Every now and then, you meet someone who has truly lived on the road. Sure, some of us might spend a couple of weeks or months in our rigs at a time.
But some folks spend years and even decades in their rigs. Such is the case for Babz, who took to the road in the mid-1990s and hasn’t looked back.
What drove Babz out onto the road, and how did she stay there for so long? Join us as we dig into her story to find out the answers.
The Story of Babz the White Wind Traveler
Babz hasn’t lived on the road her entire adult life. In 1996, at the age of 26, she grew disenchanted with the whole idea of the rat race. She lived in an apartment and owned a car, and had the regular bills one expects.
New England winters are harsh, and as the weather turned that year, she finally had enough. Between the cost of living, allergies to the indoor environments, and a desire to see more of the country, she found a way out.
One night, Babz picked up a copy of Vans For Sale magazine and found a Volkswagen Vanagon for sale. She talked to the person selling the van, which was enough to convince her to hit the road.
And while Babz spent most of the last quarter-century on the road, she stepped out occasionally to help with her family. She spent some time living with her parents to help when her mother’s Alzheimer’s got bad.
And, because of the skills she developed during that stint, Babz spent some time as a live-in health aide in various locations. One job even lasted a year and a half. While living with her parents, Babz finished her Bachelor’s degree and got a Master’s in public health.
How Has Babz Supported Herself While Living on the Road?
Aside from the home health work, Babz finds ways to stay gainfully employed. She’s got a good relationship with a temp agency near her home base in New England.
When she knows she’ll be in town, she calls them up, and they put her right to work. Because she plans out her schedule, she can give them exact dates and times to pick up temp work.
Babz also spent some time as a substitute teacher. The ability to go where the long-term sub jobs are means she’s got reliable work wherever she goes. And because of her unique skills, this translated to some full-time contract work in Moab several years ago.
Maybe her most interesting job is being a “trimmigrant” in the cannabis industry. For the last ten to fifteen years, she’s worked as a trimmer in states that legalized the plant.
Trimming cannabis isn’t a glamorous job by any means. It requires sitting or standing for hours to prepare the buds for sale in stores.
Farmers appreciate that she works hard and provides her own housing. She travels to harvests around the country and spends a month or so working in an area.
And don’t worry about her future retirement several years from now. Because she made sure her jobs were on the books, she’s entitled to social security. Freedom and retirement in one neat little package!
What Kind of Rigs Has Babz Lived in While on the Road?
Babz currently lives in a Ford Transit she bought after her father passed away and left her some money. But to track the different rigs she’s had over the years, we have to go way back.
Her first rig was a Volkswagen Vanagon she found in the back of a magazine. After eight years on the road, she traded it for a Toyota Dolphin. Sadly that rig didn’t make it far before the whole thing burned.
After that, she lived out of a Subaru for a while before moving on to an old-school van. Ready for something more permanent, Babz found a Sunrader for sale. She bought it and spent the next ten years living out of it.
Then, shortly after her father passed, a psychic told her his dying wish was that she buy a house. So, she purchased her current vehicle. Apparently, the psychic wasn’t specific about the type of house she should live in.
In her Transit, she’s taken a unique approach to the build-out. Most of the weight-bearing parts are wood, but she developed a unique approach for the upper half.
Instead of spending time and money on wooden components, she uses PVC. This material allows her to change her van as necessary and doesn’t tie her down to one layout. Even though she has to fix things occasionally, it’s her favorite aspect of her new rig.
The truth about the Ford Transit: What is the Ford Transit Connect?
What Advice Does Babz Have For Others Living on the Road?
You’d think that after 26 years on the road, Babz might have some good advice. You’d be right. One of her most profound pieces of advice is to go with the flow.
Her feeling that she’s always in “the creator’s light” gives her the confidence to accept change gracefully. From her late-night decision to buy her first van to her unique build-out, going with the flow is her mantra.
Who is Bob Wells?
A longtime advocate and fellow vandweller, Bob Wells hails from Anchorage, Alaska. When his father died two years after retirement, Wells decided that fate wasn’t for him. Even though he wanted to leave, he had a family to support.
This turned into 20 years in the blink of an eye. But when divorce forced him into a box van, purchased with his last $1,500, he saw that maybe another life existed for him.
He married for a second time and found himself in North Carolina, again on the outs with the misses. Instead of heading back into a mortgage and married life, this time, he listened to his heart.
Over the years, Bob’s owned a variety of vehicles. Starting in a truck with a camper, he moved into a work van and, most recently, into a renovated 4×4 ambulance.
Wells is best known for his personal investment in the vandweller community. His YouTube channel is a wealth of information for others living on the road or dreaming of it.
He’s also the founder and chief organizer of the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, a yearly gathering for vandwellers. And he also runs a charity for unhoused people called the Homes on Wheels Alliance. They work to get individuals into vans and support them starting out.
Is There a Movie About People Living on the Road?
In 2020, Frances McDormand worked with director Chloé Zhao on the film Nomadland. Based on the book by Jessica Bruder, the film follows McDormand’s character as she explores van life.
In the movie, the newly widowed Fern loses her job at a gypsum plant and heads out on the road. Throughout the film, she faces challenges many of us are familiar with.
Over the year the film chronicles, Fern decides that she doesn’t need nearly as much as she thinks. She sells the belongings in her storage unit and, after a last visit to the factory, takes to living on the road for good. In 2021, Nomadland won the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Interestingly, a few of the people in the movie are nomads playing themselves. Bob Wells happens to be one of them. The fact Zhao used real people living on the road gave authenticity to the storyline.
Freedom To Go With the Flow
For Babz, life on the road provides the freedom she craves in her daily life. Being able to follow where the wind takes her is a core part of her personality. And, in uncertain times, living on the road for 20 years in a van seems like a smart move.
Getting out from under a mortgage and regular bills is a huge load off. Babz the White Wind Traveler shows us how, with some ingenuity and being open to the flow, anyone can figure out how to live free.
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