I’m posting this on Thanksgiving day but the truth is I’m not a big fan of our traditional Holidays and I try hard to have nothing to do with them. I’ve been hosting a Thankgiving Dinner for the last three years but I only do it as a special gift to a tribe of people I care so much about. I’m not really interested in keeping traditional Holidays in any way but I know many of us suffer at the Holidays because of baggage we carry from our past and wounds inflicted by our society. Our Holiday gatherings are an effort at healing those wounds and creating a new family and a new hope for each of us. They are a celebration of the new, not the old
But for some reason this Thanksgiving I’m going to break my tradition of ignoring the normal Traditions and tell you what I’m grateful for. Like nearly everything about me, it will not be totally normal, in fact it will probably be rather odd! I wanted to find a quote to use for this post so I found the one you see at the top of the post and it was the only one that moved me. As you may know, I love quotes and I’m always looking for a good one to help guide my life. When I saw this one I knew what I had to write about!
You see, I’ve never been a happy person, and what’s worse I never saw any reason to believe I would ever be happy. For most of my life, if I felt any gratitude it was only that things weren’t worse than they were and that I had the strength to endure the struggle and unhappiness of life. I was never seriously depressed, but I was chronically on the sad side. I made it through life as best I could and I think everyone who knew me would have said I was just a normal, average Joe. Inside, I was one of the Thoreau’s mass of men that led lives of quiet desperation.
There is little good to be accomplished by going into my long sad story, I think the majority of us have some wounds we carry with us. What’s odd about mine is I’ve never been able to identify why I should have been such a broken person; I had good parents and a good childhood (I am very thankful for my mother!). I’ve come to believe it was mainly an accident of genetics that I was born with a propensity for fear and unhappiness. You’ve probably heard of Type A or B personalities? Once I read about a Type D that was a personality that was always slightly depressed. No one else knew, but that person knew. I think I was born with a Type D personality
Now here’s where it gets strange; today, I am more grateful for the unhappiness of those “bad ole days” than I am for anything else in my life. Out of the darkness of those days I was finally willing to do anything to change my life and I began to search for a solution with my whole heart. Without the hurt to drive me, I would have just kept enduring my life and living in mediocrity and drudgery.Unfortunately, I think that describes the great majority of people, although certainly not all. They aren’t happy, but they aren’t miserable. They are caught in a gray area of simply being and surviving. Their lives aren’t bad enough to compel them to make a change, but not good enough to live a full, complete life.
I’m Most Grateful for my Pain!
The pain in my life is what finally forced me to make changes, no matter how extremely difficult they were.
- It forced me to reject the religion of my youth that failed me.
- It forced me to take a searching and fearless examination of myself to see how I had brought all the pain into my life. I created the pain, it was never inflicted on me.
- It forced me to admit for the first time that I was not able to live a good life on my own and I needed help and guidance.
- It forced me admit my faults, and turn to a Higher Power for help overcoming them.
- It forced me to continually depend on a Higher Power for strength and guidance.
- But the greatest gift my pain gave me was forcing me into vandwelling. The other things showed me how to live, vandwelling was a way of life that finally put it all together and broke the “civilized mind” that was part of destroying me.
With these above gifts, I’m able to handle anything life throws at me with grace that comes from somewhere outside of myself. When I did those things a literal miracle occurred in my life! My entire life changed from one of continual hopelessness, to a life of continual hope and often of joy. For the first time, I was happy, and confident that I could always be happy, if I would only do the necessary work .
What about you, have you had a “Dark Night of the Soul” where the torment of your life simply compelled you to do whatever it takes to find a way to make your life better? If you have, and you found a way out, your pain is the most valuable thing you will ever have in your entire life! It is the thing that you should forever be most grateful for.
Having heard from many of you, I know that you have not reached the depths of despair that I did, that your pain is not as great as mine. The good news is that it can still be your greatest gift. It will be harder than when the pain is greater because you will not yet have reached the end of your rope. But all pain is given as a gift to teach us that something is wrong and we need to make corrections NOW! Listen to the pain and embrace it!
Just like your body often gives you warning signs when something is wrong and a physical disease is growing, your soul gives you warning signs when something is wrong with it. And just like the best thing you can do for your physical health is to go to a doctor and get warning signs checked out as early as possible, when your soul is in continual “dis-ease”or discontent with itself, you need to treat that as a warning sign of an oncoming cancer or heart disease. It literally is a dis-ease of the heart, only it’s your souls’ heart and not your physical heart.
