Monthly Archives: January 2020

Cones

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When I worked at the fuel center, we used safety cones whenever we needed to block a pump because it wasn’t working correctly or a fuel spill needed to be cleaned. Some of the cones were yellow with the word “caution” spelled out on the sides. The other cones were standard orange and had no words on them.

Whenever there was a fuel spill, the first thing I did was grab three cones and use them to block the area in front of the pump where the fuel was. This way, if I couldn’t clean the spill immediately, I could at least try to keep people from driving through the fuel and transferring it all over the concrete. 

Of course, our customers were an independent bunch. If some folks saw a pump blocked off but couldn’t see any problem, they’d simply move the cones so they could get to the pump. It’s true, I’d usually cleaned the fuel by that time, and the cones were there to keep people away while the cleaning solution dried, but I admit I got a wee bit pissy when customers moved those cones. Didn’t they know this was my fuel center? I was a fuel center professional. It was my job to decide when a pump was ready to be used again. Such a decision could not be left to mere amateurs.

Sometimes people wouldn’t even move the cones in front of a pump with a problem. If the cones were close to the pump, the customer could park on the side of them and stretch the hose to the opening of their fuel tank. I learned quickly to place cones about three feet from the problematic pump and use three of them to make an obvious barricade. A vehicle three feet from a pump was in the travel lane and in the way of other customers trying to get in or out of the fuel center. Most people were not going to risk the wrath of other customers by blocking them due to parking three feet from the pump.

I also learned quickly to put an “out of order” bag over the nozzle of any pump that was not working. While people often tried to ignore cones, I never saw anyone take an “out of order” bag off a nozzle and attempt to pump gas or diesel. Cones may not have been always taken seriously, but “out of order” bags were apparently gospel.

Sometimes a pump’s problem led to leaking fuel. In such a case, I had to shut the power off to the pump to stop the flow of fuel. Each fueling station had a pump on either side. Pumps 1 and 2 shared a fueling station, as did 3 and 4, 5 and 6, etc. Each pump had two nozzles; one provided gasoline, and the other provided diesel or flex fuel. The way the pumps were wired, it was impossible to cut the power to just one of them. If I shut off the power at the breaker box, the pumps on both sides of the fueling station were off.

At one point during my short fuel center career, pump 4 started leaking diesel. When I flipped the breaker to shut off power at pump 4, all four nozzles on pumps 3 and 4 stopped working. I took four “out of service” bags outside and placed them over all the nozzles on pumps 3 and 4. After the nozzles were bagged, I dragged over six cones and created blockades in front of both pumps.

Communicating the out-of-orderness of pumps 3 and 4 was for the convenience of the customers. No one wants to waste time pulling up to a pump, getting out of the vehicle, (and knowing my customers probably trying to shove a debit or credit card into a nonfunctioning machine) only to find the pump down. After discovering a pump was nonfunctional, the customer would have had to get back in the vehicle and drive to another pump and maybe have to wait in line. It was much more considerate to let people know right away which pumps were not working.

Pumps 3 and 4 were down for several days as we waited for a repair person to come out and fix the leaky diesel nozzle. After a couple of days, one of the cones in front of pump 3 was removed for use elsewhere in the fuel center. The two remaining cones had been pushed closer and closer to the pump. I should have recognized that the cones needed to be pulled away from the pump to make them more noticeable, but it was a busy afternoon, and the prominent display of safety cones was not at the forefront of my attention.

I saw the Jeep pull up next to pump 3, but I didn’t think much about it. Sometimes people parked next to closed pumps if they didn’t want fuel but wanted to buy cigarettes or a soda or snacks. Honestly, it was only way back in my mind that I remembered pump 3 was offline. The cones blocking the pump had faded into the fuel center scenery.

The woman who’d parked next to pump 3 approached the kiosk where I stood behind bulletproof glass. I hit the button on the intercom that allowed me to speak to the outside world.

Hi! How can I help you today? I greeted her.

I need $10 on pump 3, the woman answered.

I glanced over at my POS (point-of-sale) screen to check on the availability of pump 3. I’d gotten in the habit of checking the screen immediately after customers told me what pump they were on so I could insure there was no problem with the pump in question. I also checked to make sure no funds were already authorized on the pump. Of course, when I check on pump 3, the screen told me it and pump 4 were offline and unavailable.

I was momentarily confused since I’d mostly forgotten that pump 3 was not functioning. Why had this lady even chosen pump 3 if it was out of order? Were the “out of order” bags gone? Did cones no longer blocked off the pump?

I glanced over at pump 3. There was an “out of order” bag on each nozzle. Two tall yellow cones were in front of the pump, but pushed up close to it. The woman had parked her Jeep next to the cones which were between the vehicle and the pump.

Pump 3 is not working, I told the woman.

She looked at me blankly.

That’s why the cones are there, I told her. I was unable to keep the you are an idiot tone out of my voice.

The woman stared at me with a What am I going to do? look on her face.

You’ll have to go to another pump, I told her.

Maybe the woman didn’t notice the cones. As I said, they had been pushed over, so they were not directly in front of her vehicle as she drove up to the pump. However, they were definitely in front of the pump. They were yellow.  The word “caution” was printed on them. They were difficult to miss. Besides, if she didn’t see the cones, both fuel dispensing nozzles were marked “out of order.” How did she miss all the signs?

Classic Brown Vehicle Parked Beside Trees

When I drive into a gas station, I’m alert. I’m looking around to see what fueling stations are available, looking for other vehicles, cones, and bagged nozzles. If I end up at a pump with bagged nozzles, I notice before I get out of my truck and move to a different pump.

I believe these days this noticing of my surroundings is referred to as situational awareness. I am aware of my situation. My late father would have called this getting my head out of my ass.

Apparently many customers entered the fuel center where I worked with their heads firmly in their asses. I suppose they pulled in at any pump where there wasn’t an obstacle directly in their path and hoped for the best.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/two-red-and-white-traffic-cones-in-middle-on-road-1236723/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/broken-car-vehicle-vintage-2071/.

Maintaining Mental Health While Living Nomadically (Part 1)

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Photo by Tobias Tullius on Unsplash

Maintaining mental health is important no matter where you live but can be extra challenging while living nomadically. Some people hold themselves up with the routine of the rat race; when that routine is gone and there are fewer mandatory activities to occupy their time, mental health problems they’ve kept at arm’s length can come crashing down. Some folks have unreasonable expectations about vanlife; when they realize living on the road isn’t an Instagram-worthy life of ease, depression can creep in. While some people choose a nomadic life so they can live in solitude, for others the lack of human companionship can lead to isolation and the problems it causes.

When you’re living on the road, you may have fewer resources to fall back on if a mental health crisis hits. Trust me, life will be easier if you maintain your mental health rather than having to bounce back after a crisis.

What Is Mental Health?

Before we work on maintaining our mental health, we should have an idea of what mental health actually is. According to MentalHealth.gov,

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.

Positive mental health allows people to:

Realize their full potential

Cope with the stresses of life

Work productively

Make meaningful contributions to their communities

In the name of staying on an even keel and realizing one’s full potential, today I will share tips for staying mentally healthy while traveling full time.

#1 Keep your expectations reasonable. Living nomadically is not going to solve all your problems. (Stop reading and let that sink in for a minutes, friends.) Vanlife is not always going to be waking up to beautiful locations and ladies in bikinis. Sometimes the weather will be bad, your head will throb, and you’ll find one of your tires is flat. (Sometimes all three will happen at once, but if you want some tips on circumventing the flat, see my post “10 Ways to Avoid and/or Prepare for Tire Disasters.”) Things go wrong no matter where or how you live.

Don’t rely solely on Instagram for your vanlife information. Read posts and join the forums on the Cheap RV Living website and/or watch videos on the Cheap RV Living YouTube channel to learn about the gritty possibilities of life on the road. Join Facebook groups for RVers and vandwellers and research showering, cooking, and toileting while living on the road. If possible, know what to expect from this way of life before embarking on the journey.

#2 Eat well. Sometimes cooking while vandwelling can be a challenge, and it’s tempting to just eat potato chips and ramen noodles day after day. Eating a well-balanced diet can help improve and maintain your mental health. According to the article “Food for Your Mood: How What You Eat Affects Your Mental Health” by Alice Gomstyn,

The connection between diet and emotions stems from the close relationship between your brain and your gastrointestinal tract, often called the “second brain.”

…Your GI tract is home to billions of bacteria that influence the production of neurotransmitters, chemical substances that constantly carry messages from the gut to the brain…

Eating healthy food promotes the growth of “good” bacteria, which in turn positively affects neurotransmitter production. A steady diet of junk food, on the other hand, can cause inflammation that hampers production. When neurotransmitter production is in good shape, your brain receives these positive messages loud and clear, and your emotions reflect it. But when production goes awry, so might your mood.

The article suggests eating whole foods such as fruits and vegetables; fiber-rich foods like whole grains and beans; foods rich in antioxidants such as berries and leafy greens; fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh; as well as foods rich in folate, vitamin D, and magnesium.

If you need some ideas for healthy eating while van or RV dwelling, see my posts “How to Eat Healthy on the Road (When You Don’t Have Time to Cook)” and “What to Eat When You Can’t (or Don’t Want to) Cook.” If you’re having trouble affording healthy food, see my posts “10 Ways to Stretch Your Food Dollar (Whether You’re On or Off the Road)” and “10 More Ways to Stretch Your Food Dollar (Whether You’re On the Road or Not).”

#3 Stay hydrated. According to the 2018 article “Dehydration Influences Mood, Cognition” by Rick Nauert, PhD on the PsychCentral website, a

study shows that even mild dehydration can influence mood, energy levels and the ability to think clearly.

An article on the Solara Mental Health website, “Water, Depression, and Anxiety” outlines how dehydration contributes to depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. The article recommends

11.5 cups (92 oz.) of water per day for women, and 15.5 cups (124 oz.) for men. If you have a hard time stomaching plain water, try adding a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. Avoid beverages as much as possible that contain sodium, as sodium dehydrates you: soda/diet soda, energy drinks, etc.

Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

#4 Avoid alcohol, especially if you’re prone to depression. The Mental Health Foundation‘s webpage about alcohol and mental health explains,

regular consumption of alcohol changes the chemistry of the brain. It decreases the levels of the brain chemical serotonin – a key chemical in depression. As a result of this depletion, a cyclical process begins where one drinks to relieve depression, which causes serotonin levels in the brain to be depleted, leading to one feeling even more depressed, and thus necessitating even more alcohol to then medicate this depression.11

Better to avoid alcohol altogether than to start a downward spiral. Best to deal with underlying issues that might be leading you to self-medicate.

#5 Get good sleep. According to Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine‘s Get Sleep website,

University of Pennsylvania researchers found that subjects who were limited to only 4.5 hours of sleep a night for one week reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. When the subjects resumed normal sleep, they reported a dramatic improvement in mood.1

Photo by Chris Thompson on Unsplash

The Get Sleep website’s Adopt Good Sleep Habits page has lots of tips on eliminating sleep problems. Recommendations include

maintaining a regular sleep-wake schedule

avoiding caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other chemicals that interfere with sleep

making your bedroom a comfortable sleep environment

establishing a calming pre-sleep routine

going to sleep when you’re truly tired

not watching the clock at night

not napping too close to your regular bedtime

exercising regularly—but not too soon before bedtime

To find out the steps to take to accomplish each of the above recommendations, visit Harvard’s Healthy Sleep website’s page Twelve Simple Tips to Improve Your Sleep.

#6 Consider caffeine carefully. Caffeine can do more damage than just interfering with your sleep. According to the Everyday Health article “7 Causes of Anxiety” by Chris Iliades, MD, because caffeine is a stimulant, it can be bad news for people who already suffer from anxiety.

Caffeine’s jittery effects on your body are similar to those of a frightening event. That’s because caffeine stimulates your “fight or flight” response, and studies show that this can make anxiety worse and can even trigger an anxiety attack. And as with the symptoms of anxiety, one too many cups of joe may leave you feeling nervous, moody, and can keep you up all night.

The PsycomAnxiety and Caffeine” article by Maureen Connolly says,

Too much caffeine can also make you irritable and agitated in situations that normally wouldn’t affect you. And if you already have increased anxiety or suffer from panic attacks, caffeine can cause these symptoms to become worse.

Of course, not all caffeinated beverages are created equal. In the article “Coffee Has Surprising Effect on Mental Health,” author Gajura Constantin explains

not all other caffeinated beverages can leave the same impact on the human brain. For instance, some caffeinated beverages like cola, can cause a higher risk of depression due to their high contents of sugar (simple carbohydrates).

