Category Archives: FYI

10 Blogs by Vandwellers, Nomads, Vagabonds, RVers, Travelers, and Drifters

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Thanks for reading my blog! I appreciate your support! Maybe you’re wondering what other blogs you can read that are written by vandwellers, nomads, vagabonds, RVers, travelers, and drifters. Today I’ll share with you what I know about blogs written by folks who live on the road at least part of time.

White van in the distance at sunset.
Photo provided by Devan

Xsyntrik Nomad is written by my sweet and positive friend Devan Winters, a vandweller. She writes about choosing and building a van, earning a living on the road, and sharing her vanlife with a cat. She’s a very talented writer and her posts are quirky and engaging.

Yvette Angela Assata writes Rated Rosa, and says of herself,


I am a radical Black feminist, birth worker, activist, anti-racist, a lesbian, and I do a whole lot of community organizing…


…I decided I would convert a school bus to live in, and while I was at it, travel North America. The choice to move onto a vehicle was an easy decision for me because it fits my lifestyle. Besides living in the Pacific Northwest for the past near-13 years, seeing the increases in rent and gentrified neighborhoods, watch people not able to find housing (myself included) and literally pushed out of cities and into the margins, I’m anti-establishment and a wanderer to my core.

Brenton MacAloney has been writing Brent’s Travels since 2013. He’s traveled in a camper van, a Toyota Prius, and a pickup truck with a camper that slides into the van. He says,


I like travel, meeting people, and writing about my experiences.

Meeting people is a goal of mine. In fact I will try to meet someone new everyday. I want to write about them. Who [they] are and what makes them unique.

 

Undercover Hippy Bus is about a family living in “big white ex-courier van.” The adults were tired of all the time their jobs stole away from being with their kids, so they sold off most of their stuff and now live simply and happily. They write about parenting, food, and travels.


Make Like an Apeman is about Duwan and Greg, nomads since 2011. They say,

…we sold everything, quit our jobs, rented our house (and eventually sold it), bought a sailboat, and set sail on a traveling adventure and a story that has been writing itself as we go along.

Their Instagram account (@makelikeanapeman) says they now live in a van three seasons a year and house sit in the summers.

Burly Nomads is the blog of

Miah and George, a gay couple [who recently started their] adventure into full-time RV living. We are tired of being tied down to a house that we do not like, nor want to be in. Tired of not being able to travel to places we want to see, visit with friends and family we want to visit, so we are choosing to have a life of ‘Freedom over Stability’

A cat walks on a narrow ledge below the large back window of an RV.
Sonja Begonia in Brownie’s big back window. Photo used with Sue’s permission.

The RV Artsy Life of Sue Soaring Sun is written by my friend and Sun sister. She writes about the art she creates and the places she visits with her cat Sonja Begonia while living in Brownie, her 20-ft 1984 Lazy Daze mini-motor home. Sue doesn’t update her blog often, but when she does, I really enjoy her stories from the road.

Gnomad Home is the place to go to read about the adventures of John and Jayme and their two dogs. It’s also an outstanding place to get tons of tips to make your van life easier and more enjoyable. There is an excellent section called Build Your Van with so much helpful information

all about helping you…choose your van, plan your design, install creature comforts like electricity and plumbing, and actually build out the interior of your DIY campervan conversion. [Y]ou’ll find awesome infographics, detailed information, step-by-step guides, links to helpful resources, and more.

Kaya Lindsay’s blog can be found at One Chick Travels. Kaya says of herself,

I am a writer, I am a photographer, I am a filmmaker, I am a climber, I play the ukulele and I drive long distances as a form of self-care…

I have been living in my 2006 Dodge Sprinter Van and creating content for about 2 years. I drive around, rock climb, play the ukulele 🎶 and interview badass lady travelers who are also living in vans.

Interstellar Orchard is the blog of Becky Schade who started living on the road full-time in 2012, at the age of 28. Becky says,


Here at Interstellar Orchard (IO), you’ll find:
Informational articles on how to go RVing full-time
Travelogues of my adventures to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike
Philosophical posts on how to live a happier, more fulfilling life

How to Help a Sad Person

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The portions of this post in italics were written by me, Blaize Sun, the Rubber Tramp Artist. The other portions of this post were written by Laura-Marie River Victor Peace and first appeared on her blog.

When I read my friend Laura-Marie’s blog post about helping a sad person, I immediately wanted to share it. The post is so important, not just because it suggests ways we can help each other, but also because it acknowledges that sadness exists. Too often we try to pretend life is all happiness all the time. Laura-Marie shatters that myth with her beautiful words.

Laure-Marie recently got really sick while she and her spouse were visiting me and The Man. She and her partner left early and went directly to the hospital where Laura-Marie stayed for several days. The first part of her post is about her time in the hospital and the immediate aftermath.

The second part of her post is a wonderful list of 70 things to do to help a sad person. So many of us don’t know what to do in the face of a friend or loved one’s sadness. This list gives ideas for concrete steps we can take to show a sad person that we really do love them and care about their well-being.

People ask Ming how I am.  They know I was in the hospital.  They wanna know if I’m better.  They care, for his sake and for mine.

I’m doing much better physically.  When I first came home from the hospital, I was so bad.  I could barely function.  I was at one percent.

There are the reasons you were in the hospital.  Well, you were not looking too living for a minute there.

Then there are the problems the hospital causes.  I had a terrible cough.  From lying down too much, maybe, in a hospital bed?  I was super weak.  Maybe from the same?

Or it could have been other reasons–the anemia, the sadness, how I wasn’t eating food for four days, losing weight really fast?

Weird stuff happened to me, in the hospital.  It’s not normal to get four bags of other people’s blood pumped into you, for example.  That’s not part of everyday life.  Or the strong drugs, the thing they put down my throat, what they did to my stomach, etc.

I had to get strength back, to become again capable of walking from a parking lot to a building, of walking through a store.  I took those things for granted, before.

And I thought it would take weeks, for my blood to be good again.  I didn’t understand it would take months!  I wish a doctor had told me that.  I wish I’d had a more realistic timeline.

Anyway, my friend asked Ming how I was.  I’m really up and down, emotionally.  Ming said no one knows what to say about that.

I told Ming they could help.  My blood, what could they do?  Buy me a bottle of iron pills?  For my emotional health, there are a hundred things they could do.

Ming was thinking the opposite.  He asked, “What could they do?”

“How do you help someone who’s sad?  Have you lived to be 52 years old and never helped a sad person before?”  I didn’t ask something so snarky, then, but I’ve said similar things in the past.  Sorry, honey.

I remember, talking about mental health struggles at Justice for our Desert.  Some people looked away.  Like I was talking about sex or money.  I think they were hurt, about it.

Maybe, well, you never know.  Something happened a long time ago?  Or for whatever reason, they’re not ready to go there.   So they wish I’d shut up.

Well,  I make a lot of lists–brainstorming self-care, what is comfort in this world, things I want or need, things a volunteer could do to help with Nevada Desert Experience, different to do lists, questions for doctors, foods I want to eat more of, people I like writing letters to.

Here is a list called how to help a sad person.

