To Thine Own Self Be True; Who are You?



I said no more Alaska Posts and while this post has Alaska as a backdrop, it isn’t about Alaska, it’s about “Finding Yourself” and being true to yourself. This trip to Alaska clarified a lot of things about myself and I want to share it with you. The great majority of you are living the traditional American life and living vicariously through my blog. That implies to me that you may not have been true to yourself and don’t honestly know who you really are. Instead, you are being true to societies expectations and brainwashing. I suspect that many of you are just now struggling to find out who you really are by exploring ways of life that have secretly always called you. You read my blog because this life is the one you secretly long to be living.

Of course I don’t know most of you and even if I did I’m no one to pass any judgment on you or your life. Nobody but you can discover who you really are and how to be true to that person. What I can do is tell you my story and let you decide if it speaks to you and applies to you in any way.

Our concern must be to live while we are alive… to release our inner selves from the spiritual death that comes with living behind a façade designed to conform to external definitions of who and what we are.

~Elisabeth Kubler Ross

I wasn’t really aware of how much impact Alaska had on me until I left and then came back. Time away gave me a new perspective. If you’ve met me in person or seen me in the many pictures I post, you’ll notice I don’t look like other people. I’m generally disheveled looking with plain, well-worn and possibly dirty jeans and T-shirt. I have long hair and a long beard that are pretty wild looking. My van is always dirty, my trailer is generally dirty and I’ve got stuff scattered everywhere. In the Lower 48 States, I have always felt like the odd man out.

I look like a guy who doesn’t care what I look like and couldn’t care less what you think about it! And that describes me perfectly!

When I got back to Alaska, I found myself surrounded by people who looked just like me!! Long hair and beards, dirty jeans, old worn T-shirts and dirty, beat-up old POS cars were everywhere. Best of all, no one seemed the least bit embarrassed by it!! That’s just the way it was and “eff-you” if you don’t like it! These were my people! Finally, I didn’t look or feel like an odd-ball anymore! The conclusion I reached was that I truly am a product of my environment.

But at the same time most of my adult life I’ve been very fearful and lived my life in conformity to what was expected to me. I got married, got a job I worked at for 35 years, had kids and was just a totally typical American drone going through the motions of living. I gave up all the things I had loved as a child and young man and that made me deeply happy. Things like:

  • I had backpacked over much of Alaska,
  • I had spent 6 weeks in the Arctic camping, hunting, rafting, and backpacking.
  • I had taken two long extended motorcycle trips all over the Lower 48 and even driven the Alcan on one of them when it was still a miserable dirt road in the rain.
  • I’d spent a summer giving tours in Kotzebue, Alaska, an authentic, tiny Eskimo village on the Arctic Ocean north of the Arctic Circle.
  • I craved freedom so much I quit my great paying (but boring and soul-killing) job and drove school bus for 5 years. That let me work part-time and have my summers off to go do the things listed above.

But then I sold-out and rejected who I really am and got married and never did any of those things again for over 20 years. I went back to the soul-sucking job and lost my soul. I was secretly an unhappy and miserable person. Being so unhappy ultimately led to a divorce which led me to vandwelling, which saved my life. Until then, I embodied the Thoreau quote:

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. Thoreau.

What happened? How did I do a total about-face and become a totally different—and miserable–person. The easy answer is that I gave into societies brainwashing. But I think there is more to it than that.


The ago-old debate is how much do Nurture (how and where you were raised) versus Nature (genetic and biological influences) control who we are. I’m a huge believer in the importance of Nature in forming us into who we are. We have a million years of genetic evolution coursing through our bodies and saying that is unimportant is absurd; our genes are very, very important. But to say the environment you were raised in isn’t important is equally preposterous. Our parents and environment tremendously control us. This trip back to Alaska (after being gone for 8 years) made it very clear just how much I am a product of the land I was raised in.

Genetically, there is no doubt in my mind that I have the Novelty Gene because my father had it. Back in 1961 my father piled his young family (I was 6 and my sister was 10) into the family sedan and drove the Alcan to live in Alaska. That was a bold and extremely adventurous move for that time. Back then most people thought going to Alaska was like going to the moon; we lived in Igloos, ate whale blubber and it was below zero and snowed all summer. But my father had such a longing to live free and hunt that he didn’t hesitate to jump at the chance to go to Alaska when it was offered to him. He is the perfect example of a man who has the Novelty Gene. In fact I think if you did genetic testing, the population of Alaska would be off-the-charts in the number of people who have the Novelty Gene. People who move to Alaska have a craving for wildness, adventure and new things that is far beyond the “average” person; that certainly describes my father and most of the people I knew there—as well as myself.

So how did I so easily sell out what made me happy and live a life that made me miserable? Before I answer that, let me make it very clear that it isn’t being married and having kids that made me unhappy. I totally believe I could have been happy being married and having kids but when I sold out on my hopes and dreams and flushed them down the toilet I doomed myself to a miserable life and the failure of my marriage. It’s possible to combine your adventurous side and still be a family person. I just didn’t try, instead I rolled over and died.

When I try to figure out why, all I can think of is the 1964 Good Friday earthquake in Alaska. I was 9 years old at the time and it remains to this day the single most vivid memory I have. This wasn’t just another earthquake, it was 9.3 on the Richter scale and the largest earthquake ever recorded in North America and one of the top three largest ever recorded anywhere.

I think it instilled a fear in me that was greater than the genetic urge to adventure. So when society did it’s brainwashing on me to turn me into a good wage-slave drone that fear made it easy to turn my back on my true self and become lost and unhappy.


Fortunately I hit a bottom that demanded I make some changes; I simply could not go on living like I had been. I found a spiritual program that worked for me. It turned me around and opened me up to totally changing everything about my life. The person I had become was a total failure on every level so I set out to remake myself but this time I would be true to who I really am. At that time vandwelling was forced onto me but it turned out to be the hand of a Higher Power leading me to my true self.

