At first glance, I’m challenged to find the obvious tie that binds the 8000 or so souls gathering each year at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) and Womens’ RTR (WRTR) in the Sonoran desert of Arizona.
A survey of the parked vehicles suggests membership probably isn’t defined by rig-choice or economics. Large, newer-model, Class A rigs are parked next to older, hand-painted school busses, parked next to “do-it-yourself” minivans, parked beside creatively converted cargo trailers. Others have journeyed to this gathering in small cars, and pitch tents. Some vehicles have all the bells and whistles, many have neither.
We don’t seem to share a religion. Christians, Buddhists, Wiccans, Anarchists, Atheists and others gather around campfires each night. Some sing Amazing Grace. Others sing Little Rabbit Fu Fu.
There is a distinct absense of stated political affiliation, and vehicles are strangely devoid of polarizing bumper stickers. My guess is that all stripes are represented here, many a polka dot, and maybe even some paisley.
I’d guess the average age of attendees is 55-70, but many I spoke to took time away from work to attend. Many others find creative ways to work on the road. There were just enough “20-somethings” to ensure the rest of us acknowledged our “elder-ness”.
There are “neighbourhoods” at these gatherings suggesting sub-cultures amidst the diversity; a large LGBTQ camp, a bustling art camp , music camp, dark-sky camp and a number of groups gathered independently to celebrate similar ideas, philosophies, eating styles or bad habits. There is an active recovery community and sometimes You-Tubers create camps for their online communities to gather.
Just outside the RTR boundary lies the “PAR-TR” where all-night dancing and music are regularly on-tap. There is an area for “busking bohemians” and although there were no “clothing optional” areas at either event, we did have a completely naked man join us at the Art Camp’s morning campfire at the RTR. This is the sort of community where one simply chooses not to make a big deal of differences, even when that difference is fully bathed in morning sunlight, and asking six fully-clothed women if we might have cream for his coffee.
We’re not a particularly colourful group ethnically but I was part of more than one conversation about the desire to hear the voices of non-white folks in information panels and workshops so we can all benefit from understanding their unique experiences and perspectives of life on the road. This strikes me as a community where we can be the same in our lifestyle choice, but different, all at the same time. And that is important to me.
So, what is the tie that binds this community together? Of course there is no one answer to this, but browsing the WRTR and RTR bulletin boards – put up so attendees can post both their “needs” and “offerings” to others – I found myself reflecting on an earlier life experience that felt similar.
I was reminded of my small-town, Ontario childhood in the early 1970’s, when I often stayed with my grandmother, who lived in a modest little bungalow, surrounded by other modest little bungalows, on a quiet little street. Each one had a small front porch. We called them “stoops.”
After supper, while the dishes soaked, residents of these bungalows sat on their front stoops, drinking tea. Hellos were hollered across the quiet street, and as tea was finished and the sun setting, important information was exchanged by those who zig-zagged from stoop to stoop.
Everyday needs were unearthed during relaxed conversation and everyday needs were met without fanfare. Lawn mowers were repaired, recipes shared, advice sought and house-sitting arranged. All needs were accepted; as long as their was no exchange of money. Just like at these nomadic gatherings. Support – emotional and practical – was exchanged through relationships and reciprocity, not pocketbooks. This is exactly what happens during these gatherings. A leisurely exploration of how we can help each other out, and an unwritten agreement to participate to the best of our abilities.
I think the nomadic community is recreating the front stoop.
Sometimes people on the road get a little worried about this whole “nomad thing” that is growing in “popularity” is going to “get too big” or in some way implode, causing harm to those living this lifestyle. I see something different. A community that is actually set on becoming smaller and more personal.
What I noticed is that when you put this particular diverse group of independent, self-sufficient people together in the desert, without all the comforts of “home,” we return to our front stoops and naturally recreate small neighbourhoods. Small neighbourhoods of people with different perspectives, experiences, gifts and talents who criss-cross the desert to take care of one another. In person. Through lazy conversation and sharing of everyday moments with the people who are close by.
Small travelling caravans are also forming in this community – another expression of a small town sensibility – allowing nomadic folk to travel together in small groups all year round, so you don’t have to be alone between these large events, if you don’t want to be.
Urban city-living is not working so well for a lot of people. Bigger is not always better. I think many of us are over-stimulated and disconnected from the Earth, and ourselves as part of this incredible ecosystem. We have forgotten we are Children of Nature and we have forgotten that we need one another.
This community is helping us find our way back. To the night skies, to the plants, animals, mountains, deserts, rivers and oceans. To ourselves, and to one another. And it all starts by coming out of our isolation, and spending some time on the front porch.
24 thoughts on “The Nomad’s Front Porch”
As always I enjoy your writings.
Hi Kit – I just discovered you today – your wonderfully planned Dodge van with the Bob Wells interview…and now your beautiful website/blog. You’re a very very good writer and photographer – one I want to follow. I’ve been looking at going on the road for about two years now., inspired by YouTube videos mostly……and even bought a V6 vehicle to pull a tear-drop trailer which I never did buy!. Since I just turned 76 I decided NOT to pull a trailer and go back to basics – a Dodge ’87 mini-van which I used to camp in in the 90’s throughout the southwest.
Now, after meeting you via the video and your website and seeing how well you planned your van – I’m sooooo excited. This is going to be perfect for me. I am a tall lady 5’7″ but I think I can do it and maybe even sleep ‘width-wise’ like you do (maybe????). Is there any chance that you sell plans for your fantastically well planned kitchen/storage/electrical unit? That pull out kitchen/storage is genius!
