I have been going to the annual Rubber Tramp Rendezvous in Quartzsite, Arizona ever since I started vandwelling three years ago. Every year it gets bigger, and this time it’s probably double what it was last year. People are still streaming in from all over the U.S., Canada (and even Denmark), looking for spots to camp between the hundreds of rigs already here. I am so glad I got here three days early!
Of course, like any good immigrant, I now complain that it’s too crowded and our leader, Bob Wells, needs to close the door and stop promoting this lifestyle on the internet. I remember hearing those complaints from old-timers when I started out. (I didn’t mind as long as I could squeeze in first.)
But you know what? In spite of the jam-packedness of this event, it feels like home. The vibe is mellow. The newbies are energizing with their bright-eyed happiness—just like mine three years ago. It’s so nice to be among people who ‘get’ it.
And what is that? you ask. What do we ‘get’?
- We get freedom from rent or mortgage (though many of us replace it with much smaller van payments.)
- We get freedom to roam whenever we feel like it and can afford to fill the gas tank.
- We get freedom from 9 to 5 (though we may have to make up for that with lower paying ‘work camping’ jobs.)
- We trade utility bills for solar panels, propane tanks, and water jugs.
- We fashion toilets from five-gallon buckets (or something fancier).
- We know where the nearest dumpster is.
- We share the pride of knowing we are self-sufficient—up to a point.
- We learn to avoid talking politics around the campfire because there are all kinds out here, and we want to stay friends.
- We decide it’s better not to know who has a gun and who doesn’t.
- We wave when we pass on the road whether we know each other or not.
- We stop as we walk, and introduce ourselves and our dogs.
- We marvel at each other’s rigs and admire good carpentry.
- We take walks together and become friends for life.
There are sacrifices and problems. There is barely any diversity–we are almost all white (I hope that changes over time.) Hot showers are a premium. It’s hard to maintain a healthy diet. Dirt is just a fact of life.
What do we get?
We get community. That’s what I call a bargain.