Real Nomad Life With A Sprinkling Of Cosmic S**t

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Minimalism In A Mini-Van: Gaining Life By Giving Up Stuff!

It’s always a little bit of a shock for me coming off the desert where I’ve lived for 8 months, and going into a house.

These days, I travel back East for the summer, living out of my van in my daughter’s back yards.

Coming from minimalist living for 8 months in the desert, it always surprises me how much STUFF a house can hold. Neither of my daughter’s families are over consumers or hoarders, but just out of curiosity, I counted the number of coffee cups in my daughter’s cupboard. There were 18.

I’m not a minimalist in the strictest sense, but fitting everything you own into a minivan is by its very nature a minimalist venture.

To fit my nomad life into the minivan, I got rid of most of my possessions. I’d put my cedar post bed and some other things I wasn’t ready to part with in storage, and then less than a year later emptied the storage and got rid of all of it. The bed. Kitchen stuff. Wine glasses. Plates, silverware, towels, pillows. All the stuff I’d carefully selected for my previous home. It felt great, and it felt sad.

Now I carry two coffee cups. Two forks. two spoons, two knives … give or take. One paring knife, one chef knife, one saucepan, a small frying pan, a large frying pan and a few kitchen utensils. My few indulgences are having more than one pair of shoes, and hoodies that seem to multiply.

Really, how many forks and knives do we really need? How many coats, shoes or bras?

Most nomads start out with too much. My first trip out, my 8 cylinder engine had trouble making it up the mountain drive to the Adirondacks.

So you purge, then purge, and then you purge again.

Each time you get more freedom and more space. A friend of mine, Kimberly Dawn said recently, is it a burden, or does it give me more peace?

I did my first van purge after only 4 days on the road, and countless times since then. The most recent purge was a few months ago, resulting in getting rid of my screen shelter. I don’t miss the time it takes to pound in 8 stakes, attach 3 ratchet straps, and pile rocks on all the stakes so it won’t blow away in the desert wind. I’ve gained the freedom of not having to set it up and break it down every time I move camp and I love it!

Personally, my goal is to have the least amount of STUFF to accomplish all of the necessary life functions.

Was it easy? Nope!

When I was purging my belongings back in the beginning, I wrote in my journal that I felt Freedom. Sadness. Letting go. Being untethered. Uncertain.

Material things aren’t about security. They just FEEL like they are!

For capitalistic western culture to thrive, it must convince its citizens to believe, and to FEEL, that physical possessions are not just optional, but necessary for a normal life.

Just walk into any department store or grocery store or discount store, step back, and observe the never ending aisles of STUFF. We’re conditioned by the media to crave this overwhelming variety of material goods. The research that goes into studying exactly how we’re compelled to buy these items is a multi-billion dollar industry in itself … an industry utterly dependent on our continued consumerism.

Our wealth, and VALUE, is measured by our material possessions, by the number of things we’re able to accumulate.

We fill our homes with all the stuff we’ve been convinced to buy, and having THINGS helps us to feel satisfied, safe and secure, in part an ancient biological imperative to have enough provisions stored up for lean times.

Not only that, our brain chemistry rewards us with dopamine, a feel good brain chemical, when we shop. Our brain chemistry is being manipulated by the media so we’ll stay motivated to buy more stuff!!!

Since dopamine is also released naturally in copious quantities when we travel and seek new sights, there’s no lack of good feeling dopamine rushes living as a nomad!

Minimizing our stuff gives us the opportunity to define for ourselves what is meaningful, and to learn that life experiences are more important than stuff.

I’ve purged most of my belongings, but I didn’t give up anything. I gained a life. I gained LIFE! There are places I would’ve never seen, experiences I would’ve never had if I hadn’t chosen nomad life. (Click The Cosmic Nomad Journey to see some places I’ve been!)

Sunset on Cuesta Ridge, CA

This is the life I yearned for.

I’m living IN Life.

I bask in the sun, feel the breezes, tune into the Earth, commune with the plants and creatures, and gaze on the wondrous stars and moon at night.

