Between Earth and Sky

This is the place where we humans dwell. It’s where we eat, sleep, love, and create. And like all sentient beings, for the time being we don’t venture beyond either border, but eventually, inevitably, we do.

Another way to look at this is these two boundaries define our existence, our now. While both earth and sky are sometimes beautiful beyond description, they can also be angry, violent, and ugly, and all shades in between. So it is with our now, with how we each choose to spend our time.

As I begin this new phase of nomadic journeying once again, this is the zone of my focus. Each day as I rise with the sun, express gratitude for still being here (still above ground, so to speak), I will quietly remind myself to enjoy each minute as it unfolds, until the sky turns dark and it’s time once again to sleep.

People ask me what my plan is for this type of travel ahead, and the answer is, that. It’s a daily plan, and it’s a framework to stay present minded and ensure I enjoy the journey.

It’s that simple, yet still challenging.

Why This and Not That: My Philosophy of Nomadic Life 2.0

I’m frequently asked, when I share with people what I plan to do, why I’m not doing this back in a van like I did in 2019. They have a hard time relating to this new mode of travel when they think road travel should extend their home conveniences: standing, sitting, showers, bathroom, microwave, air conditioning… and on and on.

Actually, this is not usually their first question, which typically is “At your age?”

I think this new way to travel provides two healthy challenges for me. One is the general notion of roaming without a tether back to a safe home base, thus telling my inner logical we-must-plan ego to take a hike while I (try) to embrace serendipity. And the other is the daily challenge of flexibility and muscle use to live in and out of the Outback versus the laid-back convenience of my former 21′ Travato RV where I could freely stand up, sit, shower, normal bathroom, inside kitchen, and so forth. To that last challenge I say “motion is lotion” and think it’s healthy for me to be challenged to move like this every day rather than being sedentary. But back to this new mode of travel.

My takeaways from my Travato year were I was not always comfortable driving such a large, clunky, heavy box and at times that became quite stressful. Its size, while providing standing and creature comforts, was limiting to get to places I want to go, frequently difficult to park, and expensive to fuel. Plus, when I didn’t feel like doing much, it was too convenient to just stay inside and read or watch a movie (not that there’s anything wrong with those two choices). With Obie, the focus is on being outside. When I sold the Travato I knew I wanted to keep traveling but in a much smaller vehicle where driving was less stressful and I could easily take and park it anywhere I wanted to go.

What Obie and Nomadic Life 2.0 provide is an experiment in adopting a philosophy of being nimble, flexible, more basic, and free from any limitations on where I can go. I’m equipped for outside camping when the weather’s nice, yet staying inside when it’s not. Fuel efficiency is nearly double that of the Travato, meaning $$ savings plus longer distances between fill-ups. And being a car, zero limits to visiting places or parking as needed, even in garages (although with the roof box there will still be an awareness of low clearances (under 7’ whereas the Travato was 9’6”; most parking garages will not be an issue).

This approach is about embracing and enjoying the pureness of camping. Even when I sleep inside, it’s more related to tent camping than sleeping in an RV. And in my mind, a major part of these travels is to get more in touch with nature whenever and wherever. To that extent, I will try to stay away from traditional campgrounds and RV parks, and instead explore the vast, available public lands. Some of that will require driving on rougher roads, but Obie has high clearance, serious all-terrain tires, and skid plates for both engine and differential. I will chicken out on a given wild road way, way before Obie’s maxes his capabilities.

Some may think this relates to the folks highlighted in the Nomadland movie, but I’m not living out of Obie, although I plan to travel this way about 3/4ths of the year. And I’m not aligned with the more social RV crowd. Somewhere in between is where I am, and I think of that zone as explorers, those independent travelers whose focus is wandering and immersing in nature and cities while indulging in a lot of introspective time. That’s not to say I won’t be visiting friends around the country and hanging out, but more that I won’t stay long in one place like van lifers nor move from one rally to another group meet-up like a lot of the RV crowd.

I will delve much more into each specific aspect of Nomadic Life 2.0 over at my YouTube channel, Wandering Obie. Those topics are better suited to show-and-tell videos than writing here about them.

