Baby Steps to Changing Your Life Part II: He Who Dies With the Most Memories–WINS!

When your life flashes before your eyes, make sure you’ve got plenty to watch.” 

~Author unknown, from a television commercial

Recently my good friends Beth and Forrest had a post on their blog that just tremendously moved me, and I want to share some thoughts I had from it. It would be helpful if you saw the post for yourself before you read this one, so I suggest you go here right now and take a look:

The jist of the post was that she was recently doing their laundry and noticed that one of Forrest’s favorite orange Columbia fleece sweaters was looking a little thread-bare. His response was that “No way! I paid $70 for that fleece, it can’t be worn out!” So that got them curious and they wanted to know how old it was. They couldn’t figure it out, but they knew it was over 5 years old. But more importantly, they realized he had worn it everywhere! Out of curiosity they looked through their photo album to find exactly where it had been. The rest of the post is photos of Forrest (and Beth) wearing it in many, many places!

I counted it up and there were 25 different photos covering five years and in 15 different states. That is one well-traveled, well-used fleece!
($30-$50 at Columbia Men’s Fast Trek II Half Zip Fleece )

I was tremendously moved by their post. I just thought of all the memories and experiences that must have come flooding back to them as they sat around the table looking at all of those photos, remembering the good and bad times that went with each of those trips and the people they had met and things they had done. I know that when I go back through my old photos I relive each of those experiences just like they had happened the day before. I know this sounds silly, but it actually brought a tear to my eye (yes, I really am an old, sentimental fool!). I knew I had to blog about that orange fleece pull-over.


I love collecting memories! I try to buy a bumper-sticker from wherever I go and put them on my vehicle. I’ve got a bunch of them accumulated and whenever I finally decide on my next vehicle I’ll put them on.

My first thought was of that old saying, “He who dies with the most toys wins!” And I thought to myself no-way was that right! For me, the biggest winner in life is:

“He Who Dies With the Most Treasured Memories Wins!”

Have you ever thought about what makes a successful life? If you haven’t, how can you know if you are living a good life or not? Unfortunately, most of us just go along with society’s definition of a good life which is:

  • conform to the rules,
  • get an education and get a job,
  • buy a house,
  • get married,
  • have kids,
  • buy a lot of stuff,
  • grow old and retire.

If that makes you happy, then in fact you have had a winning and successful life and I’m delighted for you. But, are you certain it made you happy? Or are you just going along to get along? Did you just convince yourself that, “This is what everyone does, I must be happy.” That’s exactly what I had done all my life, but after finally admitting to myself that I was really very unhappy, and had been for a long time, I decided that definition doesn’t work for me so I rejected it. I wanted more from life than what that offered me.


My son and I ran a marathon together, creating a wonderful memory for both of us.

It seemed that the “Normal” definition of a successful life was almost totally based on accumulating things and stuff. But I found that when I got the stuff I was supposed to want, it just left me empty and wanting more stuff. No amount of accumulating made me happy. What’s worse, I had to spend so much time working to get the stuff and pay for a house to hold the stuff, I didn’t have any time or money left to do the things I really wanted to do. So I didn’t have any memories, just stuff! Worst of all, my only memories were of working at a job I hated to get more stuff! Those memories didn’t make me feel good inside at all!


This photo is a prime example of looking for opportunities to make memories. It’s rare that Mt. McKinley is cloud-free. this one day happened to be my day off and it was gorgeous. So I threw my camera gear in the truck and took off. I spent about 2 hours taking pictures of the mountain and got an incredible memory.

However, each of us must define a successful life for ourselves and no one can tell anyone else what is best for them, least of all me.

If “He Who Dies With the Most Treasured Memories Wins!” is your definition of a successful life, then Forrest and Beth are world champion, gold-medal winners at life because in their few years they have accumulated a vast repertoire of grand memories!


I will never forget the night I took this picture. There was a forecast of a spectacular Northern Lights so I went out to this special location, set up my tripod and took pictures all night. Without any doubt one of the best nights of my life!

