Category Archives: FYI

Vandweller Report: Working at a Christmas Tree Lot (Guest Post)

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This blog post was written before we knew about COVID-19 as a threat, before there was a global pandemic affecting us all. I’ve decided to share this post today in the hopes that it will be helpful to someone, but I don’t know if Christmas tree lots are open this year or if they are hiring. If you want to follow up on the information offered here, you will have to do your own research.

Aerin (the author of this post) and I are both in a vanlife Facebook group. When I heard Aerin was going to work at a Christmas tree lot during the 2019 holiday season, I asked if they would be interested in writing a report for my blog. I was excited when they said yes.

Working at a Christmas tree lot is one of those seasonal jobs I’ve heard are available to nomads but have been able to find precious little real information about. The information that is out there is from the perspective of RVing couples managing lots. I thought I’d do my readers a favor by sharing the insights of a vandweller who spent a couple of weeks before Christmas slinging trees.

Are you a fan of the holiday season? You know, that magical time of year when some traditions call for bringing the carcasses of dead evergreens into our homes to be the backdrop for our revelry. 

I’m talking about Christmas trees.

Photo by Rodolfo Marques on Unsplash

How Did I Hear About the Job?

Well, I was just an unsuspecting nomad looking for work at the beginning of December when I spotted the post in a workamping Facebook group. It wasn’t more than 20 minutes old and had one comment so far. Usually I don’t see these kinds of posts until much too late.

Labor in a Christmas tree lot? How hard could that be? 

Was Living In a Van Helpful to Get the Job?

Not really. I was looking to park onsite as part of my employment, so living in a small rig that is self-contained and doesn’t need hookups made that possible.

I could have parked elsewhere and driven in to work. There was no requirement to live onsite, aside from the managers, and the rest of the staff drove in. However, it was a selling point that I would be around in case things got unexpectedly busy and they needed someone to jump in right away. That didn’t actually happen, but it made the managers feel more secure since they were learning the ropes too, and it helped get me the job.

The person who had responded to the post before me had a large RV and was looking for something that offered hookups. This job was literally in a parking lot. One that was technically the property of the swim school next door, so space could be at a premium when both businesses were crowded. One extra vehicle of regular size was not going to crowd things.

The Job

The lot that hired me is affiliated with Valley View Christmas Trees. Valley View has lots all over the Phoenix metro area. Each lot is managed by a workamping couple who have the authority to hire staff.

From conversations with my managers, I learned that they get bonuses at the end of the season if they hit a certain threshold in total sales and keep labor costs below a certain percentage of sales. Otherwise, they are paid a flat salary, and at least one of them is expected to be working 9-9 every single day.

For me, I was labor staff. Pay was $11/hr gross. Not awesome, but it did come with several useful perks:

  • a parking spot for the duration of my time there
  • regular access to their port-o-pottie so I didn’t need to find another bathroom or use the one in my rig
  • unlimited water for drinking that I could have gotten straight from a hose and filtered myself (if I had a filter) but my managers were kind enough to let me use the faucet in their RV so it went through their filtration system
  • grocery store within walking distance

Each lot had the same five types of fir trees: Douglas, grand, Fraser, noble, and Nordmann. A big part of my job was knowing the difference and a little bit about each to assist customers. After a sale, I moved the tree to the back area and processed it for loading. This involved removing the stand, cutting a little off the bottom of the trunk so it would absorb more water once in the customer’s home, and trimming any branches as requested. Loading was either putting it in a truck bed or tying it to the roof of a car.

Tying a tree to the roof of a car is not fun. At all.

Aside from sales, my job also involved restocking. Trees that were delivered from Valley View (grown in Oregon) needed to get the bottoms drilled (for our center spike stands), stands pounded in, moved into place, twine wrap cut off, and bowls filled with water.

Most trees were in some partial state of readiness. For example, if things were slow, we might drill a bunch of trees in succession so it would be easier to restock later. Drilling takes a minimum of two people, sometimes three or more for larger trees, so getting that done all at once is more efficient.

The drill and drilled trees waiting to be put out. Photo provided by the author.

Drilling is also not fun. 

Trying to guess whether a tree is standing up straight is difficult. If the hole isn’t straight, it becomes super obvious once the tree is on a stand. Redrilling an unwrapped tree is even less fun.

My hours varied week to week depending on when the managers expected to be busy as we got closer to Christmas. Valley View does not pay overtime, so a strict cap of 40 hours also meant some creative shifting to make sure enough staff were working. The lot itself was open from 9am to 9pm every day. The managers were required to work all day every day for their salary.

The result of experimenting with painting trees. Photo provided by the author.

Towards the end of the season, one of the operations managers for Valley View came with a sprayer so we could try painting the trees. It was a mess. We did end up with a purple, blue, and white tree though. Believe it or not, the blue and white ones did sell.

The only thing I didn’t do was cashier because managers were the only ones allowed to run the register.

The Experience As a Vandweller

I liked it overall. Technically the job started towards the end of November, but I came in a bit later. I started on December 5 and the job ended December 24, so I was working or on call for 20 days. Also, my paychecks came on time, on approximately the 15th and 30th of the month.

Positives:

It is a lot of manual labor. That meant I was being paid to exercise. I am primarily a digital nomad, but it can be difficult to make time for physical fitness. I was sore a lot and developed bruises on my legs from the trees, but nothing serious.

The port-o-pottie was pumped out every week, so using it was not an issue. It never got to smelling bad. I was happy to not have to use my camp toilet or walk somewhere.

I was a paid employee of Valley View, meaning they took taxes out of my pay. This may not be a positive for everyone, but I prefer to have the money taken out now and worry less about paying it later. Also, my paychecks came on time. The first came by paper check to the lot because of a snafu, but this wasn’t an issue for me. The second check went through electronically.

Near the end of my time working at the Christmas tree lot, I found that the Crunch Fitness nearby has a drop-in rate of $5.08 (including taxes) so I got to work out and take a shower. I don’t have a shower in my rig, so this was nice.

It was cold, but never unbearable. However, I would not want to do this job any further north.

Negatives:

I was muddy and wet a lot of the time.

I had pine needles EVERYWHERE.

Photo provided by the author.

It is easiest to just wear the same outfits over and over again. I had two pairs of pants, three long-sleeve shirts, and two vests that I cycled through so things had a chance to dry out before being worn again. I did laundry maybe twice the whole time I was there.

Since I wore my heavy work boots every day, I had a towel down as a kind of rug by the door so I could take them off and let them air out a little before the next day. They needed to air out for a full 24 hours once I was finished.

I didn’t feel comfortable setting up an outside area to cook, so I relied a lot on convenience food from the grocery store (which was a 5 min walk away). Not very healthy or frugal. 

All of the above are tough in a very small space. Everything gets everywhere. I was constantly sweeping dirt and pine needles out of the van. The walls were slowly coming in with dirty clothes draped to air out in the cab with the windows open, boots by the door, and trying to keep my bed relatively clean.

Bottom Line

I enjoyed myself. It was hard work, but I don’t mind that. I got paid to exercise, a free place to park, access to a great grocery store, and excellent managers. My hope is to work with the same couple again next season. A month of part- to full-time work with parking is a welcome thing at that time of year. The positives more than outweighed the negatives and the mehs.

I enjoyed the challenge of a new job, learning about the trees, and meeting some wonderful people. Being a vandweller was both a help and an inconvenience for a job like this, but I found ways to make it work. I learned a lot about how I use the space and made some changes.

I would definitely do this job again. It isn’t for everyone, but definitely worth investigating.

