Saturday, September 26, 2015

Manners for being a Vandweller (Training weeks 10 and 11)


The above photo was shared by a Facebook friend of mine and is from Healing Light Facebook page.

I am deviating from the standard layout of my Training program for two reasons: 

1) the phase of using swimming is over and I am moving on to the next phase – hiking/using legs, carrying weight.  Sept. 22 I swam 1 mile in 1hr and 11 minutes, whereas I began on Aug. 23 I began swimming and swam 1/4 mile in 30 min.  Good improvement.  And I have lost 2 pounds a week since beginning to work out again, August 18, 2015.

2) a recent effort to help another backfired on me and I began thinking a lot about taking care of myself first.  Then I saw this list… and realized it ties in well with a thought I had last year about doing a blog on Camp/Vandweller Manners.

The past two weeks have been hard on me.  I usually update my blog on Saturday, but Saturday, September 19, I forgot because I was upset by behavior of someone I had been hosting all week, and depressed and physically ill from it.  I left that person to their own devices about midday on Friday 18th and went on my way.  I put some distance between us… then slept til noon the next day.  I never do that.  When I woke, I learned this person was slamming me all over the internet and telling all kinds of lies about me.  The way my body responds to stress is my gut shuts down.  I stop eating right, my gut stops working right, and I get fecal impaction.  Excuse me for being crude here, but then once I relax again, I begin to poop and poop and poop.  I had felt I was gaining weight, but I was not, I was just not eliminating waste.  That, in itself, can make a person very sick.  Some folks get headaches from stress (and I do that sometimes), but if the stress is subconscious, my gut reacts first, before my mind even knows something is amiss.

It was several more days more before I remembered I forgot to post on my blog. So, I am going to turn the above list of twelve into rules for Good Vandwelling Manners.  I will do this by relating my recent experience in trying to help someone else, as well as some past experiences since becoming a vandweller over six years ago.

1. If it feels wrong, don’t do it.

It’s all about listening to the wee small voice inside.  I ignored it.  It kept saying, there is some reason this person  you want to help and host is always in a jam, always loosing jobs, etc.  But, some folks are very good at getting you to take pity on them.  And I did… the whole while saying “give them the benefit of the doubt.”  NO, don’t do that!  Give them some free suggestions, direct them to other resources and let it go at that.  Listen to your wee small voice inside.  Give them the benefit of your experience, not your limited income.  That would also apply to letting people advance you money… I’ve been doing that, and I must stop… the wee small voice is saying so.  Trying to catch up from borrowing money is difficult on a fixed income of less than $1,000 a month. 

2. Say exactly what you mean.

When I invited this person to join up with me, I said “We can pool our resources, I can heat water for you, and warm food up for you on my stove, since you don’t have a way to cook.  I will share what food I have with you, you won’t go hungry.  You will have the safety of parking near me and then follow me to Quartzsite when the time comes.  You will learn so much in Quartzsite”

Such an offer should not mean your host is going to cook all the meals, use their own water to heat for your morning coffee, provide you with dishes and silverware.  As a vandweller, you should have all those things.  If someone offers to heat you water, don’t bring them an empty coffee cup.  Bring them a cup of water to heat for you.  If you have food, prepare it for cooking and ask them to heat it up.  If they do so, offer to do the dishes and take the pot and clean it after. Be grateful they are willing to use their fuel to help you.  Don’t give them back dirty dishes to clean.

Providing a guest with water and preparing and cooking all their meals for a week, might not be a big deal in sticks and bricks, but in a van, it is a big deal.  In my particular instance, they provided a can of chicken, a can of green beans and a little cooking oil, and a little garlic salt – for a week???  I provided everything else, and the day they got money so they could pay me back, they got so rude and aggressive, I had to leave.  That was just an hour or so after I bought $40 worth of groceries for them because they said their payday was not for five more days.  Turned out it was that very day and they gave no thought at all to paying me back, but went straight for the wine store.

Yes, I was tense all week because I was only offering to heat water (theirs) and heat food (theirs) or share what I had, not go out and buy more stuff, granola bars, pet food, etc., when I was flat broke myself.  (BTW… they have $400 a month more to live off of then I do.)  And I drive a gas hog, while they have a high mileage vehicle.  And I drove a lot of extra miles that week to help them.

So, I should have straight out handed the empty coffee cup back and said, but you need to give me the water to heat, your cup is empty???

3. Don’t be a people pleaser.

It’s my natural inclination to do that, WANT to please people.  I guess it is old garbage, always trying to please my mother and get her approval and never succeeding at either.  Don’t take advantage of that trait in others. Resist your urge to give into that trait in yourself.  Generally, it never pays off.

