Author Archives: Blaize Sun

About Blaize Sun

My name is Blaize Sun. Maybe that's the name my family gave me; maybe it's not. In any case, that's the name I'm using here and now. I've been a rubber tramp for nearly a decade.I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. For most of my years on the road, my primary residence was my van. For almost half of the time I was a van dweller, I was going it alone. Now my (male) partner and I (a woman) have a travel trailer we can pull with our truck. We have a little piece of property, and when we're not traveling, we park our little camper there. I was a work camper in a remote National Forest recreation area on a mountain for four seasons. I was a camp host and parking lot attendant for two seasons and wrote a book about my experiences called Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. During the last two seasons as a work camper on that mountain, I was a clerk in a campground store. I'm also a house and pet sitter, and I pick up odd jobs when I can. I'm primarily a writer, but I also create beautiful little collages; hand make hemp jewelry and warm, colorful winter hats; and use my creative and artistic skills to decorate my life and brighten the lives of others. My goal (for my writing and my life) is to be real. I don't like fake, and I don't want to share fake. I want to share my authentic thoughts and feelings. I want to give others space and permission to share their authentic selves. Sometimes I think the best way to support others is to leave them alone and allow them to be. I am more than just a rubber tramp artist. I'm fat. I'm funny. I'm flawed. I try to be kind. I'm often grouchy. I am awed by the stars in the dark desert night. I hope my writing moves people. If my writing makes someone laugh or cry or feel angry or happy or troubled or comforted, I have done my job. If my writing makes someone think and question and try a little harder, I've done my job. If my writing opens a door for someone, changes a life, I have done my job well. I hope you enjoy my blog posts, my word and pictures, the work I've done to express myself in a way others will understand. I hope you appreciate the time and energy I put into each post. I hope you will click the like button each time you like what you have read. I hope you will share posts with the people in your life. I hope you'll leave a comment and share your authentic self with me and this blog's other readers. Thank you for reading.  A writer without readers is very sad indeed.

Eliminating Material Possessions/Letting Go Part 4: How to Give Away What You No Longer Need

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Today’s post is the last in a series on how to eliminate material possessions and let go of things you no longer need. Today I’ll tell you what to do with all the stuff you don’t want anymore but weren’t able to sell. Sometimes it’s easier for me to give things away when I know they will continue to be useful, that they will go to someone who will cherish them and continue to put them to good work. Instead of feeling sad about getting rid of things, I try to be happy that they can now enhance the life of another person.

Of course, you can pack all your donations into cardboard boxes and make one big drop off at thrift store. Some thrift stores will even come to your place and pick up the things you’re giving to them. Call your local Goodwill, Salvation Army Family Store, Disabled American Veterans Thrift Store, or Savers to find out if you can schedule a pick up.

Not sure which thrift store you should support? Check out the article “This Is Where Your Thrift Store Dollars Are Really Going” by Sharon Meira to help you decide which of the players in the thrift shop game should get your stuff. The article will help you answer the following questions:

What is the cause that your favorite bargain basement cares about most? Is the company religious? Is the business, in fact, profiting from your purchase, or are those dollars going back into a mission? Where do unsold clothes end up? 

Please remember that thrift shops can’t accept everything you might want to get rid of. You can find some guidelines of what not to donate to thrift stores in the article “25 Things Your Local Thrift Store Doesn’t Want You to Donate” by Andréana Lefton.

If your town has a Habitat for Humanity ReStore, you can donate items there that a regular thrift store may not accept. According to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore website,

Habitat ReStores are independently owned reuse stores operated by local Habitat for Humanity organizations that accept donations and sell home improvement items to the public at a fraction of the retail price.

The ReStore FAQ says the stores

tend to accept household items or building materials [including]…furniture, appliances, TVs, lighting, doors, windows, plumbing supplies, flooring, [and] hand and power tools.

Other items I’ve seen at ReStores include lumber, paint, fasteners, bricks, pavers, roofing supplies. My local ReStore also accepts artwork, plates, mugs, silverware, and kitchen gadgets.

Some churches and community organizations hold yearly or twice yearly rummage sales. If the organizers of such events have storage space, they may be able to accept your donation weeks or months before the event.

Shelters for people and animals are often in need of items you no longer want. If you’d like your extras to help homeless folks, see if anything you are donating is on this list of “10 Product Donations Homeless Shelters Need” from the Invisible People website. Women’s shelters are always in need too, so you may find something you want to give away on the list of “12 Simple Things You Can Give To A Women’s Shelter That Will Drastically Change Lives” by Grace Eire. If you would like to help animals, see if anything you don’t need anymore is on this list of “10 Items to Donate to Animal Shelters” by Wendy Angel. You can also call a shelter in your community and ask if they can use items you want to give away. Remember, like thrift stores, shelters don’t want trash. Find another way to get rid of items that aren’t in very good condition.

What should you do with the things that aren’t good enough to donate? You could send all that stuff to the dump, but we know that is a poor choice for the planet. Instead of trashing items in rough shape (or if you’d rather skip donating to thrift stores and community organizations for whatever reason) offer these things to individuals. Sometimes things might be so worn that they’re not worth paying for, but a purpose can be found for them when the price is “free.” There are several ways to offer your discarded belongings for free.

If you are a member of your local Freecycle group, you already know about giving to other members. If you don’t know about Freecycle, the Freecylce Network website explains it’s

a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns and neighborhoods. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers…Membership is free.

You can also post ads to give away free items on Craigslist or local Facebook buy/sell/trade groups. Some neighborhood apps like Nextdoor also allow members to post freebies.