Constantin also says a study conducted at National Institutes of Health indicates

People who consume four to five cups of coffee every day are likely to stay active and happy all day long, when compared to those who do not drink this beverage at all…

Coffee is considered the best mood-lifting agent due to its powerful antioxidants. It can help you initiate a fight against depression…

You should make your decisions about caffeine based upon how your body and mind react to it. If daily coffee leaves you feeling good and still able to sleep well at night, go ahead and have it. If your caffeinated beverage of choice leaves you feeling jittery, irritated, agitated, and anxious, you might want to cut it out.

Photo by Tobias Mrzyk on Unsplash

#7 Get some exercise. The Help Guide article “The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise” by Lawrence Robinson, Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Melinda Smith, M.A. says

[r]egular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts your overall mood…Research indicates that modest amounts of exercise can make a difference.

The article goes into detail about how exercise can benefit people dealing with depression, anxiety, stress, ADHD, PTSD, and trauma.

How much and how often do you need to exercise to experience the benefits? The article says

[y]ou can reap all the physical and mental health benefits of exercise with 30-minutes of moderate exercise five times a week. Two 15-minute or even three 10-minute exercise sessions can also work just as well.

…Even just a few minutes of physical activity are better than none at all. If you don’t have time for 15 or 30 minutes of exercise, or if your body tells you to take a break after 5 or 10 minutes, for example, that’s okay, too.

#8 Spend time in nature. Don’t limit your exercise time to the gym; get outside too. According to the 2015 article “Stanford Researchers Find Mental Health Prescription: Nature” by Rob Jordan,

…the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, found that people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area, as opposed to participants who walked in a high-traffic urban setting, showed decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression.

In a previous study…time in nature was found to have a positive effect on mood and aspects of cognitive function, including working memory, as well as a dampening effect on anxiety.

If you’re living nomadically, it might be easier for you to get out in nature than it would be for someone living in a sticks-n-bricks in an urban area. If you have the choice, head out for free camping in a national forest or on BLM land. (Not sure how to camp for free on public land? Read my post “Free Camping in the National Forest.”) Once you’re there, hike, bike, or just sit outside and bask in the beauty that surrounds you.

Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash

#9 Getting outside also allows you to expose yourself to sunlight. According to the article “5 Ways the Sun Impacts Your Mental and Physical Health,” getting some sun can improve your mood and help you sleep better.

Researchers at BYU found more mental health distress in people during seasons with little sun exposure…the availability of sunshine has more impact on mood than rainfall, temperature, or any other environmental factor.

Getting some sun increases your serotonin and helps you stave off Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and sun exposure can also help people with anxiety and depression, especially in combination with other treatments.

…Working in tandem with serotonin is melatonin, a chemical in your brain that lulls you into slumber and one that sun also helps your body produce…Try to stick to traditionally light and dark cycles, getting sunlight during the day so you can catch some zzz’s at night.

So there you have nine things you can do to improve and maintain your mental health. If you would like to learn about more activities you can engage in to protect your mental health, see the second part of this series.

Please remember, Blaize Sun is not responsible for your health and well being. Only you are responsible for you. Please remember any outdoor activity holds some risk. Exercise can be risky too if you are not accustomed to it. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure of how much or what kind of exercise to do. The sun can burn you. Be careful out there.

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Oh Taos!

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Recently I asked my Patreon patrons what sort of content they wanted in their monthly email update. One of them responded, “What’s the deal with Taos, it’s freakin weird…”

I can only speak from my own experiences in Taos during the last almost-a-decade during which I’ve been in and out of the area, learning about the place. Why is Taos so freakin’ weird? I have my ideas.

The first thing you need to know is that Taos is both a town and a county. The town of Taos is (perhaps not surprisingly) the county seat of Taos County. The town of Taos has a population just under 5,700 folks while Taos County boasts a whopping 32,795 people.

When I talk about “Taos,” I’m usually speaking about the whole county, including the rural areas surrounding the small town in the mountains of Northern New Mexico with a mean elevation of 8,510 feet [2,590 m] (according to Wikipedia). For example, if someone mentions skiing “in Taos,” that person is not talking about skiing in the town of Taos. There is no skiing in the town of Taos. Skiing “in Taos” really means skiing in the Taos Ski Valley, a village in Taos County about 19 miles northeast of the town of Taos.

