By Greg Illes
One of the most-asked questions from my non-RV friends is, “Isn’t it awful lonely traveling around in a motorhome?”
It’s a somewhat ingenuous query that always makes me smile, but I try to answer seriously, in a way that the novice can understand as a takeaway from our conversation. Fact is, my wife and I meet more people, and we meet more-interesting people, and we have more time to spend with them, than when we are at home. I guess I should preface this by saying we spend only a small part of our time in striped-pavement RV parks; we don’t journey from parking space to parking space. Most of the time we are out in USFS or BLM camps, state or federal parks, or just out-and-out boondocking.
The photo shows a chance conversation between my wife and a Santa-looking fellow doing road-repair work one morning near our camp in a state park. We had a choice to hunker down and wait for the noise to stop, or go out and chat up the man who was “disturbing the peace.” He was a great guy, been working the county roads for a dozen years, and had plenty of things to say about the region, his job and life, and the state of the U.S. in general — just like most folks.
Whether it’s a local working man/woman, a fellow traveler, a camp host, a park ranger, or any of hundreds of other types of people encountered on the road, it seems there’s always an opportunity to share joys, experiences and even heartaches as well.
There was the camp host at a Nevada site who was recovering from a triple whammy of Lyme disease, awful divorce and financial near-ruin. All he had was his trailer and his regained health. He was one of the most cheerful, engaging people I’ve ever met. There was the Swiss couple touring the Grand Canyon who wandered into our camp late one evening. There was the water/power worker in Lone Pine, loving his job working in the outdoors and checking stream flows. There was the couple from Australia, traveling around the world in their expedition vehicle.
SOME OF THESE FOLKS were brief encounters and some remain our friends years later. All of them bring something unique to our lives (and hopefully we do also to theirs) — a glimpse into other worlds, places and attitudes — an expansion of mind and spirit that is so indispensable to us gregarious humans.
After pondering the “why” of this for a while, I realized there are some subtle factors involved, both human and geographical, that make traveling so much more engagingly social than home life. Firstly, there’s time. Time to pause, time to relax, time to stroll the camp, as we do almost every morning and evening. Time to simply stop and chat. It’s amazing how little time there seems to be at home, with projects and schedules and appointments.
Secondly, there is commonality. At home, we seem to meet with people who are also absorbed and busy — but on the road, the people we meet are of a similar bent. They have time, too. And then there’s diversity. Road folks are from all over the place. We meet people from all walks of life, from countries around the world, and with jobs or careers we didn’t even know existed.
Yes, every once in a long while we run across a dud, but it’s so rare I can’t even remember the last time it happened. Basically, everyone ends up enriching our own lives in some overall fashion. Everyone we meet is interesting in one way or another. Every one we meet teaches us something about the world, the region or life, from another perspective.
So for us, being on the road is the antithesis of loneliness — it’s a grand gathering of fellows, each with something to share, and it is invariably a rich, rewarding experience for us every time we go “out there.”
Greg Illes is a retired systems engineer who loves thinking up RV upgrades and modifications. When he’s not working on his motorhome, he’s traveling in it.