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.

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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.

Travel Tidbits

While traveling I’m always on the lookout for interesting places and things. Place names are especially fun. Did you know there is a Hot Coffee, Mississippi?  It’s actually an abandoned hamlet that used to be a rest stop for travelers going from Natchez to Mobile. It has lots of signs still and is a roadside attraction/photo opportunity.

There is one person I met who I want to mention. I have never found the courage to go up to someone who looks like they might be a fellow nomad until this trip. I was at a rest stop somewhere in New Mexico. There was a woman in the car in front of me who was rearranging things in the car. Looked like she had a whole home in there. So I took a deep breath, walked over and said hello to her dog. (Always a great conversation starter) We chatted a bit and I asked her if she was indeed a nomad. Well…that started a half hour talk. She told me about living in India and Mexico and I told her my story. She designs and creates jewelry and hand knit bikinis and has a children’s line. I told her about my books and she was interested in them. We talked about selling our own products, she mentioned she was starting a website and offered to put a link on it to my books!  We exchanged info and promised to stay in touch. Thus a friendship is born.

Being an introvert all my life, it’s been hard for me to make long lasting friends. I have a few who I always turn to for companionship, but I admit, most of my friendships are casual.  However, I believe I am getting much better at it.  Having a common subject to talk about is a great thing. And when it’s somewhat unusual, like being a nomad, it’s even wonderful.

One way I made a few friends here at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous was through yet another car problem. Somewhere along the way I must have picked up a nail in a tire. It was quite flat after sitting a couple of days. There is a group of guys across the road from me who all offered many suggestions. One has an air pump, which he gave to me to use to inflate the tire so I could go into town and get it repaired. I pumped it myself, which, being older gentlemen,  they all thought was crazy. (They should have done it for me, ya know.) But my independent streak got the better of me and I persevered. I might get a pump myself, it’s great exercise.

 

 

UP, UP and Away!

“Up, up and awaaaaaayy…in my beautiful balloon…”

I’m headed west again to a “lofty” event; The Albuquerque, New Mexico Balloon Fiesta. I’m going with my brother and big sister. My sister is a HUGE hot air balloon fan and it’s always been on her bucket list. We’ve been talking about doing this trip ever since I decided to retire. So this year, we’re going. The three of us are great traveling companions. As I’ve discussed before, traveling is in our blood.

There are several things to do there besides watching balloons. We’re hoping to take ride in one. Also, there’s chainsaw sculpture demonstrations, music concerts, art shows, and exhibits about ballooning. And, oh yeah, casinos.

We’re driving out, so my next post will be in a few days.

 

The Road is the Destination

Sometimes the road is the destination.

I’ve traveled a lot of roads in my life, and some are more enjoyable than others. I like to follow a road that I have only been on a short distance and see where the rest of it goes. I also like to travel a road several times, just because I find it interesting.

Some examples:

Highway 24 west out of Fort Wayne. I have been on this one often. Probably because it is an easy way to go west. It runs from Toledo, Ohio, through Fort Wayne, and across Indiana and Illinois. It then crosses the Mississippi River and continues through Missouri. I believe it goes on into Colorado, but I have not journeyed there yet. There are lots of small towns along the way with nice parks, good restaurants, and more than a few Walmarts.

Another nice road I enjoy is Highway 127 that I follow to Hamilton, Ohio (near Cincinnati) when I go south. I usually get on/off it at Mercer, Ohio where it junctions with Highway 33. I’m on 127 this trip going north into Michigan.

A while ago I followed 33 past Interstate 75 just to see where it goes.

I recently followed Highway 42 up through Ohio when I went to Cuyahoga National Park, and that one I will explore again. It has some lovely areas through hills and lake towns.

And I’ve talked before about Highway 50 that runs along the Ohio River in Indiana and Ohio. It might be my favorite so far.

I do not like traveling on interstates because there’s more traffic and less community. Oh yes, you can get off at exits and go into small towns, but it’s just not the same. Coming upon a town or village after cresting a hill or swinging around a curve is stimulating. You don’t know what is in store and this way you often get to see the quieter neighborhoods instead of the main drag crowded with fast food restaurants and gas stations.

Do you have a state highway you’re fond of? I’m open to suggestions.

There is a saying I particularly like that pretty much sums it up.  “The goal is not the destination, It’s the journey.”

Yeah.

Ohio Exploring

I often drive south down Highway 33 out of Fort Wayne to get to Interstate 75 to go visit family in Cincinnati. I always knew that 33 continued on past the exit onto the interstate, but I never knew where it went. This time I was going to find out.

It begins at Wapakoneta, OH where the Neil Armstrong museum is located. I didn’t see it this trip because I was there decades ago with a Girl Scout Troop of which I was a leader.