Finally, I’m being true to my own self and living in harmony with myself.

My greatest wish for you is that you also would be true to your own self—whatever that is! My hope is that you would know exactly who you are and what you need and not what your parents, teachers and society told you that you should be. I wish you to be happy and never give up on your dreams. To do that I encourage you each to begin an adventure of self-discovery. Examine yourself and your life to see if you are happy. If the little boy or girl you once were could see you now, how would he or she like you? What advice would she or he give you? Are you willing to follow it?

“It is very important that you only do what you love to do. You may be poor, you may go hungry, you may lose your car, you may have to move into a shabby place to live, but you will totally live.

And at the end of your days you will bless your life because you have done what you came here to do.

Otherwise, you will live your life as a prostitute, you will do things only for a reason, to please other people, and you will never have lived. and you will not have a pleasant death.”

~Elisabeth Kubler Ross



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

84 comments on “To Thine Own Self Be True; Who are You?
  1. Avatar jonthebru says:

    I was beginning to feel like one of the people following Forrest Gump as he ran around the country for a minute there. (In reality, I get it.) It would be interesting to know if it was an “aha” moment or a timely awakening epiphany for this awareness? Nice writing sir.

  2. Avatar Jackie says:

    Thank you for this!

  3. Avatar Bill Orcutt says:

    My wife and I are working and cleaning up our house in upstate NY readying it for sale.
    It’s sale will buy us our rv.
    Then we wait out a two year wait for the primary res tax deduction at our apt in NYC and then..sell it.
    Once it goes..we go.

  4. Avatar Wayne says:

    Thanks Bob, that really hit home. Nice to see more of your philosophical side again.

  5. Avatar Sameer says:

    Thank you for this on this beautiful cool morning in the Forest. The freedom and joy I feel connecting with my true self is only possible because I have thrown off the shackles and opened my self up to this wonderful lifestyle.
    Sameer recently posted…To Thine Own Self Be True; Who are You?My Profile

  6. Avatar Calvin R says:

    Thank you for the timely reminders, the great quotes, and the moral support.

  7. Avatar Rojo says:

    I pretty much from childhood marched to a different Drummer, pretty much made my own Drum. I like to think of it as rebellion.

    With that said and all due respect, you and Brian Gore( another Blogger) appear to think that the ones of us who dont march in you Corps are not being all that we can be. I choose to fall somewhere in between I have absolutely no desire to live in a tiny van or a mansion. I have no desire to spend mt free time writing a Blog, that can be evidenced by the remains of Rojo’s Ramblings. I like our spacious home several months each year but not as much as our Home on wheels.

    Being true to yourself does not always mean going to the extreme. I am and have always been true to myself and am known as the Black sheep as I suspect you are. Nothing wrong with that, nothing at all. I much prefer being with my soar mate and our cat to a big family get together. For some folks being with the kids and grand kids is being true to them self, not me.

    So if you are saying throw it all out the window to live in a van and take a poverty vows,not in this life time. If you are saying “If it feels good do it” I am on your side. The most important thing is to live your life to the fullest.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Rojo, I tried to be very careful to not pass judgement on anybody and their choices or to tell them what to do when I said:

      Of course I don’t know most of you and even if I did I’m no one to pass any judgment on you or your life. Nobody but you can discover who you really are and how to be true to that person.

      And when I said:

      My greatest wish for you is that you also would be true to your own self—whatever that is!

      I definitely never said to “throw it all out the window to live in a van and take a poverty vows”. Whatever makes you truly happy is just fine with me!!

      • Avatar DougB says:

        But you have, repeatedly – just not in this post. It’s been good to see you toning down the bitterness and belligerence in the last few months and change your focus from a seething recruitment, toward a prodding to examine oneself and a “this is what worked for me” presentation. It’s a lot more helpful to be presented things to consider than it is to be goaded into simply switching what one marches in lockstep to. I have no idea whether you might be easing a bit away from “the vermin that is humanity” outlook underneath, but at least your posts and comments are becoming considerably more accommodating of others than they were, and they challenge much more effectively, seems to me. Nobody’s really subjected to societal brainwashing, but we do definitely influence each other to varying degrees. That influence can prove corrosive in the end, or solidifying. Some eventually “wake up” from their routine patterns of decision-making to fashion a life and outlook better suited to themselves, and some don’t. I personally believe that we’re ultimately accountable for our decisions regardless of the influences around us, and that blaming others for the results we’ve gathered is a cop-out that claims helplessness as an excuse. I’m aware that you don’t agree, but I think that equates to blaming others for our eagerness to passively be led so we can deny responsibility, perhaps based on a fear of what is, to us, unknown. We’re always so eager to look for formulas to follow, aren’t we? As children, we start out passively, but at some point, hopefully, we question and then start making our own decisions and taking our own risks. What counts is not the past, but today. In any case, keep expressing your thinking in your posts. Who knows, someday we may actually agree on something! 😉
        DougB recently posted…Enter the WagonMy Profile

        • Bob Bob says:

          Thanks for your thoughts Doug, you’ve expressed them very well!

          • Avatar carly says:

            To comment on tis comment ” Nobody’s really subjected to societal brainwashing,….”

            The brainwashing is so insidious and complete most people are unable to even recognize it(what the brainwashers count on). I think too that our host has been judged most un kindly here when he clearly made a point that he was NOT judging anyone or trying to define how others should live in order to be true to themselves. Typical reaction to what should have been a very insightful and inspirational post.

            Now for my comment…
            As a kid when we went on road trips(even for the day) I could have simply travelled in the car forever. I was always disappointed as we crept closer to home. Now I know why. 🙂

          • Bob Bob says:

            Carly, I’ve brought some of it on myself because in the past I have been very strident about about my total contempt for Western Civilization and made people pretty angry. So some of it is backlash from that.

