When I finished building my camper and finally set off into the world with it, I imagined myself picking up right where I left off. I remembered the feeling of flow and zen I had achieved towards the end of my travels in the van when I finally had it all figured out, where even when things went wrong it felt like everything was going just right.
I failed to acknowledge how different things were going to be this time. When I began my journey east, it had been over a year; I was a different person. I had a different rig with different pros, cons, and needs. It was going to take some time to slip back into the flow of things.
Heading out this time, I know better than to expect my journey to feel the same as an old experience and am open to letting it be a new, organic venture. I have been stopped visiting home for a lengthy five months and am now setting out with the accountability on my shoulders of holding down a job while travelling, which will change things for me immensely. I am ready to take things moment by moment.
With that said, I do still have some expectations set for this trek. I have a plan for my first month or so out west and I intend to stick to it, an optimistic venture based on my past findings.
It is day three and I am ten hours out from destination number one: Quartzite, Arizona. If you have been following along this probably sounds vaguely familiar to you as I have been trying to make it here for THREE YEARS. I am driving non-stop to attend RTR- a travelers’ meetup and convention. And I am finally going to make it.
I’m on a sunny highway road, desert on either side of me as far as I can see. New Mexico is repetitive and boring to drive through, and yet somehow beautiful. I am thinking to myself that for some reason, I feel like I could pull over anywhere in this state and just stay forever and I would be happy with that. The red dirt and the small-town feel would keep me entertained. I shrug off the thought and my focus goes back to my driving.
I’m listening to the truck humming along, when suddenly, I hear it. Silence. I’m still rolling down the road but the truck isn’t running anymore. I pull over and give it another go and it starts right up. I think its weird but don’t feel too concerned as the truck has never given me mechanical issues, it is nothing like Big Blu.
Even when it dies again and I have to pull off the highway, I still remain optimistic.
A dirty tank of gas I figure, blissfully unaware that the bad luck sequence has begun. I route to the nearest gas station to dilute my tank only to find the station abandoned. A trio of nice men happen to be loitering in the parking lot and fill my tank with some spare gasoline they have in their trunk. I start back up and figure I am fixed. Six minutes later, it dies again.
I get to the next gas station and fill the tank the rest of the way up. I check the oil, the fuses, the battery, the belts, and the plugs. Nothing is out of place. And yet, I can only get as far as around the corner before the truck plays dead again.
This sequence will turn out to be a $600 fix and 1 week-long hold up, rendering me absent from RTR for year three in a row. At least from here things can only get better and I make a new plan to set my direction. I have used up my whole paycheck and am unsure of the trustworthiness of the truck, but am setting out nonetheless.
Over the next two-week period I will lose reasonable function of my stove, fridge, heater, taillight, and just about the entirety of my emergency break. The front jack of the camper will be unexplainably knocked so far forward that the bolt will spiral right out of the siding and the pressure will shatter my front wall. It is situations like this that would cause a sane and normal person to think that the universe has spoken and this isn’t meant to be.
As a good friend told me:
“Everything you are doing is against the norm, so everything is going to fight you. Everything. You need to remember why you are doing this, it is to fight against the norm! So keep your head up and moving forward. You will get this fixed and things will line up.”
As it turns out, my friend’s words were true. I did not make it to RTR, money has been tight, and many of the mechanicals that went out in the camper are still only semi-operable. But my change in direction has led me to many opportunities and experiences that would have otherwise never had the opportunity to unfold.
I was able to tour the national parks of southern New Mexico including White Sands and Carlsbad Caverns. I had the chance to reunite with old friends from the road and make tons more as well. I volunteered at an art and music festival where my camper became a mini house party with amps and psychedelic lights set up inside. This event opened many doors for future experiences down the road as well. (Be sure to stay tuned!)
I had the opportunity to camp at an isolated commune outside of Tucson and enjoy the beautiful hiking and scenery in the area. I met a group of other full-time travelers and spent a weekend boondocking with them out in an airfield west of Phoenix. We attended a bizarre event miles down a washed out dirt road in a small clearing in the middle of the desert where people gathered to play with airplanes, paramotors, rvs, art, and explosives. A new friend in the group even allowed me an opportunity to have the exhilarating experience of flying on a paramotor trike.
And finally, the change in plans allowed me in essence to have no plans. Which leads me to where I am today. After spending time wandering and boondocking in an array of beautiful places throughout western Arizona and southeastern California, I have settled in to camp on the shores of the Salton Sea. I will be experiencing yet another lifestyle- that of a California State Park Volunteer and a camp host. This opportunity will allow me to get my ducks in a row before heading to my next destination, which I think you all will be excited to read about.