1.  listen
2.  offer hugs
3.  offer to hold hands
4.  don’t get defensive
5.  ask what you can do for them
6.  write them a love letter
7.  bring them a present that doesn’t require anything additional
8.  be very patient with them
9.  hand them tissues if they’re crying
10.  help with something on their comfort list
11.  like make them tea
12.  tell them something you like about them
13.  tell them a funny memory of something you did together
14.  say something unrelated really briefly to see if they want to be distracted
15.  take some pressure off them, like see if you can do one of their chores
16.  flowers in vase with water
17.  card with a pretty picture on it
18.  support their main support person
19.  give them a food they like, if they can eat
20.  check up on them often
21.  check up on them after everyone else stops
22.  grocery run, gift card, money, housecleaning
23.  offer rides
24.  offer to bring something needed
25.  offer to go with them to an appt
26.  pray with them, if they like that
27.  offer to sing them a healing song
28.  invite them to something
29.  offer to tell them a story of a predetermined length
30.  cry with them
31.  validate them
32.  give them a cheering zine or book
33.  tell them they can call you day or night
34.  research a local warmline number
35.  give them a small colorful art
36.  say “I love you”
37.  assume they’re understating their pain
38.  offer to take them to nature or just a park
39.  offer to braid their hair, paint their nails, hand massage
40.  draw them a picture
41.  write them a poem
42.  bring them a quote about how things change
43.  offer to play a game with them that they like
44.  be realistic about what you can offer
45.  don’t over-exert yourself
46.  offer to look together at their postcard collection, stamp collection, scrapbook
47.  ask them to dance with you
48.  offer to make something together: cookies, paper airplanes, jello
49.  offer to collaborate on a project like a zine or garden
50.  offer to play with playdough together or some other toy
51.  offer to blow bubbles
52.  offer to make art together
53.  offer to do a simple healing ritual together
54.  offer to meditate together, if they like that
55.  offer to walk, swim, or exercise together, if they can
56.  get consent, respect boundaries
57.  use your intuition as well as your everyday thinking
58.  get creative
59.  don’t blame
60.  offer to gratitude journal together
61.  research signs that someone wants to kill themself and watch for them
62.  offer something you have too much of or don’t need anymore
63.  invite them to visit a community you belong to
64.  invite them to volunteer with you
65.  ask them a question you’ve always wondered about
66.  brainstorm a list of ideas they might like
67.  offer to tell a joke
68.  ask them to help you with something possible and finite
69.  offer to bring over your pet, kid, Mom, or other liked being
70.  offer to read them something they’ve been wanting to read

Laura-Marie told her spouse there must be 100 ways to help a sad person and gave us 70 examples. Because I like a challenge (and a list) and I’ve been a sad person myself, I thought of an additional 30 ways to help.

#71 offer to clean their glasses (if they wear glasses)

#72 bring them bubble bath

#73 give space to be sad

#74 walk their dog for them

#75 put food in the freezer for later

#76 invite them to watch a funny, upbeat movie with you

#77 offer choices

#78 orchestrate the petting of puppies or kittens

#79 provide childcare if needed

#80 take them to an art museum with an upbeat exhibit

#81 take them to float in the water

#82 wrap a cold sad person in blankets

#83 give cheerful socks

#84 offer water to drink

#85 hug trees together

#86 mail postcards with pretty pictures to them

#87 give them lotion that smells really good

#88 tuck them into bed at night

#89 make the bed for them in the morning

#90 don’t be afraid to sit together in silence

#91 don’t try to fix things

#92 remember, a sad person is not broken

#93 give them a new journal and fun pens

#94 make them a song playlist with upbeat tunes

#95 play your musical instrument for them

#96 give a bright, handmade hat

#97 look at the stars together

#98 go to an ice cream shop together and try all the flavors

#99 offer to sleep over so they don’t have to be alone at night

#100 don’t be overwhelming

If you are a sad person, I hope this list gives you some ideas for self-care, as well as things to ask for when someone wants to know what they can do to support you. If you want to support someone who is struggling with sadness, I hope these suggestions assist you in your desire to do so. Please know that different people need different kinds of help at different times. Don’t expect every one of these suggestions to work for every sad person during every bout of sadness.

If you are feeling suicidal or you know someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1800-273- 8255 or check out the agency’s website for more information or to chat with a counselor. According to the website,

The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

Laura-Marie River Victor Peace is a radical mental health activist, peace activist, and writer. See her main blog at dangerouscompassions.blogspot.com See her zines at facebook.com/functionallyill.

I Feel Happy

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According to the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, May 23 is Clinical Hypnosis Day. In celebration of this upcoming “holiday,” today I’ll share with you the story of my father’s (and by extension my own) experimentation with clinical hypnosis.

You may be wondering what exactly is clinical hypnosis. The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis answers this question (and many others) on their website.


Clinical hypnosis is an altered state of awareness, perception or consciousness that is used, by licensed and trained doctors or masters prepared individuals, for treating a psychological or physical problem. It is a highly relaxed state.

Pink and White Key Chain

My parents were two of the squarest people I can image. They may have come of age in the turbulent 60s and been a young married couple in the swinging 70s, but as far as I can tell, during my childhood they lived their lives as good Catholic Republicans. My dad went to his grave proud of the fact that he’d never been drunk, something he held over my mother because of the one time she drank too much while partying with her brother before he shipped off to Vietnam and was puke sick for two days. I honestly believe–after viewing my parents through the critical lens of my adulthood–that neither of them took an experimental puff of weed or snort of coke, never had a psychedelic experience; never attended a key party; never so much as sampled a dish containing tofu, lentils, or curry. Even in the most experimental decades of their lives, my parents showed themselves to be nothing but straight. All to say, I was quite surprised when I remembered my father’s dabbling in hypnosis.

It all started with our family physician. Somehow that old boy had gotten himself mixed up with hypnosis. Want to stop smoking? Want to lose weight? Want to be a better salesman? Want to do well in school? Want to feel happier? Want to be more successful? Dr. Carrol could help.

I’m not sure if Dr. Carrol did in-office hypnosis treatments. It seems to me

Skc Cassette Tape on White Surface

that a busy physician wouldn’t have time to sit with folks while they counted back from ten. Instead, Dr. Carrol made and sold hypnosis tapes.

It was a brilliant scheme. Dr. Carrol probably went into a recording studio, ran through the steps required for achieving different goals, then had the cassette tapes of each program manufactured. Once the tapes were ready, Dr. Carrol could sell them to his patients. The patients could use the tapes whenever it was convenient (immediately prior to falling asleep was recommended), and Dr. Carrol could rake in the money without sacrificing any precious office hours.

To be fair, I don’t know if Dr. Carrol actually raked in money from his hypnosis tapes. Yes, it was the 70s, and people were trying all sorts of new techniques for better living, but Dr. Carrol was practicing in a small town in the heart of Cajun Country. I suspect most of his patients were too conservative to try something as far out as hypnosis. Perhaps if one of his tapes was a big success it was probably the one purported to help people stop smoking. In the 70s the dangers of smoking were coming to light and people were strongly encouraged to kick the habit. Perhaps even in Cajunland, people were desperate to quit smoking and would try just about anything that might help change their unhealthy ways. If a medical doctor said hypnosis was the way to go, why not give it a try?

How Dr. Carrol sold my dad on hypnosis tapes, I have no idea. My dad was not–had never been–a smoker. My dad did struggle with his weight, so maybe he got hooked up with a set of weight loss tapes. What surprises me the most was that my dad was tight, not prone to spending money unnecessarily. He was a young man with a wife and two little kids and not much money. How did Dr. Carrol convince him to buy hypnosis tapes?

Maybe Dr. Carrol got my dad with tapes that were supposed to make him a better salesman. My dad was a salesman by profession. If you’ve ever read or watched Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, think Willy Loman.

Brown Wooden Plank

My dad should have been a carpenter or maybe a plumber or even an auto mechanic. He could fix almost anything, build almost anything. I once asked him how he knew so much about car and home repair, and he said he’d had to learn because he could never afford to hire someone to do the work for him. He said he’d go into an auto parts store or plumbing supply shop or lumberyard and ask questions until he figured out what to do. This was in a time before YouTube, and I never saw him pouring over a library book from the do-it-yourself section, so he really must have had innate mechanical abilities to supplement the information he gleaned from the people who sold him supplies.

My father should have been a tradesman, not a salesman. I believe he would have been happier working with his hands. However, somewhere in his life my dad had picked up the notion that being a salesman was more prestigious than working in the trades. He may not have attended collage, but he could move one rung up the social ladder if he got a job in sales.

I believe my dad wanted to be a good salesman. He wanted to be considered a success. He wanted to bring home enough money to keep his wife and kids comfortable. I suspect my father did not have the innate knowledge or personality traits of a natural salesman. I suspect he felt he could use a little help. I suspect he hoped hypnosis would do the trick.

I was vaguely aware that my dad was listening to the hypnosis tapes at night. I was 7 or 8 a the time and mostly unconcerned with the affairs of the adults in my life. My dad did share with the family a motivational catchphrase he got from the tapes. I feel happy! I feel healthy! I feel terrific! he’d say enthusiastically, probably trying to convince himself. Sometimes my mom and sibling and I would say it too. Sometimes I still say the words (out loud, enthusiastically) when I’m trying to pep myself up.

