Holy moly, after months of being without my rig, I am back in. And it feels GREAT to be back in my RV. I gotta tell ya, this life feels so right. I am not talking about RV life. I am talking about living this NOMADIC life.
Why not RV life specifically? Because one could live in an RV in the same campground or the same area for decades. That’s not being nomadic. I am nomadic, as I constantly move and I have no home base. I will even be (happily) houseless, as soon as my rental sells.
I have finally come up with a theory about why being a nomad feels so right. A theory that explains why I am happier than I have ever been.
It took a while to figure it out, but my reasoning has not wavered, and I am rolling with my answer. Before I get into my theory and the explanation behind it, I should give you a little background about my life before I became a nomad.
Frustrated In the Suburbs
Before I get to my point, in the spirit of being completely open and honest with you, I’m going to share something that is not easy to admit, but here it goes…
I used to live like most everyone else. In a place that was owned or rented. I had to stay still because of a job. Very common.
What’s not cool is when I lived in a traditional manner – house, job, etc, I really struggled on and off with depression. I really also struggled to find “the meaning of life” types of questions, which is basically impossible.
Yeah, it sucked. Literally, I contemplated the meaning of life on a pretty regular basis. To me, life felt meaningless. It was very disturbing to feel that way. I occasionally even took anti-depressive medication, desperate to escape the frustration and sadness and the “what’s the point/what’s the meaning of life” questions that friends knew all too well that I struggled with.
It felt like something inside of me, a basic, instinctual need, was not being fulfilled. Something was wrong with my life. I was driven to find more meaning. Living in one place, going to work 5 days or more a week, and coming home and “updating” the same house and the same yard (for 12 years) had become colossally unsatisfying and surely wasn’t helping. I knew that I wanted to travel more or to move again, but I couldn’t until I could. I didn’t really know the reason behind why I felt so miserable.
The Big ‘Change’ – Nomadic Healing
One day I realized I hadn’t been depressed for months. What had changed? I had become a nomad. It was a pretty big life change. About 10 months into my new lifestyle, I started realizing that I hadn’t been depressed since I hit the road. I wondered if it was a coincidence, but it’s now been almost 3 years, and I STILL haven’t experienced any depression. This made me wonder, “Why am I no longer depressed?”.
Why did I feel so content all of a sudden? I have thought about it a lot. And I kept going back to the same reasoning. I finally feel I can share it with you because I feel pretty strongly now that at least for ME, it’s a correct assessment. It might hit home for you as well. This is my opinion. Nothing more.
My Nomadic Cure For Depression
I am starting to believe that we humans have a basic need, or drive, that has been taken away from us by living in today’s society. I believe it’s a need that most of us aren’t really aware of. You may feel it but not understand what the need or the frustration is or stems from. What is this alleged need?
The Need To Roam/Hunt/Search For Our Basic Needs For Survival.
Sounds kind of funny when I type it out that way. It’s a need that we need… to fulfill our basic needs? Well, yeah.
No, you’re wrong. We DO hunt; we go to work to earn money to buy the things we need…
Yep, we do do that. But most of our jobs are easy, physically. Also, the jobs can be predictable and not very challenging or inspiring. I was a personal trainer and Pilates instructor for about 15 years. Loved it, but it did get old after a while doing it with the same company in the same place.
We, as a species, used to have to hunt and gather things just to stay alive. What did we hunt for?
Food. A place, or places, to live. Water. A Tribe. Safety.
When we conform to the almost unavoidable traditional lifestyle of living in one place for a long time, we lose the fulfillment that comes from these types of “hunts”. We live in one place. We go to the same grocery store. We know exactly what’s in each aisle in that store. We go to the same gas station on the same route to the same job. There is no longer any physical hunt.
Our hunts have been replaced by complacency and repetition. IMHO, repetition=boredom. Boredom is a recipe for many types of personal human disasters. Some call boredom, or an idle mind, the playground of the devil. I don’t call it that, but I do understand the meaning behind the saying.
Is it possible that this boredom or lack of a challenge can lead to us getting busy doing other things to satisfy that urge? (I’m talking about things like alcoholism, drugs, cheating, gambling, excessive shopping, and things that aren’t so bad but do kill time.)
I used to work in my yard a lot in my spare time. I also went shopping in town. I would always be looking for the next thing to do to keep me “happy”. However, I still fought depression and pondered the meaning of life, questioned who I was, and felt a general sense of unease below the surface.
An Odd Analogy Using The Dog Whisperer
My theory reminds me of Cesar Millan’s teachings about dogs. He speaks about how we should fulfill our dogs needs over our human needs. Dogs are animals. They are driven by instinct and DNA. They have a few instinctual drives that they cannot ignore.
The dog’s biggest needs are to travel for miles (exercise) and to follow a calm, assertive leader. The human’s biggest need from the dog is love and companionship (affection). Most humans give way too much affection (human need) and way too little exercise (dog’s need) to the animal. We box them up in our house and yard and limit them from going on long walks every day, denying them of their need.
The lack of fulfillment (usually exercise) for the animal forces it to release its frustration in other ways. Most commonly, they release their pent-up energy by doing things like excessively barking, pulling on the leash, fighting, or tearing up the couch while the owner is away.
