Sex and the Single Camper

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Valentine’s Day has recently come and gone.  What could be more befitting than the subject of the above title?  I’ve always been a true romantic, though not always an optimistic one.  Some may be surprised to know that when I decided to become an RV-living gypsy, I gave very little thought about having a love life.  I guess it was for a good reason.  In the four and a half years I’ve been single, I have had not one long-term relationship.  This is not by choice, though relationship gurus and teachers of the Law of Attraction may tell you otherwise.  Maybe I’m still holding on to deep issues from my messed up childhood.  Could it be that I’m not visualizing Mr. Gypsy with enough focus and faith to bring him forth into my life?  Erm… No.  I want a relationship.

Though there may be some truth to the above, I honestly believe having (and keeping) someone good in one’s life has a strong element of luck, timing, and circumstance at the heart of it.  It is the hand of fate.  But, I digress.   I didn’t consider the issue of dating when making my decision to be a nomad because my luck with men has been beyond disappointing (i.e. shitty).

After a lot of fruitless Internet first dates and relationship false starts, I’ve grown to accept my hand.  I have to share that Internet dating is a horrible way to meet someone.  In the online world, people tend to have a shopping cart approach to finding a mate.  A date becomes more expendable because three more dates can easily be scheduled that week.  That guy or gal you’re really hitting it off with keeps any sort of commitment with you at arm’s length because there is a bigger and better deal a click away.  These Picky Pickers fail to realize that it is just as difficult meeting someone special online as it is meeting someone randomly on the street!  Online dating only gives the illusion that there are countless numbers of people that you can happily be well matched with.  Having said that, I do have four friends who have met their spouses this way, but there are also people who win the lottery.  I sometimes wonder if becoming a gypsy is a way for me to prepare for a life alone… an exciting, fulfilling and adventurous life, but most likely, alone.

What I didn’t consider with this lifestyle was how potential suitors would perceive me.  I realized that many men may associate women and vans with EASY SEX.  At the dealership where I work, some men have dubbed Eunice as the Shaggin’ Waggin’.  I was even asked, in jest, if I had “Christened” my van yet.  I wasn’t offended by this question, as I was also wondering when that would happen!  Though they are being playful, I can’t help but ponder if at the heart of their folly, they perceive women with vans (especially vans with beds) as more “sexually accessible”.   I feel that I’m no more or less accessible than any other and truth be told, I’m a healthy woman and have needs.

With dating, I find there are adjustments I have to make.  By adjustments I mean defenses.  Months ago, I was on the phone with a older successful gentleman that I was set up with by a mutual friend.  He asked me the awkward question, “Where do you live?”   I jokingly told him that I live “everywhere” and how I moved into my camper van.  He chuckled in a fatherly way and asked if our friend knew that I was doing this… as if I was in some sort of trouble.  Though he seemed okay with it, I realized not every man would be comfortable with the way I live.  I passed on meeting him in person, but from our conversation, I decided not to talk about my lifestyle until I knew that my date would be cool with it.  Also, it’s a good practice in safety to hold off on giving that piece of information until trust is established.  Though I have an alarm system and an NRA sticker on the back of my rig, why invite trouble?

I want to be a gypsy, but I also would like to have a meaningful relationship.  Since most people have a traditional home, I would most likely be expected to settle down if I meet someone worth while.  However, I can’t alter my plans for someone who may not come into my life… or worse, someone who does.  God forbid someone comes into my life for the sole karmic purpose of bungling up my plans!

For the first time in my life, I fear finding the relationship I want.   Since day one, I asked myself, “What happens if I meet someone within the three months that I am giving myself to leave Connecticut?”  I didn’t dwell too much on it because, seriously, what are the chances?  I do recognize that my needs and desires push and pull me in different directions. This life stuff is complicated.

I figured I should actively find a way to merge my gypsy lifestyle with finding a life partner.  Maybe I could go online and join groups to find another vandweller to whom I can be suitably mated.   It makes perfect sense, but I think I’ll pass on that idea.  Forgive my prejudices when I say that I believe many men who choose the nomadic lifestyle (with the exception of men who are under 25, divorced, or jumped in with a wife or girlfriend) are either gay, confirmed bachelors, or eccentric loners.  Since the main biological goal of men is to attract women, most wouldn’t choose this lifestyle if having one in their life for a permanent relationship were a priority.

