A Change in Thinking?


The favorite direction of travel…

Without a doubt, the last few years have been the most exciting and fun I can remember.  The experience to live in a van and journey to new places has brought memories that will last a lifetime.  But now it may be time to throttle back a bit and redirect the energies.


Serena at Twin Springs, Decorah, IA

In recent days I have been thinking about the reasons for traveling so much and why there was (and still is) a desire to live in a van and explore.  I had shut out reality after Mom died a tragic death at the end of 2010 at age 75; it was a complete shock that she was here one day and gone the next.

Almost immediately after that, Dad’s health started going downhill, adding to the sadness and stress.  It was overwhelming.  Traveling helped numb the pain while lurking at trout streams, finding new bike trails, and quitting jobs each time things got stressful.  As easy as it can be at times to say the “f” word to the world, I’ve learned there just is no future in constantly retreating.

“Consider any individual at any period of his life, and you will always find him preoccupied with fresh plans to increase his comfort.”  — Alexis de Tocquefield.

Lately the energies have been spent working on Dad’s house, picking through his “treasures” and deciding which get sold, donated, or dumped.  That’s given me a lot of time to reflect.  For the first time in 48 years, I can now go anywhere, do anything, and be anything.  It’s exciting but at the same time, it’s kind of daunting, too.  Sometimes too much freedom is troubling!  But now that things are calming down, the future is becoming clearer and it’s possible to make rational decisions.


“Bubbles” from the movie “Trailer Park Boys”

I’ve decided NOT to be a full-time, on-the-road, vandweller.  The permanent vandwelling lifestyle is just not a good fit right now…at least not while there are other viable and preferable options.

Jesse and Serena, the two beloved and spoiled cats, mean too much to me to give them up in order to travel.  Having the best of both worlds – feline friends and “van trekking” – is going to require a home base.  Embracing that fact has meant replacing pride with planning and adopting a more analytical (and yes, “logical”) approach.

I am looking at buying a used mobile home (a.k.a. “trailer house” or “caravan”) near “trout country” perhaps as early as the late summer.  The newer mobile homes have 2″x 6″ walls, are energy efficient, and very spacious  – especially after sleeping in a 6′ x 9′ space for over two years!  Lot rent is much lower in the small towns – like about $175 / month vs. over $300 in Iowa City.

IMG_5419The coming months should be interesting.  There will still be van trips and, while out, it is a good time to scout for mobile home parks and new fishing spots… as well as cook up some tasty and HEALTHY food (like the deer based meatloaf you see to the left).

Here is the recipe I put together today for Venison and Beef Meatloaf.  (The deer meat was free at the food pantry!)  Even picky Serena liked it.

As always, thanks for stopping by and I hope 2014 is a terrific year for everyone who follows this blog.  Your comments are greatly appreciated so I just changed Captcha software to [hopefully] make it easier to get your feedback submitted.

Take care!

Bradford, the Van Trekker
“Eat more avocados!”


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About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"

11 Responses to A Change in Thinking?

  1. Pleinguy says:

    Having a home base and part-time trekking is certainly an option. I would advise renting, instead of buying, to keep your options open. It’s very hard to sell a mobile home if that ever becomes necessary.

    Taking pets with you on the road is really not a problem. I know several full-time RVers and van dwellers that have cats.

    You know what is best for the current situation. And, I wish you the best of luck. Take care.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Thanks for the note. There are so many factors. Serena would love to go with me wherever but the male cat hates the van and is afraid of his shadow. With Iowa’s frigid cold and the heat, it would be difficult to keep both cats in the van, particularly controlling the inside temp if I’m working. There are a lot of ifs, including if the camping unit was bigger, if I had more cash to stay at home (in the van) and not have to work, etc. Once Dad’s house is gone, I won’t have a place to regularly park. It will all work out though. I’m kind of liking having a warm place to retreat to in the subzero cold. The funny thing is that if I do get a new home base, the bed in the trailer won’t wear out – I’ll probably sleep outside more than inside! 🙂

  2. tinycamper says:

    Brad, I think your decision is sound.

    As much as I like to dream of fulltiming, I know I need a home base. I get just plain weary after too much time on the road. The best of both worlds seems to have a home base and be free to travel any time the urge hits and conditions permit.

    Good luck!