Part of what makes Taos weird (or at least interesting) is the mix of people who live there…

Want to read more? Join me on Patreon where you can get extra content from me through periodic posts on the site and a monthly email update. At the Fans support level ($2 per month), you can get access to all the posts on my Patreon page. At the Pals support level ($5 per month), you can get access to all the posts on my Patreon page as well as a monthly email update like the one I teased you with above. You can get those perks and extra goodies if you support me at the Friends ($10 per month), Super Friends ($20 per month), Besties ($30 per month), or BFFs ($50 per month) levels. Anyone who joins me on Patreon and mentions this post will receive all of the content of the update as an email. To join me on Patreon, just click on the button below the search bar in the column to the right.

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Thanks to everyone who supports me! I appreciate you reading my stories, rants, and observations; commenting on my posts; and supporting me monetarily. Thanks for being here with me.

Christmas Hitchhiker Part 2 (Blog Post Bonus)

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Photo by Mel Poole on Unsplash

The Man got out of bed really early on Christmas morning. (He’s usually out of bed between 3am and 5am in the winter, so this was not unusual.) I woke up around 5am, and joined him in the living room. We opened a few little presents from each other and as well as the wrapped treats my sibling had sent in a big box. We ate miniature powdered donuts for breakfast, watched the sun rise through the east-facing window, and spent some quiet time together.

Around 10am, we decided to watch A Christmas Story on the DVD I’d given The Man that morning. I needed something from the truck before we started watching, so I put on my boots and trudged through the snow.

Once at the truck, I grabbed the thing I needed (I no longer remember what it was), then glanced over to the backseat. On the passenger side of the backseat was a green backpack. I didn’t own a green backpack. At the time I owned a purple backpack and black backpack decorated with red and orange flames and a blue backpack, but not a green one. As far as I knew, The Man didn’t own a green backpack either.

About that time I realized I didn’t see the blue backpack I normally kept in the truck. The blue pack was stuffed with hats I made and wanted to sell. There wasn’t room for the backpack in our tiny trailer, and I only needed the hats in it when I was selling at a flea market or craft fair, so I left the bulging thing in the truck. But where was it?

I rummaged through everything I could reach on the driver’s side of the truck. No blue backpack. I walked over to the passenger’s side of the truck to rummage through the things on that side. No blue backpack either–only the green one.

A wave of realization passed slowly over me. Had last night’s hitchhiker left her backpack and taken mine?

I opened the smallest, outermost pocket on the green backpack. Right on top I saw a debit card with a women’s name on it, a set of keys, and a flip phone. Oh no! I opened the main pocket and saw, among other things, a block of Tillamook cheddar. Oh no! This was serious! We had the woman’s cheese!

I went back into the trailer.

We have a problem, I told The Man. I explained my backpack was gone and a backpack holding important things (keys, phone, debit card, cheese) was in its place.

Go get her phone, The Man suggested. He thought we could call someone on her contact list and let them know we had the hitchhiker’s belongings. Good idea!

Photo by Fabrizio Conti on Unsplash

I went back out into the snow and sunshine and grabbed her phone. Once inside again, The Man flipped the phone open and looked at the phone log. Most of the calls had been made to one number. The Man said we should call that one.

He dialed, then handed the phone to me. A fellow answered after a couple of rings.

Good morning, I said, feeling awkward. I told him my name and explained how the night before my guy and I had picked up a hitchhiker. I mentioned the name I’d seen on the debit card.

That’s my mother! he exclaimed.

I told him how we’d driven her almost home and that I’d just discovered my bag missing and her pack (filled with important items) in our truck. I told him we wanted to get her bag back to her but because she’d had us drop her off down the road from her house, we didn’t know where exactly we should go with the pack. Of course, because she didn’t have her phone, we couldn’t call her and arrange to meet.

Photo by Lee Jeffs on Unsplash

The son said he would text his mother’s neighbor’s phone number to me. He thought maybe the neighbor could help. He thanked me for calling, and we wished each other a merry Christmas before saying goodbye.

In a few moments a text with a name and phone number came to my phone. That must be the neighbor, I thought.

I called the number and started another awkward conversation with another stranger. After I explained everything, the neighbor sighed and said his family had given the hitchhiker a lot of help in the past, and they were, frankly, burnt out.

It’s Christmas morning, my brother’s here, we’re about to eat breakfast, he told me.

I was a little stunned. I realized not everyone was as excited about getting the woman’s backpack to her as The Man and I were.

