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

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Nomad Burnout – The Struggle Is Real!

It’s been four years this June that I’ve been on the road full time.

This Year On The LTVA

I’ve done the purging, the giving up a home, the newbie times, the figuring things out times. I consider myself a seasoned nomad.

This year I rode out (pun intended lol) the Covid pandemic, stuck in one place on the LTVA (Long Time Visitor Area) in Quartzsite Arizona. 

Away from family, still reeling from a devastating break up, I was becoming more and more exhausted and disillusioned on nomad living.

By the end of 7 months in Quartzsite, I was depressed and irritable with van life, and ready to get the hell out of there!

I was tired of doing ALL. THE. THINGS.

Cooking, cleaning and accomplishing normal “hygiene” activities without running water or hot water on tap. Adjusting to the cold, the hot, the sun, the wind. SO WINDY this year. Putting up with the constant shuffling of belongings that makes up part of every van dweller’s day. Setting up the portable solar panels out every morning. Relentless planning to have enough resources with minimal storage space, like water, food, and other life necessities.

Throw into the mix the crazies that invade boundaries with their vehicles, advice, noise, barking dogs, confederate flags, radios at full blast, speeding-dust-churning OHVs, (Off Highway Vehicles) and loud conversations.

Kids On Dirt Bikes Ripped Up The Desert Right In Front Of Me!

I even had some little kids no older than 10, laying patches with their dirt bikes two feet from my kitchen table, all to their parent’s amusement of course. 

I was burnt out as hell!

Yes, I’d finally conquered the finer points of nomad living, but now the lifestyle that previously thrilled me was dragging me down.

Thankfully, as soon as I got back on the road to travel back to the lush Springtime of upstate NY, I started feeling better. The road was finally ahead of me, and I had an epiphany that I’d missed that feeling.

Around that time I’d started transferring my written journal entries of nomad life into digital format. I’d recorded every day of my first 365 days on the road, and as I looked back at that time, I was struck by the intrepid spirit of that past me.

Forest Camp

I had camped alone without a cell signal! I’d spent a summer exploring the Adirondacks on my own. I’d navigated the daunting transition of living behind walls and locked doors to the open freedom of a nomad. I’d successfully transitioned into a radically different way of life. I’d even been inspired to write and publish TWO books about nomad life! (I’ve provided the links at the end of this blog.)

It wasn’t without multiple ups and downs, but I’d reveled in the freedom. The immersion in nature. Seeing new places. The new-found discovery of feeling COMPLETELY ALIVE!

As I read my journals I realized I’d lost that past intrepid spirit. I’d fallen out of love with nomad life.

It turned out to be a valuable lesson in happiness.

Desert Wash! Don’t Park Here.

Four years ago I’d kicked myself out of a lifetime comfort zone, sold my belongings, left a cute apartment, and drove solo across the country to winter in Quartzsite Arizona. I’d never camped in the Southwest, and didn’t even know what a desert wash was.

I’d hit the road to explore my freedom and expand my horizons, but over time I’d become overly picky of where I’d camp.

I needed an internet signal, shade, people nearby but not too close, people around but not too many people.

I’d also gotten into the habit of setting up a “permanent” camp and not moving around much, really limiting my experiences as a self-proclaimed nomad!

Add on a pandemic and the desire to protect my health, and I really got stuck in a rut.

So, I’ve decided that even if I do settle in Quartzsite again for the winter, I’m upping my nomad game. There’s still so much for me to explore.

I need to stretch my comfort zone again. Now that it feels like old hat to live in a van, it’s important to keep my nomad spirit happy. 

No more sitting around in one place for 7 months.

Me, As A Happy Nomad. She’s Back!

I’ve already made plans to take a short trip to Cape Cod this spring, and to see the Grand Canyon in the fall. There’s museums and other areas of interest in Quartzsite I’ve never visited in the four years I’ve wintered there, and that’s going to change.

Thankfully, making those mental shifts has renewed my love of nomad life. The depression has lifted and my enthusiasm is back! 

The price I pay for my freedom is the effort it takes to maintain it, and it’s SO TOTALLY WORTH IT!

