It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. I’ll be honest: Losing Idgie knocked me off-balance as few other things have done in my life. Not only was she my beloved pet, she was my best friend and co-pilot, and I haven’t had the heart till now to move on from her loss. But it has been four months, and it’s time.

So in this post, I’m taking stock of what I’ve learned since launching into full-time nomadism a year and a half ago, where I am now, and where I’m headed in the years to come.

Taking stock: Biscuit is still getting used to the traveling life.
Biscuit is still getting used to the traveling lifestyle.

I have since found a new feline companion, a beautiful tortoiseshell rescue named Biscuit. I had originally also adopted her sister, Muffin, another blind cat; but she became hyper-aggressive and I had to return her to the rescue because that kind of thing can’t be going on in a 23′ x 8′ box. Happily, the rescue let me know that Muffin was adopted into a new home about three weeks later.

Biscuit is still getting used to being a nomad. It’s been three months, and she seems to like stationary life, spending most of her time perched in the window on her little padded platform, watching the world go by. She really enjoyed what I came to call “Kitty TV” during this year’s RTR events. Many of my neighbors had dogs, so there was an endless stream of pups and their humans strolling by during all hours of the day, and Biscuit loved it!

However, she still cries every time we get in the truck to move to a new camp. I have tried Feliway calming spray (their plug-in pheromone calming diffuser works great in the rig) and Bach Rescue Remedy, but nothing has worked so far. She cries when she’s loose in the truck cab, but even worse when I put her back in her carrier. This surprises me a bit, because the carrier’s really nice—soft-sided with a sherpa insert—and at first she loved it and seemed to feel safe in it. But I guess she’s getting used to things now and maybe wants to explore a bit…I just don’t know.

A longtime friend and part-time nomad recently assured me that it took months and months for her three cats to adapt, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I don’t want Biscuit to be unhappy. I’ll keep you posted on the progress of that situation.

Taking stock: I passed through the Tonto National Forest on the way to Phoenix from Cottonwood, AZ.
Passing through the Tonto National Forest in Fort McDowell, NM, two days before Christmas.

Change of Plans

I have been workamping this fall and winter, on either side of my trip to Arizona for the holidays, and to attend the W/RTR. I’m at a nice little RV park in extreme southeastern Colorado. My gig here is up at the end of April, which is okay with me, because that’s when this area becomes severe-weather prone. I love chasing storms, but I sure don’t relish the idea of sitting still in a box on wheels with one bearing down on me.

Taking Stock: I've enjoyed a multitude of gorgeous sunsets from my workamping site in southeastern Colorado.
A beautiful Late-November sunset from the window of my rig in my workamping spot.

I had originally intended to leave after this gig and head west to the Grand Canyon, then swing up through Utah to do the Big 5 national parks there, then continuing through the Midwest to redomicile in South Dakota and visit friends in Minnesota and Wisconsin on my way back to Pennsylvania for the summer. However, I think it would be more fiscally prudent to put off the Utah trip for a year, and simply head back directly through the Midwest this year. Weather will of course play a part in this decision, and I have some personal situations developing that may also have an influence on my final decision. I’ll know more over the next month or so.

Medium-Term Outlook

Meanwhile, I’ve come to several definite conclusions after 18 months of full-time nomadism. These pertain only to me and my particular situation, and not to nomadism in general:

  1. I like the nomadic life, but I definitely do NOT want to travel all the time. I enjoy meeting new people, but I prefer a life that allows me to spend more time with people than a few days. I enjoy being part of a community, and finding where I fit in and what I can bring to the table to enrich that community.
  2. I need the uninterrupted stability of more than two weeks at a time in one spot (the time limit in a BLM boondocking area or a Thousand Trails park with the Zone Pass) to be a productive worker. I know many folks can be productive in small snippets of time, strung together or not. I’m not one of them. I’m a writer who needs long periods of time in which to think, mull over ideas and create.
  3. Though I was happy to break myself of semi-hoarder habits I had developed over the years when downsizing into my RV, I am only a minimalist right now because this lifestyle forces me to be. I started my nomadic life in a 17′ x 7′ box on wheels, and that was definitely not enough space for me to be even comfortable, much less productive when working. I’ve since moved up to a 23′ x 8′ box, which is less of a hardship, but still not fully comfortable or as conducive to productivity as I would like. I know there are lots of folks out here living in vans and even smaller vehicles, and they’re perfectly content. I’m happy for them, but such tiny spaces just won’t work for me. I have a lot of hobbies and interests that require space and storage for the related gear, and more flat working surfaces than any of those rigs could offer.
  4. Gas and insurance on two vehicles are expensive. Not as expensive as rent or a mortgage, but still no cheap date.
Taking stock: my current travel trailer
My current travel trailer, a 1997 Coachmen Catalina Lite QB-225