I believe that vandwelling can be part of the healing solution for many of us, because a deep connection with nature is the most powerful and soul healing force on this planet.
If you’ll listen, and make changes now, you can save yourself years, even decades of wasted life that you will only regret.
Thank you, Bob. That is a great statement of spirituality. I would rather take time to digest this and discuss it another time in person than try to sum up my response here. See you down the road.
Same to you Scott!
Thanks Calvin, I thought of you as I wrote it and knew you would be able to relate.
This is really interesting, and I’m sure many of us solo full-timers see ourselves somewhere in this post. One of the most important things to me is to have choices. I used to say the best thing about money is that it gives you choices. But our freedom on the road also does that, whether we live on very little money or have more to spend than what we need. I’m grateful today to have so many choices. I look forward to meeting you in January. 🙂
Barbara, I agree totally! Choices equate to freedom and freedom is the must fundamental need of the human heart. I wish you many choices in your life!
See you soon!
Being unhappy, (depressed, sad) – whichever phrase or term applies – has shown me, as it’s shown you that something isn’t right.
It was always such a frustrating thing because I got bad enough that I knew I was dying, but that was not acknowledged beyond those that would suggest I wanted to be depressed and should have anti-depressive chemicals. I’ve no doubt those things work for some, but that wasn’t my specific problem. When I began literally wasting away due to stress and exhaustion which brought on the beginnings of adrenal failure, an MD finally took note and I got a hand-up in the right direction.
I was out of work for over a year and the stress mostly disappeared. I lost my business, I was in a tiny apartment, I didn’t have a pot to whiz in or much of a window to throw it out of possesions-wise – but I was happy(!) and I realized I had never really been happy before. I lost my religion also in the time it took me to recover – about 18 months or so – the faith I’d been brought up to believe for 40 years. Gone. That‘s quite an experience, isn’t it? It certainly wasn’t something I had ever saw coming.
I’m a traveler, an explorer, a loner. Most crowds distress me greatly and I don’t do well in cages. I pace and I come close to chewing my own arm off to get out. I’ve realized that the traditional job (where you stay in servitude for 40 years to try to pay for your home which you’re never at because you’re always at ‘work’, because that’s just what people do) depressed and made me unhappy and I’ve realized that the burdens of a house and all the ‘things’ weren’t making me happy, either, just more frantic and unhappy. I’ve been caught in repeating job and situation ‘loops’ – as in trying the same things over and over and having the same weirdly unsatisfactory results – because I needed to learn it’s NOT what I’m supposed to be doing.
Those dreams of living the way everyone else does weren’t my dreams. They were the dreams I was programmed to believe I should have.
I know I had to go there to get here. I needed that stress and illness to make me sick to pry open the door to begin to let my mind free first before I could free the rest of me. I’m part way there with the rest and being able to live the way I wish. It was a shock to realize that I didn’t secretly ‘want to be depressed’ as others would accuse, in fact, I love to be happy; it just took a lot to learn what it was for me and how to get there.
Having you to cheer us on and being so encouraging has been…invaluable. Some of us don’t say much but we are here. When my religious faith disintegrated I was astounded to learn there were actually others who have left their faiths as well. And as I go along I see that there are also others like me in other ways where I had always previously felt to be a misfit. Thank you for your website and encouragement.
magicWolf, thank you for sharing your story. For nearly all of us, the details are different, but in some way we didn’t fit in.
The world keeps telling us there is something wrong with us, but my message to you is that we are the normal ones and the world is messed up.
My message is simple, insist on being happy, whatever that might mean to you. And while you are searching for it, give serious consideration of the simple, mobile life.
Thanks for sharing. I am glad that you were able to overcome those obstacles. I am a loner and figured out what got me there. I come from a broken home and was raised from around 13 to 18 by a single alcoholic parent. I wouldn’t bring “friends” home for fear of what I would find when I got home. I have done pretty well in life despite the things I had to endure. I guess the thing that bugs me the most is how people that think they know you, but don’t know what you have endured will pass judgment on you. I have been labeled “insecure”, “self-centered” etc. by people who know me casually.
I am drawn to the lifestyle you skillfully described in that documentary. I am sure what I have been through helped to get me there. A few more years of the drudgery and I will be free. Thank You for providing this blog it gives me hope of one day fleeing the rat race.