Click Here For Amazon Link

Click Here For Amazon Link

What Do We Give Up As Nomads?

As I stand looking out at the sweet little Mettowee River, my backyard view for the last 5 months, I feel a familiar pang of sadness.

It’s time to leave.

My view of the Mettowee

I’ve spent the summer in the North East, camping in the Adirondacks and *moochdocking in my families backyard overlooking the Mettowee river … and this is the hardest part of nomad life for me… once again I’ll be leaving behind my kids, grandkids and siblings to go on my nomad way.

Tomorrow starts my 10 day trek across the U.S, traveling back to the sunny SouthWest, and it’s bound to be a wild time traveling during a pandemic, an unprecedented election season, and general civil unrest.

So, why do we do it? 

What have we given up to become nomads?

Looking in from the outside it looks like a lot: 

  1. Family.
  2. Security.
  3. Comfort
  4. Ease.
  5. Rootedness.
  6. Familiarity.
  7. Living Space.

But here’s the thing.

Yes, we’ve given up the security of four stationary walls, but we’ve traded that in for the adventure of really living IN the world. Personally, my brain really digs the novelty living as nomad brings. And yes, we give up comfort and ease, but end up growing in self-sufficiency and confidence as we realize what we’re capable of. We give up rootedness and familiarity, but replace it with mind expanding vistas and fascinating people living unique lives.

We give up houses that serve as place holders for our “stuff”, but we gain a priceless knowing of what we really need to give our lives meaning.

Maybe instead of what we’re giving up, we can rephrase it to letting go.

Forked Lake

There are a thousand little adjustments in becoming a nomadic free spirit, with changes happening on deep levels as we move through those adjustments. There’s an essential re-wiring of our brain and body when we go from a sheltered stationary existence to living out in the world as a nomad.

“By letting go of what we’ve already lost we open our arms to what’s trying to reach us.”

Martha Beck

To live the life of a nomad requires letting go deeply on physical and emotional levels.

When we go through the process of downsizing, it becomes an opportunity to ask, “Without these material possessions, what defines me … and who do I want to be in this world?

As we let go of the physical, it allows us to release the emotional, and to finally let go of our story of the past. When we can do that, it frees up the physical, mental and emotional energy that allows us to create a better, more life-affirming story.

Most humans just want to feel secure, at ease, comfortable, connected … and there isn’t one of those feelings I can’t create in my nomadic world.

But why would I want to risk such a life-altering change, giving up my cozy apartment and most of my material possessions?

For most of my life I felt like I was missing something, staring out windows and daydreaming of the world beyond.

Now, I may be missing my family, but I don’t feel like I’m missing out. I feel like I’m a full on participant in life.

I feel full … INSIDE.

Above all, I feel ALIVE!

Cuesta Ridge CA

Yes, nomads give up a lot …but we also experience the rush of absolute freedom and joy on the road, of seeing the world as we’ve never seen it. I’ve stood on an ocean beach far from my home of origin, with my toes curled in the frothy waves and the sun and sky and cries of seagulls filling my senses. I’ve had my mind blown looking down from a high mountain peak on a psychedelic orange sunset, and met fellow nomads who’ve inspired and challenged me, giving me encouragement and support at just the right moment.

I gave up living full time near my family, but it makes our time together even more precious.

Today I’m letting go of the cold, wet weather of the North East, ready to soak in the warm healing climate of the South West desert and gaze upon that wide open sky that so mesmerizes me.

Getting to the next level always requires ending something, leaving it behind, and moving on. Without the ability to end things, people stay stuck, never becoming who they are meant to be, never accomplishing all that their talents and abilities could afford them.”

Henry Cloud

Excerpts adapted from Wild Women On The Road: A Women’s Guide To Nomadic Freedom In The Modern Age. © Mary Ellen Telesha. Amazon publishing.

* Moochdocking: Camping for free on someones property, usually a friend or family member.

What’s On Your REVERSE Bucket List?

