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Where is Home for a Vandweller?

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This little creek was very near my campground in the Sierra NF. It’s beauty will remain in my heart forever and it will always be “Home.”

I’m typing this on-board a Delta Airlines flight from Salt Lake City to Anchorage, Alaska (but I am posting it two days later). I’m flying “home” for a mini-reunion with my son and my mother. It makes me think of the strange relationship full-time vandwellers have with the concept of home. When your home is on wheels, and all you have to do is turn the key to be in a new home, where is home?
For over 40 years I called Anchorage, Alaska home. My family moved there in 1961 and I lived there until 2006 when I retired and left. My definition of myself was as an “Alaskan.” So that must be home, right? But I haven’t been back since, and have lived in literally hundreds of places since then. So how can I be going home?
Sometimes you hear vandwellers say, “Home is where the wheels are!” And that seems like a pretty good definition of home. But what if you sleep in a different place every night? If that is true, then I have had as many as 20 homes in a single month when I was traveling extensively. Was each of them my home?
Maybe it depends on how long you live in one place? For example, in the last 4 summers I worked as a campground host and spent the entire summer in a campground site. So was that my home for 5 months? On weekends I would drive my truck camper into town and spend the night there, but I don’t think it became my home because when I was done in town I would turn to my dog and say, “Let’s go home.” My weekend camp in town wasn’t home, because it didn’t feel like home. Every week when I got back to my camp ground, there was a deep knowing of it as home.
No, for me, home is not where the wheels are, in fact it isn’t even a place, it’s a feeling. Above everything else it is a connection to a location. I can’t easily define what that connection is; maybe it is a sense of “love” for a place. Or maybe it is simply a familiarity caused by spending so much time there. The best way I can describe it is the old saying “Home is where the heart is.” It is a place you thrive in when you are there, and miss and long to return to when you are not. It is a place you are bonded to.

This little lake just outside of Anchorage is full of special memories for me. I especially remember playing with my dog there and watching him swimming around. That dog is now buried in the backyard of one of my homes and part of my heart will always be there with him.

How many homes can we have? I believe the number is unlimited. I’ve come to feel sorry for people who don’t travel, and only have one home. If home is where the heart is, the more homes you have, the bigger your heart becomes. It expands with each new experience and each new connection. Your heart becomes fuller and richer.

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” ~ Miriam Beard

 Soon I will land in Anchorage and be home to the place I know better and feel more connected to than any other. But in two weeks I will get on another plane and fly back to the Sierra Mountains, which is also my home and the place I have spent the second most time in my life. I am a better, happier person for the effect they each have had on me. I’m already looking forward to all the new homes I will find in the coming years. Maybe one day we will share a new home together. Bob


  1. Tim McDougall

    I read something once that went something like this: Home is a place where you feel you belong.
    Bob, have a nice vacation.

    • Bob

      That’s a good one Tim, I like that! Bob

  2. kitty alone

    Home for me has been the Hudson Valley between Beacon and Saugerties,New York. For 40 years I have lived and worked and played in this beautiful valley . We have a long estuary known to the first people as Maheakanuk, the river that flows both ways; to the Dutch settlers as the North River and later to the English as the Hudson River. We have bountiful farms, charming towns, small industries and a glowing arts community. There are mountains for hiking and lakes for boating and swimming. I have lived here in apartments, a converted chicken coop, a house and now in a van that I live in. My home is in the beautiful Hudson Valley where my heart resides.

    • Bob

      Hi Kitty, you print a lovely picture of both your home and your heart. You are a very good writer! You’re lucky to have such a wonderful home. Bob

  3. Nelda

    Bob, not that I’m silly but when I saw
    “Home is where the heart is”
    I just had to add an “R” to “Home”
    “Homer is where the heart is.”
    I thought you’d like that.
    I’m sure he misses you as much as you miss him on this trip

    • Bob

      Hi Nelda, YES!!”Homer is where the heart is!” It’s pretty amazing how deeply bonded we can become to our animals. I do miss him terribly. Every day I am still going for a walk and when I head out I think of Homer. It’s very strange to walk without him.
      Cheri says he follows her everywhere around camp. My poor best friend, I’m sure he feels abandoned and alone. Of all feelings, that is the worst one as far as I am concerned. Fear is the second worst feeling and he is a very fearful dog. Every change and new thing upsets him. So it is a good thing she is there to love and care for him in this time of fear and loneliness. He is in very good hands!
      See you at the RTR! Bob

  4. Greg

    Kitty, I second that emotion. Home for me too is the Hudson Valley!

    • Bob

      Greg, sounds like you and Kitty may be neighbors. Maybe you should get together for coffee! Bob

  5. CAE

    Great photo of the creek!

    • Bob

      Thanks CAE, I am very pleased with that photo. It was a very unusual circumstances that allowed me to get it. The Sierras are very dry all summer, very little rain. So by fall, this little creek was down to just a trickle. The colors were beautiful but the creek was practically gone, so there wasn’t a picture. That year the sky opened up and it POURED rain (in fact it set a record for Fresno, 13 inches of rain in 24 hours). So all the creeks were full and running fast. I grabbed my tripod and DSLR and ran right over there once the rain stopped.
      The key to a shot like that is a very long exposure. I think it was at least a 2 second exposure. That’s what gives the water the silky appearance. Bob

  6. Calvin R

    Bob, I share much of that, except that the place I spent my childhood never was really home, and none of my family live there now. I have other homes spread around with different memories attached to them. The other definition of home comes from (I think) Mark Twain: home is where they really know you and they still love you.

