This year, the film Nomadland won three academic awards. Here is a description of the film: “A woman in her 60s, after losing everything in the Great Recession, embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad.”
In actuality, seniors have been doing a version of nomadic living for many years. Some travel in huge RVs from one park to another while enjoying the beauty of nature and camaraderie with fellow travelers. Others take summer jobs as “camp hosts” at national parks. And still others travel back and forth between the homes of their children and grandchildren.
And then there are snowbirds, who fly south in the winter from snowy regions to places like Palm Springs and Arizona. Then they turn around and head north for the summer to escape the heat.
In 2016, my husband Rito and I spent a month traveling from San Francisco to Alaska and back with our two dogs. I wrote this Sixty and Me blog “How My Alaskan Vacation Gave Me a New Perspective on Life and the World” rehashing the adventure. It was a wonderful experience.
Our pickup truck had a camper shell, and we slept in the back. The dogs slept in the cab. They peeked at us through a tiny window.
So much has happened in our lives and the world since then.
At the end of 2017, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and treated for 18 months. And we all know about Covid that hit in 2020 just as I was getting back into a normal life. I have not been camping since and I miss it. However, I no longer want to climb out of the back of the truck at night to relieve myself.
The idea of purchasing a small cargo van suddenly became an intriguing option. And for my husband, who loves construction projects, this became an obsession. He has watched hundreds of YouTube videos of men, women, and couples who have converted a high-roof van (similar to Amazon delivery trucks) into a mini-home. By the way, we are not planning to live in it, just use if for vacations.
Trying It Out
In April, we decided to give it a whirl. We rented a fully furnished high-roof Dodge Promaster van with a comfortable bed, solar panels, a fan, and a sink. We drove south to Long Beach, California, to visit our daughter and grandson for a few days.
I found that a bucket with a toilet seat and specially designed plastic bags worked much better than climbing out of the truck.
Making the Step, at Last
So this June, we sold our truck and bought a van exactly like the one we rented.
My husband has barely been sleeping these days, working day and night to get it ready for a two-week maiden voyage. We will travel with only one dog this time. Sadly, we lost our bulldog early this year.
We plan to head up the Oregon Coast into Washington State to the Olympic Rainforest and head back down to Ashland, where I will be presenting at a conference. I know that sounds a bit crazy, but we’ll be staying at an RV campground with hot showers and an iron in Ashland!
The Conversion Underway
Our van is NOT ready yet. Rito already put in a floor and some insulation and the bed with a mattress we bought at Ikea. We ordered a solar panel and electrical system that he plans to install, but some parts to connect the panel to the van’s roof will not arrive in time.
He still intends to hook up the electrical system to the car battery. I told my husband that it does not matter if we have to use flashlights and an outdoor camp stove. The van provides a roof over our heads. All I need is a comfortable bed and a portable toilet. We leave in four days!
You’ll have to wait until “Part Two” to hear what happened on our trip! I decided to write Part One because I want to inspire you to enjoy “young old age” while having health and energy.
Take some risks and chances. Try out some things that you never expected. Find ways to work around obstacles. Life has many twists and turns – so “Make hay while the sun shines.”
Carpe Diem – Seize the Day!
Have you ever traveled in a cargo van or RV? How did it go for you? Where did you go? What accommodations did your RV/van lack? How did you make up for them?