Greg, I think of myself as being in the hope-dispensing business. Having been there myself, I know that sometimes hope is the most important thing in the world.
There’s hope for you. You can and will be happy.
Keeping with the theme of Bob’s message, I am thankful for having toughed it out on cold nights in my van without heat. For 18 months of being a van dweller, I stubbornly refused all suggestions to get a little heater. My van is somewhat insulated and I have a ‘ton’ of covers which will keep me warm.
Here in NV working for Amazon on night shift, I sleep mostly during the day when sunshine warms the van. Crawling into bed at 5AM when the foam mattress is like a cold brick was the worst part of my day.
Just a few minutes of discomfort until I fell asleep…most times before I got a warm spot, I’d be so exhausted.
Then there was my night off when the temp overnight was 8*
OK time to give in.
But no Little Buddy Heater. That would not warm my bed. Because I am in an RV Park, I have access to electric. I bought an outside electric cord and an electric blanket!!!
I can be toasty warm sitting w/ it around me. Oh How I Love My Blanket!!! Being warm is such a lovely feeling but I wouldn’t appreciate the joy of it’s warmth nearly as much if I hadn’t tolerated cold nights sleeping w/ everything covered but my nose in an effort to be warm.
Sweetheart, shall we file this under “hit yourself in the head with a hammer because it feels so good when it stops hurting.” 🙂 We’ll have to take some of your huge savings from Amazon and get you another battery so you can use your electric blanket here. Although it should never get that cold in AZ.
I love you!
Now that Mr Wells is something to be thankful for! I was discussing at noon how darned cold it was today here on Maui. It was 70 inside the house! Thats freezing to us. Drag out the blanket and wear socks around the house.
I for one am happy you have found your peace Bob.
I also am thankful for some wonderful weather here, it hit 80 yesterday and today and the nights cool off very well.
Today peace is my most valuable possession and I will do whatever it takes or costs to keep it.
Such a funny man! I adore you!!! Just a bit over 3 wks and I’ll be home.
Judy, the only good thing about being as busy as we have both been, is that the time has flown by so fast! Soon I will be giving you a big hug!
Taken out of context, the statement “I am grateful / thankful to be living in a van” would sound like a tragic situation to be in for most people but…
After reading your blog over the last few years and seeing what this frugal lifestyle has afforded you freedom-wise and all the new experiences it has made possible for you…I can see why your so passionate about it.
As you know I also am choosing to trade some comforts in exchange for freedom. After 14 months this lifestyle has become my normal and I know the sacrifices I am making will give me a year of freedom to travel and reconnect with the desert next winter.
*So I guess I’m thankful for this discomfort and I’m thankful for the weirdos in this world like you who are willing to question conventional wisdom and help others if they choose this option. Peace.
Openspaceman, I can relate to the idea that vandwelling is a tragedy, that’s exactly how I felt when I was forced into it. Of course after a few months I not only came to accept it, I fully embraced it as a superior way of life.
It’s amazing the power the idea of comfort has over us. We’ll give up nearly anything to have it and live in terror at the thought of losing it. Given the choice of a mediocre and unhappy life or the loss of some comfort and security, we’ll take the mediocrity every time. We are very strange creatures!
Of course I believe you have made a very wise choice, freedom is more than worth some minor discomfort.
I am unsure who said it, and i am paraphrasing a bit. The idea that those who trade security for liberty deserve neither. I think that comfort could be one of those. I am a bit of a nomad, with a wandering soul. I still have my faith in God, but He doesn’t call us to live unhappy lives. I really like nature and have always longed to be in it, even if I didn’t know it.
I meant, those who trade liberty for security deserve neither.
Happy Thanksgiving Bob. Thank you for shareing on a day that seems longer with no family as the years go by. I do think of every one in RTR I read from as a proxi family and many others I find online as well so to everyone out there my fondest Hello and wishes to be happy and safe thru the Holidays now and future wise.
Robert, it’s easy for some people to mock personal internet connections but I don’t. I’ve made some wonderful friends over the internet and known many others who have made life-long friends online. A connection is a connection, no matter how you make it. Pretty often, people are more honest and open online than they feel they can be in person.
I wish you the best!
