The Road is Calling–and I Must Go!

(I’m on the road in some remote locations with very poor internet. My posts will probably be off schedule, but I will post whenever I can. I’m writing this from Mexican Hat, Utah which has a 1x cell signal and it is slower than molasses!! So I will probably be late answering your comments or they may not get answered at all. I love being on the road, I don’t know why I put it off for so long!! It’s also my first time traveling with a group and so far I’m enjoying it too!! The picture below shows why the town is called Mexican hat:)

This unique rock formation gave the town of Mexican Hat it's name.
This unique rock formation gave the town of Mexican Hat, Utah it’s name.

I believe most humans have two mutually contradictory needs:

  1. The need for home, place and community.
  2. The need for adventure and wandering.

We developed those genetic needs because for a million years we lived in small hunter-gatherer groups that were deeply connected to each and to a general place, but at the same time were mostly nomadic. So while we moved often, we were deeply focused on a small group of individuals and on a particular part of the country. Then suddenly 10,000 years ago we abandoned that life and developed agriculture and settled down to one place, becoming immobile; which inevitably gave rise to civilization. All of us still have both of those genetic needs, but it seems like the majority have lost touch with it.

I don’t believe it’s gone though, I believe it is suppressed and dormant, waiting to make a comeback. We vandwellers are people for whom the balance has shifted back to a more natural state of longing for adventure, travel and connection to nature and has become so strong that we have no choice but to obey it. Society may scoff and mock us, but society be damned! Our feet itch and we have to move! Or as the great John Muir said:

The mountains are calling and I must go. ~~John Muir

The Road is Calling--And I Must Go!!
The Road is Calling–And I Must Go!!

My natural tendency is to be homebody, I like having a home with a place for everything and everything in its place; and I really like being in that home! Moving too much becomes a burden. I know that sounds bizarre coming from a guy who does everything he can to encourage others to live a mobile life. But once you understand our genetic history, I don’t see a contradiction at all. Like all other humans for a million years before, I have itchy feet–just not all that itchy! Staying at the same place for 2-3 months feels good to me. It gives me a sense of home and I get to know the area. But after a few months it stops feeling like “home” and starts to feel suffocating. That’s when I know it is time to move! Plus, if I stay in one spot too long the weather will give me the kick in the butt that I need to get moving. That’s something vandwellers have in common with our ancient ancestors: moving with the weather.

A few years ago I moved into a trailer with the specific goal in mind to meet these two seemingly opposite needs: 1) the need to have a home to be attached to 2) the need to wander and meander. The idea was that I would live in the trailer 8-10 months of the year and wander in the van the others. It sounds like a great idea, but I haven’t done it up till now. I do know that the trailer is working perfectly as a home. It’s only 6×10 but it feels huge to me and I am snug as a bug in a rug in it. I love it! And it is easily portable, the longest I have stayed in one spot with it is 3 months (I’m not counting the six months I spent in my campground as a campground host).

What I don’t know is if I will like traveling in a van. I’ve lived in vehicle for 11 years now but none of them was a plain, low-top van. My first vehicle was a box van which was huge and had a high-top. The second vehicle I lived in was my home-built camper on my F150 4×4. It was only 6×7 foot but I could stand up in it. The third vehicle I’ve lived in is the trailer, which also has a high-top, so this is my first time living in a standard van. I’ve never liked having to bend over in a van so I’m interested to see if I can live with it for an extended period. Only time will tell, and that time is now!

I’ve been in the Kaibab National Forest for 3 months now and the weather is turning cold. We are waking up to hard frost every morning (overnight lows in the 20s) so it’s time to move. I’ve been planning a fall road trip into Utah for a while now and then when I saw my friend Forrest was offering Jeep tours into the Colorado Mountains, I couldn’t resist. My itchy feet demanded to be on the road again!

It was in the 20s every night in the Kaibab National Forest, so we turned the key and droe away! Now its warm, sunny and pleasant both days and nights. Plus, it's beautiful!
It was in the 20s every night in the Kaibab National Forest, so we turned the key and drove away! Now its warm, sunny and pleasant both days and nights. Plus, it’s beautiful!

So I found a storage yard in Flagstaff that would take the trailer for $35 a month and no lease required (I could leave it there for a month, a year or a decade). On October 1, 2014 I dropped it off and hit the road! The first day we drove up to Goosenecks State Park in Utah where I am writing this. We passed by Monument Valley but it was late in the day and no one wanted to stop just then. We may go back tomorrow. There are three others with me so far, Judy in a Chevy Express van, Al in a Chevy Express van and we met up with Victoria in Goosenecks. She is driving a Jeep Compass SUV.

