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10 Awkward Things Nomads Do

Ten months ago we ended the lease on our Cleveland apartment and became nomads who live out of our car.

As we’ve mentioned here and there, the lifestyle has had its challenges, but the ability to live just about anywhere is a dream we worked toward, and it’s not one we are planning to give up anytime soon.

Sometimes folks ask us what it’s like, so we decided to lighten things up and highlight some of the awkward things nomads do. (i.e. specifically for those living and camping out of their cars, not RV’s).

I hope we’re not the only ones who…

1. Pee right next to the car at night, because the bathroom is too far away.

How many nights have I squatted next to the wheel of Oscar the Outback, too tired to walk 5 minutes to the camp bathroom? Or too afraid of what might be in the bushes to at least get away from the car?

I know peeing out in the open is normal for campers, but I just wonder if one day I’ll have a house with a driveway and look at my car, and think Hmm I used to pee next to that wheel.

Subaru advertisement, or impromptu bathroom shield.

2. Share literally everything with a spouse or close travel partner.

Socks, underwear and tooth brushes. Yep, there have been many times when I ran out of underwear and borrowed boxers from Andres (it’s never been the other way around 😉), or when his socks became too sweaty and he needed to squeeze into mine. What about when we walked to the bathroom in 38 degrees and one of us forgot his or her toothbrush? “Babe, can I just borrow…?” … “Sure babe.” It happens a lot.

3. Wake up in a Walmart parking lot next to the Saturday morning soccer mom shopper.

Oh, hello! Don’t mind our foggy windows, we were just sleeping here last night.” I imagine it’s a little unusual to see strangers spending the night in your local Walmart, but we’re grateful for the ability to do so when we’re miles from a safe camping spot. Or when we just feel like saving.

Morning at Walmart somewhere in Texas.
Morning cell phone shot of Walmart, somewhere in Texas on the way to Big Bend National Park.

4. Wash the dishes with dirt.

This is a great tip I learned from our friend while backpacking in the Rockies. We usually have a camp bathroom to wash dishes, but this tip is also handy while camping in remote desert areas where water is truly coveted. All you need is some rocky soil to scrape out the dishes and the sun will do the rest. Here’s also a quick video for a true glimpse.

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Memory of Badlands: example of a dry place without water, where tricks to wash dishes are handy.

5. Use antibacterial gel to clean more than just hands.

Maybe we don’t use it everywhere, but that gel is handy when you can’t wash your feet or armpits after a long day hiking or driving.

6. Take showers maybe once or twice a week.

Speaking of hygiene, I would never have considered it while working in the office, but honestly you don’t smell bad after a few days of not showering – it’s not even healthy to shower every day, as this article explains. A little bowl of soapy water and dry shampoo can do amazing things for a nomad. I hope the people we’ve met up with can support that claim.. but please don’t hurt our feelings if not.

As a side note, I use Acure Dry Shampoo and love it, useful for non-nomads who want to shampoo less too!

Who says nomads need to be grungy all the time? Showering less is actually healthier for your hair.
Who says nomads need to be grungy all the time? Showering less is actually healthier for your hair.

7. Lay down in the back of the car to watch Game of Thrones.

Just because you’re on the road doesn’t mean you skip simple pleasures or addictive TV shows. I only hope we haven’t bothered our camping neighbors with battle cries and threats to chop off heads.

8. Spend 5 hours in a McDonald’s because there’s no where else to go.

We try to respect the businesses we frequent by not over extending our stays, but sometimes you’re in such a remote place that no other option remains. While I’m not a fan of McDonald’s or Walmarts, I can tell you there are a few places in this country where that’s all you can find. If work is calling and you need to get it done, you find a place to sit and buy cheap coffee until it’s done.

9. Work at camp when everyone else is having fun.

The nomadic life looks idealistic on Instagram, but it isn’t always fun and games. A lot of nomads make their livings as entrepreneurs or freelancers, which often means working awkward hours or during times when most people are having fun.

How many Saturdays have we sat cooped up in a library or watched hikers walk to trailheads by our campsite while we type away on our computers? The flip side means we can explore something beautiful on a Monday morning, when most people are in rush hour traffic. Not gloating here, just being honest!

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Oldie but goodie – cell phone snapshot of Andres working in Mammoth Cave, park #1!

10. Wash clothes infrequently, and change on the side of the road.

I’ve never enjoyed doing laundry, and it’s even harder to do when there isn’t a washing machine right around the corner. Laundromats take time and planning (where is it, how late are they open, how much does it cost, do I have enough quarters, what will I do while waiting for my clothes, etc, etc.). So sometimes it’s just easier to wear the same pants for a week and wear your spouse’s remaining clean underwear.

Once I’ve had clean clothes, I can’t count how many times we’ve hit the road early in the morning before I felt like changing or wearing my contacts. With efficiency in mind, it’s no big deal to look both ways on the side of the road and swap an outfit.

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Getting ready to store some dirty socks in our “laundry basket” ;-)

What awkward or non-conventional things have you done while living nomadically?

*Cover photo is from backpacking in Great Sand Dunes National Park. 

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