Keep it Simple Sunday: Optimist or Pessimist

I got a very good question in a comment about this post, and I want to repeat it here before you read the blog:

Bodhis Question: It doesn’t seem that you are very optimistic when you say you truly believe that things are bad and getting worse.

My answer: You caught that did you Bodhi? I wondered if someone would. It is very easy for me to hold apparently contradictory viewpoints. I am a believer in Global Climate Change and in Peak Oil and I do think things are going to get very, very bad:

  • Worst case: Billions could die, including me and my loved ones.
  • Best case: another Dust Bowl and Depression that makes the 1930s look like Romper Room. 

And yet I consider myself confident and optimistic and encourage all of you to be too. Optimism should never be a denial of the facts! Only a holding onto a deeply held hope and faith in the present moment.

Death and pain are two great certainties of life. We will ALL experience them. The only greater certainty is finding hope or joy in this moment if you will only look. An optimists looks for joy amidst the pain.



I have a very simple message for you today, and it boils down to this: your circumstances don’t determine your happiness, your attitude toward those circumstances does. Basically, whether you are an optimist or pessimist decides the general course of your life.

Optimism will grow like a flower if the soil be properly prepared.      ~~ARTHUR LYNCH

Last week I talked to you about a problem I had with a Ranger. It appeared the Forest Service was working hard to find a way to keep vandwellers and full-time RVers out of the Forest. As I’m sure you are all aware, we had a LOT of comments on that post running the gamut from outrage and extreme anger, to calm and reasoned.

I believe the attitude expressed in many comments was a much greater danger to our happiness than this minor problem with the U.S. Forest Service; and that is a prevailing pessimism and negativity toward life. Some commenters seemed convinced that it wasn’t a small, local issue, but a huge problem that just went to show that the country was going to hell and we were all doomed. Many were convinced that the evil, vile politicians and lobbyists who run our government, the equally monstrous corporations and Forest Service were dead set on taking all of our liberty and all our money from us and we were powerless to stop them—just bend over and get ready to take it!

Those comments reflect a very broad cynicism I see and hear extremely often. I do not share that point of view at all; in fact I very forcefully reject it as much too pessimistic. I am fundamentally an optimist who believes that everything will be alright in the end. I am convinced that the general outcome of your life is determined by whether you have an optimistic or pessimistic point of view.

The predominant quality of successful people is optimism…. Your level of optimism is the very best predictor of how happy, healthy, wealthy, and long-lived you will be.     ~~BRIAN TRACY

Today, I strive with all my strength to be an optimistic person, and as I have become more optimistic, my life has dramatically improved. Most of my life the opposite was true; I was a total pessimist, always thinking the worst was going to happen and then saying, “See, I told you so!” when it did.


Vandwelling has been a glowing light of hope in the great darkness and gloom of my life. Will you let it be that for you?

For as long as I can remember, I have been a fearful person. Because I was afraid, I was timid, reclusive and never fit in. There are reasons I was fearful (I’ll tell you more about that in a later post) but I believe that many of us are simply born afraid. Fear is a normal, natural human instinct, but for whatever reason, some of us are born with too much of it, and I think that describes me. Others are raised in fearful situations and so they become more fearful as time goes on. All of us are constantly bombarded with horrible images and news by the media so our natural tendency to fear is amplified and increased, even among people with a normal and healthy amount of fear. The result is that fear is totally rampant in our society

Each of us copes with fear in different ways; some people turn it outward as anger and rage. Others turn it inward as depression, self-hatred and low self-esteem. No matter how you cope with fear, it always leads to an unhappy life, and so I was never a happy person. I was always mildly down but it just seemed like I was shy and withdrawn so I made it through life just fine; no one knew how fearful I was.

As I grew older one of the ways I tried to deal with my fear was to think of the worst thing that could possibly happen (and I was fairly sure it would happen) then I tried to find a way to survive that and tell myself that it would be all right. But now I know that was an illusion of safety, but in truth it was a prison of despair.

As bizarre as it seems, in my mind that made me an optimist because only an optimist could think he would survive all the horrible things life threw at him. It never occurred to me that only a pessimist would have such negative expectations out of life because I truly believed that I would never be happy. The best I could hope for was to survive life with the minimum of pain.

Optimism is joyful searching; pessimism is a prison of fear and a clutching at illusionary safety.    ~~KATHLEEN A. BREHONY

I love this quote! When confronted with an obstacle or problem, an optimist backs up and starts to look hopefully for a solution. It may be extremely dark right now, but that doesn’t have to lead to despair, it simply means you have to start looking for the light, because it is there WAITING TO BE FOUND! On the other hand, a pessimist turns a mole-hill into an insurmountable mountain and quickly losses hope, turning it into a prison of fear.

Optimism refuses to believe that the road ends without options.     ~~ROBERT H. SCHULLER,

By determining to be a Living Blessing, you become a sunbeam of light and hope in a very dark and lonely world.

I know from direct experience that there is always hope no matter how great the darkness. Don’t let a negative attitude prevent you from finding it.

An optimist looks at this minor problem with the Coconino NF and sees a tiny road-block with many ways of getting around it. No big deal! A pessimist sees doom and gloom on the horizon as far as the eye can see. All the corrupt and totally evil, Law Enforcement Officers politicians, lobbyists and corporations in the country are lined up to prevent him from using the National Forest because they hate the poor and they just want to get his money: “I might as well give up right now, I have no hope of living as a vandweller.”