I don’t know who decided it would be a good idea for me to listen to

Red-and-brown Pencils

hypnosis tapes before bed. I don’t know if my parents bought something intended for kids or if they just used what my dad already had. I don’t remember being asked if I wanted to listen to a tape, but I don’t remember being opposed to listening. I remember being told that listening to the tape would help me do better in school, even though my grades were fine.

Every night after tucking me into bed, my dad would press the play button on his tape player that had been moved into my room. Dr. Carrol’s voice was soothing and relaxing and because I listened to the tape as I was falling asleep, it didn’t take time away from anything I wanted to do.

I wish I remembered what Dr. Carrol said on the tape, what instructions he gave. Better yet, I wish I had the tape now so I could listen to what I was told on those nights decades ago.

I remember being skeptical of the whole hypnosis thing. Even as a little kid, I wondered how what someone said on a tape could help me do better in school. I don’t think my parents told me anything about the subconscious or how hypnosis is supposed to work. What I do (very clearly) remember thinking is that while what I was hearing on the tape probably wasn’t going to do anything for me, I was going to pretend it worked in order to please my parents. So in the mornings after listening to the tape, I would pop right out of bed and pretend to be excited and happy about going to school.

Of course, now I have to wonder if the hypnosis actually did work. Was I in fact only pretending it was working? Could my skeptical brain only embrace hypnosis if I could continue to disbelieve it but accept the changed in my behavior it caused by telling myself I was only pretending? Why would I feel the need to pretend it was working if it wasn’t?

I don’t remember how many nights I listened to the tapes as I drifted off to sleep. It doesn’t seem like I did it for very long, but memory has a way of distorting time. I also don’t remember why I stopped listening to the tape. Even complaints wouldn’t have necessarily gotten me off the hook, as my parents made me do plenty of other things I complained about. If my parents thought the tapes were valuable, one of them would have pressed the play button every night whether or not I wanted to listen. I can only imagine my parents decided Dr. Carrol and his hypnosis were not worth our time after all.

In retrospect, I wish my patents had continued to play the tape for me. Maybe the messages it contained would have helped me live a better life. Maybe whatever instructions given on the tape would have saved me from the depression that settled over me within a couple of years and has been with me on and off (mostly on) for most of my life. If I had the tape now, I’d listen to it at bedtime every night and hope for a change.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/dark-vintage-table-keys-67094/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/skc-cassette-tape-on-white-surface-1219113/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/adult-blur-carpenter-carpentry-345135/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/desk-pens-school-design-2172/.

In Praise of Paper Maps

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Person Holding Pen Leaning on Map Near Cup

According to the National Day Calendar website, April 5 is National Read a Road Map Day. To prepare us for this holiday, today I’ll share with you my ideas about why GPS isn’t enough, make suggestions about what maps to use depending on where you’re going, and give you tips on where to find help if you need to brush up on your map reading skills.

When did everyone become dependent on GPS and a computerized voice telling us when to turn left?

My dad was a salesman during the early years of my life. When he went out looking for clients, he used paper maps to find them. When I was very young, we moved to a major metro area. My dad had not a single paper map, but an entire large, thick book that showed each neighborhood, each street, each back alley. The book was laid out with some mysterious logic I still fail to understand which involved flipping to a whole new page in mid trip. How did my father possibly read that map while driving? I can only assume he studied the map and planned his trip before getting into the driver’s seat and stopped in a parking lot to consult the map any time he had to confirm his route or start over and figure out new directions.

In 1998 I found myself at a music festival with a need to get back to my home base sooner than planned. I didn’t have a car and didn’t drive. I was facing a multi-day Greyhound bus adventure, but a friend of a friend of a friend pointed me in the direction of a woman who was headed to the same city as I was. She had an open passenger seat and room in the back of her pickup for my gear. After she accepted me as her passenger, I found she also had a TripTik Travel Planner from AAA. Does anyone remember these customized booklets that AAA members could request from the local office? AAA members could get request directions to a specific destination and the local office would provide turn-by-turn instructions. I spent a lot of time holding that booklet from AAA, as I was immediately promoted from passenger to navigator.

(True confession: I still managed to send us off in the wrong direction, despite the turn-by-turn instructions in my hand. In my defense, we were in the outskirts of Chicago, and the proliferation of road signs had me befuddled. Luckily the driver quickly saw the error of my ways and got us back on track ASAP.)

I can’t remember exactly when I learned about MapQuest. Perhaps it was in the very early years of the 2000s when I got my first laptop. Maybe it was before that, and I’d use my computer at work or go to the public library to get my directions via the World Wide Web. I do remember finding directions online and either printing them or writing each step out by hand. MapQuest let me down multiple times (including on so many occasions on a single trip to Missouri that I grew convinced that no employee of MapQuest had ever driven one mile in the Show Me State), until I swore to never use that website again. Now I’m a Google Maps gal.

The first time I heard a talking GPS navigator was 2009. The parents of the

White Android Smartphone Inside Vehicle

guy who was then my boyfriend flew into the major city where we lived and rented a car because the guy and I didn’t have one. The car’s talking navigation system seemed to be more trouble to me than it was worth. We asked it to take us to tacos; instead it took us in circles as we tried to find a taco stand that apparently didn’t exist. I feared we would be directed to drive off a cliff or through a river.

Until I met The Man, I never let the navigation lady in Google Maps talk to me. I’d get directions from Google Maps, then write them out on a piece of paper I’d clip somewhere on my dash so I could refer to the instructions as I drove. I soon agreed with The Man that listening to the Google lady is easier than writing everything out, but it sure is a wrench in my system when she decides to send me on a wild goose chase. (I call them “wild Google chases.”) Why does the GPS lady get confused? Doesn’t her job require her to be omniscient?

And yet, I often wonder how our society got around before Google Maps or other GPS technology. When I think hard, I remember as a teenager having to ask friends how to get to their houses before my mother drove me over. Invitations to birthday parties often included small hand-drawn maps. Vacationers used road maps and those AAA TripTik booklets (if they were so fortunate as to be AAA members–my family never was). When folks got lost, they’d stop at a gas station and ask the worker for help.

Yes, I do appreciate GPS technology. I use it often. I’ve made friends with the Google Maps lady who guides me from inside my phone. (I call her Megan.) But for goodness sake, no matter how convenient GPS technology is, don’t forget your paper maps and don’t forget how to use them.

There are a few types of paper maps that you may need during your travels. Be sure to get the right map for the job!

(I’m going to assume you’re traveling in the U.S.A. since that’s where I’m writing from. I’ve you’re traveling in a country other than the U.S.A., I‘d love for you to leave a comment describing how your use of maps is different from the suggestions I’m giving here.)

Map of the World Book Laid Open on Brown Wooden Surface

For your day-to-day driving on the interstate and highways, use a decent road atlas. Rand McNally makes a good one. You can buy these bound sets of maps at bookstores or even Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart also sells a Rand McNally road atlas that shows the location of every Wal-Mart store in the U.S. This atlas would be a great investment for anyone who plans to spend a significant number of nights in Wal-Mart parking lots.SimplyRVing made a YouTube video all about this Wal-Mart atlas and how it can help you on the road.

If you’re planning your travels ahead of time, you can order an atlas online or through a local, independent bookstore. (Believe me, an independent bookstore will appreciate your business!) An atlas will show you the main roads to get you from town to town. The maps often show rest stops and campgrounds, as well as state and federal public land. Many of them also show basic maps of major cities and the most popular National Parks. If you purchase an atlas that covers all of North America, you’ll get maps of Canada and Mexico too.

If you’re only traveling in one state or region and you don’t have the space

Two People In Vehicle Looking At The Map

(or money) for an atlas, you can probably get by with one or more state maps. You can sometimes find state maps in bookstores or Wal-Mart stores, and you can certainly buy them online. However, state maps are typically available for free at visitor centers or by mail if you contact the state’s tourism office ahead of time. I was recently in the visitor center in Deming, NM where there were free maps available for New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Texas.

(If you want to request free paper maps and other tourist information, the USATourist.com website offers a page with links to all the tourism offices in the USA.)

Sometimes a stand-alone state map will be more detailed than a state map in an atlas. It may show you county roads and tourists attractions. A state map may also include basic maps of major cities within the state.

If you want to explore a state thoroughly, especially if you want to boondock for free on public land, you may want to invest in an atlas or atlas and gazetteer for the state you are exploring.  These bound maps of individual states break the entire state into blocks, then enlarges each block to show not just county roads but also forest service roads, old mines, campgrounds, public land, historic sites, hunting zones, and more. Having a state atlas or atlas and gazetteer combo is a good plan if you want to find free camping areas that are off the beaten path. The two most popular brands are DeLorme and Benchmark.

Photo of Gray Concrete Road in the Middle of Jungle during Daylight

If you’re going to spend some time in a National Forest or BLM area (especially a popular one), you may be able to get a map from the local ranger station. These maps will show Forest Service roads, natural attractions and landmarks, and campgrounds. These maps will also save you from buying a gazetteer if you don’t really need it because you’ll be boondocking primarily in one part of the state. (The map of the National Forest I worked in for four seasons cost $20, but the ranger station may have free handouts that will get you where you want to go. Don’t be afraid to ask for freebies.)

On the other hand, if you spend a lot of time in an urban area, you may want to get a good map of the city where you are based. Gas stations or Wal-Mart stores may have city maps, or you can order them before you hit town, if you’re the type to plan ahead. If you get to a city and need a free map of the area, try the local chamber of commerce. You don’t have to say you live in your van (if doing so makes you uncomfortable) when you explain you’re new to the area and need some help finding your way around. You could also go to the public library and print out some maps of the city that show the parts of town you plan to frequent.

Once you have your map, don’t just stick it in the pocket behind your seat and forget about it. Get that baby out and study it! Trust me, the best time to pull out your map is not when you are already lost.

If you’re using GPS to get to your destination, compare the route the

Person Holding Map of Usa

computer gives you to your map. Does what the GPS tell you make sense? Some camp host friends punched “Sequoia National Park” into their GPS, and after following the instructions given, found themselves turning down what seemed to be a dry riverbed. Oops! Had they consulted a map before the trip, they would have seen there was no reason to leave the pavement to get where they were going.

I’ve had Google Maps send me on wild Google chases even in cities and towns. Once when on the interstate, driving through the metro Los Angeles area, the Google Maps lady routed The Man onto Sunset Boulevard. Why? Why? Why? Google Maps often sent me on strange, roundabout routes through Porterville, CA. In any case, using a paper map to get familiar with an area before a trip can help do away with this type of nonsense. Simply being familiar with street names and the lay of the land can help make recovery a little easier if the GPS starts spewing incorrect information.

If you’ve never learned to read a road map or your skills are rusty, no shame! You can find lots of map-reading help on the internet. The Beginner Driver’s Guide will give you an informative overview of what different components of a map mean and how to use them. wikiHow has a thorough two-part article on “How to Read a Map,” including how to understand a map’s layout and how to use a map to get where you’re going. If you’d rather watch a video, there are several on YouTube dedicated to teaching folks how to read maps.

However you go about sharpening your map-reading skills, do it before you get on the road. Trying to interpret an unfamiliar map while trying to drive and read street signs is no easy task and could be a recipe for disaster.

GPS is quite helpful in getting you where you’re going, but it shouldn’t be the only tool in your navigation toolbox. Make sure you have the correct paper map for the particular journey you’re on, and know how to use it so you can reach your destination with less worry and stress.

As always, Blaize Sun takes no responsibility for your safety and well-being. Only you are responsible for your safety and well-being. Do your research and decide for yourself your best course of action.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/activity-adventure-blur-business-297642/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/smartphone-car-technology-phone-33488/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/map-maps-american-book-32307/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-gray-concrete-road-in-the-middle-of-jungle-during-daylight-775199/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/blur-close-up-fingers-focus-590133/.

Unusual Bodily Connections and Their Impact on Mental and Physical Well-Being (Guest Post)

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Today is World Oral Health Day. According to the World Oral Health Day website, it


is celebrated globally every year on 20 March. It is organized by FDI World Dental Federation and is the largest global awareness campaign on oral health.


WOHD spreads messages about good oral hygiene practices to adults and children alike and demonstrates the importance of optimal oral health in maintaining general health and well-being.

March 20 was chosen as World Oral Health Day


to reflect that:
Seniors must have a total of 20 natural teeth at the end of their life to be considered healthy
Children should possess 20 baby teeth
Healthy adults must have a total of 32 teeth and 0 dental cavities
Expressed on a numerical basis this can be translated as 3/20 hence March 20

In honor of this day, we’ll take a break from our usual Wednesday posts of special interest to vandwellers, vagabonds. nomads, drifters, rubber tramps, and travelers and share this guest post by Catherine Workman. Catherine’s article tells us about the impact oral health has on the human body’s overall general health, the link between dental and mental health, and as a bonus, how gut bacteria influences mental and physical well being. Of course, such information is important to everyone, including folks who live on the road.

The human body is an endless source of surprise, with odd connections that would seem highly improbable if science hadn’t provided the evidence. Research has established a connection between periodontal and cardiovascular health and proven a connection between one’s gut and mental and metabolic health. It’s strange to think that a healthy gut would have an effect on your mental well-being as well as obesity and whether you get diabetes, but such is the case. Understanding these connections is important and the first step in preventing serious physical and psychological problems. And it’s very likely that understanding how to use these connections to stay healthy and happy can help prevent serious conditions.

Gums and Heart

Gum disease results from the buildup of plaque around the teeth, increasing the incidence of inflammation within the body, especially chronic long-term inflammation, a key factor in an array of health issues, particularly atherosclerosis. And while there’s no clear proof that preventing periodontal disease will prevent cardiovascular disease, researchers have concluded that the link between the two is reason enough to be diligent about maintaining good oral health.

Proper oral health includes being faithful about brushing, flossing, and making regular visits to the dentist, all of which play an even more important role in one’s overall health than previously understood. Gingivitis, which is the inflammation of the gums, is an early warning sign of periodontal disease. Swollen, red, or sensitive gums that bleed easily are indicators of gingivitis and should be brought to your dentist’s attention as soon as possible.

Dental and Mental Health

There is also a connection between oral and mental health. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, two-thirds of people suffering from depression indicated having had a toothache or some other dental problem in the past year. Depressed persons also tended to have teeth in fair or poor condition. Evidently, poor dental health is linked to a range of mood disorders. It can be difficult to know which comes first, but there is evidence that people who suffer from depression and anxiety tend to neglect their own hygiene.

Depression is also a cause of poor dietary habits and the ingestion of sugary and acidic foods that are bad for the teeth. Maintaining a healthy oral health routine is the most direct form of treatment, though some people may require pharmacological help, including the prescription of medications to alleviate their mental suffering.

Your Gut, Your Health

One of the most impactful findings of recent years is the relationship between gut bacteria — a proper balance between good and bad bacteria — and various aspects of one’s mental and physical well-being. Your overall health begins in your gut, where bacteria such as Akkermansia, Lactobacillus, and Bifidobacterium play a major role in preserving your health.

Gut bacteria are involved in proper food digestion and are tied to health issues such as obesity, diabetes, colon cancer, and even mental health problems such as depression. Gut bacteria line your entire digestive system, most of which live in the colon and intestines, and affect profoundly important bodily functions, such as your metabolism and immune system. Insufficient anti-inflammatory gut bacteria is likely to cause colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Following a healthy diet, which should include whole grains, vegetables, and fruit, can help place your good and bad gut bacteria back in balance and overcome health problems related to gut-related problems. Regular exercise and taking probiotics can also improve gut health. Alternative approaches include ginger and turmeric, an anti-inflammatory; milk thistle, which speeds slow digestion; and slippery elm, which soothes acid reflux.

We’re accustomed to thinking of major organs like the heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver as the primary influencers of one’s health. It can be strange to think that good physical and mental health begins in the mouth and in one’s gut. However, maintaining good oral and gut health clearly have an impact on one’s overall health and well-being.

Catherine Workman believes we should all leave our comfort zones once in a while. She travels to boost her physical and mental health.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

A Guide to Winter Camping : Stay Warm, Have Fun (Guest Post)

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A travel trailer sits in the snow near a leafless tree. A lake is in the background. The sky is blue with grey clouds up high and puffy white clouds down low.