You can also invite friends, neighbors, and family members to come over to your place and take whatever of your leftovers they want. If all else fails, drag all your unwanted items to the curb and prop a big sign that reads “FREE” in front of the whole bunch. You might be surprised how quickly things disappear, even things you thought no one would ever want.

If you have books that haven’t sold, you can list them on BookMooch if you have time to carry them to the post office and money to pay the shipping cost. If you need to jettison books quickly, donate them to your local Friends of the Library group for an upcoming book sale or drop the reading material off at a nearby Little Free Library.

Letting go of your possessions may be difficult at first. You may feel as if you are tossing out a lifetime of memories. Feelings are ok and valid–give yourself permission to feel your emotions, but don’t get bogged down. Keep your eyes on the prize of freedom–freedom to travel, freedom from clutter, freedom to live simply and inexpensively.

Town Center Clock in Mesa, AZ

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In the Spring of 2018, Nolagirl and I went to Mesa, Arizona for the spark! Festival of Creativity. On our way to and from the festival at the grounds of the Mesa Arts Center, we looked at some of the city’s other public art.

Don’t know much about Mesa, AZ? I didn’t either until I lived and worked in the area on a couple of different occasions and explored the downtown alone and with Nolagirl.

According to the city’s official website,

[l]ocated in Maricopa County and just 15 miles east of Phoenix, Mesa covers 138 square miles, is the third largest city in Arizona and the 36th largest city in the nation.

Who knew?

If you weren’t paying attention, you could drive into Mesa and never even knew you’d left Phoenix.

In my experience, Mesa is full of meth, Mormons, subdivisions in which the houses look like they were produced with the same cookie cutter, and plenty of places to shop. Mesa’s downtown hosts many pieces of public art, and that’s lots of fun. Some of the pieces in Mesa’s public sculpture collection I’ve written about include The Big Pink Chair, Booked for the Day, Scrap Book Boy, Teaching Children Since 1878, Humpty Dumpty, and Two Horses.

On the warm afternoon Nolagirl and I were in Mesa, we saw a lot of art and a clock. I thought the clock was interesting, so I took a photo of it.

Town Center Clock in Mesa, AZ

I thought I’d find a lot of information about the clock online. I thought I’d use the photos I took along with the info I found in my research and write up an informative blog post.

Not so much.

There just isn’t that much information about the clock online, or at least not much that I could find.

The Wikipedia article “List of historic properties in Mesa, Arizona” says the clock is

…the 1926 Town Center Clock located at the NE corner of W. Main and Macdonald. This clock was originally across the street at 61 West Main but, was moved to this corner in 1932. The clock mechanism has been updated.

Hey! Ok! That’s something. (This information, along with a photo of the clock when it said “The Valley Bank” above the face, can be found on the Mesa Historic Downtown Walking Tour brochure.)

The Waymarking website has this to say about the clock:

This clock replicates one that stood on the corner outside of the Valley National Bank from 1928 [sic] to 1958. It was a landmark and a gathering place for the downtown area. In the year 2000, the clock was rebuilt by the City of Mesa.

I think that information comes from the plaque at the base of the clock.

This plaque leaves me with more questions than it answers. Why was the clocked moved across the street in 1931? Why was the clock on Main Street for only 32 years? Where was the clock from 1958 until it was rebuilt in 2000? Is this the same clock that stood on the corner until 1958 with only the mechanism updated, or is this clock a replica of the clock that stood there until 1958? Who built the clock? Where was it built? Who gathered at this clock and why?

If the answers are out there, I couldn’t find them.

I took the photos in this post.

Moonrises, Monuments & Motorhomes — Journeys to the American Southwest (Guest Post)

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Joshua Trees in the Desert

Eliza Cochrane, the author of today’s post, contacted me in November of last year to ask if I would be interested in sharing her travel story which took place in April 2019. Eliza told me that she wanted to “write about the cultural differences between the USA and my homeland, England, and some of the things that really piqued my interest out in the great wide open.” Without further ado, I give you this story of one woman’s three-week journey from California to Utah.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been infatuated with the American West. I don’t know how or when it came about, but I remember being enthralled by the front cover the Led Zeppelin’s self-titled DVD (which came out way back in 2003) just because it had one of the Monument Valley mittens on the cover.

I got a sudden urge to buy the album, despite the fact Led Zeppelin are an English band, and I’d never even listened to their music.

Thrills that we don’t have

Europeans have always been enthralled by the USA’s red rock monuments. Probably because nothing like them exists in Europe. Likewise, with the long stretches of roads that seem to go on forever, and which stand mostly empty — you just do not see roads like that in Britain.

I’ve always thought nowhere exists in England where the land is flat for 360 degrees. There’s always something, like a little mound of earth or a telephone cable to interrupt the great wide open. But this type of vast emptiness exists everywhere in the States.

I suppose the feeling goes both ways. I’ve heard that Americans fall in love with castles and Europe’s antiquity. A friend of mine once said, pretty poetically, that “Americans are scared of how old Europe is, and Europeans are scared of how big America is.”

A special relationship?

It’s often said that there is a “special relationship” between Britain and the United States. Raegan and Thatcher talked about it, and even Donald Trump has referred to it. I believe this stems from the fact that both countries have a shared history, but most importantly, I think it’s the language that keeps us together. 

I’ve always thought: it doesn’t matter where you are. If the language is the same, you’ll be alright. To me, language was the rope that reigned in cultures if they ever threatened to drift so far. But when I arrived in San Francisco, I found myself in an alien country, with the language a little more than a hallucination over the sights and sounds. 

