How I’m Particularly Unsuited to RV Life (And Why I Choose It Anyway)

Announcement! I’m starting a new blog series with this entry.

It began not as a series but as just one post about what it’s like to manage your mental health while “living the dream” (aka living on the road). I got to thinking about this when brainstorming with Shana and Marcus about their new YouTube channel that’s partly about how they manage their PTSD through their nomad lifestyle (check them out at Black, White & Gray Matter). But then my writing about anxiety got longer and more convoluted (no surprise there), so I started organizing it through a numbered list of how I suck at this lifestyle, with anxiety being merely one reason. In my draft, I am at reason #7, each entry as long as this one, I kid you not. So, I decided to just cut the cord and post this a bit at a time, as I feel like it. Tomorrow I turn 55, so it seems like the best time I can think of to make fun of myself.

Okay, on with the show.

Part 1: Some Who Wander Are Lost

You know those inspirational sayings people have plastered all over the place, like, Live, Love, Laugh.  

I found this pillow left behind in our new campsite the day after I posted this!

I know they’re supposed to be reminders to be present, but what are they really?  Decorative, feel-good catch-phrases?  When I see Live, Love, Laugh, I read, Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

Campers and hikers put a certain saying on so many items that it seems to have popped up like mushrooms all over the outdoors. It’s on water bottles and campsite flags and the rear windows of RVs. It was on a throw pillow in the Frolic when we bought it.

I drew an arrow since it’s easy to get distracted by the best foster dog in the universe, whom Tracy regretted not adopting (don’t tell Banjo). What a Good Dog. The pillow with the saying on it is beside her.

Okay, clearly this saying goes, Not All Who Wander Are Lost. I actually like this one because I like Aragorn, whose superhero theme song it’s from. Aragon really is the OG nomad, criss-crossing the land, never settling down, keeping a low profile. Heck, he’s dirty and he’s out of place when he leaves the wild to mix with the public—he’s a spot-on mascot for campers. I wish people put his face on water bottles.

Here’s my sister and me dressed as elves for some Lord of the Rings party because I can’t find the picture of her next to the Aragorn life-size cardboard stand-up I gave her for Christmas that year.

Physically Lost

Here’s my point, which is that I’ve created my own spin on that saying, my personal superhero catchphrase.  

Some Who Wander Are Lost.  

That’s not hero-like, but it’s so, so true.  

When I’m out hiking by myself, if there’s a side trail, I’ll accidentally take it, and an hour later I’ll have no idea where I am or how I got there, or, worse yet, how to find the main trail again.  I get a lot of exercise this way.  

Sometimes I take a wrong turn because I’m distracted by the phone. (I make calls while I hike because it’s private time by myself and I don’t get so restless on long calls. I just have to trust the person I’m talking with to tell me when my heavy breathing gets gross.)

Sometimes I get lost while hiking because I think that little blue triangle attached to your icon on Google Maps is the wake behind you, when really it’s the spotlight in front of you. (Don’t you agree that Google got this wrong? Clearly we all have a blue, aura-like wake.)

Most times I just mysteriously find myself lost.  It’s the way I roll. 

Once, Tracy and I were walking together in the desert with absolutely zero trees to block our sight (we were in Valley of Fire State Park in Arizona), and I still got myself separated. That was not funny, seeing as how Tracy had the water and the map.

That very same same week, I walked out of the trailer to get some exercise before a huge windstorm. [Cue ominous music] I happily hiked down a long wash for a while but then started worrying about the upcoming wind and decided to take a shortcut to the road back. I know my mistake this time: I forgot to notice topo lines on the map, so what I thought was a direct route ended up being up and down, up and down rows of cactus-covered, rocky peaks and valleys (pictured behind me). That added an extra 45 minutes. I got back to the trailer before the storm hit, but there was a good deal of panic involved.

Heck, I used to work with geospatial professionals (basically, they do land measurement and location). That really was my job. I didn’t have to be fluent in location-based stuff because my exact job was helping to publish a magazine, but I did have to fake it. At my first big conference where I met people I’d been working with online and on the phone for years, it took me all week to find my way to and from the press lounge. I got lost at a conference for mappers.

None of this bodes well for a life of travel. While Tracy drives and tows the trailer, I navigate. It’s a challenge. Everywhere we land presents new hiking trails, unique map styles (the one on the right is a real LoTR-themed biking map), places whose names I get mixed up.

And yet, I haven’t had to be rescued by officials yet.

(That fabulous hand-drawn map on the right is by Aaron Cooper and Hop David, and it’s a map of Ajo biking trails. Click on it to see it larger.)

Spiritually Lost

Another way to look at this lost business is within the tradition of traveling to find yourself. The classic travel writers of America seem to all come to the same corny but true conclusion here: You can travel the world, but you’ll always end up where you started, which is with yourself. (I’m sure that, too, has been embroidered on throw pillows.)

Maybe this blog is like one of those classic road-trip stories—On the Road, Travels with Charlie, Blue Highways—in that maybe I’m trying to figure out who I am by shucking off attachments, seeing the country, hearing strangers’ stories, telling my own.  

This is not a gratuitous selfie; the statue is oft he main character in the novel A Confederacy of Dunces, which is not a travel book but has ‘find-yourself-themes.”

Problem is, I haven’t gotten to the “find yourself” stage yet. Heck, sometimes I feel more like Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, speeding down the highway toward Las Vegas, hanging out the rented convertible, shouting, “There’s no point in steering now!”

I do have hope that I’ll end up more like Aragorn and not the slightest like Hunter S. I’m thinking: Keep wandering, maybe show up unexpected with an army of undead at my side (that works with the spirits of family members, right?) and, eventually, clean up and settle down.

I have a lot of wandering to do before then.

Stay tuned for additional thrilling sections of How I’m Unsuited for this Lifestyle, such as My Enemy:The Trailer Hitch and Going Where the Climate Suits Our Clothes My Ass.

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