The Unexpected Gifts of Being a Nomad

It goes without saying that a desire to travel is one of the main motivators behind people that choose to live on the road, but there is so much more the road has to offer. Exploring new places may be the reason you get on the road, but it’s the things in between that can make or break you. After all, the road is long and not every place rewards you with a breathtaking vista!

Like most nomads, I had quite a few things I wanted to see and do while living in my home on wheels. My loose list looked something like this: feast my eyes upon the White Sands of New Mexico, drive my rig onto the beach and park by the ocean, live in the lush PNW forests, hike my butt off in Utah, hot spring hop and explore all the weird pockets (ex. Terlingua, Tecopa, Slab City) peppered around the U.S.

So yes, travel was a motivator for me but dare I say that it wasn’t the most compelling? Would that be too strange to believe? It may sound ridiculous but moving into an RV felt more like a spiritual choice. A choice that was honoring my soul’s journey – groan, I know, but it’s true! I was so excited to challenge myself in ways I knew I couldn’t predict. I wanted to rely on myself more than ever and find out how capable I was. I wanted to strip away things that made life easy and participate more. I wanted to DO something, dig deeper, slow way down and relish life. And so I did. I’ve driven thousands of miles to check the places off my list but I’ve grown immeasurably as a person along the way. Here are some of the unexpected ways being a nomad has changed me for the better…

I’m now a morning person…kinda. 

Before living in Mander I was a night owl and dreaded waking up before 9 a.m. I was convinced it was genetically impossible for me to be up with the sun and actually feel ok about it. Little did I know that when you live in nature, you become more in tune with the natural rhythm of things. Especially if you live off solar energy and without central heating. After the sun goes down, it gets chilly and my ass is getting under the blankets. That means I go to bed so much earlier than ever before! With my single pane windows and 43 year old walls, there isn’t much buffer between me and the outside world. My alarm is the sun filling my bedroom and the sound of wildlife celebrating making it through the night. Here’s the “kinda” part – I might be up by 6 or 7 a.m. but that doesn’t mean I’m leaping from bed ready to seize the day. I still need a couple hours to ease into consciousness before I’m suitable for others. So maybe I’m a Proceed With Caution Morning Person now, but it’s still an improvement!

Appreciation for things most take for granted.

I don’t have a washing machine or dishwasher or microwave or air conditioning or trash services or on demand hot water or endless water and electricity for that matter. I can tell you, I never thought I would be using a public restroom and be excited over the flushing toilet and the hot water coming from the faucet. It’s a real treat! In all seriousness, I think it’s really good to experience going without modern conveniences to keep a healthier perspective on just how easy most of us have it. A long hot shower feels like a million dollar spa day. Clean clothes and sheets feel like heaven. Finding a place to throw away my trash feels like a burden has been lifted. I find myself feeling grateful for small things most people don’t even think about, which brings me to the next gift…

Practicing mindfulness all the time.

When I go into town, I stock up on all the things I need. Food, water and propane, then I head out to public land. Unless I want to majorly inconvenience myself, I need to be mindful of how I consume my resources. Auto pilot, zombie mode will not cut it. When I run out, that’s it! I gotta move my whole house back into to town to resupply. I use propane for cooking, running my fridge and heat. I could ruin all the food in my fridge and possibly freeze to death (dramatics) if I ran out in the middle of the night. Not to mention, I wouldn’t be able to make my coffee in the morning which is…unthinkable! When it comes to food, you have to pay attention to the packaging waste you are producing (no dumpsters on public land) and how well things are going to fair in this rough and tumble life. Fruit ripens hella fast and veggies don’t keep the best in an RV fridge – you gotta buy the tough stuff. We all know water is life but it also keeps my body, face, teeth and dishes clean. I think at this point, I am a master at the art of making every drop of water go the distance. I can usually go a month without needing to resupply water or propane and a couple weeks before needing to grocery shop. This is only possible with practicing mindfulness every. single. day. Sounds annoying, huh? It certainly can be but these inconveniences make me more conscious about many things and less wasteful overall – which is a good thing in my book!

Detaching from material items.

Admittedly, before living in Mander I had an affinity for…things. Old, unique, one of a kind things particularly. I wouldn’t say I was materialistic because my attachment wasn’t in the money-oriented sort of way. It was more about coming across something that was impossibly cheap/free, needed me to appreciate it, save it from the dump and give it new life….ring any bells? (Hello. I’m Jessy and I literally live in that affinity now.) I slowly peeled my fingers away from all my treasures for 2 years before moving into Mander and now, over 3 years later, I’m still getting rid of things! I feel lighter and more free with every bag I drop off at the thrift store. I’m not totally immune to the hit of dopamine you get when you shop but now, for every thing that comes in, something must go out. I love knowing that almost everything I have serves a purpose (or two) or at the very least, brings me joy. The short lived hit of dopamine from acquiring things doesn’t even compare to the experiences I’m having while living with less.

