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Welcome to the Tribe!
Believe me, if you had told me 20 years ago that this would be my life I would have told you that you were out of your mind. It could never happen. But, here it is true, this is my life. It has been a long strange journey to arrive at this point so I thought I would share with you how it all came about.
When I started my website, (cheaprvliving.com) back in 2005, I had no idea what it would one-day become. I knew nothing about the internet or HTML (and still don’t!!) but I found a cheap and easy way that a total non-geek like me could create a website, so I did. I loved living in a van and I was so thrilled with all the good it had brought into my life that I wanted to share it with others. The idea that it would grow and become popular never once occurred to me. I was simply a guy with a passion who wanted to share it.
I had just gone through a divorce and a major mid-life crisis and had discovered that basically I had been unhappy most of my life. I knew I hated my job and the prospect of going to it for the rest of my life was torture to me. There had never been any happiness in my life, I was just going through the motions trying to endure life and survive it as best I could. I was a perfect example of what Thoreau described as living “lives of quiet desperation.”
Moving into my box van was the first ray of light and hope I had ever had. Living that simply and cheaply raised the possibility of an entirely different way of life outside of societal norms. Living in a van made very happy, but I was well aware that the majority of people I saw around me were still living lives of quiet desperation and they had no idea there was any other way to live. I wanted to share with others the wonderful new life I had found in vandwelling so I started the website to carry the message. I had two primary goals for it:
- To inspire others to make a leap of faith and move into a van.
- To educate them about the details of how to live comfortably and happily in a van.
At the same time I joined a Yahoo group called vandwellers and discovered there were other people who had fallen in love with vandwelling. We were all the time trying to meet up in get-togethers. The first one I attended was in Ohio in 2007. I believe there were about eight of us there. The second one was in Arizona in 2008 and if I remember right there were about six of us. The third one was at the Slabs in 2009. That one was very special to me because I made some very deep connections with like-minded vandwellers. It was there I met Charlene Swankie and TwoKnives Katie, who instantly become family to me. In 2010 we had another gathering in Quartzsite, Arizona that was life-changing for me. At all the gatherings before we came together for a few days and then split up without any real connection. But at this one we stayed together for a long time. Charlene, Nemo and I camped together for about a month in Quartzsite, and then moved to the Slabs and camped together for another month. By then the desert was getting too hot so I returned to my home-base of Pahrump, NV and we had another gathering. Wayne, Charlene, Nemo and Katie were all there. Then we were joined by several others, some that I hadn’t met before: Brian (the younger) and Brian (the elder), Cheri, and several others. And, again, there was a heart connection made that went far deeper than just friendship, we were family. We camped together for a month or more.
A Tribe is Born
I loved the connection we had made and became aware that I this was another deep void in my life that vandwelling could fill.
I had always been quiet, shy and something of a loner. Making friends was never easy for me. In fact I would have to say that in my whole life I had very few real friends, mostly just acquaintances and co-workers. So it came as a shock to me to be surrounded by people that I really like and cared about and even stranger that they liked and cared about me. That had never happened to me before. Most bizarre of all was that these were healthy, mature relationships. They weren’t based on neediness or pride; we genuinely liked each other without ulterior motives of wanting something for ourselves.
At the end of the winter we broke up and went our separate ways, but over the summer I became deeply aware that this kind of connection was something I wanted and needed in my life and I wanted to share it with others. In August I came up with the plan of formalizing what had happened the year before and announced the first Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR). It would be held in Quartzsite, AZ in January2011 and all vandwellers and RVers were welcome. That January we had 45 people attend and I made many more, deep, life-long friendships. It was just a great time. In November 2011 Steve from Washington started camping with me and we became like brothers and are still camping together. At the second RTR in January, 2012 we had 90 people and again it was a wonderful time and many more connections were made.
In the summer of 2012 I was no longer campground hosting because of my damaged arm so I held the first Summer RTR which about 20 people attended. But then something totally new happened. People who had come for the RTR stayed to camp with me for the rest of the summer. Then others joined us. Some would stay for a day or two; others would stay for weeks or even months. People were coming and going all summer. There were never less than 6 people camped with me and often 8-12 people. Several of them were brand new vandwellers and they had come to be “mentored” informally while they became comfortable with their new lives and learned the ropes.
That trend has continued and increased. Today there are 11 other people camping with me and more on the way. Some are brand new, others have been doing it longer than me. Because FREEDOM is our highest value, our connection is very loose. We come together and then drift apart; people come and go all the time.
It is my hope that this continues to grow and many more will camp with us in the upcoming year. I want to think of it as a MENTORING center where newbies can come and learn and feel comfortable while they get their “sea-legs.” I equally want it to be a SHELTER from the storms where people who have been beaten down by society and the bad economy can find hope and recovery in a safe environment.
It has been a long, strange journey, but I finally feel I am exactly where I am meant to be, doing exactly what I am meant to do. That is an incredibly good feeling I want to share with as many people as I can.
If I can be of assistance to you, my email and my camp are always open. You are always welcome. My email and my camp address are both on the side-bar to the right. Bob