Last Voyage

Currently in the rain and cold (but comfy with the Truma heat going) at a campground in Van Buren, Ohio on leg one of my last voyage in Tamasté. I’m on my way down to South Carolina to hand him over to his new, adopting parents. Happy to report they are as excited to start their Travato adventures as I was a year ago this month when I picked up Tamasté from Lichtsin RV in Iowa.

It’s been a lot of fun and saw a great deal of this beautiful country in the year I wandered about in this Travato. Bittersweet for sure, but eager for the adventures ahead living in Ann Arbor, MI, with more travels in my sights (albeit not in a fully, self-sufficient rolling wonder that is a Travato).

The new parents will, undoubtedly, meet some wonderfully Travato owners as I have, some of whom I now consider long-term friends. All in all, I set out to accomplish a few things on this year of wandering and just about did them all. Only thing missing was visiting some natural places out West, and those I’ll still get to eventually, but in the more conventional way of traveling.

So to all those in the Travato tribe I’ve met along the road, I want to say thank you. You made this a special year I won’t soon forget. They say memories are a comforting blanket as we age, and this year has provided much warmth for those reflective years ahead.

A Necessary Pause: Full-Time to Part-Time

After my restart back on the road full-timing, I experienced some further issues that made me head back to the Midwest for more advanced healthcare support. This time, I connected to the University of Michigan’s famed cardiology center in Ann Arbor for a round of “what’s going on” tests.

Happy to report I aced all tests and no issues with my thumper or its body-wide system. So the unsettling symptoms experienced in the wild–not a good place to be feeling poorly in mysterious ways–are not cardiac or related to the June stent. I believe, however, I’ve identified the culprit.

All that sums up to deciding to stop traveling for a while and take time to resolve the off-and-on-again nagging thing. That, plus winter is coming–my least favorite travel season (but a forever, memorable phrase from Game of Thrones). As an added bonus, staying in one place for six months should help me to catch up on writing projects including finishing two books in progress.

The decision to winter in Ann Arbor was not an easy one, but I have a friend here I can stay with comfortably plus a great, nearby RV storage place. For now, Tamasté’s parked (other than two short day trips per month to keep things working) until I travel west in March.

Some would say the phrase “wintering in Ann Arbor” brings shivers, and yes, it’s not as nice as saying “wintering in Barbados,” but it’s the place I need to be for all the reasons above and more. Ann Arbor has always been at the top of my list of landing spots after full-time nomadic RV traveling is over, so this is also a chance to test winter here (as a retiree who won’t have to get out when it’s nasty I’m hoping that will make it tolerable).

Now that I’m settled in my rented room, set up with my former writing studio’s books, supplies, dictionary stand, and such, I feel jazzed to get the work done. It’s nice to be pampered by space and essentials too. Funny, but fellow Travato traveler and writer Sarah hit the same notes when she posted about the experience of extended house sitting after traveling…the full kitchen, showers without timing the water running, real beds, couches, etc., all a siren song of civilized (nay, decadent!) living.

Nomadic traveling has its soul-satisfying reasons to be out there, but hard to beat…for now…a big refrigerator and pantry-a-plenty, washer and dryer, and access to the arts and culture that Ann Arbor offers daily.

Where the Tribe is Family

What did we do back in pre-Internet, pre-Facebook days to mingle with others who have similar interests? We formed face-to-face clubs and gatherings to share tips, tricks, and discuss the joy of delving deep into a hobby or shared interests.

Fast forward to now, add Facebook groups and the Internet and bonds of common interest form quickly and start virtually. The RV community at large is no different, with more special-focus Facebook Groups on specific models, brands, and even aspects of the RV culture and roaming lifestyle available on just about any related topic.

But beyond the virtual knowledge sources, in the Travato world we have the Travato Tribe. Like my old days of sport cars and when passing a Porsche on the road, we’d wave at each other in that secret club sort of wave, Travato owners do similar acknowledgements and tend to approach each other, though complete strangers initially, in parking lots and at campgrounds. What usually ensues is a lively discussion of issues, improvements, places visited, and a new friendship is started. I’ve met complete strangers driving Travatos who after the conversation offered me their driveway for the night should I ever pass their way.

In my current Travato travels, I’ve had the pleasure of attending several meet-ups, from informal groups of 4 to 5 vans to an Arizona rally in March with 100 Class B Vans (of which about 90 were Travatos). At such events, everyone seems to instantly be your friend, and you typically drive away after the rally with a handful of new, close friends and lots of driveway camping offers. Sharing food, parts, mods (owner-installed improvements), invaluable tips on places to stay (and where not to), and the ever-appreciated intelligence on free dump sites and where to get fresh water, are some of the tribe bonuses beyond the friendships.

Wandering the country as I am in this self-contained, mostly self-reliant camper van, I can certainly travel and discover things on my own. But having the Travato Tribe and its hive wisdom makes this experience all the better and open doors and location knowledge more than I ever would on my own. And I’m happy to report the tribe’s provided a slew of new friends who would give me the shirt off their back, as the saying goes, if needed.