I can already hear many of your responses, “But we really are loosing our liberties, things really are bad and getting worst. You’re just sticking your head in the sand!” This quote is my answer to that:

The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a source of inspiration, of vitality and hope where others have resigned; it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the future for himself and not to abandon it to his enemy.     ~~DIETRICH BONHOEFFER

As an optimist I don’t deny the very real problems all around us, you’re right, things are bad and getting worse. I personally believe they are going to get unbearably bad! But I have not resigned to a life of misery because of the problems around me. I won’t settle for that! There are still many good options if I am bold and creative enough to take them. By the grace of god I stumbled into vandwelling and found an alternative way of life I love. There have been many problems and bad times, but I persevered and found solutions for every problem–and my life got better and better. My whole goal with all my websites is to tell you about those solutions so your life can get better and better too!

The positive outlook that optimists project does not come from ignoring or denying problems. Optimists simply assume that problems are temporary and can be solved, so optimists naturally want more information about problems because then they can get to work and do something.

Pessimists are more likely to believe that there is nothing they can do anyway, so what’s the point of even thinking about it?     ~~ROSABETH MOSS KANTER

Today, many of you are at a cross-road; you are sick and tired of the boredom and tedium of your life and so you dream of becoming a vandweller. But all you can see are all the problems and all the reasons why you can’t possibly do it. You have two choices:

  • You can give up hope, hang your head and stay in your prison of fear clutching at the illusion of safety, or….
  • You can hang onto inspiration and hope and creatively look for solutions for the problems. Then, boldly step out into the unknown, demanding a better life.

This is my advice for you:

  • Keep your thoughts positive, because your thoughts become your words.
  • Keep your words positive, because your words become your behavior.
  • Keep your behavior positive, because your behaviors become your habits.
  • Keep your habits positive, because your habits become your values.
  • Keep your values positive, because your values become your destiny.


Your destiny is not determined…

  • by politicians or lobbyists in Washington DC,
  • by a rich, greedy corporation
  • by a bureaucrat who wants to take away your freedom,
  • by a Ranger having a bad day.

No, your destiny is determined by your thoughts and attitudes, by your outlook on life. No one can ever have control over that but you. Each moment of each day you get to choose what your attitude will be. Will you be governed by fear and gloom, or you will choose hope and optimism instead?

Optimists find joy in small things. They enjoy sunsets, a good conversation with a close friend; and they enjoy life in general. They are more concerned with having many small joys rather than having one huge joy.      ~~ROBERT M. SHERFIELD




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

63 comments on “Keep it Simple Sunday: Optimist or Pessimist
  1. MichaelinOK says:

    Bob is a generous-spirited man, reaching for inspiration, and driven by the desire to help others. I have never doubted Bob’s good intentions. And I have often agreed with, and admired, many of arguments and actions. (Even in this post, there’s much I agree with. I very much believe in optimism, and I think fear is often a terrible enemy.)

    Yet I have sometimes vigorously disagreed with a portion of his arguments and actions. And I’m afraid I’m about to do so again.

    In response to this blog post, I would offer the following thoughts:

    1. Defining a complex issue as a stark choice between two extreme opposites is always tempting—-and almost never accurate. Instead, it almost always oversimplifies the issue and is unhelpful. In this case, too, approaching the issue of whether and how one should promote and publicize vandwelling as simply a matter of optimism vs. pessimism, and painting those who’ve raised concerns as merely pessimistic, is, it seems to me, neither fair nor reasonable.

    That either-or model of optimism vs. pessimism leaves out one critical cluster of factors: accountability, choice, what “we” as vandwellers do and don’t do—in our blogs and websites, and at our campgrounds—-and how that may influence events for the good or the bad. It ignores the power we exert in our actions.

    Yes, our attitude about events determines our happiness and unhappiness more than do the events themselves. But this has never been a rationalization for ignoring our own behavior, and the power we have to affect outcomes.

    By analogy: If a person is gaining a lot of weight, and has recently even had some worrying medical symptoms, and his friends caution him that his eating habits may be part of the problem—and his response is to say that one can either be optimistic about one’s health or pessimistic, and that he chooses to be optimistic and assume that his habits are going to lead to no harm, and that his friends are choosing to be pessimistic…what’s wrong with that response? What’s wrong is that he has abdicated responsibility for how his behavior may be influencing outcomes. It’s a passive and too easy way of looking at things, instead of an accountable and responsible way.

    (And, of course, beyond being passive and unaccountable, it’s inaccurate—pretending that there are only two possible ways to deal with the weight problem, either be optimistic or pessimistic. Instead, there are hundreds of possible ways to respond and take action, and with various mixes of vigilance and confidence…and accountability.)

    Here, too, what authorities end up doing about vandwellers and full-timers is not something that just “happens” out of thin air, and unrelated to anything vandwellers and full-timers are doing or will do. Accountability means taking stock of what we are doing or not doing, and promoting and not promoting, that might reasonably influence whether, and in what ways, authorities will continue to allow this lifestyle.

    2. More specifically, the main thinking error involved in this post, it seems to me, is what’s called setting up a “straw man” (an unrealistic extreme and caricature of one’s opponent’s position) to argue against. The best arguments against loudly promoting van-dwelling or full-timing on public lands are not driven by extreme pessimism or wild-eyed conspiracy-theory paranoia about the government such as: “…the country was going to hell and we were all doomed. Many were convinced that the evil, vile politicians and lobbyists who run our government, the equally monstrous corporations and Forest Service were dead set on taking all of our liberty and all our money from us and we were powerless to stop them—just bend over and get ready to take it!”

