Benefits and Drawbacks: Road Life (Being a Nomad)

Living in a car, van, motorhome or trailer and travelling around all the time can be seen as romantic and freeing.  However, there are both benefits and drawbacks to a lifestyle of this nature.

Benefits:  Freedom to travel around when and where you choose.  No bills (or very few).  Not much stuff to deal with.  Being able to go somewhere else at the drop of a hat.  Seeing the country.  Living on a smaller budget than an apartment or house.

Drawbacks: Possible problems with police or security.  Knowing where to park… and where not to.  Knowing what type of rig you need for the lifestyle you want.  Knowing exactly what equipment (and how much) you need for the lifestyle you want.  Dealing with weather (example Hurricane Harvey or Irene).  Staying safe.


How much equipment and what type you need depends on exactly what type of lifestyle you want.  Someone backpacking will need (and be able to carry) a lot less equipment than someone living out of a car, van or pickup, and the vehicle people will need less equipment than someone living out of say a class A motorhome will.

I have noticed no two nomads ever have the exact same equipment, though everybody had the same basics.  Basics being, shelter, food, clothes, restroom use, staying clean.

When I lived out of a backpack on the road with shows, I always carried a certain minimum of equipment.  A tarp, in case it rained.  A nylon sleeping bag.  At least one bottle of water.  Granola bars for emergency food supply.  A spare set of clothes.  Sewing box, with several different colors of thread, a packet of needles and a small pair of scissors.  A small first aid kit, with several different types of band aids, Ace bandages, sterile gloves, white bandage tape, scissors just for the first aid box, OTC remedies like asprin, Tylenol and ibuprofen.  A mess kit and mess kit silverware.

Due to space and weight issues I didn’t bother carrying cooking pots or pans, or a stove of any type.  I also didn’t travel alone, but was always in a group.  More than once I ended up sleeping under the boss’s trailers, though I did try to stay hidden from anyone outside the group.  Eating was expensive, since it was always in a restaurant or something.  I think my biggest expense back then, bar none, was food.

One year I was running with a show, I think it was my third season out.  The crew was making a four hour jump from one spot in northern Nevada to another in central California.  I’d brought all my gear (I didn’t have a bunk room, being on a different crew); it fit on a 50lb max carry luggage cart.  I actually had an extra item that year, a folding chair.  The crew member who got dropped off with me didn’t have any of his gear, it was all in his bunk room.  Reasonable, until you figure that the bunk house was not being pulled by the truck we were on.

So here Jeff (if I ever knew his last name I don’t remember it now) and I were, left in Anaheim with the Extreme and the generator, while the truck went back for another load.  It was getting dark, and even in September in central California it starts getting cold outside at night.  So I laid out my sleeping bag, rolled up in my tarp, under the 5th wheel of the Extreme and went to sleep.  Poor Jeff ended up sitting in my chair freezing his keister off in his overalls and t-shirt trying to sleep as well.  I was so grateful I had all my gear, and didn’t have so much that I couldn’t carry it all.

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