This is where I THRIVE, where I’m most authentic, most myself.

This is home.

I’m home.

I’M HOME!

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For more on minimalism and nomad life read: Wild Women On the Road: A Women’s Guide To Nomadic Freedom In The Modern Age

The Cosmic Nomad Journey

This is a short photo diary of some of the places I’ve been over the years. I wish I could capture every wonderful moment!

June 2017. Started out up in the Adirondacks in NY state. One of the places I stayed was my beloved Forked Lake, where I camped every summer.

Forked Lake Primitive Camping
The summer of 2017 was one of the wettest in the Adirondacks!
View of Forked Lake in the Adirondacks
Horseshoe Lake Primitive Camping in The Adirondacks
Sweet path down to Horseshoe Lake from my campsite!
One of my happiest places! Forked Lake.
Moose River Plains Primitive Camping
Long Lake/Forked Lake Primitive Campsite
Little Green Pond

October 2017 was my maiden voyage, solo cross country to Arizona!

My first trip cross country to Arizona!
Made it to Winslow Arizona! October 2017
McHugh park outside of Winslow AZ
My first camp in Flagstaff. This area is since closed.
Made it to Quartzsite Arizona! This was my first campsite on the Long Term Visitor Area.
October 2017. I fell in love with the desert sky! This is the cactus, my second campsite on the Long Term Visitor area in Quartzsite AZ, where Nancy and I met!
Desert sky in Quartzsite AZ.
Desert Rainbow
Desert Sunsets in Arizona
Moonrise in Quartzsite
New friend in the desert in Quartzsite!
Spiral at the campsite outside of Yuma, AZ. American Girl Mine primitive camping.
The first year out we were in the Sequoias! Summer 2018
Sequoia National Forest 2018
Morrow Bay, California 2018
Finally put my feet in the Pacific Ocean! I’ve officially been coast to coast!
View from Cuesta Ridge, CA 2018
Dome Rock in the Sequoias, the only place there was a cell signal
Oatman, AZ, where the burrows run wild! 2019
Pahrump, Nevada
I got to sign the Burning Van! Set on fire at the end of the 2020 RTR! (Rubber Tramp Rendezvous)
Getting ready to publish my first book. Mostly written at Libraries!

My first book!

Wild Women On The Road: A Women’s Guide To Nomadic Freedom In The Modern Age.

My second book!

Top Ten Lists For Nomads: The (Mostly) Lighter Side of Nomadic Life

A1 Mountain Rd, now closed. Flagstaff AZ. 2019
Flagstaff AZ 2021
Flagstaff AZ
The Cadillac Graveyard in Amarillo, Texas
The longest, most barren road I’ve ever driven! On the way to Roswell, NM
Aliens at the Roswell Museum in NM
Another stop at The Corner In Winslow AZ! 2021
Table Mesa AZ 2022
Primitive camping Table Mesa AZ 2022
Another spectacular sunset Table Mesa AZ
I can never get enough of the desert sunsets. Table Mesa, AZ
2022 Superstition Mountains Apache Junction, AZ
Can’t beat this view out of my van. Superstition Mountains. 2022
Superstition mountains, Apache Junction AZ 2022
Superstition Mountains, AZ 2022
Getting our guitar on at a Women’s Gathering January 2022
Mitry Lake AZ 2022
Painted Desert, AZ 2022
Grand Canyon 2022
ME at The Grand Canyon 2022
Primitive camping near the Grand Canyon! 2022
Superstition Mountain Lost Dutchman Museum 2022
Elephant Butte State Park NM
Sometimes ‘ya just gotta!
Diving practice at The Blue Hole of Santa Rosa, NM (Not me!)
Long Lake, NY
Storm coming in, Kingman, AZ
A park near my daughter’s house outside of Middleburgh, NY
Click on the link HERE to see my video interview on TheGalavan!
Full Moon Rising over Quartzsite, AZ

This little guy was dropped off in our camp and he instantly bonded with me. He spent one night in my van, he was such a good boy but it confirmed what I’ve always known, I’m in no shape to take good care of a 4 legged buddy. He went to a no kill shelter and hopefully found a great home.