I figure I’ll keep things joyfully open-ended by traveling the U.S. and perhaps meet someone along the way, maybe “settling down” if the things worked out.  After all, it’s a big country out there!  If not, I’ll continue on with my gypsy ways.  I have tried to guide fate’s hand my moving my online dating profile to parts of the country that I’m interested in exploring.  However, I admit this was done mostly out of curiosity to see which parts of the U.S. I was considered most attractive.  Not surprisingly, it was not in my own state!

Though my online excursion was mostly experimental, I did connect with an interesting man named John* in Ohio (my most popular state).  From what I could tell, we shared many of the same values and beliefs.   This appealed to me because most men I happen to meet tend to be agnostic/atheist and have values opposite from my own… I tend to skew towards “Midwestern”.  He had no problem temporarily carrying on a long distance relationship and he was open to moving outside of his state. We spoke on the phone for a week before deciding to video chat on Skype.

The Saturday we were to chat, I broke from my usual weekend schedule and set up my laptop at Dunkin’ Donuts for our 3pm date.  Though a plain Jane, I made sure I wore makeup and had my hair back so he could easily see my features.  I rarely use Skype, so I made sure the speakers and microphone worked and that the webcam was well positioned.  I was ready!

At around 2:55pm, in walked two men.  Like all of the other patrons coming in and out, I barely noticed them.  They were the opposite of each other in appearance, stature and bearing.  The first man was tall, fair, with a robust build and carried himself with a slow and steady confidence.  The second man was dark, much shorter, with a compact body that was controlled by quick sharp movements.  The first man picked up his order and turned away from the counter.   I looked up from my laptop and his eyes met mine, lingering longer than a passing glance.  I saw that he was ruggedly handsome.   He said hello and I returned his greeting as he sat down at the next table facing me.  I put on my headphones and continued with setting up my video call.   He insisted on starting a conversation with me anyway.

His name was Beau*, an avid outdoorsman who has hiked and camped all over the U.S.  One of the things that impressed me most was that he enjoys camping, even in the dead of winter… that’s pretty hardcore.  We talked for hours until his friend dragged him out of the shop.  He asked me out for a date before he left and I accepted.  Beau called me up an hour later and we went out to a dinner and a movie that very night! That was a month ago and we’ve been spending time together almost everyday ever since.  I have also come to know that not only does he have a love of nature and travel, but he is also in touch with his spirituality and has reverence for God.

I can say that I’ve had a beautiful Valentine’s Day!  Perhaps I should take back what I said about going online to find love.  After all, I have met someone special while on an Internet date!   Jest and butterflies aside, what now of my gypsy plans?  Oh, that hand of fate.

*Name changed to protect the innocent and infamous.

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Gimme Shelter

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Old school, one story motor lodge (Bates Style)!

As most of you already know, Nemo, the great blizzard of 2013 has fallen upon us in the Northeast.  Though I had a full tank of propane, gas, and a cupboard of canned goods, I dared not brave the weather with Eunice alone.  God forbid I get trapped inside my rig with the snow so high that it blocks up my exhaust systems, leaving me to choose between suffocating or freezing to death.  How’s about choosing between watching cable T.V. in my bathrobe or downloading shows with free wifi instead?

I went to seek out “traditional shelter” by booking a room at an inn for the weekend.  I stayed at Americas Best Value Inn in Manchester.  I found them through Hotels.com after searching for some place good, clean, cheap, and comfortable… and that they were!  A big added bonus was that the building was situated on top of a high hill, so the snow did not reach as high as the lower, surrounding areas.  It was also super close to the highway and a supermarket, which managed to be opened the day after by putting up employees in the inn next to mine.