What about you, do you have lots of treasured memories of different people, places and experiences? Have you had many adventures filled with pleasure and pain, success and failure? Have you traveled and seen and experienced the things you enjoy most? If not, why not? Are most of your memories of the things you’ve bought and the job you work at? Is that enough for you?

One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.”
Dale Carnegie

If it isn’t enough, do something about it! It doesn’t matter how old you are, if you are young like Forrest and Beth or an old guy like me, it’s not too late to start to build some memories. The first and most important step is to be open to and start searching for new experiences. It doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate. Chances are good you’ve never really explored and gotten to know the area you live in. Try to look at your home city and state as an outsider and look for the wonders it has to offer and then go see them!

For most people, their children are their number one source of memories. But let me ask you this, what treasured memories are you leaving your children with? One of the greatest regrets in my life is that I didn’t leave my children with more memories. If I could do it over again I would raise them with the primary goal of leaving them with the most wonderful memories a child can have. I’d give them as many varied experiences as I possibly could. There would be a lot less “learning experiences” and a lot more time spent in nature and fun!


My son and I climbed this mountain near our home. It cost us nothing but time and sweat but left us with a treasured memories.

Treasured memories are all around you; you just have to be looking and open to them—and then go grab them!

After some serious thought I decided to add this one last thing. The son in these pictures is gone from this earth now and I won’t make any more memories with him. While I am tremendously pleased to have the memories I do have, my deepest regret and shame in life is that I didn’t make more.

Tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us, make your memories today like you may not get another chance.  For some of us, that is in fact the truth.

Please do me the kindness of refraining from commenting on the last two paragraphs.



I've been a full-time VanDweller for 12 years and I love it. I hope to never live in a house again!

76 comments on “Baby Steps to Changing Your Life Part II: He Who Dies With the Most Memories–WINS!
  1. Avatar klbexplores says:

    I loved your post…..every single word. Sometimes life (like mine these days!) doesn’t turn out as we planned for. I sold my house…. hit the road and was hit a few short month later with a huge family responsibility that will last for a long long time. I have done my share of feeling sorry for myself but I’m done with that (mostly). I don’t have time. I’m locked into a timetable not of my making, but the time I do have I am determined to make to most of. I AM spending those moments making memories, day tripping and fun travel filled summers. In addition I have the opportunity to share those memories with my Granddaughter and Auntie.
    klbexplores recently posted…Happy Trails ~ The White Pine Scenic BywayMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Good for you klbexplores! Sometimes life just isn’t fair and we don’t have control, but even in the midst of the chaos we can exercise some control and make the best of the situation. It sounds like you are doing that extremely well!

  2. Avatar Desert Rat says:

    Geat post, Bob, and great photos, as usual. It’s too often we tend to live in the future (or the past) and not in the present. I do know that you are also making lots of good memories for others as you wander down the path of life—I know, because I have one of them from when you and Judy had lunch at my camp!

    Hope to see you guys in late Nov. or early Dec.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Desert rat, the memory of that day will go into the vault of my most treasured memories! I’ve seen and done a lot in the last 5 years on the road, but the best part is getting to meet so many wonderful people like you!

  3. Avatar CAE says:

    People tend to spend a lot of time trying to get what they want rather than wanting what they’ve got. If one looks around and gathers what they need from what they’ve got, they can get going.

  4. Avatar Linda Sand says:

    You make me glad we took our daughter on her first backpacking trip when she was three. And made gingerbread men to decorate the Christmas tree when she was six. And went horseback riding on the beach in Oregon when she was twelve. Etc. I was not always a good mother but I did help her build some good memories that we replay when looking at her photo albums at age 43.
    Linda Sand recently posted…Go. No go.My Profile

  5. Bob, I absolutely agree that what’s important is the memories. Each to their own but I lean heavily to Jumping In With Both Feet. Makes way more memories that way!!
    Curtis Carper recently posted…Baby Steps VS Jumping In With Both Feet!My Profile

  6. Avatar Curtis says:

    Thank you Bob for another post that makes me ponder the things we do.

    All of us have regrets in life, mine being I have tried to fit it with what society calls “normal”.

    But after reading your blog and others realize no matter our ages or circumstances we can start today to live our lives the way our heart tells us to and not listen to society.