Adopted this little guy for one night!
Santa Rosa NM 2022
Elephant Butte State Park NM

You never know what’s going to happen on the road! Nancy was interviewed for a podcast in Williams, AZ. Unfortunately, it never aired.

Happy in Elephant Butte State Park, NM! 2022

Become a Nomad They Said! It’ll Be Fun They Said!

LOL! I love my nomad life, I really do.

After almost 5 years on the road I was recently interviewed by the wonderful Joni Zander of TheGalavan , including a van tour of my no build minivan.

I was nervous about how I’d present myself, but was thrilled with the way she portrayed my simple nomad life! She made it relaxed and easy and edited out the awkward parts. She really has a gift and if you’re an aspiring nomad or already on the road, her channel is worth a look.

Joni captured my “highlight” reel, but every seasoned nomad knows there’s also a behind the scenes reel.

In the spirit of keeping it real, here’s some of the behind the scenes! 

Weather!

There is hardly any perfect weather for a van dweller. There may be perfect days, but weather is always a constant factor. Even if you claim to be “chasing 72 degrees,” it still can be hot, cold, windy, rainy, snowy, all in a few hours. Be prepared to be a little miserable when it’s too hot, too cold, or too windy. Thank god for Libraries!!!

Snow in April!

It takes a while for the body to adjust to constant swings in the microclimate, not like sitting in a house with a steady 70 degree thermostat. 

And let’s not even get into crossing the country through tornado alley and hurricane season.

Bugs, crawly things, javelinas, mice!

Critters on the road are a fact of nomad life. 

 This year I got a SUPER-mouse spending nights with me … he sounded like he was jackhammering my vehicle  to get in on the first night. He was too smart to go into a live trap … I tried … and in the four nights in the vehicle he got into my food carts and left poop presents everywhere. Apparently he liked lentils, and that was the bait that finally lured him to his demise.

I’ve seen rattlesnakes, scorpions, javelinas and coyotes, thankfully at a safe distance. My traveling companion had the biggest huntsman I’ve ever seen in her van.

Finding The Perfect Campsite.

All the YouTubers make it look easy. Finding a free spot that checks all the boxes for nomad living can be a TORMENT.  Level ground, reliable cell and internet, close enough to showers, laundry, other necessary amenities … AND tolerable neighbors. For two years on the Long Term Visitor Area in Quartzsite, AZ, I had the same man harassing me. This year he called the rangers and made up fake stories about me cutting down trees. LOL! I asked the ranger where I’d keep a chainsaw in my little van.

Defending myself from the creepers lol

Recently I was in beautiful spot not too far out from a nice little town, but laundry time came I found out the closest laundromat was 40 miles up the highway!

Sure, there’s apps, Freecampsites.net, Compendium, Ioverlander, even Google. They may tell you there a shooting range nearby, but not that the locals are blowing up homemade fertilizer bombs that will rattle your windows and make you piss your pants. They don’t tell you that you’ll have a neighbor that lets his pack of guard dogs bark all day and night. It doesn’t tell you when the entire area has been abandoned by the rangers and taken over by a DRUG RING. True stories.

Medical Issues.

I count my blessings on this one. But this year I ended up needing extensive dental care requiring multiple visits over many months. The cheapest place that wasn’t Mexico was a dental school, and I found myself making a 5 hour round trip. To cut down on travel time and fuel costs I keep moving closer to the city where the dental school is located, but the camping got more and more sketchy. Hence the DRUG RING.

Other Nomads.

Things have changed in the nomad world over the last few years. There are more desperate people out here that have no idea how to properly nomad. They throw garbage around, including their own shit … and some areas have been closed to nomad camping because of it. People are desperate, angry and suffering. We met a man camped in a trailer who was a dog hoarder with 12 dogs … and no shoes. It’s heartbreaking.