We all know about the Bucket List, a list of things to do before you die. This consists of ADDING to your life experiences, not a bad thing, but the REVERSE BUCKET LIST is even more thought provoking.

The REVERSE BUCKET LIST is a list of items that you REMOVE from your life.

Whether it be physical, mental or emotional, as we remove life issues that hold us back, we make more room for our SELVES.

I heard about the Reverse Bucket list from Arthur C Brooks in an interview on NPR. I was fascinated.

What I need to do, in effect, is stop seeing my life as a canvas to fill, and start seeing it more as a block of marble to chip away at and shape something out of. I need a reverse bucket list. My goal for each year of the rest of my life should be to throw out things, obligations, and relationships until I can clearly see my refined self in its best form.

Arthur C Brooks – Your Professional decline Is Coming (much) sooner than you think – The Atlantic

Nomads Can Relate To This Philosophy!

Anyone who’s hit the road knows the process of the “purge,” the drastic removal of physical belongings that’s necessary to fit comfortably into a tiny living space. Anyone who’s experienced it also knows it’s an emotional deep-dive. Once we wade through our emotions, we’re left with the gift of clarity. What remains is what’s truly important, useful, and relevant to a richly lived life. Minimizing is a profound practice, and one I’ve constantly refined as a nomad.

Removing tangible baggage gives us a chance to reveal the intangible, unseen emotional baggage we’ve been dragging around. As we let go of physical items, we find ourselves challenged to deal with the emotional meaning we’ve attached to those items.

Letting go of my office desk was one of those things for me. I’d purged almost everything else in my apartment without too much of a struggle, but the finality of selling that desk brought me to tears.

I’d purchased it at the start of my Life Coaching business, a precious dream I’d poured my heart and soul into.

What I didn’t see coming then was that instead of building a thriving business, my life would come to a screeching halt with an autoimmune condition. It transformed me from an active, independent woman to practically bedridden and unable to drive.

Letting go of that desk was letting go of a big dream, but thankfully, another big dream was on it’s way to being fulfilled!

Becoming a nomad I again purged beliefs about what my life should be. I left my family behind to travel cross-country, and it was painful to realize I’d never be the cookie-making grandma.


My nomadic journey became an opportunity for me to discover who I am … NOT defined by family roles. The sharp grief I felt leaving my family slowly resolved, and now my daughters and grandkids see an example of a strong woman living her deepest desires, in spite of her fears. I’m not the cookie-making Grandma, but now I’m the adventure Grandma! ( Excerpt taken from Wild Women On The Road: A Women’s Guide To Nomadic Freedom In The Modern Age, © Mary Ellen Telesha, Amazon Publishing)

When we can let go of what no longer serves us, we make room for other dreams.

We Make Room To Live As Our Truest Selves.

As we remove rooms full of items that require maintenance, we’re given back precious time to deeply savor the moments of our lives.

As we let go of relationships that crowd us, we make room for higher levels of self-care and service to humanity.

Never Get Tired of Desert Sunsets!

As we eliminate the clutter from our mind and environment, we make room for life energy to flow through us, instead of being so cramped up physically and emotionally that we can’t move out of our own way.

As we make space in our living areas, we naturally open up space in our inner world for higher emotions of joy and freedom.

We learn to fill our lives with experiences, instead of things.

Reflect on your own life for a minute. Is there a place where you feel crowded and where you crave more of yourself? Now go and make your reverse bucket list!

Nomads Vs Pandemic

I haven’t posted in a while… because … you know it …

The covid thing … ahhh the covid thing.

What I didn’t see coming was the energy it would cost to navigate this covid mess … physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. The initial stress of it left me with just enough energy to get through the day.


It felt like I wasn’t living in the same world as before, humans weren’t the same humans, and I wasn’t the same person.

Being a Nomad In a Mini-van Is Challenging Enough Without a Pandemic!

Being a nomad, in a mini-van, in the midst of pandemic, can be a nightmare.

