Another Sub-culture

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Many times while traveling in National Parks I struck up a conversation with a worker. They were either behind a counter or cleaning a campsite. I thirsted for knowledge about how and why they got the jobs they had. What I learned is that many of them were retirees who just wanted to spend time in a beautiful place. Who could argue that? Spend a summer in Yellowstone National Park, or Sequoia, or a winter in the Everglades, why not?

I often thought of myself doing the same, but never had the nerve to follow through. Mostly, because my wife Barb wasn’t on the same page as I was. Then after she died, I did embark on a solo journey, but it wasn’t to a national park. I rented a condo in Arizona for two months to grieve. We had often talked of retiring to Arizona, and this was my way of taking her with me to finally do it. Never mind all the excuses I had before, my kids were grown and on their own, I retired from my job, the house could stand a winter without me. What about my  friends? Well, except for one young lady, I didn’t have any friends, and she was too young to leave her job to come with me. The telephone would be my link to friends.

This week I picked up a book titled Nomadland, it spoke to me, and I loved it. This author chronicled the life I had dreamed of creating for myself. There is a big difference between my way and the way of the people she wrote about. Her people were all sixty somethings who lost jobs, and then homes, and were left without a way to live. In order to survive they managed to learn to live in vans, trailers, motor-homes, tents, or anything that could shelter them from elements because the only jobs they could find didn’t pay enough to rent a room and eat too.  Jessica Bruder followed these people for three years, and even joined them in a van of her own to experience what it was like to live in their community. There are thousands of these nomads living this lifestyle because of the independence they get and because they can’t afford anything better. They skip from campground to campground to avoid rent, and take part-time jobs with companies who offer seasonal work just to make gas money and sustenance. Would you believe that one of the largest employers of part time nomads is Amazon? Yes Amazon, actually recruits workers through their branch called Amazon CamperForce. The stories Bruder relates to working at Amazon Fulfilment Centers are crazy. Can you imagine sixty somethings logging 12-15 miles walking daily inside one of these big box warehouses scanning goods to either put away or to remove for shipping for ten to twelve hours a day?  I can’t either, but it is happening right now in a place near you. The people doing it don’t really like it but it allows them to make money to live their lifestyle. Many of them refer to Amazon as the largest slave keeper in the world.

I enjoyed reading these stories and following the campers as they moved from city to city to attend events like the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous in the desert near Quartzsite, Arizona. I remember passing through Quartzsite on Inter-state ten on my way to California. It looked like a giant flea market from the road I never wandered off to see if there actually was a city there too, next time I will for sure.

If you are into reading books about our American culture and how people cope with life this is a great read. I give it five stars.

Map-to-RTR

Excellent advice to avoid Flagstaff on your way to warmer climates during winter months.nter a caption

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2 Responses

  1. Increasingly, older people seem to be getting a “life”. For various reasons, and not always in a good way. Last night saw a movie “Our Souls at Night”, with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, again about two aging people living alone. Whether this movie or others, many of the stories revolving around loneliness. Causes one to stop and ponder if this is how it should be. Spending a summer in an American National Park sounds exciting, as long as it is out of choice.

    • That would be the difference between me and most, I would choose to lead the life. I cannot even imagine living on my Social Security alone, or having to work a minimal job to make survive. I believe that put into these circumstances one would rise to the occasion and learn to adapt to a new lifestyle.

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