Then there’s the dirt. The dust. The overdue showering and laundry. The unexpected expenses. The rising price of gas. Being responsible for your own water supply and cooking fuel. Getting out of bed in the morning in 40 degree weather.  Trying to sleep in 90 degrees and 100 percent humidity. The constant van shuffle of belongings in a small space. No oven. Limited access to affordable organic food. No freezer. Cloudy days when the refrigerator is solar powered … and on and on, you get the idea. It takes constant planning and sometimes it just gets exhausting.

Treacherous!

With all that said, this is still an incredible way to live. It’s fundamentally changed my body and mind, and filled my Spirit with a beautiful connection to the Earth. My body has found healing living outside in the fresh air and sunshine, and I put my feet on the the natural magnetic field of the Earth every single day.

I’ve learned how resilient and strong I can be, and have the privilege of meeting people from all walks of life, expanding my view of humanity. 

I get to take in gorgeous sunsets, awe inspiring vistas, and meet other like minded nomads.

Thats me!

I get to see places I’d never see stuck in an apartment paying rent! I’ve traveled the U.S. from shore to shore and put my feet in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. I’ve camped in The Sequoias, The Grand Canyon, The Sonoran desert with the great Saguaros, and The Adirondack forest. I’ve seen the Painted Desert, Superstition Mountains, and more. And I’m not done!  

My Interview on TheGalavan!

I recently had the honor of being interviewed with my van, the Green Beastie, by Joni the “creator and road guide” of the YouTube Channel TheGalavan.

Her body of work includes sharing vans she comes across, especially those designed and built by women, on her various media channels.

She also offers an interactive community on Facebook called Galaventures, and offers cargo van design service to help nomads “get what you want and what you need (that you might not know you need) in your own adventure van.”

I never imagined years ago when I went on the road that I’d be able to offer women insiration to start their own nomadic journey!

Here’s the video of my interview!

I Am A Feral Nomad

I am becoming feral

living close to nature.

The cycles of the earth,

the moon, the planets, the stars, 

capture my attention more than the news cycles.

The ground is my home,

the sky my entertainment,

the sun my medicine.

Like a feral animal,

my senses are acute

and I can smell bullshit a mile away.

My needs are small

yet my world is large.

I am a citizen of the planet wherever I roam.

Living outdoors – out of doors – outside of walls –

I am, when I enter the pure present moment, one with the Universe.

By LIVING – on the OUT SIDE – not the – IN SIDE,

and surrendering to my true nature,

I have healed parts of myself without trying

and without the intervention and opinions of the high holy institution of medicine.

I am feral to the society in which I was born.

Letting go of who and what society thinks I should be,

I am not successful by its standards.

I am not prosperous.

I own little, except for my SELF.

Yet this feral life

offers richness in experience

abundance in lessons

and feelings of being acutely, sometimes painfully, alive.

I have returned to my feral self,

gazing at the stars and wondering of the moon,

becoming again the child I remember running freely in the fields

wild strawberries melting deliciously on her tongue.

Like the lone wandering wolf

my body is a soft, strong, wild and feral creature.

I know where to find my pack, but solitude is my home. 

Image by Comfreak from Pixabay

My feral body loves the open skies

the wild expanse of nature

the breeze on my skin

the sun on my face

the ground beneath my feet

the physical movement needed to thrive in this feral life.

It’s only from my wild feral self that I truly commune with this wild world.

By day, feet on the Earth

meditating among the mountains, the rocks, the plants.

I meditate alongside the trees, and become one with their sun dappled ways.

By night, I am filled by the moon

and the glow of the Milky Way spinning in the vastness above me.  

When the OUT SIDE challenges me, there is no question 

that I AM ALIVE!

When I’m cold, warmth is delicious.

When I’m hot, shade is an inviting pool.

There are times when whipping winds or frigid air on my bare skin are no longer discomforts, 

but exhilarating sensations.

Still, not all of the time.

My body is returning to its feral nature,

but my mind sometimes lags.

My mind still resists.

My body never forgets its yearning to be free

My mind never forgets the walls that offered comfort, and the illusion of safety.

Yet, in moments of stillness, when my mind surrenders to the wild energy of my feral body, I am fully free.

Nomad Burnout – The Struggle Is Real!