    To pretend that those are the best arguments expressed in last week’s comment section is neither accurate nor fair. It’s always easy to argue against an extreme representative of any viewpoint. But it isn’t helpful or fair.

    (To illustrate: One could easily pretend to be arguing against vandwelling by saying that “Some vandwellers believe that civilization is evil, that nobody should live in a house, that even infants and the elderly should not be living in houses, and that modern plumbing should be abolished, and that private ownership of land is an abomination, and that the world is coming to an end anyway, so we may as well just live for today without any thought for tomorrow.” Are there a few extreme vandwellers who hold some of those views? Yes. But most don’t. And if one pretends to be arguing against vandwelling by seizing on such extremist views, one is not being helpful or illuminating to the central issue.)

    The best arguments against persistently and loudly teaching and promoting vandwelling, are not based on extreme paranoia or pessimism—-but are instead based on the reasonable and straightforward cause-and-effect awareness of human nature, observing how many property owners, local merchants/hotels/camping businesses, local and regional bureaucrats, law enforcement officials, and other everyday and ubiquitous elements of every society, have always reacted to swelling numbers of transients and “vagrants” and strangers-—those who are less known, less predictable, less conventional, less invested in and less bound to the welfare of the local area, and who contribute less to local taxes, and who seem to be “getting away with” an easier time of things than most people.

    This mix of legitimate vigilance and self-protection and less legitimate jealousy, resentment, and fear has always been—-since the beginning of history—-the way a good portion of locals reacted to growing numbers of rootless strangers.

    For recent examples, one need only look at various cities and towns in warm areas of the country that have passed laws forbidding overnight parking at stores like Wal-Marts, or forbidding sleeping in vehicles on city streets at any time. Why were such laws passed? Clearly because too many people were doing it-—or the local populace and officials were concerned that too many people would do it.

    If someone wants to see more and more such restrictions spread to more and more cities and towns, and even to more and more stretches of public land, all one needs to do is loudly promote and teach the lifestyle. This will increase the numbers of people doing it, and it will inevitably-—as it has already done in many instances—-result in more and more restrictions and fines and fees.

    A little of something, especially if it’s “under the radar” is usually tolerated. A lot of it, especially if it insists on making a spectacle of itself, often is not. If one or two people sell jewelry on the sidewalk, they can often get away with it. If they start inviting all their friends to set up shop on the sidewalk, too, and if they make blogs and websites encouraging everyone to not pay for renting or buying a store, but to just sell stuff on the sidewalk, it’s obvious that as the numbers of sidewalk vendors grow, the local shopkeepers, city council, police officers, tax enforcement officials, etc., will take notice—-and either interpret current law in ways that allow them crack down on such behavior, or pass new regulations to make such behavior forbidden, or subject to new fees, hours, limits, documentation, permits, etc..

    Needless to say, if the person making websites encouraging everyone to open up sidewalk businesses insists that it all comes down to “optimism vs. pessimism,” such a perspective would be missing what is likely one of the main causes of the problem—-his own (and others’) unwillingness to accept social reality; his own (and others’) insistence on promoting to everyone what society will only realistically allow a few to do…and with the result being that, instead of a few being able to sell jewelry on that sidewalk, now nobody can.

    Of course, Bob is far from the only vandweller or full-timer who has been blogging about and promoting this lifestyle. The explosion of such blogs and websites continues unabated. And it seems like a high percentage of those getting involved in the lifestyle start their own blog sharing “the good news” about mobile living. But Bob has been one of the better and more influential ones at promoting the lifestyle. Yet my argument is not only for him to consider, but for the growing numbers of vandwellers who feel the compulsion to write blogs and websites and articles and books about the practice. Inevitably, this has led, and will continue to lead, to more and more vandwellers populating urban and rural areas, and, in turn, to more officials and business owners and homeowners and others becoming aware of vandwelling and for a mix of good and bad reasons being opposed to it.

    And, as I have consistently stated, I don’t question Bob’s—-or anyone else’s—-motives in promoting this lifestyle. I think Bob is driven by the desire to make a positive difference. But as I have also repeatedly pointed out, there’s a reason why many wise people throughout history have, in one form or another, warned that “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

    • Rob says:

      You talk of things “under the radar” as being tolerated, when the local authorities start talking about traffic control for Bob’s RTR’s you’ll know it’s gotten too big!

      There are other bloggers who talk of this lifstyle, at least one guy (Randy of mobilecodgers)has advocated the life style for all.

      It sounds silly to think of ‘everybody’ packing up and heading for free land to live in a van … besides who would keep the roads open if that happened?
      There is one little thing that full time vandwellers and other modern nomads don’t do & that’s property taxes. Everybody who lives somewhere pays property tax, modern nomads in the NF or on BLM land don’t.

      “Under the radar” is the line to watch for.

      • MichaelinOK says:


        I’m not sure if I understand your points, but I’ll respond to what I think you’re saying.

        First, I agree that Bob is not the only one advocating vandwelling. I said so explicitly in my above comment.

        Second, in order for ever more harsh restrictions to be passed against vandwelling, it would not require anything close to everyone moving into a van. Even 1% of people giving up their houses for living in vehicles would constitute millions of people living the lifestyle, and this would absolutely get the unwelcome attention of authorities and merchants and homewowners and city councils, etc. And so would a far smaller percentage of people. Remember, it’s not like vandwellers are equally distributed throughout the country. They tend to gravitate, if they can, toward the Southwest, where the summers are milder, and where there is more public land. So if their numbers double or triple it will be very obvious to the locals.

