What is a Quality Life?

I will never regret the memories of spending so much time in fantastic places like this. I already regret how much time I spent at a job I hated.

Remarkably, another year has gone by and it’s already time for the Holidays. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving which is one of the few Holidays where people are encouraged to stop and be introspective. The standard question most of us ask ourselves is, “What am I thankful for?” That’s a very good question, but after a lifetime of answering it every Thanksgiving, I think most of us have a fairly pat answer that we can spit out by routine.  Perhaps it’s time to ask a different question that probes a little deeper into our heart and soul and makes us truly reconsider the choices we’ve made in our life. I have a suggestion for what I think is the single most essential question you can ask yourself in order to live your best life:

What is a high quality life?

I know that sounds like an obvious question but I’ believe most people never given it any thought. If you don’t know what a really good life looks like, how can you know if you’re living it? Unfortunately, most people are just going through life on auto-pilot living the way they’ve been told to live. They never think to ask themselves if it’s really their best choice. That’s understandable because from the cradle to the grave we’re constantly told by our parents, family, schools and media that we must follow the “American Dream” to be happy. So we dutifully do as we’re told and go to school, get a job and work for 40 years. Along the way we get married, have a family, buy a house and fill it full of stuff. Then, if our health and the economy holds up, we  finally retire to our “Golden Years.”

For most of us, we just assume that’s a “High Quality Life” and we strive to make it ours. In fact, very few of us even consider their might be another way to live and that it might be better for us.

“It is not the end of the physical body that should worry us. Rather, our concern must be to live while we’re alive – to release our inner selves from the spiritual death that comes with living behind a facade designed to conform to external definitions of who and what we are.” Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

My goal in this post is not to tell you what a High Quality Life is, because it’s different for everybody; my goal here is simply to encourage you to ask yourself, “What is a High Quality Life for me?” If your life could be anything you wanted it to be, what would that look like? To help you ponder that question, let me offer some possible answers that many people chose:

A High Quality Life is…

  • a long life.
  • a happy family, even if I don’t get to see them as much as I would have liked.
  • when I have golden years for the last 25 years of my life, even if the first 45 were mediocre.
  • making the most money, no matter the sacrifices.
  • accumulating the most stuff and toys.
  • winning the most power.
  • full of travel and adventure.
  • having the most fun.
  • dying with the most glorious memories of a life lived deeply and fully.
  • lived in service and love toward others.
  • spent pursing spirituality.

Some of these go together naturally and you can try to find a balance of them, but most require so much dedication to really succeed at that you must choose one (maybe two) and devote yourself to it. What happens too often, is people try to have them all and end up with none of them.

Dali-Lama

Most people in our society choose to live their lives with a primary goal of making their Golden Years the best they can be. The first 65 years are sacrificed to make the last 20 years the best of their lives. They may try to get all the happiness out of the first 65 they can, but the last 25 are their highest priority and they make whatever sacrifices they must to make them truly “golden.” Unfortunately, as the economy changes we’re all finding that much more difficult to do. Pensions have generally disappeared and most people are living paycheck-to-paycheck so they aren’t able to save any of their own money for retirement. The majority of Americans are going to be dependent on Social Security and that won’t be much money, if it’s even still around by the time they are ready to collect. They end up by giving up the best years of their life for nothing, they still end up with an unhappy old age. You can always make more money, you can’t make more time!

I’ve chosen to live my life much differently.

The first 40 years of my life I lived like everyone else, but it only made me unhappy. Even though I was unhappy, I was too afraid to make any changes and I had no idea that I had other choices; this was the way everybody lived. I felt trapped into the “America Dream” which was nothing but a nightmare for me. When I turned 40 my life was turned upside down by a divorce and I was forced into vandwelling.  At first I hated it but then I slowly started to like it and finally I fell deeply in love with it. But that raised some really hard question for me.

I’d been promised happiness if I followed the American Dream but all I had gotten out of it was misery. And here I was living in a van in exactly the opposite way I’d been told to live and I was finally happy; how could that be? There were only two possible explanations, either there was something really wrong with me or everything society had told me was a lie.

