Finding Your Tribe

Side note: Please disregard what I said in the last post. As soon as I was back among trees and forests I was home. The desert is a nice place to visit but I don’t want to live there.

So…do you have a tribe? Nomads use the term “tribe” to describe a group of friends or like-minded people who they relate to, travel with, and depend on. Society has  lots of names for the special groups which people form: crew, squad, gang, clan, family. Tribe is one that modern nomads have appropriated because of the connotation of a wandering band of people.

The word tribe itself means “a social group existing outside of or before the development of states. A tribe is a group of distinct people, dependent on their land for their livelihood, who are largely self-sufficient, and not integrated into the national society.” -Wikipedia

In the American past, there have been several groups who were known as tribes, in the sense of being modern nomads. The band The Grateful Dead had the Deadheads, a small army of fans who followed the band on their tours and set up vendor tables in the parking lots as a way to earn gas money. There was a group called the Rainbow Tribe who originally did social services for hippies and others, but have lately declined into a dirty bunch of druggies. The Diggers were based in the Height Asbury neighborhood in  San Francisco and were prominent at Woodstock.

Modern-day nomads usually live off the grid, meaning they do not use buildings or public utilities to survive. They are indeed self-sufficient. Using RV’s, vans, tents buses, or cars, they can cook, sleep, bathe, and live quite contently using camping tools and methods. They do not necessarily live off the land; however, some do forage for food.

As for not being integrated into  national society, most nomads consider themselves to be distinct from “regular people.” Of course, those regular folks sometimes think of nomads as vagabonds, hobos, even outlaws. There are actually places where living in a vehicle is illegal. Sad for those who are truly homeless. Nomads are not homeless. They prefer the term “houseless.”

In nomad culture, there are many concepts. My house has wheels is a popular one. Another is that all are welcome into the lifestyle. I saw this in action during my time at the RTR.*  I bonded with a group who were all parked around me. We became our own tribe.

Since we had a campfire every night, we called ourselves The Fire Council. Every evening someone would propose a subject or two and we would go around the circle letting each person comment, tell a story, or offer an explanation. We discussed favorite road trips, told about our favorite relatives, confessed an unusual experience, offered an amusing situation in our life, and even complained about insects that caused us grief.

But it was the people who made this experience a joy for me. There was Jerry, who was the unofficial moderator. He made sure that each newcomer was introduced and accepted. Dave was the cook. He made breakfast and supper for the group. Every day! He said he just loved to cook for people. Mary and Donna were camped on either side of me. Diane was across the road, as was Doug and Mike and Mark and Marianne and Tim. And then there were the French Canadians. A group of them came together. They were all members of a Facebook group for Quebec Vandwellers. Several others joined in each day. The final group numbered about 20. A tribe indeed.

Even though we had different life circumstances, we bonded over the joy of being able to live our lives the way we wanted to. The open road called to each of us in our own unique way. Whether we were single or married, workers or retired, young or old, we found comfort and companionship in the common feeling of freedom.

*Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, refer to CheapRVLiving.com/gatherings for an explanation.

**If you enjoy finding out how words came to be and what they contribute to today’s culture, see my other blog called Word Love at www.ejgresearch.com.

A Philosophy of Nomadism

A philosophy of nomadism

Being out here in the middle of Nature is a freeing thing. It allows one to be completely curious, open to new experiences, and able to remember the passions of youth that have been tucked away inside for a long time. Some of my passions I am rediscovering are travel itself, the love of learning by visiting museums and educational sites, and writing.

Retirement for me has become a time of breaking away – from work, from routine, from taking care of everyone else and instead concentrating on me. It is also a time of leaving home and being free to roam. One of my new friends, also recently retired and a widow, says she is running away from home. Me too!

And yet, it is also running TOWARD something. I don’t know yet what that something is, or perhaps it changes with every trip I take. I am discovering new places, new friends, new ideas. That’s what being a nomad is really about. Discovering things about yourself as well as about the country you roam.

Here at the RTR, we had a great seminar on Rites of Passage. It was taught by a former Episcopalian priest who started his own business called wildspiritpassages.org.  He leads people on Vision Quests and teaches about spiritual methods of living, based on Native American concepts.