        There’s a tipping point. It need not be anything close to “everyone” moving into vehicles, in order to create punishing backlash.

        And I certainly agree with you on property tax. Local governments are significantly funded through property taxes, and they won’t take kindly to the possibility of such funding diminishing. And local homeowners, who paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for the view that vandwellers get for free, and who pay thousands of dollars a year of property tax, too, can often be counted on to be counted on to complain about vandwellers to their local politicians and law enforcement.

        The more vandwellers, the more they will be noticed, and the more likelihood of backlash.

      • Bob Bob says:

        Rob, funny you should mention Randy, he and I were just talking about this topic. And we concluded that the fear that is so rampant in society would limit how many people would come out here. The fear that society constantly pumps into us paralyzed most of us and only a very few were able to overcome it. The tiny amount of promoting vandwelling receives is totally inconsequential compared to the fear that is being pumped into us every day.

    • jam says:

      MichaelinOK I think you really ought to start your own blog against vandwelling….your comment was very nearly as long as Bob’s entire blog. You seem dedicated to the No More Vandweller cause, I believe you need your own soapbox.

      • MichaelinOK says:

        jam: to paraphrase something I once read somewhere…

        “I think you realy ought to start your own blog as the monitor of other people’s comments on other people’s blogs…and especially to rant against long comments. You seem dedicated to the No More Long Comments cause. I believe you need your own soapbox.”

        Cheers, 😉

    • Bob Bob says:

      Michael, I think we have a misunderstanding, this post has nothing to with promoting or not promoting vandweling. I don’t understand how you could think it was about that, I never once mentioned promoting vandwelling. I had planned on addressing the question of promoting vandwelling today, but then this issue came up and I thought now was the time to address it while it was fresh in everyone’s mind.

      As of right now I am planning a guest post by a fellow blogger who is a total believer in promoting vandwelling, I don’t even know what he is going to say, but we will find out and I am confident it will be interesting, well-written and thought-provoking. I believe that will go up next Sunday. Sometime after that I will post my thoughts on the subject.

      As to the “Straw man” again I think we have a misunderstanding. I had no intention of discussing further the issue of Residency in NF. I’ve said everything I want to say about that. My only point was that this was an example of escalating a minor problem into an insurmountable mountain. My point was the attitude toward the problem, not the problem.

      Apparently I didn’t communicate well in this post, and for that I apologize

      • MichaelinOK says:


        I guess we did have a misunderstanding.

        In your last Keep It Simple Sunday blog post, in response to my arguing against the active promotion of vandwelling, you wrote as follows:

        Bob says:

        July 2, 2013 at 6:07 pm

        Michael, that was extremely well said and a powerful argument. But I do disagree with a few of your basic premises.

        I wrote a long answer, and then realized it was going to be very long, and then realized it was a great post. So I will answer your comment in my next blog post.

        So, knowing you as someone who tends to follow through on his plans, I understood that you were doing what you said you’d do, and that this sermon/post was at least partially about that issue…or, as you indicated it would be, about some of my positions’ premises. Moreover, the contents of the current blog entry certainly can be understood to be addressing some of my position’s premises.

        But now you’ve explained that you changed your plan. So now I understand.

        Had I realized you were not intending to address the premises of my perspective, I would not have posted my responses in this comment thread. My apologies.


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  2. Frred says:

    Good post Bob. A few posts ago I posted this, in part, from William George Jordan, in answer to one of your earlier philosophy missives.

    “Happiness is the greatest paradox in nature. It can grow in any soil and live in any conditions. It defies environment. It comes from within. Happiness consists not of having, but of being; not possessing, but of enjoying. Man is the creator of his own happiness; it is the aroma of a life lived in harmony with high ideals. For what a man has, he may be dependent on others, what he is, rests with him alone. Happiness is the souls joy in the possession of the intangible. It is the warm glow of a heart at peace with itself.”

    This has been one of my deeply held beliefs for many years now. Call it optimism, happiness, good attitude, whatever. What it all amounts to is that our own happiness and attitude is within in each of us and no one else can provide or give it to us. Happiness, I believe, comes in large measure from optimism, not pessimism, as you correctly state.

    Too often we want “guarantees” in life or we don’t take a chance on it. I guarantee none of us will get out of this life alive. That’s the only guarantee I see as far as I’m concerned. After that, anything is a bonus. So why not enjoy it without all the crap about what “might” happen and often never does?? Attitude is a frame of mind. Yes, sometimes it’s hard to remember that you only came to drain the swamp when your up to your ass in alligators. Here’s a couple more to add to the good collection in your article.

    I’ll be fine because I’m stronger than you think I am and I will not be defeated. Unknown author
    Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.
    Anthony J. D’Angelo
    Very often a change of self is needed more than a change of scene.
    Arthur Christopher Benson
    True contentment depends not upon what we have; a tub was large enough for Diogenes, but a world was too little for Alexander. Charles Caleb

    I often joke that it’s a good day every day I wake up on this side of the dirt. It’s may be sort of cutesy, but I believe every day you wake up, you have a choice to look forward to the day or dread it. I prefer the former. Every time.

  3. Rob says:

    At one you mention “fear” being rampant in our society, in the book “State of Fear” by Michael Crichton he makes a case that the “fear’ is intentional. It’s a tool to help manage the population.
    That message is lost to most by the noise the rest of the story stirs up but I think he had a point with that.

