Welcome to my February Writing Project: 28 Posts about van life in 28 Days!
My plan is to write a short post each day throughout February; a celebration of the ordinary and extraordinary moments of “life on the road” as a woman, in a minivan, with a dog.
My hope is to give you a sense of what our days look and feel like, out here on the road. I want to take some mystery out of this lifestyle, and inspire aspiring nomads to consider both the gifts and maybe some of the challenges of this lifestyle. After almost 7 months living in the van, I can say with confidence that for me, the gifts far outweigh the challenges.
First a little update….
Pippa and I are camped on free BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land just outside Lake Havesu City, Arizona. It has been a week since the RTR (Rubber Tramp Rendezvous) and the Women’s RTR ended, and after spending a few restful days with a friend and taking care of “business” (getting an oil change, car wash, laundry, groceries and doing some serious van cleaning) Pip and I are back on the road.
Emotionally, I feel rich and relaxed in the new friendships and connections I made at the RTR. I am rested and rejuvenated at a whole new level. After 7 months of travelling solo (except for a lovely 6 weeks with my daughter) it was nurturing and exciting to meet so many awesome members of this Nomadic Tribe. I’ve made life-long friends and expect I will need to continue to come back to drink at that “well” regularly, now I know its not “just an online” thing. It was like meeting people I share DNA with. In time, I will post more about the RTR…
Woke with the sunrise, and opened the sliding side door to let the morning air in. The sun was warm and Pip and I were in no particular hurry to get up. When I did swing my legs out the other door around 8:00 am, a neighbour called over from quite a distance, asking if I wanted a coffee. I rarely say no to a coffee and within five minutes I was visiting with four people from Oregon, sipping good strong coffee. Desert hospitality at it’s finest.
Pippa played with Cowboy the Dalmatian while we laughed about dust; sharing desert shower and hair-washing tips. They invited me four-wheeling, but I declined, having not quite decided how my day was going to unfold. This kind of kindness is not uncommon.
I made a typical breakfast. Cleaned dishes in my little sink. Made my bed. Peed in the van, in the “pee pot” (which I then emptied outside), because there are no services here in the desert. I poured a basin of warmish water and used a washcloth to totally wet my hair to get dust out and had a quick sponge bath beside the van. My only neighbours are on the other side, so I have privacy. I only heat water if its unbearably cold. “Cool” helps wake me up. I put on clean clothes. Put away the sweats I sleep in. It’s important in a small van to put things back where they “live”.
I decide to enjoy another day in Havesu rather than go back to Quartzite today. Not sure how I decided, except that a goal is to slow down considerably. I don’t have to be home in Canada until May, so there is no rushing required. Besides, I love it here, and I’m the Boss of Me 🙂
Off to the dog park. Havasu has four dog parks and we have now been to two of them. Pippa enjoyed almost an hour of play, which makes me VERY happy. I enjoy visiting with other dog folks, some of whom I recognized from the day before. I am also DELIGHTED there is a flush toilet bathroom at the park. Delighted, because I have morning business to attend to yet. This is an important part of van life when boondocking. Knowing where your daily business will be conducted.
Then to Goodwill, where I popped some tags. I only had 20 dollars in my pocket and still managed to leave with 6 new items of clothing! I still enjoy a little retail therapy on occasion. It’s going to be quite hot here this week, and I needed shorts and a couple lighter t shirts. I let go of two pair of pants which no longer fit well and a couple sweaters I won’t need while here in the southern US.
If something comes into the van, something must go out. That’s my guideline and how I keep my clothes to a minimum. Other than my winter boots and down coat, my clothes are second-hand and easily replaceable with more appropriate clothes for changing weather. I enjoy thrifting too, so it works great for me. Sometimes I just want to enjoy familiar past-times, like I would at home. This is one of mine.
Beside Goodwill there is a water dispenser and I fill my portable water jug for 15 cents per gallon. These dispensers are common in Arizona and the water tastes better than the water at the Long Term Visitor Sites, where for a small fee you can camp AND have access to water and trash disposal.
I’m getting hungry, so I go to Rotary Park, pull out the kitchen and make lunch in the parking lot. I put my camp chair beside the van in the shade and eat, occasionally talking with people passing by. People like to ask questions about the van, and Pippa gets visitors too. A fellow RTR attendee came over to say hi. We didn’t meet while there, but we swapped some camping location tips. I did a little writing. I’m now moderating a Facebook Page for women who attended the RTR or want to in the future, so I responded to some questions and comments there. It feels good to be doing that. Meaningful. It’s a way to stay connected to so many of the women I met in Quartzsite. I then concocted plans with a friend to meet there tomorrow for lunch. Suddenly, I knew what my plan for tomorrow was! Often, this is how plans unfold. I just wait for the next step to make itself clear.
After lunch I stop by the Aquatic Centre, because it’s time for a shower (it’s been four days and twice a week is my new “typical”) . For $5 I can have a swim, shower and whirlpool. I made a tentative plan to go tomorrow morning before I leave for Quartzsite, before it gets too warm for Pippa in the van. I note they also have shaded parking, which is nice.
At 5:30 I go to a recovery meeting, because contrary to popular belief (and my naive hope), one can’t escape addiction by travelling 30,000 km at a breakneck speed. Needless to say, addiction and I remain travel partners. I try to be kind to the monkey on my back but some days I’m just miffed about the whole thing. Miffed, but not giving up. I celebrated, cautiously, 30 days of abstinence tonight. I was happy I went. More awesome people. Support. Understanding. Compassion. Hope. Hugs from strangers who genuinely wish me relief from a 15 year struggle. I’ve been going to support groups since the New Year began. In Quartzsite and now in Havesu.
On the way back to the desert, I stop to give Pips one more run at the park. The sunset was breath-taking and Pip ran big circles with a friend in the now-cool park.
I arrive at a new campsite in the same general area I was last night, while I can still see the road (it’s always good to arrive before dark); settling in as the sky darkens and the stars begin to pop. I make a simple dinner of a spinach and hummus wrap and feed Pippa. An almost-full moon rises from the dusty hills and drumbeats echo in the night. The “schoolies” are here – a collection of brightly painted busses – and they are having a drum circle. Children laugh and dogs bark.
I decide I don’t need to plug in my mattress pad heater tonight. It’s cool but pleasant. Even though I have electric lights, I use my solar Lucci Light inside the van. Pippa is lazing in her booster seat in the front but joins me once I get into bed. She hasn’t eaten yet, but I know she will wake up hungry in the night and eat then, in the dark. I don’t fret about her anymore. She has her own timetable too, and if she wants to eat at midnight, I let her be the Boss of Her 😉
I settle in to write this post with the door open so I can enjoy the sounds of people, in community, sharing something so simple and pure: a common rhythm.
Here, in the desert. Outside of Havasu, Arizona.