Cosmic Gypsy Nomad Life

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

Category: Nomad Life Page 1 of 2

Nomad Boot Camp

The time finally comes, and you’re on the road! You’ve made it! You’ve planned and purged and navigated all the obstacles and it’s a thrilling emotional high to finally achieve your dream of nomadic life! 

Sometime after that, probably sooner than later, chances are good that this extreme high will be followed by an equally extreme low. 

Not a happy me.

You’ll get burned out. You’ll have times of worry and overwhelm. You may find yourself getting lonely, depressed or discouraged. Thoughts of quitting might nag at you, or you may start wondering if you’re really cut out for the nomadic lifestyle. You might get homesick for modern conveniences, or have any number of newfound struggles you couldn’t foresee. You might start questioning your life choices, and wonder why nomadic life isn’t as euphoric as you found it in your imagination.

Welcome To Nomad Boot Camp!

I don’t know why, but almost everyone nomad I’ve swapped stories with has experienced a harrowing adventure right out of the gate.

Recently, a newbie nomad I know got her van stuck in sand. TWICE. In one day. A week before that she’d almost driven her van into a fire pit. It’s a different world out here in nomad land!

Dust Storm!

For me it was my sliding door refusing to shut shortly after my maiden voyage to Arizona, followed by a major dust storm that had me stuffing towels into the door cracks while wind and dust howled outside my van windows.

Then, the same month, (stress related much?) I found myself in the La Paz emergency care with excruciating lower back pain, something I’d never experienced before in my life.

I couldn’t sleep through the pain, and waited out the hours alone, at night, in my van, absolutely miserable between doses of prescription Ibuprofen. 

This Was Going To Be My Nomad Life???

The good news is this: It’s ALL TOTALLY NORMAL!

It’s almost as if the transition to nomadism is SUCH a big shift in energy that it shakes up our lives … like being held upside down while all the stuff that has to go gets shaken out of our psyches … and vehicles … and bank accounts.

We’re not just making a move from one home to another, we’re changing a lifelong way of existence.

My mess in the beginning.

It’s a wonder we don’t all quit when we first start out. We pack too much into our vehicles. Things seem harder than we ever imagined. We experience unexpected feelings like loneliness, depression or fear. Things get mysteriously lost in our rigs, even though we’ve spent months, or even years organizing the perfect living space on the road. It’s an entire new way of being in the world.

If we’re persistent enough we get through the shake up … and start to enjoy our new normal of nomadic living!

We Get To Learn We’re Capable Humans!

Becoming a nomad is an ongoing transition, from the time it’s just a glimmer of an idea, to when we become a full-fledged road warrior.The process doesn’t end when we finally launch … the transition continues emotionally, mentally and physically as the months roll on. 

The nomadic journey is ALL about change – where we park our living rooms changes on a regular basis! One day we may be waking up to a cool shady primal forest, a few hours later we’re baking in the hot desert sun!

From the physical adjustments of not living in a permanent shelter, to the emotional exploration of how we define ourselves as nomads, our old way of living dissolves. We purge belongings, give up dependency on modern conveniences, and ultimately re-wire our very identities. This mushy dissolving stage is often a time of grief and letting go. 

While the life we once knew may be over, the new nomad life ahead of us is often still just a mass of uncertainty. When we first start out as nomads everything seems so much harder than we expected, our great ideas don’t work out, and THE STRUGGLE IS REAL.

I do agree that research and preparation are essential, but it’s is an almost universal experience among nomads that no matter how much we prep, we’ll never know exactly what we’re doing until we’re on the road!

It’s been said that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a master at any skill, and nomadism is no exception.

Over time we’ll develop emotional resiliency, and physically we’ll develop new “muscle memory” to accomplish the tasks of nomadic dwelling. Like any skill, we need to stick with it to learn it.

Here’s A Few Things That Can Help Us Through The Transitions.

  1. Take exceptional care of yourself. Don’t neglect self-care routines. Keep brushing your teeth, stay clean, and get plenty of rest.
  2. Keep in mind this transitional period will pass. You’ll adjust, and things will start to feel more routine.
  3. Reach out to fellow nomads. It’s often the little things that make a big difference in quality of life for a nomad, and the collective wisdom of the nomadic community can be a life-line.
  4. Remember your “WHY.” What’s the reason you chose nomadic life? Let that keep driving you. (see what I did there?)
Nice and organized now!

