Tag Archives: library

What Do I Do Now That I Have All This Time on My Hands?

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I stay busy.

Between writing and scheduling blog posts, staying in touch with friends, reading, and creating art, I barely have time to wash the dishes, exercise, or meditate. However, in Facebook groups for vandwellers and other internet resources for people who live nomadically, I regularly encounter people asking for advice on what to do now that they aren’t working full-time, permanent jobs. Some people have never had free time before, so they’ve not learned how to entertain themselves. Others are fine as long as they’re moving from place to place and seeing new things, but if an injury or lack of money means they have to sit on public land or in the same town for a week or two, they’re bored out of their minds.

For all the nomads who are trying for the first time to figure out what to do with themselves and for folks who want to try something(s) new, I offer ten activities to fill your time now that you own your life.

#1 Explore the public library. As may have been evident from my post 10 Ways to Save Money on the Road, I’m a big fan of public libraries. Even if you don’t have a library card, you can probably hang out away from inclement weather; use a computer to surf the web; read books and magazines; view art; and attend free movies, concerts, lectures, and classes.

Some public libraries will issue library cards to nonresidents. If you can score a library card, you may be able to enjoy books, music, and movies in the privacy of your own rig.

I encountered this Little Free Library in my travels.

#2 Read! I’m also a big fan of reading. If you can’t borrow books from a public library, get books from Little Free Libraries. Find inexpensive books at thrift stores and library book sales. If you’re staying in a campground, check for a library in the clubhouse or office.

If you rather look at photos and read short articles, acquire magazines instead of books. Magazines can often be had at thrift stores and library book sales for 10 cents or a quarter each–if they’re not outright free. Maybe you have a friend in another town with a magazine subscription who will put together a care package of back issues and send them to you via general delivery.

If you don’t like to read, but you do like to listen to stories, consider audiobooks. How cozy would it be to lie in your bed and have a talented voice actor read you a bedtime (or nap time) story? If you like the classics, Open Culture offers links to over 900 free audiobooks. For more options, Book Riot offers a list of “11 Websites to Find Free Audiobooks Online.” These are all legal audio book options.

#3 Listen to podcasts. Similar to audiobooks, you can listen to podcasts while driving, cooking, folding laundry, or cleaning the rig. Some podcasts are educational; some are entertaining. You can learn all about finding free podcasts in a 2017 Wired article called “The Beginner’s Guide to Podcasts.”

If you’re wondering what podcasts I like, read my post about my favorites.

(Note: When listening to podcasts or audiobooks, use headphones or make sure your volume is low enough not to bother others. Folks who go into the wilderness to hear birdsong don’t necessarily want to hear what you consider entertainment.)

#4 Learn to do something new. If you’ve always wanted to (fill in the blank with an activity of your choice), but never had the time, your time has come. The Instructables website shares directions for almost any DIY project, craft, or van-home improvement project you can think of. You can learn a lot on YouTube too. I taught myself to macramé hemp jewelry, and The Man learned how to replace drum brakes by watching YouTube videos, so I suspect most folks could use YouTube to learn a new skill.

#5 Play a musical instrument. Whether you’re an absolute beginner or a lapsed musician, use your spare time to play an instrument. The Man carries an acoustic guitar in his mini van so he can play whenever he gets the urge. Coyote Sue often practices her flute while boondocking on public land. If space is at a premium, go for something small like a ukulele, a piccolo, a kazoo, or a harmonica. If you’re lacking space and/or money to buy something, remember, your voice makes music too.

(Note: As with podcasts and audiobooks, please make sure your musical endeavors don’t disturb others. When camping or boondocking on public land, let the sounds of nature prevail.)

I whipped up these postcards from collage fodder Coyote Sue sent me.

#6 Write Letters. Don’t think you have to be a great writer to wrtite letters to your friends and family. Trust me, your people will be so excited to get what I call “real mail,” they’ll barely care about what you write. If you’re too shy to write to the adults, write to the children. Kids always seem super excited to get mail.

If you don’t think you have enough to say to justify writing a letter, send a postcard. In tourist towns, I usually find postcards costing between 20 and 50 cents each. At thrift stores, I’ve found postcards as cheap as a nickel each. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never been to the place on the postcard. People like pretty photos, even if you’ve never seen the landmark in question.

If you need a creative project, make your own postcards like I did.

#7 Keep a journal. If you don’t much like writing, make it more like a log book where you record where you stayed, what you did, weather, gas mileage, or any information you might want to remember later. If you rather draw than write, sketch the trees, the people you meet, the critters you see.

#8 Get artsy–or crafty. Find ways to get in touch with your creative side that don’t require lots of materials or tools that take up too much of your precious space. Paint watercolors the size of postcards. Make collages. Decorate the

This is how Coyote Sue has been decorating the inside of her rig. She gave me permission to use this photo.

interior of your rig. Sketch your campsite. Make jewelry. Make your own greeting cards or postcards. Sculpt with air-dry clay. Whittle.

#9 Learn how to use the camera in your smart phone. With today’s technology, you don’t need a fancy schmancy camera to take decent photographs. Most cameras let you use filters on your photos; adjust contrast, sharpness, and exposure; crop your image; and doodle right on the picture. With all these bells and whistles, you can take a decent photo and turn it into an awesome photo. Of course, if you don’t know the basics of composition, you’ll want to learn that too, courtesy of ePHOTOzine.

A good place to start learning to use your camera phone is an article by Photography Concentrate called “Smartphone Photography 101.”