Wisdom says it takes a village to raise a child, and similarly my nomadic experience is all the better having the Travato Tribe to learn from and connect with. As I head out on an extended nomadic period of traveling America today, I will likely stay at numerous Travato Tribe driveways across the country. This tribe is my support family, no matter where I roam in my Travato.

Coffee and Sunrise

One of the more pleasant solitary acts, whether at home or living nomadically, is rising early before the dawn, fixing a cup of fresh coffee, then sitting back to await the sunrise and the promise of a new day. The stillness and quiet of this moment is pure joy.

Success, I once heard someone say, is waking up still above the ground each day. A bit morbid, but to the point that each day we greet is a personal success, so why not salute the orange orb in the sky as it peeks out through the trees in its ascent to warm and light our world?

Solitude

Alone one is never lonely: the spirit adventures, waking
In a quiet garden, in a cool house, abiding single there;

There is no place more intimate than the spirit alone:
It finds a lovely certainty in the evening and the morning.

– Canticle 6, May Sarton

Among the first questions people ask when learning I’m a solo nomadic is “Don’t you get lonely?” or “How do you cope with loneliness?”

Truth is, I only think about these concepts when someone asks about them, so for me it’s a “no” to both questions. To understand my response, you need to know I’m a natural introvert who’s learned to be an extrovert on demand. When interactions overload the senses, then I need space and quiet to reflect and think, to be alone.

For someone like me, solo traveling in my RV is an ideal lifestyle, one where I can occasionally enjoy face-to-face socializing yet on the whole, have plenty of alone time to reflect, to write, to think. When living in a city, this seemed only possible when retreating inside of a house’s four walls. In my rolling RV home, I can move on down the road or find a secluded camp site in nature and spend hours or days in solitude.

Exploring Hueco Tanks State Park, Texas

Probably the least understood need by introverts is for time alone. Often judged as unsociable or unfriendly, it’s really how we recharge our batteries so we can endure (and mostly enjoy) encounters and interactions with others. One good example happens during Travato meet ups (a three+ day get together of Travatos anywhere from six vans to a hundred or more), the Travato tribe accepts it if one occasionally retreats to the van for several hours versus hanging out constantly around the fire, on the porch, or wherever the active social circle. This behavior, at least in my experience, is not as accepted in the business world, thus the need for introverts to develop the ability to toggle extrovert mode on demand, akin to role playing or method acting I suppose.

The reality of today’s connected world means none of us are truly alone. Most introverts I know, including myself, engage in online conversations and those seem to exist in our introverted worlds somewhere between in-person socializing and being alone: not as potentially draining as being with people, yet not as isolated as solitude when there’s no internet connection.

But here’s the part some people struggle to see as positive about introverts traveling solo: you are the only decider on where to go, stay, see, or do. As the old saying goes, you are both chief and head bottle washer: decisions and how to spend time are all yours (for good or bad!). Traveling with a companion is more about ongoing compromises and there’s nothing wrong with that if one needs that constant companionship.

So when others ask these questions, I smile and say “Not really,” when I’m actually thinking “How could I be, when I go and do where and what I want and have all this nature around me to commune in introspection and quiet solitude.” As Sarton said, being alone is never lonely for those that embrace a free spirit.

Maine and Mods

My absence from posting here has not been for lack of stories to share, but from being immersed in another round of mods (owner-made modifications) to Tamasté and a friend’s Travato. After my stent recovery time in Ohio and Michigan, I traveled east to Maine, expecting to eventually travel New England and around Canada’s eastern shores and islands.

Click image to enlarge
I’ve been staying at a friend’s house in Maine atop a high hill with a breathtaking views of distant mountains across the horizon. Despite the ever-present bugs (that’s Maine in the summer) it’s a beautiful place to spend some time and focus on making a final (right!) sweeping round of mods for efficiency and finally achieving an ideal (for me) writing space inside Tamasté.

Aside from the modification work, this area of Maine with its quaint towns and rolling, lushly treed landscape feels apart from the noise going on in the country and world. Having live lobster readily available is not a bad perk either, and the local town’s Maine culture and ways enjoyable to experience.

The culmination of my time here is my friend’s annual Travato meet-up going on this weekend, a gathering of 20 Travatos from around the country. One of the interesting things about Travato van life is the Travato Tribe who are sociable in packs. Such meet-ups are how this culture of like-minded (at least relative to Travatos and van life) folks to get together, share food and stories from the road.

While I hope to spend the next two months traveling New England and Canada, I’m still uncertain where I want to winter this year: Florida (like last year), or perhaps the Southwest (Arizona/New Mexico). What is certain is 2020 is my year to explore the Western U.S. states and coast. Looking forward to the sunshine and amazing geography across America’s vast west.