Everything — from the layout of the cities to the thoughts of the people — was different. It occurred to me that San Francisco, with its Mediterranean skies, was as far away from the Mediterranean as possible — on the very edge of the New World. Even payment was different. In Europe, whenever you pay with a credit card, the waiter will hand the payment terminal over to you, and look away so the four-digit PIN can be entered. In America, I was asked to scribble down the final bill, to which the waiter took my card, disappeared into the kitchen, and then returned with the receipt. To this day I still cannot fathom why the United States isn’t rampant with credit card fraud. 

Morals, motorhomes, and mirages

Painted Ladies, San Francisco

Two days was all I had to explore San Francisco. Mark Twain once said that the worst winter he had ever spent was a summer in San Fran, but during my time there, the weather was lovely. 

A gorgeous, visually stunning city — somewhat blighted by homelessness. My hotel was in Union Square; a stone’s throw from Tenderloin. There I walked down a vista slightly terrified, as lines of men openly injected themselves with syringes. Others looked slumped and yet frozen, suspended in some drug-induced trance. People seemed to walk blithely past — including a young mother with two toddlers easily within touching distance of the men. I saw homeless men fighting invisible forces; some with eyeballs missing, and others rolling about in the street. None of the city’s residents batted an eye, and I began to feel I was going mad — like the problem didn’t really existed at all, and I must be going insane. The scale of the problem seemed, to me, a uniquely American phenomenon. Sure, we have homelessness in the UK, but I do not think the British people would stomach such a calamity. 

It was cloudy on the day I picked up my motorhome, but as I drove south to Yosemite, the weather soon cleared. California also quickly turned into a rural state, with endless farmer’s fields. I was surprised by just how much of it could have been anywhere in middle America. On the road, I feared a water pipe had burst. I could see the pale-straight road shining blue, with ripples of running water, and even the reflections of the cars driving though it in front. But the water never materialised and kept receding away from me as I put my foot down and gave chase.

Lonely America?

Even though I had my boyfriend with me, the journeys felt lonely sometimes. The biggest run was from Las Vegas to Monument Valley — the apex of the entire trip, and what I had waited for ever since I glanced at an irrelevant Led Zeppelin cover all those years ago. The total journey, one way, was seven hours’ worth of driving. After hours of driving, it begins to feel that the continent stretches on forever. And after seeing no one about and only a few cars, you begin to wonder if the country is populated at all.

At certain points, we passed through lonely little towns with no signs of people. Houses, restaurants, and farm equipment in the open. Signs of life, but no signs of people. I ask my boyfriend: “Where do these people go? What do they do on weekends? What entertainment is there?” A beautiful country, but so big… Maybe that was just the European in me, expressing itself. 

In the great wide open, you can see weather systems as they are born and as they die. That doesn’t hold for England, where the sky is much too small. At one point, under azure skies, we drove headlong into a foreboding black cloud. To our right, more blue skies over a gigantic expanse of grass. In the middle was a grey swirling cloud, slightly low. My heart sank, fearing a tornado and a great vulnerability — there being nowhere else to run. Even though I knew this wasn’t the right time of year, nor was it Tornado Alley. 

Poetic America 

I will never forget my pilgrimage to Monument Valley. On my way, I’d made several noteworthy and essential stops for any traveler in the Southwest: Yosemite National Park, Los Angeles, Joshua Tree National Park (and the ghost towns nearby), Furnace Creek in Death Valley (where we briefly broke down), the Grand Canyon… but none of them held more excitement for me than the Monuments.

I even splashed out for the occasion, too. Forking out $380 for one night at The View hotel. It was worth it, though. You could see the formations not just from the balcony, but from the bed. It was a wonderful thing to behold.

Sunrise over Monument Valley

When I saw them, I was struck by how they looked exactly the same as I had imagined. The sun set on the other side of the building, and I was curious to see if the desert would resemble the ocean at night. The stars came out innumerable and bright, and a meteor burned right across the open sky. Little headlights of cars poked their way through the abyss, and the desert rock crunched under the wheels, generating an echoing boom like distant thunder. The formations disappeared, but then curiously, began to take shape again. Then something I had never seen before happened. A result, no doubt, of America’s big skies… There was a moonrise. The Moon crept up, like the Sun, over one of the massifs. In the space of 12 hours, I saw a sunset, moonrise, and sunrise. 

Some thoughts and conclusions

Grand Canyon Sunset

After the epic trip from Monument Valley, America didn’t seem quite so lonely anymore. We were familiar with the return journey. The country finally seemed not so infinite. 

But what struck me was just how familiar everything seemed — outside of the big cities, at least.  At every desert tourist trap, at every truck stop, there was almost a nostalgic feeling of having stayed there before. Of course, I had been there before. In countless imaginings on TV, cinema, the Great American Novel, and in music. Critics might call it ‘Cultural Imperialism’, but there is no doubt that America is the most successful nation in the world. 

In fact, America’s media has influenced England so much, to the point where I almost feel like America has given itself away in part, to the rest of the world. So that whenever I sweat at Furnace Creek, or lose breath on a hike to a waterfall at Yosemite, or watch the moonrise at Monument Valley, I almost feel that — at those exact moments — that America belongs to me, and me only. It’s a fleeting sensation, but a powerful one all the same. 

Eliza Cochrane is a copywriter for We Buy Any Motorcaravan, and lives for new adventures out on the road. Since 2016, she has toured the United States, Canada, the Philippines and much of Southeast Asia, and doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.

Photos provided by author.

Eliminating Material Possessions/Letting Go Part 3: How to Sell Things You No Longer Need

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My last two Wednesday posts have dealt with making decisions about what you will no longer need when you begin your new life on the road. Let’s say you’re at a place in your downsizing process where you have a big pile of things you no longer want or need. How do you get all the stuff out of your life? Today I’ll give you a long list of where to sell all the material possessions that didn’t make the cut.