            I think many people are angry from what they see as attacks on themselves, when I only mean to attack the system. Now I am being very careful to say that if it works for you that’s great, I’m only writing to the people it doesn’t work for. It did not work for me, and it very much sounds like it does not work for you!!

          • Bob Bob says:

            Carly, I totally agree about the brainwashing. Every moment of every day of our lives we are shaped and formed by our parents, the media, and educational system to be good worker drones. Being anything else is pounded out of us relentlessly. So that is what nearly all of us become.

  8. Avatar Cae says:

    Sounds like my kinda people up there in Alaska!!

  9. Avatar Fred says:

    This is one your better posts. While I have no doubt you now enjoy the life you lead, you are a bit tough on yourself about life before your epiphany. How would know that you were miserable if you had not done the things you did prior to changing your lifestyle? I submit you wouldn’t. We often forget that the pleasure or pain something brings to us is often a comparison of the two in relation to each other. Maybe that is why Nature gives us more than one or two years to adapt and find our true calling. Except for cataclysmic events, few things in Nature happen overnight. If we are indeed part of Nature, and I believe we are, then it takes us awhile to change and adapt as well.

    Our folks, in most cases, only wanted what was best for us. Breaking out of the “rut” or “mold” takes a certain presence of mind and attitude to make that difficult change. As you stated so well, many people, are afraid to make any changes and are constantly plagued by the “what if” gene (no it doesn’t exist any more than I personally believe there is a “novelty” gene, but that is neither here nor there). The fact is although it may take 5 years or 50, you are at peace with yourself and therefore with others and, I maintain, that is what counts most. The universe is indeed unfolding as it should. I think Mr. Ehrmann had it right in his famous poem. To paraphrase:

    “Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence….. Be yourself. ….Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you from misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness….. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. ”
    ― Max Ehrmann, Desiderata: A Poem for a Way of Life

    I couldn’t agree more.


    • Bob Bob says:

      I totally agree Fred!! See my reply to Lynn; today I’m grateful for everything in my life that got me to where I a now. “It takes what it takes!”

  10. Avatar Lynn says:

    I chuckled to myself when I read about listening to my child voice. It would probably be disappointed that I wasn’t a princess living in a castle.

    I do think society dictates just by the mere fact of what the majority do. I still feel sometimes that I have to defend myself for not marrying and having children. Not everyone wants what others have/or want. Life is a matter of choice all down the road and what remains at the end is an accumulation of your decisions. Good or bad, they are your decisions and you made your best choice at the time. Life is meant to be dynamic and constantly changing. If you did everything right the first time, maybe you wouldn’t be where you are now and enjoying your current lifestyle.
    Lynn recently posted…Baja Mexico or Bust!My Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Lynn, one of my favorite aphorisms is “It takes what it takes” If you like where you are now, then you should be grateful for everything that happened to get you here, even if it seemed terrible at the time.

      I definitely feel that way about everything in my life.

  11. Avatar Linda Sand says:

    Well, that certainly set me to thinking. I have to go all the way back before age ten to see who I was before I began majorly adapting. So far, the main thing I have come up with is I like to share–my time, my knowledge, my resources, etc. That feels real to me.
    Linda Sand recently posted…The Incredible Shrinking WomanMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Linda, at heart humans are giving, sharing tribal creatures, especially women. That’s one of the things society kills off as soon as it can.

      • Avatar Linda Sand says:

        I think women are allowed to continue those characteristics much longer than men are in our society. Many women become caretakers whether that be teaching, nursing, parenting, volunteering or whatever type of support each woman decides to make her own. The trick for women is to learn to take care of ourselves–not just others.

        • Bob Bob says:

          I totally agree Linda. Many women outgrow the drive to caretake but then their circumstance conspire to keep them in it rather than break out and start over with something new.

          It’s very common for men and women to have a “crossover” as they age where the men lose testosterone and gain estrogen and women lose estrogen and gain testosterone. That’s why there are so many women out in their RVs or vans and the hubby is at home.

  12. Avatar Ken in Anaheim says:

    Along those same lines: A few years back the Leninger Center in Texas (I believe) concluded the MOST EXHAUSTIVE study EVER done on “longevity” ; what makes for a long life.
    Now get this—MORE IMPORTANT than genetics, exercise, environment, even the food/diet you eat….the NUMBER ONE !!!! determiner of longevity was…..wait for it…..JOB SATISFACTION ! In other words doing what you enjoy.
    Words to live by.
    Ken in Anaheim

  13. Avatar Dan says:

    I think it’s important for people to pursue happiness, and with luck and efforts, achieve that happiness, however we all need to always remember that we are a society of free people. With that freedom, however imperfect our system of government / society is, it is desired by every man and woman in the world who lives in a system where the people at the top are free and the rest are by their system controlled….which is almost every other nation save a few in the world.

    We live in a society where each of our contributions buoy up the whole economy of the society. Yeah, it’s not a completely fair system. But a lot of people are able to own a place, pursue their interests, get married, have kids, do what they want for at least part of the time. Nobody that isn’t born rich has a life of compromise. Just the way it is. But it’s not all bad.

    Learning to be responsible parents, responsible neighbors, responsible voters, responsible citizens, it’s a good thing. We are theoretically “self governed”, so if one didn’t vote last time, then one has nobody to blame for the idiots in Washington but oneself.

    Put simply, our constitution gives us the RIGHT to pursue happiness, but with that right and every other right, we have a responsibility to do the heavy lifting to obtain the goods needed to achieve that happiness.

    Or put more briefly….

    With each freedom right that we are granted there comes several responsibilities back to the society.

    Freedom isn’t free. Ask the widows or orphans of those who died in Iraq and Afghanistan if freedom is free. They’ll tell you the high price that was paid. Look at the budget for the government for defense….freedom is not free. We have a responsibility to ourselves to be sure, but also to others, and we each have to do our share, even if we don’t love our job every single day. Nobody loves their job, otherwise there wouldn’t be a paycheck, but one would buy a ticket to come in the front door.