It’s February–the height (or some would say the low) of winter in the northern hemisphere. If you’re longing to camp, but you’re worried you’ll be miserable out in the cold and the snow, read this guide!. You don’t have to wait until the warmth of spring melts the snow to stay overnight in the great outdoors. Just use some of the following tips from Danny Smith, CEO and Founder of Xtend Outdoors, to stay warm and have fun while winter camping.

You might wonder why anyone would want to camp in the winter. Some folks like winter camping because camping areas are too crowded in the summer. Some campers want to feel the serenity of a perfect winter wonderland. The season of ice and snow is certainly visually amazing with stunning landscapes, such as ice-covered rivers and lakes. Some people really do love winter camping.

If you love to chill in the hills, be it cold weather hiking, playing in snow, or admiring the beauty of the snowflakes, camping in winter is worth a try.

Cold weather camping is an adrenaline-charged experience if you enjoy the thrill of extreme cold and lots of snow. However, if you are not prepared, winter camping can be end up being less than fun. Cold weather camping is challenging. To set yourself up for a successful winter campout, you’ll have to have knowledge of seasonal changes. You’ll also have to get some winter equipment to survive in cold temperatures. If you’re a beginner winter camper, then choose a location that’s easy to get to and plan a trip of only a few days.

Follow these winter camping tips and tricks to make your winter camping adventure a success whether this is your first cold weather trip or your fiftieth!

Essential winter camping equipment

How do you avoid being cold? You’ll need to do some preparation before you go camping in the winter. Having the perfect winter camping clothes and equipment can reduce the hassle that cold temperatures bring. The level of planning will be one of the critical factors in the success of your adventure.

You have to think sensibly about the weather condition you will be in. Buy the camping gear that suits you properly.   Read up on selecting the right gear for you.  Don’t rush in and buy something without knowledge, or you may end up with equipment that won’t suit you and your camping style. 

I suggest you have the following equipment before you go off on your winter camping adventure.

1) Bivy Sack or Tent  Having a waterproof bivy sack can guarantee you a warm, good night’s sleep. If you’re hiking to your camping spot, it’s much more comfortable and lighter to carry compared to cold weather tents. But if you’re a bit claustrophobic, then a winter tent is probably more suitable. You can also bring a tarp for additional shelter or cover.

2) Boots  A sturdy pair of boots will work as a shield in freezing weather condition. Moreover, it will protect your feet from the serious threat of frostbite. Protecthing your toes should be a high priority while camping in winter.

3)  Communication Device  When you are in hills, your cell phone network may be limited or possibly nonexistent. One of the best ways to communicate with others in your group is by using a two-way radio. Using  a satellite phone with GPS features would also be quite helpful if you already have this device or can afford to buy one.

4)  Navigation System and Paper Maps How will find your route when your batteries run out? It will be best to have a compass and a paper map in your hand to help you navigate in the wilderness.

5) Sleeping Bags Having a good and reliable sleeping bag will keep you warm and protected while you sleep. Choose a sleeping bag that is water-resistant and offers exceptional insulation.

In addition to equipment you would take on any camping trip (sanitation supplies, food and cooking supplies), other pieces of critical cold weather camping gear you need are  wool pants, fire starters, ski mask, insulated water bottles, warm jacket or coat, and socks made for winter wear.

Winters Camping Hacks

Make a Hot Water Bottle. Sleeping when you’re cold is not easy. Before getting into your cozy sleeping bag, warm it with a hot water bottle. Heat snow to the boiling point. Fill your bottle with the boiling snow water. Wrap the bottle in wool clothes, then zip it into your sleeping bag for fifteen minutes. The hot bottle will warm up your sleeping bag and ensure you don’t start the night shivering.

Fire is your friend. Fire is going to be your best friend. After spending the whole day playing in snow, make sure to bring enough of wood, paper, matches, and fire starter to get a good fire going so you can warm yourself.  It is better if you bring wood unless you’re sure you can find some near your camping spot. You don’t want to get out to the wilderness and find you can’t get a fire going.

Use Portable Power Packs.All electronic products drain the battery at a faster pace in the cold, so be prepared. Have a power bank or use lithium batteries. They perform effectively and will last three times as long as your regular ones.

Plan your Meals. Cooking at camp is simple and delicious. New campers sometimes fail to think about meal planning. Be a smart camper, plan your meals.To survive and to maintain the energy level of your body, you need to eat the right amount of calories, proteins, and carbs. Avoid buying munchies. Two days before departure, buy food from the grocery store so it will be fresh when you get to your destination.

Essential Extras

Candles As long as you put it in a safe place, a single candle will warm your tent and cut back on condensation.

Vaseline & creamRubbing it all over the body will help you avoid frostbite and windburn.

  
Wherever you’re going this winter, make sure to leave directions with a friend so that other people know exactly where to find you if you don’t get home when expected. Winter camp activities come with particular challenges, but if you’re well prepared it is no more dangerous, and certainly no less fun, than sleeping under the stars in the summer.

About Author:           

Danny Smith is CEO and Founder of Xtend Outdoors Australia which manufactures and sells caravan annexes, awnings and accessories. He just loves caravan holidays and frequently blogs about caravanning trips, parks and tips.

Please remember that neither Danny Smith nor Blaize Sun is responsible for your health or safety if you go winter camping. Only you are responsible for your health and safety. Please educate yourself about the danger and challenges of winter camping before you go. Use this article as a starting point for your research.

Photo provided by the author.

Earning Money by Participating in Drug Studies (Part 2)

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Last week I gave you the first half of everything I know about participating in drug studies for money. Today I’ll tell you the rest.

Blue and Silver StetoscopeIf you’re interested in being a healthy volunteer for a clinical trial, you first have to find a study facility that is recruiting. If you’re willing to travel, you have a better chance of finding a trial to participate in. The following are a few of the clinical trial recruiters I found during my research:

The Center for Information & Study on Clinical Research Participation

is a free service designed to help people find clinical trials that are relevant to their needs. CISCRP staff will work with you to understand your options and our staff will help you find local clinical trials in your community, or as far as you would be comfortable traveling.

ClincalTrails.gov

is a database of privately and publicly funded clinical studies conducted around the world.

PRA Health Sciences has locations in Lenexa, KS (metro Kansas City area) and Salt Lake City, UT.

Johnson County Clin-Trials is located in Lenexa, KS (metro Kansas City area).

Vince & Associates is located in Overland Park, KS (metro Kansas City area).

IQVIA is located in the metro Kansas City area and can be reached via telephone (913-894-5533 or  800-292-5533 [Monday-Friday, 8:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. CST]) or email (vps.volunteer@IQVIA.com).

The Center for Pharmaceutical Research is located in Kansas City, MO.

PPD has clinical research units in Austin, TX and Las Vegas, NV.

Celerion has locations in Lincoln, NE; Tempe, AZ (metro Phoenix area); and Belfast, Northern Ireland UK .

The University of Arizona Health Sciences recruits healthy volunteers in the Tucson and Phoenix areas.

The Mayo Clinic also recruits healthy volunteers for clinical trials. Most trials seem to be held in Rochester, MN, but I also saw listings for the metro Phoenix, AZ area, Jacksonville, FL, and La Crosse, WI.

Pfizer is seeking healthy volunteers for clinical trails across the United States.

Parexel conducts clinical studies in Baltimore, MD; Los Angels, CA; London, England, and Berlin, Germany.

If I didn’t include a study facility in the area where you are or where you’re planning to be, try putting “clinical trials healthy volunteers” and the big city closest to your desired location in a search engine.

After you find a study facility in the area where you are or an area to which you’re willing to travel, read the listings of upcoming studies carefully to see which ones you qualify for. Don’t waste your time applying for a study if you don’t meet all the qualifications. The requirements are pretty much set in stone, so if (for example) you’re a 26 year-old female who smokes, you’re not going to get into a study for male nonsmokers who are 35-65.

Once you find a study for which you qualify, take a look at how long it lasts. If you can’t sit in one place for more than a week, you might not want to sign up for a three week study. If you have to leave the area on December 19 to get to your mom’s house by Christmas Eve, don’t get into a study that lasts until December 22.