Where to Sell Things

We’ll assume you want to sell as much of your stuff as possible for the highest prices possible. Let’s face it, money is helpful, and the money you get from selling your belongings will hep fund your upcoming adventures. You’ll probably end up having a garage sale or yard sale, but you might get more from your high-end items if you sell them through other venues.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Or course, if you have very high-end items (jewelry, art, antiques, or anything worth more than $1,000 according to Consumer Reports), you may want to have such items appraised. You may decide to sell those items through an auction house or online auction site.

If you have items that are worth less than $1,000 but are still a bit fancy for a garage sale, list them on Facebook Marketplace, a local Facebook buy/sell/trade group, or Craigslist. I’m thinking of items like appliances; designer clothes, shoes, or handbags; furniture; tools; and collectibles. I suggest when selling to individuals accept only cash and don’t hold anything for anyone. Cash talks…and you want this stuff gone ASAP.

If you’ve never placed an ad on Facebook, see the article “5 Tips for Selling on Marketplace, Facebook’s Version of Craigslist” by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal. Before you start meeting up with strangers, you may want to review ADT’s “7 Tips for Staying Safe on Craigslist;” these tips apply to any situation in which you are selling items to people you don’t know.

Photo by Julius Drost on Unsplash

If you’re not tech savvy, you can also place ads for larger items the tried and true paper way. You can run ads in your local newspaper or free newspapers like the Thrifty Nickel. You can also make flyers detailing the items you have for sale and post them around town.

Even if you don’t meet up with any scammers while selling on Craigslist, Facebook, or through paper ads, be prepared to deal with flakes, weirdos, and pushy people. For a brief time when I was selling unwanted belongings through Facebook, people asked me to hold items for an indefinite period of time, to deliver items, and/or to take less money for items I’d already slapped rock-bottom prices on. No, no, and no were the answers I gave. I still ended up selling almost everything I wanted to get rid of. I recommend you remain polite but firm.

If I were sorting through my possessions, I would list items on Facebook or Craigslist or place classified ads as soon as I decided to sell them. You can include anything you don’t sell this way in your garage sale. Putting money in your pocket while you are still purging will feel good, as will seeing empty spaces in your home.

Another idea for selling better quality items is to bring them to a local consignment shop. Keep in mind, most consignment shops don’t pay immediately for your belongings. The shop displays your items for you. If your item(s) sells, you get a percentage of the money collected. The shop gets a percentage of the money too. Your items may sit in a consignment shop for a long time before they sell. Be sure you understand a shop’s terms before you leave items there. (How long will they keep your items? What percentage of the sale will go to you? Will they mail you a payment check if you’re not in town when an items sells? How often does the shop pay?) A consignment shop may work for you if you don’t need money in a hurry and don’t have the time or patience to sell through Facebook, Craigslist, or newspaper ads. If you’ve never sold at a consignment shop before, check out the Money Crashers article “How to Make Money Selling on Consignment – Tips, Pros & Cons” by Jacqueline Curtis.

Did you know some pawnshops buy items outright? I didn’t know this until I was in my 30s, but it’s true. A pawnshop might be a good place to sell tools, electronics, musical instruments, high end jewelry, CDs, and DVDS if you don’t want to go through the hassle of selling to individuals.

If you don’t mind packing up and mailing items, there are several website where you can sell your things. Of course, you have to go through the listing process and shoot decent photos, but you might get more money by selling online than you could get locally. If you want to see what online selling opportunities you have in addition to eBay, read the John Haselden article “Top 11 Other Sites Like eBay: eBay Selling Alternatives 2019.” Keep in mind selling online is like selling at a consignment shop in that your items may sit for a while, and you won’t get money until items sell.

Trying to sell clothes? I trust Teen Vogue to be real when it comes to telling me the best places to sell clothing online. Hint: Poshmark is the first online clothing resale site listed in the Teen Vogue article “13 Best Apps and Websites to Sell Clothes Online” by Krystin Arneson, Sierra Tishgart, and Kristi Kellogg.

If you want to sell handmade goods, craft supplies, or vintage items, you can do that on Etsy. If you need some help getting started on Etsy, see the Money Crashers article “How to Sell on Etsy and Set Up a Shop – Tips on What to Sell” by Mark Theoharis.

Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

If you want to sell off your DVD, Blu-Ray, and/or CD collection, check out the Well Kept Wallet article “12 Best Places to Sell Used DVDs (As Well as Blu-Rays and CDs)” by Josh Patoka. If you’re looking to sell books online, get some tips from Chloe Della Costa‘s article “5 of the Best Places to Make Money Selling Used Books Online.”

If you don’t want to go the online route for selling books, try to sell them at a local used bookstore. (Some bookstores will also buy CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Ray discs.) Some bookstores only give store credit or give you a higher dollar amount if you choose store credit over cash. If you end up with store credit, sell the credit for cash. If your book collection is large enough, some used bookstores will send an employee out to your home to choose the books they think they can resell. Once the employee makes their choices, they will pack up the books and take them away.

As your departure date nears, consider having a garage sale. If you won’t start living nomadically until the fall or winter, consider having two sales, one at the beginning of the yard sale season and another at the end of the season. That way you have two opportunities to sell, and you don’t have to feel pressured to have all your sorting and purging done by an early date.

If you’re not sure how to set up for a yard sale, see the article “Ten Tips To Have a Successful Garage Sale” on the Penny Pinchin’ Mom blog. One thing not mentioned in that post is having a great location. If your location isn’t conducive to getting a lot of yard sale traffic, ask a friend or family member with a better location if you can have your sale at their place. Yes, you will have to lug your stuff across town, but you’ll sell more in an area with more traffic or better parking options.