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Eunice in the beginning of the blizzard

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Eunice afterwards

Picture 6Snow to the left of me

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Snow to the right

555862_4105890135971_1988121937_nCozy accommodations

Staying at an inn was a fun little break in my routine.  I had my own shower, a plush bed, and more personal space than I knew what to do with.  I almost forgot how time consuming mindlessly flipping through channels could be.  By the second night, I was ready to go… cabin fever was already starting to creep down the back of my collar.  Fortunately, the inn keepers had their plow and maintenance guys on the ready and I was able to leave when I needed to.  There are many in my region who are still stuck in their homes or workplaces as I write this… I feel really lucky.  The main roads in my area are still pretty rough, but drivable and most businesses are closed. Thankfully, not my Dunkin’ Donuts!

Side note: I’ve been getting a few posts on Facebook and on here suggesting that I should move me and my rig to a place with a warmer a climate… Trust, I’m workin’ on it!

Good Groomin’

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I’m a woman living a camper van without running water in the dead of winter.  How do I do it and still be fresh and well groomed for a 9 to 5 job?  It’s time to talk logistics.  I’m not only going to talk about grooming, but also matters of functional sanitation and the like.  So if your sensibilities are especially delicate, I suggest you refrain from reading the rest of this post and patiently await the next one.  Otherwise, brace yourself for a little TMI.

My RV is fully winterized, meaning that all the tanks and lines have been drained and replaced with antifreeze.  This protects pipes and tanks against freezing which would result in expensive damages to my system and ruin my Spring.  After an RV is winterized, it is usually at this point that owners put their RV into storage or park it in their yard until the weather gets warm.  Not me!

Since I do not have the luxury and convenience of indoor plumbing, I have quickly found ways to get around it.  For showers, I go to the gym six days a week.   I make the most of my time there by going extra early to exercise for 30 minutes to an hour.  After my shower, I bake myself in the sauna to clear my head for 10 – 15 minutes and usually pray at least one Hail Mary and Our Father for the last five.  It keeps me grounded for the day.  Then I head back into the shower for a one-minute Arctic blast to cool down my system.  I get dressed and head off to work, right around the corner.

I must say that in choosing this lifestyle, you can’t be germaphobic or unwilling to shed some germaphobic tendencies that you may harbor.  With the exception of the occasional visit to friends and family, all of the toilets, sinks and showers I have used have been public.  This is not to say that I have absolutely no fear of germs and pathogens.  I do. I just take simple steps to avoid excessive contact with either of them.  Outside of work and the gym, I only go to public restrooms that are clean and well maintained.  A double layer of toilet paper line the seats and a few squares in the bowl to avoid splash backs… My apologies to tree lovers!  I always wash my hands afterwards and never grip any handles or doorknobs without paper.

At the gym, I bring along a strong water-bleach solution in a spray bottle to sanitize my usual shower stall, towel hangers, and sauna bench before I go upstairs to work out.   Most of the bad germies are dead by the time I return to lather up.   The idea came to me when I couldn’t find flip-flops in stores during the cold season to use in the showers.  I’m much happier with using bleach spray instead.  So far, no athlete’s foot… Win!

Late at night when most places are closed, I do not venture outside my camper to find a public restroom.  It’s not safe and it’s super inconvenient, especially if I’m already in my pajamas.  That’s why I have instituted third world techniques to get my business done.  In my sink, is a gallon jug of spring water for drinking and oral hygiene and a container of antibacterial hand wipes.  Hidden under my sink are two 64oz plastic containers from the local dollar store that act as substitute “liquid waste” tanks for my rig.   That’s right… pee jugs.  This is something that men have been using in cars since the creation of plastic bottles.

Since I am female and not male, putting my little tanks to use in the same manner as a man would pose a challenge.   I first tried using a Go Girl, an apparatus that would allow for a woman to go like a man, but I couldn’t bring myself to stand and go.  It just felt so unnatural… I may be a little rough around the edges, but I’m still a woman, damn it!  Also, I feared to have urine roll down my legs and unto my stain free carpet.

