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Civilized Versus the Nomad Mind

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Is this what you were born to be and do? No! We're all been brainwashed to be cogs in a machine, tools of production.

Is this what you were born to be and do? No! We’re all been brainwashed to be cogs in a machine, tools of production. That’s the cost of our lives of luxury and iPads. 

One of the questions I get all the time is people asking what vandwellers do with all their extra time.  What they really want to know is “What will I do with myself once I have free time, won’t I be bored silly?“
My standard answer is that there will be a subtle change in your heart and mind and your whole way of looking at the world will start to change. Right now, nearly all of us have what I call a “Time-Clock” or “Civilized” mind and it’s the reason why you feel a constant pressure to be “doing” something. In fact without a job, chore or project, many of us are unhappy and ill at ease. Becoming a vandweller can be a drastic shock to your whole way of life and many people find themselves very uncomfortable in the beginning.
The good news is that for most of us it goes away with time and a renewed connection with nature. What’s happening is you are transitioning out of a very toxic and unhealthy way of living and thinking and into a natural and healthy way of living. The discomfort is your mind resisting the mental toxins from leaving your body. After a lifetime of brainwashing it’s adjusted to them and is rebelling at their loss.
Maybe you’re thinking, “How can Bob know what’s normal for us, this is the way people have always lived and the way they always will. Vandwellers are the weird ones!”
The truth is that if you study Anthropology and look at the long-term history of humans, the way we live now is totally unlike the way humans lived for 99.9% of their history—it’s very unnatural. No child was ever born or grew up looking at their watch. Unfortunately, you and I we were born into a society that is obsessed with productivity and optimal use of our time and as children they pounded it into our heads. Our indoctrination as units of production starts early in childhood and has continued every day since.
The time-clock mind in all it's glory and splendor. Bob

The time-clock mind in all it’s glory and splendor.

For most of human history children were allowed to be children living care-free and happy lives–but not anymore. When I was a kid we were allowed to be children for the first 6 years of our lives, then the brain-washing started, but for many of us, even those days are gone. Instead, parents are packing their preschooler’s every moment of every day with activities designed to give children a head-start on their “productive” lives.
Once we enter school at five years old we fall under the spell and tyranny of the clock. Many of us became trained to stare at it waiting with bated breath for break time, lunch time, and best of all, going-home time. Then we get home and we have to negotiate with mom or dad about homework, chores and projects, hoping we’ll get some time to watch TV or be on the computer or a video game. For the next 12 years at least, our formative years are used to mold our little brains into being worker bees; drones in the hive that work hard and fast.

Produce or be Punished is the American Way

Eventually we enter the workforce and our transformation from human being into a tool of production gets serious. We either work or we don’t eat, if we aren’t productive enough we’re demoted or denied promotion–maybe we are simply fired.
Ultimately the clock dominates our mind and we stop seeing ourselves as people, we are simply units of production, our worth and our merit is determined by our slavish devotion to the almighty clock. No wonder you hear so many stories of people who retire and a few years later they’ve died. Without being productive, they have no value or importance to themselves or to anyone else. They lose their reason to live.
That’s not how humans were born to live, it’s totally abnormal and unnatural to every one of us. It’s no wonder modern civilization is plagued by depression, addiction, obesity, suicide and stress-caused disease. We’re people being forced to live as if we are ants or machines

How are we supposed to live?

For 99.99% of human history nearly all of us were Nomadic hunter-gatherers. We were extremely close and dependent on nature and because nature is so cyclical and constantly changing we were forced to ceaselessly be on the move to match it. Whether we wanted to or not most of us had to move regularly because of:

  • the seasons,
  • animal migration,
  • climate and geologic changes,
  • population growth,
  • inter-tribal conflicts

