Saturday, February 7, 2015

What Is It Like To Be A Vagabond?

This is a question that is asked all the time to those, like myself, who choose to enjoy the adventure, excitement and educational experiences of life on the road.

While the human species began it's existence as a nomadic creature, over the 100,000 plus years, humans have become, for the most part, a more fixed location, domesticated member of the animal kingdom. However, there are some people who still exhibit that nomadic gene from the beginning of human time on this planet. The nomadic characteristic is evident in both genders.

Recently, I was one of the subjects of a video documentary available on YouTube titled, Ed & The Aberts: Van Dweller and Cargo Conversion. Additionally, after the video footage was shot, but prior to the public release of the documentary, I was a guest, by phone, on WRVC, a Huntington, West Virginia radio station. And, the subject was vagabonding or being a nomad.

While this lifestyle is not something new, people still seem to be fascinated by the concept of such a lifestyle and the people enjoying this alternative lifestyle. It is my opinion that there is a continual growth in the number of people downsizing, minimalizing, economizing and becoming a nomad of their own description. Many, like me, live in a van, utility trailer, old school bus and any number of others RV configurations.

I requested a copy of the radio interview from the station and I present it here for your listening enjoyment and hopefully your enlightenment about, at least, one of the individuals adopting such an alternative lifestyle.

Here is that interview. Just press the play arrow and you'll be able to listen to the program.

What are your thoughts and comments? Are you a nomad? Is this a lifestyle that appeals to you? Why? What's holding you back? If you are already a nomad, what do you like best about it and least about it? Let me know if you see yourself enjoying a location independent, nomadic lifestyle by commenting below.


  1. Ed -- good interview!

    You asked for some thoughts. I'm just ending my first year as an RV owner. I have a Class C -- a van chassis with a big box on its back and an "attic" out over the cab. It's about the right size for me, as long as I stay away from urban freeways, which I find mildly terrifying in any vehicle.

    At this point I'm not a full-timer. I like having a "home place" with a fixed address. Last summer I took a few long-weekend trips here in the SW and enjoyed a longer 10-day excursion through Colorado. The travel I enjoy does not seem to involve commercial campgrounds much: living in the West, the availability of BLM and National Forest lands provides a more-than-pleasant alternative. I've added extra batteries and a small solar panel to make "boondocking" more feasible without running the generator.

    This spring and summer I intend some trips which are much more like vagabonding: departure when I feel like it, headed in some general direction, see what/where strikes my fancy. My original motivation was to get out of the searing summer heat of southern Arizona, and I suspect I'll head north sometime in June or July.

    A (long) while ago I was an avid backpacker and wilderness traveller. Long trips into the Wind Rivers range of Wyoming or the backcountry of Grand Canyon were delights. Sometimes solo, sometimes with a companion. At that point I was almost contemptuous of RV travelers as I encountered them. Now, decades later, I'm happy NOT to sleep on the ground ever again. But I vividly remember the thrill of standing at a trailhead with a pack on my back, leaving the parking lot and heading out with very little fixed itinerary. It's that feeling I'm hoping to recapture.

    A minor point: nomads travel in groups: bands, tribes, families. Vagabonds are loners. Although van dwellers sometimes do travel in packs or caravans, so far I'm more inclined to vagabonding. We'll see.

    I've started a blog at casasadobes.blogspot,com to chronicle my adventures. So far it's mostly about logistics, but as I go it will be more about the places I go and the encounters I have. I hope to use video to share some of my experience, and the latest post is by way of "finger exercises" to see how that could go.

    Be well, and thanks!

    1. Hi Rich,

      First, my apologies for not responding to your comment sooner. I try to do better, but sometimes I slip up.
      Thanks for your thoughts and your point about the difference between nomads and vagabonds. I also checked the definition and vagabond is pretty consistently a wandering/traveling individual. A nomad, as you said, typically travels in bands or tribes or family groupings, but the secondary definition I found pretty much placed the nomad in a similar position as an individual wandering traveler. So, I guess it's all semantics The main thing is we know who we are and what we're talking about.

      Okay on your Class C. I've vacillated between a van, Class B, Class C and a behemoth Class A. I've ultimately ruled out the behemoth Class A (unless one day I'm rich and famous and can afford to buy and support a custom Prevost bus conversion complete with driver LOL). I haven't found a Class B that really trips my trigger. A small Class C might, someday work for me. But, for the time being, I'm a vandweller. I might move up to a slightly larger gas fueled short bus (21' to 23') someday and do my own design, layout and custom build in. But, that's for the future, I'm happy with what I have right now.

      As far as you backpacking days and the current time. I hear you, brother. I was never into backpacking or tent camping. But, I slept in the back of my '67 Mustang fastback, my '65 VW microbus, my '65 Chevy van and my '78 Chevy conversion van to mention a few. So, I'm in a comfort zone in vans. But, that could change.

      I'll check out your blog and leave you some comments.

      Happy trails,

  2. I had never identified with the word vagabond until this week when I was explaining to a casual acquaintance that I was finally ready to put my house on the market. They started asking too many questions that I was not ready to reveal the answers to just yet, one of which was where was I going to live. I answered "anywhere I want to". This went back and forth a few times without me giving a straight answer until they finally said "so you're just going to be a vagabond". I slowly smiled and said yes, not 100% sure of the dictionary definition but reasonably sure it was not meant as a derogatory reference. That was the first time I had really stopped to think about what my plan was and what word best described it. Thanks for adding to that clarity of thought by explaining the difference between nomad and a nomadic lifestyle verses being a vagabond. -Jimmie

    1. Hi Jimmie -

      Hey, Bro, Nomad, Vagabond, all words to me - just don't call me "late for chow." Isn't it interesting how people are looking at you - many probably think your nuts. Others will tell you they envy you - but they really don't or they'd find a way to make the decision and do it themselves. They won't! They have more reasons (excuses) than Carter has little liver pills. Just remember, Jimmie, it's not about what you call yourself or what anyone else calls you, it's about whether you're happy and free as you want to be that matters. That's really why you're doing it and for no other reason.

      Keep in touch and I'll look forward to meeting up somewhere on the highways and byways.