Being a nomad is an opportunity to really live life, to see what’s around the next corner, to have experiences and meet people we’d never encounter sitting in one place. Embedded in those very experiences are the golden opportunities to discover ourselves again and again.

Thankfully nomadism has become my new normal … yes there are adventures on the road that can be stressful … but when it’s all said and done, I FEEL ALIVE!


Whether you’re a newbie or experienced nomad, find more in-depth discussion of nomadic life in my book Wild Women On The Road: A Women’s Guide To Nomadic Freedom in The Modern Age.

For a more humorous take on nomadic life, read Top Ten Lists For Nomads: The (Mostly) Lighter Side Of Nomadic Life.

Sadness, Grief, And Changes On The Road

I’m single again.

Thought I’d never have say those words. Again.

Being on the road with heartbreak is … well … especially heartbreaking.

I can’t just lay in my bed, turn on Netflix, and indulge in ice cream therapy all day like I would in a stick and brick dwelling … there’s chores to be done, water to be fetched and filtered, the cooler to be drained and maintained … all the constant little minutiae of van dwelling.

Therapy.

I started out solo in June 2017, and became the other half of a couple by New Years Eve 2018. I’ve been in nomadic partnership for 2 years out of the 2 years and 8 months I’ve been on the road.

If you’ve followed my journey or read my book, you know we were very happy together, and very much in love.

And just before the 2020 WRTR, the annual gathering of women out in the Arizona desert, (Women’s Rubber Tramp Rendezvous) we separated.

I’m Lost.

I’d traveled with my beautiful partner for over two years … and forgotten how to be alone.

I feel homeless for the first time since embracing nomadic life.

The funny thing is … I lived alone 8 years, very contentedly, before hitting the road.

I haven’t achieved the second phase of a breakup according to Chandler Bing on the sitcom Friends,Get Drunk And Go To A Strip Club,” but it’s been 12 days, and I can finally hum Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares To You” without a complete meltdown.

I’ve never been in this particular depth of heartbreak, and I’ve been through some for sure. I don’t know if it’s because I’m across the country from my entire family, that I’m doing this as a nomad, or that I’ve become somewhat isolated being the other half of a couple … but this has thrown me into a deep depression.

There were moments I was barely functioning, but thankfully I’m starting to come back to myself.

It happened right before the WRTR started, and in between episodes of crying and the onset of a frightening depression, I forced myself show up at the WRTR and RTR (Rubber Tramp Rendezvous) … and kept my volunteer commitments. It was the only thing keeping me going for the first few days.

I guess it’s good timing this happened right before the WRTR/RTR started and there are so many nomads in the area … I found a group that offers support and safety for nomads just like me. It’s a group that deals with depression, anxiety, and other mental illness on on the road, an incredibly valuable resource for nomads. (Nomadchapter.org)

My fellow campers at the Nomadchapter group understand that there are some days I just need to hole up in my van.

On the other hand, talking to women making it to their first WRTR, and listening to their incredible back-stories, shone a little shaft of light into my heart. This WRTR will be my third, and the women who make it out here is one of the main reasons I keep attending. Their courage, and stories of sometimes just throwing stuff in a van or RV and traveling solo across country to get to the WRTR is inspiring.

I’m Here To Tell ‘Ya, Women On The Road Are Fucking AMAZING.

So, it’s gonna take some time.

I’m starting over with new routines, new friends, and a new-again identity as a solo nomad.

As nomad YouTuber Deborah Dickinson likes to say, I’m a gonna’ Keep On Keepin’ On.

If there’s one skill successful nomads have it’s the the skill of persistence, and damn do I need that right now. Part of me just wants to give up, (that’s just grief talking) but I won’t … because I am one stubborn-ass bitch.

I’ll be on my feet again eventually … and movin’ on down the road.

Complaints Of A Nomad

Nope. Just No.

