Since the beginning of my nomadic journey I’ve heard these words over and over again:
“I’m So Jealous!”
In the beginning, when someone said that to me I would laugh hysterically (internally of course) and think, “OH HONEY, if you only knew!”
There Are Times Of Misery In the Life Of A Nomad That Are Nothing To Be Jealous Of, Believe Me.
I’m sure people envision us wallowing in leisure, with unending days of blissful relaxation, freedom to do whatever we want, and no responsibilities dragging us down. To be honest that’s exactly what I had in mind too, before I hit the road. I hate to spoil the fantasy … and while I do have an amazing life … it’s not a realistic picture.
It was rough in the beginning. I was exhausted, disoriented, and my mental health took an unexpected dive. Even after the “big purge,” I still had too much crap to keep organized. It was all driving me a little crazy! (Read more in Wild Women On The Road: A Women’s Guide To Nomadic Freedom In The Modern Age.)
Speaking of crap, the porta-potti I thought would be similar to the “house throne” turned into a craptastic nightmare. At only two gallons, it was small enough to be emptied into any toilet, but the pour had to be skillfully controlled, or risk an explosion of two gallons of digested waste all over the bathroom. It was a weekly challenge to find a place to dump it — by either awkwardly carrying a 2 gallon container of liquified poop into a public bathroom — or finding a dump station to pour it into a hole in the ground where other people have splashed THEIR liquified poop. Dealing with a slurry of your own waste … ewwwww.
Then, there’s exposure to the elements 24/7 — dust storms, thunderstorms, monsoons, and for extra ha-ha’s this year, a snow storm. One summer we made a rookie mistake and drove into 110 degree weather … utter, complete misery in a mini-van. Most free areas require campers to relocate every 14 days, and you better believe Nancy and I compulsively check the forecast before we move on.
And the critters! They’re constant company everywhere, from food-stealing bees to pissed off rattlesnakes. See more → Critters On The Road.
Plans frequently fall through — you arrive and the campsite is closed, travel schedules get screwed up by unforeseen events, a crazy neighbor forces you to leave a perfect spot, or you get an early morning knock from the authorities in an area previously friendly to nomads.
There’s household chores without running water, safety issues, getting sick or injured on the road, vehicle problems … the list goes on.
Some Days You’re Doing Your Best Just To Stay Sane!
So why the heck are we doing it, and just what is it that people are jealous of???
Most of Us Know, Consciously or Not, That Human Beings are not Meant to Live the Grinding Monotony of Work, Consume, Sleep … Then Repeat … Until We Die.
In The Healing Power of Nomadism, I explore the positive effects of travel — partly what people are craving — but I think it goes even deeper.
I believe people are feeling some undefined yearning for freedom … for human freedom that our civilized, capitalistic society has convinced us to trade in for the trap of security. Freedom is relative, I still have to pay bills and be a responsible citizen, but I do feel intense freedom as a nomad. It’s personal freedom defined only by myself.
When I hear, “I’m so jealous,” inevitably the next words are, “I don’t think I could do it.”
Of course, the financial aspect of being on the road has to be considered — but mostly I hear people express fear of discomfort — of making a mistake, of giving up possessions, of leaving the familiar. We pay a price for trading in authentic living for the illusion of security, trading in wonder for fear.
The Ecstasy Outweighs The Agony!
Personally, the wonder I get to experience outweighs any discomfort. I’ve felt rushes of absolute freedom and joy on the road, seeing the world as I’ve never seen it, standing on an ocean beach far from my home of origin, with frothy waves rolling over my feet, the sun and sky and cries of seagulls filling my senses. I’ve had my mind blown as I look down from a high mountain peak on a psychedelic orange sunset, and met fellow nomads who inspire and encourage me just when I need it.
On a purely physical level, I’ve learned to create my own version of comfort. My health is better living close to nature — I even sleep more soundly in my van, after a lifetime of insomnia.
I couldn’t agree more with these words from the French philosopher Albert Camus:
The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.
Some material taken from Wild Women On The Road: A Women’s Guide To Nomadic Freedom In The Modern Age. Kindle Edition. © 2018 Mary Ellen Telesha