Friday, April 26, 2013

Book Review - "How to Live in a Car, Van or RV" by Robert Wells

I don't know about you, but a book title like this would likely attract a very small reading audience. Fifteen or twenty years ago, it would have interested me, but I probably would have bought it and put it on the ever growing reading pile of paper/ink books until, maybe, at some later date, when nothing else seemed to grab my attention, I would have picked it up and read it.

But, let's look at a few factors. First, "how to" books are among the most popular non-fiction books in the market place. Everyone seems to want to learn how to do something or, typically, several new things all the time. A second factor is that people, in my opinion, tend to lead routine, humdrum, rut-like, boring lives. The sense of adventure seems to become muted once one (male or female) settles down to what, I guess, is considered the more "traditional" American lifestyle. A third factor is that most "how to" books are not written for a large, mass audience. Rather, they are written for a specific niche or targeted group of readers. And finally, a fourth factor is that there has always been, but I believe there is a growing unrest in a certain small segment of the population. This group wants to distance itself from the conformity and boredom of the "traditional" American lifestyle and revert back to the more primitive, simplistic, compact, nomadic, hunter-gatherer instinctive lifestyle of our very ancient human predecessors. THEY are the small group who will be attracted to a book with this kind of title.

Let me be the first to state that I have no problem with how anyone else chooses to live his or her life. That is, and should always be, a personal human right of choice. I grew up in the New York City metro area with some estimated 15,000,000 other people. When I left that area in 1967 to move to upstate New York, I moved to a much smaller metro area surrounded by vast expanses of rural country and small hamlets, villages and towns. I experienced a much different lifestyle and one that was much more in harmony with me. Over the years I've lived in a few other larger metro areas including Washington, DC. But, I kept looking to move further and further away from the maddening crowd.

I've often said that I'm really happy that so many people love living in the densely populated and congested suburbs of big cities. They leave their half-acre of nature and fresh air to those of us in the minority who want that space and freedom. We are willing to forego all the "conveniences" of the major metro areas for the peace, quiet, an unobstructed view of the heavens and stars. We can enjoy the ability to find an isolated spot when we want to where no other humans are near and we can lie back on the grass looking at the sky and contemplate the shapes of the clouds floating past.

THAT is what Bob Wells wrote about in his book, How to Live in a Car, Van or RV--And Get Out of Debt, Travel and Find True Freedom How to Live in a Car, Van or RV. Okay, so the title is more pragmatic sounding than wistful. But, when I began reading the book, I swore that Bob had taken my personal feelings about freedom and a non-conforming lifestyle and articulated them in a book for all to read. Certainly, Bob is not the first or only author to put these thoughts and feelings into words. And once you get past the introductory part of the book where he introduces the basic premise, the why and his own personal experience the book delivers a more "how to," pragmatic batch of information. This is where the individual who is fed up with any number of or all of the rapid changes in our American and world society has the opportunity to truly begin evaluating if this is a lifestyle change he or she can adapt to and embrace as an alternative lifestyle.

The Two Motivating Factors

Bob Wells' approach to the subject covers a lot of territory. Not only does he touch on some of the more philosophical aspects of this simplified, economical, challenging and non-conforming lifestyle, but he also discusses the two main motivating factors for those who choose this way of life.

Basically, there are those who choose to live in a car, van or RV because of circumstances, typically, beyond their immediate control. This could range from the loss of a job, no work available, health matters, some form of calamity or natural disaster, divorce (as in Bob Well's case) or any number of other issues.

The other motivating factor is simply one of personal choice. By that, I mean the individual, male or female, has a home, good job, adequate (or more than adequate) financial security, but becomes disenchanted with the so-called "American Dream" as it has evolved in the 21st Century. They make a conscious and educated choice to revert back to the earlier definition of the American Dream of "life, liberty (personal freedom) and the pursuit of happiness."

There were no guarantees in the original American Dream (still aren't, but the expectations have changed considerably). There was a lot less keeping up with the Jones' and acquiring status symbols in the original dream and more striving to live a life that was fulfilling to the individual regardless of what everyone else had or wanted and he or she was happy. It's interesting how many people who grew up during the Great Depression have said to me, "We were a pretty happy family." "We didn't have much, but we had what we needed." "We didn't know we were poor." Poor is a relative word. If defined in financial terms, it means little or no money to live on. But, there are so many people I've met who may be poor in financial terms, but they are wealthy in spirit, in nature, in expressing themselves through their artistic and creative talents, in a network of non-judgmental friends, in freedom to live anywhere and any way they choose to and in any number of other ways.