So I looked around at all the other people I knew and they were all in pretty much the same boat I was. They were following all the rules and yet very few of them were getting ahead and most of them were at best mildly happy with their lives and if they were truly honest would say they were just barely surviving life, certainly not happy and thriving.

Nearly universally a barely acceptable present was better than a risky and unknown future. They were trapped in a mediocre existence by fear of change. I suspect that’s why many of you are reading this post right now.

I concluded that everything society had told me was a lie and I decided to throw it all out and to dedicate myself to living the Highest Quality Life I could manage. I kept working at the job I disliked to support my family and save for the future, but I stopped working 40 hours a week and started to work only 32 hours a week. That was a compromise between happiness now and happiness later that worked pretty well for me–but it was only possible because I lived in a van.

In the 20 years since them I’ve slowly been throwing off the lies and indoctrination society had heaped on me and I’ve managed to totally change how I live my life. My only regret is that I can’t go back in time and live it differently from the very start. For those of you who are young I want to offer you a totally different view of what constitutes a High Quality Life so you’ll know you do have another choice.

Instead of living primarily for the last 20 years of my life,

I now live for the last 2 minutes of my life.

I know that is a radically different way to think and may stun you, but hear me out. I base it on two things, the first is the life and work of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who spent her entire life working with the dying and their families.  She discovered that in the moments before their death people almost universally had a clarity of insight that revealed to them exactly how well they had lived and what they wished they had done differently.

“We run after values that, at death, become zero. At the end of your life, nobody asks you how many degrees you have, or how many mansions you built, or how many Rolls Royces you could afford. That’s what dying patients teach you.” Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Now that it was too late, they finally discovered the true meaning of life and desperately wished they had lived it.

Live, so you do not have to look back and say: “God, how I have wasted my life.” Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Unfortunately, all too often people died with deep and profound regrets about their life. They died saying they wished they could go back and do it all differently. I believe this quote from her summarizes a lifetime of holding the hands of the dying before their moment of death:

“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.” Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Those words are the basis of my whole life. I only do what I love to do, so that in the last two minutes of my life, in that moment of crystal-clear clarity, I will have no regrets about a wasted life.

“Today is a good day to die.”

The second thing I base this radical way of living on is the spirituality of Native Americans. Many tribes base their lives on an honorable death. A common saying is that “Today is a good day to die.” By that they mean that they have lived so well and so deeply, that they are prepared to die at any moment. In the last 2 minutes of their life, they can smile and relax and let go of this plane of existence with joy and no regrets.

I live my life with one simple goal, that when I die I will be full of glorious memories of a life lived deeply and fully; a life that touched and helped others, even as it was sucking all the marrow it could out of life.

What’s the goal of your life? What is a High Quality Life to you?

Quotes from the Elizabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation: http://www.ekrfoundation.org/quotes/

I’m making Videos on my good friends James and Kyndal’s YouTube Channel. See them here:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_W_E5SFCxwpSOaqMjOOBTg

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A book from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross I highly recommend,Life Lessons: Two Experts on Death and Dying Teach Us About the Mysteries of Life and Living”  Get it from amazon here: http://amzn.to/1IfzuXs

Need-Rat-Race

Bob
About

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

71 comments on “What is a Quality Life?
  1. Beautiful and moving post. You speak what so many of us are feeling. I often wonder what life would have been like if we had hit the road 20 years ago. But that’s okay, because the past can’t be changed, but the future can. I have to go tweet the daylights out of this post! Great job, Bob, as always! 🙂

    • Bob Bob says:

      Kay, I agree totally! Regrets can be unhealthy if it it turns negative and keeps us from moving forward. But, if we embrace it as an ally we can motivate us forward to where we want to go. It sounds like you’re using it to move you forward!
      Bob

  2. jim says:

    No true words ever been spoken I know I’ve wasted a lot of years I wish I had back working just to get by at a Just-Over-Broke is what job stands for working for someone making there dreams come true while my dreams went by the way side

    • Bob Bob says:

      JIm, it’s amazing how few people have dreams and even fewer make any effort to make them come true. You’re dreams are just as important as anyone else’s
      Bob

  3. Cathy (SnowGypsy) says:

    A quality life is one where you aren’t waking up wondering how you’ll make it another day. I think that is my simple answer. I read the blog and thought about it for awhile. I think the answer maybe should be a simple one and that pretty much would be the starting point of everyone, “What would make you wake up in the morning and look forward to your day?” I have my answer and that’s why I am here! It is a great article and I like the quoted the material also.

  4. Calvin R says:

    I do not believe the years before we find a true path go to waste if we can use them for lessons. That makes us wiser than we once were, even if, like me, we have to go through decades of misery to get there. Along my path, I have known a few millionaires who were suicidal and some “paupers” who happily followed their paths. The other elements of the “American Dream” have similar results. Now I’m in a situation where I realize that my particular choice is between a very close spiritual community and an adventurous life, either of which will reward me much more than the stuff and situations that ordinary people take as worthy goals.

    • Calvin R says:

      PS: it’s much easier to de-construct society’s attitudes once you realize that every bit of it is self-serving. The people behind the ideas such as the “American Dream” are selling things, accumulating power, or otherwise enriching themselves, not improving others’ lives except as a by-product.

    • Bob Bob says:

      I agree 100% Calvin, sometimes everything that’s gone on in the past is exactly what it took to get you to the moment when you’re eyes finally open. But, it is sad when that happens on your death bed.

      I wonder if you can’t find another close spiritual community once you’re on the road?
      Bob

      • Calvin R says:

        That is an excellent question. If you have an answer, please share it. (If that needs anonymity, please use email or other individual methods. I preserve anonymity.) Others are welcome to contact me or share here.

  5. I was living exactly the life I wanted for about 35 years. It was fulfilling. It had meaning. I was happy. Then things changed—me, the economy, my career, people I knew—and I grew unhappy and restless. I needed a big change. So my thanks goes out to the vandwelling community for showing me the way to my new fulfilling, meaningful, happy life.
    Al Christensen recently posted…Good morning, people!My Profile

  6. Canine says:

    I had an interesting conversation with a former boss. He said he worked a bunch and was gone for long periods of time when his kids were young. When he was eventually at home more often, they called him, “Mom,” because that was all they knew. He said he doesn’t feel bad about it.

    I’m not sure if he was rationalizing his choices so that he wouldn’t feel bad or if he truly didn’t feel bad about not being a part of his children’s formative years. We all have an idea of what a quality life is. His idea of a good life sure ain’t mine!

    My idea of a higher quality of life is contributing to society by doing my part to make it a better place. Lots of people invest their time for “ME!”, but hardly any time towards society and freedoms. I don’t make as much as most, but the time I’ve invested to making life better (increased hunting privileges, increased minimum wage, etc.) is already paying dividends towards my quality of life. I have a legacy that will live on after I’m gone from this world. That is a quality life to me.

  7. Lynn says:

    A high quality life to me is living with integrity, loving your family and friends, pursuing a craft/skill that keeps you invigorated and challenged and being true to yourself. But none of this matters or can be enjoyed if you have poor health. My top priority is to keep myself as healthy as I can so I can enjoy my life.

  8. Rob says:

    A good Thanksgiving message.

  9. Cae says:

    I saw an interview with people over 80. They all said that the one thing they’d do differently was to not worry about things they had no control
    Over. That’s what society does to you. Fear is a very powerful and often used tool of control.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Cae, I totally agree, we re constantly bombarded with fearful messages of all kinds in order to manipulate us. Resisting it is critically important.
      Bob

  10. Gary says:

    Bob thank you so much for articulating in your post what my heart is truly feeling,i am trying to make the necessary changes in my life for van living,there are many all across the country and around the world who would love to replace their present lifestyles to live as you 🙂 keep up this great work Bob because we (People) are watching and listening to you.

    Gary

    • Bob Bob says:

      Gary, I tend to make it so easy but I know it is a very hard decision to make, it just seems so crazy and foreign to us. I think going cold turkey is best, but it’s not always practical. At the least you should consider making smaller steps toward the nomad life. Getting rid of excess stuff is a great start and will make your life better no matter what you decide.Then start taking trips in whatever yo have right now.
      Bob

  11. Cheryl says:

    Is there any way I can do a post to facebook on this. The reason is I have recently been diagnosed with a brain aneurism and my days are precarious! I want to get off of the rushing train track of life and buy an RV to live in and travel the great state of Colorado where I am blessed to live but too poor to travel. Playing by all the rules and working hard and giving everything in my job has only given me 6 stints in my heart and now a brain aneurism. I want the end of my chapter to be more than that. The problem is…every person I told my desires to acts like I’m just crazy! Thank you for this article. I needed the support in my heart! Cheryl

    • Bob Bob says:

      Cheryl, you’re very welcome to use the post in any way that will benefit you.

      I believe you are making a very wise choice to travel with the rest of your life. Pack it as full of joy, nature and memories as you possibly can. With luck, maybe it will be healing, and if not, those last 2 minutes will be oh so much sweeter. I think you’ll be glad you did. Don’t listen to the doubters, follow your heart and your dreams.
      Bob

    • David says:

      I just discovered this website and read this article what a really great article I loved it and it really made total sense.

      I am in my early 40s and goto college online I have the means now through a grant from college to buy a nice used motorhome and do this myself..in the central coast of California.

      I had medical challenges and still do so I am disabled but that’s all the more reason to live for now instead of the future . I watched alot of YouTube video about people living in vans or cars and people said they are happier living like that then when they lived in an apartment at first that’s hard to understand but if you think about it it makes sense..you save money vanddwellingand can live your dreams at the same time not being stuck in one place and meet new people on the road.

      I work for myself so this is a good decision for me I feel. I was going to get a van but realized I need a small motorhome even though a van is easier to be not noticed but I realized you can park in motel parking lots at night and usually get away with it if your respectful to your surroundings.

      If anyone wants a pen pal to email about this life feel free to leave your email.

  12. Deborah says:

    Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

  13. Jeff Johnston says:

    Remember the movie Citizen Kane? Towards the end of Kane’s life he is reflecting on his past. He repeats”Rosebud”; the dearest thing to him.Of all the vast wealth and posessions he owned , Rosebud was his dearest possesion (as a child) which turned out to be a bobsled (and memories of it) In the end memories are much more significant than all the stuff in the world! You are a great inspiration to me and I look forward to visiting your website. Happy T day!

  14. Jon says:

    New blog reader here. Forget the valuable lessons on how to live a rich life with limited resources. (And that’s relative, isn’t it!) The quotes that appear in the blog are always absolute gems. Bob, you are certainly more well read than most! Happy Thanksgiving to all.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Thanks Jon! I’ve needed all the help I can get in my life, so I’ve looked to those much wiser then me to guide me. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is one of them.
      Bob

  15. Sameer says:

    Perfect thoughts on this beautiful morning. Camping on a bluff overlooking Blythe and the Colorado River here in Ehrenberg, Arizona…I was remembering three years ago. Sitting in a chair in a ‘over 55’ mobile home park, wondering what happened to my ‘Life of Great Adventure. Finding it all again… following your formula, I am living a life that everyday gives me peace and happiness and nurturers my Soul. I am so grateful for everything, today and everyday. I am living the most glorious ‘Quality of Life’.
    Thank you, Bob…Happy Thanksgiving!
    Sameer recently posted…What is a Quality Life?My Profile

    • Openspaceman says:

      Sameer_ & Bob, of course_

      I want to feel this way. I can’t even meditate…my mind is so cluttered up from years of over stimulation. I take full responsiblity for going with the flow and letting myself get caught back up in the sh*t.

      This third winter spent in my van in the midwest has been a lot milder than the first two. For those of you who are just starting out, saving your money, working on your van’s, planning your exit strategy.

      It will be worth it.

