A Few Parting Thoughts by Robert Witham
As the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic and entire countries effectively shut down with orders for citizens to shelter in place, what impact does this bring to lifestyle travelers?
My experience so far has been mixed. In some ways, I am dealing with the same challenges as everyone else. Work has slowed, it is nearly impossible to purchase toilet paper or paper towels or hand sanitizer, and finding the groceries that I want remains a hit and miss proposition. In other ways, there is little practical change to my lifestyle or routine. Since I already spent a lot of time “self-isolating” in the wilderness as a solo traveler, in many ways my daily routine has not been impacted in any meaningful way by shutdowns.
Other travelers that I am in contact with are also reporting mixed experiences that seem to largely depend on their style of travel and location. Those who are boondocking off-grid in the wilderness tend to be set up to be as independent and disconnected as possible for long periods of time. Being able to generate your own electricity and carry weeks worth of food and water is an enormous asset during troubled times. Location also plays a significant role in one’s experience as a traveler during this pandemic. Some areas have taken steps to shut down many campgrounds, trailheads, and even dispersed camping areas while others have continued to allow responsible public use of recreational lands.
It is safe to say though that few nomads were as prepared for this pandemic as they might have liked, and even fewer are able to honestly say that they saw this coming. One term that has been used frequently to describe the current situation with the pandemic and shutdowns is “unprecedented.” Indeed, what we are living through today is far different from what any of us has experienced in the past.
In this magazine we saw images of Rhyolite, Nevada, a ghost town that just one century ago was a booming municipality with a seemingly bright future. Across the American West are many other ghost towns with stories similar to Rhyolite. Many people once sought to build a future for themselves and their families in these promising towns, but something changed, the population dwindled, and the town was eventually abandoned.
No matter how carefully we plan for our futures, there are always things outside of our control that we may not even anticipate as being possible - like a pandemic shutting down the entire world.
Travelers across the county are dealing with the fallout from this pandemic in much the same ways as are all Americans, but with the added challenge of not having a home within which to shelter. Of course, most nomads consider their vehicle to be their home - home is thus wherever we park - but this assumes that we have a safe and legal place to park our home. Now many nomads are encountering the unwelcome reality that the lifestyle we have carefully built over a period of years may be threatened within a matter of weeks.
In time this too shall pass. In the meantime, many nomads are moving to locations that are more welcoming to travelers that other areas, and are also learning to practice the discipline of sitting still for longer than usual. Many are also envisioning a slightly different future that may involve maintaining a place of their own to park their homes. Just in case.