    I remember many times in my youth when starting to do what adults do, get a job, place to live, pay bills, part of me always asked the question “why do I have do this?” Or there must be a better way. And at the time was pretty much told this was being lazy.

    And like a lot of other folks as I got older I quit asking those questions and just fell in line with what everyone else did.

    But now I have hope again and am saving money to purchase a van and have been researching and discovering vast amounts of places one can visit across the beautiful country for next to nothing.:)

    Learning to dream again is a wonderful thing and works wonders for your attitude.:)

  7. Avatar Kim says:

    Thanks for sharing. That photo of the northern lights is one of the best I’ve ever seen. You are so right – it’s not about making money, it’s about making memories.
    Kim recently posted…College Park, MDMy Profile

  8. Avatar Gennifer says:

    The things I remember the most from my childhood are trips and experiences, not toys and stuff.

    I am so grateful that you started this blog, Bob. Without it, I don’t know that my husband and I would have had the courage to start van dwelling this past April. We’ve made so many wonderful memories since then, and I’m so much happier now than I was in my former life as a cubicle-dweller.
    Gennifer recently posted…Montana Skies + Third Grade HumorMy Profile

  9. Avatar Rob says:

    Bob I can’t tell you how sorry I am for your loss. I can’t think of anything worse than losing a child….
    Enjoy the memories.

  10. Avatar Sheri says:

    Bob….loved your post (as usual!)…please keep doing what you are doing! You are exponentially creating memories because the people you inspire, in turn, are creating their own memories…so you are the spiritual grand-daddy of all these memories!! Yay!! You should be proud!!

  11. Avatar Tina says:

    Thank you Bob, what a great post. And you are so correct, I don’t remember the things that were given to me as I grew up. What I love is the memories, of all the times in the outdoors with family and friends. I believe that is why I love nature so much, because of those memories and feelings.

    Travel safe, hope your knee is feeling better.


    • Bob Bob says:

      Tina, the most important thing you can do as a parent is to get your kids out into nature. When we were at Moab we had a really large,multi-family group camp close to us, and of course the kids were noisy and they were playing and riding their bikes everywhere. But it was such a joy to see those kids running around, play and screaming that I couldn’t be angry.

      My knee was just a minor sprain and it is getting better every day. It’s not like-new yet but I’m totally sure it will be.

  12. Avatar Brian Howard says:

    Bob, what a great post. You sure make this post interesting and worth reading every time. I still haven’t made it to van life yet but this summer I did spend a lot of quality time in nature and took some nice pictures also. I haven’t been too far from home because of health problems but I’m happy to just park myself in the woods or next to some water. Keep up the wonderful travels and experiences for the rest of who aren’t able to do as yet. Brian from New York State

  13. Avatar OpenSpaceman says:


    I walked away from the norm for 10 yrs. when I was 30, migrating between the desert and the keys without much planning…worked on fishing boats, bartender, put up hurricane shutters, air con. maintenance, concert setup, tour guide, you name it. Just me and my old Kelty backpack ( that’s my fleece of memories ).

    When I see Forrest and Beth…what used to be envy has become inspiration. I would fill my tank and head to the RTR this year but I will have a lot more flexibility when my van is paid off and a little credit card debt. I’ll be out of my debtors prison by next year this time…and my mobile(van)home will be paid off.

    *I’m so busy all the time…when I see your well thought out and well written posts I wonder what it will feel like to have time to think about things like you have. How did I ever get stuck back on the hamster wheel when I F*cking knew better…

    • Bob Bob says:

      Openspaceman, it sounds like you are taking all the right steps to change your life. Just keep plugging away at it and you will get there! How do you eat an elephant…?

      You make a really good point, this life has given me the luxury of spare time to ponder and think and then to write it all down. It is an unexpected gift!
      Bob recently posted…The Road is Calling–and I Must Go!My Profile

  14. Avatar Joe S says:

    Bob I read your post last night and thought about it a lot. My fondest memories are of hanging with my father and grandfather as a child. One summer my grandpa drove us from the Midwest to Albuquerque, then to Durango where we took a coal train up to Silverton. That was about 30 years ago but I remember it like yesterday. I think it’s a big reason why I always want to drive out west. Take care.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Joe, I’m sure that memory will always be something you treasure above nearly everything else. You were fortunate that your father and grandfather loved you enough to invest the time and money into giving it to you.

