RV Living: Letter From a Traveling Nomad

Learn how recreational vehicle living offers one person the best of two worlds.
By the Mother Earth News editors
March/April 1971
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Living in an RV or camper lets people get out of crowded cities.

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Many of our earliest common ancestors were nomads who restlessly followed the seasons or trailed after migrating herds of caribou, buffalo, yaks, upland African game and other animals. Maybe that's why most of us still get the itch to put new country under our feet every spring. A few really hard cases, it seems even dream of developing a year-round gypsy alternative to the nailed-down little boxes that the system tries to fit us into.

Can it be done? Sure can. It IS being done . . . as the following firsthand reports indicate. Is it ecologically sound . . . I mean, with all that driving and everything? Well, surprising as it may seem these full time gypsies generally claim they operate internal combustion engines less now than before they began living on the road. Read the following account for an explanation.

Letter From a Traveling Nomad

I am living in Big Tujunga Canyon. Bright sunlight and fresh air stream into my home. A hundred yards away rushes the creek. Beyond rise rugged hills, green with winter grass and budding shrubs. A few more days I will live here—writing, installing some equipment; then move to Los Angeles for a short, intense contract job. Next summer, when Tujunga Canyon is no longer very green and Los Angeles may be hot in more ways than one, I will be living somewhere in Canada. My home is a house car.

I chose this way to freedom because it offers me the best of two worlds. I can live most of the time away from regimented, congested, indefensible cities, yet still profit by "exporting" my labor into those cities. I have the freedom and security offered by mobility; yet I possess what is in most respects a permanent residence. I can fully enjoy life right now, yet live economically and accumulate capital for further ventures. Finally, I can "opt out" alone; while I look forward to trade with others who may choose similar or complementary ways of life, my liberty does not depend on their decisions.

I am also delighted with unforeseen "fringe benefits"; ease of washing or resting after a journey; no worry about what to take with me; no time spent idle while waiting on something or someone; no commuting to work. All travel is more efficient; I move only from destination to destination without intervening trips to a stationary home.

Far from having a primitive way of life, I enjoy electric lights, running hot and cold water, shower, gas range and heater. And all are "self-contained"—not dependent on external utility connections. With occasional refills of water, gasoline and propane, I can enjoy my "modern conveniences" anywhere a rugged truck will take me.

At first I was crowded; especially when my rolling voluntary society doubled in population. But after consigning seldom-used items to storage, adding under-chassis compartments, and carefully rearranging, the interior is neat, belongings are accessible, space is adequate for two.

Like many other self-liberating activities, mobile living is safest in the largest city or wildest wilderness. Cops have bothered me only twice in four months of living aboard; both times were in farming areas where, while traveling, I had stopped on (unposted) private land; patrolling deputies asked me to move on. I have had no problems parking on city streets at night, usually in apartment residential areas. On jobs I often stay in the company parking lot. Only rarely have I rented space—the backyards of friends—when doing work which immobilized the truck for days.

This way of life is very economical. My almost-new house car, including much gear I have added, has cost under $6000—a fraction of the price of a comparable yacht or a well-equipped retreat home, not to mention a cracker box in the suburbs. And living expenses for two total about $120 per month, including $55 for food, $20 for gasoline, $10 for maintenance, $10 rental for storage space, and $25 for miscellaneous.

So far I have been too busy to travel extensively or to seek out especially attractive campsites. But already I have lived many exquisite days and evenings at beaches, mountains, and forests. I am still learning the way of a modern nomad, but already I am free.

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