I have all the quality time with my furbaby.

I could go on and on about how amazing The Great Moonchini is but I’ll try to keep it short. Animals have always been more than pets to me. They are basically my children so getting to watch Moonchi grow into the adventure cat she is now has brought me so much happiness. She explores every new place with bravery and passes out, exhausted from all the stimulation. So many new smells! We go for walks together (sans leash) and on our way back, as soon as Mander is in sight, we make a run for it and it’s about the cutest thing in the whole world. Our bond grows tighter all the time and I guarantee you, a stranger has walked by, heard us having a full on conversation and thought to themselves, “A crazy cat lady lives there” and they would be correct.

I got what I wanted…Resilience.

This might be the biggest gift the road has to offer. It ain’t easy peasy lemon squeezey out here and you will be pushed out of your comfort zone. Like, almost daily. I can’t say this gift was unexpected but the ways I acquired it most definitely were. Intense breakdowns, learning how to do things mechanically I never thought I was capable of, stressful drives down roads I had no business being on, and a bunch of daily struggles and fears needing to be conquered in order to keep moving forward. Although I have an amazing support system, ultimately it’s been up to me to deal with everything that comes up. I have been tickled pink to find out just how capable I am. I knew I was stubborn but I didn’t know how far it could take me. Turns out, I might be unstoppable.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, perhaps I will make another one in the future but for now, I will leave you with this. I’ve had many eyegasms in my years on the road but I’m in it for so much more than affairs with beautiful places. For me, it’s not just travel, it’s a commitment to spiritual growth, learning to let go and trust. It may not be for everyone, but this is my road to a more fulfilling life and my trusty old motorhome is taking me there.

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Until next time, much love and Mander on! 




31 Comments on “The Unexpected Gifts of Being a Nomad

  1. Thank you. I’m packing up and taking off in October. Your essay was the Best I’ve seen on the nomadic life.

  2. Hey Jess, I totally agree with everything you said, I once was a Nomad living out of a converted van (with my dog Zeus) and once lived out of a ’73 VW Bug, now mind you I’m 6’0″, so that was kinda cramped to say the least. Since then I’m shamefully admitting that I’m permanently-dwelling again, aka Apt life. But I have future plans to save up for my Tiny Home (100% off-grid) & truck to pulls it around. I would absolutely love to run into ya sometime – Nomad to Nomad! I’ll let ya know when all this transpires! Be a safe, Be well, Be you!

  3. Some nice thoughts. Some I could identify with. You said something like, you like old things, one of a kind, that nobody wants. Well, here I am waiting for you!
    Has Mander been behaving better of late? I would hope that by now you have fixed all the teething troubles, and she will prove to be relatively trouble-free. That’s my experience with old vehicles.
    By the way, your cat looks really cute. I’m not really a cat person, but your little one is the prettiest I’ve seen.

  4. Now THATS a post. I can relate to most you mention. One aspect is a different perception of those I encounter, especially those living with less than I. My favorite experience was a Navajo couple in Kayenta, AZ. Your last photo reminds me of a favorite ranger at Rosie the Riveter NHP but her biceps weren’t nearly the size of yourn. hehehe Safe travels!

  5. Kind of funny, but I went to being a full time RVer because I’m now less capable than I used to be! I used to be a sailor, on boats I built myself. But at 71 that life went to Davy Jones Locker, or was Deep Sixed, or ….. you get the idea lol!

    • Bless you Bob, takes courage to be an RVer. I admire both you & Jess. My husband & I used to go camping & had a 32′ camper that you had to pull. I was too intimated to try & pull it (when I was much younger). Now, I’m much older & wish I had one, that I could drive & afford. I feel stuck but I love being able to read of ya’lls adventures. My biggest issues would be parting with the treasures I’ve been collecting for years & my yarn ( 4-crocheting). Anyway, safe travels to you both…in my prayers. 🙂 Debbie

  6. You’ve learned some valuable life lessons while on the road. One might say you’ve become a wise guy, er, gal! Love yah, Jessie

    • Jess, Do you have a good sense of direction or do you use your phone computer directions? I have a lousy sense of direction! What do you do if have a flat tire, with no spare? I assume, call for help. 🥴