  15. Avatar Betty-Shea says:

    Thank you! I got myself stuck on a fencepost again…I am jumping off! ! 🙂 I hope to join you all at the RTR in Quartzite.!

    • Bob Bob says:

      Betty-Shea it’s amazing how often those fence-posts jump up in our way and tangle us up! I’ve had many of those myself! Good for you for getting off this latest one!

  16. Avatar Calvin R says:

    Another great post, Bob. I find myself with sentimental memories of a few things, not in their own right but from what they brought me. The first bicycle I rode around the county, which was not mine, still inspires me. I’m attached to ’95 Grand Caravans because they took my wife and me around this country. I don’t hold on to those objects, though. There are more bicycles and minivans. What I keep for good is what you said, the treasured memories.

  17. Avatar Lois says:

    Great post, Bob! Love the photos, too.

    I’m a jump-in-with-both-feet kind of person – I’ve made instant decisions about things that most people take days/weeks/months/years to make. I have no regrets. What I do have is a bazillion memories of places I’ve been, people I’ve met, cities and states I’ve lived in (will be adding “countries” to that very soon), animals who’ve decorated my life, jobs I’ve held, and more people, places, and things than I can even remember most days. I’ve lived well and I’ve lived broke, and through it all, I took my son along to make memories of his own. He’s now almost 43 and one of my favorite past-times is to share our memories together, and to make new ones, still together.

    Thank you for encouraging people to make more memories. And thank you for the reminder that memories are far more important than anything else we might collect here on Planet Earth, at least for me.
    Lois recently posted…To TV? Or Not to TV?My Profile

  18. Bob you have really grown this past year… and I am glad to see the public acknowledgement and appreciation about your boy. I can’t even imagine the loss, but you sure did him proud in this post. What a wonderful time for you… all the joy you expressed in this post. I think that’s the best gift we can give our kids and if there is a heaven, I’m sure your boy and my David Swankie are up there giving each other high-fives over what we are doing down here. And you even kayaked and jumped out of an airplane. Here’s a new one… do both at the same time… my boy jumped out of an airplane in a rubber raft. Crazy is good.

  19. Bob Bob says:

    Thank you Joyce, that was a wonderful comment that makes me feel very good!

  20. Avatar Omar Storm says:

    Hi Bob,

    Thanks again for sharing and inspiring.

    Have a great day,

  21. Avatar OpenSpaceman says:

    I apologize for sullying your blog with profanity. Unfortunately my sense of humor doesn’t translate very well in print.

    – Peace

  22. One of my biggest regrets is that I waited for the men in my life to take me on adventures instead of just going on them myself. Unfortunately, men who go on adventures are usually attracted to women who do the same, so I didn’t get much adventure in my life. That’s changing now, but I so wish I had done it sooner when my kids were young. Those are memories none of us will ever have or share.
    LaVonne Ellis recently posted…It’s all about stealthMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      LaVonne, one of the worst characteristics of civilization is the way it demeans women and turns them into cattle. The idea that you can’t have an adventure without a man is preposterous, but that is what we were all taught from our earliest childhood. It’s horrible! But we are starting to wake up now and see it as the big lie it is. You’ve got the rest of your life to make up for what you’ve lost out on!

      Maybe you can start making new memories with your kids?

  23. Avatar MrNoodly says:

    I got an email from a nephew who heard what I was doing. Now he has the fever. I pointed him here. He’s in his late 20s/early 30s, so he won’t wake up in his gray hair years wondering what he did with his life.

    • Bob Bob says:

      MrNoodly, you are a missionary! Maybe we should all send you a tithe and support you!!!! Just kidding!

      Thanks for spreading the word. Together we are going to turn the world to Nomad-ism one person at a time.