Car/Van Dwellers and RV Dwellers

Bob also did something that was very helpful for me, personally. He defined the major differences between the average full-time RV (motor home, travel trailer and fifth wheel trailer) kind of person and mentality and the car or van (Econoline cargo, passenger or high-top conversion vans, box cargo van, step van, school bus conversions and utility trailers) kind of person and mentality. I know people living both lifestyles. Each has his or her reasons for choosing the particular lifestyle. I won't go into those differences here, Bob does it very well in his book.

I can say this, when I began seriously considering my lifestyle change something over five years ago and then made the leap of faith to becoming a houseless, nomadic, living free person, four and a half years ago, I was convinced I needed a 38' to 40', Class A, diesel powered pusher, motor home with one or two slide out rooms providing me with about 320 to 340 square feet of living space plus a ton of basement storage space. I am so glad I didn't fall into that abyss. There is nothing wrong with those vehicles or those folks who choose them. I, fortunately, discovered in time that it was the absolute wrong choice for me. Some of my full-time RVer friends who have these kinds of motor homes or fifth wheel trailers are wondering why I didn't go down that road. Well, I came up with my own conclusions, but Bob Wells confirmed and affirmed my findings and choice in this book.

Some of the Topics 

Here are just some of the topics in Bob Well's book. As you'll see, some are philosophical and answer the "why" questions we all have and others answer the pragmatic "how to" questions.

A Life With No Regrets
Ten Reasons You Should Live in a Van
Setting Priorities
The Yin and Yang of Vandwelling
Reconnecting With Your Authentic Self
What Kind of Vehicle to Buy?

And some of the "how to's"

How To Buy a Vehicle
Getting Ready to Move In
Boondocking on Public Land
How to Go to the Bathroom
How to Shower and Stay Clean
How to Cook In the Van

Writing Style

First, let me say that Bob Wells is no John Steinbeck and this book is no "Travels With Charley." But, let's not forget that John Steinbeck was a Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize winning best-selling, author of fiction. Even his "Travels With Charley" account of his trip around the U.S. has been found to be more a work of fiction based on his actual travels.

Here is what I'll say about Bob Wells. He is a pretty good writer (and as a former book publisher, I feel qualified to make that statement). The book is organized. His writing style is conversational and both from the heart and from his real life experiences. His book is not a work of fiction or fantasy. Bob walks the walk and has for more than ten years, thus, I find him fully qualified to talk the talk. I didn't find anything that I would consider exaggeration in the book. It might even be a bit understated from time to time. Much of Bob's content was derived from his very popular Web sites including CheapRVLiving.com and CheapGreenRVLiving.com and his popular blog, cheaprvlivingblog.com. I refer to these sites regularly and I recommend them to anyone who expresses an interest in an RV or vandwelling lifestyle.

Bob's book is a relatively fast read, but he talks one on one with the reader and makes all of this easy to comprehend for even the newest neophyte just exploring this lifestyle. As I said, Bob Wells is not John Steinbeck. He didn't write this book to win Nobel or Pulitzer prizes or to make it on the New York Times, US Today or any other best seller lists. He wrote it for people researching and exploring this unique and interesting lifestyle change. These are people like himself and like the thousands of RVers and vandwellers he knows personally and has inspired over the years.

I highly recommend Bob Wells, How to Live in a Car, Van or RV, to anyone interested in learning about the lifestyle and, perhaps, trying to make the tough decision to downsize, economize and live a mobile lifestyle. But, I also highly recommend the book for anyone already in the lifestyle - whether a relative newbie or an experienced veteran. First, we can always learn something new. Second, Bob is one of us and has been contributing to the lifestyle for years through his Web sites and blog. He's not going to get rich off this little book. With a price tag of only $2.99 it's less than the average tab at McDonald's or Wendy's and considerably less than a book you'll buy at Camping World or most other stores we may patronize from time to time.

And, it's not going to take up any space because it's only available as a Kindle E-book. Perhaps, it may eventually become popular and in-demand enough to warrant Bob having it published as a paper and ink book through one of Amazon's other publishing programs. Frankly, I think most of us should be embracing E-books as a matter of principle with regard to our chosen lifestyle. For the few people who might read this book review and be saying they don't have a Kindle to read a book like this with, that's no excuse. Amazon has free Kindle Reader applications you can download to your Apple or Windows computer, iPhone or Android smart phone and iPad or other Tablet computing devices. I have an entire library with me on my Android smart phone wherever I am and I don't have to be weighed down with heavy paper/ink books. You can take that from a former paper/ink book publisher.

I interact with Bob Wells from time to time on at least one of the several RVing and Vandwelling Internet forums I participate in. It is my sincere interest when I get out to "Wells Country" in the southwestern part of the U.S. to meet up with Bob. I know our conversations will be stimulating, inspiring and enlightening.

The link for Bob's book is in this book review. Click on it, download it, read it and let Bob know what you think.

No comments: