By Stephanie Bertholdo
She is a modern-day beatnik who’s decided to live her longago dream of traveling the country in search of nature, solitude, art and music.
Now that the husband is gone (divorce) and the daughter is grown (in college), Michelle Tormey has traded life in Oak Park’s suburbia for a camping adventure across the United States in a retro Teardrop camper.
Tormey says she plans to “take baby steps” in her travels. She is now wending her way up the California coast, but when she eventually lands in the top left corner of Washington State, she will “turn right” and continue her quest for nirvana.
Tormey said she will know that paradise has been found when she experiences an “aha” moment—the point where she finds the “proverbial cabin in the woods” that combines the best of nature in a soulful, artistic and small community.
“I always felt that was where I was meant to be—out in the wilderness is where my soul expands,” she said.
Tormey is hauling a few of her favorite things on her quest for a new home, including her harp. With it she can barter for food at local eateries, play at tea parties and other events for a little extra cash and continue her nonprofit work with “healing harps,” a group that plays therapeutic music for hospital patients.
Her weighted hula hoop, purchased for a hoop dancing class, is also stashed in her trailer, as are plenty of photographs of family and friends.
“I’m basically becoming an adolescent again,” said Tormey, who will only reveal that she is in her fifth decade of life. Her trailer and camping gear are akin to a “playhouse,” she said.
While the Teardrop does not have a bathroom, its backside opens up into a kitchenette, complete with a microwave oven and her favorite blender.
A few conventional items were also brought along, including a computer and printer so she can continue to work as a legal assistant for local attorney and author John Phillips. Tormey would also like to blog about her life on the road.
Since she has already signed up for a summer course in rustic furniture making in upstate New York, Tormey says she can’t dawdle on her trek across the country. Ultimately, she would like to furnish her cabin with custom handmade furniture.
As of March 29, Tormey was in Morro Bay, but her first stop was to meet like-minded Teardrop devotees in Lake Perris, followed by a short campout in Lake Cachuma. She will visit her sister in the Sacramento area, and hopes her daughter Amber and other friends will meet her at different destinations in various states.
She consulted a local psychic, Alexandra Genova, who revealed that Tormey has two spirit guides and two Native American guardian angels. Although Genova said that Tormey’s colors indicated creativity and calm, she warned that some challenges lie ahead.
“I’ve already decided to roll with the punches as best I can,” Tormey said. “I will think positively but realistically. The bottom line is that if I didn’t think this would be great I wouldn’t be doing it . . . but I won’t be stubborn.”
Tormey has researched many possible destinations that appear to fit her requirements for a new hometown. Small hamlets outside of Portland, Ore., beckon, as do some artsy towns in New Mexico. Then there’s Asheville, N.C., home of the Blue Ridge Mountains and a place that is currently on her A-list for a visit. Colorado is also standing out as a possible state in which to settle.
One thing Tormey knows for sure is that she will only take root in a community when the stars perfectly align above that quaint cabin in the woods, her new home where she hopes to express herself artistically and find the peace and tranquility that she has dreamed about for decades.
Tormey found an inspirational message in a fortune cookie before she left Oak Park, one that gave her the assurance that her journey across the country was the bold move she was meant to take.
“A determined heart banishes all obstacles,” the message read.
“I always felt that this is what I was meant to do,” Tormey said.