#10 Get close to nature. If you’re on public land, put on your sturdy shoes and go for a hike or a little walk, if that’s what you’re up for. Sit still and listen to the birds sing. If you’re in a city, get closer to nature in a park or arboretum. Learn to identify the trees, flowers, and/or medicinal plants in the area you’re in. At night look up at the sky and find the constallations. Paying attention to the cycles of nature could keep a person occupied for days, weeks, months, or even years.

I got close to this nature while boondocking outside Natural Bridges National Monument.

I hope this post inspires you to try some new things and figure out what fun activities make you happy as they fill your free time. Feel free to share what you do to stay busy in the comments below.

I took all the photos in this post with the exception of the one of Coyote Sue’s rig decorating endeavors, which I used with her permission.

 

C. diff

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I didn’t write this post with Father’s Day in mind, but today seems like an appropriate day to share it.

I was at the village library on a Saturday afternoon. The regular library worker–a soft-spoken, helpful woman in her 60s–had the day off. The woman working the desk had a loud voice and a pronouned Southern accent. The library is tiny–children’s area on one side of the small building, books for adults and public access computers on the other–so I could clearly hear everything she said as her voice carried through the place. She wasn’t the normal Saturday worker. The normal Saturday worker was sick, as was her son and husband. The three of them were vommitting, had diarrhea, so the lady with the Southern accent had been called in.

(I wondered how the regular Saturday worker would feel about her replacement telling anyone who cared to listen–as well as those of us who didn’t care to listen–the personal details of her family’s illness.)

The replacement worker announced how she’d set off the library’s alarm when she’d unlocked the door. She’d called 9-1-1 to let them know she wasn’t a burglar, but the dispatcher told the library lady of course a burglar would call 9-1-1 to say s/he wasn’t a burglar if the arlarm went off. Thankfully, an early patron had helped her disarm the alarm. She was still waiting for the security company to call and ask her for the code.

All of the above information was broadcast across the library from the main desk near the front door. I heard it as clearly as if the library lady had been talking directly to me.

I hadn’t been in my seat long, my laptop barely connected to the internet when someone asked the library lady how her husband was doing.

Not good, she said. He’d been sick.

He has clostridium difficile, she said. They call it C. diff.

Oh, shit! I thought. That’s what killed dad!

The library lady went on to give her willing and unwilling listeners details about C. diff. Most people get it in the hospital. (I was unclear on whether or not her husband had been in the hospital.) The C. diff bacteria is resistant to antibiotics. The bacteria lives in the digestive tract and kills off parts of the large intestines. The dead parts of the large intestines have to be bypassed.

That’s what killed my father! I wanted to shout, but I kept my mouth shut. It was clear the library lady was worried–had been worrying–about her husband. Surely she knew C. diff can and does kill. Surely she had contemplated losing her husband. I doubted she wanted to hear some stranger talk about how C. diff had killed a family member.

I was surprised to find hearing about C. diff upset me.  I wasn’t crying or freaking out big time, but overhearing the libray lady’s C. diff litany certainly made me uncomfortable. I do not want to hear this! I wanted to shout.

I haven’t spent a lot of time and energy missing my dad. We weren’t in touch very often before he died, so mostly I don’t remember that he’s dead. When I do remember, it’s a small blow, a small pain of recollection. Sometimes I want to ask him for advice about the van, then I remember I can’t. Earlier this year, when I came up short on screws and reused some I’d saved, I wanted to tell him how frugal and smart I’d been. I felt sad when I realized I could never tell him the story. And now this lady in the library was talking about C. diff and I had to remember, Oh yeah. That’s what killed my dad.

My relationship with my dad has gotten better since he died. He can’t do new things to piss me off now. He can no longer tease and bait me. He can’t purposely push my buttons. Now I can think about his good qualities, remember nice times we had together, think of him fondly.

Later that afternoon, my sibing and I were messaging on Facebook. I told my sibling about the loud library lady and her C. diff husband.

Did you yell out yell out, “C. diff killed my father! You are freaking me out and making me sad with all the C. diff talk! Shut the fuck up!!!”

I told my sibling, I didn’t tell her it killed my dad or to shut up or anything. I just ignored her.

We agreed my sitting there quietly was probably for the best.

Then we listed back and forth all the things that killed our father. The C. diff took him out, but he probably should have been more upfront with his doctor about his lack of bowel action. (I’m still unclear as to whether or not his doctor knew Dad had gone many days without a bowel movement. If the doctor knew and did nothing, I’ll lay some blame on him too.) We also blame worker’s comp because Dad got jerked around for months before he was approved for the sugery his doctor said he needed. Let’s not forget the workers and managers at the big box store who let pieces of plastic sit on the floor for hours until my dad came along and slipped on the plastic, falling and causing the back injury that forced him to live his last months in pain, the reason he needed surgery in the first place. While we were at it, my sibling blamed the poorly made washing machine returned to the store and spilling the broken plastic on the floor. And how about we place a little blame on the Chinese worker(s) responsible for the defective washing machine? Also responsible for my dad’s death? The system of capitalism that required a 70-year-old man to hold a full-time job in order to pay his bills.

In reality, all the blame in the world isn’t going to bring my dad back, so why bother with it?

How’s the library lady’s husband doing? Better. He was on a 10-day dose of antibiotics costing $1,600, but he was getting better. That day he drove 30 miles to town by himself, the first time he’d been able to do something like that in a long time. He was getting better.

My dad didn’t beat C. diff, but I hope the library lady’s husband does.