Humans faced evolutionary pressure just like all the other creatures on earth and over the millennia humans became more and more selected to be nomadic and adventurous. Those of us that could adapt to the constant and often severe changes were adaptable and could easy move when it was required. Those of us who fell in love with the movement and developed a sense of adventure not only survived but they even thrived and passed their Nomadic genes on to their children.
Evolution has selected humans to be Nomads; our environment and natural selection instilled into humans not just the need and ability to be on the move, but the love of movement and adventure. It became a satisfying and wonderful way of life that affected all our thinking and actions.  We developed a Nomad Mind.
Then, 10,000 years ago, humans discovered agriculture and domestication of animals and we stopped moving and settled down to one place. Suddenly we started to live in the future, planning for crops and future plantings, “Do I have enough surplus to get us through the winter, if not, who can I get it from.” That had two disaserous results:

  1. They stopped living in the moment and started living in the future. We became clock-watchers. That allowed constant fear and worry to infect and poison their hearts and minds.
  2. They started accumulating lots of stuff. Until then possessions had been a burden they didn’t want and didn’t care about, but now things became valuable treasures to fight, steal and die for.

The inevitable result was cities, states, nations and finally civilizations. People who wander around can’t build cities, governments or economies so they needed to be made to conform and become “good productive citizens”. And so we have traditions, customs and schools that beat the sense of curiosity and adventure out of us and instead makes us drone-like ants in lock-step following the “American Dream”. Our old ways of thinking and feeling no longer worked so we slowly developed a whole new mindset and worldview called the Civilized Mind.
Farming meant we were no longer free to roam and travel, it meant we had to obey laws. As capitalism developed the laws of the market place became the dominate power over our lives and now it is our absolute LORD and MASTER. Society summed it up as being “Good productive members of society.” But it really meant we became:

  • wage slaves,
  • worker drones in a hive
  • cogs in a machine
  • rats in a maze
  • no longer human beings, simply units of production,
  • tools to be used

Whether we like it or not, or are even aware of it, you and I have a civilized mind, but written into the core of our being is a Nomads heart. It literally is written into our DNA and 10,000 years of civilization is a drop in a bucket compared to how long we were Nomads. That’s what creates our conflict with a civilized life, it isn’t normal and natural for us! Many of us are terribly dissatisfied with our mundane lives of drudgery because our Nomads heart is still very close to our surface.

If you go on the Road, be Prepared for Some Discomfort

The very fact that you are reading these musings of a crazy man who is urging you to get rid of all your stuff and move into car, van or RV is strong evidence that you are very close to your Nomad heart and mind. The reason you feel this strong urge to become a Nomad is because it’s literally written into your DNA, it’s your normal, natural human way of thinking!
Give in to it!
Perhaps you’d finally be happy if you gave into your normal, healthy instincts! I believe you will! However, it’s important you be prepared for an unexpected initial reaction.
When we stop working and move into a car, van or RV everything about your life changes and you start living like a nomad again, but you still have your civilized mind that wants you to be PRODUCTIVE above all else. But nomads aren’t productive, they are free and happy. Your civilized mind hates that!!!!!
Every moment of your life you were told it didn’t matter if you were happy (being happy is only for when you are old) the only important thing is that you be productive. Suddenly you’re happy but not productive and your mind rebels at that and demands that you DO SOMETHING!! Do anything!! because you are a tool, a machine and all your value comes from production. Happiness is totally irrelevant–production is all important. That’s insane thinking taught to you by an insane society:

  • The civilized mind is insane
  • The nomad mind is sane

By moving into a vehicle, you’ve returned to your normal, natural mind and eventually you’ll regain your sanity and the insanity of civilization will slowly drop away. But it can be very difficult and unpleasant to make the transition and you have to be willing to go through the chaos that will reign in your heart and mind while the poison of civilization is leaving you. The Civilized Mind is very toxic and by disobeying it and not producing but being happy instead, it will punish you and you will be miserable for a period of time.

Being in nature is the only thing that can help. Very slowly it will bring you healing relief from civilizations insanity.

Being in nature is the only thing that can help. Very slowly it will bring you healing relief from civilizations insanity.