After a recent desert rainstorm with severe wind gusts, I woke in the morning to the screen shelter blown completely over … and it had taken out my entire kitchen. The stove, tables, utensils, every single fork, spoon, and spray bottle was on the ground, covered with wet desert dirt. In two years on the road, and the third season on the desert, this was a first. I wish I’d taken a picture, but I was in such shock I didn’t think of it. 

So today, sitting here in my mini- van, to say I’m miserable would be an understatement. It’s been another rainy cold winter on the Sonoran Desert, much different than the much warmer first winter I was here. Weeks after the kitchen incident, it’s cold, wet, rainy and damp 53 degrees. The lows at night are starting to dip into the 40s and 30’s. Blah.

Rainy day view in the van

As the frigid days hang on, it starts to wear on me, body and soul. The cold and the dampness throw me into an autoimmune flare … which slows me down in mind and body, and makes me more emotional than usual. I grumble about leaving the cold and damp of NY state thinking I would be better off in nice, warm, sunny Arizona. Hhmmmph.

I’ve talked about the emotional toolbox we need to be a successful nomad in my book, Wild Women On The Road: A Women’s Guide To Nomadic Freedom In The Modern Age, and lately I’m definitely having to reach deep in the toolbox. This way of life ain’t for sissies! (Telesha, Mary Ellen. Wild Women On The Road: A Women’s Guide To Nomadic Freedom In The Modern Age (p. 126). Kindle Edition. )

My Emotional Toolbox Contains:

OPTIMISM

PERSISTENCE

ADAPTIBILITY

PERSONAL FAITH (NON-RELIGIOUS)

COURAGE

PROBLEM SOLVER

STUBBORNNESS

FLEXIBILITY

(If you’re thinking of becoming a nomad, or just making major life-changes, set aside a few minutes to take inventory of your own “Emotional Toolbox,” containing your own personal strengths.)

Right now, optimism is surely the most challenging thing to keep going. I just want to complain!

Coping skills … Once in awhile … 🙂

While I do get to bitchin’ on the cold rainy windy days out in the Southwest, it helps keep it all in perspective when I think of the sub-zero weather on it’s way to my old stomping ground in upstate NY. Cold rainy days in the Southwestern desert still beats freezing rain, temps in the negative, and vehicles buried in snow!

Besides the weather, there are other not so fun things that come along in a nomad’s day, for instance, loud neighbors … or nosy know-it alls butting into your business. … out of control dogs… or creepy guys.  Putting up with not so courteous nomads is probably a close second to weather ruining my day.

Other things that would be easy to complain about are the critters, mice in the engine, having to find a shower, bathroom snafus, no running water, cooking outside, no oven, budgeting.

Do I Think About Moving Back Into A “Stick and Brick? (A regular house)

I have to admit when these times come along I do fantasize about thermostats, climate control and hot showers on demand.

The Sun’ll Come out …

Still.

When I think of my disabled self just sitting around behind four walls, not having money to travel and barely paying my utility bills every month, it infuses me with the courage, persistence, optimism and stubbornness needed to keep living this rich nomadic life filled with experiences, both good and bad.

Like everything in life, living as a nomad is a yin and yang thing. Good/bad, light/dark, rain/sun. Good people, shitty people. 

The rainy days will always be followed by bright, bone warming sunshine, the dogs will eventually stop barking, peace will ensue.

I get to experience these deep cycles of yin and yang on the road. When the days are good, nothing can compare. I relish standing outside in my kitchen cooking a simple meal, as the sun and clouds and moon, the trees, the birds, even the ants, join me in my life. I soak my soul in the desert sunsets almost every day, and count myself beyond lucky to have a soulful, loving partner to share them with.

After a recent bitch session with my partner Nancy she put it all in a nutshell for us, optimistically saying, “We’re nomads, We can do it!”

Desert Sunset

As Always, On The Road I Feel ALIVE!

Feng Shui In A Van – VAN Shui?

Ok, I’m no expert on Feng Shui. I had a little book on it years ago, and Feng Shui’d my apartment. I don’t know all the rules, but I know how it feels.

From this article about Feng Shui, “Feng shui is … the art of placement—understanding how the placement of yourself and objects within a space affects your life in various areas of experience. It … teaches you how to balance and harmonize with the energies in any given space—be it a home, office, or garden. Its aim is to assure good fortune for the people inhabiting a space.”