Thanks for the inspiration Bob and hope you and the tribe had a great turkey day. Sorry I won’t see you this year, its my turn to work on health issues now but second on my list is to get back out on the road again, I really miss my home all over the western US. Keep on Keepin’ on.
Bob, your family/tribe is larger than you know; and we love you!
M, one of my goals in life is that when I die as many people as possible, when they hear the news, they will say to themselves, “I’m sorry to hear that, he was a good guy.” That’s how I measure a life well lived.
Instead of living in fear of my death, I spend every day embracing it and preparing for the best death possible. I learned that from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. One of the wisest people I know of.
Another thought-provoking post, Bob. I always enjoy your writing.
Just a couple of weeks ago I saw a documentary on Netflix called Happy. In it they said that 40% of peoples’ outlook on life was due to genetics, and only 10% was due to circumstances such as income and health. That leaves 40% that we can control. Americans were very low on the happiness scale. In Japan they have a word for “death by overwork” because it is so common now. I think it is the pursuit of things that leads to most peoples’ unhappiness. And I believe you’re right, that the threat of a loss of comfort or security terrifies most people into accepting painful circumstances and never making any changes.
I feel I was born with an optimistic outlook. I know I could still be happy if I lost all my possessions. I have a couple of serious illnesses but I’m still grateful for the things that I do have and I very often thank my lucky stars.
I wonder if people need to feel big pain before they make big changes. Is that the only way?
Peggy, it has been big pain that has brought changes in my life, nothing else has worked. But i think I’m more broken than most.
On a regular basis I met people who are not in big pain and yet have chucked it all and moved into a van. I really admire them for that kind of courage and I must admit I don’t have it.
I deeply respect all of you that have done it!
I think you’re very courageous. You couldn’t write the posts that you do without courage, IMO. I wish I had that kind of courage.
One day I’ll be living the mobile life, I just know it!
What a beautiful post. Where it could be perceived as sad on the surface, it is, infact, triumphant because you have listened to your soul and honored it by choosing the path of beauty and freedom in vandwelling where nature has created your cathedral. A true inspiration.
Thank you Sharon. You said that beautifully!
Nice post Bob. I think most people could deal with their problems if they feel there is hope. Maybe your situations are not exactly like others but many times we can learn from them as well. Always good to read your posts. Jan
I agree Jan, the details of our lives are all very different, but underneath we tend to be people who are looking for love and a true connection with others. But the only way to truly connect is by opening up, and that is a very scary thing to do! So most of us remain alone in our hearts and heads longing for someone we can trust and be authentic with.
It is not an easy life.
I believe you are right – each of us has a “back story” that is not shared frequently or indiscriminately. Your willingness to share some of your story with all of us continues to inspire me. I am retired from a stressful worklife and happier than I’ve ever been, although I haven’t made the kind of transition you and your blogmates have. I will continue to enjoy your blog and hope to meet you all some day in some far-flung place. Keep up the good work.
Barngirl, I consider it a privilege if I can contribute to your life in any way I can. Authenticity is so rare in our world, that I try to display it whenever I can.
I have read virtually all your blog articles and enjoy them very much.
After your website migrate to the new host, it is more difficult to find a particular archived articles.
For example, if I want find an article listed in July 2012 tab, I have to click the “older posts” 12 times to reach the end.
It will be much help if you can list the main title of these 12 articles under one page.
I remembered there is an article about purchasing land in Arizona. It is highly appreciated if u can point me the location of this article in your blog.
Thank you in advance,
Mathew, your right, the search function on this system is rather poor. But to be honest I don’t remember writing a post on buying land. I bought a piece of AZ land and talked about it in the comments. But I don’t think there has been a post on it. I’ve been meaning to write one for a long time but I don’t think I have yet.
Here is a page on homesteading. Could this be what you are looking for?
Thank you, Bob – I am so looking forward to meeting you. Your words are an inspiration to me, as I struggle through this time in my life.
Ruby Lee, I’m glad to be of some small help in your life. Jut don’t get your expectations up too high. In person I think I am rather underwhelming.
ThanK You Bob for the wonderful Thanksgiving dinner yesterday. And a salute to Chef Steve who prepared it. Bryce
Thank you Bryce! Without your support it would never have happened. I owe you!
This is truly inspiring and touches my soul and heart. So I want to say I am grateful for this wonderful lifestyle and living in Nature where my Soul is at peace. I am also grateful for ‘My Good Guru’, from who I have learned so much, and changed my life into something I celebrate everyday.