Another thing to check out is how many follow-up visits the trial requires. If you’ll be ready to leave the area soon after the study is over, don’t pick a trial that requires several follow-up visits. The sponsors of most of the studies I participated in withheld the final payment until the completion of the final follow-up visit to ensure volunteers Gray Rotary Telephone on Brown Surfaceactually showed up for the last examination

If you’ve determined you’re a good fit for the study criteria given, you can handle the length of the study, the dates work for you, and you’re ok with the number of follow-up visits required, the next step is to contact a recruiter via telephone or by submitting information online and having a recruiter call you. If you are calling the recruiter, be sure to have the study number handy. If you don’t give the study number and just try to describe the study, you and the recruiter may end up talking about different things.

If there are still openings in the study you are interested in, the recruiter will conduct a phone screening with you. The recruiter will ask you questions about your general health; your medical history; your current and past drug use, including illegal drugs and prescription and over-the-counter medications, as well as vitamins and supplements; alcohol use; dietary restrictions, height; weight; and birth control methods, among other things I’ve probably forgotten since the last time I went through a phone screening. If you still qualify to participate after you answer all these (highly personal) questions, the recruiter will set up an appointment for an in-person screening.

The night before your screening visit, you definitely want to drink plenty of water so your blood will flow easily when it’s time for your blood draw. Avoiding fatty and fried foods for several days before your screening will also help with the blood draws. The recruiter should tell you how many days prior to the visit you should avoid alcohol; caffeine; over-the counter medications, vitamins, and supplements; exercise; and specific foods (such as poppy seeds or grapefruit). The recruiter should also tell you if you need to fast before your screening and if you do, what time you should start your fast. Follow these instructions to the letter or you may find yourself disqualified from the study.

Arrive at the screening center before the specified time so you’re not rushing and frazzled. After you sign in, you will be given a lot of paperwork to fill out; some of the questions will be the same as what  the recruiter asked during the phone screening. You will also be given a detailed consent form to read and sign. You should be given the opportunity to ask questions about the clinical trial, and you should have all your questions answered to your satisfaction.

Person Massaging Man While Lying on BedAfter you turn in your paperwork, an onsite recruiter will read over it. If you still qualify for the trial, someone will measure your height and weight and determine your BMI (Body Mass Index). Your vital signs (temperature, blood pressure, respiration rate) will be measured and noted. At some point you will provide a urine sample and have blood drawn. A doctor will examine you to make sure you are healthy.

The waiting game begins when the screening appointment ends. Depending on when you screen, you may have to wait a week or two to find out if you have made it into the study. You may be called back in for a follow-up screening if any of your test results are on the edge of normal, so don’t go too far away from the screening center while you wait for your results.

While you’re going through your screening, it pays to be friendly and polite. The study sponsor screens more people than they need for the trail so they’re sure to have enough participants. If everyone qualifies physically, people will be cut from the study based on other criteria. If all physical aspects are equal, folks who are uncooperative or rude to the staff are more likely to be cut from the study.

If you do make it into the study, you will be called and told when to report to the study facility to check in. At your screening, you will have been given a list of what you are allowed to bring and what items are prohibited. Don’t even bother bringing prohibited items. Your bags will be checked, and any prohibited items will be confiscated. (You’ll get them back when you leave.) Prohibited items in the studies I participated in included food, gum, candy, over-the-counter medications, hygiene products with certain ingredients, and weapons of any kind.

Be sure to get to study facility on time for your check in. Being one minute late can get you cut from the trial. Black and White Blood Pressure Kit

Once you arrive for check in, you’re going to have to fill out a bunch of the same paperwork all over again. Just be patient and fill in the blanks. You’ll be weighed and your vital signs measured. You’ll provide urine and blood samples all over again. A doctor will examine you to make sure all is still well. You’ll go through the screening again because the study sponsor wants to confirm that you aren’t sick and haven’t been smoking or drinking alcohol or ingesting other chemicals you were told not to touch.

If you successfully make it over all these hurdles, you’ll be told you’re in the study, but don’t relax just yet. Each group of participants usually includes a couple of alternates in the event someone turns out to be sick in the morning or chickens out before they take the study medication. You’re not really in until you take the study medication, and even then, if you experience a serious adverse event (“side effect” in common terms) you might be dropped from the study for your own well-being. In my experience, even if participants are dropped from a trail early, they are paid for each night they spent in the study facility.

To be a successful drug study participant, be where you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be there. If you have a blood draw at 9:00, don’t make the study nurse have to drag you away from the activity room for it. If your vitals are to be checked at 23:00 (11pm for folks not accustomed to military time), be at your bedside and ready to go ten minutes prior. You should be given a chronology telling you exactly when every activity of the study will occur. Keep your chronology handy and live by it.

There’s a lot of down time in a drug study, so be prepared to entertain yourself. In the facilities I’ve stayed in, each bed had its own television, so volunteers could spend all day and most of the night (until mandatory lights-out) watching cable TV. Most facilities do have some public access computers, but the speed of the internet connection might be questionable. I always brought my own laptop, plenty of books, supplies for writing and sending letters and materials for making jewelry. Cellphones make it easy to catch up on all the calls you’ve been needing to make.

So that’s it, everything I remember about getting into a drug study. Do you have questions about something I didn’t cover? Just ask in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to answer.

Some of the information in this post comes from my memory and is correct as far as I recollect. Other information comes from my research on the internet and is correct as far as I can determine. This information is offered as a starting point for your own research, not as the definitive answer to all your questions. Blaize Sun is not responsible for you. Only you are responsible for you.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/blue-and-silver-stetoscope-40568/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/antique-close-up-cord-dial-209695/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-massaging-man-while-lying-on-bed-1321728/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/black-and-white-blood-pressure-kit-220723/.

Earning Money by Participating in Drug Studies (Part 1)

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100 U.s. Dollar BanknotesWhile I was writing the recent post about places for nomads to find money-making opportunities, I thought about drug studies. Even the longest drug studies only involve a temporary commitment, and they typically offer a good financial reward on the time invested.

While it’s true that I haven’t participated in a drug study in nearly a decade, I’ve participated in several throughout my life. Today I’m going to share my knowledge of drug studies based on my experiences in the early to mid 2000s. Of course, the world of drug studies may have changed since then, so like all of my posts in which I share information, think of this post as a starting point for the research you will do before you decide if being a drug study participant is the right choice for you.

First of all, what do I mean by “drug study”? According to the website of the National Institutes of Health Office of Person Using Black Blood Pressure MonitorExtramural Research, a clinical trial (the more official term for a drug study) is

A research study in which one or more human subjects are prospectively assigned to one or more interventions (which may include placebo or other control) to evaluate the effects of those interventions on health-related biomedical or behavioral outcomes.

(The underlined terms in the above definition are themselves defined on the aforementioned webpage.)

Basically, in a clinical trial the environment is manipulated in some way so the outcome can be studied. The manipulation often occurs in the form of taking a drug, or thinking you’re taking a drug but really taking a placebo.

All of the clinical trials I participated in were for healthy volunteers. The National Institutes of Health Clinical Center webpage for patient recruitment says

[s]omeone with no known significant health problems who participates in research to test a new drug, device, or intervention is a “healthy volunteer” or “Clinical Research Volunteer”.

Macro Photo of Stethoscope and PensYou may be wondering who conducts and pays for clinical trails. According to a MaRS webpage explaining the difference between sponsors and sponsor-investigators,

In the conduct of a clinical trial, a sponsor is an individual, institution, company or organization…that takes the responsibility to initiate, manage or finance the clinical trial,1 but does not actually conduct the investigation.

Apparently a clinical trial can also be conducted by sponsor-investigator, who, the aforementioned website says,

takes on the responsibility as a clinical study sponsor and also conducts or oversees the clinical trial.

As far as I know, all of the studies I participated in had a sponsor (usually a drug company) who hired a private company to conduct the investigation.