What to do if you can’t find yourself a good location for your sale? Pack everything up and head to a local flea market or swap meet. For a fee, you can have your sale in a place where there are sure to be shoppers. Never sold at a flea market or swap meet before? Read the Via Trading article “101 Hints & Tips for Flea Market Success.”

After you’ve done your best to sell off your belongings, you’ll probably still have items left. Now comes the time to give away the rest. Next week I’ll give you ideas about how and where to give away everything you didn’t sell.

If you found this post helpful, I’d love your support! Hit the donate button in the right toolbar or go to Patreon to become my patron.

Nothing to Work With

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Just when I thought I’d heard it all…

It was the Saturday before Labor Day Weekend, and while we weren’t having a slow day at the Mercantile, it was slower than normal. There were only a few customers in the store when the fellow approached the counter.

He seemed to be in his mid-30s and had short dark hair. When he began talking, his accent gave him away as a non-native speaker of English. His lack of English words when he tried to express himself reinforced my first impression.

He asked me about the hot springs. I told him everything I knew about them.

Then he said, We are staying…up…somewhere. Can we get there…in two hours?

During my career in the National Forest, I’ve had lots of people ask me all kinds of questions, including some really stupid ones, but always, always in the past the questioners gave me something to work with. This guy? …up…somewhere…is just not much to go on. Hell, that’s nothing to go on.

Sir, I said, shaking my head. I don’t know where you’re staying. You don’t even know where you’re staying.

It is true, he said sadly and wandered away.

If he had told me the name of a town, a campground, a region even, I may have been able to help him figure out how far it was from where he was staying to the hot springs, but he gave me exactly nothing to work with. I’m good, but I can’t perform miracles.

I took this photo.

Marketing Fail

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According to the What National Day Is It website, tomorrow is National Marketing Day. In honor of this dubious holiday, I want to share with you a total marketing fail I witnessed when I was a fuel clerk.

Closed Soda Bottles

A frail, elderly man shuffled toward the fuel center kiosk where I was working. When he got close, I turned on the intercom and asked how I could help him. I could hardly hear him when he spoke, even with the intercom set to high volume. I barely made out him asking, Do you have a Pepsi Coke?

I’m pretty sure he did not ask if we had Pepsi and Coke. I’m pretty sure he asked for a Pepsi Coke. He did not seem to be inquiring about two beverages but about some single entity.

I think he was using “coke” in a generic sense. For some reason, in the

Assorted Beverage Bottles

Southern USA “coke” has come to mean “soft drink,” what people in other parts of the country might refer to as “soda” or “pop” (or maybe even “soda pop.”) As a kid, I remember hearing the story of a waitress who asked, What kind of coke would you like? and being surprised that root beer, Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, and even Coke were all appropriate responses.

I didn’t quite know how to answer the old man’s question. We had Pepsi

Person Holding Pepsi Can

products, and we had Coke products, but I thought he really wanted a Pepsi cola. I covered all the bases by pointing out the cooler where we kept all the Pepsi choices as well as the one cooler where we kept all the varieties of Coca-Cola.

The fellow studied one cooler, then the other. His final choice? A Diet Coke.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/closed-soda-bottles-1904262/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/assorted-beverage-bottles-1384039/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-holding-pepsi-can-1292294/.

Early January Thankful Thursday

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Photo by Howard Riminton on Unsplash

With a new month comes a new chance to share my appreciation for the people who have supported me recently.

Thanks always go out to my readers, without whom I’d have to reason to share my stories, rants, and observations.

I’m grateful to my sibling who sent a giant box of yummy food treats to me and The Man for Christmas and included postcard and first class stamps just for me.

I appreciate Theresa, a longtime friend (we’re talking decades here!) and my newest supporter on Patreon.

Big thanks to Frank who’s sent stamps and postcards to me in the past and in December made a generous contribution via PayPal.

Gratitude to Laura-Marie who bought a handmade bracelet from me last month and always sends love and moral support.

I’m also thankful every time The Man washes the dishes, sweeps the floor, and starts the truck for me on cold mornings when I have to go to work.

For whom and what are you grateful today? Please leave your thoughts of gratitude in the comments section below.

Eliminating Material Possessions/Letting Go Part 2: What to Keep & What to Toss

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Photo by Tobias Tullius on Unsplash

A few months ago when I asked for suggestions for blog posts of particular interest to nomads, rubber tramps, full-time RVers, vandwellers, vagabonds, and travelers of all kinds, a couple of people asked me to write about paring down belongings in order to get ready for life on the road, or, more broadly, how to let go. Last week I gave ideas about how to organize your purge and how to decide if an item was no longer necessary for your life on the road. Today I’ll cover specific categories of items and give you my ideas about what you might and might not need.

Clothing

I can commiserate with folks whose closets and drawers are full of clothes. For someone who’s not a fashion plate, I do tend to have a lot of clothing. Although most of what I wear comes from thrift stores and free boxes, even when I lived in a van I usually had more than I needed.

Some time back, I read an informative post on the Interstellar Orchard blog about how the author (a full-time nomad) coordinates her clothing to make the most of her wardrobe. You may want to read the post “RVing Wardrobe” to learn how she puts her clothing together so a few pieces make several outfits.

A friend of mine who travels extensively for half of each year replaced his wardrobe with quick drying clothes that fold small for easy storing. If you don’t have extra money for a complete new wardrobe, by all means, use what you have. However, if you have funds set aside for this life transition, an easy-to-store wardrobe might be a good investment.