There is nothing to do but go through it and let the toxic poison of the civilized mind out of your heart and mind. Then, for the first time, you’ll find true peace and contentment as a Human Being.
Hang in there, it’s going to be worth it!

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  1. Phoebe

    This has to be one of the most inspiring and agreeable posts I’ve ever read! It came at a perfect time, too – I’m starting my vandwelling within the next month 😀
    I’m very grateful for my upbringing, as I was moved around a lot and was taught the value of being free and avoiding the 9-5 slug.
    In particular, “nomads aren’t productive, they are free and happy” really resonated with me. I think it’s really important that we appreciate the moment, instead of worrying about the future and trying to amass a huge amount of ~things.
    I can’t wait to hit the road and embrace the nomad in me. I’ve lived off the grid before, and quickly noticed that my creativity and general appreciation for life increased dramatically.
    I think it’s something everyone should do at least once in their life, instead of just accepting what society tells them to do. Forget the American Dream, and live your own dream. Life is too short to just be a cog in an ever-expanding wheel of “meh”.
    Thanks again for the fantastic post, Bob! It really reinforced my belief that this is the right thing to be doing. All the best x

    • Bob

      You are very wise Phoebe!

  2. white trash

    In my travels, I like the personal idea that I am not interested in being domesticated or civilized, but rather a feral, free roaming animal.
    Thanks for the insightful post!

    • Bob

      White trash, you and I think exactly alike!

  3. Calvin R

    Right. Potentially, a little understated because most of the world became agricultural in the last 2,000 years. Western Europe, around 400-800 AD. More recently in plenty of places including the bulk of this continent.

    • Bob

      Thanks Calvin.

  4. Rob

    This is good Bob, it helps.

    • Bob

      Thanks Rob, I try!

  5. William Lawson

    As usual and expected, your hammer strike rings true as you once again hit the nail firmly on the head.
    I look forward to each and every one of your posts and I thank you for your insightful encouragement.

    • Bob

      Thanks William, I appreciate it!

  6. Claudio

    Lots of truth in here, again.
    „Then, 10,000 years ago, humans discovered agriculture and domestication…“ which was like a rebellion towards nature, not accepting nature’s rules (of survival) anymore and wanting to produce their food themselves, in order to become more independent, starting an exponentially increasing exploitation and destruction of nature for their own interests (as opposed to other animals) and, lastly, the annihilation of the conditions on our planet under which we are able to survive. Mother Earth won’t give a …. when we’ll finally disappear, perhaps she’ll smile…
    BUT, who knows, perhaps we’ll have a wonderful world of vandwellers to prolong our existence here, instead 😉

    • Bob

      Claudio, you and I think exactly alike, maybe you can be President of our new world!

      • Claudio

        🙂 that’s really nice, Bob (obviously you prefer walking your dog, enjoying nature and peace and taking beautiful pictures than ruling…), but probably this half-spaghetti (sorry for my English by the way, rebellion AGAINST..) will have a look at the situation on our planet from some star high above, hopefully seeing a happy off-the-grid population down here, leaving in peace and harmony with nature and each other. Perhaps they’ll have some kind of solar or other pollution-free vehicles/RVs by then…

        • Claudio

          living, not leaving…grrrrrr

          • Bob

            Darned pesky keyboard!

        • Bob

          Thanks Claudio! A pollution free RV would be really nice!

  7. Jeff Agueda

    I have been following your Blog for several years Bob. It has helped me break free and start my Nomadic Life, I thank you very much!
    I enjoy all of your content, but the last three blogs have been especially great for me. I am curious if you could recommend a book or two to read about unlearning from conventional living, or other helpful books. Thank you very much for all of your time.

    • Bob

      Jeff, that’s a good question but I can’t think of anything right now. I’ll think about it.

  8. Mark Lopiccola

    Next time you hear the phrase “Time is Money”, reject this. “Time is Finite”, because once the moment is gone, there will NEVER be enough money to buy it back.
    Thanks for another great post Bob.
    Mark L.