I suggested the neighbor contact me later when he wasn’t so busy. He said he would think on the situation and try to figure out a way to help.I got off the phone and updated The Man. We agreed there was nothing we could do until we heard from the neighbor again.

The Man and I talked for a while, ate a few more Christmas treats, then decided to start the movie. He was hooking up the DVD player to the television when my phone rang. It was the hitchhiker’s neighbor. He’d decided the best course of action was for us to meet him at his house. He thought he should ride in our truck with us and direct us to the hitchhiker’s house. Once there we could simultaneously hand over her backpack and retrieve mine.

The neighbor had just begun to give me convoluted directions to his place when the hitchhiker’s phone began to ring. Hang on a second, I told the neighbor.

Answer it! Answer it! I directed while gesturing wildly at The Man.

He answered it while I explained to the neighbor what was happening.

The hitchhiker was on the phone. I could just barely hear her voice and understand what she was saying. It seemed that she’d found someone to let her use their phone so she could call hers.

Yes, we had her backpack, I heard The Man tell her. Yes, we could meet her on the road where we’d dropped her off the night before. We could even meet her at her house, he offered. She must have declined because he said, Are you sure? then Ok.

After flipping the phone shut, he told me the hitchhiker didn’t want us to go to her house. (I wasn’t surprised.) She wanted us to meet her on the road we’d driven down before we dropped her off.

Photo by Jason Abdilla on Unsplash

We put on our cold weather gear and headed to the truck. The Man drove. The bright sun hitting the white snow was blinding, and we both wore our sunglasses.

It was slow going on the bumpy main road. When we turned off onto the road where we’d meet the hitchhiker, the ride wasn’t any smoother.

There she is! I said when I saw the short woman wearing a puffy purple coat.

I waved, and she waved, and The Man brought the truck to a stop next to her. I got out of the truck and handed her backpack to her amid much thanks. She said she’d gotten home the night before and opened up (what she thought was) her backpack only to find–instead of her keys–a bunch of hats. That’s when she knew she had the wrong bag. She’d had to break into her own house since she didn’t have her keys, but she said it hadn’t been too difficult.

While the hitchhiker talked, I looked about her person for my backpack. She wasn’t holding it, and she didn’t seem to be wearing it on her back. Where could it be? Had she left it at home?

Do you have my backpack? I asked timidly.

She told me she had left it safely under a tree and pointed to one of the few in the area. I thought it was a little strange that she had abandoned my pack under a tree, but whatever. I would be happy to have my pack and my hats again.

I went to the tree she’d pointed out and looked around. No backpack.

I don’t see it, I called out to her.

Oh, maybe I left it under that one, she said.

I didn’t know how she could be confused about what tree she’d left the backpack under. There were only two in the area! I didn’t ask any questions, just walked down the road to the other tree. Yes! There was my pack, nestled in the snow at the base of the tree.

Thanks and Christmas wishes expressed, I got back in the truck and the hitchhiker went on her way, up the hill again.

Christmas Hitchhiker

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It was Christmas Even and The Man was driving us home. Although it wasn’t quite 8pm, the sky was midnight dark, and we saw no house lights in the distance. Wind tumbled fat snowflakes in the space ahead of our headlights. When the snow hit the ground, it stuck. The Man drove slowly through the slush on the road as I looked for our turn.

Photo by Jessica Fadel on Unsplash

Is that it? I asked again and again, thinking each driveway was maybe the road we were looking for. I’m always amazed by how different the landscape looks at night. I’d been down that road hundreds of times in the last eight months, but I was having such a difficulty finding it in the dark. Finally we saw the road home, and The Man made the turn. We were within a few miles of our little trailer.

Unfortunately, the snow and poor condition of the road kept us moving slowly. It would be a while more until we made it home.

At one point the road drops and one’s vehicle ends up at the bottom of a small hill. I call the area “Dead Man’s Hill” because the road is narrow and when going up the hill, it’ impossible to see if another vehicle is coming down. A driver going too fast and driving too far to the left could become involved in a head-on collision.

That night we weren’t going very fast. As we descended the hill, I saw the headlights of another vehicle approaching in the distance. We weren’t the only fools out on this snowy night.

As we got to the bottom of the hill, something in the sage to my right caught my eye. There appeared to be a small person (a woman, I thought) standing in the arroyo just off the road. As we passed by, she waved her flashlight, as if trying to catch our attention. It took some dedication to be hitchhiking at night, especially on a cold Christmas Eve while snow was flying.