We Nomads Need Feng Shui In Our Tiny Living Spaces!

Simplified principles of Feng Shui include:

  • Minimizing Clutter.
  • Improving Energy Flow.
  • Adding Positive Elements.
Clothes In Rectangles

I’ve found minimizing is a necessity to feel good in the van. Marie Kondo, the current star of minimizing, says, “tidy your space, transform your life.” I haven’t read her book, but my daughter taught me how to fold my clothes in rectangles ala Marie Kondo!

Now that I’ve Marie Kondo’d my clothes, I can fit most of my wardrobe in a 10 gallon bin! (25 3/4″ x 18 3/8″ x 7 1/4″)

PAST SET UP

I’ve been on the road two years now, and at first I had curtains, and a tapestry above the bed. They were pretty but proved problematic right from the get-go … the curtains just got in my way and the tapestry made me claustrophobic! I ended up going for strictly utilitarian function in the van, but lately I’ve been craving more self-expression and beauty in the van.

I needed a better flow of energy in that little space!

I started by finding mini prayer flags that fit perfectly on my side window. They’re a reminder to me of my spiritual life, which is mostly defined as universe lover, Nature Lover, Tree lover, Meditator.

I wanted psychedelic pillow cases, but they were too $$$ for my needs. I bought some cheapie cases when I had the rest of the van “redecorated.”

Pillow Case On Amazon!

Anyone living in a van, especially if it’s small like my mini-van, knows the bed is the centerpiece, but traditional bed covers were either too big, too expensive, or just too ugly.

Hah! I’m living a non-traditional life, so I came up with a non-traditional solution.

I remembered there was a place in town selling really cool tapestries for a price that was more reasonable than a bed set!

Chakra Tapestry For Bedcover!

For me, how a space makes me feel is Feng Shui. Optimal functioning in my small space is paramount to feeling good there.

Important Feng Shui In The Van.

  • Keeping things in the same place. It’s unbelievably easy to lose things in a van!
  • Being able to find things quickly and easily, within a few seconds.
  • Everything in it’s place determined by how often it’s used and when I need to reach it. (For example: Flashlights in easy reach when I’m in bed at night.)

Eliminating clutter is important in Feng Shui, and I was determined to find ways to organize the “cluttery” things in my van like spray bottles, sun screen, flashlights. I found a cheap storage cube at the Family dollar that I couldn’t resist. WITH SEQUINS. Once in a while I can’t resist a little bling. 🙂

SEQUINS!

Something else that was driving me crazy was having clothes piled up around the van. Nomads will get this … clothes that aren’t quite dirty enough to go in the laundry bag … a pair of jeans I wear only to “go out,” a few hoodies I rotate through depending on my mood, and my pjs. My clothes are stored in the bin under the bed, but I don’t want to dig around under there every day!

I found another perfect storage cube to keep it all in one place!

Frequently Used Clothes Storage

I bought a new black throw rug and put a plastic shower mat over it to catch any midnight spills when I’m half awake trying to hit the bucket – if you know what I mean.

The last thing I did was put “curtains” back up in the back windows. I realized I had two cool Ganesh bandanas … how perfect is that for a nomad! Ganesh is the Hindu God of removing obstacles, among other attributes!

Back Curtains

It feels better in the van, I have the same amount of “stuff” but it’s organized so the energy flows in a way that makes me feel good.

I am SO HAPPY with my van right now. This past year I’ve taken out wooden shelves, removed the platform from the bed and lowered it, and now updated the decor. With the recent reorganizing, I now have more OPEN SPACE in the van, allowing more good energy to flow!

Nomadic Freedom: Is It Really A Thing?

If you ask a nomad why they chose this life, it’s highly likely that freedom will be high on their list of “why’s.” 

My first book even has the word in the title: Wild Women On The Road: A Women’s Guide to NOMADIC FREEDOM In The Modern Age.

Not mine. I wish!

So, if nomads are searching for, and hopefully finding freedom, what is it exactly are we looking to be free FROM?

Yes, we’re free to roam, but it goes much deeper.

Freedom Equals Liberation.

Freedom implies liberation. To be free, we have to be liberated from a state of non-freedom.

Dictionary.com defines freedom in these terms:

  1. The state of being free, or liberty rather than confinement. 
  2. Exemption from external control, interference, regulation.
  3. The power to determine action without restraint.

As nomads, are we free from confinement, external control, interference or regulation, having the power to do anything we want without restraint?

I still need my monthly Social Security, medical insurance, mail delivery, internet, driver’s license and other life necessities. If I choose to keep those benefits, I’m not free from having to deal with the governmental organizations that administer those services. 

When I relocated to the Southwest, I spent over 6 mind-numbing weeks filling out applications, making phone calls, submitting paperwork … a freedom-stealing, soul-sucking endeavor. Just ask Nancy, who listened to me whine that entire time!

Freedom Equals Choice.

I’m still a part of this system, but it’s totally my choice in how I function  within that system. 

The more choices I have, the more freedom I feel.

I wasn’t free when I stealth parked in California … and at 7:30 AM got the dreaded knock from law enforcement. Unbeknownst to us, the area we’d been stealth parking in for 3 weeks had just exploded into a hotbed of debate involving nomads, locals, and authorities. Although there was no specific state, town or county code that made us illegal, (believe me we researched it) when the authorities show up and ask you to move on, you move. My freedom to park on that street ended at that moment. 

Unfortunately, as nomads, we’re labeled as homeless, and the current political/social climate is not friendly towards us. It’s worth paying attention to these trends and have a backup plan to keep our freedom, in case we do get the boot!

To be free isn’t just a physical state.

Freedom Is A FEELING.

I’ve claimed personal freedom to define my life according to what makes me feel the happiest, fulfilled, and whole.

We feel the freest when we’re living from our essential self. Personally, living as a nomad and a minimalist has allowed me to live closest to the authentic being that I wish to be.

Financial Freedom.

Instead of paying extortion money to a utility company for the privilege of staying warm in the cold Northeastern winters, out in the Southwest I follow the sun, run the car heater before bed, cuddle with Nancy or my hot water bottle, and have lots of blankets. 

Living in the Northeast, I struggled every winter to keep up with the heating bills, and was threatened more than once with a shut off. 

Gaining my freedom from THAT BS involved a happy dance, and possibly a rude finger gesture when I paid my last bill!

When I left my cute little apartment two years ago to hit the road, my landlord hadn’t raised the rent in 8 years, and it was already a bargain. Now I can’t afford an apartment, but I have gas money to travel!

Freedom Of Self-Actualization.

We’re free when we’re empowered to live our lives in a way that brings us the most happiness and autonomy, while not impinging on another’s own personal freedom. Tricky, that!

As a nomad, you have freedom to create your own life and redefine what’s important to you.

As you reinvent yourself, you find yourself … this is the very heart of the nomadic movement. Every nomad I’ve met has his/her own unique way of BEING a nomad. There is no cookie cutter mold for us!

Freedom Of Time.

Not having many possessions or huge living spaces frees us from the time maintaining it all.

We learn to meet our needs in a hands-on way, which shapes the quality of our lives as nomads. I can’t just flick a switch and hope to pay the utility bill once a month to have lights and heat.

As nomads we still have tasks and chores to be done to keep us sane and healthy, yet now our energy goes to more directly supporting our own lives.

Freedom Is Relative!

So many of us feel it in our bones that there must be more to life than the “traditional” way we’ve been living. We crave the liberation of our most authentic selves, and realize that life is too short to spend in misery.

We know that life experiences are more important to us than stuff, and nomadism offers us an opportunity for more conscious, meaningful living.

When it’s all said and done, and I think I speak for many nomads … I FEEL FREE!


Some excerpts from: Telesha, Mary Ellen. Wild Women On The Road: A Women’s Guide To Nomadic Freedom In The Modern Age (pp. 166-167). Kindle Edition.

GUYS, This Is For You. (RANT!)

THIS ONE’S FOR YOU GUYS.

It’s Tuesday 10/29/19, approximately 12:30 PM. 

Nancy and I are outside in our campsite, I’m on “my side” of the camp walking towards my van, and she’s standing near her van. She motions for me to look, there’s a man, slowly walking, coming into our camp.

I’ve seen him twice before, walking right through our campsite between our two vehicles. I stop and stand there watching him, so he knows I’m watching him. When he gets close enough to us I say “what’s up?” 