Stay tuned both here on the blog and over at the YouTube channel. Things are just getting interesting!

And We’re Live…

Posted a quick-n-simple welcome video to make the Wandering Obie YouTube Channel live and public. Lots more planned and coming, but wanted to get things launched. Check it out and subscribe!

Turns out I had a little extra time today, despite it being the long-awaited departure day to begin my 10-week west coast trip! Seems an hour north of Ann Arbor my 12v refrigerator/freezer fan died. Must have decided it really didn’t want to make the trip. And rather than wait somewhere up north in Michigan for 2-3 days waiting on the part to come in, I retreated back to home (and the house refrigerator/freezer to transfer all the goodies back to the cold!).

Will restart again once the fan arrives and in the near-term travel north through Michigan, over the Upper Peninsula, into northern Wisconsin then wiggling up to Ely, Minnesota to check out the iconic Vistabule teardrop trailers made there. Researching how that might play in future travels.

Stay tuned. The wandering is just beginning.

N.B. – Obie is my 2021 Subaru Outback, seriously modded with a custom camper conversion in the back where I can sleep and work when the weather isn’t so nice (yet I carry a full campsite in a roof box for when the weather is marvelous).

A Belated 18th Blogiversary

Being so wrapped up in my Obie project the past 5+ weeks, Tuesday’s amazing milestone flew by me before I had a chance to blog about it! 18 years ago on June 8 I began my inkmusings blog, later to evolve into garyvarner.com.

Where has the time gone?

Those early days of blogging were exciting since the form was new and we all felt like pioneers. I started out on Movable Type but eventually morphed over to the new kid on the block (at the time) WordPress 1.0. Ah, the good old days.

Since that June 8th post 18 years ago, my primary blog under its two titles ran up 181,842 words across 437 posts. Not all those years were actively blogging ones, else the numbers would be much higher. And I should note during those 18 years I’d spawned another six blogs with more focused topics, but they soon vaporized.

And now?

I’m beginning a new adventure, one that is raising eyebrows about what this 68-year-old thinks he can pull off! Wandering Obie begins on June 16th, Obie being the nickname of my new ‘21 Subaru Outback on which I’ve spent the last six weeks or so building a custom camper van-ish interior for these upcoming travels. Wandering Obie is the name of my new YouTube channel (formal announcement soon when I actually have a video uploaded!). It’s all about getting back to wandering America and Canada, enjoying natural settings and introspective times. This time, however, it’s a significant part-time effort versus the full-time van life I enjoyed during 2019.

Look for a blog post soon about the why: the philosophical, practical, and theoretical differences between this hybrid approach and how I roamed around America during 2019 in my Winnebago Travato Class B RV van.

I’ll be blogging consistently soon with lots about my wanderings, some of the usual blog fare, plus a few videos each week on the new Wandering Obie YouTube channel about where and how Obie takes me to interesting places.

Should be fun!

This Is Why

My posts here have been few and far between, and will likely continue as such through May.

Why?

Because Project Obie, that’s why!

New Subaru Outback that I’m doing a solo camper conversion in the back in anticipation of (finally) getting back on the road for some nature exploration. The when is taking off around June 10, the where is T.B.D., but likely heading West from here in Michigan.

Hoping to create a lot of videos enroute (maybe even with a drone!) shard via a new YouTube channel, and of course, blog here about it as I did in 2019 wandering in Tamasté.

Shots below show my first steps in reworking the interior (bed frame prototype), and the one at right what I’m modeling the build-out after. There’s so much more to this than just the woodworking… but that’s for another day and another post.

Winter’s Artwork

One reason I like winter is the beautiful natural artwork created by weather. When the sun’s out, the sky’s cloudless, and the foliage and outdoor objects receive “brushstrokes” from an unexpected snowfall, the results are nature’s perfect art.

Despite the frigid temps, shock to the budding spring foliage and nest-building squirrels, and the traditional packing away of winter coats and gloves, the handful of days we get in Michigan during April’s (and May’s sometimes) late-winter white stuff bursts can be beautiful to admire. By afternoon, as typical, little evidence of this Winter Rockwell “painting” will remain.

To view larger photos, click on any to start a slideshow.