    Few of us are born with the silver spoon in our baby mouth, but we have a society where it’s possible to get the silver spoon some day before we die, and to enjoy the goods the silver can provide.

    If every single person who ever had a bad day at work, and I had plenty, was to quit their job, sell everything and run for the national forest, then nobody would be able to enjoy anything and there would be no freedom for nobody. Because everybody, and I do mean everybody, has a bad day at work, maybe a bad month, many of us have had a bad year, and some a bad decade.

    There are some remedies to bad situations when they happen, and they happen too much lately. You can get more education. You can change your job. Sometimes some of us can get a career if you work at it, if you want it bad enough, and it can actually be rewarding to do things that benefit society. I had a career like that, and yes there was politics that others practiced that made it harder for me to do my job, and I was unappreciated, and undercompensated for weeks when I worked long hours, but I have a pension and I can enjoy life some.

    Societies work must be done, and not everybody gets to have the big bucks or the fun jobs, or gets to tell the rest of us what we need to do. That’s just the way the chips fall. But for any of us to be able to enjoy our right to freedom and happiness, we have to chip in and do whatever work that society needs doing, and that’s just the way it works. If a few people can’t deal with the crap that life sends their way, society can pick up the tab for a small percentage of the people from time to time. But generally speaking, if everybody doesn’t do what needs doing, then society grinds to a halt and there is no freedom or happiness for anybody, because people aren’t meeting their responsibilities.

    It’s probably ok for someone who is of working age if they have been dealt a really bad hand in life to even take off some time, maybe as much as a year or two for mental health, and figure out how to cope with their unhappy reality. But we’re talking about a small percentage. Most of us will just have to cope, and deal, and keep on doing the work that must be done.

    It’s different for you and me. We’re retired, and we’ve done our part. Now it’s time for the next generation to pick up the pick and axe and to do the work that needs done until it’s time for them to retire.

    Of course it’s not a fair society, and yes the people at the top take more than their share of the pie, and they can take, or they are given the money it takes to “exercise” that freedom. I was born in a lower middle class family. My dad was a ditch digger at the power company starting out, and worked his way up to be an entry level manager after 35 years.

    One day he drove down to the main office of the company and put in his retirement papers. The woman at the office told him if he just waited for another 6 months his retirement payments would double. But he said he didn’t care, and to process his paperwork as he submitted it. That was the last day that he worked there.

    He was 53, but he lived to be 84, and he had a good life, but it was a hard life for many years, he was the leader of power line repair crews for 25 years, and whenever there was a big storm, and in northeast Missouri that was a frequent event, he would go for 2 or 3 days with only a few hours of sleep per day until the power was back up.

    But he exercised his freedom and met his responsibility without worrying about if he was happy at any given day. He had a satisfaction of knowing that what he did was important to a lot of people. he was meeting his responsibility to society. After many years, he was able to save enough to build a modest home on a small acreage for retirement, and he had a small farm that he always wanted with goats and chickens.

    He loved his life. He didn’t always love his work, but he knew that it was important to many people that it be done as quickly as possible and done well, so that people had their electric power when they flipped on the switch for the lights, and everything else they wanted to power up.

    In your post you have men in suits with skulls for heads, suggesting that they are “dead” to themselves, presumably if they do work that they don’t love every single day. For my sensibilities, that’s just a little too simplistic and just a little bit silly to think that life is that easy. Life is hard, and I know you have seen how hard it can be based on your words. Spit happens. We all deal with it, and it makes us tougher when the next bump comes.

    I appreciate your blog, and I think you are wise in what you have learned in your life, and for the few that can’t deal with meeting societies needs, I think you provide a service helping people with hard luck to figure out what they can do to gain some happiness and meet their needs. I thank you for your service to these people who society is shutting out. I hope these words are taken by you as constructive criticism about your post, and doesn’t discourage you and your good work here. I may not agree with every word of every post, but I appreciate your hard work, and your good works here, and I do respect what you are doing and hope that you keep up the good work.

    • Avatar Calvin R says:

      I find it fascinating that you would describe someone else as “simplistic and a bit silly,” because that’s what I see in your reply. Also, the premise of your position is in your first paragraph, but for some of us that statement needs much more support. If the USA was ever really the envy of the rest of the world, those days are gone.

      • Avatar Dan says:

        Hi Calvin:

        I didn’t communicate effectively if I left the perception that I was calling Bob “simplistic and a bit silly”. That was not my intent. My intention was to convey my opinion only that the graphic which editorialized about all people in suits as being dead to themselves, and not true to themselves.

        Many people have meaningful jobs that are enriching and rewarding, and they would take objection to the graphic with the suits with skulls. I very much respect the views of other people, and here I’m only presenting my perspective or opinion based on my life and my work.

        I have done enough living and travel that I understand that my opinion is not the universal standard on which all things may be judged. Quite the contrary, I have learned through my life that being able to see the world through the perspectives of others in different lives and coming and going to different places makes my life richer and more rewarding. I get it that I’m one person with one perspective. I’m not saying that he’s wrong either. Just that the death’s head graphic didn’t jive with my life and perspective. But I could easily be wrong. I’ve made many mistakes in my life, and I’m sure that I’ll make many more before they put me 6 feet down.

        Bob is sending a powerful message with the graphic that a lot of people do betray themselves to serve a different master, and in that he uses a “simplistic” picture that sends a powerful message. This is a powerful method of propaganda, or telling a story from a perspective. From my experience the image he presents feels to me like it’s simplistic and silly.

        But it’s a powerful image, and an effective message to myself and a lot of other people. That was his intent, and I must compliment him on that for being able to tell a 1000 word message in a single picture.