Whether you can afford new clothes or not, you are probably going to have to get eliminate some of your current wardrobe.

As you purge clothing, consider the one-year rule I mentioned in part 1 of this series. Anything you haven’t worn in a year probably should go.

Photo by Sarah Brown on Unsplash

Be ready to try on items as you sort. Toss anything that doesn’t fit your body into your “sell” or “donate” container. Sure, you might lose weight on the road, but you might not. Do you really have room in your rig for a second “maybe” wardrobe? In my experience (even as a plus size woman who wears XXL), it’s fairly easy to pick up clothing in thrift stores when your old ones don’t fit.

Keeping your wardrobe to a minimum may mean you have to do laundry more often, but using less space for clothing may be be worth spending two hours in a laundromat every week or so. I like to keep a two-week supply of socks and underwear. These small items are easier to store than outerwear. I can wear the same skirt and shirt for a week, but I do like to change my socks and underwear every day. I could get by with three shirts, three skirts or pairs of pants, and 14 pairs of socks and 14 pairs of underpants. At the end of two weeks, I’d put on my last clean clothes and wash everything else. This bare minimum may not work of you and that’s ok! You just need to decide what your minimum is.

Before you settle on your on-the-road wardrobe, ask yourself some questions. Can I wear the same outer garments for more than one day? How many days can I wear clothes without washing them? Would I feel better about rotating the clothes I’m going to wear again rather than wearing them several days in a row? Would I feel better about wearing garments multiple times if I could air them out between wearing or squirt them with Febreze? Do I really need to wear a nightgown or pajamas to bed, or could I sleep naked or in underpants and the t-shirt I’ll wear tomorrow? Everyone will answer these questions differently. That ok! We each must decide what works best for our individual situation.

If you will spend winter somewhere cold, you’re going to need more clothing. I like the thin but warm long underwear by Cuddl Duds. If you are carrying a puffy coat for winter wear, you may be able to store it in a compression sack when not in use. You could also store bulky winter clothes in those plastic bags that you roll to push the air out of. I’ve used several different brands of such bags and they always seem to rip or come apart at the seams, but they’re really great while they last.

Shoes

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

I own way too many pairs of shoes, although in my defense, all but my red cowgirl boots were free or cost under $5. You will probably need more than one pair of shoes in your life, but again, think about how little you can get away with.

You need at least one pair of sturdy shoes for daily walking around. You’ll save space if your everyday shoes can also be worn when you go on a hike or brisk walk. For example, I’ve worn Keen sandals as my everyday shoes; they were also great on casual hikes and walks through the park. Currently I have a pair of L.L. Bean hiking shoes (courtesy of the magic of a free table) that I wear when I’m running errands but which also carried me through a natural landmark, three national parks, and a national monument.

You’ll also need a pair of shower shoes. I recommend you don’t skip shower shoes. The space you save by doing without a pair of shoes you can wear in the shower of campgrounds, gyms, or community swimming pools will not be worth it if you pick up some foot nasties. If you’re really tight for space, your shower shoes can double as slip-on shoes to put on quickly if you have to go outside your rig in a hurry. I have a pair of Crocs I can wear in the shower and wear outside my rig when I don’t feel like putting on and tying my regular shoes.

Photo by Kristin Brown on Unsplash

It’s nice to have a pair of rain boots or other waterproof shoes to wear when the ground is wet. Again, it’s great if one pair of shoes can do double duty. I had a pair of Keen boots that were waterproof. I wore them as my daily shoes and my hiking shoes, and I didn’t need something different in the rain or snow.

You may need a pair of dressy shoes if you dress up and go out or if you plan to interview for a job or work in a place that requires footware other than hiking boots and flip flops. Every pair of shoes you own should be comfortable. There’s no sense hauling around shoes that hurt your feet. If any of your shoes are uncomfortable, set a goal to replace them as your budget allows.

Jewelry

If you’re one of those people who likes to have different jewelry to go with each outfit, eliminate jewelry as you eliminate clothing. If you do keep jewelry, find a way to store it that takes minimal space. Instead of using a jewelry box, use a jewelry roll or a jewelry burrito made by a traveling gal.

Bedding

I recommend you have two sets of sheets, each set comprised of a flat and a fitted or two flat sheets. Matching is optional. You should also have two pillow cases for each pillow. With two sets of sheets and pillowcases, you can strip the bed on laundry day and immediately put on fresh sheets. After the dirty sheets are washed, you only have to store one set.

You’ll also need enough blankets to stay warm in the climate you’re sleeping in. A rectangular sleeping bag can be unzipped and used as a comforter; on a really cold night, you can zip the bag and sleep inside for added warmth. (If you need more tips on staying warm, see my post “15 Tips for Staying Comfortable in the Cold.”)

Bathroom

Can you get by with one towel? Microfiber towels are great! They fold up smaller than a regular bath towel and dry quickly. I have a “hot yoga” towel my sibling bought for me at a thrift store. I like it because I can wrap it around my whole self but fold it smaller than a conventional bath towel. It dries faster than a conventional towel too. (For help picking a microfiber towel, see the Traveling Lifestyle article “7 Best Microfiber Towels for Backpackers & Light Travelers” by Viktor Vincej.)

Kitchen

If you need new kitchen equipment, look for collapsible items like dishpans, measuring cups, funnels, and strainers. Get an adjustable measuring spoon instead of a set with different sizes. Instead of a kettle, heat water in a metal cup or in a saucepan which can also be used in regular meal prep. A bowl does double duty holding wet and dry food. Have only one cup, bowl, and set of utensils for each person who lives in your rig.