Everything I’d taken for granted as a nomad; public showers, weekly ice and water runs, grocery shopping, minimalistic living and limited storage in the mini-van … had become a soul sucking cluster-f*ck. A grocery run meant gearing up, physically and mentally. Disinfectant wipes – check. Mask – check. Gloves – check. Alcohol spray – check. Soap and water – check. Did I touch a contaminated surface? Did someone just cough? How do you disinfect bananas? Since I have no place to hoard toilet paper, am I gonna’ be wiping my a** with leaves?

Then came the stories of nomads being chased off public lands and out of towns in some states. 

Nothing will test your resolve as a nomad faster than a world-wide disaster.

So How DOES a Nomad Cope With a Pandemic?

For Me, It Started Out Like This:

  • Feel like you’re having a nervous breakdown at least once a day.
  • Consume alcoholic drinks, chocolate, or other substances, mostly legal.
  • Contemplate quitting nomad life.
  • Get stressed and freak out.
  • Decide to quit nomad life.
  • Later, realize you LOVE nomad life and resolve to stick it out. After all, this too shall pass.
  • Get on with it the best you can.
  • All of the above on any given day.

I finally concluded that living as a nomad was still a healthy way of life, even in a pandemic. I get lots of fresh air and sunshine, I’m living a life I love, and all the “risky” things that stressed me out, like shopping, would still have to get done in a “stick and brick” dwelling.

Since it’s not a great idea to become dependent on drugs, alcohol or chocolate to get through a crisis, here are some healthier practices.

Stay in the present moment. Easier said than done, but the scary movies we spin in our heads about what could happen sometimes do us more harm than actual reality.

Get support. Most therapists offices are offering support for Covid related stress, and if my anxiety hadn’t leveled off I wouldn’t have hesitated to call my counselor. There’s also an amazing free resource specifically for nomads traveling with anxiety, depression and other similar challenges, They offer online resources and groups, group calls, and occasional in-person nomad events. It’s all peer-to-peer, relaxed, with no commitment required.

Lean on your community. Staying connected is crucial, even if it has to be virtual. Don’t isolate from human interaction. Staying too much in our heads without the balance of human connection can create a devastating spiral of depression and anxiety.

Don’t allow fear to rule your life. Most of the time we are safe. Yes statistics can be scary, but there’s risk just being alive here on planet Earth. Keep fear in check by adopting a balanced perspective. 

Practice radical self-care. I listen to stress-relieving videos on YouTube, use essential oils for self-massage, drink lots of water, and take Vitamin C and B vitamins daily. I try to sit with my face up to the sun for at least 10 minutes every day. These practices send a strong message of self-care to my body, which helps keep my immune system healthy.

Squeeze pleasure out of the “little” things. Focus on happiness, joy, and pleasure, even if it’s in little doses. Our heart has the ability to amplify good feelings. Notice when you’re feeling pleasure with friends, or lovers, or sunshine, or stars. Make it a practice to focus on good feelings when they arise. Even with the world in such a messed up state, there is still abundant joy and love to be found.

Keep a routine. Personally, my daily routine gives me a sense of control in an out-of-control situation. It’s tempting to give up on little routines when we get overwhelmed, but in the long run routines help our mental balance.

Be gentle with yourself. When the pandemic really hit the fan, anxiety took over and interfered with my functioning (like maintaining my blog) and I was really hard on myself over it. Being a recovering perfectionist, it was a challenge, but I finally gave myself a break. We don’t always have to be strong.

The pandemic has even given me more material that I’m considering added to my book, Top Ten Lists For Nomads, The (mostly) Funny Side of Nomadic Life. (Available here on Amazon)

Top Ten Things Nomads Say In A Pandemic

  1. When will the showers be open again???!!!
  2. I’m an introverted nomad, I’ve already got this social distancing thing down!
  3. Who’s hoarding all the God D**m toilet paper!!!?
  4. I’m going to run out of toilet paper!!!
  5. Got any leaves?
  7. Isolation? I already do that … in the wilderness/forest/desert!
  8. Yes officer, I’ve completed my two week quarantine. In my van.
  9. When will this END?????
  10. Yep, I STILL love nomad life!

Here’s To Happy Trails …

and Plenty of TP!

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.


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. (

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.

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