        Please understand that I’m not throwing rocks at the person. I respect and like Bob, and I’ve never met him. He’s intelligent and he has a POV(point of view), and he conveys his POV very effectively. I like smart people like Bob. I was calling the graphic “simplistic and a bit silly” not the person “simplistic and a bit silly”.

        I don’t know Bob except through his writing, but I can tell from his writing that he is anything but “simplistic”, and he’s a very serious fellow, and not silly. Clearly he has many dimensions. I like and respect Bob, and would never describe him with those adjectives.

        I apologize for misleading you ( and perhaps others ) by not using my language more effectively. This is Bob’s blog, and he has the right, and responsibility to say what he believes. I respect and appreciate that reality.

        I wouldn’t come back every day to read his posts if he didn’t speak his mind and his philosophy. That is how he creates the value in his blog. He creates it by putting himself out there, and the blog wouldn’t be nearly as good if he didn’t do that.

        Anyway, I didn’t mean to mislead you in my intent. Thanks for the feedback.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Dan, I fully understand your viewpoint and must say most of my life I agreed fully with you. I guess in my older years I have become radicalized and simply no longer see it that way. But I very much appreciate the wise and reasonable way you presented it.

      I also am grateful that you can see that at heart I really have a core audience of people in real need that I am trying hard to reach. They are my true audience and everyone else that comes along for the ride I’m grateful for and I am trying to present an alternative point of view, but they are not who I am speaking to.

      I’ve come to see that to reach the most people I can I need to tone down my radical points of view and am striving to do that. I thought this post struck a reasonable balance. Radical enough to shake people up but not so radical as to drive them away. Unfortunately this is about as toned down as I am able to get!! I’m either going to present what I believe, or I’m going to close the blog.

      I think I presented good advice to all of my readers. Self-examination is always a good course of action and if someone is afraid of it that is a red flag in itself.

      Thanks again for your thoughtful comment!

      • Avatar Dan says:


        Sorry if I wasn’t careful enough with my words.

        I enjoy every one of your posts because you are a thoughtful guy with a point of view.

        I value your perspective and your thoughts. Please don’t change a thing, and if I comment, please don’t take offense. I’m just stating my ideas or opinions as a reaction to your post. Diversity of opinion is a good thing. A diversity of ideas, provides a rich pool from which the reader can form their own philosophy or perspective on a topic. Food for thought so to speak. We need to compare ideas to figure out comparatively what is gold and what does not glitter as much.

        You provide lots of good new ideas, and you keep your blog interesting.

        No insult to you was ever intended. I was just expressing my thoughts.

        I value what you do, please keep up the good work.


        • Bob Bob says:

          Dan, no apology necessary, I valued your comment and wasn’t offended at all.It was thoughtful, calm and reasoned. Those comments are always welcome! Also, I can see your point about the graphic, it was powerful. However, for the sake of discussion, let me tell you why I think it was appropriate.

          These topics fascinate me and I study them. The Gallop company does a regular survey of the American workforce to poll them for their engagement in their jobs. Find it here:

          Their result lend credence to that graphic for the total workforce. They broke the workforce into three catagories:

          1) 30% are Engaged, or involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their workplace.
          2) 50% are Not engaged simply going through the motions to get a paycheck.
          3) 20% are Actively disengaged hating going to work and putting energy into undermining their workplace

          Those with higher education levels reported more discontent with their workplace.

          The bottom line is that 70% of the country are those skeletons! A full 50% are just going to work and enduring the misery it brings them so they don’t starve. An amazing 20% actively hate their jobs and are working to do it harm while they are their. Only 30% actually enjoy their job and are excited to go to work. And the higher their education level, the worse it is!

          Maybe the 30% were offended but I honestly believe the 70% need to hear my message if for no other reason than it would give them hope and something to work for. I hear from people all the time who write me and say that I’ve given them hope. They have a few more years to go and then they can hit the road. They are the ones I’m writing for.

          I took this graphic from the Gallop site. It describes the three levels of employee engagement:

          The Gallup poll defination of the three levles of job engagement

          • Avatar Ming says:

            thank you for the interesting discussion, and the reminder to look at oneself and what makes us happy. I find these poll results very interesting. They confirm my suspicions about workplaces and the people who work in them. You see it in popular culture too, in many TV shows where you see people hating their jobs, dealing with abusive bosses and taking it because they feel they have no choice. They portray what we take as the norm.

          • Bob Bob says:

            Ming, it turns out the reality is much closer to the media portrayal than we had imagined.

  14. Avatar Joe S says:

    Bob I really enjoyed your post, it is thought provoking and makes me really examine what makes me happy or what would make me happy.

    I read all of the comments and see value in all of their opinions whether for or against your lifestyle. Even the opposing views are important and valid.

    I think what people need to remember is…. if you are following this blog you probably are already on the road, are thinking about making the switch, or living vicariously through Bob to learn about interesting places to visit. I would venture to guess most readers gravitate away from the conventional lifestyle (some more than others) and that most readers are adventurous or yearn to be more adventurous.

    To those that aren’t already on the road, please take as many test trips as you can to see if this truly is what you want. I know short trips can’t give you the full experience, but they may shine some light.

    I take about 2 week long trips out west every year. No hotels! I roll Bob style lol. By the end of the vacation I’m ready to come home. I’m only 39 and still have a need to work, not just for money, I feel better when I’m working. So…. if the day comes that I start traveling full time It will have to be a compromise between periods of absolute freedom/adventure and periods of settling down to working for a while.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Joe, thanks for being understanding. That is very good advice! Testing the waters is a very good idea. Finding the balance that works for is you is the best anyone can hope for.

  15. Avatar Openspaceman says:


    Some people like to play chess, some people like to take pictures of a bear from 6 feet away and some people like to play chess while a bear is sitting six feet away.

    When ever I see someone write a manifesto about why your wrong and your chosen path is flawed and blah, blah, blah… I think of the lottery and the couple of bucks I occasionally waste playing it. The reason a lot of people play is it cost a buck or two to dream of a life without restrictions and the feeling of freedom. That’s worth the price to me.