Those being the facts, I am coming to the conclusion that, in the middle term, I will be changing rigs at least one more time in the not-too-distant future. I will likely get a slightly longer bumper pull travel trailer, up to 26 feet long. This will allow me to accommodate a dedicated workspace for my computer station and desk, while still having a kitchen table and place to play games, do puzzles, paint, sketch and color. It will also provide more surfaces, nooks and crannies for Biscuit to explore and hide in, and enough floor space for me to install a cat tree for scratching and lounging.

Once I make that move, however, I will have to forfeit my current summer moochdocking space, because there are trees close enough to both sides of the driveway leading to the narrow access road to make it impossible for me to safely turn or back a 26-foot rig into it. So that complicates things.

There is also the possibility that I will instead get a larger Class C motorhome and put a rack on the back to carry a motor scooter or electric bike. That would give me the ability to run around to do errands or go visit nearby attractions without having to break camp, and without the cost of insuring a tow vehicle.

Eventually, as I have now had the opportunity to see the inside of several fifth wheel rigs, I think I may be open to the idea of getting one of them for myself. They seem to have, by far, the most usable space; the best layouts for overall space efficiency; and the privacy of a rear bedroom up off the main floor, with a solid door. That would be nice, providing me with enough space to have guests, and privacy while they’re with me. I have also found that when I’m in a fifth wheel, I feel most like I’m in a real home, as opposed to an RV. All of these are very appealing to me. The two downsides would be sacrificing the storage area of a truck bed, because the fifth wheel-type hitch is situated there (though fifth wheels have a large “basement” storage area, so it could be a wash); and learning to tow and wrangle the much larger rig.

Of course, I would also have to get a larger tow vehicle, as the safe towing capacity of my 4.9L Tundra is 7300 lbs. Most fifth wheels weigh in excess of 10K lbs. So financially, that’s down the road a ways.

Taking Stock: the incredible view of the Mingus Mountains from my campground in Dead Horse State Park.
A panoramic view from our campsite in Dead Horse State Park • Cottonwood, AZ

Longterm Vision

And lastly, I have begun to think forward to the time when I will come in off the road, for at least part of the year. I’ve decided that, when finances allow, I am going to buy a small plot of land somewhere along the East Coast (affordable areas of West Virginia are looking most likely right now, followed by New England and North Carolina, in that order), on which I can build a tiny log home (the new plans now available are amazing for using a little space in WOWZA ways. And tiny log home kits are more affordable than ever!).

Ideally, I would find a location with decent Internet access and cell service. I’d build there and live in the tiny log home during warm weather months, from about May-October, then light out in whatever RV I end up with to the Southwest for the winter. Right now, I’m looking at small, undeveloped, unrestricted lots in either southern New Mexico or Arizona, where I would be allowed to boondock all winter. Perhaps build a small building containing a water storage tank, then have my water trucked in, propane delivered, composting toilet on board, and a solar panel power system so I’m completely self-contained.

If I get to the point where I am no longer able to travel (or decide I just don’t want to anymore), I will sell whatever RV I have at that time, and my property in the Southwest, and use the proceeds to build a small outbuilding on my property back East. Though I love the warmth of the Southwest, I will never be a desert girl at heart. I will always be an Appalachian Mountain grrrrl who loves the green, rolling hills, all the beautiful trees and abundant wildlife, and the changing seasons. And, of course, the amount of long history in the ground, to support my metal detecting habit.

Happily recovering a target from an old tobacco plantation in Maryland

I’ll construct the building so about a third of it will accommodate an art studio, and the rest will be outfitted as a stable to allow me to rescue cats, dogs and small livestock like goats and sheep. And there I will live out my days as the eccentric old Crazy Critter Lady, taking care of my animals, teaching drawing and painting classes, and making cool stuff to my heart’s content. This is the first time I’ve ever really imagined myself in old age, and I like this vision of it very much.

Till then, however, I remain very much the full-time digital nomad, and as long as I am, this wild heart will be wandering this beautiful country of ours, and I’ll be working, arting, metal detecting and teaching people how to recognize, avoid and stay safe in severe weather.

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