Our four rigs at Goosnecks State Park, UT
Our four rigs at Goosnecks State Park, UT

It’s only my second night in the van and everything is cluttered and just thrown in so it is much too early for me to give a fair report. But, this is as bad as it will get and it is still okay. Every day I will get things put away and a little better and more organized. It’s ironic that I constantly preach the need to be organized and here I am just moved into a van and it’s disorganized and confused. I guess it is a case of “Do as I say and not as I do”! But everything I know about vandwelling I’ve learned the hard way from doing things wrong then getting them right. I think this is going to be one of those things!

Everyone is loving it here so we will stay at least one more day. Our next stop from here is in Mule Canyon in Utah to see the House on Fire Native American Ruins. I’ll keep you posted as the trip progresses.

50 Comments on “The Road is Calling–and I Must Go!

  1. Bon Voyage! I predict a great adventure ahead.

    You are so right about #1 sparring with #2. Story of my life. If I hadn’t done the kitchen renovation, I’d be out there with you all. But …. I love my new kitchen.

    On a side note, my consolation trip was to leave for DC next week and visit multiple National Park sites. Now, of course, that’s on hold. I’m disappointed. But …. if I was out there at the gates of Zion, Arches, and Bryce, I’d be downright INFURIATED.
    Kim recently posted…Shut Down. Bummed Out.My Profile

    • Kim, we are moving slow and we won’t be to Moab for at least a week, probably more. And there is so much to see and do at Moab that I’m not too concerned about getting into those places. I’m a month away from Zion and I’m sure it will be over by then.

      I’m glad you like your new kitchen!

  2. Bob, Fortunately there is no conflict between staying home and being mobile for me. I agree with your analysis as there is nothing better than getting home after a trip. But then again there is nothing better than heading out on a new adventure as well.

    Now I’m at a time in my life where I can leave when I want, and return when I wish.

    Speaking of leaving, we’re off on another trip this coming weekend. Down the Mississippi through Iowa then across to Nebraska and back to Minnesota. This time with two of us in a 13’trailer pulled by my Jeep.
    Curtis Carper recently posted…I’m Off To Rendezvous At Lester River!My Profile

      • Bob, I respect that you “hate” living in a house. For me, I hate paying large portions of my income to put a roof over my head…Any kind of roof, mobile or fixed.

        The key then is to reduce the cost of said roof. I’m fortunate in that my country “Cabin” is dirt cheap when compared to any form of in-town living.

        It provides me a base to return to, a center of sorts, without draining my resources. It allows me to follow the black top whenever I wish. It’s a matter of balance, or freedom to choose, not necessarily a matter of love versus hate.

        That said, I can only last a few days at a stretch living in-town before I must escape to the country.
        Curtis Carper recently posted…On The Road Again… Iowa & Nebraska Here We Come!My Profile

    • CAE, car camping is a very good way to go! I little too much work for me, but for some people it is well worth it.

      I think I like the idea of a home too much to give up a larger vehicle to live in. I really love living in the tiny space of a van, trailer or camper. It FEELS so right to me. I don’t think I would get that from a car.

      But I am glad you do!

  3. I’m hoping to have my van and be on the way to meet up with you all by next week, late but there! Wondering how this govt. shutdown will affect your plans. Email me when you see this to let me know how to find you, ok?
    LaVonne Ellis recently posted…My Great EscapeMy Profile

    • Lavonne, my plans are too loose for me to know very far in advance where I will be. Plus, my internet access will be much too sporadic.

      You need to email me when you are heading out and I will tell you where I am.

      That is the only way it can work!

      The government shut down probably won’t have much affect for me anytime soon. Hopefully it will get fixed before it becomes an issue.

  4. Umm, gotta disagree on this one. I don’t personally consider the need for adventure and wandering to have ever been a genetic need. Thus there never was any inner conflict. Tribal peoples wandered because 1) their primary food sources wandered with the seasons, and 2) tribal warfare forced them to move away from their primary food sources. The development of agriculture ended the requirement to be nomadic, and decreased the need for warfare based on hunting grounds. Food no longer had to be found here and there, and exhausted, and the need for meat stayed necessary but became less of a dependence, making it possible to hunt the same grounds for years. Got a need to wander? It’s in your head, not your genes.
    DougB recently posted…Packrat PurgatoryMy Profile

  5. I’ll be interested to see how you solve the organization problems, Bob. After being in Josephine the Van for what, five months plus?, I still can’t quite get as organized as I’d like. That may be a personal failing, however!

    Still, I can’t deny that thrifty and really clear “everything in it’s place” type of organization helps in such a small space. Still working on it!

    Bon Voyage, and drive safe.

    • Angeli, plastic drawers and shelves are the key that work for me!! Although used desks, dressers and drawers work just as well if you can find them. I have two empty spots for them so I will buy some when I am next in a town with a Walmart.

