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How to Be Healthy as a Vandweller: Mom's Advice

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Today we are going to look at some ways to stay healthy on a road trip. Your first thought probably is, “Who are you to tell us how to be healthy?” The truth is that I’m nobody to be telling you anything about health! I’m not a doctor, a nutritionist or even a healthy person! For those reasons, we are going to stick to common sense things that we all already know.
Being healthy isn’t a mystery! Most of us older folks already know everything we need to know right now about how to be healthy.  “How,” you ask? We learned it from the wisest people ever: our mothers!
It used to be that mothers fulfilled the role of the ancient storytellers of the past. They were the repository of the age-old common sense wisdom of human history as to how to live a healthy and happy life. Unfortunately, for the most part they no longer have that role, instead we’ve turned it over to “science.”   The problem with that is science is often wrong, constantly changing and generally self-contradictory. For example, for a while science said to eat low-fat, hi carbs, (eat an egg and you will get sick, eat bacon and you will die on the spot!). But now that’s changing. Today it’s just the opposite, now its high protein and low carbs instead. Who’s right? These contradictions occur so often that we get confused and throw our hands up and say, “I’m going to have a bag of chips!”
My recommendation is to stick to the old truths that worked really well for a long time. If you are over 50, you literally learned everything you need to know about how to live a long, happy, healthy life before kindergarten from your mom.
Unfortunately I’m aware some of us didn’t have mothers that were wise or loving and hearing their voice in our head is not a positive thing. If that’s true for you, try to create an idealized image in your mind of a new mom. Maybe a grandmotherly image of someone who is very wise and extremely loving who only wants wonderful things for you. In your mind hear her encouraging you do simple things that will be very good for you. Maybe you don’t love yourself enough to take good care of yourself but see if her love and concern for you doesn’t encourage you to do it for her.
You don’t have to change everything overnight, instead just make simple steps that build on each other. Basically, just do what your mom told you, simple things like:
“Go outside and play!!” Those are the wisest words ever spoken! They alone will totally change your life. There is a lot of science backing up the fact we need more sun than most people get. Also, there are hundreds of studies demonstrating that being in nature and will make you both healthier and happier. Anything you enjoy that gets you outside and moving will make your life better. Consider these things that will cost you little but will be great for you:

  • Hiking
  • Walking
  • Backpacking
  • Bicycling
  • Photography
  • Geocaching
  • Bird Watching
  • Gold Prospecting
  • Hunting or Fishing

“Have fun!” How many times did you stand at the door on your way out and yell, “I’m leaving now mom!” and then your mom answered, “Have fun!” Your mom is smarter than every scientist! That’s the ideal prescription for a happy, healthy life. If there is no fun in your life, you should consider making changes.  The sad truth is most of us  honestly don’t know what to do for fun, if that’s true, make a determined effort to make a connection with your inner child and find something that is fun for you.

  • Laugh: Laughter is so good for you that I encourage you start looking for every opportunity to laugh. I consider my Direct TV subscription to be a medical prescription for a long life because I ‘m always getting a laugh out of it! The same with my Sirius Satellite Radio prescription—lots of laughs from it!
  • Organized sports: Baseball, football, soccer, golf, disc golf. All you have to do is find a friend and go outside and throw or kick the ball around with a friend.
  • Movies, Live Performances, Concerts, Comedy Acts: Whatever you enjoy, get out and do it.
  • Shooting or Archery
  • Riding a motorcycle
  • Play games

“Be friendly and make friends.” Many studies have shown that social connections are critically important for optimum health. For example, married people are healthier and live longer than singles even with all the added stress of marriage. They could have saved some money and just asked your mom! While the majority of vandwellers tend to be loners, I’ve found many of them make more deep connections as hermit vandwellers than they ever did while living in town surrounded by people. I know that’s true for me. Here’s some way to make connections:

  • Join a forum and make friends. Of course my forum is your best choice because there are so many like-minded people there! But here many others to choose from; whatever your hobbies and interests, there is a forum for it. Make friends there are try to make actual connections at get-togethers and gathering such as my RTR. Find it here:
  • Social Media. Connections over the internet may not be ideal, but they are still very helpful. Whatever your preferred site, make friends there.
  • Muster up your courage and go up to and make friends with other vandwellers and RVers you see around you. There everywhere and the odds are excellent they want to make friends with you just as much as you want to make friends with them!