Tools

Be honest with yourself about what tools you will actually use while you are on the road. Once your rig is built out the way you want it, you probably won’t need power tools unless you plan to use them to make money. If you do need a building tool at some point, check into renting before you buy.

If you’re going to do repairs and basic maintenance or your rig, pack the right tools to complete the job. Some auto parts stores will loan you tools when you buy parts from them. Autozone, Advance Auto Parts, Pep Boys, and O’Reilly Auto Parts all have loaner tool programs. Deposits are required, but you get your money back when you return the tools.

Books

I collect books from free piles, BookMooch, and Little Free Libraries, always with the intention of reading them and passing them on someday. I also have several books that I want to keep forever. All this to say, I may not be the best person to tell you how to live without books! However, even I know some ways to minimize the physical bulk of your reading material.

Photo by Frank Holleman on Unsplash

If you have an e-book reader, you can read lots of books and periodicals without using up a lot of your precious space. You can also read on your phone or tablet. Free-Ebooks.net, Project Gutenberg, BookBub, and many other websites offer free e-books.

If you own a stack of reference books, maybe you can get rid of them and find the same information online.

Some people (me!) would rather read a book made from paper instead of relying on electronics. A real book doesn’t run out of battery power, isn’t likely to be substantially damaged if dropped, and can be found free or cheap at library book sales, garage sales, Little Free Libraries, thrift shops, or from BookMooch. If you do want to read physical books, keep only a few on hand, donate each one after you’ve read it, and only pick up one book to read when you rotate out the one you’ve finished.

Music

Do you still have a CD collection? While easier to store than LPs or cassette tapes, CDs can still take up quite a bit of room. I advise you to transfer your CD collection to a computer, then put those files on your phone or MP3 player. Once your music is stored, you can ditch the CDs. Another option is to keep the CDs and store them on a spindle or in a binder and ditch only the cases.

There are also many sites that let you stream music for free. The How-To Geek website offers a list of “The Best Sites for Streaming Free Music.”

Movies

If you have a DVD collection, most everything I said about CDs applies to you too. Jettison the DVDs or at least the cases.

Photo by John Salvino on Unsplash

There are so many ways to watch movies for free online! Check out the following articles to help you get free entertainment: “The 9 Best Free Movie Apps to Watch Movies Online,” “How to Watch Movies Online for Free–Legally,”and “19 Best Free Movie Websites.”

You can also pay for streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, or HBO Go. Maybe a friend or family member will share their password with you if they already pay for one of these services

If all else fails, rent a movie from Red Box. Did you know you can return a Red Box movie to a Red Box in a town other than where you rented it?

Photographs and Letters

Scan or take digital photos of all the photographs and letters you want to save. Save the digital copies on a thumb drive, tablet, or external hard drive. Send your printed copies of the photos to the people in them or to people who love the people in them. If no one in your family wants to be the steward of ancestral letters, maybe you can donate the originals to an archive or museum.

Financial Documents

We’ve probably all wondered how long we should keep bank statements, check stubs, and copies of our tax returns. Do you really need to pack all of that stuff with you when you leave your sticks-n-bricks? The Finra article “Save or Shred: How Long You Should Keep Financial Documents” will help you decide what is safe to ditch before you hit the road.

Collections

It’s going to be difficult to have a collection while living in a small rig. If you must collect, try small things like pressed pennies, national park tokens, matchbooks, or postcards. If you live in a larger rig, perhaps you can choose the best specimens from your collection and find creative ways to display them.

Craft Items

If I knew how to downsize craft items, I would do it myself. Limit yourself to one tub of craft items? Only do tiny crafts? Really, you’re on your own here.

I hope my suggestions help you make decisions about what possessions are worth incorporating into your life as a nomad and which should find a new role with someone else.

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Don’t Send Granny

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The woman who stepped up to the window of the fuel center kiosk where I was working looked elderly, but not ancient. Her hair was light brown and curly, and she had some wrinkles, but she didn’t look as old as other people I’d helped there.

She asked for a pack of Marlboro cigarettes in a box. I didn’t understand

Marlboro Cigarette Boxes

exactly what variety of Marlboros she wanted,so I grabbed the most popular type and showed it to her through the bulletproof glass.

Is that the right kind? I asked through the intercom.

The elderly woman looked like a deer in the headlights. She stared at the cigarettes for several long seconds.  Finally she said, That will be ok.

I thought she’d had a strange response. Most smokers seemed to be very particular about their cigarettes. They knew what they liked, and they didn’t want anything else. If those weren’t the cigarettes the lady wanted, I would have been happy to get what she did want. She might have had to guide me to the variety she wanted, but I would have gladly grabbed them for her. 

I didn’t ask to see the woman’s ID. She was obviously older than 17, obviously older than 27 or even 35.

I told her the total she owed for the smokes and said she could put her payment in the drawer. She looked at me blankly. She had no idea what I was talking about.

In the town where I worked, lots of people, especially older people, did not speak English as their first language. Perhaps that is what was going on with this customer. Maybe she really didn’t understand a word I said.

Lift the glass, ma’am, I instructed her. She continued to look absolutely blank.

The gentleman in line behind her took pity on us both (and himself, as he probably didn’t want to stand in line waiting to pay for gas for half an hour) and showed the elderly lady how to lift the Plexiglas and put her payment in the drawer.

I pulled the drawer into the kiosk and found a debit card in it. Ok. No problem. I could handle a debit card.

I swiped the card, and the computer prompted me to have the customer enter the PIN. I put the debit card in the drawer and slid it out to the customer. There was a PIN pad in the drawer too.

