Tag Archives: Nature

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 macram√© 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.

 

Nature Comforts Me

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What I find comforting about being out in nature is that nature don’t give a fuck about me. Nature doesn’t care if my boyfriend dumped me, if my transmission fluid is slowly leaking, if I’m drifting aimlessly through my life. Nature doesn’t care if I live or die, because I’m miniscule and unimportant in the grand scheme of life. My life is but a blip on the landscape of geologic time. I can see how that could make a person feel depressed or otherwise distressed, but I feel comforted. Nature ain’t worried about my problems, so why should I worry? My problems are tiny compared to the height of a mountain or the number of grains of sand in a dune. Being out in the vastness of nature gives me new perspective on how much my woes really matter.

I took the first photo in this post at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. The Man took the photo of me hugging the tree in Deer Creek Grove in Sequoia National Forest.

Sanctuary

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I decided it was just too hot to sleep in my van in Babylon. Even with the back windows open and my little fan blowing on me, the heat kept me from taking my rest. I didn’t want to spend another night off the mountain.

The complicating factor was that the post office where I pick up my mail is only open from 8am to noon. If I left my campground before 5am on my first day off in order to get to the laundromat shortly after it opened at 6am, then left Babylon an hour or so before dark, I missed the post office completely. If I left Babylon before dark and drove all the way back to my campground on my first day off, I was looking at a 30 mile round trip to retrieve my mail on my second day off.

What to do?

I decided I needed to find a place in the National Forest not too far from the post office, a place where I could pull in around dark, spend the night, and hang out until the post office opened and I could get my mail.

As I drove between my campground and the post office, I paid attention to Forest Service roads, turn outs, and pull-offs. There was a place where I sometimes saw camper trailers parked that looked promising.

I also asked my co-worker for his advice. He’s lived in the area for many years and knows a lot of cool spots.

I described the sort of place I was looking for, and after thinking on it, he described the very spot I’d been scoping out. To sweeten the deal, he told me there was a creek (not visible from the road) beyond where the camper trailers parked and even pools of water. He said he thought I’d really enjoy myself there.

The next day, I was talking to one of my campers, and he told me he and his friends had gone to the same area the day before. He said it was really nice there.

It seemed the Universe was telling me to get my ass to the creek.

On my day off, I went to Babylon, did my laundry, used the internet for several hours, bought groceries and ice and gasoline, and headed back up the mountain.

I got to my new spot just before dark and was pleased to find it empty. Once I parked, I threw open the van’s side doors to let the cool evening air rush in while I ate my cold pizza dinner. I was delighted to hear the sound of the creek burbling by just a few feet away. Not since I parked next to the Rio Hondo in New Mexico had I been lulled to sleep by the sound of rushing water.

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The burbling creek. I hadn’t slept next to the sound of rushing water since I left New Mexico.

I walked over to the creek and looked around a bit. In the last of the light, I could see boulders on the edge of the creek, large rocks within. While there weren’t exactly waterfalls, in many places the water tumbled over and off rocks. I was excited for the warmth of the next day, when I would want to get wet.

Boulders at the edge of the creek.

Boulders at the edge of the creek.

After the interior of the van had cooled a bit, I got inside, closed and locked the doors, and hung my curtain. The mountain air coming through the open back windows was just chilly enough for me to want to snuggle under my down comforter. I slept well.

Once I’d picked up my mail in the morning, I was in no hurry to get back to my campground, so I went back to the creek.

There are a couple of reasons I don’t like to stay at my campground on my days off.

The first reason is my boss. He has no qualms about coming into my campground when he knows it’s my day off, parking his truck on my campsite, and talking to me about work-related issues or whatever dumb shit is on his mind. I have little enough patience to listen to him when I’m getting paid for it. Having to listen to him on my day off is an insult. I figure I’m better off avoiding him if possible.

The second reason I want to steer clear of my campground when I’m not working is visitors show up and want to chitchat after I tell them it’s my day off. I don’t mind answering questions if I’m there anyway. I realize people with information are few and far between in the forest, so if there’s a question to be asked, folks are going to ask it of whomever they see. However, I don’t feel as if I should have to listen to complaints about the condition of the road after I’ve said I’m the camp host, but I’m on my day off right now. (True story.) Again, I’m better off staying away and avoiding the annoyance.

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These trees grow on the side of the creek.

Other than trash strewn on the ground and a couple of piles of human waste (all of which I cleaned up as my own little public service), the creek was a lovely place. The water rushed by and tumbled over rocks. There were no mosquitoes or other annoying bugs. The creek was surrounded by trees, so only dappled light came through, giving my pale skin plenty of shade.

There were pools of water too, not very deep, but if I had stretched out, I probably could have submerged my whole body. However, the water was cold (at least to my standards), and I didn’t want to get all wet. I did shimmy out of my skirt and sit on a flatish rock wearing underpants and a tank top. I shrieked when my butt slipped off the not-as-flat-a-I-thought rock and my nether regions splashed into the refrigerator-cold water.

View looking up while sitting in the creek.

View looking up while sitting in the creek.

I sat in the creek for a couple of hours, mostly keeping only my legs and feet in the water. When I realized some people were parked next to my van, I rapidly splashed over to where I’d left my skirt. Of course, I slipped and sunk to my waist. Thankfully, I sustained no injuries. After pulling my skirt on, I waited until the people walked past me (I’m not sure they saw me sitting on a rock, reading a book), then left the creek and drove away.

I spent another couple of hours at the creek after an early morning run to town and stop at the post office. This time I rolled my jeans up past my knees and stayed in the shallows. I IMG_6541found a very flat rock in the middle of the creek and sat there to read my mail while dangling my feet in the water. Soaking my feet cooled my whole body. Hearing and feeling the water rush by lifted my spirits.

That creek is a sanctuary, a place to spend the night, a place to cool down when I’m hot, a place to go when I need more solitude than my campground can provide.

I won’t mention it to a single tourist.

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The water tumbles over and off the rocks.

I took all the photos in this post.