“Feed the dog and take him for a walk!” Taking care of and sacrificing yourself for a pet will drastically improve your life. This is another truth proven by numerous scientific studies. So many, that now dogs are being recognized as actually therapeutic and are being taken into hospitals to serve as medicine! Humans need purpose and meaning in their lives and having a pet to care for can provide it. Consider this a prescription for your best health by getting a dog.
“Eat your breakfast, your brain needs it.” Oatmeal, eggs, and toast, an awesome meal. Would your mother approve of what you’re eating for breakfast?
“Don’t forget your lunch.” Have a healthy sandwich for lunch and some fruit; for example, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat and an apple or orange. If your mother saw your lunch would she scold you or hug you?

“No junk between meals.” One thing moms say about food more than any other is “Don’t ruin your dinner with junk!” If you can take this one piece of common-sense advice you will change your life. Mom was so right, if you eat only the sugary stuff you won’t be hungry for the good things and slowly you will shift to eating more bad things and less healthy food and you will find yourself gaining a lot of weight, being obese and yet slowly starving yourself to death because you don’t eat enough food with any real nourishment. I speak from first-hand experience!
The solution is to make eating a balanced healthy meal your highest priority!! If you need to eat snacks between meals, make them as healthy as possible.

  • Healthy breakfast, energy, or granola bars
  • Fruit, fresh or canned
  • Trail Mix or nuts
  • Yogurt
  • Healthy crackers
  • Peanut Butter

“Eat a healthy, balanced dinner.” Mom usually had a small amount of protein, some carbs, and a vegetable in reasonable portions. She knew the importance of a balanced approach to diet and avoided extremes. She also tailored her menu to the family so her family enjoyed the food as much as possible but it was still as healthy as possible. We should be doing the same.
The problem with today’s massive amount of misinformation is so much of it is extreme, all-or-nothing thinking like Vegans with zero fat or Paleo with no carbs.  That is seldom the best for anybody, most people will do much better with a balanced diet; a reasonable amount of animal protein and a reasonable amount of good carbs is best
However, everybody is different and there are a few people who should eat an extreme diet like those above. The key is for you to keep an open mind and be willing to learn from the opposing camp. Be willing to experiment and try different ideas and see if your body thrives or suffer on it. Maybe you need to put an emphasis more on healthy carbs or on animal protein. Maybe your body is one of the few that need all-or-nothing. The only way to know is to experiment.
“No desert until you eat your vegetables even if you don’t like them!” Moms knew that real food was better than fake food so she put real vegetables and real potatoes and real meat in front of you. Because she loved you so much, and she was on a budget, she tried to serve you the best she could. She did that by making everything from scratch so that it was both delicious and very healthy.
Love yourself enough to limit processed food to the absolute minimum you can. Of course I know that processed food is cheap, fast to make and tastes pretty good. I’m as addicted to it as anybody and probably more than most. The simple truth is I don’t love myself enough to treat myself the way I deserve. I’m going to devote myself to loving myself as much as my mom and my Higher Power loves me and to eat in a way that will bring a smile to both of their faces.
Deserts are a small reward for eating a balanced, healthy meal.” Most of us grew up in a time of limited budget so for that reason there weren’t a lot of sugary sweets around. But mom instinctively knew that all that sugar wasn’t good for you and she loved you enough to restrict the amount you ate. Try to envelope yourself in that love and incorporate it into love for yourself and restrict your sugar intake out of love for yourself.
Go to bed, you have to go to school tomorrow!” Again, science has proved your mom so right, not getting enough sleep and rest is very unhealthy for you and simply adjusting some simple things about your habits can probably help you get more and better sleep. I worked third shift for much of my adult life which means I went to work at midnight and  got off at 8:00in the morning. That was very bad for my health and so I read some of the research on it and it is all very clear. The closer you are to 8 hours of sleep every night the healthier you will be. The further you vary from the human norm the less healthy you will be.  I’m no expert on this but do a Google search on “how to sleep better” and you will find all the information you need to sleep better.
That’s just about everything you need to know about being healthy! But in the next post I want to include some ancient wisdom handed down in the Far East that has proven to be effective and that will compliment your mom’s wisdom.