It’s been four years this June that I’ve been on the road full time.

This Year On The LTVA

I’ve done the purging, the giving up a home, the newbie times, the figuring things out times. I consider myself a seasoned nomad.

This year I rode out (pun intended lol) the Covid pandemic, stuck in one place on the LTVA (Long Time Visitor Area) in Quartzsite Arizona. 

Away from family, still reeling from a devastating break up, I was becoming more and more exhausted and disillusioned on nomad living.

By the end of 7 months in Quartzsite, I was depressed and irritable with van life, and ready to get the hell out of there!

I was tired of doing ALL. THE. THINGS.

Cooking, cleaning and accomplishing normal “hygiene” activities without running water or hot water on tap. Adjusting to the cold, the hot, the sun, the wind. SO WINDY this year. Putting up with the constant shuffling of belongings that makes up part of every van dweller’s day. Setting up the portable solar panels out every morning. Relentless planning to have enough resources with minimal storage space, like water, food, and other life necessities.

Throw into the mix the crazies that invade boundaries with their vehicles, advice, noise, barking dogs, confederate flags, radios at full blast, speeding-dust-churning OHVs, (Off Highway Vehicles) and loud conversations.

Kids On Dirt Bikes Ripped Up The Desert Right In Front Of Me!

I even had some little kids no older than 10, laying patches with their dirt bikes two feet from my kitchen table, all to their parent’s amusement of course. 

I was burnt out as hell!

Yes, I’d finally conquered the finer points of nomad living, but now the lifestyle that previously thrilled me was dragging me down.

Thankfully, as soon as I got back on the road to travel back to the lush Springtime of upstate NY, I started feeling better. The road was finally ahead of me, and I had an epiphany that I’d missed that feeling.

Around that time I’d started transferring my written journal entries of nomad life into digital format. I’d recorded every day of my first 365 days on the road, and as I looked back at that time, I was struck by the intrepid spirit of that past me.

Forest Camp

I had camped alone without a cell signal! I’d spent a summer exploring the Adirondacks on my own. I’d navigated the daunting transition of living behind walls and locked doors to the open freedom of a nomad. I’d successfully transitioned into a radically different way of life. I’d even been inspired to write and publish TWO books about nomad life! (I’ve provided the links at the end of this blog.)

It wasn’t without multiple ups and downs, but I’d reveled in the freedom. The immersion in nature. Seeing new places. The new-found discovery of feeling COMPLETELY ALIVE!

As I read my journals I realized I’d lost that past intrepid spirit. I’d fallen out of love with nomad life.

It turned out to be a valuable lesson in happiness.

Desert Wash! Don’t Park Here.

Four years ago I’d kicked myself out of a lifetime comfort zone, sold my belongings, left a cute apartment, and drove solo across the country to winter in Quartzsite Arizona. I’d never camped in the Southwest, and didn’t even know what a desert wash was.

I’d hit the road to explore my freedom and expand my horizons, but over time I’d become overly picky of where I’d camp.

I needed an internet signal, shade, people nearby but not too close, people around but not too many people.

I’d also gotten into the habit of setting up a “permanent” camp and not moving around much, really limiting my experiences as a self-proclaimed nomad!

Add on a pandemic and the desire to protect my health, and I really got stuck in a rut.

So, I’ve decided that even if I do settle in Quartzsite again for the winter, I’m upping my nomad game. There’s still so much for me to explore.

I need to stretch my comfort zone again. Now that it feels like old hat to live in a van, it’s important to keep my nomad spirit happy. 

No more sitting around in one place for 7 months.

Me, As A Happy Nomad. She’s Back!

I’ve already made plans to take a short trip to Cape Cod this spring, and to see the Grand Canyon in the fall. There’s museums and other areas of interest in Quartzsite I’ve never visited in the four years I’ve wintered there, and that’s going to change.

Thankfully, making those mental shifts has renewed my love of nomad life. The depression has lifted and my enthusiasm is back! 

The price I pay for my freedom is the effort it takes to maintain it, and it’s SO TOTALLY WORTH IT!


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