Ok, so how healthy does a person have to be to get into a clinical trial? Most study sponsors want participants who don’t smoke cigarettes or use other tobacco products. At the very least, study requirements typically prohibit volunteers from using tobacco while participating in the trial. Refraining from alcohol during the study is necessary too. Sponsors also want participants who don’t do drugs, either street drugs, prescription drugs, or over-the-counter medication. I’ve gotten into studies even after I confessed to taking vitamins, but it was with reluctance on the part of the recruiter. Ideally, sponsors want people who don’t drink alcohol, use tobacco products, or take any drugs ever! They also don’t want you if you show up for a screening (more on that later) or check-in with a cold, a headache, or any sort of sickness.

Another aspect of “health” study sponsors are concerned with is weight, or specifically, Body Mass Index (BMI). Study sponsors want volunteers to be in the “normal” range, so they don’t want people who are too “overweight” participating in their trials. In my experience, descriptions of specific studies will include what BMI range is acceptable. I found it helpful to know my BMI so I didn’t waste time applying for studies my BMI would disqualify me for anyway. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website offers a BMI calculator you can use.

Person Standing In Front Of Food TrayStudy sponsors are not too keen on people with special dietary restrictions, whether those restrictions are for health, ethical, or religious reasons. Sponsors believe it’s important for all human subjects in a trial to eat the same foods, so they’re not going to allow a vegetarian or vegan into a study where they plan to feed the participants a typical meat-based diet. I’ve heard that at some study facilities subjects are required to eat everything on their plates at each meal. I’ve never been in a facility like that; every study I participated in allowed me to decide what and how much of what I was given I would eat at any meal. I did witness people in other studies being required to eat everything on their plates.

Study sponsors are also very concerned that study medications not be allowed to affect any fetus. Typically pregnant women are not allowed to participate in clinical trials, and often female volunteers are advised not to get pregnant for some time after the study is over. Because of these concerns, female volunteers are required to be sterile or on an approved method of birth control. Women not on hormonal birth control typically need to use a barrier method with spermicide as their form of birth control in order to be accepted as study participants.

I know I have used the word “volunteer” throughout this post, but don’t worry, human subjects do get paid. (Believe me, I would not take study medication if I weren’t getting some money for my trouble.) According to the 2012 Money Talks News article “7 Things to Know Before You Join a Clinical Trial,”

Your pay depends on the “phase…”Of the four types of trial…Phases I through IV – Phase I is the earliest, when the effects and outcome are least understood…

Early trials are small, but they’re easier to qualify for (healthy adults can participate) and pay more…Later trials are bigger but…usually offer less [money].

Pay rate also depends on the area of medicine..The highest amounts are offered for cardiovascular disease, neurology, endocrine, gastrointestinal, and blood disorder…

(Warning: most of the links in the article just mentioned no longer work.)

In my experience, other factors such as how long the subject is required to stay in the study facility, how many follow-up visits are required, and how many blood draws are involved in the study also help determine how much compensation a volunteer receives for participating in a clinical trial. The most money I ever earned for participating in a drug study was a little over $3,000 for staying 21 nights in the study facility and taking two psychotropic drugs already on the market. The study sponsors wanted to know how the drugs would interact when taken together. Most of the drug studies I participated in paid between between $1,000 and $2,000 dollars for a five to ten night stay.

Yes, that’s right, you typically have to stay in the study facility during the clinical trial. This is not always the case–I’ve participated in a handful of studies where I went home after taking the study medication, then made a predetermined number of follow-up visits in person or checked in via telephone or email–but typically study participants stay in a medical facility for a predetermined number of days. Staying in the facility helps the folks carrying out the trial be sure no one is smoking or drinking alcohol or taking other drugs while on study medication. It also allows for immediate medical attention from a member of the round-the-clock nursing staff if the study medication causes a dangerous adverse effect. For some people, being confined to the study facility was the hardest part of participating in a clinical trial, but I made good use of my time reading, writing letters, and catching up on cheesy television shows.

Not that I’ve given you an overview of how participation in a clinical trial works, you can start considering if it is right for you. But don’t make a decision yet! Next week I’ll give you some ideas of how to find clinical trials to participate in, what to expect during the initial phone screening as well as the in-person screening, and how to prepare for check-in and your stay in the study.

Some of the information in this post comes from my memory and is correct as far as I recollect. Other information comes from my research on the internet and is correct as far as I can determine. This information is offered as a starting point for your own research, not as the definitive answer to all your questions. Blaize Sun is not responsible for you. Only you are responsible for you.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/abundance-achievement-bank-banknotes-534229/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-using-black-blood-pressure-monitor-905874/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/healthy-clinic-doctor-health-42273/ https://pixabay.com/en/no-smoking-logo-symbols-warning-24122/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-standing-in-front-of-food-tray-734542/.

Blogiversary

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On February 5, 2015 I started a blog. It had a different name then. I called it Throwing Stories into the Ether because I felt as if I were releasing my writing into the air, never knowing if it was being read or appreciated.  It was a fine name, but difficult for people to remember, and it didn’t say anything about who I am or what I do. Some months into the endeavor, the blog–and I–became the Rubber Tramp Artist.

When I stared the blog, I thought maybe my sibling and a few of my friends would read it. Now the blog has over 600 subscribers. While having 600 subscribers is small potatoes compared to what many bloggers (and now vloggers!) have going on, my numbers continue to grow.

Stalagtites and stalagmites grow in a dark cave.


In the last four years I’ve written a lot, made some new friends, and seen amazing works of people and nature. From Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico to Arches National Park in Utah, I’ve shared my adventures. I’ve shared locations of beautiful free camping spots and told readers where to find fantastic public art. I’ve told stories of my family, both the one I was born into and the one I’ve created for myself.

In the beginning I shared a blog post every day. I kept that up until I got a boyfriend with a dog and my life was more full than it had been in years. I changed my posting schedule to every other day, but even that timetable became too much. Now I share a blog post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with occasional blog extras on days when I want to share a second part of a long story or I’m writing about a holiday that is outside my normal posting schedule.

A saguaro cactus with six arms stands against a light blue sky with whispy clouds.
This saguaro is not just surviving, but also thriving in the desert.

The change I’m most proud of is what I do on Wednesday. At the suggestion of my dear friend and computer guy, every Wednesday I share a post of particular interest to vandwellers, rubber tramps, RVers, vagabonds, drifters, nomads, and travelers of all kinds. From how to get a job as a work camper at a campground to surviving and thriving in the forest, desert, and mountains, I tell readers what I know in hopes of making their lives easier.

While these posts are hopefully helpful to my community, they also take a long time to write. I don’t want to share just my knowledge, bu the knowledge of other folks who have experience with the topic at hand. I do a lot of research for each Wednesday post and include links when possible so readers can easily find the articles I reference and expand their research if they like. A 2,000 word Wednesday post can easily take hours to research and write.

An old blue Dodge van is parked. In the background is a Catholic church.
This was my van home for a time.

A subset of the Wednesday posts are interviews I’ve conducted and published. Each month I share an interview with a current or former vandweller, traveler, nomad, rubber tramp, or RVer. (Sometimes I interview couples too.) I don’t know everything, so I tap into the knowledge of the larger community. It’s fun for me to learn more about people and how they live. From ideas about the superiority of mini vans to lessons learned from being in an accident, I broaden the scope of my blog by sharing the life experiences with others.

Brightly colored handmade hats and copies of the book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods sit on a table.
At the 2017 RTR, I sold copies of the book I wrote, Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods, as well as hats I made with my own hands.

In the midst of keeping up with my blog, in the fall of 2016 I wrote and self-published my first book. Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods is a collection of short personal essays about my two seasons as a camp host and attendant at the parking lot of a very busy trailhead. During the time covered in the book, I lived in my van on top of a mountain with no running water, no electricity, no internet access, and no phone service. You can say I got comfortable being with myself.

Writing and self-publishing a book is a huge accomplishment. I have ideas for four more books; the trick is finding the time to make them happen while still publishing blog posts three times a week, being in a relationship with my guy, playing ball with a demanding dog, maintaining friendships, creating art (and crafts!), occasionally making money, carrying out the tasks of daily life (cooking, eating, cleaning, doing laundry), and wasting too much time on social media and playing solitaire on my phone. Maybe I’ll need to delete the solitaire app and ban myself from social media for a while.

Stickers are fanned out on a white table. The stickers say Rubber Tramp Artist on the top. The image shows a smiling sun wearing sunglasses sitting behind the wheel of a light blue conversion van. The sun has its head out of the window. The sun has one hand on the steering wheel and the other is waving.
You can get your very own Rubber Tramp Artist sticker.