Aerin is a vandwelling nomad who has big dreams and is using a combination of frugality, zero waste, healthy living, alternative sources of income, and whatever else comes along to help achieve them. Aerin also makes masks, modular utility belts, and more at Hermit Crab Creations .


3 Easy Ways to Make Coffee When Camping (Guest Post)

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I’m not an avid coffee drinker myself. Sure, I enjoy a caffeine buzz occasionally, especially if I’m trying to get some work done, but if I were on a camping trip and had no coffee to drink…no problem.

I know many other people feel differently than I do when it comes to having a cup of coffee in the morning. A morning without coffee could make an otherwise lovely camping trip hell for lots of folks. That’s why I was glad when Joshua Hodge, the founder of the Deep Blue Mountain outdoor blog offered to write a guest post about how to make delicious coffee while camping.

Joshua offers advice on making coffee three simple ways so even in the great outdoors, you don’t have to be without your favorite java.

Loyal fans of coffee like to enjoy the beverage everywhere from our cozy kitchens in the morning to our desks while working in the afternoons. Coffee is the thing that moves us, and without it our days can be grim

Access to coffee–anytime, anywhere we want it–should be the right of every coffee lover. However, there are some places where getting our favorite drink can be tough and troublesome. Unfortunately while on a camping trip can be one one of those challenging times for coffee drinkers.

Today I will teach you how to make coffee outdoors while camping. This tutorial will focus on more traditional and natural ways to make coffee so expect your coffee to be bold and wild.

Cowboy coffee 

Probably the easiest way to make coffee while camping is cowboy coffee. This method is for all those who value simplicity and have an adventurous spirit.

For this kind of coffee, you will only need three components: good quality ground coffee, a pot, and a heat source.

Your cowboy coffee can taste pretty awful or incredibly great, depending on the recipe you use. I think the recipe I am about to share with you will lead to coffee that will be a treat for your senses.

  • Add water to the pot and bring it to a boil – preferably using a campfire.
  • Once the water starts boiling, remove the pot and let it sit for 30 seconds. (Letting the water sit will bring it to the ideal temperature of 200°F. )
  • For every 8 ounces of water, add 2 tablespoons of finely ground beans (preferably from a local roastery).
  • Stir the grounds into the water.
  • Let your brew sit for 2 minutes then stir again.
  • Let it to sit for another 2 minutes after stirring.
  • After 4 minutes of brewing, sprinkle a little bit of cold water over your grounds.
  • Slowly pour the coffee, to keep grounds on the bottom of the pot.

Important note: Do not let the brew sit for too long,or it will get over-extracted. You will get the best aroma and taste if you pour immediately after brewing. 

Voila, your cup of Joe the cowboy way is ready, and it tastes great, doesn’t it? – If you followed the recipe, I know it does.

Cowboy coffee is ideal for camping – it is bold, untamed, and rich, with the spirit of the Old West. 

Coffee in a tea bag

This is a simple method in the form of good-old-fashioned tea bags packed with tasty grounds. You can find many delicious coffee grounds packed in bags from coffee beans coming from Guatemala, Indonesia, Ethiopia, or any other region you prefer. You can also make your own coffee bags according to Thorin Klosowski on Lifehacker.

Even more, coffee in teabags can really offer interesting combinations of taste and give specific overtones – like smoky, chocolate, or fruity. If you prefer a variety of coffee aromas and love exotic or interesting overtones, teabag coffee is an ideal option for your camping adventure.

Now, let me show you how convenient and easy it to make a tea bag coffee cuppa. It is as easy as steeping a tea bag and it works like this:

  • Put the coffee brew bag in your mug and pour hot water over.
  • Steep until you get the strength you want and then remove the bag.

The best part of a tea bag coffee is that you control the whole brewing process and dictate the taste. Additionally, most of the coffee bags are recyclable. Tea Bag coffee is simple to prepare and can almost taste as good as, say, French press coffee. You will treat yourself to a decent cup of coffee and a range of aromas if you decide to go for this option while camping.

The magnificent percolator

The third method for coffee making is using a percolator. This method is for those who don’t want to compromise their coffee’s taste, even while camping. With this method, you’ll experience the wafting smell of coffee and a bold, rich taste. With a percolater, you’ll be able to brew large amounts of coffee, so your coffee-drinking camp mates will be satisfied sooner.

Not every percolator is the same, and there are nuances when choosing the right one. I suggest checking this percolator guide to see what kind of percolator best fits your needs.

Percolators have two parts that are responsible for making the coffee: a pot and a vertical tube. Additionally, the vertical tube has a perforated basket on top of it where the grounds are held during brewing. 

The process of brewing using a percolator involves hot water (heated on a fire) going up the vertical tube and entering the basket where the grounds are. Next, water goes through the grounds, extracts soluble matter from them, and goes back into the pot. This cycle repeats until your tasty, bold coffee is ready. Many percolators have a viewing bubble which will allow you to observe when coffee gets the right color.

A percolator may need a little “getting used to” for best results. In that light, here are a few tips for beginners:

  • To determine capacity – Divide the amount of water the percolator holds by 5 and the result will be the number of servings 
  • Coffee strength – Half of a standard coffee measure will get you light coffee. Three-quarters of the measure will produce medium strength coffee. A whole measure will give you strong coffee.

Conclusion

Camping will take you far from stressful days in the city and open your senses to the wilderness. Meanwhile, your body and soul will rest, and the time spent outdoors will allow you to reconnect with yourself and nature. However, it’s not a full experience if you give up coffee.

Hopefully I’ve provided the easiest methods for a more than a decent cup of Joe on your camping trip. Choose the method that fit your needs and personality the best, and feel free to experiment.

Photo courtesy of https://pixabay.com/photos/coffee-grill-fire-heating-up-1031139/

Some Resources for Working Against Racism

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Photo by Mike Von on Unsplash

Updated June 6, 2020

Since posting this article, I’ve discovered many more helpful resources. I am adding those resources to the original post.

This is not the blog post I want to write today. It’s not the blog post I want to write, ever, but things are bad right now, and I want to share some resources so each of us can work toward solving the problem.

First, a recap.

We’re in the middle of a national emergency due to COVID-19. Some states are opening up, but a lot of people are still sick, more people are getting sick, and it looks like some people are going to suffer the results of COVID-19 for the rest of their lives. Some people have been stuck at home since mid-March. Oh, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says,

current data suggest a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups.

On May 25, a White woman, Amy Cooper, called the cops on a Black man, Christian Cooper (no relation between the two, I’m supposed to say here) who asked her to leash her dog in an area of Central Park where dogs are required to be leashed. Mr. Cooper began recording Ms. Cooper. According to CNN, Ms. Cooper approached Mr. Cooper and he asked her not to come any closer to him. He

asks her again not to come close. That’s when Amy Cooper says she’s going to call the police.

“I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” she says.

Once she reached emergency dispatch, she told the dispatcher,

“There’s a man, African American, he has a bicycle helmet,” she says. “He is recording me and threatening me and my dog…”

“I’m being threatened by a man in the Ramble,” she continues in an audibly distraught voice . “Please send the cops immediately!”

Later that same day, an unarmed 46-year-old Black man named George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. You can read the whole story on the WCCO 4 CBS Minnessota website.

Photo by munshots on Unsplash

Over the weekend there were protests across the country, buildings burning, looting. A report by CNN mentions demonstrations in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Los Angeles, New York City, Denver, Nashville, Atlanta, Tampa, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia.

So how are these events related? Trevor Noah of The Daily Show made a video explaining the connections better than I ever could. Please, if you don’t understand what this national crisis is all about, please watch this video where Trevor Noah connects the dots between the COVID-19 emergency, Amy Cooper calling the cops as a means of threatening a Black man, the murder of George Floyd, and the subsequent protests and “looting.” This video is definitely worth watching.

