Monday, September 28, 2009

Q&A w/'s Jason Paul

Ever wonder what it would feel like to travel the country on a good old fashioned road trip only to end up living in the place you've traveled cross-country to see? Most American's have. It's a standard social fantasy a-la the 1960's sub-culture. It's very Jack Keroac in "On The Road".

Now what would happen if you combined an established American tradition, turned it topsy-turvy, and decided -- I'm going to live exclusively off of Craigslist.

22-year-old Jason Paul did just that. Paul, a recent college graduate and fellow American University Eagle, made the decision based on a the fact that this economic climate is not too hot for a young, degree-holding, wanna-be-professional job applicant.

And voisla! was born.

Paul took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions via E-mail for The Chicago to DC POV:

R.H. Levitin: Why Craigslist?
Jason Paul: There is a real answer and a fake answer to this question. When people ask me what I am doing, I tell them about my journalism job search and how that was a mega failure. 180 jobs in over 35 states without any success. So, I tell I am doing the one thing I feel college actually schooled me enough to do--Craigslist! That of course is my fake answer. The real answer is that Craigslist is this amazing tool that has many different users, with many different stories. Craigslist has something like 20 billion page views per month putting it at #7 in the English speaking world. At the same time, Craigslist is blamed, with good reasons, for the collapse of the news industry. I am sad "conventional" journalism is moving out the door, but why cry about this. I think we, as an industry need to regroup and do what we do best. Tell people's stories. For me, right now, that is hearing peoples stories on Craigslist.

R: How did you come up with the idea to start living off of Craigslist?

J: I don't really know. This is really just one of the many ideas I've had. I just went through with this one because I think it can be the funniest. I think the stories almost tell themselves.

R:What do you hope to gain from this experience? What are your long-term and short-term goals with this project?
J:Goals are really difficult when you are living each day by what is out there on Craigslist. Long-term, I hope to maintain a funny, interesting tone that keeps people tuned in. I want to stay relevant. It'd be great if these good vibes keep flowing. Short-term I hope to make some friends. To steal from one of the categories on Craigslist, I feel like I am having a lot of casual encounters--none in the way the site advertises. I meet people at events, have acquaintance like connections, but I have not yet broken past that. Who knows, tonight I am going to a free meditation and vegetarian potluck in Berkeley.

R: What's the craziest encounter you've had so far?
J: I don't know if it's the craziest encounter I've had but I think my drive from Cleveland to Denver is up there. I hung out with a 66-year-old retiree and heard his whole life story. Check out the entire post at I think it is one of my funniest.

R: What has been the general response toward and your plans to write a book on the same topic?
J: Generally the response is good. I think there are always the people who think what I am doing is odd. Someone will inevitably say that I am young and stupid but the reality is I have nothing to lose. I don't have any other employment options so the alternative, my parents basement, seems a whole lot worse. When I see the judgmental eyebrows spike, I just tell myself what 311 tells me, "Fuck the naysayers because they don't mean a thing, because this is what style we bring."

R:What do your parents have to say? Are they supportive?
J: My parents are supper awesome and always have been. Before I left, they hid a note in my bag. "The road will not always be smooth but what a ride it will be." They have been great, even when I was driving complete strangers in my car, though that was not easy for them.

R: How about your friends? Do they think you're nuts or are they just jealous that you're out living life and they're sitting behind a desk or making copies and coffee?

J: I don't know if they are jealous. I think they are proud of me too. People that know me well know that I am not usually on the map with my ideas. For me to take something so out there and run with it seems to be something people like rallying behind. As my friend Phil wrote, "[ is] a great instrument to live vicariously through while you have the 9-5 drag." Having him say that really means a lot. I am honored to be anyone's release from the real world. I hope I can always find a niche in society that allows me to avoid this "real world."

R: Any words for your fans and followers out there?
J: I can't really thank those who read enough. I would consider this year a success even if my manuscript never sees a printing press. Having people tune in is more than I can ever expect. At times I feel like my only friend is a silly Web site so hearing how much my words mean, makes my day and means the world to me. My most sincere thanks.

Learn more about Jason Paul's Living Craiglist adventures at!

Photos courtesy of Jason Paul.

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