      Looking forward to The RTR. Looking forward to a quiet desert sunset.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Sameer, whenever I write posts like this one I think of people I know as good and bad examples as I write. You were a good example for me in this one!
      Bob

    • I was in my 20s when I first learned “over 55” communities existed. The idea made me shudder then, and even more so now. Ew. Living around only people my own age and probably the same general socio-economic level? Only around people who think that’s a good thing? What an awful, closed, self-referential feedback loop.
      Al Christensen recently posted…Micro dwelling?My Profile

  16. Kat says:

    Thank you Bob! I was so busy living the life I was told I had to, that I ended up very ill. My life fell apart and I felt like I would never get to do all the camping around the USA I always dreamed of. After years of just “existing”, reading posts like yours have let me realize I can still do that. It won’t be as easy due to my ill health, but it is possible even with limited funds and medical issues. I have only ever felt really alive when I am out in nature…I will do it again. Thank you for your encouraging words.

    • Bob Bob says:

      It warms my heart to hear your determination to follow your dreams. There is no way to know, but if anything can heal your body it’s the contentment that you will find in nature.
      Bob

  17. Omar Storm says:

    Bob,

    Another great post, thank you! Wishing you and the entire tribe a very happy Thanksgiving.

    Omar

  18. Peter Milliron says:

    Thanks Bob!

    This was the perfect Thanksgivings Day read. I hit the road full time in July and cannot believe what a great adventure it has been – not to mention the myriad of ways the quality of my life has improved.

    Several times in the last few months there have been moments where I have thought, “I am more relaxed and stress free than I have ever been.”

    I wonder how I’ll feel when I’ve been a nomad as long as you!

    Thanks again!

  19. Dick Kelly says:

    Nice article as usual, I enjoyed reading it. I think I would living the life of a Nomad like you are doing but I still am married to a wonderful wife as of 65 years this year. We have 6 wonderful kids and always enjoy seeing them whenever we can. So I will probably still have to do my nomad stuff a month out of the year.

  20. Ken Kelley says:

    Awesome post Bob. You always inspire!!

  21. Ken Kelley says:

    Happy Thanksgiving!! Stay safe!

  22. Zman says:

    Finish each day and be done with it. you have done what you could. some blunders and absurdities have crept in;forget them as soon as you can. tomorrow is a new day. you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

    -emerson

  23. Carolyn says:

    Thanks, Bob. As usual, your message hit home and is well taken.

  24. joe says:

    thanks again for such great read it makes ms want to just fly away into bliss I wish you all the best happy new year Bob

  25. Ron says:

    Great post Bob. There’s little that ails our spirits that time in nature will not heal.

  26. Pam says:

    Great, great post. As soon as I got to the Kubler-Ross quote, I fell down a rabbit hole, looking for the source of the quote. Ordered the book Wheel of Life, which she wrote at 70.Thanks for this one, Bob!

    Pam in Roswell

  27. Marshall says:

    Another FANTASTIC post! Thanks Bob! Happy Thanksgiving!

  28. molonewolf says:

    Hi Bob. Thank you for this what you said is so true. It is helping me start making changes to live a full life of joy. Stay safe out there my friend.

  29. paul ross [scrambler] says:

    Bob , I wish I saw your blog one year earlier , I bought a Ram Caravan windowless to convert to a camper it’s worked well for weekend trips in state parks . The problem is ground clearance needed to do deep off road boondocking . I will have to limit where I camp and my wife is not a long term camper . We hope to go to Quartzite in February for the mineral and gem show then do a little touring in the west . I’ve enjoyed reading your blog . keep up the great work I’ve learned more about boondocking , water storage , shopping locations to campsite ,bathing , temperature fluctuations in elevation ,cell reception ,solar power and much more than this Georgia retiree ever thought I might need . thanks scrambler

    • Bob Bob says:

      Thanks so much scrambler! I think the Caravans are great vans, but they are pretty low.Quartzsite is nice in February. The cold is gone but the heat (usually) isn’t there yet. The crowds are gone too and that makes it really nice!
      Bob

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