Eventually it goes through Wayne National Forest, the only National Forest in Ohio. Since I do love a good forest, I stopped for the night at a trailhead. It was great because it was the beginning of an OHV trail and had a restroom. I had to look up what OHV stood for. Turns out it’s Off Highway Vehicles, what I always called Off Road. ATV’s, Dune Buggies, Dirt Bikes, and the like. What I found annoying was that they ride at night. There I was trying to enjoy a movie on my DVD player at 1o:00 pm and in comes a trailer full of ATV’s. I finally fell asleep to the sound of racing motors. And they were gone in the morning, so I guess they got some sleep, too.

Stopped at Old Man’s Cave, which you can read about here.

Then I drove on to Athens, Ohio. It’s the home of Ohio University. Lovely little town. It has a bike trail that extends for miles along the Hocking River. And I visited the Kennedy Museum of Art on campus. That’s it at the top of this post. It was built in the mid 1800’s as an insane asylum and used as such until the early 1960’s. The history is that it is located on a farm and the residents were encouraged to do farm work as therapy. The doctors believed being outdoors in the sunshine was good medicine. I agree. Still is!

The main exhibit right now is Navajo blankets. There are about 50 dating from the 1800’s to the present. Some amazing images are woven into these blankets. I learned a lot, since I had no idea that landscapes and scenes of daily living can be hand- woven into a blanket.

  

Then I continued on down Hwy 33 til I got to the Ohio River. Apparently if goes on into West Virginia and ends up at Richmond, VA. I didn’t go that far. I wanted to travel the Scenic Byway roads again that I was on last spring. They follow the Ohio River across the entire state, and continue along the bottom border of Indiana.

I have an affinity for rivers. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like lakes, I enjoy the ocean, but rivers are special. I think it’s because they “travel”, like me. Or maybe it’s because I grew up in cities where rivers played a big part. In Dayton we lived close to the Stillwater River and often went to a park that run along it. And in Michigan I lived in Three Rivers, which had…3 rivers…one of which was a block from our house. I would go back in the woods by the Rocky River when I needed some alone time. And in Fort Wayne, when I had the apartment, I was right next to the St Joseph River and spent many hours wandering the Rivergreenway.

During this journey I experienced the Great American Eclipse. I sat on top of a hill in a wildlife area in another section of Wayne National Forest. I was on the top of a hill in the parking lot of a small country church. Didn’t get dark but the light changed, sort of like everything was pastel. And the wind suddenly stopped right at the moment of totality.  It felt like the temperature changed;  cooler even thought the thermometer didn’t show it. Just different enough to be eerie.

So now I’m heading back to civilization to go mooch off some family for awhile.

Safety First

How safe is it to travel alone?

Actually, pretty safe. One thing I saw over and over during my research phase was that Rv’rs and truckers are the friendliest and most helpful people on the road. If you ever need anything, ask a nomad!

But there are several tips about being safe on the road. Here’s my list.

  1. Remember the RV maxim – “My house has wheels.” Pay attention to your intuition. If a place looks dicey, if a person seems dangerous, listen to your inner safety director and leave. Keep your keys with you, even when you sleep.
  2. Be prepared. Remember the first aid kit, extra flashlight and batteries. But even if you forget something,  getting supplies is easy. I think every small town with a population of at least 500 a has dollar store. And a Subway!
  3. When you don’t want to pay for a campground or motel, truck stops are good for parking overnight. And, as I’ve said before, Walmart welcomes travelers for overnight stays. Both are well lit and since they’re open 24 hours there are always people around.
  4. Use your electronics.  Get the apps that will help you. I use Allstays which pinpoints on a map all the places an RV or camper can spend a night, campgrounds, Walmarts, truck stops, etc. It includes reviews by other users so you can pick the one that best suits you. For directions, use Google maps or Waze.
  5. Pay attention to the weather. Be aware of severe conditions by using the weather app on your phone or other devices. Most them have weather maps you can use to determine which direction to go in.
  6. If it’s hot, stock up on water. Your air conditioning won’t help you if you get out of the vehicle. Always carry a water bottle with you when exploring.
  7. And speaking of exploring, know your limits. Unknown territory is always risky, even if it looks easy. Tree roots, mud holes, and sticker bushes are plentiful everywhere. Use a walking stick or pole. It helps when going up and down steep hills. Wear walking or hiking shoes or boots, long pants, and sleeves, even when on a path.
  8. When you’re traveling, always let someone know where you are. I text a sister and a daughter every night and tell them where I’m staying.
  9. Cell phone coverage is NOT continuous throughout the country. Carry a hotpsot from a different company than your phone or a cell booster.. To find out about using electronics while traveling I think a good source is the blog of  Technomadia.com. They are a nomadic couple who run an online business specializing in this field.
  10. And if you’re afraid of being mugged out there in the wilderness, just remember: criminals are not going to go wandering around in the woods to find someone to rob, they’ll stay in the city where there’s big opportunity for little effort.

So that’s my list. If you have anything to add, please do so in the comments. I love hearing your ideas and suggestions.