Person Holding Card and Terminal

Go ahead and enter the PIN using the PIN pad, followed by the green “enter” button, I said, giving my standard debit card speech.

I looked at the elderly woman and saw no sign of mental activity. The lights were on…no, actually, the lights were NOT on. The house was dark and no one was there. It was as if she had never before encountered the concepts of PIN, PIN pad, or payment. I felt really sorry for everyone involved.

Before I could hit the button to run the transaction as a credit card and be done with it, a car pulled in fast to my right. A well-dressed young woman jumped from the driver’s seat and rushed to the older woman’s side. The young woman entered a PIN, and a receipt shot out of my cash register. I slipped it in the drawer and thanked the women. They got into the car, and the young woman drove away.

Caltex Gasoline Station

It seemed to me that the younger woman had sent the older woman to buy cigarettes, but why? The younger woman looked old enough to legally buy cigarettes. Maybe she didn’t have her ID with her, so she sent her granny (or someone old enough to be her granny) to buy the smokes. The problem was the older woman didn’t seem capable of buying a pack of cigarettes. She didn’t seem to know what cigarettes to buy or what PIN went with the debit card she was using. I don’t know if the problem was related to a language barrier, a hearing loss, dementia, or a lack of knowledge about debit cards and PINs, but granny was not able to carry out her mission and had to be rescued.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/smoking-57528/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-holding-card-and-terminal-1308747/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/caltex-gasoline-station-1173770/.

Renegade Little Free Library in Flagstaff, AZ

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The Man and I were van camping in Coconino National Forest just outside Flagstaff, Arizona. It was September of 2018. We were hanging out there where it was cool before making our way to our fifth wheel in Why, AZ where it was still hot. Several days a week I drove into town to work on my blog at the public library.

To get from our campsite to the library, I took Highway 180. For part of the way on that road, I could see a sidewalk and houses on my right. One day I noticed there was a Little Free Library in front of one of the houses.

For folks who don’t know, the Little Free Library website says this about Little Free Libraries,

anyone may contribute or take books…If you take a book (or two) from a Library, you do not need to return that exact book. However, in order to keep the Little Library full of good choices for the whole neighborhood, the next time you swing by the Library bring a few books to share. Little Library book exchanges function on the honor system; everyone contributes to ensure there are always quality books inside.

I love Little Free Libraries and love to visit them. I’ve encountered them in Los Gatos, CA; Mesa and Phoenix, AZ;  and Santa Fe and Taos, NM. I was excited to see one in Flagstaff too. I knew I wanted to visit this one before I left town, especially since I had a stack of books I wanted to donate.

On the day I’d decided to visit this particular Little Free Library (LFL), I had a heck of a time getting to it. The house it belonged to was the last on a dead end street, so while I could see the house from the highway, I couldn’t get to it from there. I had to go about half a mile to find an entrance into the subdivision in which the LFL was located. While I knew the general direction in which to find the LFL, I hadn’t seen a street sign telling me its particular location. I drove my big hippie van through the neighborhood and took several wrong turns down dead end streets and into cul-de-sacs before I found the right place.

Not long before my visit to Flagstaff a friend living in a city in the Midwest wanted to build a Little Free Library in front of her home, but her teenage daughter protested. The girl thought it weird that strangers would be hanging out in front of her house while browsing through the books in the LFL. My friend deferred to her daughter’s wishes, delaying her LFL plans until her kid moves into her own place in a few years. I thought of my friend and her daughter as I pulled up on the LFL. Was I a weirdo for stopping in front of the homes of strangers in the pursuit of books? Weren’t Little Free Libraries in the world to give strangers opportunities to pursue books?

I might not have given it a second thought before, but now it seemed weird to park right in front of the house which hosted the Little Free Library. I decided to park across the street and walk over.

I didn’t feel entirely like a weirdo because I had books to offer to the LFL. I might be weird for taking, but certainly my character wouldn’t be questioned since I was making a donation.

This photo shows the renegade Little Free Library I discovered in Flagstaff, AZ.

The Little Free Library was made from a metal box, probably the sort that had once held free local papers focusing on arts, culture, and entertainment. The bottom section of the box now sported a volcano scene. The volcano had been painted and objects glued on to give the scene three dimensions. The door of the box had been decorated with a map, but I can’t remember (or tell from my own photos) what part of the world it depicted. Over the map someone had written “Little Free Library” so there was no mistaking what was going on even though the LFL was a renegade, not registered with the official Little Free Library organization and lacking a charter number.

One side of the box was decorated with numbers, letters, and symbols. The other side showed a bare-branch tree and an asymmetrical butterfly. There was plenty of room on that side for more drawings to be added later.

I looked through the LFL’s offerings, even though I had plenty of books but not much space in my life at the moment. How could a bibliophile pass an offering of free books without even checking to see what was available? Maybe others could do it, but I could not.

Most of the books in the library were for young kids; I didn’t need those books, so I left them behind for someone who did. I did find a large hardback book claiming to offer money-saving household tips (As seen on TV, the cover proclaimed.) I can always use money-saving household tips, so I scooped up that book and took it with me. (Money-saving household tip #1: Don’t pay for books you can get from Little Free Libraries.)

These are the books I left in the Little Free Library.

I would have been perfectly happy even if I hadn’t gotten a book from the LFL. I am happy enough just to visit Little Free Libraries, to see how they are decorated, to appreciate the unique qualities of each one, to see them housing books that folks can come and take with no out-of-pocket expense. I’m also happy when I can share books I no longer need or want by dropping them off in a Little Free Library. Getting a book from a LFL is really just a bonus. 

I took the photos in this post.

Detail of volcano on the front of the Little Free Library