He told us that nomads go through a rite of passage of sorts when they decide to give up a sticks-and-bricks home and take to the road. He also explained the Medicine Wheel theory of life, calling into play the four seasons which are connected to the four directions. Each one corresponding to a period of the life cycle, i.e. birth, youth, elder, death. Interesting stuff.

We broke into smaller discussion groups to determine which place on the wheel we are at currently. I decided I am North/winter/elder/time of reflection and am heading South/summer/childhood/time of exploration. I can sometimes actually feel myself transitioning from a senior to a young(ger) person.

I took a hike through the desert around our campground the other day and spent a lot of time photographing the scenery and plants. (Look for a post on that soon 😊) After a couple of hours I suddenly had the thought that I could spent the rest of my life here. Quite a revelation when I’ve been in the Great Lakes area of the country all my life. But I think that is what travel does to you. It makes you realize that there are other ways of living.

I find this so very true when I reflect on the friends I am making here. A group of us who are all camped around each other have become a social group. We call it the Fire Council. Every night we gather around a campfire and discuss the meaning of life, tell stories about our travels, and occasionally have a session where a topic is settled on and we go around the circle telling a story about it. The other night was “An Interesting Person You Have Met in Your Travels.” We have even started having dinner together.

This group of random people include singles, married couples, divorcees, widows, and a lifelong bachelor, and we are from all over the United States and Canada and all ages. I cherish them for accepting anyone into the group with absolutely no judgement.

We help each other out with all sorts of things. When I needed a new scrubby sponge, Dave just happened to have an extra and gave it to me. Jerry goes into town every day and takes everybody’s trash to the dump. Mary likewise went and bought vegetables for the communal dinner. And. of course, we all exchange tips and tricks of living on the road.

So I think my philosophy of nomadism is simply this. Be helpful,  be happy, and accept everyone as a friend. A good way to be wherever you are in life.

Musings About the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous

Now that’s it’s over, I want to consider what this event means.

1. Philosophy – Bob Wells, the man who created this gathering, is a gentle, kind man whose motto of living is “if you don’t like the rules of society, don’t live by them”. He has been living by his own rules for more than 20 years. He lives in a van, works as a camp host, has a website, and loves his life. The Rendezvous is his way of passing on his expertise. Check out cheaprvliving.com for the rest of his story.

I have adopted the idea of minimalism in order to live comfortably on the road. I also believe that treating others as you want to be treated is the only way to survive as a human being.

2. Organization – The camp is Bob’s regular winter spot and he invites anyone who wants to learn about living on the road to join him. He holds seminars and classes on all types of things you need to know about living on the road. He encourages anyone attending to create a class, or lead a hike, or set up a group discussion.

I appreciated the structure of the event and the informality make it fun.

3. Classes – He started the classes because so many newbies started coming he had to find a way to teach them. Classes include everything you need to know, from finding a place to boondock to methods of cooking without a kitchen to health and safety issues. And if you need to know something else, all you have to do is ask someone.

I attended almost every class and group discussion. I learned a lot and enjoyed myself immensely.

4. Location – The desert west of Quartzsite, AZ. Boondocking on BLM land.

I found out I don’t really like the desert. It’s COLD in the winter. And it aggravated my sinus cough. I need trees and rivers.

I am so glad I went to the rendezvous. I needed some encouragement to get out of my solitude and into the world. And this was it. I met many people who I admire, made a few good friends, and learned more about myself than I have in the last 10 years. I believe I’m ready to get back to writing and get those books published.

 

 

 

Boy Am I Tired!

20170121_141436
I spent several hours today at the Quartzsite Sports, Vacation and RV Show. Fondly called the Big Tent, because there’s a …you know…big tent. Actually the tent is huge, I think close to 500 vendors inside. And what’s more, there’s another 1,000 vendors outside! I didn’t even count the number of RV dealers selling rigs.
I drove out to the site about an hour before they opened and was rewarded with a parking space only two blocks away.
Everything and anything was for sale. Inside the tent was RV equipment and supplies, camping equipment, jewelry, skin care (lots of things that promised no more Botox, because of the average age of the customers? IDK), cookware, bed linens, bikes, motorized chairs, clothes, decorations; all with demonstrations. Also many campgrounds, individual cities and states, insurance companies, and work opportunities had booths.
And then OUTSIDE…food vendors, clothing vendors, household goods, booths specializing in knives, or leather goods or baskets, hippie style clothes and accessories, wood carvings, rocks and gems, plain old flea market stuff, and much, much more.
There were several pop up restaurants and I had lunch at “Beer Belly’s Adult Day Care” LOL.
I only bought 3 things (so proud of myself) and did not pick up EVERY pamphlet. I bought firestarters that I’ll need when I have a fire ring (the guy even threw in a free lighter and several more samples so the 25 I bought turned into 35!) which are good indoors and out. I picked up a pack of Techni Ice, which is a chemical that freezes when you soak it in water and the pack keeps your cooler  cold for 5 days.  Then you soak it again so it’s reusable. The other thing is a surprise for my grandkids so I won’t tell you what it is til they get it, cause their mom reads this blog. (Sorry Jill)
All in all a satisfying day. Now I think I’ll take a nap.

