Nonfiction, Self-Help, Travel

How to Live in a Car, Van, or RV, by Bob Wells

image

This book I read purely for fun and because it seemed interesting. Despite the fact that we are the owners of a mini motor home, it is unlikely that it will become our full time home.  Still, I admire anyone who can strip away their possessions to just the basics and find joy and fulfillment in that kind of life.

The author of this book, Bob Wells, began his life as a vandweller (all one word) out of sheer necessity. He was going through a messy divorce and couldn’t afford to even rent an apartment. This man thrives on living simply.  So much so, that when he got financially on his feet and remarried, he ended up divorcing a second time because living in a “stick and brick” house became unbearable for him. (“Bye, Honey, I’m leaving you for a van…”)

Now, for most of us, RV and trailer living would be like living in a really small house but still with basic conveniences. Bob looks at that as excessive, and advocates living in a box van or even your car. It is almost like a religion for him, and he lives on public land for free and never pays for a campground or uses hookups.

That is fine for him. And if that is a lifestyle that appeals to you he does have some good ideas. However, as a rule-follower, I have a hard time with the idea of purposefully drawing unemployment benefits so he only has to work for half the year. It’s one thing to live off the grid, it’s another thing to take advantage of the system while boasting that you don’t live within it.

For someone who, because of necessity or desire, wants to scale down their living quarters to a car, van or RV, this book might be helpful. Be warned that it does not give any instructions on using RV plumbing or electrical systems. Also be prepared for decent writing but tons of type-os of every kind. Whether or not this book was self-published, it was carelessly edited.

In the end, read it for your own amusement, but choose this lifestyle at your own risk.

7.5 out of 10 stars

Nonfiction, Travel

RVing Basics, by Bill & Jan Moeller

image

I know that reviewing a book about RVs is quite a departure from the types of books I normally review, but my husband and I just bought a 22-foot mini motor home (it doesn’t feel very mini) and I’m a big believer in “knowledge is power,” so this review and this book might be useful to other RV beginners like us.

After doing a lot of reading and research lately on the many necessary things that an RV owner must learn, I can confidently say that this is a well-written, thorough book. As the economy continues to be in a bad place, it is a good idea to look at alternate vacation options, and owning or renting a motor home, trailer or 5th wheel might be something to look into.

We are starting out as very new beginners, so the idea of valves, pumps, inverters, amps, and terms like “black water” can be a little daunting.  This book takes the mystery away from these and many other terms, plus their locations, uses, and where they fall in the checklists of things to do to get ready for an adventure.

The first 55 pages help you decide which type of RV is right for your needs.  We already have our motor home, even though we haven’t taken it on a trip yet, but I read the section anyway and it helped confirm the fact that our purchase was a good one for us. We bought it the day before I left to visit my family out of state, and my husband is in the process of insuring it.  Rest assured that when we are reunited we plan to take it on its maiden adventure.

Assuming the reader already has their vehicle, the rest of the book is devoted to parts, systems, etiquette, driving, troubleshooting, and a host of other important things. I read it cover to cover, absorbing as much as possible in order to feel less overwhelmed.  I can breathe a sigh of relief now knowing that I have, at least, a rudimentary knowledge of our RV.  This is written by “fulltimers” who live in their 5th wheel trailer year round and hope to impart their experience to the rest of us, including learning from mistakes they have made and observed.

I feel much better about our purchase and excited about our upcoming trips much more after having read this book. It’s an extremely useful resource for the first-time RV buyer.

9.5 out of 10 stars

Memoir, Nonfiction, Travel

The Kindness of Strangers: Penniless Across America, by Mike McIntyre

Our comfort zones is exactly that…the zone in which we are comfortable.  We rarely travel outside of it.  Is it because of fear?  Anxiety?  Lack of ambition?  Boredom?

In The Kindness of Strangers: Penniless Across America, journalist Mike McIntyre takes the leap and decides to abandon every comfort he knows.  He says goodbye to his job, his girlfriend, his San Francisco apartment, and even his money, in order to conduct a social experiment.  His plan is to hitchhike across the United States–San Francisco, CA to Cape Fear, NC.

The experiment is as much a challenge for himself as for the unsuspecting people he encounters.  As someone who has let fear guide a lot of his decisions in life, he feels like this is his last chance to prove to himself that he has courage.  For Mike, the comfort zone has become a trap.

He has some rules for his trip:  he will accept food, he will accept shelter, he will stay near smaller towns, he will accept rides from 1 man, 1 woman, a man and a woman, a family, but not from 2 men.  He will not accept money throughout the trip.  Not one penny.  He won’t accept it and he won’t carry it with him.  When and if he reaches his destination, he’ll call his girlfriend (collect) and have her mail his ATM card to the nearest post office.

And so he begins…

Food becomes an immediate issue, but less of an issue over time.  Rides vary depending on where he is traveling.

It is the array of people he meets that really make the story, as well as the growth and trust that Mike develops.  In the end, he realizes that the people who have the least, are the most generous.  Makes sense, really, as they understand the plight of someone in need.

There were times, at the beginning, where I found myself rolling my eyes a few times at the description of the people who offered rides.  As someone who is not very comfortable leaving her comfort zone, I was a bit skeptical at the colorful lives and language of so many of the people Mike encountered.  (I’m still a bit cynical after reading James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces, which turned out to be almost completely fabricated.)

But I decided to give the author the benefit of the doubt.  After all, I recently moved from a big metropolis to a small town, and the people are certainly different.  Not better, not worse, but different.

After a while, though, I must admit that some of the people Mike met started to run together.  I focused, instead, on his own growth, of which there was much.  I was also riveted by an experience he had at the end of the book, talking with a man who panhandles for a living.  Apparently there is a lot of that, which is unfortunate for people who are really down-and-out.

As expected, Mike returns home a changed man, but not necessarily how he expected.  The journey affects the way he sees everything, and makes him re-evaluate what is really important.

This is an unusual book about a man who fights his fears and take a journey most of us would never have the courage to do.  It is worth reading.  If nothing else, it restores your faith in the American people.

8.5/10  Stars