In my continuing exploration of the lessons I learned from living on the road for seven months technomadically..
Lesson 2: Adaptability
A personality trait that I’ve enjoy observing in others is how adaptable someone is. I’ve witnessed partners and friends who have a preference for adapting their surroundings to their liking, and I’ve known others on the opposite end of the scale who seem to be able to adapt to whatever is around them. For instance, my partner and housemate of 7 years – Fritz, went through our house when we bought it and installed light dimmers on practically every switch so that he could have control over the lighting levels in every room at any time. And while I greatly appreciate this feature of the house, it’s not something I would have personally put priority on or even thought of to change.
I’ve surmised in the past that I’m a fairly adaptable individual, and can adjust to new surroundings fairly easily. But I’ve also known that there are certain things I just like to be able to count on.
Some of the areas of concern that I had about hitting the road was questions such as:
– Where will we sleep at night? Obviously in Tab, but where would Tab be parked each night? Would we always be able to find safe camping, and could I get used to always being in a different place each night? I was immensely nervous about the concept of boondocking, and was not sure it would work for me.
– How will we have access to bathroom facilities? My bathroom facilities are probably some of the pickiest things in my environment – I love hot showers, a nice flow faucet in a spacious sink, a place to hang my towel to dry and comfy clean potty. The only facilities that Tab offers is a small chemical toliet for emergencies and a cold water faucet. This would indeed be a big break out of my comfort zone – depending on public facilities for months on end.
– Was I really as adaptable to environmental conditions as I thought I was? I have seemed to have a larger range of temperatures that are comfortable to me than some of my former housemates. Without having air conditioning, and traveling in variable climates – was I fooling myself?
– Would I really be ok being in motion constantly? I have always loved to travel. I was traveling on my own across country by age 12, and to other countries by age 15. Wanderlust is in my blood.. but the actual motion of getting places has always been a nuisance for me. As a youngster, I suffered from pretty severe motion sickness. I learned through mediation, peppermint and learning to let go of my need to be in control as I grew older to circumvent it for the few hours necessary to get to where I wanted to be. Traveling for months on end though.. could I do it without lots of stress?
And the results
In the first few weeks of our journey, I obsessed over having a place to sleep at night. I wanted to know how far we were going in a day of driving, so I knew where to look for camping opportunities. I would call ahead to potential campgrounds to make sure there was availability. I would get agitated if we stalled too long in one location and didn’t make it to where I had planned for us to stay at night.
My first night of true boondocking was in south central Utah on BLM land. We had spent too long in Moab that morning, and it was getting dark and we were tired. We weren’t making it to our planned destination – but we were passing through public lands, and could theoretically boondock off the beaten path. Actually, it wasn’t my first time boondocking – our first date was technically boondocking on Treasure Island – but I was naive and it was a first date. So this was my first night boondocking.. knowing what it was. I was totally freaked out that night – afraid of being awakened during the middle of the night by authorities or nearby land owners or pirates. I spent the first hour parked looking online trying to find proof that we were on BLM land and it was ok to be there. That still didn’t pacify me. I sleep on and off throughout the night, and awoke to a nightmare around 6am of the police knocking on the door. Chris humored me, and got up early for us to make our departure.
After seven more months on the road, I laugh at myself in those beginning weeks. Finding a safe place to sleep at night became something as normal as deciding what to have for dinner. I learned the ins and outs of boondocking, finding cheap/free camping and was able to let go of being so worried. There were options all around if you just knew where to look. Soon, catching a few hours sleep in a rest stop or in a Walmart parking lot became a comfortable fall back plan. And I quickly learned that finding the free camping options usually resulted in some of the most stunningly amazing views.
Climates rarely were a concern for me. We experienced some pretty extreme conditions out in the Nevada desert in July – 110 degree highs with 9% humidity for 5 days straight. I did reach my limits there, and was surprised with how long I was able to tolerate it. We had no air conditioning in Tab, just a vent fan and a mister bottle (which helps a great deal!). We did however have a propane furnace – which started having problems when we were in Yellowstone. We did sleep a couple nights where it was around freezing temperatures outside without a heater. And you know what.. it wasn’t that bad with lots of blankets and cuddles. And it’s amazing how much heat a laptop puts off *grin*. Being back in Florida and not being able to have the windows open no matter the temperature (because of red tide) has felt really odd.
I also surprised myself with how easy it was to let go of the need of having access to a ‘civilized’ restroom. I learned that the first 24 hours of going without a daily shower are the roughest, but if I could get past that – a baby wipe was all I really needed. Going a week without a shower while we were in travel mode became no big deal. (I certainly wasn’t going to be socializing heavily in that state, and oh how I loved that first chance at a hot shower!) I actually quit using shampoo for my hair totally by October, and switched to just a bit of baking soda a few times a week with an occasional apple cider vinegar rinse. And even now that I’m back in my house in Florida, I haven’t felt the need to switch back – my hair feels healthier! And as far as a potty? Ya know what, a flush toilet seems like a complete indulgent luxury now. When living off campgrounds in the western part of the US – a vault toilet became my gold standard. If there was one in reasonable walking distance – I was completely comfortable. And for the most part, I could even go without that, my folger’s can became a liberation for me like a gatorade jug is a for a guy. (And of course, there are always the bushes.)
Being in constant motion was a variable factor for me. If I was feeling well grounded and excited about what we were seeing – the motion was a non-issue. I rarely actually felt motion sick in Jeep (a great testament to Chris’ driving). But there were definitely times where I craved being put in one place for more than a couple of nights. It wasn’t just the motion though; it was all the mental energy of navigating, finding camping, the set-up/take down (even after getting it down to a 2 minute task) and just wanting to soak in the amazing places we were seeing, instead of just passing through. And yes, there were times when seeing another freaking awesome mountain/canyon/river/forest lost its luster over just being stopped for a bit with time to catch up on e-mail.
Other areas that I surprised myself in my adaptability was in the social versus alone time we had. While in areas we knew people, it would be constant social time – which I did pretty well with. When we were traveling between those locations, we would be weeks on end with just the two of us. And that was completely comfortable too. Sure, in each situation I would reach an overwhelm point and either crave alone time or time with other people.. but I got through it just fine.
I learned that I was equally amazed at being hundreds of miles from civilization and enjoying amazing natural views, as I was being in large cities and marveling at architecture, culture and civil engineering. I never did adapt to liking traffic tho.
All and all, I would say I surprised myself with how adaptable I was able to be. Sure, there were moments where I pushed the absolute edge and could go no further (and heck, even tempted to book a flight back to Florida) – but how else is one to find where their limits are without really pushing beyond your known comfort zone?