If you don’t want to or don’t have time to watch Trevor Noah’s video, let me make something clear. Neither White people calling the cops on Black people and other people of color (POC) nor cops killing Black people and other people of color (POC) is anything new. It’s been happening for a long, long time. Here’s a list CNN published on December 28, 2018 called “Living While Black.” Author Brandon Griggs says,

…police across the United States have been urged to investigate black [sic] people for doing all kinds of daily, mundane, noncriminal activities.

Each item on the list (Golfing too slowly, Shopping for prom clothes, Helping a homeless man, for example) links to a more detailed report of the incident.

In the CNN article “Peaceful Protesters and Violent Instigators Defy Curfews after George Floyd’s Death” authors Christina Maxouris and Holly Yan report,

One community activist said while many protesters don’t condone violence, nonviolent pleas have “gone unnoticed for years.”

“This is what happens when people have experienced the deadliness of racism … over and over again,” said the Rev. William Barber, the Co-Chair of Poor People’s Campaign. “What we are seeing is public mourning.”

Have you seen this content that’s been going around on Facebook?

I have privilege as a white person because I can do all of these things without thinking twice:
I can go birding (#ChristianCooper)
I can go jogging (#AmaudArbery)
I can relax in the comfort of my own home (#BothemSean and #AtatianaJefferson)
I can ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and #RenishaMcBride)
I can have a cellphone (#StephonClark)
I can leave a party to get to safety (#JordanEdwards)
I can play loud music (#JordanDavis)
I can sell CDs (#AltonSterling)
I can sleep (#AiyanaJones)
I can walk from the corner store (#MikeBrown)
I can play cops and robbers (#TamirRice)
I can go to church (#Charleston9)
I can walk home with Skittles (#TrayvonMartin)
I can hold a hair brush while leaving my own bachelor party (#SeanBell)
I can party on New Years (#OscarGrant)
I can get a normal traffic ticket (#SandraBland)
I can lawfully carry a weapon (#PhilandoCastile)
I can break down on a public road with car problems (#CoreyJones)
I can shop at Walmart (#JohnCrawford)
I can have a disabled vehicle (#TerrenceCrutcher)
I can read a book in my own car (#KeithScott)
I can be a 10yr old walking with our grandfather (#CliffordGlover)
I can decorate for a party (#ClaudeReese)
I can ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans)
I can cash a check in peace (#YvonneSmallwood)
I can take out my wallet (#AmadouDiallo)
I can run (#WalterScott)
I can breathe (#EricGarner)
I can live (#FreddieGray)
I CAN BE ARRESTED WITHOUT THE FEAR OF BEING MURDERED (#GeorgeFloyd)
White privilege is real. Take a minute to consider a Black person’s experience today.

#BlackLivesMatter

This is what I am talking about today: White privilege and Black Lives Matter. Today I’m saying that we as White people need to learn about our privilege, check our privilege, and work to undo the racism the United States of America was built upon.

The number one thing I do NOT want you to do in order to learn more about White privilege and undoing racism is to ask your Black and POC friends, neighbors, family members, co-workers, or acquaintances how to go about this task. Black people and other people of color have enough on their plates without having to educate White people. Do your homework. Use Google. That’s what I did to find some of these resources for you. (I found other resources on the Facebook and Instagram feeds of friends and people I follow.)

If you’re White, but don’t know how you could possibly be part of the problem, please start your journey by reading “Reckoning with White Supremacy: Five Fundamentals for White Folks” by Lovey Cooper on the Scalawag website.

White people who need help recognizing their own racism should also read and take to heart Cicely Blain’s “10 Habits of Someone Who Doesn’t Know They’re Anti-Black.” I found this essay assisted me in examining my own biases and anit-Black thoughts.

I found several reading lists online which share books which may help folks learn about racism and dismantle it too. Charis Books & More, an independent feminist bookstore in Decatur, GA offers Understanding and Dismantling Racism: A Booklist for White Readers. Bustle (an online American women’s magazine) shares 17 Books On Race Every White Person Needs To Read, an annotated list by Sadie Trombetta and K.W. Colyard. The New York Times features An Antiracist Reading List by Ibram X. Kendi. Even BuzzFeed News got in on the act with An Essential Reading Guide For Fighting Racism by Arianna Rebolini. Certainly you can find some resources from these lists.

If you don’t want to support big business when it comes to book buying, check out this list of of Black-owned bookstores my friend Jessica the librarian shared with me. The original list is from @worn_ware. (If you don’t live in a city with a Black-owned bookstore, contact one of the stores on the lists and ask if they do mail order.)

After this list was published, a second list was shared, telling folks about even more Black-owned bookstores across the United States.

On the Instagram post where this list was shared, worn_ware says,

list 2.0 compiled from suggestions made in the comments!! …buying a book on anti-racism from a Black-owned bookstore is cool but we – talking to fellow white people here – ALSO need to be working to dismantle the systems of white supremacy & capitalism that led us to this moment and have always been foundational to the US…

If you want to learn through listening or watching, Isabella Rosario offers up “This List Of Books, Films And Podcasts About Racism Is A Start, Not A Panacea” for NPR. Stuff You Missed In History Class has shared a huge list of podcasts (both their own episodes and those by other voices) that discuss race, racism and anti-Black violence in the United States.

Here’s a an eight page document of anti-racism resources that have been ordered in an attempt to make them more accessible. The authors say

The goal is to facilitate growth for white folks to become allies, and eventually accomplices for anti-racist work.

I was happily surprised that Ben & Jerry’s (yes, the ice cream people) are taking a strong stance against white supremacy. Their website article “Silence Is NOT An Option” says

All of us at Ben & Jerry’s are outraged about the murder of another Black person by Minneapolis police officers last week and the continued violent response by police against protestors. We have to speak out. We have to stand together with the victims of murder, marginalization, and repression because of their skin color, and with those who seek justice through protests across our country.

Other helpful articles from Ben & Jerry’s include “Why Black Lives Matter,” “7 Ways We Know Systemic Racism Is Real,” and “From Slavery to Mass Incarceration.”

If you feel like you are already an ally but want to do better, read Katie Anthony‘s essay “5 Racist Anti-Racism Responses ‘Good’ White Women Give to Viral Posts.” While this essay is (obviously) aimed at women, there’s no reason men can’t read it too and learn some things.

If you’re ready to move from learning to doing in, Corinne Shutack offers “75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice.” Shutack says,

Achieving racial justice is a marathon, not a sprint. Our work to fix what we broke isn’t done until Black folks tell us it’s done.

If you need guidance for talking about racial and ethnic identity with inclusivity and respect, I found what the American Psychological Association had to say very helpful. Of course, when talking to and about specific people or groups, it’s important to call people what they ask to be called. If you’re wondering about capitalization, check out “Recognizing Race in Language: Why We Capitalize ‘Black’ and ‘White’” on the The Center for the Study of Social Policy website.

If you there are young people in your life, and you want to teach them about police violence, racism, and working for anti-racism, I can share some resources to help you meet those goals. Sujei Lugo Vázquez (@sujeilugo) and Alia Jones (@readitrealgood) compiled a reading list for children with topics ranging from Blackness/Ancestors/Elders to Police Brutality/Racist Attacks/Black Lives Matter/Incarceration and Whiteness/White Privilege. The folks at EmbraceRace offer a list of 31 children’s books to support conversations on race, racism and resistance as well as other resources. If you’re looking particularly for books to help kids understand police violence, looks to the these 9 children’s books about police brutality from the Feminist Books for Kids website. .