They are attempting to release their energy, but it often is not enough for them and so they continue doing the “bad” thing.
Was I The Human Version Of A Frustrated Dog?
Let’s compare my theory of a human having a basic unfulfilled need to a dog having unmet needs. I wonder, if our ancestral need to hunt or move forward is not met, does this cause us to try to fulfill ourselves in other ways? (As in does it contribute to general unease, depression, and bad habits?)
I know that I, for instance, used to “feel better” (temporarily) when I worked in my yard. I loved to go shopping (a form of hunting) at Lowes or Home Depot and get new plants, mulch, whatever it was, to be “moving forward” with something.
These days, I do zero yard work and I do very little shopping. (Especially for things I don’t really need.) That time and energy is instead spent on finding my new route, deciding where to stay next, finding gas and groceries, getting propane, finding a dump site for my tanks, meeting up with friends, maintaining my truck and rig, watching and following the weather, and of course, working on Camp Addict.
One could argue that I am doing pretty much the same thing- keeping busy. Very true. The big difference, however, is that now I do it to stay alive. I have to be present to do these things. I can’t be on auto-pilot. There is no auto-pilot when faced with the unknown.
Moreover, the REAL difference is that I am not depressed anymore. I also barely ever contemplate the meaning of life. I just live it. It’s as if I don’t have time to question it. I think about it on occasion, but not at all like I used to.
How Can The Nomadic Life Cause Happiness?
Ok, so let’s look at how I live my nomadic life. How does it relate to how our ancestors lived? No, I don’t have to kill my prey in order to eat. But I do have to search out and find food in the form of a new grocery store. I know it may sound ridiculous, but I really think that there is something to this.
I have to find the cheapest gas station. I have to make sure my rig can drive into and out of the gas station with plenty of room. I have to find propane. I have to move according to the weather so it’s not too hot or cold to live in my RV. I have to find a route to find my next camp. I have to decide where to live next.
I see new landscapes and new things I have never seen before on a fairly regular basis. Life stays fresh. I meet up with my “tribe” along the way.
I am kept alive by being kept on my toes. It feels right and it makes me happy.
Our ancestors had to hunt for “utilities” as well, also for their food, for their clothing, for shelter, etc. Again- it’s not exactly the same but it’s closer to living the way they did than our modern lifestyle affords us.
Keeping things new, for me at least, works. It killed my depression. I am more free and happier than I have ever been. I am not saying that RV life is for everyone. I am not even saying that living nomadically is for everyone.
I am sharing the fact that for myself, being a nomad is working. I am happier than I have ever been. Will this change? I don’t know. All I know is that for now, I am happy and I am rolling with it.
A Nomad’s Thoughts On Traditional Living
From day one, we are told to chase the American Dream. Go to college, graduate, get a stable job, buy a house, get married, have children, go the distance with that job, become empty nesters (if you don’t get divorced first), retire, then travel if you are still physically able to do so.
I’ve done most of that game in the past. It didn’t work for me.
I can’t help but look back and roll my eyes at my old life. I bought a house. Fixed it up. Paid out the wazzoo in interest. Paid out the wazzoo in insurance. Paid out the wazzoo to play with it/remodel/fix up the yard.
If I could see a grand total of how much of my hard earned money I spent on that place, and on shopping for other ‘things’ (pretty much all of which I no longer even own) I think I might vomit.
And that’s just the one house. I have bought three in my lifetime.
I am not saying I was miserable all of the time. That’s far from it. I did fun things. (And here’s a bunch of photos of a younger Rv Chickadee…)
I went to parties…
I went for drinks with friends.
I volunteered at Alaqua Animal Refuge, where I ended up adopting Gizmo from.
I went to the beach.
I had a part-time family when we had my ex’s daughter at my place.
I still found humor in the weirdest things and places. Like this news report on some new restaurant that opened in nowhereville, Fl. They had to wear these stupid chicken wing ‘hats’. I felt SO sorry for them, but it also cracked me the hell up.
I went to Halloween parties, one of my favorite things to do.
I made a showplace out of my yard, and I really did enjoy it, for a while.
So as you can see, I had good times and good moments for sure.
Still, these days, especially after getting a good taste of this new nomadic life, I choose to live my life outside of the box.
My new nomadic life is full of adventure as well. Well, I’d say it’s had much more adventure if photos speak louder than words…
All fun aside, even back in high school I remember thinking about living in my vehicle. I wanted to buck the system. Cheat it. I fantasized about this to avoid the crazy high cost of buying a house or living in a rental.
And here I am! I’m very close to living out of a car. (Thinking that a van is a good next option, too.) A lot of people would laugh at the notion that living in a vehicle could be someone’s “dream”. Of course they will. That’s fine.
I DO have this type of a dream. It’s not so much about living in a vehicle, it’s about the freedom that comes along with the choice. Freedom to choose where and how I want to live. It’s about being happy. It’s about the freedom to live without being depressed and without questioning the meaning of life all of the time. It’s about simplicity.
I am no longer a slave to a mortgage or a year or more lease. I choose to live for free on public lands. I can go to a campground if I need to. Right now, my cost of living is pretty much limited to gas and propane, which is NOTHING compared to my old cost of living.
Living in a van down by the river has provided me with all of these freedoms. Yeah, I dig it.