      • I’m doing my part as a missionary, blogging and posting on Facebook about my new life as a vandweller. It’s fun to see how many women are fascinated by what I’m doing. 😀
        LaVonne Ellis recently posted…It’s all about stealthMy Profile

        • Avatar Al Christensen says:

          I was at a campground where there was also a group of about a dozen women in various types of mobile dwellings. No men with them. The sisters were doin’ it for themselves. Thumbs up for them.

        • Bob Bob says:

          laVonne, women in particular are attracted to vandwelling. I think it is empowering to them and allows to take back some control over their lives.

  24. Avatar Myddy says:

    I like the way this is set up. It’s not always easy to jump head first into van dwelling. Some people need to take it a step at a time to get to the goal. But either way you do it-it is always possible and it can be done! Dropping out of the rat race was the best thing I ever did!
    Myddy recently posted…Getting into the rootsMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Myddy, it’s important we keep our eye on the prize. Our goal is to live happy lives and every step toward that goal is a good thing. All or nothing is a very poor way to get to happiness.

    • Bob Bob says:

      I think we all feel that way Myddy! Even if you are winning the race, you’re still a rat!

  25. Avatar Al Christensen says:

    After doing this for a couple of months, I’ve developed a little mental list of things I can get rid of — or that I need to use in order to justify me hauling them around. I’ve added a tow strap, a long handled squeegee for cleaning the solar panel, and a knit cap to wear when sleeping. I have an empty space about the size of a bread box under the bed from things I’ve jettisoned and container contents I’ve consolidated. And I’ve realized that life would be a little easier if I put everything needed to cook in one container instead of four. Duh.

  26. Avatar Walt says:

    Great post, Bob! If I were single, I think I’d be out there tomorrow, far away from the 9-to-5. However, my wife and I have an autistic son’s future to help figure out first. I know it sounds selfish, but at times I think of the life I might live if I were single. Sadly, when I was single and younger, I felt alone. Now that I am older (if not wiser), I think I would simply feel free. If only wisdom came to more of us when we were young. 🙂

    • Bob Bob says:

      Boy, isn’t that the truth Walt!! I’m finally starting to at least get a little handle on this crazy thing we call life and now my body is starting to wear out on me. It’s doesn’t seem fair does it!?

      But life isn’t fair and our job is to play the hand we are dealt. It sounds like you are playing yours as well as it can be!

  27. Avatar madison says:

    your blog is incredibly inspiring!!

  28. Avatar USACelt says:

    Just found your site the other day and while I might not be a van dweller, (taking steps too tiny house) this site is inspiring to say the least!
    I am still in the process of selling off all this junk years of accumulated stuff that binds me to a job I hate.
    This site and your stories give me the courage to not fear the unknown.
    Thks again!

    • Bob Bob says:

      USACelt, I’m so pleased to have given you some inspiration! That is one of my main goals in the site and I’m so glad it’s working.

      Follow your dreams, and never give up on them!

  29. Avatar Eileen says:

    Memories. I have a life full different ones, both good and bad. Now, it may seem strange, but I cherish them all because I have learned from them and my Lord has walked beside me all of the way even though it was I who made the poor choices most of the time. Now, I have learned to make better decisions and have become a stronger person because of them. Because. isn’t about me. No, I am not religious. I found true happiness inside myself and can spread it to others. Sounds corny, doesn’t it. But, I happened to have stumbled upon the secret. I would like to begin the journey of living full-time rving next year and am now in the process of decluttering my life, so that next year I can do just that! Thanks to Bob’s website and the recent documentry I have just watched. How inspiring! I have always thought about this as a possibility long ago. Now, I hope to meet some of y
    next year.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Eileen, Like you, I’ve noticed that I almost always look back on the difficult times in life with the greatest smiles, Drinking deeply from life can be bitter and sweet, but they are all wonderful.

      I’d suggest you join my forum as you get ready to launch into RVing, there are many very helpful people there. Just click on the forum button at the top of my website and join.

  30. Avatar GREG says:


  31. Avatar Saurabh says:

    Hello Bob!

    I just came across your blog after watching “Without Bound”. This is a wonderfully simple post. Thank you for sharing your ideas and insights.

  32. Avatar Andrew says:

    Excellent post Bob! I’m currently in the process of buying and van to convert. Then Work the summer and travel all fall and winter. Thanks for sharing.