If you want to learn more about police brutality and how to work against it, start with the Teen Vogue (for real!) article “11 Things You Can Do To Help Black Lives Matter End Police Violence” by Lincoln Anthony Blades. One resource mentioned in the above mentioned article is Campaign Zero, a group working towards ending police violence in America.

What I’ve giving you here are starting points. Start here. Keep reading. Keep studying. Keep learning.

Black Lives Matter.

A Complete Guide to Summer Camping (Guest Post)

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Today’s guest post if from Harsh Paul of the DeepBlueMountain website. In the post, he’ll tell you all about staying comfortable while camping in the summer.

Summer is everyone’s favorite time for camping. There’s not much chance of being uncomfortable due to cold weather, roads are clear, and nature is at her grandest. It’s no wonder that millions of people take to exploring the great outdoors in summer. 

National and state parks and private campgrounds are practically overflowing with visitors during this season. So while you’re out camping, here are a few suggestions that might come in handy. This guide will set you up with the essentials for camping in the summer and enjoying it to the fullest.

Essential Summer Camping Equipment

When you’re going camping, you must pay proper attention to gear. Though summer camping doesn’t usually require being overly thorough, you sure can add to your comfort. The favored form of camping for the modern camping enthusiast is car camping. 

In many cases, you might be able to take your car right to the campsite, or at least somewhere comfortably near the campground. This allows the luxury of carrying more gear and equipment than what a backpacker or hiker would take along. 

Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

Since your car is doing the heavy lifting, you can be a bit generous with the things you take to the trip. Of course, there’s still the element of being sensible and not overdoing things. You don’t want a cartoonishly over-packed car. You may also want to enjoy a backpacking or hiking trip on the trails near the campground. Here are some essentials for your camping trip.

1) A Tent

It’s always worthwhile to get a quality, waterproof tent. You never want to be caught unprepared in rain – and this is where the quality aspect is important. Check the waterproofing of the tent and also see if the tent needs additional waterproofing and seam sealing. Depending on the specific tent, even new ones may need user intervention before they’re considered waterproof. 

Photo by adrian on Unsplash

The most important aspect, however, is ventilation. Summer weather tends to be hot and stuffy. Tents with poor ventilation are going to be hell to spend time in. Most summer or three-season tents come with a mesh body or at least a mesh roof. This helps ventilation, but there’s a limit on how much mesh you can expose before privacy becomes a concern. 

Tents that have vents, preferably at the floor and the roof are better choices. Make sure the windows and/or the door have no-see-um mesh that keeps bugs out.

2) Boots And Socks

There’s a good chance your camping trip will involve a fair amount of walking. Good shoes are especially important if hiking and/or backpacking are in the cards. You’ll need good boots that are strong, sturdy, and capable of handling rough terrain. Some heel support is necessary and waterproofing is very helpful.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Socks are also important. People often wear quality boots, but ignore their socks. If you’re going to spend substantial time on your feet, ditch the cotton socks. Socks with at least 30% wool blend are great. Performance socks made with synthetic materials and designed to offer foot support are better!

3) Emergency And Communication Devices

If you’re headed to a campground with a spotty or non-existent cellular network, think of other communication devices. A simple walkie-talkie can be sufficient for communication among your group. 

However, more sophisticated communication devices are necessary if you’re headed to a remote campground or trail. Depending on your budget, your options could be a satellite phone (expensive) or personal locator beacon (inexpensive).

4) Food And Utensils

Food, water, and utensils are an absolute necessity. If you’re carrying perishables, use them up within a day or two. Better yet, bring a quality cooler along so the perishables can last longer. Another benefit of a cooler is that it can keep your beverages cold for a long time.

Special eating utensils for camping may not be necessary if you’re car camping. However, backpackers and hikers should get specialized lightweight utensils for their travels. Don’t forget to carry along some snacks to munch during the day and to enjoy by the bonfire with the group in the evening.

5) Sleeping Bag And Other Necessities

Carry a sleeping bag and clothing that can keep you comfortable at night. Sure, we expect summer nights to be hot. However, a lot of campgrounds do see cool (and even cold) nights. Know about the campground you’ll be staying at and expected temperature so you can stay warm at night. When in doubt, err on the side of caution.

Other things you should have are a flashlight and a lantern with extra batteries. Necessary gear also includes sleeping pad, multi-tool, and duct tape. A small knife can be useful, but is optional.

Summer Camping Hacks For A Better Experience

1) Cooling Your Tent

There’s always a chance of getting uncomfortably hot during summer camping, so it’s useful to know how to cool your tent without electricity. A few simple ideas like selecting a shaded tent location and creatively using the tarp can help keep the tent more comfortable.

Many campgrounds don’t have electric access, so some careful planning can go a long way in ensuring a comfortable adventure without an electric fan or air conditioning.

2) Always Have A Change Of Clothes

Consider changing into different clothes at night. Clothes you wore during the day could be sweaty and slightly wet, even if they don’t feel that way. This can end up making you uncomfortably chilly during the night. 

Let your day clothes dry by removing them and keeping them inside your tent and shift into new clothes for the night. None of your belongings should be left unattended in a campground .

3) A Mosquito Mesh Is Your Friend

A tent with no-see-um mesh is necessary for comfort. With no-see-um mesh, you can keep tent windows or doors open whenever you wish, without the threat of getting invaded by bugs. However, some areas can be particularly prone to mosquitoes. In such cases, having a mosquito net or mesh will ensure a comfortable sleep.

4) Make Reservations

Modern campgrounds are busy and overflowing with visitors. Many popular locations are booked up to for six months in advance. If you’re planning a trip, make reservations. This stands true even if you’re going to a relatively quieter campground. A reservation ensures you won’t be far from home with no place to stay.

Summer is the most popular and common camping season. It’s ideal for exploring the outdoors, and this guide is intended to prepare you for the best experience. A few simple ideas and adjustments can make a world of a difference. 

Harsh Paul is an avid hiker, backpacker, and camper. When not exploring the great outdoors, he uses his time time completing home improvement projects. Currently, he’s self-isolating for a better safety and health approach.

10 Essential Items For Kids On A Road Trip (Guest Post)

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While now is not really the time to take a recreational road trip with or without children, we can dream, plan, and scheme, right? If you will be traveling with children sometime in the future, today’s guest post from Cristin Howard of the Smart Parent Advice website will help you decide what items to pack to keep the little ones happy on the road. When the kids are happy, the parents are happy, and this blog post will help keep the entire family feeling good.

Planning a family road trip can be intimidating. As you prepare for your trip, your head will be swirling with packing suitcases and wondering how to keep your kids happy and comfortable for hours upon hours.

Let us help you get organized by assisting with your packing lists! Here are ten items to include in your arsenal to help make your road trip a pleasant experience for the whole family. 

Window Shade

One of the most essential road trip items for our family are window shades. Nothing makes children more upset than having the sun shining directly into their faces. Putting a shade on their window helps to dim the harsh rays of the sun while still allowing the sunlight to brighten up the car. 

Rest Stop Entertainment

Pack a drawstring bag with simple outdoor items, such as frisbees, bubbles, and a soccer ball. Any time you need to pull over to use the bathroom, encourage the kids to run around in the grass for ten minutes. This will allow them to use up some of their pent up energy.

Snacks

The day before you leave on your trip, pre-portion the snacks you want your kids to eat during the ride. This will save you from having to dig around in bags and pour and potentially spill goldfish all over your van floor. 

You can use plastic food storage containers for easily smashed snacks such as crackers or soft cookies. Plastic bags are a great choice for pretzels, veggies cut in thin strips, or their favorite dry cereal to munch on. 