    • VanTrekker says:

      Thank you so much about the comment that a home base being necessary. My sister said the same thing and I think she’s a pretty smart cookie (carb friendly cookie, that is)! I’ve tried full-timing to some degree. It’s fun – most of the time but like you said, you return weary. There are so many options that the full vs part-time thing is as different as each person’s camping unit. Besides… I have a family of three – outnumbered by Jesse and Serena. They needs of the kitties outweigh the needs of the host.

      Watching the carbs is working wonders, by the way. The sugars have been very stable, in the upper 120s (which is terrific for me since they had been in the upper 300s most of the time a few weeks ago!) I’m now able to have small amounts of carbs such as 1 egg mcmuffin (they are running them BOGO – I combine them and only eat one muffin). It’s fun checking out your blog and the low carb ideas! — VT

  3. tinycamper says:

    Brad, I am SO GLAD you are getting your blood sugar stabilized!

    I am borderline diabetic, but all the doctors ever said was, “your sugar is a little too high,” but no one told me what to do about it. So I didn’t worry about it.

    I have a friend who is a diabetic who suggested I get a glucose monitor and check my reactions to different foods after I ate. That started me on a path of being a lot more aware of how to take care of myself.

    So glad you are keeping the kitties. 🙂

  4. Jerry says:

    Hi Brad

    Interesting comment “I have a family of three – outnumbered by Jesse and Serena. They needs of the kitties outweigh the needs of the host.”

    I would guess that this would add at min 10 hours per week to your work schedule to maintain a home base for the 2 cats. I can only hope that the joy of the cats outweighs the burden & stress of working, time will tell.


    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Jerry,

      Looks like a typo in my comment “They needs”… Either that or I’ve been starting to adopt the urban slang that’s taking over our decaying city.

      The furry friends are like family members. I’ve lived with cats all my life and they are an important part of it. I would really miss the two of them. Giving them up might save money and make living more flexible but if a person is unhappy, that might be counterproductive.

      When Dad had to get extended medical care and then move to a nursing home, he was unable to see his cats. He cried a number of times and said that was the only thing he really missed. I’m much like him in that regard. They seem to have a way of taking over. For a person with a history of bipolar disorder, cats are sort of “service animals”, even if not so designated. I depend on these little purring friends despite then being a pain in the ass and a financial drain at times.

  5. Todd says:

    Hello Brad,

    In my own life, I have experienced that the grieving process is hard work. Very hard work. Perhaps the van has been a friend that helped you in your grieving process, and brought you to its resolution.

    There are lots of Star Trek episodes where difficult issues could only be resolved inside a shuttlecraft, which is essentially a futuristic cargo van.

    Right there in James T. Kirk’s home state of Iowa, you have explored strange new worlds, and sought out new life-forms, and new civilizations.

    Perhaps now is the time to park the Starship Enterprise in dry dock, and enjoy a little “shore leave.”

    I look forward to the future installments of your “Captain’s Log.”

    Your friend,


    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Todd,

      Thanks for the kind words. That van sure has provided a lot of fun, especially to a sci-fi nut. The solar energy aspect has taken the freedom to a whole new level. I never would have dreamed 20 years ago that a TV could run on less than 2 amps of 12 volt current, particularly energy harnessed from the sun! Who would have thought that we’d be carrying cell phones, tablets, laptops, etc. everywhere and charging them from cigarette lighters in our cars, etc.? It’s been an interesting couple of years, exploring, discovering good and bad (poison plants, dangerous insects, and nasty river bacteria). You’re right – it’s been kind of like some of the things seen in sci-fi TV episodes.

      I was pretty bummed last week, uncertain about where life is headed. The Executor thing is tougher than the “Power of Attorney” hat worn last year. But it’s all doable and there is light at the end of the tunnel. Depending on how things go – if there’s enough money to get a trailer home or if I have to live in a cheap apartment – the van’s going to stick around no matter what! And there will be more “captain’s log” notes. Take care!

  6. Jerry says:

    Well in that case you will be doing a good thing & making yourself happy at the same time.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Thanks Jerry. It’s tough to know where life is going to lead and the remaining family does not always understand it all. The very worst case scenario is I could end up on my butt some day, have to get rid of the cats, and live in the van. But then I would be working overnight shifts and sleeping in the van during the day – a fairly comfortable existence if it was the only option. 🙂