  33. Avatar Justin Wade says:

    Hello Bob. I came across your videos on Youtube, and love them. Like many Americans, I have found that a “normal” life is not what makes me happy, and never will. I feel in love with my high school sweetheart, and we started our life. Moved into together, started having children, I found a job in construction, we bought a house, and lived the day to day “normal” life. At first everything seemed good. But as life has a way of doing, we got tested. We lost a baby boy before he was able to enjoy this great world of ours. Like a lot of couples, things got real for us real fast. We were a young couple, mid 20’s, and had already experienced one of the worst things a person can endure. I spent a lot of time being angry, angry at the world, angry at people, angry at life in general. I got tired of being angry and decided that I wanted to be happy again. As I started to look deep inside myself for what would make me happy again, I found it, or so I thought. I wanted to live a simple life. Something simple, outside a good portion of the time, and seeing the world. I started looking into backpacking, over time it turned into bike-packing on a bicycle. I just wanted to go live a life of freedom and adventure, but with a family, sometimes that can be hard to do without a good budget. So, I switched jobs, something a little more stable, with good benefits. I thought maybe if I earn more, I can afford to go on more adventures, I was wrong. Like many people, the more we earned, the more we spent. I found myself unhappy again. I started looking inside myself again, looking for the things that make me, me. I realized I wanted a better life, not just adventure. I started researching different lifestyles. Eco-villages, Tiny Houses, the list can go on and on. Something with less stuff, something more meaningful, something long term. When I was looking into camping adventures, I thought it would be nice to have a small pop-up as a basecamp for trips, but couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for. So I started thinking about building my own. With all my years in construction it should be easy. Then I thought about just using a van as basecamp. I had owned 3 vans before, and the latest one I had used for camping before. I loved my Astro van. Anyways, to wrap up this novel length comment, I have finally found the life I want to live. Thanks to yours, and others, videos and websites, I know how I will spend the second half of my life, happy, free, full of adventure, where my only job is just living. Thanks and keep up the good work on the website and with the videos.

    • Bob Bob says:

      What a great story Justin, thank you! There are ways to make your dream come true, especially since you are deliberately choosing the simple, minimal life–that makes it much easier! Don’t give up on your dreams, grab them and make them real! Bob

  34. Avatar Danial says:

    Now it is your turn to make me cry. Thank you for inspiring me to begin to live the dream while I am still alive and kicking.

  35. Avatar dan says:

    Hey Bob,

    Here it is 1:30 am in the morning in my house after a day of 8″ of snow fell. I stumbled onto your site. I fed and watched my birds come to the feeder in the new snow. Cardinals, etc. Very nice. I live in the woods and have all kinds of nature to look at. Even an all white possum except for his ears. Not an albino. Very cool.

    Anyways – I left my job over a year ago for all of the reasons mentioned elsewhere in here. The job and rat race had a huge negative effect on me and something had to give. So I let it go, and worked on myself: health, life & spiritial needs, etc. All my life I’ve asked those say questions – why do we do what society says we need to do. Its a trap. Glad you are having fun and seeing nature, etc. Hope to do more of that soon.

  36. Hey My friend and I are really considering leaving n the spring to head out and enjoy. I have been a lady truck driver for most of my life. Im now 55 and my friemd she is 65. We are both 2 hippie/christian’s ladie’s . I am a Christian Motorcycle Association Member. She gets SS and I get SSI. We are in Indiana. I one way or another am leaving come spring. I have raised my children now I am in heart and liver failure. I have been running a Hepaitis C support group here in Auburn, For 13 years and also put on Indiana’s annual HepFest Festival this was my 10th year and last this past June. I do not want to die in Indiana. I want to enjoy all the sites I have seen in all my life trucken…. I want to do this this is my make a wish adult style. AndI do need to stay close to hospitals and am a lot of medicine, I have a service dog, and have to be close to hospital for some sort for iv fluids now and then. I can go on and would love to talk to someone on the phone. Since 4 strokes it is easiest for me… God Bless Please call me. I own a 1977 Trillium and love it. 260 515 5130 cell, home is 260-927-8180

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