Hydration

Make sure each child has a sippy cup within reach and that you encourage your child to drink regularly. You may be risking more bathroom breaks, but there is nothing worse than starting a family vacation with a constipated toddler. Staying hydrated will help their bodies to stay working efficiently despite the long hours of sitting. 

Comfort Items

I highly recommend having your child’s favorite stuffed animal and blanket handy so that when they start to whine and become uncomfortable, you can hand them their comfort items and offer to sing to them. Let them know that it’s okay to miss their beds and you’ll be there to keep them safe.

Books

While your little one isn’t likely to know how to read much yet, books can still offer hours of entertainment while they’re sitting in a car seat. In a sturdy tote bag, pack picture books for your child to look through as well as activity books.  

Some examples of activity books geared for young toddlers are: lift the flap books or any book with buttons to press (as long as they aren’t exceptionally loud for the driver). For kids preschool or kindergarten age, some great choices would be “spot the difference” or “look and find” books. 

Toys

Having a large bag full of entertaining toys is a must when traveling with a crew of little ones. I have found great success with letting my young kids offer ideas of what to pack so they can start to gain excitement for their road trip activities!

Here are a few ideas of what to include in your travel toy bag: magna doodles, puzzles, reusable sticker books, magnetic playsets, interactive steering wheels, or a variety of their favorite cars and realistic plastic animals so they can engage their imaginations.  

Gallon-Sized Zip-top Bags

You may be wondering why gallon-sized zip-top bags are a necessity on road trips. Many kids end up feeling car sick during their travels. When you suspect they are starting to feel unwell, assist them in holding an open zip-top bag and let them use it to throw up into. You can then toss the bag away at the next gas station. 

Media

If your vehicle has a built-in DVD player, you are set up for success. Kids love to watch their favorite shows, and it will make the time pass quickly for them.

If your car does not have a DVD player, you don’t need to worry. Grab some CDs full of well-known kids’ songs, and your family can sing your hearts out as the miles pass by. 

Podcasts are another great option for your kids. Sesame Street, Paw Patrol, and Story Time are entertaining, age-appropriate podcasts for your kids to listen to.

Backpack

Even though you will have bags full of car entertainment for the kids, it will make your life easier if each child also has their own toddler-sized backpack within reach. 

In the front compartment have tissues and napkins so they can help clean up their messes as they snack in the car.

In the large back section, have them choose a favorite book, a special toy, and their most loved stuffed animal. Having these items close by will allow them to have some independence during the road trip.

Don’t Stress The Little Things

Your family has been looking forward to this well-needed vacation. Don’t let the stress of having children in the car keep you from enjoying the road trip. Keep them fed, entertained, and above all, love on them as best as you can in those cramped quarters.

Cristin Howard runs Smart Parent Advice, a site that provides parenting advice for moms and dads. Cristin writes about all of the different ups and downs of parenting, provides solutions to common challenges, and reviews products that parents need to purchase for babies and toddlers.

Physical Distancing Is Still Important

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Are you still practicing physical distancing? Although many states are beginning to “open up,” physical distancing is still important to prevent the spread of COVID-19. According to the New York Times, the Trump

administration is privately projecting a steady rise in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths over the next several weeks. The daily death toll will reach about 3,000 on June 1, according to an internal document obtained by The New York Times, a 70 percent increase from the current number of about 1,750.

The projections, based on government modeling pulled together by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, forecast about 200,000 new cases each day by the end of the month, up from about 25,000 cases a day currently.

The numbers underscore a sobering reality: The United States has been hunkered down for the past seven weeks to try slowing the spread of the virus, but reopening the economy will make matters worse.

So yeah, it looks to me like things may go from bad to worse in the next few weeks unless folks continue to practice physical distancing.

You may wonder what exactly “physical distancing” (also know as “social distancing”) means. According to the Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center and Los Angeles County Department of Public Health,

Photo by James Lee on Unsplash

Physical distancing means staying home, avoiding crowds and staying at least 6 feet away from others whenever possible…

The less time that we spend within 6 feet of each other, and the fewer people we interact with, the more likely we are to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The aforementioned website gives the following advice for practicing physical distancing:

* Avoid any places where a lot of people are together such as gatherings, parties, worship services, and crowded parks.

* Work or study from home, if possible.

* Do not have visitors over or let your children have playdates.

* Avoid health care settings – unless you need services.

* Cancel non-essential health care appointments.

* Avoid non-essential travel.

* Avoid public transport, if you can.

* Avoid close contact with people – instead of shaking hands, come up with other ways to greet people that don’t involve any touching.

I know some of these recommendations are difficult for nomads to follow, especially working from home if we typically pick up odd jobs, seasonal jobs, or house and pet sitting jobs. Avoiding non-essential travel is difficult for us too, as non-essential travel is what we live for!

According to the CNN report “This Is Where All 50 States Stand on Reopening” by Alaa Elassar,

Stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders around country are being lifted in some states.

However, please don’t take this as an indication that it is safe to go out in public and carry on with life as it once was. As Colorado governor Jared Polis warned people during a press conference the day the state’s “safer at home” order was modified (as reported on the aforementioned CNN webpage),

It’s not going to be life as normal.

Many states that are opening up still require nonfamily members to stay at least 6 feet apart. In many places, retail establishments must limit the number of people inside. Please, if you are going back out into the world, follow these requirements, and be cheerful with the employees who have to enforce these regulations.

If you are in a group that is more vulnerable to COVID-19, please consider staying home (whether your home is a sticks-n-bricks, a van, an RV, or some other rig) even if the state you are in lifts its stay-at-home or safer at home order. You are safer at home, even if the state doesn’t mandate that you stay there.

(If you’re wondering what groups are more vulnerable to COVID-19, William Kimbrough on the One Medical website lists the following groups as most susceptible to SARS-CoV-2:

* People aged 60 and older

*People with weakened immune systems due to chronic illness or medications, including people with autoimmune disease or transplants who are taking immunosuppressive drugs, people with AIDS

*People with serious long-term health conditions including diabetes, heart disease and lung disease such as emphysema and moderate asthma)

If you do decide to practice social distancing by staying away from people, what can you do to keep yourself entertained? Isolation is getting more difficult to deal with as we spend more time in one place, get less stimulation, and miss our friends and family. Here are a ten activities you can do alone to stimulate your mind and body and ward off cabin fever until it really is safe to be out in public again.

#1 Write a letter or a postcard. May 3-9 is National Postcard Month, so it’s the perfect time to write a card to a friend or other loved one. If you have more to say, go ahead and write a letter.

#2 Communicate by phone. If you don’t like to write, communicate with your friends and family by phone. You can call, text, or send photos on most mobile phones available today. Use video calls to take your communications up a notch; get recommendations from Dan Grabham‘s article “Best Free Video Calling Apps 2020: Keep in Touch with Friends or Colleagues” on the Pocket-lint website. Marco Polo lets you make videos and send them to the people you want to be in touch with, but you don’t have to engage in a live conversation.

#3 Learn something new or enhance your skills. In April I shared a huge list of “Free Things to Do While You Are Hunkered Down.” From learning a new language to learning to play guitar, this list is sure to give you some ideas of activities you can engage in to keep your mind sharp even if you you’re sitting home alone.

#4 Read up on life on the road. I put together “A List of Posts about Vandwelling, Camping, Boondocking, and Living Nomadically from the Rubber Tramp Artist Archives.” It’s a good place to find links to past articles that tell you everything I know about life on the road. You can also see what other people know about life on the road by reading their blogs. I give you some suggestions about blogs to read in my post “10 Blogs by Vandwellers, Nomads, Vagabonds, RVers, Travelers, and Drifters.”

