We had just completed our first full year on the road, and it was quite the whirlwind. We logged a ton of miles and moved a lot. We thought that when we got back to the Lower 48 in October we would slow down significantly, but Washington and Oregon were cold, wet and cloudy. We weren’t staying in parks with hook-ups, the solar wasn’t charging because of the clouds, and the cats were not happy about walking in the wet. So we ended up zooming through to California, then zooming to New Mexico for the holidays -agh! Stop the merry-go-round so I can get off! I don’t think we even realized how tired we were because it had become the status quo. We were uncharacteristically short with each other and just weren’t having as much fun.
We started to get our zen back in New Mexico with Sterling and Teresa but after weeks of snow and freezing temps we said our goodbyes and headed to southern Arizona to thaw out. As we ambled further south, we started to notice that more & more of our nomadic friends apparently had the same idea and we were all within a few hundred miles of each other. And from one simple idea, “Hey, why don’t we all try to get together?” came one of the best experiences ever. Imagine if you could call 20 or so of your closest friends, convince them to join you for a two-week vacation, choose a location where you could all easily fit with plenty of room for privacy yet common space where you could socialize together, and they all showed up? That’s exactly what we did and it was the best convergence I’ve ever experienced.
After a little chatting online, we settled on a location just south of Quartzsite, Arizona near the KOFA National Wildlife Refuge. Eric and I scouted ahead with a high list of demands: the site had to be fairly close to activities & shopping in Quartzsite, it had to have both Verizon and AT&T cell coverage sufficient for people to continue to work, it had to be large enough to accommodate a dozen or so RVs of varying size, and it would preferably be fee-free, scenic, and cholla cactus free. They don’t want much, do they?? After a few hours of scouting we found a couple of candidates, but one BLM site stood out. We put out the call and the rigs started to roll in.
At our peak, we had 13 RVs together in the desert, and I can’t imagine spending time with a finer group of people. We had met many of them before and had traveled around Alaska with several of them, and some we only knew from social media. But the funny thing about our nomadic tribe is that you don’t have to meet face-to-face in order to click: RV travel is such a common bond for us that we feel as if we’ve known each other forever, even when we’ve never been within a hundred miles of each other. Our desert gathering ranged in age from 20-somethings to retirees, but age doesn’t matter in the least out on the road because it’s all about the experience. The group quickly fell into a rhythm: folks worked mostly during the morning and started to trickle out for group time in the afternoons. We had a late-morning dog walking group, group yoga, guitar lessons, e-commerce classes, pot-luck dinners, outdoor movie nights, Cards Against Humanity & Exploding Kittens (the game: no actual kittens were harmed), football play-off viewing, glass fusing sessions, group hikes, coffee tastings, open houses, explored an old mining town, visited a bar in the middle of the desert, took 4×4 off-road expeditions, had evening mega-campfires, and …whew! You get the picture. It was a ton of fun! As the initial 2-week period was winding down, most of us couldn’t stand the thought of leaving and so after dumping and refilling tanks we stayed together another 2 weeks! And were still sad when we had to part ways.
I can’t fully explain to you how blissful this month was. Certainly some of it was that we only moved the rig once in 4 weeks, and we had a ton of fun, but it went far deeper than that. These people aren’t my family, but we’re connected by a mutual love of exploration and by our conscious choice to live a life outside the norm. We have all sampled the lives that American culture tells us we should have, and we have found that “norm” lacking. We have chosen to stand out, to be different, to reject in a fairly extreme way the pressure to “work more hours to make more money to buy more stuff & to do all the things” that many in America succumb to. We aren’t connected by blood and most of the time we aren’t even in the same State, but these people are my Tribe. They get me in a way that only they can. We are about as diverse a group of people as you could imagine, but together we’re a happy, cohesive, serene unit. And if you don’t believe me, some of them have already blogged about the experience and echo these sentiments: Finding Marshall has some great pics, WatsonsWander talks about the Nomadic mindset, Small House Big World talks about the sense of community, and The Learning Banks made me cry just a little bit. Our posts sound very similar, not because we can’t come up with original ideas but because it was such a powerful experience that affected us so deeply. We’ve all gone in separate directions, but we haven’t parted ways. We’re chatting online more than we used to and are already talking about another gathering. Last year these people were my friends, but now we are The Tribe, and The Tribe is strong!