In the summer of 2018, I commissioned an artist friend of mine, Samantha Adelle, to create a logo for me. I told her what I wanted, and she made my vision a reality. I love that the artist used photos of my actual van to draw the van in the logo. I love that as Blaize Sun, I’m the actual sun, and I’m driving, smiling, and waving. I love that it’s a happy, happy logo. (As you can see from the photo, I had stickers made with my logo on them. By the summer, I hope to have apparel and other merchandise with the logo available for purchase.)

It’s been a busy four years. I’ve grown tremendously as a writer and (hopefully) as a person. Thank you for taking this journey with me. Thank you for reading my words. As long as I have readers, I hope to continue to write.


Eleven Places Where Nomads Can Look for Temporary Work

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I see some version of this question posted over and over again in Facebook groups for van dwellers, rubber tramps, nomads, full-time RVers, and other folks who live on the road:

How do you guys make money?

Folks who aren’t living off retirement funds, disability benefits, or inherited money are probably going to have to work at least part time to pay the bills. Even people who live simply still have to feed themselves and put gas in the tank, so what’s a broke nomad to do?

If you don’t want to settle in one place long enough to take on a permanent position, getting a temp job while on the road will put money in your pocket.

Here’s a list of ten places to look for work that will last a few days (or maybe a few weeks) and allow you to earn the funds to get you down the road.

#1 Good ol’ Craigslist

While staying temporarily in major cities, I’ve been able to find plenty of short-term jobs through Craigslist ads. Thanks to Craigslist, I found a weekend gig selling lemonade at an ostrich festival, filled a position handing out cookie samples at a grocery store, got paid to help a woman set up her garage sell, was financially compensated for participating in physical and mental health studies at a major university, made a few bucks sitting on two mock juries, and got a dog sitting job that led me to getting paid for cooking and cleaning house for the dog’s person. I look under the “etc / misc” header in the jobs column, then skip down to look at the categories under “gigs.”

#2 Bulletin Boards

Look for bulletin boards around town. I often see them at libraries, grocery stores and laundromats. If you’re in a university town, look around on campus for bulletin boards. Any time I see a bulletin board, I scour the flyers for job opportunities. In Taos, NM one spring, The Man answered an ad I spotted on a flyer at the natural foods store and got a two-day job helping an older couple move. In addition to getting paid, he was fed lunch too!

#3 Help Wanted Signs

When I was in Moab, UT in April of 2018, there were help wanted signs all over the place. The Family Dollar (or was it the Dollar General?) had a help wanted sign on the front door. The mom and pop grocery store had a help wanted sign in the window. This recruitment method told me these stores were getting a little desperate to hire workers because things were going to get busy soon.

If I had been looking for a job in Moab, I wouldn’t have just applied at the places where I saw actual help wanted signs. The signs were a clue to me that the whole town was going to need workers in the very near future. If I had been looking for work in Moab, I would have stopped in at any place I might be interested or qualified to work in and asked to fill out an application.

Of course, a help wanted sign has the potential to lead to a job that’s going to last more than a day or two. That’s ok if you’re looking for something longer term. In a tourist town, a business might only be hiring seasonally, which may be perfect for you if you’ll want to move on when seasons change.

I recently learned of another way to earn money from help wanted signs. Job Spotter by Indeed is an app which allows people to earn points for taking photos of help wanted signs. The points can be exchanged for gift cards. The Penny Hoarder website has an article by with all the details. From what I’ve read, no one is going to get rich from the Job Spotter app, but if you are in a town where help wanted signs are posted, you could earn yourself some gift card credit this way.

Selective Focus Photography of Magazines#4 Local Newspapers

It might not even be worth looking at a big city newspaper for a job, but sometimes newspapers in smaller towns are kind of a big deal. If you’re in a small city or town, check out the help wanted section, either online or in the physical newspaper. Like to read a printed version of the newspaper, but don’t want to spend money? Look around for a discarded copy at the coffee shop you’re hanging out in, or ask at the local library if they have a copy available to the public.

#5 Word of Mouth

If you’re in a place where you know people or if you’re the outgoing type, talk to people and let then know you Smiling Person Holding Gray Stainless Steel Canare looking for work. If you overhear someone talking about needing to hire someone for a short-term job, introduce yourself. I’ve gotten some of my best pet sitting gigs because a friend of a friend was going out of town needed someone to care for the dogs.

#6 Facebook Buy/Sell/Trade Groups

In the small town where I spend my winters, people use the local Facebook buy/sell/trade group as a kind of electronic community bulletin board. Group members post about everything from bobcats harassing their house cats to tamales for sale. I’ve seen members post about needing help with yard work for an afternoon or weekend, and recently someone was looking for a person to clean her house regularly. If you’re spending some time in a small town and want very short term work, you may see if the community uses their buy/sell/trade group this way.

#7 On the Radio

KTAO 101.9 FM in Taos, NM has an on air “swap meet” called Trash and Treasures.

Listeners can call up and buy, sell, or trade any item or service that is not a live animal, business, or anything inappropriate…

Black and Silver Cassette PlayerA person in Taos with a skill could call Trash and Treasures and announce the desire to work to the entire radio audience. There’s a limit to how often a person can make such an announcement, but as long as the rules are followed an individual could offer yard work, house deep cleaning, dog walking, mural painting, or whatever skill one has to share.

I’ve heard that this sort of radio bulletin boards exist in small communities across the United States, so ask around if you’re in a little town.

#8 Remote Locations

If you’re already in a remote location (while camping, hiking, fishing, or doing some other outdoorsy activity) and would like to stay longer but are running out of funds, ask any businesses in the area if they’re hiring. Last May, the restaurant/bar/general store down the road from where The Man and I worked on the mountain hired two sets of people (a married couple who live in a short bus and a couple of guys traveling together) who were just passing through. All the folks worked through the busy season, then headed out after Labor Day.

The Big Boss Man needed another worker at the parking lot and ended up hiring a woman who’d come into the Mercantile and asked the other clerk (who also happened to be the Big Boss Man’s wife) How do I get a job up here? She’d been living in her car in the town at the foot of the mountain, and needed money for the next leg of her journey. She worked for a couple of months, which helped out the crew on the mountain, then moved on at the end of the season with some coins in her pocket.

Businesses in such remote locations are often in dire need of workers, so if you’re there and would like to stay for a while, ask around to find out if anyone needs help.

#9 Construction Sites

I’ve never tried this myself, but I’ve been told there’s potential for short-term work at construction sites. Have tools Man Wearing Black Denim Pants With Carrying Hammer on Holsterand skills? Track down the boss at a construction site and offer your services. If the crew is short and on a deadline, you might get hired on the spot. If you have a pickup truck and the ability to haul construction waste to the dump, you might get paid to perform that service.

#10 Temp Agencies

If you’d prefer to get jobs through more formal channels, try a temp agency, also known as a staffing agency. When I worked for Manpower, I got jobs supervising equipment at a dog food factory, packing jewelry into boxes, washing dishes in a school lunchroom, tallying votes after a local election, and removing staples from financial documents. Most of these jobs lasted just a day or two, and I was assured I was free to turn down any job for any reason.

Other well-known staffing agencies include Kelly Services and Addeco. A Glassdoor article by entitled “14 Great Staffing Agencies to Help You Kick Start Your Job Search” recommends other temp agencies to consider. The agencies listed in that article include the following: Integrity Staffing Solutions (office/clerical, professional and industrial staffing) and PrideStaff (office support, finance and accounting, light industrial, legal support, telemarketing, and customer service).

#11 Online Job Boards

Look online for websites with job boards like the one on the Your RV Lifestyle site. The jobs listed on this page range from camp host to grounds maintenance staff to janitor to blogger. Some of the positions are short term, while others seem to be long term or have no set end date.

If you’re interested in getting a seasonal job at a campground, check out my post “10 Steps to Getting a Job as a Work Camper at a Campground.”

I hope these ideas will help you find work if and when you need it. Remember, this post is a starting point; get out there and do your own research! Blaize Sun is not responsible for you! Only you are responsible for you!

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