#5 Keep a journal. You might feel as if nothing is happening in your life right now, but you might be fascinated to remember your thoughts and activities during this time of global pandemic one, five, ten, twenty, or thirty years down the road. Also, the Positive Psychology article “83 Benefits of Journaling for Depression, Anxiety, and Stress” by Courtney E. Ackerman, MSc. says,

Journaling can be effective for many different reasons and help you reach a wide range of goals. It can help you clear your head, make important connections between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and even buffer or reduce the effects of mental illness!

Certainly we could all use those benefits in these trying times!

#6 Practice gratitude. According to the Psychology Today article “Gratitude in a Time of Pandemic” by Zachary Alti LCSW,

Gratitude practice is not only important for making you feel better psychologically during this crisis, it can also help your physical health in response to respiratory infection and in general (especially in older adults who are in a higher risk category for COVID-19).

Whether you write down the things for which you are thankful in a special gratitude journal, jot down gratitudes on your calendar, note everything you appreciate in your regular journal, or simply count your blessings in the morning or at night, being thankful will make it easier to get through these difficult times.

#7 Meditate. The Psychology Today article “Meditation and Mental Health” by Samoon Ahmad M.D. states,

There are physical benefits [of meditation] that appear to be backed up by clinical evidence. According to these studies, meditation can help individuals sleep better, cope with some symptoms associated with mental disorders like depression and anxiety, reduce some of the psychological difficulties associated with chronic pain, and even improve some cognitive and behavioral functions.

If you’re not sure how to start your medication practice, see the extensive list from The Awake Network, “Free Online Meditation Resources for Times of Social Distancing / COVID-19.” Many of these teachings, practices, and other resources are being shared at no cost.

#8 Practice yoga, which is beneficial to both the body and mind. The Thrive Global article “Yoga Poses for Stress Relief During COVID-19” by Lindsay McClelland says,

As COVID-19 continues to spread we’ve all experienced change and stress in our lives…there are things we CAN do when confined to our homes, and luckily yoga is one of those things. In addition to being a form of exercise that doesn’t take up much space or equipment, there are specific poses that can help reduce stress in the mind and the body.

If you find videos more helpful to learn how to move your body, try Daily Yoga Practice for Stay at Home Covid-19 Quarantine | Yoga with Melissa on YouTube.

#9 Spend some time in the sunshine. Even if you practice yoga or do other exercise inside your house, it’s important to get outside and get some sunshine too. In the article “Get Sunshine and Fresh Air While Sheltering in Place” on The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center website, author Whitney Christian, MD points out

Direct sunlight is our bodies’ main source of Vitamin D, which has been known to help fight off osteoporosis, cancer and depression. Even just a few minutes of sun exposure each day can help increase your levels of Vitamin D…Taking advantage of sunlight can help ease muscle aches and cramps, strengthen our bones and improve our moods…Spending time in the sun also can help you recover faster from an illness or injury. Studies show that those exposed to more natural light have quicker recoveries and experience less pain than those exposed to artificial light.

#10 Take a hike. If you can safely go outside, seize the opportunity. In the American Hiking Society article “Hiking Responsibly: Frequently Asked Questions for Hiking During the Covid-19 Pandemic” explains,

spending some time outdoors every day (we recommend at least 10 minutes) is an excellent way to take care of your mental and physical health always, especially now. 

If you live in a rural area, you might have abundant access to open space and trails. In that case, if the park or trail you want to use is open, not crowded, and within a quick drive of your home (so that you don’t have to stop for gas, restroom breaks, supplies, etc.), then, yes, visiting such places for a day hike is fine as long as you practice strict social distancing and are following the guidelines of your local government and the federal, state, or local land manager. However, right now, we can’t risk diverting emergency medical care to wilderness injuries, so we urge that you only take an easy day hike in the front country.

Avoid parks or trails that have become crowded, even if the area is officially open.  If the parking lot is crowded, there are already too many people there. Turn around and find another location or go home.  Not only does crowding make it impossible to follow social distancing, but it puts extra wear and tear on trails and other park infrastructure at a time when volunteer crews cannot be operating. 

I hope these suggestion help you continue to practice physical distancing as long as it may be necessary for you. Please keep yourself and your loved ones safe. Stay home until the danger has passed.

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

National Postcard Week 2020

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I created this postcard to celebrate National Postcard Week 2020. How are you going to celebrate this week?

National Postcard Week started yesterday and continues through Saturday. Never heard of this “holiday”? Don’t worry. I’ll tell you all about it.

I created this postcard too.

According to Wikipedia,

National Postcard Week is an annual event to promote the use of postcards, held in the first full week of May since 1984.[1][2] Started in the US, it is also celebrated by deltiologists in other countries.[3] Special commemorative postcards have been printed for Postcard week by various organizations, especially postcard clubs,[4][5] since as early as 1985.[6]

A 2018 article about National Postcard Week on the Modern Postcard blog offers information about the history of postcards. Postcards in the United States got their start in the 1800s.

…on February 27, 1861, the US Congress passed an act that allowed privately printed cards, weighing one ounce or under, to be sent in the mail. During that same year, John P. Charlton copyrighted the first postcard in America.

I created these cool postcards as well and sent them out in time for Valentine’s Day.

Author Jessica Biondo goes on to say that over time postcards

became colorful, collectible and more complex, and they were even used as prizes and travel souvenirs!

I didn’t create these postcards. I bought them at the supermarket. They have proven quite popular for trading.

Postcard styles changed and developed over time. Here are the three eras of postcards as laid out by Biondo:

The Early Modern Era of postcards was 1916-1930, known as the white border period. American printing technology had advanced, creating higher quality postcards with white borders around the featured picture.

The Linen Card Era of postcards was 1930-1945, enabling publishers to print postcards on linen paper stock with brilliant colors…

The Photochrom Era of postcards is 1939-present, remaining as the most popular era of postcards today when it comes to quality print reproduction.

I designed this postcard featuring a photo I took of the New Mexico state insect, the tarantual hawk wasp.

I couldn’t find much about National Postcard Week 2020 online. A seller on eBay has a couple of National Postcard Week 2020 postcards for sell, and there is a National Postcard Week swap on Swap-bot. Maybe the COVID-19 global pandemic is overshadowing postcards this year.

I did find out a little more history of National Postcard Week from the aformentioned swap on Swap-bot.

National Postcard Week was the brain child of: John H. McClintock; DeeDee Parker; Roy Cox and Richard Novick and others. It began in 1984 as a way to promote our hobby.

Cool! It’s nice to be able to link some fellow deltiologists to the origins of the celebration.

I won these lovely ParcelTonguePaperCo postcards in a giveaway.

Wait! What’s a deltiologist? I’m glad you asked.

According to Wikipedia,

Deltiology (from Greek δελτίον, deltion, diminutive of δέλτος, deltos, “writing tablet, letter”; and -λογία, -logia) is the study and collection of postcards. Professor Randall Rhoades of Ashland, Ohio, coined a word in 1945 that became the accepted description of the study of picture postcards.[1][2]

So if deltiology is the study and collection of postcards, a deltiologist is a person who studies and collects postcards. I don’t actually study or collect postcards, so I guess I’m not actually a deltiologist. I am a postcard enthusiast, but I don’t have a formal collection, and I don’t study the cards I receive or send. I enjoy the social aspects of postcards. I like sending and receiving mail. I like brightening people’s day with postcards, and I like having my day brightened too, but nothing about postcards is serious or academic to me.