  1. Linda Sand

    You made me laugh (see number 2) but these are oh so true. Thanks for helping me relearn these lessons.

    • Bob

      Linda, thank you, I’m sure you passed all this wisdom along to your kids!

  2. Silvianne

    Thanks for the post, Bob. Very timely, I’ve been working on getting back to simple, healthy eating the past couple of weeks. I loved the image of the kindly grandmother in my head–I think this will really help! I had organic black mission figs for my mid-morning snack today–heaven on earth–“granny” was definitely smiling along with me.
    There is growing evidence that sugars and carbs actually create an addiction to themselves in our bodies… the more you eat of them, the more you crave. So, putting the effort into breaking the addictive cycle can really pay off, even though it is a challenge!

    • Bob

      Silvianne, I suspect your “bad” eating is better than most of our “good” eating! 😉
      I think you’re totally right about the physically addictive nature of unhealthy foods, especially sugar and empty carbs. I also believe it can be a “behavioral” addiction along the lines of gambling. There is no doubt in my mind that many people are addicted to overeating, binge eating or bulimia/anorexia and their best hope lies in the 12 steps and especially Overeaters Anonymous.
      Can’t wait to see you again!

  3. Jackie

    This is excellent! Common sense…oh yeah..I forgot…sense is not so common anymore. Thanks Bob….

    • Bob

      I’m afraid you are right Jackie. I’m afraid we all know the right thing to do for our health it’s just so hard to do it and so easy to do the wrong thing. I know that’s the true for me!

  4. James

    I’ve been following your blog for years, and this, I believe, is your best post yet. Good on you!

    • Bob

      wow, thanks Geodoc!

  5. Man On Run

    Thanks for the post on this, one of my favorite topics. I paid zero attention to my health until my ex left and sent me spiraling into crisis mode! One thing I noticed after tracking all my meals and exercise on My Fitness Pal for a long time was that no matter how much effort I put into it, I was consistently doing double or triple the recommended amounts of sugar and half the calcium. That darned sugar is everywhere! And I finally found that having an extra yogurt and using certain cereals like Chex helped with the calcium.

    • Bob

      man on the run, that is a great tip on the app and I’m also a big fan of yogurt.

  6. jonthebru

    My Mom would approve. I have no problem listening to her in my mind.

    • Bob

      I’m glad to hear that jonthebru!

  7. Patrick

    Bob, I think you should charge for this post. It ‘s better than doctor advise. Two thumb up from me.

    • Bob

      Thanks Patrick! But the credit all goes to my mom! Right mom!

  8. Calvin R

    Good stuff, Bob! I am doing relatively well with much of this and using a sleep lab to work on that issue.

    • Bob

      Calvin, I’m glad to hear your health is doing well!

  9. Slowpoke Gypsy

    You’re right, Bob. Nutrition is a confusing area. A few years ago my wife and I came across the work of Dr. Joel Fuhrman, eminent doctor, nutritional scientist and New York Times best selling author. His books, including “Eat to Live”, “Super Immunity”, “The End of Dieting” and “Disease Proof Your Child” changed our lives forever. We haven’t been sick, even for one day, since we began following his advice.

    • Bob

      Thanks Slowpoke.

  10. Sameer

    What a fantastic read this morning! Thank you, Bob. Wake up, long walk with the dog, COFFEE!, short walk with the dog…A great breakfast to feed the brain and body! What a GREAT LIFE!

    • Bob

      Thanks Sammer, that is a great life!

  11. jim

    I work for a guy one time who had a massive heart attack after he got better and was about to check out he ask the doctor what he could and could’t eat the doctor told him if it taste good spit it out your not supposed to have it.