    Fear has been a driving force of our society since (at least) WW2, it’s real.

    I think you have a handle on dealing with the chronic fear we have.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Thanks Robb, but I believe that fear has been the main byproduct of civilization since its very beginning. But i think you are right, modern society has stepped up the fear production to a fever pitch and fear is everywhere around us.

      Awareness of the problem is the first step to curing it. Once you are aware that you are being bombarded with fear, you can take steps to avoid it and root it out in your own heart.

  4. larry says:

    bob their is always a up side to all problems.example you may have a blowout but you did not wreck and you got off the highway safeley. now you may have to buy a set of tires but you knew that was comming. or like me I got hit from behind on the interstate by a drunk my wife was hurt but not bad. Icould have roled the van but we managed to saty upright. my van was 7 years old with 150k on it. buy the time I get thrugh with the insurence co they will have paid for my new 2012 van with 0 miles. so that is the way I look at life their is always good in all problems we may have because most things could be much worse

    • Bob Bob says:

      larry, that is a good point, looking for the silver lining is a good way to maintain a positive attitude and overcome fear!

      Thanks for pointing that out!

  5. jackal says:

    Here you go again, making me the devil’s advocate. Interesting how you see so much pessimism to write about optimism.

    First, I consider myself extremely lucky to have made it this far in life without the misfortunes that befall so many others. Fully 80 percent of the world’s population live in squalor, and there has been very little that I could do about it. It’s empathy for their welfare that makes me feel this way, not pessimism. I’m constantly catching myself smiling whenever I think about my fortune. It’s a habit I can’t break, no matter how many people take note in public, or a friend or family member wonders what am I thinking of. But I do not believe my happiness was a product of optimism. Instead, I believe it was pessimism that I owe my good fortune to. When everyone was spending income as there was no tomorrow, I was saving for a rainy day, because I knew I did not want to work every day of my life, much less live life as a desperate SS co-dependent. I knew living for the moment would not cut it. And while everyone was pigging out on processed food, I stayed away from restaurants and fast food because I truly believed institutional fare was the bane of good health. I did not want to grow up to be a senior, dependent on a health-care system that is now so massive, it’s on target to consume fully 1/4th of our economy. Another goal was to live free of pharmaceuticals. I don’t even need aspirin today. And the last thing I wanted was to get fat. Today I can still fit into a pair of jeans I wore as a teenager. Not all bad, guided by a healthy dose of pessimism.

    All that aside, the growing number of folks camping on public lands today should concern everyone. Every year I see an increase in garbage, not to mention an increase in people. I can’t remember in recent years when the last time I had a camp without human garbage. Motorized vehicles, of every kind, stir up dust, make noise, and destroy the very public lands and nature that contribute to my happiness. Already I’m bracing for the day when public-land managers will place limits on us, no differently than they already have for Grand Canyon and Yosemite, after both had been swamped by hordes of foreign tourists. Profiteers have taken over our national parks, generating billions in revenue without paying back a single dime to US taxpayers. I can’t go to a national park anymore. No matter how much optimism you muster, it’s not going to stop the foreign tourists, some of whom are already here vandwelling. It won’t be long before corporations see the profit in promoting vandwelling for foreign tourists. Soon we’ll need reservations to use public lands.

    Finally, I don’t want to be one of those optimists who always says: “I don’t worry about it because I won’t be around.”” Well, I have grandkids (and hopefully great grandkids) who will be around. While I have nothing but contempt for fascism, I have a lot of empathy for every person who has been shortchanged in life.

    • MichaelinOK says:


      I agree with you that pessimism (or caution and concern, and not being sure that things will turn out wonderfully) sometimes has its good uses and results.

      The other side of the equation is true, too: Optimism sometimes has terrible results. The drug addict says, “I can stop shooting up whenever I want. It’s nothing to worry about; everything will be fine.” The alcoholic says, “I can stop drinking anytime I want. Also, I’m good to drive even though I’ve had a few. Everything will work out fine.” The gambler says, “I know, I just know that I’m gonna hit the jackpot. Everything’s gonna work out fine.”

      And every unnecessary war was started by someone who thought that victory would be easy. And every failed business started by someone who was sure they would succeed.

      Unbalanced optimism is recklessness. And recklessness has ruined as many lives as have terror or despair–which are the manifestations of unbalanced pessimism.

      And, as you indicate, it’s not a matter of prophetic or wildly creative prediction to say that increasing numbers of vandwellers will create problems and unwelcome attention that will result in increased restrictions and regulations against vandwelling. It’s happened in many cities and towns, and some public land, already.

      Though optimism is one of the best things, even the best of things can be used destructively. Many species of denial come dressed in the garb of optimism.

    • Bob Bob says:

      jackal, it sounds like you have made some very wise decisions in life and set yourself up extremely well for a wonderful future.

      But I would like to offer an alternative view if I might. What you call pessimism, I think of as optimism. This is how I define optimism: 1) Honestly face a problem, 2)find a solution 3) take action on it fully expecting a good result. You saw a problem of saving for the future and your health as you got older, and looked for a solution. Then when you found the solution you took action on it fully expecting it to work out well. And lo and behold, it worked out great for you!! By my definition, you are an optimist! Your neighbors were the pessimists, they saw a problem but decided that it was too hard for them so they gave up even trying to solve it. They were paralyzed by their fear and closed their eyes to the future. It was easier to spend all their money and eat junk food so that’s what they did.