That’s a woman! I exclaimed. Most hitchhikers I encounter present as male, so seeing a female hitchhiker is always something of an event. As a woman who’s done a bit of hitchhiking in my time, I always try to pick up gals looking for a ride.

Does she need a ride? The Man asked.

Yes! I said with conviction. Anyone standing in an arroyo in the dark, in the snow, on Christmas Eve needed a ride as far as I was concerned.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The Man slowed the truck even further.

I’m going to use that little pullout to turn around, he said indicating a wide space in the road.

He pulled into the turnout, then began backing out. He misnavigated and ended up putting our back tire in the icy low spot next to the road. Despite the four-wheel drive being engaged, the tire couldn’t gain traction.

My spirits sank. Were we going to be punished by the Universe for trying to do a good deed?

While The Man tried to get us out of our predicament, the car whose headlights I’d seen earlier approached. The vehicle (an outdoorsy station wagon type, maybe a Subaru or a Jeep) passed us, then stopped just ahead of us. The hitchhiker stepped out of the sage and approached the driver’s side of the vehicle. She was carrying at least one bag and was wearing a dark rain poncho with the hood up.

By this time, The Man had put our truck into reverse and was easing back. I think the slight downward slant of the road let us roll backwards until the tire touched a bit of earth that wasn’t quite so icy. The traction gained allowed us to get back on the road. We were soon going forward again, and we pulled up behind (put not too close to) the station wagon.

The hitchhiker left the other vehicle and came up to The Man’s window.

Do you need a ride? The Man asked. He told me later he was quite confused because he couldn’t believe anyone would be hitchhiking from that spot, at night, while it was snowing so hard.

She said she did need a ride. She told us the area where she lived, and my heart sank again. She lived nowhere near us. We were going to have to drive several miles out of our way in the dark and the snow to get her home. We had already almost gotten stuck turning around to pick her up. But what other choice did we have? We couldn’t leave the gal alone in the dark and snow by the side of the road on Christmas Eve. The only right thing to do was drive her home.

I leaned over to speak to her through The Man’s open window. Come over to this side, I told her.

One of the flaws of our truck is that the front door has to be open before the back door can be opened. Even with the front door opened, it’s difficult to open the back door without getting out of the truck. 

I opened my door and hopped out of the truck, careful not to slip on the icy ground under the snow. The air that hit my face was cold.

Photo by Tom Morel on Unsplash

I opened the back door and saw I’d need to move some things so our passenger could sit. We had a couple of bags of groceries back there and the backpack where I keep the hats I’ve made before I sell them. I pushed everything over to the driver’s side.

By the time I’d made some room in the back seat, the hitchhiker had approached the passenger side of the truck. With the hood of her rain poncho pulled up, he face peaked out at me, but I couldn’t distinguish her features in the dark. I couldn’t guess her age, but I could see she was wearing eyeglasses. That she was short—no taller than I am and maybe shorter—was obvious. She was carrying a disposable plastic bag and a backpack.

I noticed the other vehicle was still stopped in front of us.

What’s that car doing? I asked the hitchhiker since it had appeared that she’d talked to the driver.

I think they’re going into town, she said.

I wondered why the car was still stopped if they were going into town, but figured they must be waiting to see if she got safely into the truck before they left.

The hitchhiker got in the backseat, and I shut the door firmly. Then I climbed back into the front seat and closed the front door behind me. While I was fastening my seat belt, I realized the car in front of us was slowly back up.

What in the world are they doing? I wondered aloud, but no one knew.

The driver backed up the station wagon until it was quite close to us, then stopped. I was perplexed. I think The Man was perplexed too. I don’t know what the hitchhiker was thinking because she sat silently in the back.

Photo by Osman Rana on Unsplash

The Man pulled the truck to the left and passed the station wagon so he could get to a larger turnout ahead of us. From there he was able to maneuver the truck so we were once again pointed towards home. As we passed the station wagon, The Man heard the driver call out a woman’s name (presumably the name of the woman in the truck with us), and say, I want to hear her say it’s ok! I want to hear her voice!

(I heard the driver of the station wagon say something, but I couldn’t understand the actual words.)

When The Man told the hitchhiker that the driver of the station wagon wanted to hear it was ok in her voice, she said the other driver needed to let go. The Man kept driving.