    • Bob

      Jim, I’m not sure I would go that far. I love many fruits and many of them are both delicious and extremely good for you! Nuts in moderation are very healthy and taste great. I think buffalo burgers are delicious and very healthy.
      But the point is fundamentally sound. Our bodies crave sugar, fats and salt so they taste exceptionally good to us and yet they are exceptionally bad for us.

      • Linda Sand

        Fats are not all bad for us–just the vegetable based ones. Without fat in your diet your body cannot process the fat soluble vitamins. Put a little real butter on your real vegetables to get all the goodness out of them. No, eating potato chips does not count as having a vegetable.

        • Bob

          I agree totally Linda, but I’m staying out of that particular fight. I just say eat a balanced diet which means eating some healthy fats.
          I sure wish chips would qualify as a vegetable!

      • Brian_and_Jesse

        Only some fats, Bob. Cod liver oil (CLO) and flax seed oil (FSO) should be a part of everyone’s daily fare. A teaspoonful of CLO three times a day, and two tablespoonfuls of FSO (taken at the top and bottom of the clock) will do a wonderful lube job on your body, detoxify it, and help to regulate your system.
        As little as one teaspoonful of CLO can (and usually does) pull a person out of A-fib. It’s amazing stuff! There are lots of studies on good-for-you oils easily accessible via Google.

        • Bob

          Thanks Jesse.

  12. Silvianne

    Thanks, Bob, can’t wait to see you again, too (and all of my road tribe)! Don’t know if you noticed but I FINALLY started up on our little project again–I got through the solar list this week–yeah! Should be done before I leave here for the road…

    • Bob

      No hurries Silvianne! I have another project for you this winter if you are interested.

  13. Silvianne

    Definitely interested… will be looking for waiter work (or whatever!) when I get to Quartzsite in November, so would love to supplement that with a “Bob’ project… I have very fond memories of working away in the van last winter with Layla looking on…

    • Bob

      Me too, Silvianne, it was fun! When are you heading toward AZ?

  14. Silvianne

    I’ve given notice for the shop for the end of October. However, not much happens after Balloon Fest in mid-October, so I may leave as early as the third week of October if I have everything cleaned up and the money saved to wander south through southern Arizona a little… so, either way, I should be in Quartzsite by the beginning of November… hoping it will be cooled off sufficiently by then! When will you all be there?

    • Bob

      Silvianne, I’m going to the Festival of the Cranes at Bosque del Apache NWR in New Mexico. I’m taking some seminars so I will be there Nov 18-23. When that’s done I’ll go to Quartzsite.

  15. Silvianne

    So cool that you’re doing this–I know the Bosque is a wonderful place!

    • Bob

      I’m really looking forward to it. The cranes bring photographers from all over the country and so they offer many photography seminars and I’ve signed up for several. I’m really looking forward to it!
      I’m thinking about staying at Cottonwood till the Festival, that might be about when you are headed toward Qzt, if so we could caravan together.

  16. Silvianne

    that would be really cool if it worked out… although we might have different ideas about the “ideal roadtrip” LOL. I was thinking of taking the southern route from here and stopping in Faywood Hotsprings for a night (between Deming and Silver City). It does cost about $16-20 for the night but that includes full use of soaking pools as well as a sweet little campsite. I do love to soak in hot water! (I know from your blog this is not really your thing)… other than that I have no big agendas… we’ll see how the timing works out as it gets closer…

    • Bob

      Silvianne, right, who knows what we’ll be doing in 2 months. It might as well be 20 years as far as my plan making goes.

  17. Walt

    As a vegan myself, I hope you aren’t lumping all of us together. There are plenty of sources of protein other than from animals, and there are plenty of natural fats in foods (someone mentioned nuts) without adding it when cooking. We aren’t perfect in any of that regard, but we are working to reduce our intake of processed foods, which includes processed fats (cooking oils, for instance) and processed carbs (bread, pasta, etc.). My wife has found she can lose weight eating lots of potatoes but gains it when eating bread and/or pasta. So not all carbs, proteins, and fats are created equal. Food for thought, as it were.

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