A solution was found to my problem.  I went out to a medical supply store and bought a pink fracture bed pan.  When nature calls (numero uno), I place it on the floor in a medium sized, rectangular plastic wash basin and then crouch over it like a cat in a litter box.  When I am done, used toilet paper gets tossed in the garbage and the contents of the bed pan get carefully poured into one of the holding containers.  This is done over the washbasin to avoid any spills on the carpet.  The bedpan is sprayed down with white vinegar solution, wiped dry and stored away.  I clean my hands with sanitary wipes and continue on with my evening.  I empty the containers as needed (usually every 5 days) at the dump station or a secluded bush under the cloak of night.  I like to replace the containers with new ones at least once a month.

For bathroom emergencies (the dreaded numero duet), I just go ahead and use my toilet… GASP!  I make sure that afterwards, I flush everything down with a good amount of antifreeze, which I have handy to prevent the waste from freezing.  I picked up this very helpful tip from JC at Longview the day I had my rig winterized.  I only had to resort to this twice, coincidently around my indulgences the week of Thanksgiving.

That time of the month isn’t as difficult to handle as I thought it would be.   The chance for messy mistakes can be high if I’m not on top of things during my heavy days.  Since I love the aqua velour upholstery throughout my camper, ruining it would be unacceptable! I usually like to use a super plus tampon in tandem with a pad, but I’ve been using a Diva Cup instead since moving into my van.  I find that using one really simplifies things and is way more economical.  It holds more liquid for longer periods of time and therefore, less bathroom changes are needed during the day and night.   The downside is that they can take getting used to in the beginning, but by the next cycle, you’ll find them easier to use.  There is also a chance of leakage if you don’t insert them properly or leave them in for too long.  It’s always a good idea to wear a pad as a back up when your flow is heavy.  I also like to place a towel under me when I go to sleep.

Keeping my beauty routine was easy.  I kept my hair’s natural, African texture and had it dreadlocked in a feminine style.  Though I choose to go to the salon once a month, it’s a simple style that I could maintain myself when I finally go on the road.  I find this style more favorable than when I had my hair chemically straightened years ago.  Simple is always best.  Woe to the black gypsy with high-maintenance hair who finds herself without a qualified salon in the remote corners of South Dakota!

My skincare is low-maintenance, as well.  I like to shower with Suave shampoo because it’s chemically identical to body wash, only cheaper!  I tone my skin with witch hazel and moisturize with facial lotion by Lacura, a low cost, high quality skincare line that can be found at any Aldi’s grocery store.  I then lotion my body from the neck down using a somewhat pricey body cream, CeraVe… my one “splurge”.   I mix in as much liquid MSM in the jar as I can get away with to keep my skin tight during weight loss.

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Day & night Cream and a water optional cleanser

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I usually don’t wear a lot of make-up.  I’ll fill in my eyebrows, line my eyelids and apply some mascara.  I dust my cheeks with blush in a natural hue and put on some lipstick… usually coral pink.  Yes, pink can really look beautiful on women of darker shades, especially mocha ones!   I find that it gives me a youthful glow, so I stick with it.  At night, I use eye make-up remover for my mascara and Walgreens make-up remover wipes for the rest of my face.  I’ll follow up with cleansing using Walmart’s version of Cetphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, tissue it all off, tone with witch hazel and moisturize with Lacura night cream.  The routine is easy and effective, no running water needed!

Side note:  Going to the gym regularly is an unexpected benefit of my new lifestyle.  I’ve never consistently gone to the gym for this length of time before.  I do so because I have to and I am glad for it!  I have so much energy at work and my body is much stronger and supple.  I’d like to add that anyone living in a camper would have a lot to gain from working out.  At least twice a day, I have to stretch my whole body over into the cockpit to pick up my 25 pound gym bag on the passenger side floor and it feels easy to do so.  I’m 40 pounds overweight and there was a time picking up a bag in this manner would feel like a strain.  Since I rarely enter and exit my home via the side door, I constantly have to jump back and forth over my storage box between the seats, which separate the cockpit from the house part of the van.  I always have to keep good balance while hopping in and out of my vehicle, which is somewhat high off the ground.  It is important to be able to easily navigate in and around my rig.  I also have changed my eating habits by eating low-carb.  Though I’ve cheated several times, I still feel great.  Simplified life realization: Our health is our wealth!