After a little over one year of being on the road and less entwined with the normal society we realized that our common terminology has changed. Gradually terms took on new meaning. We’ve talked about many of these things with other friends living on the road, and found huge commonalities in our new definitions. So, while most people focus on the Oxford Dictionary, it seems there is also a Roadlife Dictionary. We’ve picked through the ones that have changed the most for us in the past year.
Our garage/bed/office/kitchen/couch/storage/dog stuff all fits in 80sqft, so a small organizational change effectively feels like adding an extra room to our home. We also spent a month living just in the back of the pickup, so having a trailer seems like an insane amount of room now! Having space is such a relative term, since now our yard is the world and bigger than ever, and stepping into a house now feels like stepping into a castle.
This one deserves subcategories it’s changed so drastically.
There is so much about cleanliness that is so relative. After we sold our truck camper and moved into a cargo trailer, we had no shower. It was also winter, and so outdoor showers were way too cold. Setting up a shower inside is a big production and our friend base that doesn’t live in a vehicle in Arizona is minimal, so there were times we went seven… eight… nine days? With no shower. Luckily, we love each other and we’re stocked up on wet wipes.
I’m currently sitting on our bench seat and looking at the floor there’s a good layer of dirt on everything below me. The bedding is stuffed into a cubby, all flat surfaces are occupied with electronics, food stuffs, and house plants (poor basil has been through the ringer with us, but she’s still alive and well!) We’ve camped in sandy places where everything gets gritty, or in rainstorms when the mud is up to our ankles and our dog paints the house. But if we can move around easily and complete our daily activities with little struggle, we call it clean. It seems small spaces to remain clean need constant attention, but for short periods of time, whereas big spaces need sporadic attention, for long periods of time. There’s always a trade-off.
Oh, the dishes. We love to cook, but there is a balance of what you want to cook based on how many dishes you need to do, and how much water you need to wash those dishes. We like to immediately wash dishes after cooking before we eat by wiping them out with a paper towel, spraying them down with vinegar, and then quickly rinsing with water. Sometimes there’s a food particle or two still left on the bowl or the spoon. Far from the days of the “sanitation cycle” on the dishwasher. But you know what? We have yet to die of dysentery.
I got water, did laundry, dumped trash, moved camp, and got a shower. I am amazing.
Or, I stared at a twig, and a bug, felt the winds change as a storm came in, and read a book.
When we lived in Hawaii, a comfortable night’s sleep meant fluffy down blankets just out of the drier in a California King Size bed with the AC rolling and a flush toilet ten steps away.
Now, I consider it a good night’s sleep if I only have to get up to pee once. We traded the flush toilet for the outdoors so it’s oh so lovely when it is above freezing, not pouring rain, windy and I don’t see a scorpion outside during the process. Our dog sleeps in bed with us, and the three of us share a Twin XL mattress, so when she decides she needs to change position or get under the covers, everyone is involved. Our heater is awesome, but it still only raises the temperature just enough to take the nip off, so cold nights still mean cold noses and heads under the covers, and maybe an hour or two awake from the cold, but still happy because your best friend and your dog are there cuddling with you.
We also sit in our truck in cold/warm temperatures bumming internet off the public library/Starbucks/etc. Not exactly a nicely organized office with folder separators and staplers and printers at your beck and call, but it works, and it means we can take our work with us anywhere we are!
Road life requires you to let people in, let them be in your tiny space, and learn to be comfortable in it. When we lived in a house, it felt like our bedroom was totally off limits to guests. Now it’s the main living space and sitting space, and we have no problems inviting people to come cuddle up in our bed with us. We’ve also expanded our boundaries on what’s okay to talk about. I’ve had more than one conversation with men over 50 on what type of setup they use for their toilet, what they like about it, and what they don’t.
Neighbors are always changing, and sometimes they are invited, sometimes they’ve invited you, and sometimes you both just wanted to be in the same area, and you’ve never met before. But many of your neighbors live their whole lives in the spot you may spend a day or up to a few weeks.
Neighbors can be the tufts of grass that grow between rock outcroppings near camp. That you look at every day and share the space with, and your heart reaches out to them, because you acknowledge they are alive in this world with you.
How many times have you been asked, “So where are you from?” It’s part of most introductory conversations, and for us, the answer depends whose asking. Are you the DMV? We live in Arizona. Are you sending me something in the mail? Probably Vermont. Our old camper had the number 806 on it by the door, and I always thought of it as our address. 806 Anywhere Lane, American West. You want to know where I am right now, or where I’ll be in a few weeks? Your guess is as good as mine.
I was just chatting with a road friend about peeing inside, and how much I dislike it. Which is very strange; I’ve always peed inside until living this way. Now, it’s way more natural to go for a little stroll into the woods and spend a little time thinking about the right place to pee rather than peeing into perfectly clean water.
When we walk to the car from picking up groceries I always look at it and think, “our home!”
It’s true that home is where you park it when you live in a house on wheels, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still an attachment associated with being “home.” To tell you the truth, I’ve never been so homesick as when we’ve been away from our truck and trailer. It’s our safe space that we’ve created ourselves. It’s enough and not too much, and we know it so well.