Rainy Day

Jan 20 We had a morning session on boondocking. That’s what R V’ers call dispersed or dry camping, meaning setting up a campsite on public lands where there is no electricity, water, or bathroom facilities. Out in the boondocks. You can do this on BLM land, in National Forests, and other government owned land like wildlife refuges. These lands are mostly west of the Mississippi River, not much in my neck of the woods. The seminar was on how to find such land.

We also talked a little bit about overnight parking. That’s when you park somewhere while you’re traveling just to get a night’s sleep. Walmarts are very friendly to nomads, so are Cracker Barrels and truck stops. Sometimes you can even spend a few hours at a rest stop.

The rest of the day it rained, so I stayed in the van reading. It gets quite windy during a rainstorm and a couple of times I had to jump out and fix the tent that the wind had blown in. I quickly learned to park my van on the side that the wind was blowing from to keep it up. I have an app on my phone that tells me where the wind is coming from.

This was the last day of the RTR so I will be doing a post soon with all my thoughts about the event.

It’s Off to Work We Go

20170119_145835

Jan 19   Today sessions were about working on the road. The morning was all about workamping, which is what we call working a temporary job as an RV’er.  National Parks are good for working at gift shops and concession booths. And if you have experience, you can be a tour guide, river rafting guide, horseback ride leader, and have fun doing what you love.

National Forests have campgrounds where you can be camp host. That means you are the one taking reservations, keeping the campground clean, and cleaning the toilets and showers. In return you usually get a free campsite for the season.

Being a RV transfer driver is another good way to live on the road and earn money. Transporting rigs from the factory to a dealership, or from a dealer to a campground for a customer, you can live in the RV and tow your own car to go to the next job. A woman here who does it says she makes 1 or 2 runs a month and enjoys visiting National Parks on her off days.

Other jobs are for companies who like to hire RV’ers because the work is seasonal, just a few weeks or months. Amazon has it’s own CamperForce that do inventory picking and shipping in November and December for the Christmas rush. There’s a beet harvest every fall that sugar companies use nomads for. Not at the farms, but at the sugar factories, sorting and preparing the beets for processing.

And Bob told about a friend of his who is a poker dealer and follows the professional tournaments all over the country.

Of course if you have a skill or offer a service, that’s another way to have an income. Here at the RTR I’ ve met musicians, writers, carpenters, welders, RV repair guys, seamstresses, beauticians, dog groomers, computer experts, a traveling nurse, a psychic, and a yoga instructor, all who use their expertise to make money.

So there are lots of ways to earn a living even when you’re on the road.

The afternoon was going to be a talk by a woman who wrote a book about her own workamping experiences plus how to sell stuff on EBay.. However, it’s been raining off and on all afternoon so I didn’t go. Isn’t that what retirement is about, deciding not to do something cause you just don’t wanna? hehe

Down Mexico Way

Today we learned all about going to Mexico for medical stuff. People go there all the time to get really cheap dental work, eyeglasses, and prescriptions. Lots of the group have been there and say it is perfectly safe. In fact, Americans are treated extremely well because we have cash. Most of the medical office workers speak English. And the services are just like here in the states, even some taking American insurance.

The town this group goes to is Algodones, which shares the border with Yuma, AZ. A lot of people in Yuma go across the border for lunch . Now getting across is easy, you just walk through the gate. But if you want to come back, you need a passport.
I’m not sure I will ever do this, but who knows?