    *But you’ve designed a life that allows you plenty of freedom and your blog allows us sinners to ride along. Thanks for that.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Openspaceman, I don’t understand your point. I was very careful to say that I have no idea what your path should be and I was only speaking for myself. I NEVER said that anyone else’s path was flawed just mine.

      • Avatar openspaceman says:


        I guess my point was that this is a blog called CheapRVliving which I would expect to be about exactly that and that’s what it is about. So when someone reply’s to one of your post defending their way of life in the suburbs or whatever it just confuses me.

        Why would someone read a blog called CheapRVliving if they have no interest in the subject except to challenge it.

        Sorry for the misunderstanding.

        • Bob Bob says:

          I must apologize also, I felt generally attacked and so I overreacted and was defensive. Instead of seeing the best I saw the worst. That is always a mistake and always a bad thing.

          Thanks for the 126 great comments! It means more than I can ever say to you that you follow and think about what I say and take the time to write out a comment.

          My deepest gratitude goes out to all of you readers whether you comment or not. I know that I am often overzealous and I take things to extremes. Thanks for putting up with me and coming back anyway! I really am trying to reign that in.

  16. Avatar Naomi says:

    Bob, Thank you for being such a wonderful inspiration. If I hadn’t found your website and blog during an especially difficult time a few years ago, I would have been (and possibly still be)completely without hope.

    I now have access to the information that will allow me to live in a manner that will bring me peace.

    Disregard the naysayers. Constructive criticism is fine, but I don’t think some folks get it. I don’t see you trying to entice everyone to follow your path. I believe you are only trying to help likeminded folks learn how to leave behind a way of life that doesn’t work for them.


    • Bob Bob says:

      Thanks Naomi, I really do not mean to say anyone else is wrong, just that my way is right for me. Why would someone read my blog hoping to hear me say that my way of life is wrong and yours is right? Of course I’m going to say I love my life and if you are here maybe you should consider it too.

      Should a blog about vandwelling promote apartment living? Should I suggest everybody go out and live as a roomate in a big house? If that’s what people come here for I am baffled and they are in for a disappointment.

  17. Avatar Openspaceman says:

    When you said that in Alaska it’s pretty common to see a bearded dude and probably a few bearded ladies living in van’s…a life that is conformist up there but very nonconformist in most of the lower 48…

    *Unfortunately I could never grow a cool beard.

    **Only a handful of people live aboard boats in the U.S. but in some places in the world that’s normal.

    ***There will never be a time when the masses will choose to live in a van.
    It’s a harder life that presents many challenges especially in a city…but at this stage of my life it’s an economical way to save up so I can do some traveling while I’m still relatively health. Peace.

    ****I guess a debate wouldn’t be much of a debate without opposing view points, right?

  18. Avatar Steve says:

    I have been following this blog and most everything else on Bob’s site for a while now. I can’t remember if I have responded to other posts in the past on here. But this particular one grabbed my attention and for some reason lined me up somewhat in my thinking and gave me a jolt. I guess it was not only Bob’s view on things but also some of the responses that helped me.

    Briefly I will fill in what I have been wrestling with. I won’t go into too much detail on my present living conditions, but will give a general idea on where I am in my life. I live in a small house, am retired (not rich), and live with other people that are not retired and still work. I have no bills and what little money I receive(SS)is all mine to do with what I want. The bills are paid by the other occupants of the house. I can mostly come and go as I please. I take road trips whenever I want, for however long I want, and wherever I want (plenty of “me” time).

    I do get aggravated with the people I live with at times and sometimes want to just leave and not go back. Kinda like what Bob did and does….get a van set it up for living as efficiently as possible and live my life as I please. You know… freedom. I have been on the fence about what to do for a long time. I have at times looked at vans on Craig’s list and such from time to time and came very close to purchasing one and selling my 1992 Honda Accord and just hitting the road and never look back. But something always was nagging at me in the back of my mind and kept reining me back in.

    But then today I received an email with this blog post from Bob and all the responses. After reading through them, there it was in the words of many people. And the answer is…..I have more freedom than if I was living in a van full-time, and a better life. Like others on here have stated, life doesn’t have to be all or nothing, I don’t have to throw everything out the window and have a complete change to make my life better and free. Like someone else that said, basically I can have the best of both worlds and live them just as fully. Why restrict myself to either a stable home or nomadic lifestyle when I can do both at my choosing. I can still live in an environment that provides me the modern conveniences and pleasures that makes life easy, and when I want I can go out into the other world of a spartan, carefree, and somewhat uncontrolled life of a road tripper and live by my wits for awhile (I take one of those instant tents with me and camping equipment, and mix in cheap motels along the way). But, when that gets old and I am tired and need resources that I don’t have roaming around, I just come back to the security and… what now seems like….luxuries (people I care about, long hot showers, big screen tv, central air conditioning, nice big king size bed, a yard to putter around in, and of course, flush toilet anytime I need it, etc) of life.

    So, to sum up, sometimes I need to look at and appreciate things I have or at least look at them in a different way besides negatively. And of course, maybe some compromise could go a long way in how I deal with life. Usually it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Kind of like the sayings “work smarter not harder” and “kiss…keep it simple stupid”.

    Thank you all for helping me see things differently. I am very happy today. I am going down a different road with a different and better attitude.

    • Avatar Calvin R says:

      This stands out among all the people I know as a happy situation. I envy you. I am currently in the process of trying to get on SSI. My situation will change one way or another. Unfortunately, I have no way to acquire a place to live without any bills. I will have to choose either the road or a stationary life without a vehicle.

      • Avatar Steve says:

        Calvin, I do consider my situation somewhat lucky. But like others have said I also have contributed to where I am today, good and bad.

        I don’t know what your situation is but just on the surface I would choose the stationary life while trying to get on SSI. From what I have heard from friends and other people that have tried to receive SSI it is a difficult process to go through. And any time you are trying to get any Government assistance or benefits, having a permanent address and such helps. They want to be able to be able to trace back where you are and where the benefits are going. The less complications and vagueness the better your chances are of receiving them.

        Now, as far as your choice of whether to live in a van, car or whatever on the road, or stay stationary. That is a personal choice that is based on your resources after you start receiving SSI. It’s all about doing with what we have the best we can.

        • Avatar Calvin R says:

          Exactly. I am staying in place to the best of my ability with no income while the process continues (14 months and counting). Assuming I get the minimum SSI, I know my options; the decision is less financial than community in place versus community in motion, each with other considerations. The same applies if I find myself trying to work again.

    • Avatar Joe S says:

      Steve – it sounds like you can have the best of both worlds and you’re smart enough to realize it. Good for you.

      Good luck buddy.

    • Avatar Linda Sand says:

      I saw a house plan that had several bedrooms and a mother-in-law apartment all on one level. I found myself thinking I could do that–live in the apartment and rent the rest of the house to people who still work. Except I can’t afford to buy the house. So I’m glad to hear someone is making that happen.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Steve, you are a lucky man to be in a situation to have the bet of everything, keep hold of it! All that matters is what works for YOU!

  19. Avatar Craig says:

    Hi Bob, what sort of mpg do you get with your cargo van?

    • Bob Bob says:

      Hi Craig, I’m going to do a post on the cost of the Alaska trip so I will go into it in detail. But I will tell you my older Express 3500 Express van with 350 only gets 12-14 MPG but Judy’s newer Express with 5.3 can easily get 18 mpg.

  20. Avatar Larry says:

    I like Steve’s situation best of all. I like mine a close second – similar to Steve’s but with a few monthly bills to pay. Luckily, my SS covers them easily. I’ve sorta’ lurked here for a while, now and I’ve noticed a few things. One is that unless you are absolutely forced into moving into a vehicle right now, hold off until you have some money saved up or an on-the-road income of some sort. Money, or lack of it, will play a huge role in your living situation, even if you don’t think so right now.

    I watched Bob’s trip to Alaska unfold and in the process, got an idea of the money Bob has available to him. He seems to be more comfortable than most of the people here and good for him. The problem is that other people might think this on the road, nomadic life is easier and cheaper than it really is.

    I suppose this world would be a much more mellow place if most everyone got to see their dreams come true. Me, I just want to live a little longer…


    • Bob Bob says:

      Larry, I’m so glad you are in a situation that works for you! I’m going to do a post recapping the costs of the Alaska trip and cover the money situation, so I won’t get into it just yet. But let me say that while I do now (for the FIRST time in my life) have extra money thanks to a Workmans comp settlement, most of my life I’ve just barely survived. And Judy is on a tight budget.

      While I don’t have to do it anymore, I know from direct experience that this life can be lived incredibly cheaply as in $600 a month or less. However, one thing I have always recommended is an emergency fund and that is extremely important.

      I wish you the very best as you follow your dreams.

  21. I spent the first third of my life (so far) raised by very conformist parents in a very conformist religion. Though I was a good kid, I was miserable, mostly because I thought I wasn’t conforming well enough. Luckily, I figured it out in my 20s that the problem was that I was trying to conform to something that wasn’t, as psychologists say, my authentic self. I spent the next two-thirds of my life following my own path, mostly. Sure, I got sucked into some things I thought would lead to happiness but didn’t. And I sometimes went too far down the wrong (for me) road. I wasn’t very happy the last five or six years before deciding to
    become a vandweller. What had been a good path for many years just wasn’t anymore. Some people say it’s weak not to see the journey all the way to the end. They say we’re quitters. But too often we fail to recognize when that journey is long over. We just keep plugging along, wondering how things turned to crap on us.
    Al Christensen recently posted…Goin’ a-visitin’ in a cellular-free zoneMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Al, I’m very glad your’e on now on a path that brings you such joy!! It’s so easy to refuse to change and just endure the barely acceptable and much harder to throw it all out and start over. You are a brave man.

  22. Avatar Steve says:

    Yes, Joe it works out pretty good for me. And my life is not perfect nor am I rich….far from it. I have my problems at home. And sometimes I do just feel like saying the heck with things and doing like Bob and many others are, but I know that I would not be happy in that sort of lifestyle on a permanent basis. I certainly am capable of doing it and I know that I would survive and do well in it if the time would ever come that I had no choice. But, I am fortunate in that I do have a choice, and do the things that I stated in my earlier posts.
    Thank you Joe for your encouragement.

    Now, Calvin let me suggest to you that whether you decide to stay stationary or go mobile after you start receiving your SSI might not make much difference. Which ever one you decide to do can be changed for the other if you are not happy in that arrangement. I personally have discovered in life that any lifestyle that I choose can be changed to something else if I become disenchanted with it. I have done this many times in my life. I think I remember Bob mentioning that he has also switched back and forth a few times until he settled on the lifestyle that he was content with. And I am sure he could make a switch to something else if he wanted to.

    Oh…..and you may already know about this, but you may qualify for section 8 housing and maybe even Medicaid since you have no income or even low income after you start receiving your SSI. If you haven’t already done so, you could check that out. I hope things work out for you. Just hang in there and try not to give up.

