What is a traveling settler? Me! I see it as someone who travels from one location to another, stops in one spot for a few weeks or months–maybe longer–then travels to the next destination, settles for a spell, and moves on again. If I lived in America a couple of hundred years ago, I would have had a horse, a teepee, and a feather in my hat.
But this is the 21st century, so my home has an engine and six wheels. My four legged companion is the best doggie in the world, Dawny Virgil Prewash Sassy Generous . . . (like all good Native Americans, her names carry great significance). And we are at home whether traveling or settled.
We have logged 30 thousand miles in our two and a half years on the road. That’s not really all that much, if you think about it. The first 10 thousand miles were clocked during our first six months, traveling from Indiana to Texas to Nevada, then all the way east to Virginia by way of South Dakota, Ohio, and other northern states, finally swinging down to Florida where we stayed at our winter campground for a three-month stretch.
That is when I realized that, at the rate we were going, we could wear out our sweet little house-on-wheels in under ten years. It was time to slow down. And it was past time to make a budget and stick to it. (If interested, you can see more on budgeting in my November 16, 2015 post, “Budgeting for Fun.”)
The greatest assist to both the budget and the slower pace has been workamping. That is where you get a free campsite in exchange for hours worked at the campground. In 2015 I workamped three jobs over five months. Last year, it was three jobs over seven months. The savings while workamping has been terrific. Not only is there no camping fee, I save money on gas since I am only taking the house/wheels out once or twice a week to do errands or for local sightseeing trips (I don’t tow a horse so the whole house goes with us).
The beauty of staying in one place for a while is the opportunity it grants to connect with other travelers, to get acquainted with local neighbors and local culture, and to grow some lasting friendships. Heck, one of my jobs is close to where I lived for 30 years and I get to see many old friends and family. That is a sweet, sweet time.
Dawny likes our settled-in times very much, especially at our winter camping grounds in Florida and Texas. She is a master of making friends-for-cookies. Fellow campers and workers at both of these campgrounds are perfectly willing to spoil her. As we speak, she is totally smitten with Mr. Mike and Uncle Joe. Both express their adoration of her by showering her with cookies and love. Perhaps that has contributed to her being less apt to go on the warpath when we come upon other doggies lately. The girl is mellowing.
Traveling between jobs or on the way to where we will sit for the winter is our “vacation” time. That is when I get to map out different routes (yay! maps!), explore fresh countryside, and visit new campgrounds, usually staying just a night or two at each one. If we aren’t pressed for time, we may spend quite a few days at one that is especially nice. This is also a great way to scope out places for future workamping jobs.
Every traveler has their own rhythm. This is simply the pace and style that suits me and my girl, our situation and our needs. Many wanderers retain a home base with a solid house on it, venturing out when the season becomes harsh and returning when the weather welcomes (picture the classic snowbird). The most hardy souls aim for wide open lands out west where they can boon-dock for days or weeks at a time, their nearest neighbors nowhere in sight.
When I lived in my home that was unequivocally planted in one spot, I loved it. I loved being so firmly settled. It felt safe. Secure. To an extent, it was also isolating, but that was by my own choice. It sometimes surprises me that I feel so secure in this nomadic, freewheeling lifestyle. Sure, our home moves around an awful lot but, with our workamping jobs and winter campgrounds, we also spend plenty of time settled.
I think what I love the most is that our world, our home, our level of comfort (and confidence) has expanded. Dawny and I are both more relaxed. Leaving our insular, brick-walled bubble behind, we struck out into the wilds. Along the way, we have been gathering blessings like precious, smooth-faced stones, with the face of a new friend etched upon each one. Our tribe has grown.