This is a follow-on post to Six Years in An Alto: Part 1
Wow, six years! I’m kind of surprised by that, to be honest. When I started out full-timing, I didn’t think about how long I might do it. But then again, I’m the kind of person who *never* had a five-year plan. A decade ago, I moved from California to Seattle, not thinking I’d leave there after four years to move into a 17-foot travel trailer. Now that I’m starting my seventh year living with that choice, I wanted to look at how I’m doing with the whole vagabond thing.
I get asked a lot these days when I think I might stop my wandering ways. The answer is still that I don’t know, and I guess when the right time or place or reason comes up, then I will know. This post is me thinking about where I’ve been and what’s ahead. (The photos tell their own story, one for each year. The cover photo is the Witness Tree, which is still my favorite tree from the last six years.)
Most of the time, I do feel like I’m on my own. I go where I want, when I want, and if I want to spend the whole day obsessively updating my website or reading that really bad dystopian novel, I can do just that. I’ve always been rather independent, never feeling tied to one place or one idea of how to life my life. The past six years has been a lot of me asking myself what it is I *do* want to do in my old age. Keep traveling a little longer is the one answer I’ve come up with, along with staying healthy and being content with my choices.
I’ve learned how to set up and break down a campsite (and how little I can do when it’s just a 1-2 night stay). I can hitch and unhitch pretty well, although I’m still finding new things to forget to do when I do those things I’ve done at least 500 times now! Somewhere in my early life, I learned I can almost anything I really want to and that’s been so invaluable in my vagabond life. Tools like google search and youtube videos definitely help with the more technical challenges, like how to find and fix a propane leak or diagnose an electrical problem.
I work freelance in the tech sector, but never more than half-time because then it would get in the way of my travels and explorations. I still like learning new things, so freelancing exposes me to new concepts as well as new people. And when you travel solo, having regular contact with people can be really nice. And, of course, I spend a fair amount of time writing blog posts and pages and updating my maps and stuff, so that’s like a part-time job, but one I really enjoy 🙂
For all my independence, it’s good to know I have family and friends at the touch of a button, be it phone, zoom, or texts. When I need advice about something electrical, I know I can call a few good Alto-owning friends for advice and guidance. Same for plumbing, although after doing that sink/faucet replacement, I’d rather pay someone else to do that kind of thing!
I used to think being a solo act meant not asking for help, but now I realize how silly that notion is. We all need help at some point, and the faster I ask for it, the faster the problem is resolved or at least handled. When I broke my hand, so many people stepped up to offer help, from dinners to tank dumps to towing my rig wherever it might need to go. That kind of community and support is the one thing I’ve missed while taking a four-month break from Facebook, so I’m back on it, albeit for a limited amount of time per day (and some days I never get around to getting on it at all!).
Here’s a small story about me learning to accept help and how it builds up the community of friends around me. When my hand was in a cast, I was trying to fold up my awning and obviously not doing a great job but I was kind of getting it done. Donna, who I had just met that month, came over to ask if I needed help, and my instant response was no, thank you. I was *so* used to doing everything myself. Then I reversed myself and said, yes, please. Together, we folded up the awning and had a nice chat. And just like that, I realized it was OK to accept help, especially when it makes life easier. Thanks, Donna (out there in Nevada) for a kindness so small you probably don’t even remember it.
I took a hard look at all the stuff I was carting around in the back of my Ridgeline. Did I really use all of those things enough to justify keeping them? For the Oru foldable kayak, one of the bigger items, the answer was an unequivocal YES! It’s so great to be able to pull that out, set up it, and get on the water whenever the opportunity presents itself. Although winter in the southwest wasn’t conducive to kayaking (ah, that cold, oh, that wind…), I did manage to get out on Caballo Lake one time and that was worth it.
I thought a long time about the Solo Stove and the Gazelle shelter I’ve had for a few years. I haven’t used either in almost a year, partly because most places have decent firepits and I actually don’t make campfires that much, and partly because when I’m moving faster, it’s not worth it to take them up and set them up. I decided to gift both of them to friends who will use them than I ever did. I bought a one-person bug shelter that I saw someone using at Salton Sea (where the bugs were fierce during my visit) and I’m going to see how that works out for a solo vagabond.
Inside the trailer, I switch out between winter and summer clothes by mostly buying cheap stuff at Target or Walmart and then washing and donating the “now it’s out of season” stuff. The Alto doesn’t have a basement, so only the clothes that I really, really love survive the seasonal switch-up. Right now, that’s less than a dozen items, if I had to count them.
I’ve mostly eliminated the pile of books I started out with six years ago, passing them on as I finish them. If I really liked that book, I buy the ebook. The trouble is, and I’ll admit it, I can’t resist a good bookstore, especially an independent bookstore, so I end up buying a book or two at every one that I visit. But, as my mother, the librarian and booklover used to say, “You can never have too many books.” Even if you live in a small trailer!
I’m thinking of changing – or maybe it’s expanding – what I post here to dive more into the why and wherefores of six years in motion. After the first year, people suggested I write a book about my travels but I never did. Why? Well, I didn’t really think I had that much to say because I’d only been doing this full-time vagabond thing for a year.
Now, after six years and a lot of time to reflect on “life, the universe and everything” (a tip of the hat to Douglas Adams there), I’m feeling ready to dive into some essays about my vagabond life. It might not be the content people are expecting, but it’s the content I want to write. Let’s see how it goes…
Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities.