Welcome! (And hello to those who have been journeying with me for awhile!)
Hello! For a handful of you, this may be the first blog post you are receiving from me -- welcome! :-) I've been writing these weekly Tuesday posts since the beginning of my journey back when I left Oakland in July 2015. You can find an archive of my posts from over the past year here.
Writing these weekly posts for the last 15+ months (!) has been something I've always looked forward to every week. It's been really good for me to process what has been happening in my work and travels real-time, and this has been a trusty conduit for me to be able to do so. I'll be writing these weekly posts until the end of this year, when Attorney on the Move will be transitioning to a different form (more on that below!). I also have so enjoyed getting to interact with a number of you -- and as always, feel free to hit "reply" at any time!
Frequently Asked Questions
Over the last 15+ months, I've noticed that I've gotten a number of similar questions about the project and how life has been for me on the road. A couple of them came up over this past week here in New York City, and I thought I'd share here:
Q: How do you determine where you want to go and arrange your project stops?
A: It's a different combination of things. A majority of the time, there is a specific site that I am wanting to travel to and work at. That was most certainly true of the several months I spent in South Texas working at the "family" detention centers in Dilley and Karnes City, Texas. I had heard about these heinous immigration detention centers from articles and within the public interest legal community, so it was definitely on my list of places that I wanted to work at this past year.
When I left Oakland in July 2015, my trusty auto companion has been my Smart Car (featured in print here). As you can probably tell, this bad boy isn't so great in the snow, so a lot of my itinerary over the last 15+ months has been largely weather determinative. When I was working in Montana last fall, I was there right before Thanksgiving and experienced an early snowfall. That signified it was time to move on further south...!
Other times, I go to places because of friends' recommendations. A friend of mine from UT Austin recommended that if I go through New Mexico, that I work with her friend who ran DACA clinics and services in Santa Fe. So, I did. It was a great experience and I met a new colleague and good friend!
Q: How do you find places to live?
A: First, I will say that the idea of "home" has stretched me beyond what I initially thought was possible. After arranging a project site placement, I will then try to arrange housing for myself. I have been exceptionally grateful and lucky to have stayed in an Airbnb/motel for maybe a week total over the last 15+ months. I am trying to stretch my budget as much as possible, and even those days at the Airbnb/motel were usually places where I didn't know anyone or there were no Couchsurfers to meet.
I have stayed with exceptionally generous friends, friends of friends, complete strangers through Couchsurfing, slept in law offices (the work/life balance here was not so great!), a senior citizen mobile community home, members of the local Baptist church, a retired convent, and a nonprofit center. All of these places I have been fortunate to temporarily call home!
Q: How is life on the road? Especially when you've been traveling now for almost a year and a half?
A: As I read over "15 months", I have to lean back in my chair for a moment and take that in. In some ways, it truly feels that I just left Oakland yesterday. I remember giving away nearly all my things and packing whatever I kept in my Smart car and leaving that July day, having absolutely no idea what was in store for me. It was daunting. Initially terrifying. Liberating. Ultimately the right thing that I needed to do and I can't imagine what my life would be like if I didn't embark on this journey.
The not-so-great parts: I have to admit: I am pretty tuckered out. As much as I am loving NYC, it was an adjustment from spending a significant amount of time in more rural areas of the country. I feel a mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion that I need to be mindful of. (I've been trying to take care of it by trying to get adequate sleep and practicing self-care as best as I can. That's also my public accountability posting, haha.)
And sure, leaving every 1-3 months can be tough -- as it's a new environment both professionally and personally to adapt to. But I've been very fortunate that because of my life path, I have already lived in different parts of the US -- which has led to me having friends in nearly every stop I've made. This has made a big difference in helping me feel more connected to a place -- thus redefining "home" as I see it. To me, home is truly wherever your heart, your community, your passions, are.
The good parts: Getting to live all over the US has been an enormous privilege -- I don't lose sight of that for a second. It's been a huge opportunity to see the very different states of America. To identify as an American can be a deeply complex set of factors. I remember reading this Washington Post article, "Which of the 11 American nations do you live in?" a few years ago. After these last 15+ months, I can say that the premise of this article to me, is entirely correct: that our varied history has contributed to a different state of affairs in various regions of the US. And this is important when we are trying to bridge together solutions for how to move forward: with social justice issues, immigration, and the list goes on.
It's also been a joy to reconnect with friends I haven't seen in many years, and see their new homes from their perspectives -- to learn as much as possible. In a large way, I feel like the last 15+ months, I have been a sponge for learning as much as possible about how immigration law looks in different parts of the country, and how this country is overall.
So, what's next?
The answer to this question is always evolving for me. Growing up where I did here in the US, I was immersed in our intense work culture. What is your 5 year plan? was a question commonly asked not only by prospective employers, but people in general. This last year has continued to radicalize how I see time and how I make my decisions around it.
Since I left last July, I can say that I usually plan things out to about 6 months in advance. For me, I feel that there's so much that could change about where I am, how I feel like I am being effective, where I feel like I need to be. For example, 6 months ago, I was in the middle of my time in South Texas at the detention centers. After 3 months there, I was ready to do other work before coming back. It took that amount of time for me to figure out what amount of time was right for me to feel like I could be the most effective on the ground. Again, I am fortunate to be able to listen to what my gut and my heart were and are telling me.
But, I will be wrapping up the domestic portion of Attorney on the Move in December 2016. I will continue to be operating my Virtual Immigration Law Office and will forge ahead with the next installation of Attorney on the Move.
There will be a more formal announcement going out as the year draws to a close, but I wanted to share the following with you all since you are in my close community of friends and supporters! In January 2017, I'll be doing a writing residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute, where I will be writing a full-length book about the last year and a half being a traveling pro bono lawyer. I am beginning the process of book proposals and talking with publishers -- if you know of anyone who may be interested in talking with me, I'd love to chat with them! (And thank you!)
After that, I am planning to go to Guatemala for a couple months to immerse myself in Spanish (I am conversational, but not where I would like to be -- I also want to be fluent, especially in legalese). I will also be continuing my pro bono work down there. Many of the asylum claims I have assisted with over the last 15 months have come out of Guatemala and I am hoping to continue work in this vein. (Also, my frequent flyer miles account will come in handy here!)
Finally, I am in a very close friend's wedding in Sacramento in April. I'll be back in the Bay Area for most of April to help celebrate during this special time and continue work on the Virtual Law Office. I also hope to do pro bono work back in my old stomping grounds in the East Bay.
And that is my plan for the next 6 months or so! I so hope to see you along the way. Thanks again for your friendship and support -- it is because of you that this work over the past 15 months and counting has been possible. And I would love to hear how things are going in your world whenever you get the chance!