      My whole point with the Ranger post was to alert others to a problem and tell them there was an easy solution. But I was concerned by all the fear that came out of it. Actually we both did the same thing. We saw a problem, realized there was an easy solution, and took action.

  6. wheelingit says:

    I just want to say I totally agree on your definition of happiness. I come at this from another angle -> one of many (many, sadly) years of depression in my youth. Since that very dark period of my life I’ve worked hard on my “happiness muscles”, actively seeking to squash negativity and highlight the positive and optimistic things in life. It’s taken many hard years of work and it’s a constant exercise, but I do believe most people who meet me today would never imagine what kind of darkness I had in my life 20 years ago. I honestly believe happiness is within reach of everyone & I’m glad you do too.

    Peace on 🙂

    wheelingit recently posted…“Home” On The Beach – Bandon, ORMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Thanks so much for sharing that Nina! In our society we tend to be afraid of being transparent and try to hide our difficulties. But so many of us go through the very same things and when no one else talks about it we feel all alone and unique and the problems seem even greater and we become more hopeless. It’s a viscous cycle. But if other people will admit going through the same thing, we feel less alone and maybe we can get through it too.

      I’m confident your honesty has been helpful to someone! Thank you!

  7. HoboHounds says:

    I think it’s more of an issue of realism vs idealism, rather than optimism vs pessimism. Just because some people chose to seek out information that keeps them informed about actual current events and chose not to “bury their head in the sand,” does not mean that they are automatically pessimists. It is not pessimistic to realize that this country is a fascist state, not democratic. It is quite obviously run by corporations interested in making a profit. Knowing this does not make me give up hope for the future, but instead allows me to make informed “optimistic” decisions about my personal future that are based on reality rather than the idea that everything will stay the same. Burying one’s head in the sand to ignore the reality of what is happening around us is beneficial for some, but not me. I am grateful that Bob does speak up about the reality of what he experiences as a vandweller, as it is obviously not all a bed of roses. It is just more information for me to absorb so that I can make decisions about my future.

  8. CAE says:

    Can I be the skeptic?

  9. Bob Bob says:

    LR, I respect your opinion but I disagree. I have to wonder if we both have all the same facts though.
    1) It is very easy to boondock without doing any damage to the habitat. Everytime I leave a camp I take one last tour of my camp to see if I am leaving everything as i found it, and the simple fact is I do. There is no damage to the habitat.
    2) I don’t bother the animals, but when Homer was younger he did. But even he is too old now to do any damage now.
    3) I poop in a bag and throw it in dumpsters where it ends up in a landfill–just like baby diapers. But I do have friends who poop in the woods. However, they dig a cathole first and bury it about 6-8 inches in the ground. Done that way it is good for the forest and not a negative at all. I encourage you to do some research about humanure, it is not a bad thing.

    Done right vandwellers have little or no negative impact on the woods. And everyone i have ever camped with has done it right.

  10. yesican says:

    Many good replies here. I thank Bob for his optimism. We need all we can get and hopefully it becomes contagious. We are all at different mileposts in our road to maturity and actualization. Every ounce of fuel in the positive direction helps to propel us down that road a little further.
    Also, I don’t think we need to fear that everyone or even a large portion of people will turn to van dwelling. The gypsy is not in every soul and Bob has a great forum that collects information for us who have the gypsy within so that we can make our life more comfortable. And, I see what Bob is trying to convey and that is to not dwell on the negative of any given situation but to learn from it and see the positive result from doing so. Everyone is good and evil, everything is good and bad, learn the negative, seek the positive for life is too short to live in darkness all the time.

    • Bob Bob says:

      yesican, glad to see you here on the blog! you can’t have enough Alaskans in a group! Even ones form Soldotna! I really like the analogy of optimism as fuel that propels us! Kind of like Jet fuel so we can soar through life!

      I’m also a big believer of the Yin-yang polarity, all of us have good-bad, dark-light, positive and negative. The best path is the Middle Way!

  11. Edie says:

    My outlook in life is very simple: when I’m handed a lemon, I make lemonade. In fact when something bad happens, I look for the lemonade. And if I can’t find it, I make plans for the future. I always need something to look forward to. When the economy went south and the real estate tanked, I lost most of my real estate and money. So what did I do? I went to the only place I had owned free and clear: a house in the woods. And I got my lemonade: less stress, less bills, less work…you get the picture. I exchanged my big class A for a white Chevy van and now I look forward to the day that I can hit the road……

    • Bob Bob says:

      Edie, you are a very wise person!! So wise you said everything i wanted to say in just a paragraph and I took 1400 words!!

      When you get into your van and on the road, be sure to stop by my camp and we can share some lemonade!

  12. Calvin R says:

    I just have to get in on this one because words matter a great deal to me, and I share HoboHounds’ interest in realism versus what he calls “idealism”. (I think of that as psychological issues.) I see optimism versus pessimism as a false duality. Most people fit neither “optimist” nor “pessimist” at all times in all situations, nor should they. They respond to the information and experience they have, and that is a far more effective approach. To the degree that their response is influenced by “shoulds” and unrealistic hopes or fears, they undercut themselves. Obviously, I see myself as a realist. My way of stating this is that I don’t really care whether the metaphorical glass is half empty or half full. I just want to decide the best use I can make of half a glass of whatever that is.