  23. Avatar Greg says:

    I realized at a young age that I was a loner. I always enjoyed being around other people when I wanted to and to be alone when I wanted to. I have been in situations where people became upset due to my declining an invitee to do things with them or their group. As I age I have less of a desire to be in large crowds. I think some people don’t understand the need I have to be alone at times. I am lucky in the sense that I met my soulmate 25 years ago and we have been together ever since. She is a loner as well, we spend a lot of time together and enjoy each others company. My retirement can’t come soon enough, we have started to downsize and get rid of excess “stuff”. When we told family of our plans to live on the road in an rv of some sort, it didn’t go well. My philosophy is do what makes you happy as long as you don’t harm anyone in the process. I am sure over time they will come to realize it is what we want and they will accept it. Bob, I appreciate what you are doing here, it has helped me realize that there are other people out there like me. We have not met, but I hope one day we will. I agree with an earlier post, if someone doesn’t agree with with the content of this blog, why would they take the time to read it and then argue.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Thanks so much for your comment Greg! Being an introvert or extrovert is mainly an accident of birth. I had two sons and one is a total introvert and the other is a total extrovert. And they were from the first breath they took.

      It’s so very good that you have accepted yourself for who you are and have chosen to live the way you need to live and not the way your friends and family want you to live.

      I wish you the very best as you follow your dreams.

  24. Avatar Mike says:

    I have been following your blog Bob, as well as some others and I want to be a VanDweller. I want to experience this lifestyle. I want to get behind this way of thinking. Teach me.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Mike, I’ve written thousands of words on this blog/website. Start reading! Also, you should join the forum where you can askany questions you have and you will get many great answers.

      Follow your dreams!

  25. Avatar Doug Rykerd says:

    Hey Bob, just got caught up on all the Alaska posts. I totally agree with this post and I’m slowly working my way toward a happier life. Like you, I got caught up in what was expected of me for too many years. My wife and I went to Alaska for our 25th a few years ago. I absolutely loved Talkeetna and the beer brewery. It wasn’t even in our plans, but we usually travel with a loose itinerary and I just verred right at the sign as I’d read about the town before. I have a friend in Wasila also so we spent some time around there too.

    Will you be back in the AZ area by Labor Day weekend ? I’m going to visit my son in Pheonix and take him to see my dad in San Diego then. Thought I could stop and say hi in person on the way to or from if you’re in the area. I finally have my cargo trailer livable so I’ll have it with me instead of just sleeping in the truck. It will be nice to be comfortable on a road trip for a change!

    • Bob Bob says:

      Doug, my plans of the rest of the summer and fall are very much up in the air. I honestly don’t know where I will be then. I do know there is no chance I will be back to the AZ desert then because it will be much too hot for me. There is a chance I will be back to Flagstaff, AZ then if that fits into your driving plans. It’s most likely I will be in Colorado, but that is just a guess.

      I will be in the area all winter so feel free to come by then, my camp is always open! That way you can break-in the new cargo trailer!

      • Avatar Doug Rykerd says:

        Hey Bob, I actually live north of Colorado Springs and plan on taking one of the mountain routes that will bring me into Phoenix via Flagstaff and north. When I get closer I’ll drop you a line and see where you might be hiding. BTW if your heading down the I25 corridor drop me a line if you need a place to camp. I have plenty of room and it’s a quiet neighborhood well out of town.

        • Bob Bob says:

          Thanks Doug, I’ll definitely keep that in mind! Right now I’m not planning on taking the I25 but if I change my plans I’ll let you know!

          Thanks again!

  26. Avatar j mcintyre says:

    This is a personal question so feel free to decline an answer…I wonder if your children have the novelty gene or understand your need for freedom on the road. My father left our family to pursue another life when we were all young adults and it left a rather large gap in our family unit. What responsibility does a person have to their children to be a consistent part of their lives and to be involved in the next generation coming along. Thanks for your consideration of this sincere question. j

    • Bob Bob says:

      J, that is a very fair question. I have one son still alive and I was devoted to him till he was 18, but when he turned 18 I hit the road. Since I was divorced, he had gone back and for between me and his mom. He lived with me from 16 to almost 18 and then back to his mom when I left.

      I just looked back at myself and what I see as a pretty normal pattern. When I turned 18 I was gone. I had a job and an apartment and was pretty independent. I assumed it would be the same for my son and it turned out to be true. He is still in Alaska which is a long ways away and we see each other as often as we can but it’s not often.

      There probably can’t be any universal answer, each case has to be taken individually. I think what I did was alright but I can’t know for 100%.

      My question for you is was your father fully there for you when you were young? Did you know he loved you and was there for you after he left? Did he make a reasonable effort to stay connected? If so then I think he did alright.

  27. Avatar John L. says:

    I enjoyed this post so much Bob, thanks for writing it! So happy that you and Judy were able to make the Alaska trip, together. Can’t speak for anyone else, but had I not found your site 5 years ago I would not have realized the lifestyle was being lived by others and successfully at that. I am now 60, and have been happily living in my converted 6 x 12 trailer, modelled in large part from yours and Randy Vinings, for 4 years… and wind power are often my best friends whether I am boondocking in the desert or in the Black Hills near Sturgis, SD. Soon, I will begin converting a Ford E350 1 ton cargo van to travel/live in, returning often to your site for ideas and inspiration! I travel, and Workamp for income until my pension kicks in in another 661 days!!! I am comfortable, and content with my my life, and relatively happy. We have not met face to face, but we will one day, and I will shake your hand and thank you for all that you have done and continue to do…….I am often reminded of a scripture that goes something like—I have learned that whatever state I am in, therein to be content. Feeling pretty content in my life right now Bob. Have a roof over my head, a warm bed to sleep in, food to eat, clothes to wear, a vehicle to drive, money to spend, good health….what more does a person REALLY need…….

    • Bob Bob says:

      John, thank you so much for writing in. I love hearing that I may have helped someone change their life to exactly what they want to be. Sounds like you have a wonderful life! If you get down to Arizona in the winter be sure to stop by!

  28. Avatar carly says:

    Having read a few more comments….. it’s unfortunate and short-sighted that some people totally misunderstood this I have excellent post.

    I have been reading on and off here for ages. This blog is a wealth of very serious ,life-changing information that is invaluable. I get so in spired by this b log I want to start my new life immediately. I can’t think of a more amazing life! You have changed my life!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.