In the afternoon there was no session so I went out to see a bit more of the desert. Drove north to Parker, AZ, and visited an old friend. Walmart. LOL

Then in the evening was our talent show. Nomads are creative people. They need a way to pass the time without TV, so they develop talents. The show included a guy who does professional yo-yo tricks, a flute player, several poets, a woman who did a comedy routine about making balloon animals. And my favorite was a singer-songwriter who performed a lovely song about traveling called, “My Heart is with the Highway and the Wind.”

All in all a another great day at the RTR. Oh and if you wonder why we’re called Rubber Tramps, well, we travel on rubber ya know.

What’s Cooking?

January 17
Three classes today, the first two on cooking.

The morning session was a show and tell on favorite cooking methods. Everything from cooking oatmeal in a thermos to using a pressure cooker on a camping stove.

The second class was specifically on pressure cooking and solar cookers. The solar cookers are what interested me. One lady demonstrated how to make one yourself from items bought at the dollar store. Cost less then $10.00 and works just as well as the $300-$400 ones. I think I have a project!

The last class today was on making videos and how to upload them to You Tube. Ehhh, maybe I will, but don’t count on it soon. I’d rather do landscape photography.

It’s going to rain Thursday or Friday. Yay! Why? Because Vincent is so dirty. Saves me a trip to the car wash.

Oh, and guess what I’ve stopped doing? Drinking coffee all day. Yes, me! I drink a cup in the morning and sometimes at night if it’s cold. I don’t know if it’s because I’m running around all day, or just that I’m out of my old routine. No desk here, ya know.

Another Day, Another Fun Class

20170117_090442

Okay so the desert isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It got down to 35 degrees last night. Geesh!

January 16 the morning session was on all the nitty gritty legal stuff. We discussed where to have your residence, because you have to have a street address to do anything in this county. And did you know that driver’s licenses must have a federal designation  of authenticity starting in 2018? If you don’t have a gold star on your license, you will not be able to enter a Federal building or an airport!

We also talked about getting mail on the road, which is pretty easy with general delivery. Health care was a much discussed topic. Many nomads have Obamacare, but now if it’s going to go away, we don’t know what we can get. Many go to Mexico for medicines, eyeglasses and dental work.  Very cheap there and most medical personnel are approved by American insurance agencies.

The fun class was on astronomy. The teacher is a National Park Ranger and he teaches these classes as part of his job. He did this on his own because he’s actually on vacation and here to be part of the RTR.  He was funny, told lots of stories about the constellations,, and instilled in us a desire to be connected to nature. We walked out to a spot away from the camp when it was just getting dark. He had a laser pointer to point out each star and constellation.

In the morning meeting one of the men took a count of how many different kinds of rigs there are here. There are 329 individual vehicles, which means about 400 people, the most the RTR has ever had. When you consider that it started  seven years ago with 40 people, you realize how much the community has grown.

Education and Relaxation

20170114_122546

January 15, 2017 Today’s morning session was very interesting. It was a “Tin Can Seminar.” All week there was a can sitting on the speaker’s table which people could put questions into. Then today, the leader, a 40-year camping veteran, read them and asked the group for answers. It was educational, thought-provoking, and sometimes just funny, Questions included “How do I meet a nice girl?” and “What books inspired you to travel?” and “Does traveling make you a better person?” and “How do I determine what makes a safe stealth parking spot in a strange city?” It was my favorite session so far.

This afternoon Vincent was getting restless so we went for a drive. I drove west on I-10 to Blythe, which is the nearest city. It also happens to be just across the state line in California, so yes folks, I actually drove all the way across the country!  (kinda, sorta)

Interesting fact about California. They have completely banned plastic bags. I stopped at a drug store to buy a couple of things and was not given any bag to carry them in. Luckily I only got a card and some trash bags. I found out that you have to take your own bags when you go shopping or purchase a reusable one at the store.

Then I came back and walked around the outdoor marketplace in Quartzsite, which is basically a place for traveling vendors that is open all winter. I had an ice cream cone! It was sunny and 66 degrees, I couldn’t resist.

It’s been getting pretty chilly at night here, so I’ve started sleeping in the van. The tent is useful for dressing and bathroom, but crawling in and out will get old sooner than I think. I may try a little conversion on the van, putting in some kind of bed and storage. I’ve seen a lot of ways to do it here, so with some careful thought and planning, I believe I can do it myself. Lots of women have, so why not me?