  7. Hi Jess, I always look forward to see your pics and hear your stories 👍😘

    Keep having fun 😎 love your cat 🐈

    AS ❤️

  8. In 1980 I was tired of the workaday world and bought an old school house to turn into a homestead. Raised chickens, milk goats, large gardens. In 1984 I sold that grid connected place, bought 50 acres in a state forest, built and earth shelter for $3500 out of native and recycled materials. Outhouse, handpumped water, laundry by hand, sauna for bathing. Met a woman who shared this life until 2007 when we finally had enough solar to add a bathroom, demand water heater and a laundry room. And running water in the kitchen too. Doing without taught us a lot. We still live simply and (until COVID) traveled in various vehicles. From a ‘61 VW camper, to a small class c motorhome to a teardrop. Camping at hot springs, on beaches in Mexico, in the Olympic Peninsula. Still enjoying. Hoping to head north into Canada, only three hours away, when the border opens and after we plant our gardens.

    Thanks for the insight into your quest. So glad you’ve learned simply living and resilience. While you are learning you are reminding us, and teaching us.

  9. Love reading your posts from somewhere out there. I dream of living on the road one day but circumstances don’t allow at the moment. Padre Island National Seashore (PINS) by Corpus Christi is a great place to visit if you haven already been. A bit hot in summer but spring and fall are fantastic and the park has a boondocking spot free of charge right on the water.

    Cheers and safe travels,


  10. Hi jesse, wondering if I could talk to you privately. It’s pertaining to a job. I’m in need of some assistance with somethings. You mentioned you
    take on many different odd jobs. I’m in Ohio if your up this way.
    Great videos keep up the good work.

  11. My husband and I bought an RV last year and hope to travel for a while at some point. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  12. Wow, I saw the Tiny Home Tours Youtube video which led me to here and I am so inspired. I wish I had had the guts to do what you are doing when I was your age. Now, 62, I’m thinking about it. Not easy to jump into the nomadic life at this late date but, like you I feel it would be good for my soul. I adore all the big windows Mander has and would need that aesthetic so I wouldn’t feel like I’m living in a box. Keep safe and keep writing. You’re a gem!

  13. Hey Girl and her Commander,

    I enjoyed and related to your post, especially spiritually. I found myself shaking my head yes, and yes and yes as I read each paragraph. I feel lucky enough to be in touch with my higher self too and it has been moving me towards the nomadic lifestyle. I put all of my things in storage 2 years ago and downsized my footprint, reorganized my life so soon I too will be able to do the same. You are brave, artistic and living your bliss. The world would be such a better place if we could all live so freely. Thank you for sharing. I will stay in touch when my journey begins. Keep posting.-similar spirit, Susan

  14. I was just thinking about wool, when you mentioned the chill you get through your single pane windows. Wool has lots of advantages (recycled old wool blankets made into snap-on window covers). Wool won’t lose its warmth capabilities if it gets damp (condensation etc.) Wool resists mold and mildew too I believe.
    Warm regards from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. (I too have become a morning person since my 14 year old Shih Tzu requires me to be up at 6:00 am everyday ….also the results of being on a fruit/veggie juice de-tox for the last two weeks…I now have more energy than I could ever imagine having!…and I’m 72 yrs of age)

    • Love your comments, especially about the snap on window coverings, an absolutely great idea!! Great days ahead for you & to you too, Jess.

  15. Hi! I watched your home tour video on YouTube. So rad! I like how you kept some of the vintage items and I really liked the vinyl flooring and your use of turquoise and white colors. The scooter on the back is such a cool way to go. I used to have one. I used it so I could kayak down rivers and self-shuttle. Otherwise you can’t float a river alone. I wish I’d kept mine. Don’t ever sell yours! Thanks for the inspiration. Cheers!

  16. Hi there, your last post was in February and I just discovered your blog and video. Are you still out there? Seems like the men all want you and the women all want to be you. Pretty nice situation to be in. This seems like a great plan for a few years but the rest of your life? I admire you if you can do it but don’t think I could. Be safe out there and good luck to all the fellow travelers out there.

  17. Love your content.

    Thank you for openly sharing your spiritual motivations for living the life you choose.

    I just sold my home and plan to live the nomadic life.

    I do not know where I’m headed but I am looking forward to the journey.

    Spiritual growth is a priority for me as well.


  18. Hi Jess, been a lurker on your site for a few years. I’ve been sad to see no new updates for well over a year. When/if you have time, we’d love to see something from you, if only to say that you are doing well. Good luck! Julie

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