Thanks Sameer! Knowing how well you are doing is all the reward I could ever need!
Love, for me, is a key thing. I think that so many people live the fast paced life and forget to love, even to love themselves. I don’t always like myself and I know that i’m not always loveable. Those that have seen my nitroglycerin side know how unloveable i am at that time.
The teachings of Jesus emphasized love and caring.
Magicwolf I enjoyed your comment. I am glad you got free from your 40 year religion. from now on enjoy the fredom in your mind.
Hey, thank you Larry. I mentioned it just to show that for me it was the beginning of being able to think independently and the beginning of being able to consider non-conditioned possibilities that I had not previously considered. Like Bob, I’ve always felt vaguely sad and depressed (I think for me much of it is stress, boredom and unfulfillment) and I always wanted to go…be free but I never really had a name for that vague longing. Nature, on my own, is one of the things I find most soothing. I probably didn’t make it clear in my previous comment but I’m counting the days to start a new life. I’ve made many large changes in the several years since I was sick; some good, some probably not so good, yet necessary because they’ve been a slow progression up to realizing that perhaps I should stop trying to live everyone elses’ idea of a ‘traditional life’, wondering in puzzlement why I’m still not quite happy. I have a little 13′ trailer in my driveway waiting for me. I really wish for a van to pull the trailer with and I have things to wrap up before I can go. The pull to go now is so strong it’s overwhelming at times, once I realized it is a possibility. I wouldn’t have that possibility without having become ill which loosened the dam.
Bob, this is a powerful post. I am thankful for the work you do to encourage those who might be in desperate situations and feel they have nowhere to turn. I can only guess how many people you have helped with your book and blog. Keep up the good deeds.
Thanks Pete, I really do try.
Thanks for your prompt reply.
Do u still remember where your comment is, about the AZ land purchase?
Or do u mind sharing again the approx location of that piece of land?
I remember it is about certain distance south of Grand Canyon NP.
Bob, I will have to admit, you are right about people being consumed by material things. This time of year really reminds me of that. I am disgusted at the way people run out and make fools of themselves on the so called black Friday sales. They literally scratch, and claw, push, shove, and fight with one another to get these things. One minute they are sitting around the table giving thanks for what they have and then the same day they are fighting with their fellow human beings over things they don’t have, yet.
I dislike and am depressed this time of year anyway. This sort of thing just makes it worse. I kind of wish there was a place I could go for the 5 or 6 weeks where there were no lights, sales, and so called xmas joy.
Steve, we’re all addicts to consumerism. Religion may once have been the opiate of the people, today it’s consumerism. The hallmark of every civilization is that they have to find a way to distract and pacify it’s members so they never have to truly face themselves or their lives.
Steve, it’s either the red pill or the blue pill. If you read this blog, you will be confronted with the choice and. Indecision is a choice.
I’m thankful that my breathing is restored to normal. About a year ago my breathing became very difficult. When I took a deep breath the coughing started and could last for hours. After many inept doctors and specialists we finally found the doctor who made the right prognosis and cured me.
It is so nice to take deep deep deep breaths. One can’t live without breathing. That’s what I’m thankful for.
Opa, that is a wonderful thing!
Wow, That really hit home for me.
Magicwolf, you hit the nail right on the head for me as well.
Thanks for all your insight.
If my life experience can help anyone else, that makes it worth it all. If we are willing to be honest, we all have a lot to offer.
Bob; Thanksgiving in the AZ desert sounds wonderful. I was there in spirit.
I’m hoping you or your readers might have advice about what I can do to preserve the rubber roof on my 14 year old travel trailer. It has a network of fine cracks all over the surface, none appear to be all the way through, but I have had to repair some places using that self-leveling caulk. Does anyone know if Kool Seal would work to coat this roof? Maybe there is something else I should try? Any solution must standup to Florida’s rainy summers. Pam
Pam, I’m sorry but I know almost nothing about RVs. I suggest you join my forum and post this question there. You’ll get great answers and help!
Thank you for the improvement on the listing function of archived articles.
I managed to find the article about AZ land purchase under the this artitle “2013 Year in Review: Lessons and Photos”.
Like you Mathew, I hated only having 1 post show at a time in a search. Now it shows five and that makes it much easier.
I forgot all about that post, glad you found it!