I first heard about National Postcard Week last year on Instagram. I swapped postcards with a couple of people who had created special cards for National Postcard Week. I was impressed by folks who went to so much trouble to celebrate the week.

I receive this postcard last year during National Postcard week. It came from @mailboxmayhem in sunny central Texas.

I decided last year that I wanted to create my own postcards for the 2020 National Postcard Week. In February I started the process. I went to Vistaprint and figured out how to upload my photos to my account. Once I picked out the right template for my card, I added my photos and appropriate text. It was all really easy.

I ordered 100 copies of my postcard. I ended up sending out about 65 of them. The rest I gave to people I suspected would otherwise not send out postcards during the special week. It was fun to send my cards out into the world one way or another.

I encourage you to send out postcards this week too. They don’t have to be specially designed cards that you paid to have printed. Just use any postcards you have or can buy. (I sometimes buy touristy postcards at larger supermarkets and even Wal-Mart.) Heck, you can even make your own postcards from food packages you have around the house.

I made these postcards from a Boca burger box.

(If you want to make your own postcards, keep the postcard requirements from the United States Postal Service in mind. According to Mailing.com, to qualify for the postcard rate of 35 cents,

a mail piece must be rectangular and meet these dimensions:

At least 3-1/2” high X 5” long X 0.007” thick

No more than 4-1/4” high X 6” long X 0.016” thick

Meet those requirements, and you’re got yourself a postcard!)

Whatever postcard you end up with, write “National Postcard Week 2020” on it somewhere, and you’re good to go.

Is it strange to be celebrating postcards in a time of global pandemic? I think not. Sharing postcards makes total sense in these difficult times. Now more than ever I think people want tangible proof of their connections with others. They want to hold on to something that says, “I love you”; they want to be able to sleep with some small token of affection under their pillows.

I had this postcard made to promote my blog.

Happy National Postcard Week from the Rubber Tramp Artist.

A List of Posts about Vandwelling, Camping, Boondocking, and Living Nomadically from the Rubber Tramp Artist Archives

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It’s a tough time to be a nomad because we’re all grounded right about now.

Where are you hunkered down during the COVID-19 pandemic?

If we’re not hunkered down at our home base, we may be staying with friends or family members. Some of us may be self-isolating in a still-open campground or while boondocking on public land. In any case, we’re not out and about as much, not able to see new things or visit new places.

Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast

If you want to be productive while you practicing social distancing, I’ve compiled this list of Rubber Tramp Artist blog posts of particular interest to nomads, vandwellers, vagabonds, rubber tramps, RVers, drifters, and travelers of all kinds. You can use these posts to learn about everything from safety on the road and how to prepare for disasters to how to deal when the weather is bad and how to train your canine companion for life on the road. Especially if you are just beginning your nomadic journey, these posts can help you prepare for a nomadic life.

So here we go. Browse this list to find posts you missed and posts you want to revisit so you’ll be ready when it’s time to get back on the road. (I’ll also include some photos from my travels for your viewing pleasure.)

Mountain, southern New Mexico

If you don’t understand what all the fuss is about with this coronovirus and COVID-19, check out the post Living Nomadically in the Time of COVID-19 for information about what the pandemic we are currently experiencing means to individuals and to all of us.

Red flowers, location unknown

Before you hit the road, familiarize yourself with the basics of living nomadically. From lingo to budgets and all the preparation in between, these posts will help you get ready to go.

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

If you don’t already have a rig, these posts may help you choose the rig that’s right for you.

Lake Isabella, California

Many nomads are going to have to work, at least part time. These posts will offer you tips on getting a variety of jobs, from camp host to house sitter to human guinea pig.

Adobe at sunset, New Mexico

Staying safe is important to everyone, especially when driving a large, powerful rig or living alone. Check out these posts for tips on staying safe while living on the road.

Arizona beetle

Maintaining mental health is extremely important too. These posts will offer advice for staying mentally healthy while you travel.

Gate and Ute Mountain, New Mexico

Unfortunately sometimes disasters happen. Here are some precautions you can take to help you avoid disasters.

Pine tree on Dome Rock, California

It’s important to know what to take with you when you hit the road. Here are some of the things I recommend.

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

It’s also important to know what to leave behind before you move into your rig and how to organize the things you decide to keep. These posts can help you purge and organize.

Waterfall, Oregon coast

When you’re living on the road, you’ll find yourself dealing with the impact of the weather. These posts will help you stay comfortable when the weather is less than pleasant.

Tule River, California

Need help staying busy and connected while traveling? These posts will help you find things to see and do while you’re on the road, as well as help you stay connected to other people.

Rocky Mountain high, Colorado

If you’re traveling with a companion animal (or more than one!) or if you’re considering getting one to join your nomadic life, these posts may be helpful

Goose on the water

If you’re traveling in a travel trailer, these posts might be of special interest of you.

Giant sequoia, California

So you want to go camping…Whether you’ll be sleeping in a tent or boondocking in your van, travel trailer, fifth wheel, or motorhome these posts will help you have an enjoyable experience.

Mesa Arch, Canyolands National Park, Utah

Now that you know how to camp, I’ll tell you where to camp. These are campsites I’ve actually been to, most of which I have spent at least one night at. Many of these campsites are free.

Joshua Trees, California

If you want to learn from other nomads, check out these interviews, as well as the post all about blogs written by other vagabonds, nomads rubber tramps, and van dwellers.

Monument Valley, Navajo Nation

I hope this post helps you pass the time and sends you on your way to so much good information. If you read all of the posts listed here, by the time you come out of self-isolation you will be totally ready to hit the road.

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

I took the photos in this post.

Free Things to Do While You Are Hunkered Down (Blog Post Bonus)

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Some people get bored when they have to stay home. If you find yourself in this situation, today I will share with you things you can do for FREE if you have internet access.

The idea for this post came from my friend Laura-Marie who writes the blog dangerous compassions. (Go ahead and add that blog to your list of things to read now that you have some time on your hands. It’s good!) Laurie-Marie offered to share a list of free learning resources she knew about. I’m using her list and adding free things I’ve heard about too. I hope you find some activities to enjoy here. (Also, I’ll include some more beautiful photos from my collection for your viewing pleasure.)

Cholla

The first six resources and commentary were provided by Laura-Marie.

Clozemaster is a free language learning website offering sentences with one word missing, and you fill in the world multiple choice style. You’re informed whether you entered the right word, then hear someone speak the sentence. I enjoy that it’s a different approach from usual–I like variety in my language learning attempts.

Duolingo is a free language learning website that offers a ton of languages and is fun and easy to use. Like any way of learning a language, different people’s minds are helped by different methods. I don’t do well learning verbs through this website, but otherwise, I find it helpful for my study.

Sea creature

Librivox is a website for free public domain audiobooks read by volunteers. The audiobooks are available for download. You can listen, read aloud, or both.

Project Gutenberg is a library of free public domain ebooks–great for if you suddenly need to read Paradise Lost and got rid of your copy from college countless moves ago.

Bee and flower

Open Culture lists “the best free cultural & educational media on the web.” Laura-Marie says, “This list of free online courses is long.” The website says it lists “1,500 online courses from universities like Stanford, Yale, MIT, Harvard, Oxford and more.” You can also find 1,150 free movies, 700 free audiobooks, 800 free ebooks, and 300 free language lessons.

The #freepermaculture website offers “free online permaculture courses [to] help you create ecological gardens and homesteads and connect with a global community of co-learners, innovating hands-on solutions and envisioning a sustainable future, together.” Laura-Marie says, “I’ve been enrolled in this free online year-long permaculture [course] for about six months. I love how it’s packed with information [and] well-organized. Also, it’s special because it’s taught by women instructors. I enjoy the lady-friendliness. Each lesson has bonus material at the end, with plenty of essays to read, diagrams to see, videos to watch.