    • Bob

      Very wise, I agree Mark!

    • Ming

      good thought! Must remember that one as something like that has been rattling around in the back of my mind the past few years.

  9. Cae

    It is interesting to note that over thousands of years many groups or tribes of people spent less than 4 hours per day providing for food and shelter. Check out anthropological studies of aboriginal people today….societal functions tend to be what they mostly do. But even the “work” is a group activity. Seems like modern society is pretty far removed from that model.
    I remember wondering what I’d do with my time if I didn’t work. Well, It’s been about 12 years since I had a normal job and I can’t imagine how I could ever go back.

    • Bob

      Me too Cae, me too!

  10. Sameer

    Time to think…Time to experience true Freedom. A satisfied Soul living in Nature and all of it’s beauty. I love my Nomad life. It is pure Joy! Wonderful thoughts, Bob. Thank-you
    Winslow, AZ

    • Bob

      Thanks Sameer, you are an inspiration to me!

  11. Mitchell

    Thank you, Bob.
    I particularly like the poster or whatever it is at the bottom of your post. A lot of wisdom in those sayings.

    • Bob

      I agree Mitchell, I was very impressed with it also!

  12. Al

    Hi Bob, well it’s been two months of stealth camping here in SoCal in our cargo van since relenquishing the apartment. One of us still works full time. Wife loves stealth camping. Sometimes however, I wonder if my wife and I are truly doing the right thing. Societal conventions get in the way sometimes. Also, do you ever have trouble sleeping out there and if so what to do about it? Your insights are much appreciated.
    Thx for the blog.

    • Bob

      Al, I did have trouble sleeping at first because it’s all so strange and foreign. But it got better with time and now that I boondock exclusively I sleep like baby. It should get better for you.

  13. joe

    Thanks for the thearpy I needed that big time the world can be tough on us so I feel your thoughts Bob enjoy and take care for now !!

    • Bob

      Thanks Joe.

  14. Gary S

    Thanks for another great post Bob!you truly speak to what many are feeling in their hearts,not only that my friend b/c people are now making the right choices for minimizing their lives from a controlled materialized brainwashing,it like you are reading our minds Bob, thx so much!
    PS, Full bathtub installation video IN A VAN Ford 350 extended Sunday 2/21/2016 Bob

    • Bob

      Thanks Gary.

  15. Jeff Johnston

    Thanks for the enlightening message!

    • Bob

      You’re welcome Jeff.

  16. jumpstart 17

    S.O.B tick, tick,tick. 17 months to go. great post Bob, right in line with my heart and mind. I started with waiting for 62, now moving up to 60 (17 months), if I keep reading these inspiring post, I will try to move THE DAY up. thank’s Bob

    • Bob

      We think just alike jumpstart 17, the time in NOW! But the 17 months will fly by and I bet you can keep busy till getting ready!

  17. Linda Sand

    The freedom to think and to feel is wonderful! Many of us had that driven out of us at an early age. Studies now show that letting children play and to participate in somewhat risky activities actually help them learn. And learning that they can trust themselves and depend on themselves is one of the best things we can teach our children. Here’s a link to a very short story I wrote about that:
    It is my experience that van dwellers quickly learn to trust themselves and to share their bounty with others.

    • Bob

      I agree 100% Linda, very wise!

  18. Carolyn and Charlie Deason

    You rock!
    Thank you for your encouragement and for ‘shaking our shoulders to WAKE THE HELL UP and BREAK THE MOLD!’
    CD and CD in Texas

    • Bob

      Thanks Carolyn, I appreciate that!

  19. Barbara

    Bob, This post is one of the most important pieces you have ever written about Nomadic life and the Human Condition. I am grateful to you for sharing this insightful viewpoint and making me recognize my true nature, the Nomadic Woman who has been tugging at my heart all along. You give me the courage to say that at 64 years of age, it is not too late to move toward a more natural life of freedom and creativity. Your helpful posts give me the information I need to plan my escape to a healthier lifestyle that will make me feel like I am finally home, to a place where I really feel I belong. Thank You!