    The point of Bob’s blogging, I think, is to present information and experience to others who might use it to allay their (unrealistic) fears and support their (realistic) hopes about vandwelling. I refuse to use the term “promote” for this due to that word’s close association with commercial products and services, which I don’t see as a goal of Bob’s work. Incidentally, let’s not overstate the importance of this blog or vandweller Internet sites in general. Even in the relatively small field of “alternative lifestyles,” all of this competes for attention with the Tiny House movement, the Mother Earth News and similar homesteader sites, and probably many more of which I am not even aware. The mainstream is still larger and louder than all the rest of us put together.

    I make my own decisions based largely on history, both personal and general, in the context of all the information I can reasonably gather. Thus I have noted the USA-PATRIOT Act and other limitations on our freedom and privacy and I see them in the context of similar snooping and meddling throughout the history of government, which tends to lead to repression of difference and dissent. At the same time, however, I realize that Rainbow Gatherings and other exercises in freedom continue and I believe that improved communication via the Internet has brought about decentralization of power, an actual change in society.

    So where does that leave me for the specific topic under discussion, the National Forest camping issue? While I understand that increasing restriction and/or harassment could become a serious issue, at this point we have only seen a few incidents in a limited area. We may or may not need to work harder at “flying under the radar,” and there’s no reason to assume that the “residence” issue is the actual thrust of the action. The most concrete thing is that the Rangers see LTVA stickers as evidence of guilt, so it would probably be wise to remove those when leaving the LTVA after the season.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Calvin, I think some of it is splitting hairs over words which is unnecessary. I see a very similar overall idea between us. You try to stay more in the middle way and I tend to move over a little into a more actively positive attitude. But all that matters is that we arrive at the destination we have set for ourselves! And for that I wish you all the best!!

  13. Bodhi says:

    It doesn’t seem that you are very optimistic when you say you truly believe that things are bad and getting worse. I have always thought things were good and getting better, even when they were politically horrible. I think right now things are great and soon will be getting MUCH better.

    One of my favoite sayings is… “It will all be okay in the end… If it isn’t okay, it isn’t the end!”

    Much love, Bodhi

    • Bob Bob says:

      You caught that did you Bodhi, I wondered if someone would.

      it is very easy for me to hold apparently contradictory viewpoints. I am a believer in Global Climate Change and in Peak Oil and I do think things are going to get very, very bad. Worst case: Billions could die, including me and my loved ones. Best case: another Dust Bowl and Depression that makes the 1930s look like Romper Room.

      And yet I consider myself confident and optimistic and encourage all of you to be too.

      Optimism should never be a denial of the facts! Only a holding onto a deeply held hope and faith in the present moment.

      The monk hanging off the branch on the side of the cliff with certain death below him and certain death above him but found the wild strawberry and was delighted by it.

      Death and pain are two great certainties of life. The only greater certainty is finding joy in this moment if you will only look.

  14. David Carter says:

    To paraphrase a quote sent to me by a friend:
    To some the glass is half empty, to some the glass is half full, and to some the glass is the wrong size.

  15. DougB says:

    That was a very helpful post, Bob. Thank you. I was inherently an optimist to and through my twenties, and a depressed pessimist once things started to descend from bad to worse for decades. Now that I’m living my own life, I find I’m more “compartmental” in outlook. I’m pessimistic about anything to do my TT’s original equipment and structure. Optimistic about the mods suiting it to my needs, about finding pleasant places to boondock with it, about my odds in getting it to hang in there over time, and about my own future in terms of contentment and satisfaction.

    I fully agree with you that an optimist is hardly one to traipse blithely and ignorantly on, hoping for the best anyway. A decent optimist recognizes problems and banks on either actively solving them, or finding a way around them. One way or another, it’s going to work out well – though sometimes not in the way I originally might expect. There can be no passivity, only patience and gratitude. Hopelessness and helplessness are the enemies, not outcome. The joke is that, for a pessimist, everything turns out much better than expected. Trouble is, as an actual approach, it’s not worth the wear and tear. I’m not a big fan of living selfishly, but am working to agonize less over where I see society heading, and concentrate more on what kind of person I want to be – in my head and on the ground day by day, given my limitations. It’s a bit of a late start, but hey, better late than never.
    DougB recently posted…Junker or Jewel?My Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Doug, what a brilliant comment! I loved this:

      Hopelessness and helplessness are the enemies, not outcome>

      You are also so right about changing your focus from the many things you have no control over, to the one thing you can have some control over: yourself!
      Thank you!

  16. I find that my life goes much smoother when I elect to focus on the good and positive. From what I see, focusing on negativity and being sad or gloomy breeds more of the same. I’m very thankful to have a positive outlook on life. It has gotten me thus far as a full timer and I’m grateful to be here. Yes, there are and will be obsticles, and I certainly have sad and angry moments, but, nothing is impossible to navigate with a healthy, positive energy and outlook. The key for me is to not allow myself to stay in negative energy.

    I do embrace principles such as the Law of Attraction, as I think there are many truisms in it and I resonate with it. I’m so thankful to be here on this planet and help be a catalyst for bettering our planet and society. Thanks, Bob, for putting this post out!

    • Bob Bob says:

      Gloria, I like your choice of words, you “elect to focus on the good and positive.” It is a choice we can make. It isn’t always simple, in fact it is often difficult. But if if we concentrate on it we can slowly change our overall attitude and slowly but steadily make it more positive.

      Thanks for pointing that out, but most of all for living it in your own life!

  17. Red Meador says:

    Wake up every morning believing something wonderful is going to happen.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Red, that has worked for me! And surprise, surprise, many more wonderful things have happened than terrible things–though terrible things still do happen.