Carrots grown without chemicals in a home garden

The rest of the resources and commentary are by Blaize.

Another source for free courses is the Saylor Academy. The website says you can “Build new skills or work toward a degree at your own pace with free Saylor Academy courses.”

A third source for online learning is Courses.com. This website offers a collection of free online courses from top educational institutions for anyone to take.

For more free options for learning a language online, read Larry Kim‘s article “9 Places to Learn a New Language Online for Free.” (Kim also mentions Duolingo and Open Culture.) Also check out FluentU‘s article “49 Free Language Learning Websites That Are Almost Too Good to Be True” by Jakob Gibbons. (You can also get a free 14 day trial to FluentU, which brings you “real world video content that’s entertaining, timely, and ideal for language learners.”)

Arizona palm tree

Want to build, craft, or create something but you’re not sure how? Want to learn how to prepare food? Instructables offers step-by-step instructions to help you complete a wide range of projects. I used instructions from Instructables to learn how to make infinity scarves on my round knitting loom.

Skillshare offers thousands of free online classes on topics including design, business, photography, drawing, cooking, and more.

Another place to learn for free is at wikiHow. I often use the wikiHow website as a source when researching for blog posts. The wikiHow website says,

Since 2005, wikiHow has helped billions of people to learn how to solve problems large and small. We work with credentialed experts, a team of trained researchers, and a devoted community to create the most reliable, comprehensive and delightful how-to content on the Internet.

Tulips

Many museums around the world–including Detroit Institute of Arts; the Galleria dell’Academia in Florence, Italy; The Dalí Theatre-Museum; and the National Museum of African American History and Culture–offer virtual tours. To find out how to view collections from the privacy of your own home, see the Upgraded Points article “The 75 Best Virtual Museum Tours Around the World [Art, History, Science, and Technology]” by Jarrod West.

You can also take a virtual tour of Carlsbad Caverns National Park, one of my favorite places.

Cacti

If you’d rather look at animals than art, check out the extensive variety of animal cams available on the EarthCam website. Here you can find cams to let you view everything from bison to giraffes, pandas to tigers. Here you can even find the Michigan Snowman Cam! (Is a snowman an animal?)

The EarthCam Webcam Network also offers you peeks into places aross the United States and around the world. Missing Lake Michigan? Check out the Lake Michigan Beach Cam. Wish you were at the beach? Check out the Hawaii Surf Cam.

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Many aquariums also have cams to check out. Some aquarium cams you can watch are available from the Monterey Bay Aquarium (with ten live cams to choose from including the aviary cam, the coral reef cam and the moon jelly cam); the Aquarium of the Pacific ( including Shark Lagoon and penguin habitats above and below water); and the Seattle Aquarium (harbor seals! sea otters!) Other aquariums offer cams too. Simply search “aquarium cams” and see what pops up.

If you’d rather watch opera than animals, many opera companies are offering free streaming of performances right now. David Salazar has compiled “A Comprehensive List of All Opera Companies Offering Free Streaming Services Right Now” for the OperaWire website.

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If you want learn more about music including songwriting, music theory, playing guitar, music history, and so much more, see Class Central‘s list of 200+ free online music classes. (According to the website, “Class Central is a search engine and reviews site for free online courses popularly known as MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses.”)

If you want to narrow down your search for music classes, check out Springboard blog’s post “The 30 Best Free Online Music Courses” by Rajit Dasgupta. The post ends with a list of five other free resources for musicians.

Fender (as in guitars) is currently offering three months of free guitar lessons. (No credit card needed.) If you want to sample what Fender has to offer before you commit to three months of lessons, you can try out the three levels of online lessons the company offers for free via video.

Other places to check out free guitar lessons include Justin Guitar, Guitar Compass, and Guitar Lessons.

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Writers who want to hone their abilities should check out Class Central’s guide to free online courses to improve writing skills.

Folks of any age who like to color can find hundreds of free coloring pages online. Download free coloring pages from over 100 museums and libraries; see this BookRiot article for all the details. Just Color offers “1,500+ Free Adult Coloring pages to download in PDF or to print : various themes, artists, difficulty levels and styles.” The Spruce Crafts provides free printable coloring pages for adults from a variety of sources. Even Crayola has gotten into the act with free coloring pages for grown ups.

For people who want to try painting, Kelly Allen of House Beautiful reports “You Can Watch Every Episode of Bob Ross’s “The Joy of Painting” for Free Right Now.

Not only are Ross’s videos a great way to pass the time when you’ve run out of options on Netflix, but you could, in theory, create 403 paintings right along with him…

Not to mention, listening to Bob Ross as he paints a picture is extremely therapeutic. If you’re highly anxious or just overall exhausted, his videos can offer you a calming effect that’s as reliable as a weighted blanket.

If you’d like to learn about shooting photos or videos, Nikon (as in cameras) is offering all of their courses for free during April 2020.

The Bluprint crafting website is offering free unlimited access to online classes and projects until April 16, 2020.

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If you want to move your body but need some inspiration, you might want to check out one or more fitness apps. Amy Marturana Winderl, C.P.T. runs down “11 Free Fitness Apps That Will Help You Work Out When Your Living Room Is Your Gym” for the Self website. You can also try a free live-stream workout; Stefani Sassos, MS, RDN, CSO, CDN shares “25+ Fitness Studios and Gyms Offering Live-Stream Workouts During the Coronavirus Outbreak” on the Good Housekeeping website. (Note: Some of these apps and classes typically cost money but currently are offering free trials.) You can find a free 38 minute gentle yoga flow video on the YogiApproved website or check out TCK Publishing’s list of “15 Free Online Yoga Classes.”

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Before I wrap this up, I want to encourage you to also check out TED Talks, the Stuff You Should Know podcast (and everything else in the How Stuff Works family), and YouTube as other great places to learn about a variety of topis. There are also lots of good suggestions on the Business Insider post “The 43 Best Websites for Learning Something New,” a “list of great knowledge sources, inspiring blogs, tools, communities and course platforms that will help you discover fresh ideas or master new skills.”

If all of these suggestions aren’t enough for you, check out the extensive list of free things to do while practicing social distancing provided by a librarian from Tennessee State University.

I hope some of these ideas prove helpful in keeping you busy during this time of social isolation. If you know of other resources, please feel free to share them in the comments.

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

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I took the photos in this post.

Happy Blog Posts for Your Reading Pleasure

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In my recent post Update, COVID-19 Edition, I asked if I should “go all COVID-19 all the time.” Reader Janice responded, “Please continue on as nothing is amiss in this world. I love your blog! We get enough COVID-19 info from everywhere!”

With that in mind, today I’ll share happy blog posts from the Rubber Tramp Artist archives. This way you can get lost in reading stories that are cheerful, funny, and uplifting without having to wade through the sad or grouchy ones. (I’ll also include some lovely photographs too, for your viewing pleasure.) This is a gift from me to you to help you survive this difficult time.

Happy Work Stories

Here are some stories about actually having a good day and being helpful on the job.

Uplifting Tales about Hitchhikers

Yep, I pick up hitchhikers. Here are some stories about helping people who just needed a ride.

Places I’ve Been

Here are some posts about interesting places I’ve been, cool things I’ve seen, and fun activities I’ve participated in.

Happy Days and Positive Stories

Here are some stories that are funny and/or upbeat, from times when I was having a good day, from times when I noticed the kindness of humanity. I know we’re all hoping for more happy days ahead.

I took all the photos in this post.