I have no idea what the driver of the station wagon was yelling about. Did he think we were kidnapping the hitchhiker? Hadn’t he seen her get into our truck under her own volition? The Man thought the hitchhiker had been in the station wagon and gotten out. I reminded him that the station wagon was approaching from the opposite direction when I first saw it. The Man said the driver of the station wagon had probably turned around to come back for the hitchhiker.

Didn’t you hear him call her name? The Man asked me, but I honestly hadn’t.

The hitchhiker didn’t offer any explanations and it seemed rude to ask too many questions. In any case, everything that happened with the station wagon and driver added weirdness to what was already a strange situation.

The hitchhiker chatted happily as The Man drove through the dark and blustery night. She’s been in town, exchanging Christmas presents with her son. It had seemed really important to spend the evening with her son, she said. Her eyesight wasn’t very good, she told us. She needed new glasses. She’d gone through a period when she had constant ringing in her ears, but an ear candle had taken care of it.

In all of her chatting, she didn’t tell us her name and didn’t ask ours. I was exhausted, and The Man was concentrating on the road, so neither of us said much.

Photo by Robert Zunikoff on Unsplash

When we passed our turnoff, I looked longingly towards home. Even though I knew we were doing the right thing, I was still a little sad to know we weren’t going home yet.

We stayed on the main road and went further back where most of the people in our neighborhood (and I use the term “neighborhood” loosely) live.

Where exactly are we taking you? I asked the hitchhiker, and she named a road The Man and I both recognized.

There is a phenomenon I have encountered in New Mexico and nowhere else. People are extremely guarded when it comes to telling others where they live. Many people I’ve met in New Mexico have refused to share details about the locations of their homes. I’d known one good friend for over seven years before I was allowed to know where she lived, and she only told me because she needed me to pick her up and drive her around to do errands. (I was not invited into her actual house.) Other people I became friends with told me I was always welcome on their property, but made it very clear that I was not to bring anyone else over or even talk about where they lived. All of this to say I wasn’t surprised when the hitchhiker wouldn’t tell us exactly where she was going.

If you can just get me up the hill, I can walk the rest of the way, she said.

The Man and I agreed it would be no trouble to deliver her to her door, but she assured us it wouldn’t be necessary. She said she would show us a good place to turn around where we could drop her off .

We finally got to her road and The Man turned the truck onto it. He drove us up and up and up. When we got to the top of the appropriate hill, the hitchhiker pointed to a wide spot on the left and said we should turn around there. We asked again if we could drive her all the way home, but she assured us she would be fine walking.

The Man stopped the truck near the turnoff. I unfastened my seat belt, opened my door, got out of the truck, and opened the back door. The hitchhiker slid out.

Do you have everything? I asked.

She showed me the plastic grocery store bag and backpack she was holding.

Let me show you what my son gave me, she said, setting the grocery store gag on the ground and opening it up. Inside was a plant.

Photo by Kyla Henry on Unsplash

It’s a jade plant, she told me, obviously pleased.

I made appropriate cooing sounds, as if she had just showed me a kitten or a human baby.

She gathered up her things and disappeared into the snowy night. I got back in the truck, and The Man turned it around. We headed home, glad we were able to help.

Do you think this is the end of the story? We did too. Alas, we’d be seeing the hitchhiker again, less than 24 hours later. Tune in tomorrow for the rest of the story of the Christmas hitchhiker.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ReStore FAQ says the stores

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Town Center Clock in Mesa, AZ

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

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

According to the city’s official website,

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

Who knew?

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

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

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

Town Center Clock in Mesa, AZ

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

Not so much.

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

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

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

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

The Waymarking website has this to say about the clock:

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

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

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

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

I took the photos in this post.

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

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Joshua Trees in the Desert

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

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

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

Thrills that we don’t have

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

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

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

A special relationship?

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

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

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

Morals, motorhomes, and mirages

Painted Ladies, San Francisco

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

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

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

Lonely America?

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

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

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

Poetic America 

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

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

Sunrise over Monument Valley

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

Some thoughts and conclusions

Grand Canyon Sunset

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

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

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

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

Photos provided by author.

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

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

Where to Sell Things

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

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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

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

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

Photo by Julius Drost on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nothing to Work With

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Just when I thought I’d heard it all…

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is true, he said sadly and wandered away.

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

I took this photo.