He says something like, that’s the way to do it, have two campsites …commenting on the way Nancy and I have a big camp spread out with our vans across a wide area. 

I say, “yes, and you’re walking right though it.”

He says something about that not being ok, and I say awkwardly “It is kind of weird.” Duh. So awkward.

Then he gets defensive. 

Not apologetic, or understanding how we might feel frightened by a strange man walking through our campsite unannounced … nope, he’s mad.

He berates me, saying “You know people can park right up 15 feet from your bumper,” (rules in this area) implying I shouldn’t have any boundaries with people just walking through the campsite.

Then he says … “ok, another one,” dismissing me in a very derogatory way. Hmmm. Another one? Must be he’s been called out on this before.

Implying it’s not ok to have boundaries, I’m a just another bitch.

I should have said, “Another one what??? Another woman that has boundaries with you???”

He just took me off guard and I was pretty speechless. What I really wish I would have said is, “My understanding is that it’s proper etiquette to ask permission to enter someone’s campsite.” Period. 

This is the third time he’s walked right through our site, and he’s obviously aware Nancy and I are together. The first two times I was in my van and watched him slowly walk through between our two vans, picking up things from the ground. 

This time we happened to both be outside. 

This One’s For You Guys.

Ask any woman who’s spent time on the road, and she will have multiple occasions and variations of this scenario she will relate to you. I’ve been on the road two years now, and it’s excruciatingly common. Most of the time I don’t say anything … and THIS IS EXACTLY WHY. So now I’ve ticked someone off within walking distance of our campsite, and it’s a very vulnerable feeling. 

Men repeatedly walk into our campsite without permission, ignoring the well-know etiquette to ASK PERMISSION.

You wouldn’t walk right into someones home without knocking would you? Especially if you are a perfect STRANGER to those people? How would THAT play out? 

Have a frying pan and know how to use it!

Well, that’s how we feel when men walk right into our camp unannounced without permission. And when we DO ask that it not happen, this is the reaction we risk having to deal with.

And as a couple, Nancy and I have had men repeatedly walk into our campsites without permission. It’s not just solo women that have this problem.

This One’s For You Guys.

Last year, a man camped near us in Quartzsite, changed his Facebook profile to present as a woman, and got himself into the Women’s Only WRTR Forum on Facebook. (WRTR = Woman’s Rubber Tramp Rendezvous.)

He was caught online. It was disturbing, as he was camped just across the wash from us in Quartzsite. He’d made the mistake of having identifying pictures up of himself, and his very distinctive rig, before he changed his profile pic and ID to a female on Facebook. He didn’t even create a different profile, just changed his current one. Not too smart. 

He’d said something in another forum (posting as himself, as a male) about the “Women’s LGBT” group, (confusing that with the WRTR) that had set off red flags with me, and I’d looked at his profile and taken a screenshot. Within an hour he’d changed his profile to female, and when I showed my partner Nancy, she recognized him and his rig and said he’s camped near us! The timing was uncanny. Moderators were contacted and he was booted from the Facebook group. But still, he remained camped near us. So you just never know.

This One’s For You Guys.

So yep, I’m going to question if I see something that might be a boundary being violated. I recently saw a man posting on the Women’s Only Forum on the CheapRVLiving website, and I questioned it. Turns out it was innocent, there are ways to look at posts that don’t make it clear it’s the Women’s Only Forum, which I didn’t realize. It sure did set a few people off, but not with the poster. They were ticked with me.

Having a laugh at ourselves 🙂

I don’t want to hurt anyones feelings. In fact I just had a fantastic in person conversation with a another man about nomadism, single men and women, and what did I think was going on with all these single people on the road. He was genuinely curious about why so many relationships were breaking up, including his, but he was very respectful and not pushy. He struck up a conversation with me at the dumpsters, but not until I gave him a friendly hello and how are you. 

GUYS, we are VULNERABLE. As full-timers we are living outside, with very little privacy, and for obvious reasons, we have to be alert and careful. PLEASE, be aware of our feeling of vulnerability when you approach us, and understand WE ARE GOING TO BE ON THE DEFENSIVE if you’re entering our “home” without asking permission!

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