Analogue nomads in the USA

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POSTED: February 5, 2021

According to The Guardian, America has begun to fill up with middle-aged nomads who have abandoned their homes for the joy of living in an automobile.

Before becoming a nomad in 1995, Bob lived in Anchorage, Alaska, with his wife and two boys. He worked as a union clerk at the same Safeway where his father had worked until retirement, only to die two years later.

Bob didn’t want his father’s fate, but there he was. As days became decades, he went to a job he hated, worked with people he didn’t like, to buy things he didn’t want. By his own telling, he was the living embodiment of Thoreau’s “quiet desperation”. He knew he wasn’t happy, but it never occurred to him to live differently.

After all, this was the American dream, right?

Then, when he was 40 years old, the divorce happened. After paying alimony and child support, he was taking home $1,200 a month, $800 of which went towards rent.

One day, fretting about impossible finances, he saw a green box van for sale and thought: “Why don’t I buy that van and move into it?” The idea struck him as crazy, but with the prospect of homelessness closing in, he drained the last $1,500 in his savings account and bought the van that was just “too ratty-looking” for its previous owner. He gave his landlord notice that night, threw a sleeping pad in the back of his new home, and cried himself to sleep.

Then came the first of the month, and something clicked: he didn’t have to pay rent. As his finances improved, he installed insulation, a proper bed, even a dream-come-true PlayStation fortress for his boys. He started working only 32 hours a week, and since every weekend was a three-day weekend, he spent more time camping with his kids, which “tremendously helped” his mental outlook on life.

Finally, he was truly happy.

The article takes an estimated seven minutes to read, and contains much more than this quote may suggest.

Among other things, Bob starts an online community and suggests that they meet in real life. In 2011 45 vehicles get together. In 2019 more than 10,000 vehicles turn up.

These people do not see themselves as a hippy revival. They have different goals in mind. Some kind of change has started.