Nomad, vehicle-dweller, van lifer, car camper, or whatever else you identify as…
Chances are high that you’ve come across uninformed people on your journey who quickly - and incorrectly - judge a book by its cover.
Or maybe you’re an aspiring nomad yourself who wishes to live in a vehicle, and have always assumed certain things about the people in this lifestyle.
Either way, I’m going to set the record straight to clarify these misconceptions.
Let’s get the train rolling and bust these myths once and for all…
Misconception #7: We’re All Weird Loners
Based on my time on the road, I can definitively say that the majority of nomads I’ve met are very shy by nature, and prefer keeping to themselves. I myself am like this.
However, by and large, once we open up we can usually talk someone’s ear off and are extremely sociable.
It’s not that we don’t enjoy the company of other people, as much as it is about staying in the background, respecting others’ privacy, and embracing the peacefulness of solitude.
Most of us aren’t Chatty Cathy’s by nature, but that doesn’t mean we don’t dig the company of other people and fitting in.
I’ve led a surreal, winding, interesting life, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this…
EVERYBODY has a story to tell. And we all love telling them, given the chance.
Aside from where/how we live, we’re just like everybody else.
Misconception #6: We’re All Unemployed
Yes, there may be some in our ranks who are retired, temporarily between jobs, etc., though…
From my travels I’ve found that the vast majority of nomads are gainfully employed, and usually have a few side hustles they’re working on, too.
Yet, outsiders think we go to Burning Man festivals every day and throw raves each night.
As for me, I work a part-time job selling custom eBikes for 4-5 hours per day, in addition to laboring on this blog for 3-4 hours daily. In-between, before, and after, I do all of the other grunt work that ‘regular folks’ do: making my bed, cooking food, paying my bills, and so forth.
The fact is - just like when living in a house or apartment - it costs money to maintain this lifestyle. Car insurance, cell phone bill, auto repairs, food, fuel, toiletries…
We MUST work in order to survive.
Misconception #5: We’re All Forced to Live in Our Vehicles
There is some truth to this due to people being down on their luck at times, but that’s not the complete picture. In reality…
There are many, many, many of us who do this by choice.
While I do love saving money (and this way of life is great for that), I mostly live in my car because I choose to. For me, it is indeed a better, freer way to exist. Lots of other nomads feel the same.
People are beginning to wake up, and are realizing that the whole cookie-cutter way of living that they’ve been spoon-fed to believe is the ’right way’ or the ‘only way’ is a bunch of malarkey.
There isn’t just one path.
Many aspects of conventional living are downright dull, inhumane, and oftentimes not sustainable. So…
Us nomads are like the cowboys & cowgirls in the Old West. We wish to live free and die hard…on our own terms.
Misconception #4: We All Travel Far & Wide
There are certainly some nomads who have the desire - and means - to constantly be on-the-go, and relish exploring every square inch of this earth. More power to them.
However, most of the fellow vehicle-dwellers I’ve encountered usually stay within one certain sector, or maybe within a few.
This could be due to work, family responsibilities, to conserve money, and a host of other reasons. For example…
While I have traveled to a bunch of places in the past, my current base is in the northeast…mainly between NJ, PA, and NY. I bounce around to a few good spots I’ve found in these areas 95% of the time.
While I would absolutely love to get out on the open road again to explore, I simply can’t now because of commitments I have, which are tied to this region.
I know lots of nomads who hop from campground to campground, rest stop to rest stop, etc., all within a tight geographical area. It works for them. And it works for me.
If you’re thinking about becoming a nomad yourself, or perhaps are just beginning, always remember…
It’s not about where you lay your head at night. It’s about having freedom.
Freedom from slaving away for 30 years to pay off a ridiculously expensive mortgage. Freedom to own your own space (no matter how small) and call the shots. Freedom from being conventional and trying to conform.
Again, there’s not just one path…we each make our own.
Misconception #3: We’re All Broke and Destitute
One of the BEST gifts this lifestyle gives you, is that it teaches the true value of a dollar. A little bit can go a long way when you live in a vehicle.
I save more money now - even with only a part-time job - than I ever have before. And I don’t say that to brag, I’m just proud of this accomplishment.
If you have self-control, the ability to quickly stash away cash while being a nomad is very realistic.
FACT: Owning a smaller, limited number of ‘things’ is not only very liberating, it can also fatten your pockets up. Most people spend a god-awful amount of their hard-earned income to buy a bunch of useless stuff. This is a very bad, very expensive habit.
There are scores of nomads out there living below their means (like me) who hardly ever stress over finances.
If I chose to, I could take the next year off from work and be just fine. And far from suffering, I’d live very comfortably. Of course, I’d rather not do this because I’d blow through my entire nest egg.
On the flip side…the majority of American families survive paycheck-to-paycheck, and do not have even enough to cover 3 months of basic living expenses. Yet…
We’re the crazy ones 🤔
Misconception #2: We’re Unsanitary and Dirty
Living on the road does make it challenging to keep tidy at times. But just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean we don’t do it.
While it’s a fact that many of us full-timers can sometimes go days between showers, we actually clean ourselves in a myriad of other effective ways, like…
- Taking baby wipe baths
- Freshening up in public restrooms
- By swimming in lakes or rivers
If anything, we actually have to try staying MORE spiffy than the average person, because we never know if we’ll get a door knock from law enforcement or run across someone we might know. And we don’t want to appear unkempt under these circumstances.
Misconception #1: We’re All Stoners or on Drugs
This is probably the biggest myth when it comes to nomads, and it couldn’t be further than the truth.
While I’ve surely encountered some vehicle-dwellers who like to let loose and party on occasion, how is this any different than the average person who enjoys having a beer after work, or someone that likes sharing a joint when they’re out hanging with friends?
To further squash this misconception, the amount of nomads I’ve met who enjoy partying are actually very minuscule when compared to those who don’t use any drugs or alcohol of any kind.
Personally, I’ve only smoked grass a handful of times in my life (it makes me anxious & paranoid), I generally don’t like the taste of alcohol and might have a few of glasses of wine per year, and I’ve never done a hard drug at all.
On top of all that, since we live in vehicles, most nomads are acutely aware of the laws regarding drugs and alcohol, and must play it safer than the average citizen. For example…
While it is legal to consume alcohol within a vehicle in all 50 states, this is only true if the vehicle is parked - or operating - on private property. Since we’re parked in public places the majority of the time, being caught with alcohol in our rigs is a major no-no due to open container laws. Same goes for illegal substances of any kind.
Bottom line, based on my own experiences, the amount of nomads who enjoy cutting loose every so often is no greater than anyone else. So…
It would be a major stretch labeling all within our ranks as drunkards or stoners.
What Say You?
Do you agree with my thoughts? Disagree? Did I miss any myths, or do you have some of your own you’d like to share?
By the way…what DO you usually refer to yourself as? A nomad, vehicle-dweller, car camper, or van lifer? These terms get thrown around so much, but we all have our preferences. Would be interesting to see what my readers like to be called.
Let me know in the comments section.
Most importantly, summer is moving by very fast. Be sure to stop and smell the roses, enjoy the warmer temps, and appreciate what great lives us nomads have, free from many of the stresses and worries that most people endure.
LIVE WISELY, LIVE WELL!