Seeking Refuge On The Open Road


When we reached bob wells. He was camped out of the grid in his white. Gmc savannah van in the middle of the california desert. Some twenty five years into his experiment in mobile living. How did this whole journey start for you. What was your life like before you discovered this this lifestyle while i was either very very lucky or very unlucky depending on your point of view it was the winter of one thousand nine hundred five. Bob was living in anchorage alaska where he'd worked for over two decades in a union job at safeway saint job. His father had worked until his retirement. At the time bob was going through a divorce and after alimony and child support payments. He says he was no longer making enough to clear his rent. He was desperate and that is when he noticed old beat up box banned for sale on the side of the road for fifteen hundred dollars and he decided he had to go for it. That was all the money. I had left in the bank. But i had to have a place to live and so i bought it and That night through a backpacker. Sleeping bag. Down and i began my van dwelling adventure in the winter and the cold van and i That first night. I cried myself to sleep. I literally cried myself to sleep. Or when you're going through a divorce you you cry yourself to sleep on a pretty regular basis ends but sure just of course greatly compounded here. I was homeless bomb living in a van on the streets. And how much lower can my life get. But bob done a lot of camping in his life and you had to make a small space cozy and after a few weeks eat figured out how to cook and stay warm deal to bed and cabinets used his gym membership to shower. Figured out how to make it sustainable. And the money. He was saving on rent. Meant he didn't feel like he was always on the knife's edge it slowly and subtly shifted from. I despise my life to. This isn't really that bad to hey. Every month i keep the money and put it in my pocket to. I kind of really really liked this. And that's the way it's been every sense. Was it difficult at all to kind of switch. Grand narratives about What trajectory you're supposed to take as a productive member of the economy absolutely it was a traumatic transition you know. We are trained from birth to death. Our purpose in life is to be good productive citizens and so it made me question everything i had done. Exactly what society and told me to do. I'd gotten a job. I wanna house. We'd had kids. I was following the american dream to the best of my skill level and ability. As i could and then i was forced into living what society told me was the life of total failure homeless in the van and for the first time in my life i was happy well that raises a lot of existential questions and when i looked around at all the people i work with work eat sleep. Working sleep work. Eat sleep. I said what society told me it was not true. I've finally found a way. That's happy for me. Let me try to understand that. My life and for the life of others a few years later bob had saved up enough to quit his job at safeway and by supplementing his union pension with seasonal stints as a campground host. He was eventually able to take to the road as a full-time nomad in two thousand five about a decade. After he moved into the van. Bob decided to pay forward. Some of the techniques developed the started a website called cheap. Rv living the serve as a kind of resource for other people interested or in many cases forced to move into a vehicle. I started the sole intent of letting people know there wasn't on alternative. You didn't have to live under the tyranny of the marketplace and the way to do that was to eliminate your biggest cost in life. Which is your housing with cheaply. Live frugally and then you can live well for a long time the site just kinda mosey too long picking up you know few page views here and there in two thousand eight happened. Bob says in the wake of the financial crisis. He was inundated with desperate messages. Have lost my job. I we moved in with my family now. My family is lost their job. Now we're all losing our own. What are we going to do. And that was the question. I got over and over and over again. Even after the economic recovery started to pick up the number of inquiries and page views and people in the community continued to grow. Fueled partly by the rise of social media. Bob started his cheap. Rv living youtube channel in two thousand sixteen and has since become just one of many popular nomad influencers but unlike a lot of the glossier more glamorous content associated with the hashtag van live crowd. Bob's videos are all about helping people struggling to keep their head above water financially and they're filled with the nitty gritty details of living behind the wheel. Today we're gonna talk about heat today. We're gonna talk about taking showers. The topic of today is poop. You can cut your behinds. Not one of them. You want that thing to be clean all the time. Bob also does these little interview profiles of people living in different kinds of vehicles cars to trucks to buses. Welcome back fellow nomads. Today we're going. Meet a new friend of mine. Joe sale load everyone relax. They're really out. There doesn't look like there's a bunch of people out there. Yeah thank you that video for the record. Two point five million views and counting. Bob says his videos have become so popular that he's now making more money than ever before. I think eventually the second break but it gets great reviews on amazon which is why i'm recommending ads in affiliate marketing. Help him bring in over one hundred fifty thousand dollars a year. Bob makes enough to have two full time assistants helping him with his work and because he says he never plans to live in a house again. He makes a very healthy profit. I'm make much more money than i ever thought. I could possibly make in my life. And i live in a van. My expenses are pretty darn low with that extra money. Bob started a nonprofit homes on wheels alliance to support people transitioning into living in their vehicles. They've started to outfit and give vance to people in dire need of a new vehicle. And bob says he saving up to buy a plot of land for an in person resource center. It isn't clear how many people are living on the road at this point. But in two thousand ten when bob started this annual gathering van and car dwellers in the arizona desert called rubber tramp rendezvous it had a few dozen attendees by two thousand and nineteen. They had an estimated ten thousand people show up and as a central node in this growing community. Bob has had a kind of front row seat to the massive disruptions of the past decade. And he's watched as certain demographics have borne the brunt of those changes. It's a surprisingly large female. Contingent older women in their sixties and seventies. When they were girls they were told get married. Stay home raise a family and so they never go up so sturdy and then now they're living on five hundred to eight hundred dollars a month so skirt and he cannot live in this country on five hundred two thousand a month so sturdy and live in house and you just can't do it and so they all desperately needed the solution as well and i told them all. If you move into your plan you can live reasonably well on that. You won't be rich but you won't eating dog food and there's hope bob says he has seen an uptick in views and inquiries about van dwelling over the last year. But so far he says the stimulus checks and the nationwide moratorium on evictions have slowed. The number of new nomads. Still he says as the baby boomers continue to age into social security and as the effects of climate change intensify bob expects the movement towards van life to surge and he sees it is his mission to try to help however he can. I've got a string of lifeboats. And i want to get as many as i can into the lifeboat and i think the hammer blow of two thousand eight really put a crack in people's confidence and i think when you combine that with this cheers a natural disasters and the epidemic. I think people are just going to be abandoning the american dream in droves. That's all i'm trying to do is get people out

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