Once again, the Homes On Wheel Alliance has changed the life of two people — for the better. Debbie and Barbara were each the fortunate recipient of nomad-ready minivans, as well as several days of instruction, mentoring and companionship. Here are their stories.
“I had been struggling with affordability and not being able to find anywhere to live that I could afford. Prices kept going up, my pay wasn’t going up, and I was just at the very very last place that I could afford. And then that wasn’t going well, so I took a place that cost 90 percent of my income because I needed somewhere to be. And it was in a bad area. I knew it. I wasn’t comfortable with it and I just had to tell myself I’ll just have to adjust and do my best because it’s my last option. You know, not wanting to move in with adult daughters and their families and their children and that kind of thing. It just makes this not a good situation. It’s hard on everybody.
“So I did look at a car I had that was just barely going, and my only clear other option was to try to do something with that.
“I could see I was getting lowered a notch all the time. It was like you’ve got to find out where people with small incomes go once you get priced out. But I didn’t have any idea where that was. And I watched tiny houses videos. I know people that have them. It’s just been decades that I have been entertained and interested in them, and learning things about them. Then I came across van dwelling, you know, and nomads and living a small life that appeals to me — but with wheels — all in one package. Well I thought that was fantastic! I didn’t have any plans whatsoever how I could make it happen, because at the end of the month there’s nothing left. I couldn’t make the plan. I just really had an interest in it and thought it was really smart and was really exciting for folks doing that.
“Then the opportunity popped up that you too could have a chance at it. Here’s your chance. I wouldn’t have guessed in a million years that it would work out in my favor. It was really a rescue.
Can you describe how it felt to come here and then arrive here and what the last week and a half has been like for you?
“I’m afraid not. I mean I’m never at a loss for words, but surreal isn’t a big enough word. It’s quite unexplainable. Getting here is a whole thing, you know, because I’ve been on the inside looking out. I want to be outside but stuck inside. You got to stay safe. I don’t like being held hostage by these unmanageable circumstances.
“I don’t even know where the bravery came from, really. When I talked to you and Bobbie, I was like, oh… I just couldn’t even process it. I still haven’t, and that’s been a month ago.
“I feel like a helium balloon that’s had a weight tied to it and I’m just sort of bouncing around the desert, you know, tethered to a string, freer than I’ve ever been in my entire life. It’s like it’s a divine orchestrated situation. I dig ‘strange’ and this is way beyond my strangest imaginings. It really is — in a good way.”
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“I was living in Ecuador for financial reasons and met various travelers who inspired me. I started watching videos about world travelers and through that ended up seeing a lot of Cheap RV Living videos, and started to really ponder over the last four or five years how I could do the best of all worlds. Initially I started out by giving up my rental home and living with friends so I could save money. I saved money and took a trip to Europe by myself to visit a cousin, and traveled around with her some. I thought, okay I can do this as long as I don’t spend money on my daily life.
“Then I discovered volunteering through Workaway. I just had to save the money to get there and then everything was provided. I thought, okay that’s workable, but with a bad back I’m limited to what kinds of volunteer work I can do. So I started pet sitting through Workaway and that was wonderful.
“Then I just started really missing the Southwest. I’ve lived in Arizona and New Mexico various times and really wanted to be in the sun and visit friends and family out here.
“So I really really started watching a lot of Cheap RV Living videos and thinking, you know, those women got minivans and maybe I could apply for that. But it took me several years to actually do it. I finally decided I didn’t want to live in Ecuador anymore and I wanted my home base to be here in the United States and still once in a while go visit my my family in Berlin. And so I just put my application in and, voila, here I am.
“Once I got the call that I was going to be a recipient I immediately rented a car and just headed out and stayed in a couple places on the way down here. I got to what I call HOWA University and immediately we started learning and having fun in equal proportions.
“I think it’s a really cohesive team, a very cooperative team, and if someone forgets to cover something one day, because we get distracted, they cover it the next. It’s very much a university experience, I think, because the guidelines we followed were very well thought out from experience. So it’s been a delight. It’s been mentally challenging, more than anything, because I haven’t been in school for a really long time. And it’s very important that we know all of it so it’s been a great time.
“Number one is just my my very ground level knowledge of how to use my solar, and how to check every morning, and how to figure out what to do if there’s not sun that day. The training from Steve the mechanic was super thorough and he really gave us a lot of extra details of things to be to be aware of and to check on on a regular basis. He’s an excellent teacher. Every day has been full of really good information presented in a very organized manner.”
As you as you look at the month ahead of you what do you see yourself doing?
“Entering this new lifestyle initially is going to involve resting my brain a bit so it can congeal all of this new information into a format that is easily accessible when I need it. So some down time, definitely. I feel lucky to have invitations to go camp with our mentors and trainers and continue to learn in an informal way.
“It’s day by day living, you know, just doing the best you can for yourself that day. That’s something I really look forward to.”
Get the complete story of Barbara’s Astro minivan here, here and here.
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None of this would have been possible without the generous donations from the nomadic community, the donation of the Astro van and new tires by Richard and Amy, the repairs by Silver Star Auto, and the donation and installation of the hightop by Fiberene. To make life even more comfortable and convenient GoSun donated a GoSun Kitchen which includes an oven, cooler and solar panel.
Donors Amy and Richard, Gonzalo Rico of Fiberine, and the people of Silver Star Auto
I would like to know more about HOWA university, as you call it. I think it is a great idea and that people would pay for the knowledge imparted.
Debbie’s story resonates with hundreds of thousands of people around the country including myself! This country is in need of median income housing for the people working in fast food, restaurants, theme parks, hotels, grocery stores, parking lots, hospitals, banks, schools, etc, that are the backbone of this country! There’s low income housing for the poor and the lazy! Why not the median income people?
We never speak negatively about anyone, because we are not in their shoes! All low-income housing recipients must meet strenuous government regulated rules, and guidelines. So, don’t think because people finally got chosen for housing that they are somehow getting over, cheating, or unworthy, because they gave up something to finally get that rental unit.
They don’t own it, and they don’t have the American Dream, being stuck in housing!
Blessings on everyone involved in this project!
What a joy I got from reading these 2 women’s experiences! Diverse backgrounds and reasons for joining the nomadic lifestyle shows other freedom dreamers true possibilities. I lived bored but coping, dreaming as I watched years of CRVL videos. And here I am fabulously rich from natures beauty. Thank you, Bob!