    • Bob

      Thank you so much Barbara, I appreciate your comment a great deal!

  20. Greg

    I loved this blog Bob. My nomadic heart is being buried by my civilised mind. I did the car living thing during January but it was too hard for me. My car is just too small, plus I found it hard to sleep properly as I live in a city (in Australia), and it was affecting my health. Im now back in a small flat, and hope to get a van down the track. I’m doing what you did and only work 4 days a week now. There’s no BLM land that I know of in Australia, so it would be city stealth living mostly I guess.

    • Bob

      Hi Greg, I understand, I don’t think I could live n a car either, but I know many people who do and love it. A van makes it so much better, I think you’ll like it! There is a lot of wide open space in Australia, is it all private property? Can yo camp along the road if it’s in the middle of nowhere?
      Thanks, Bob

      • Greg

        Hi Bob
        Thanks for the reply. I think public land is called Crown Land in Australia, but I’m not aware of where it is, or if there are laws against camping on it. I’ll need to research it a bit more. Love the photos you post showing your travels. Looks beautiful, and your dog looks like he’s having a ball. Cheers, Greg 🙂

  21. Jeff Johnston

    Its funny where life takes you. One time I was reading a horoscope pertaining to the exact day I was born and it said that one of your best occupations would be a beachcomber. I was reading this while I was working a job I hated and while trying to maintain a household with all the nice stuff and my marriage to boot. Many years later I find myself walking on a Florida beach in Anastatia state park by myself after going through a divorce and a loss of alot of assets except for my pension. I own a simple van and a few essentials and find to my amazement that my horoscope turned out to be true! I am walking this beach in the utmost freedom of mind. It brings tears to my eyes (happiness) and yes I was meant to do this!

  22. Calvin R

    I have been reminded by my reading that one of the co-founders of AA and his wife, a co-founder of Al-Anon, spent most of the time from April of 1925 to Labor Day of 1927 on the road with a motorcycle, sidecar, and 7′ 7′ tent. She writes fondly of it in her memoir.

  23. Mark

    I shared this post on Facebook because it resonated with me. Turns out it resonates with a lot of my skydiving community as well. A lot of us are nomads. Thanks for the great article!

    • Bob

      Mark, I’ve only dived once, but when I did both the instructors who were jumping that day lived in their vans and said it was common. It makes sense that a mind that free of the conventional thinking could see the value of vandwelling.

  24. Michael

    Let me rephrase the question. What is a ‘Day in the Life’ like? What is a Month like? What do you do most days? What’s your schedule like?
    I think that’s really what the question was about? I’m curious as well!

    • Bob

      Michael, the answer to that would take a lot of explanation and isn’t very interesting. The simplest answer is that I work a lot every day on the blog, website, forum and videos.
      Your first thought might be how sad that is but it goes back to the old saying “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I’m obsessed with communicating to the most people I can that they have a choice, there is another way of life.
      I have some theories about why I’m so obsessed but some of them really are too personal for me to share. The largest reason though is a deep sense of empathy for just how unsatisfying most peoples lives are. I’m compelled to help them.

  25. Rich Curod

    Bob, what does everyone do regarding having some kind of medical insurance coveage when folks go and do the nomadic life pre 65 years of age? Currently, I am 62.5 years old and I want to leave where I am at which is on a 3mile long 1/2 mile island 9 degrees north in the pacific. It has ben a great run here, but time to go. The medical is what is holding me back. I intend to build out a 7×14 V-nose trailer.

    • Bob

      Rich, Obamacare should work for you. It’s my understanding that it’s based on your current income so when you leave your job the next year you can get Obamacare. I make 24,000 a year and they pay $350 a month of my insurance and I pay $50. If you make less than $10,000 a year they won’t give it to you, then you need to be in a state with Expanded medicaid where you get it through the state. No all state do it so you’ll have to research if your state does and if not move to one that does.

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