I’d ever done. I even drove under a rainbow.


This felt right.

Even though I lost my deposit on the other trailer, even though I didn’t know for sure that I would love this Boler, it felt right.

And it was. I loved the trailer. They let me camp in their driveway that night. They even drove me an hour to the border the following morning because there was a permit issue in Canada, and then they unhitched and hitched it to my car. They were/are the nicest people, and I couldn’t believe the generosity and kindness they showed me.

Here is my new home en route back to Portland:


And here it is in my friend’s backyard, where I’ll be living for the next couple months:


I’m excited and nervous to learn how to live in a small space. I know this would be challenging for anyone, let alone a multipotentialite, with my supplies and remnants of my various projects. But I have this feeling that “living tiny” will free up more mental space and actually make me better able at pursuing my various projects. It’s just a guess.

We shall see.

Your Turn

I’m curious what you think. Does this story remind you of any adventures you’ve had? Or do you have any tips for me related to tiny living?

em_bioEmilie Wapnick is the Founder and Creative Director at Puttylike, where she helps multipotentialites integrate ALL of their interests into their lives. Unable to settle on one path herself, Emilie studied music, art, film production and law, graduating from the Law Faculty at McGill University. She is an occasional rock star, a paleo-friendly eater and a wannabe scientist carpenter. Learn more about Emilie here.


  1. Kim says:

    That looks like so much fun! I’d love to own one of those small trailers to live in for a few months while out on the road. My husband and I are big road trip lovers and something like that would be perfect for us. The only downside is that we’d likely have to give my pet rats to someone else and board our three cats. I’d hate leaving my animals behind. Still, it would be fun to do. The road trip that is. =)

  2. Jen says:

    Thanks for sharing this story Emily, it really warms my heart :D

  3. Helen says:

    Too cute! Relieved that you went for the van in better condition – you don’t want it to let you down. Your new friends obviously loved and cared for it really well. What an adventure you’ve got ahead of you!

    My tip for small space living is hooks – lots of them – super handy. And in a little caravan, the floor can soon get muddy if it’s raining outside. My tip here is to put some cardboard down(the sort from packing boxes)as it helps protect the flooring and soaks up the damp then it can just be chucked when the sun reappears. But at the risk of sounding like my mother I’m going to ask – are you sure you’re going to be warm enough??!

    In any case, wishing you lots of fun and luck. I can’t wait to hear how you get on :-)

    • Emilie says:

      Thanks for the tips, Helen!

      It has two heaters, one propane and one electric. I’ve only tried the electric so far, but it super toasty in there. It also doesn’t get very cold in Portland.

  4. Interesting to read this right now as I’ve been toying with the idea of buying a really small camper van. It’s a very vague idea at present which was born whilst sitting in the front seat of a car staring at the see and feeling a little dispondant with things in general. When I looked out the side window I noticed a really compact camper van that I thought I could manage to drive. Which got me dreaming . . . I imagine myself setting off and working on the road but I have ties at home that also pull me . . .

    Looking forward to hearing all your adventures!

  5. Em says:

    Very excited to see that you are doing this! I’m in love with an idea of tiny living since like two years back and I’ll be very excited to hear more about how you blend in especially from you :) I think you chose a real hard one – when I say tiny, yours look definitely super-tiny! Is there even a bed in it? :D It looks like nothing at all can fit in it. So fingers crossed :)

  6. Debbie says:

    First, I’m glad I stumbled on to your Puttypeep world. I lurk, I’ve bought Renaissance Business, and I touch base with your site or email or concepts nearly every day as I’m re-conceiving my work-life. I can’t thank you enough already for the work you’re doing.

    Second, your Boler story reminds me of my adventures with an old work crew bus. My partner and I bought it after chasing down the original owner who had a For Sale sign in the window. It was a 24-foot Bluebird bus that she retrofitted to live in. We used it for trips. Wood stove, tasteful and glow-y gold paint, candleholders nailed to the walls — the interior enveloped you in warmth.

    And it sucked us dry financially. 6 miles per gallon, and a breakdown of some sort every time we took it out. The 2-week trip down Highway 101 to the Bay Area, and then back on I-5, did her in. We left it in Roseburg, OR, paying too much for storage until we could get her towed back to Yakima and have the engine replaced. We sold it at a loss to an excited college student who wanted to live in it with his Japanese girlfriend. I often wondered what her parents thought about her American adventures!

    Anyway, we nicknamed it “Almost Home”– double entendre, because we would get ‘almost home’ from a trip, and something would break down. Despite our friends’ and families’ quizzical looks and murmurs of “but why?” — we loved that bus. It was also a connection with my youngest brother, with whom I would draw, for hours, interior layouts of buses we wanted to convert. A crazy dream, that I actually got to make come true for a couple of years!

    Hmm, maybe this isn’t just a fun trip down memory lane, but a clue that I have brought into reality various dreams in my past. Why not again?

    Seattle, WA

  7. Jonathan says:

    This is interesting.

    Came across your site a bit ago via suggestion of a keypad-pal I was venting to over depression related to pretty much everything you’ve mapped out here. I’ve always just chalked it up to being non-medicated with ADD, but the resonance of this is far more acute.