I won’t be living in my van – but want to take some extended rambles through Utah, Montana, Colorado this summer. So much to do /see/ and experience and so little time.
If you’ve already posted stuff on your van-build let me know where to find it…and I’ll be keeping my eyes open for a Dodge 2017 with a ‘garage’.
Happy ramblin’…and THANK YOU for being here now…
I spend a few months each year in southern Mexico (Oaxaca and Chiapas)-
Follow me on FB – Living Textiles of Mexico for color and adventure!
I also have a blog on WordPress with the same name that I pretty much neglect – but people still read it for Mexican textile info…
You are a great writer. We saw your interview with Bob Wells. Glad to see another Canadian interviewed. I enjoy reading of your adventures.
Love your post a lot, I’m in the same shoes as you, I’ve been dreaming of a solo shelter since june 1998 and designing my own little shelter since, started with 16′ x 40′ (640 sqft) and now, after 22 years of searching, traveling, observation, designing and creating the perfect solo shelter I’m in the back of my van an living a verry well & happy life in 35 square feet (5’x7′) of living space. I can not explain that sensation of living in a so small place and be happy in the same time…
Bought the van in october 2018 (Dodge Promaster CIty 2016), built my bed, kitchen and bathroom and took off for the RTR 2019 december 23, 2018. Now I just need to re-design my food in-take and I’ll be set for life :). Life is all about three things, Energy (Food), Protection (shelter) and Passion (Do the thing you like to do).
From your french boy…from Canada NB…MC
PS excuse my english…I have a french accent hehe 🙂
Beautiful post.. refreshing, reassuring and revitalizing for all to embrace.. a nomad lifestyle. Thanks Kit for your energy and warmth. I loved being your neighbor in my ‘Serenity Sedan’ and missed you when you were gone. XOXO
Ahhhhhhhh I missed you too, and you were an awesome neighbour L! I hope you continue to enjoy the journey! Keep in touch 🙂
Very nice, Kit, thank you!
Thank You Rita 🙂
Excellent post. I’m too old to join RTR in person, but was there in spirit! Thanks for sharing.
Good morning Tombi, I’m so glad you are here, tripping along with me 🙂
The spirits of many elders are out on the road with us. It’s a gift!
Kit, your stories draw me in every time. I love the way you have taken on life anywhere you go, whether it’s in the desert or Cape Breton. So many women will follow your march and those that are unable to, will live vicariously through your pictures and stories. Very well written!
Hello there Robin. Love seeing your messages here (or anywhere). I think you are on your way to Florida? Love to you and S. XOX
Kit, you have a wonderful life. I love the way it is grounded in two very different terrains and ecosystems. Thanks so much for your open-hearted sharing that enables others to travel along with you in imagination. My spirit is right there with you among the saguaros. Have you ever been to Arcosanti, south of Flagstaff? It’s a visionary living/architectural/educational development in the desert. Check it out if you can, if you haven’t. ❤️
Hello Neighbour 🙂
You know, I got to thinking this morning about how Cape Breton is also this community for me. Different ecosystem/terrain but another Front Stoop community where knowing your neighbour is just part of what it’s all about. I need that in my life, and I now have it in both parts of my life. Such a blessing. I was just reading about Arcosanti- what a fascinating project! I’m not sure yet if I will get up that far north – its still very cold there. Even down here in the Quartzsite area it’s still quite chilly. But if I DO get up there, I will absolutely go to visit. I went to visit the Earthship community in NM and was so inspired. Thanks for the heads-up on that!
I must concur with Dan Adams’ response. This is exactly what I was thinking when I read your blog and couldn’t have said it any better. I look forward to more profound writing from you. Thanks!
‘Morning Warren. Those are super kind words, thank you. Glad you are here to enjoy the journey along with Pips and I 🙂
I am a 65 year old white male who is on the verge of becoming a nomad myself. I have been keeping up on the activities via YouTube and various blogs and vlogs for the past year and the life that all of you have undertaken is very appealing. I find you to be one of my favorite “voices” in this world. Your personality, articulation and unassuming, quiet presence is a breath of fresh air in life.
Please continue your journey . . . I look forward to all of your posts and your YouTube videos. One day I hope to meet you on the roads of life. Take care and God Bless.
Being on the verge is so much like being on a ledge. Looking over. And it’s high. LOL.
I love that stage of anything. Dreaming. Planning. Anticipating. Wishing you all the very best as you continue to prepare to get on the “on ramp” 🙂 Thanks for your kind words.
Wow, Kit! I knew you were smart and now I feel you are wise too! Lovely!
Oh, get outta town, YOU.
It’s nice to see you here. Can’t wait to see you in Canada hehehe.
That’s subliminal/not subliminal suggesting.
Amazing and thoughtful insight. Empowering one another to reach that inner strength of being authentic is vital. It isn’t about all of the “stuff” we have but more importantly being kind to one another and lending a hand where need be. Thank you for sharing and hope I am able to enjoy and embrace this community.
Thank you Kellie 🙂
You’re so right Joanne. Its so NOT about the stuff.
Thank you for your encouragement. Great thing about front stoops, is you can create one wherever you are, and enjoy it even before you get out here. Sometimes it just takes one person to sit outside and smile at their neighbours. I bet that is already you 😉