    • Bob

      I know exactly what you mean Calvin. I love my mom, and love going to see her in Florida, but Florida has never felt like home to me. So it isn’t just a matter of how much time you spend there. It’s that connection to people and place. Just because you lived there doesn’t mean there is a connection. Bob


    like the old saying, you can never go back home!.want’s you leave.shame on you for not going to see your mum,have a good time with your famity traveler.gary

    • Bob

      I think there is some truth to that Gary. I am now back home, and everywhere I go there are millions of memories, but it’s not the same. It feels really good to be here, but there is still a sense it is not home any longer. Home is very odd because it can both be “home” and “not home” at the same time.
      My mom retired and moved to Florida long before I retired and left. Oddly enough, even though I have been there many times visiting her, I don’t think of Florida as home. I don’t feel any connection to it. of course I love going and seeing her, but not the place itself. I think that’s because there are no mountains. I must have mountains!

  8. Steve

    Good subject Bob… Hmmm I am one of those people who have fought hard in life, I had it all and lost it all do to no fault of my own… Life is fickle, it is definitely not fair, but well worth living… Home for me is definitely where my 4 wheels stop turning, no matter where that may be…

    • Bob

      I’m very glad that our wheels have been stopped in the same place. Your being there makes it home for me too! Bob

  9. Rodney7777

    Your site reminds me of my experience of living in a 1962 Lincoln Continental for one summer in Minneapolis Mn. I had a house there, but I rented it out. The whole summer was a total adventure. My first day out, I searched for bathrooms and overnight parking. Soon I was parking at night in a commercial/residential area. Picturesque, with tall bushes right beside the car for nighttime #1. No one bothered me at all. My favorite clean up spot was a huge bathroom in the basement of the Van Dyke hotel downtown. It had a side door and I rarely saw anyone in there. I gave out the number of a phone booth that was on the edge of a parking lot right next to Lake Harriet. I would eat deli and fast food meals at a picnic table there and make calls and some days I would get a call or two. I got to explore my own city, which was great, as I found interesting places I had known nothing about. I met a stunning beauty at the Farmers Market, who thought it was hilarious that I was living in my car. We eventually bought a home together. It was already my habit to work a high paying job in the fall. I usually had a choice of short term contract jobs. Having a choice was important becasue I would choose a job that would end around Christmas, because for 40 years, I always went south (usually Mexico)for the winter. Come September I sent out my resume with my phone booth number and the P. O. box that I had gotten months earlier. I monitored the phone booth more closely week days and I soon had an out of town job that paid per diem. That was a great summer and a heck of a lot of fun. I am approaching 70 now and for the last few years, my wife of ten years and I have went to Las Vegas for the winter and lived in a comfortable travel trailer, towed by my pick up truck that burns propane for $2.00 a gallon (2012 price with road tax) for $16 a day that is close to everything. If the need arose, we would have no problem living in an RV. Thank you for letting me tell my story and just as mentioned on Bob’s site, not only was there zero stigma, I was out, living with the people, which is, as I found out, much more natural.

  10. hitekhomeless(jenn)

    Glad that you will be “home” tomorrow. Hope you have a safe trip.

    • Bob

      Flying cheaply (if you can call $500 cheap) from Alaska almost always means the “Red Eye.” I left Saturday night at 1:00 am and and made it into Fresno at noon on Sunday. LOOOONG night. Flew to Seattle, changed planes, flew to Salt lake City, changed planes and flew to Fresno. Makes for an “interesting” night! Bob

  11. Charlene Swankie (aka SwankieWheels)

    I came down from the mountains last Sat. (9/22/12) evacuated by the Forest Service due to a rapidly advancing fire. After two days working in my supervisors campground, I got laid off due to low camper visitation (made $59 the week before the fire and $67.50 the week of the fire. So today I went to Verizon to get my new wireless internet device… and they asked, “Where do you normally live?” and I pointed to the white van in the parking lot (the one with the yellow kayak on top) and said “Wherever that van is at is HOME!” I am so very happy to be back on the road again. Four months in ONE place… maybe I won’t do that again. See Website link for photos of my summer, etc.
    So glad you (Bob) and Homer have Cheri. I am sure she and Tony can keep him from going nuts. Enjoy your family.

    • Bob

      Charlene, like you I was always really glad when the camp hosting season ended, but the amazing thing is that by spring I was actually missing it and was glad when it was time to go back. Maybe that will be true of you also. OR, maybe NOT! Be sure to sign up for unemployment, Colorado makes it very easy to do it over the internet.
      Homer did very well with Cheri. I was so glad she was there for him. Are you planning on wintering in Quartzsite? I am planning on getting there as soon as it cools off and I can get my arm settled–probably in late October or early May. Hope to see you then!! Bob

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