  6. Bob, Judy, Al, Victoria!!!

    Thanks for letting us know you got underway okay. Remember to have way too much fun.


  7. Thank you for the update Bob, hope you folks have a wonderful time.:)

    I agree mostly with Doug, not genes but don’t think it is in your head either.

    For me the need for adventure is more of a spiritual part of me. Being in touch and experiencing the beautiful world God created for us to enjoy not just watching about it on tv, etc.

    LaVonne glad you will get to join them! Take a lot of pictures for us okay?:)

    Bob when you have a chance please keep us posted on how the federal shutdown is effecting the national park systems, thank you.

    • I definitely agree. We are all meant to be among creation, not mechanical objects and buildings.

      Although, I too get itchy feet, sometimes exacerbated by the coffee i drink.
      Douglas recently posted…Walks of LifeMy Profile

  8. Wonderful experiment for you Bob… living just out of the van. I think it will give you even better perspective and wisdom.

    I also disagree about the two needs you listed and don’t see them as needs. As for me, personally, “home, place and community” have given me nothing but pain, fear and anxiety. The only place I ever felt safe and at home was when I was alone… “adventuring and wandering.” So, yes… that’s what I want, but still I don’t see it as a genetic need, just a huge environmental WANT.

    Genetic things I inherited were: lack of melamine in my skin making me sun sensitive, blue eyes making me light sensitive, a temper (from both my crazy parents), and probably a few others things. I do, however, believe in a genetic memory, i.e. ancestors spun and wove… it comes to me naturally, ancestors were carpenters, it comes to my son naturally, and other things like mechanical aptitude, etc. can be passed on genetically.

    Home and community can help provide food, warmth, water, shelter… all things we do NEED but we are getting that in our mobile lifestyle. Best of both worlds.

    Today I kayak under the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco.
    Charlene Swankie recently posted…Desert TortoisesMy Profile

    • Charlene,
      Kayaking under The Golden Gate Bridge??!! You go, girl! I agree with you and others in that what our ancient ancestors did was what they needed to do to survive. As for the “I’m outa here” itch, I think it’s different for each person…a means to escape an unpleasant situation (guilty), a desire to get into a pleasant place (nature, friends, family, and also guilty), or just plain moving to some place new (umm…guilty again). And my offspring say I should learn to be a trucker–I just love driving!

      Keep on keeping on, GF.

  9. Jim, since I am on the road I have zero contact with the outside world, but I understand the government has shut down.

    It really won’t impact me very much. I’m at least 10 days away from Moab and until then I won’t be going into any National Parks. I don’t get a government check of any kind, but some of the people I travel with do.

    As I’ve said, I think the future is very bleak for the country and world, this is just another blip in what I think will be a very Long Emergency with a very grim end.

  10. I’m not really concerned with exactly how my wanderlust in terms of genetics, cellular memory or whatever. I would like to point out that agriculture had its beginnings less than 10,000 years ago and is much more recent in most places. Humans have been in our current form for at least 55,000 years and were hunter-gathers before farming came to a given culture. Arithmetic and my spirit say I need to wander.

  11. Awesome! Raa Raa, for you all! I’m so looking forward to hearing more about the trip as you it unfolds and you have time to blog! Wishing you all the best time and look forward to seeing you again soon! Gloria

  12. Awesome to see that you have gotten your journey underway! It’s great to see you have some joiners, I am interested to see how this goes as I am hoping to “caravan” with others when I hit the road. I’m still working on my savings so I can get out of the east coast myself. Planning on heading west after! 🙂

  13. As always, an interesting post. Am just finishing up Ken Ilgunas’ fascinating memoir, “Walden on Wheels,” and I am feeling an urge to hit the road (so maybe there is a genetic component). Unfortunately, I am unable to do so. Have to start a new job Monday. My wife (perhaps rightly so) insists on us working a few more years toward our retirement and saving to help care for our autistic son.

    Loved Utah, especially the area around Moab.

  14. Bob..I have decided to buy you roll up solar system but cannot find it again. I just saw it on one of your blogs a couple weeks ago..can you tell me which blog to search for it? I’m starting to get excited about heading to Arizona this winter in my Subaru and Scamp. Thanks, Jan

  15. definitely just like your web site nevertheless, you need to examine the punctuational in several of one’s blogposts. Several of these are rife together with spelling issues we to find them really irritating to be honest but I’ll absolutely keep coming back once more.

  16. Bob you are absolutely correct, there is plenty to see around Moab even if the shutdown continues:

    – Dead Horse Point State Park: Talk about some awesome views.

    – Negro Bill Canyon trail, Fisher Towers trail, Corona Arch trail, I could go on and on.

    – There are also several areas with Native American rock art.

    I’m so jealous! Happy adventuring!

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