    Regarding your trailer adventure, it brought to mind a thought for a book I had several years ago regarding self-forced change…the idea that people tend to do things when they have no option to not do them. I think when used for positive intent, it can be life-changing.

    You’ve put yourself in a situation that you are forced to adapt to, and the skills acquired in doing so can be used in later endeavors. Brilliant.

    Looking forward to reading the manifesto at the saturday market tomorrow, thanks for the free knowledge!

    Cheers from Portland,

  8. Jules Hon says:

    Oh my goodness I am SO jealous!! I spent seven years living in a 10 foot Sprite trailer, must have been these exact dimensions, and I loved it so much – I still have dreams about it. Over that time I stripped out the insides completely and rebuilt to my own specs – I built a fitted kitchen using mostly a bow saw!! A little woodburner was my heating. Oh you lucky duck – happy travelling Girl!! xx

  9. Rena Nicole says:

    Hi Emilie, I’m Rena Nicole! I found you through Jennifer Lee of the Right-Brain Business Plan, through which I took her short-version course through CreativeLIVE. I’d just read her post about the collaborative work you and her and many others are doing and I thought I’d read your story.

    You are doing EXACTLY what I’ve been wanting to do all my life! Between living in your trailer and traveling anywhere you want, to building what is looking like your own little empire-business, it all looks amazing to me!

    Like you, I also have many interests, and have been plugging along setting up my structures to do so. My website’s kinda messed up right now, but I hope to soon have a new one up and scrap this old one. If you are to look at it though, in places you will find avenues to several of the products I hope to offer. From a digital magazine, to a tv show, it’s all coming together, bit by bit.

    Thanks for the inspiration, and I hope to connect with you again soon!

  10. Ali Sullivan says:

    Hi Emilie, I came by your website via your TED talk which actually made me cry! My husband Mark and I fit into the category you describe so poignantly. We too have felt all at sea most of our lives (we are in our early 50’s) I have often said I would have fitted into the Renaissance period very well (if I had been male of course!) We are both very bright, practical, artistic and curious people who have found it hard to settle at any one thing in life. Some would say we are under achievers actually as we are now in jobs that pay little and we are over qualified for (I am a teaching assistant with children with profound learning difficulties and Mark is a cover teacher) I have a first class degree and Mark too. We left the UK 13 years ago to purse the adventure of living in Spain and bought a lovely big village house in ruins in the mountains which we restored. However,we then returned to the UK because our two little boys needed a better education that sadly was not available in that part of Spain and we were not making any money there. However the experience has shaped us (including our boys who love Spain now and both speak Spanish having learnt it there and studied it back in the UK) Our oldest is now pursuing his passion for acting and the youngest is considering going into Animation and games design. They are both very intelligent, well rounded and like us good at lots of things and curious about everything!!This is in their genes but also from having such an unconventional upbringing. Now our boys are setting sail themselves, the two of us are planning to return to our house in a couple of years time to follow our dream (The universe has decided that we still have our house after 13 years and so have spent every summer in with our boys). We will take with us all our wisdom and experience gleaned from our various incarnations as nothing is wasted!! We don’t fit into a narrow category but that is ok!! Curiously we feel more accepted in our village in Spain than in our own culture here in the UK. Certainly we are more open and available to serendipitous happening there, similar to your own experience with your story of your trailer described above. Crucially we have many ideas and things to do out there that we simply can’t do here and all of them are US!! Best wishes and Thank you.

  11. Tamara says:


    I also found you on Ted and so appreciate your voice for Multipotentialites! I describe myself as endlessly curious, for which I never apologize… but I have found myself apologizing for all the different directions my life has taken–even though when I talk to people who have done one thing all their lives, my heart aches for them and all the adventures they have missed! And I realize I have no regrets!

    I too have lived in an RV, though nothing as small as the Boler. It really makes you focus on what you find is important and what can be let go…

    Wishing you all the best and much success!

  12. So awesome! I just listened to your TED talk and my heart jumped on hearing that there is a reason I am so interested in so many things and I am ok if I don’t spend all my time focuing on just one to be super successful. It is truly the adventure I seek. Thank you!

    I lived in a couple of small campers on the back of my 62 GMC pick=up. One was hand built shingle shell type thing. I built cupboards on the outside, one side opened to my kitchen, the other side opened to my sewing studio and headed to Oregon then back east. After I left that camper in Niagra Falls NY I picked up a cap-over, equiped it with a wood stove and my treadle sewing machine and traveled back to Oregon stopping for a time in Santa Fe. Just me and my six year old daughter. A great adventure, visting many of the national parks. Broke down in Canada, and was taken in by the nicest family. Met so many wonderful folks on the road.

    Now, six kids and a master’s degree later I work part-time for a non-profit navigating low-income seniors to find resources, moved in with my mom to take care of her as she is going through Alzheimers, left the small townhome I built for my granddaughter to live in as I go through this new adventure.

    And, thanks again for the great vibes.

  13. Liz Ness says:

    We love to head out in our trailer, though it is a bit bigger (for the three of us). Even so, I have found that smaller does do something to clear the mind.

    Wishing you all the best as you come up on your 1st anniversary of Boler living (at least I think it must be close, based on the date of the post).

    =) Liz

    PS: Just caught your TED talk and love the term multipotentialite. I’ve been called a Renaissance girl (often), but kind of thought it was a quirk with me. It’s GREAT to discover there is a community out there with an awesome visionary that totally “gets” it–and is happy about the gifts (oops, I mean super powers) that go along with it. How totally cool!

  14. Hello, fellow Emilie!
    You remind me of…me!
    I am a professional Baker/cake decorator, a professional clown named Rainbeau Silly, a song writer, a house and picture painter, a sculptor in a wide variety of mediums. I have 20-1/2 hours on my flight log. I’m ten math units away from an Associate degree in aeronautics. I have a Paralegal degree from Apollo College of Phoenix because, although they assured me that they would be when I enrolled, they were either mistaken or lying. Either way, I graduated in the half of the class that makes the lower half angry that we ruined the curve.
    I’ve been in senior care as a professional companion for 25 years, and am considered by many to be a granny whisperer.
    I produced medicated pastry out of my home kitchen for licensed medical cannabis users, popular and in demand!
    I also have been studying hypnosis and mind control for over a decade, no end in sight.
    I have another name for the multipotentialite: Wise Woman. Kind of Red Road, and I’m good with that. I’m also a Lifelong Learner, and invite you to join me, plumbing the depths of our curiosity.

  15. Chris says:

    ………..whoa…………so I see your TED talk …. just a mere…day…ago ……and now am spending all this time pursuing the ONE thing I should be when I grow up !?!!!
    (…….comedy is difficult……oft times ….. dismal but I digress).
    ………. A quick take on the current topic: imagine the challenges of living in the same space or smaller…at sea. Altho’ I’m an anti war liberal…by chance, ‘spent MUCH navy sea duty time, albeit decades ago and … that STILL stands me well … stood me … uh…you get it. “Sail Magazine” has articles on how to cook / store / etc. in spaces that are not only small BUT ?? … rolling from side to side AND surrounded by fish big enough to eat YOU !?!!
    ….’will stop there. except for:
    PS: You really have something great going with your vibe(s)…congrat’s and keep up the …very helpful… work.
    ‘hope to more helpfully communicate in some future time…perhaps after I’ve read merely JUST 1-2 pages of yours beyond the TED talk.
    –MOST sincerely … Widely Interested & Interesting in Malibu

  16. Jess says:

    Hi! This is a lovely post. I lived in a converted van for a while. It was supposed to be only for a couple of days, which turned into a week which turned into 6 months! It gave me a lot of freedom to move around and because I only had the bare essentials, I felt a lot less possession-heavy. Enjoy it!

  17. Claire says:

    Hi Emilie! I just saw your TED talk the day after I had written in my journal about my “troubles” with having too many interest so your talk was so good to come across. It was crazy, it was almost as if you were speaking verbatim from my journal entry the day prior! I feel reaffirmed in all of my paths of learning, especially now as I am applying to grad schools and still unsure of which program to choose, I want to get at least ten different masters, people do that right? Haha. Speaking of journals, do you love having notebooks? I feel so comforted in knowing that I have a nice little book to jot down in and the physical separation of different interests (and then there’s the notebook for the odds and ends!).

    My partner and I bought a truck camper and have been living in a truck camper for the past few months. It is hard to keep everything clean and have a space for everything, but I do like it a lot! We’ve have to do lots of renovation and remodeling, which are some of my interests along with tiny houses and sustainable living so the camper is great for learning those skills. I’m also interested in just about every facet of natural science and studied biology, chemistry, ecology, zoology, agriculture, herbalism, permaculture, food science, livestock and animal care, health and wellness, botany, geology, etc in school. I am also an artist and illustrator, writer, knitter, outdoor adventurer, world explorer, creator of find foods, farmer, healer, and tutor. I realize now that I shouldn’t feel guilty about knowing so many things and never being able to stick with one thing forever or always needing to keep learning and growing and being intellectually stimulated. Thanks so much for the work you do, we are very special people and I’m happy you are the way you are and I am the way I am!

  18. Paolo says:

    Hi Emilie
    your remind me of myself! I got a master in biochemistry, out of pure interest. Then I used to run a restaurant in Brazil, then I moved to Canada, lived there in a motorhome for quite a while and got my helicopter licence and started to work up north for several years. Now I’m flying in Italy but I will lose my job by the end of the month and I’m probably moving on doing something else. I don’t know what yet, but it will be something I won’t regret!!

    Cheers on us!


  19. Rick says:

    Hi Emillie,
    I’m just curious….are you still living in the trailer? So yes, how is it? So no, tell me why…?
    Love to hear something from you…


  20. Catherine Gee says:

    I enjoyed your talk on TED and read the info on puttylike. I’ve had a wide diversity of jobs, throughout my life. I’m now looking for a new career, while raising a 6 year old girl. I stopped working since April 2014, rediscover myself and now I need to, increase my income.

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