  18. Louise says:

    I am a pessimist. The combination of genetic predisposition and a childhood that left me with permanent physical brain damage made that inevitable. While a little pessimism can be useful, large amounts are terribly destructive.

    Cultivating an optimistic attitude is the best way to hold the damage in check, and there are many techniques to do that, if you’re willing to work at it. Practicing optimism has made my life better and has allowed me to do good things for quite a few people. Sometimes I’m even happy!

    Some people are natural optimists, some people choose optimism, and some work very hard at cultivating it. I think it improves everyone’s life.

  19. Naomi says:

    Thank you once again, Bob, for such a great post. I have suffered, to varying degrees, from depression my entire adult life, but have benefitted from antidepressants (benefitted, as in, they’re the only reason I’m still alive …) for the past 20 years. It’s very difficult for anyone, but especially someone suffering from depression, to be an optimist, but I sure do try. It’s so easy to let pessimism devolve into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Regarding the “Buddha’s Brain” book – I’ve been listening to the audio version, but Hanson also has a more accessible book called “Just One Thing”, which guides the reader to focus on one healthy step at a time.

    You rock!


    • Bob Bob says:

      Naomi, I’m so glad you found medication that worked for you! Many people people love to hate the big drug companies but they have made so many lives so much better that I just can’t agree with that. Your story confirms that to me.

      I also am a big fan of Rick Hanson. Do you subscribe to his newsletter? it is based on “Just One Thing” and it is outstanding!
      I’m so glad you are here!

  20. Wemble says:

    Well, you lost me when you quoted Robert Schuller. A guy’s got to have a line somewhere, borders. What’s life without Borders when all that’s left is Barnes & Noble?

    Remember the optimist/pessimist joke? The pessimist says, “things are so bad they couldn’t get worse” to which the optimist replies, “oh yes they can!”.

    I like the Mark Twain quote: “Always be prepared for the worst. If it happens, you are ready for it. If it doesn’t, you will be pleasantly surprised.”

    I once tried to start my car with only the positive battery cable connected and nothing happened. What’s up with that?

    Did the Romans know or realize when their empire was declining? Did the British? Will we?

    If I live to see the middle of this century as a centenarian I will see a U.S. where the collective minorities are a majority and the old white men are dying out and that does make me optimistic. Everything else, not so much, although my home state of Wisconsin might be an American vacation paradise by then.

    Actually, I’m really a “the glass is only half full” kind of guy. But, then again, at work this morning I was asked how things were going and my reply was, “not so bad, but it’s early–plenty of time for things to go wrong” and most of my coworkers totally understand, and agree.

  21. Diane says:

    Hey Bob,
    I think I have a Better understanding of what you mean by “fear” now. Loved the quotes you used…shared a couple on my facebook page.
    Peace & Trees,
    Diane recently posted…my kidsMy Profile

  22. Karen says:

    The best way to get rid of the fear and to turn pessimism into optimism is to face that fear. I’m not sure how many of the people who read and post on your blog and on the forums are actually vehicle dwelling but I’ve followed a few of them as they started their journeys and have seen the fear fall away as they realized that the things that they dreaded did not happen. If a problem came up they could handle it. Most people, even strangers, are genuinely nice and helpful. And it just reinforces itself. The longer you’re out here experiencing the rest of the world instead of staying in your small safe (not safer really but it feels that way) little spot the more optimistic you become.
    Karen recently posted…National Mining Hall of Fame & MuseumMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Karen, you are so right, facing the fear is the best way to overcome it. But overcoming the initial paralysis is just so hard. It’s people like you who are out there showing that it can be done that makes it easier for so many people.


  23. Susan says:

    Thank you so much, truly, you are such an inspiration to me. I really needed to read what you wrote in this post. Thank You.


    • Bob Bob says:

      Susan, if I have helped you in any small, tiny way, I am so grateful for the opportunity, and it makes all the time at the keyboard more than worth it!

  24. PamP says:

    Thanks Bob for putting my learned experience of living life into words. As I went through life I discovered each day is mine to experience with happiness, or sadness and depression. It is my choice. I’d rather be happy so I focus that. I look at any little thing I can to be thankful for – seeing a bird fly, the glint of sun on a puddle of water – anything at all. Gratitude fosters happiness.

    • Bob Bob says:

      PamP, you are so right! For most of us happiness is a choice we make in a 1000 small ways that accumulates into a life. Nearly all those choices are mental and emotional and deal with our attitude.

      It sounds like you have mastered making good choices!

      Pam, this has nothing to do with you, but I think it is very important that I say it lest I give a false impression: there are also many people whose defective brain chemistry simply will not allow them to make a right choice, their body makes it impossible. For those people, their main hope is in seeing a medical professional and taking advantage of some of the very good prescription drugs that are available. There is no shame in that!!!!

      • PamP says:

        Certainly that is true. it’s also true that some life events – death of a dear loved one or similar shock make such a “happiness’ choice impossible for at least a period of time.

        • Bob Bob says:

          Pam, no doubt that life-events can send us into a downward spiral that can be very difficult to break out of. Beyond that, once you’ve had a bout of severe depression, the brain becomes wired to fall back into it more easily.

          I worry that sometimes when I write a post like this I will so oversimplify that I give the impression that being happy is easy, just decide to be positive. It was never that easy for me and for some people it is biologically impossible.

          Nothing in life is easy, but for most of us adapting a positive attitude is a critical first step.

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