4. Trust your instincts.

This really goes back to what I’ve already said.  If you get a bad vibe about a person or place where you find yourself… move.  I know I should never camp near someone who has pets… I generally get sick if I do.  I can’t risk that and I can assure you, that person with the pets is NOT going to come take care of you if you do get sick.  There are people like me with extreme allergies, there are others who have severe chemical sensitivities.  My allergies are not news and not the first time I have blogged about it.  We can not help others understand our needs, so we must put our own needs first.  Stay out of situations you should not be in.  For instance, I know that I should not attend a large gathering of vandwellers in the desert… too many things that can make me sick, all kinds of smoke in the air, dust being kicked up by dozens of feet (human and animal), no control of where loose pets are going or whose stuff they are peeing on, or whose food there are stealing, etc.  It has taking me years to wrap my mind around the fact that being with that large a group of “like-minded people” is unhealthy for me.  I am learning to trust my instincts about that… and it makes me sad.  But, it is what it is.

5. Never speak bad about yourself.

In this situation, where I hosted this person, I commented one day, that cooking for two people was not good for me, and that it was causing me to gain weight as I was eating too much.  Believe it or not, that got turned around to being put on that person’s facebook page, that I said this person was eating too much????  Maybe there is a hearing problem involved here???  But I would never tell a guest of mine that they were eating too much.  If you believe such a thing was said by your host and they offended you, ask for clarification, or at the very least have the grace not to comment about it on social media in a effort to make them look bad. 

6. Never give up on your dreams.

Hosting another person during a time when I am trying to get control of my fitness and train for a major life event, an 820-mile solo hike through deserts and mountains, does not work.  All my time and energy has to go to training and reaching my goals.  By trying to help someone else at this time, I was derailing my own dreams.  Don’t do that! They don’t care about your dreams.  If you have to compromise your own needs and principles in order to host someone else, think twice.

7. Don’t be afraid to say “No.”

I should never have offered to help someone else when I myself was broke.  I should have said NO.

8 . Don’t be afraid to say “Yes.”

I should have said, “Yes, Swankie, you are right, it’s o.k. to say NO!”

9. Be KIND to yourself.

The kindest thing I did for myself the past two weeks, was to walk away from my guest.  Take care of yourself first, as no one else is going to do it.

10. Let go of what you can’t control.

I observed my guest driving in ways that were dangerous not only to themselves, but to me and to others on the road.  I was also aware that this person might be driving without auto insurance. When I finally shouted out in fear and exasperation that leaving their car parked in the middle of a driveway blocking others, and in a turn where others may not see them, I was accused of screaming like a banshee… (and I have four sisters who can tell you none of us are the quiet types, we have big booming voices and know how to use them).  In all the years I’ve been on the road, and all the people I have met, NO ONE has ever heard me scream.  If you have, please remind me of the event in the comments.  Thank you.

My only concern was the safety of my guest and to prevent their car from being rear-ended.  Then the real screaming began…. and it wasn’t me doing it.  There were a lot of people on the other side of the street seeing and hearing all this and I am way to shy to draw that kind attention to myself.  And it would spoil my “stealthiness” to behave so.  If you are the guest of someone else, in their home/camp, etc., you need to listen to and respect their wishes about the proper way to act there, even if you don’t agree with them.  Never scream at your hosts for being concerned about your safety.  I realized that very moment I could not change or help this person, and I gave them their food, forgetting a half bottle of cooking oil, and drove away.  They were still screaming.  I am writing off the $ they owned me as the cost of a lesson well learned.  I have made the choice to live on the road this way… others may not have had a choice for various reasons, some of which could be mental health issues.  So be it.  I didn’t cause it and I can’t fix it. (I.E. not my monkey.)

11. Stay away from drama and negativity.

Unfortunately, being a host to someone else is not something I am good at, and I won’t be doing it again.  And attending large gatherings is also something that is not good for me either.  I guess I am meant to be a hermit and maybe that is the only way to avoid drama and negativity.  All I really know is being alone in the desert is the first time in my life I have known true peace.  So don’t take your drama and negativity to someone else’s camp and spoil their peace, especially my camp.

12. LOVE

Some times the best way to love others is to walk away from them.  I am doing that for my family.  I am not allowed to love them like I want to, so it is best for them and me to walk away, regardless of the pain I feel my doing so.  I am not allowed to participate in large desert gatherings the way I would like to, sharing my knowledge and experiences in a safe, appreciative and healthy environment for me… I have to wear a mask and keep moving away from loose animals that risk  my health and damage my possessions by peeing on my things.  That’s no fun for me.  I believe in the basic ideas of such gatherings and so I am letting go with Love.  I am walking away.

Well, there, I’ve vented.  I probably sound  like an in-coherent nut, but it’s my blog and I can sounds nuts if I want to. 


In order to protect my health I am adopting and modifying RV Sue Privacy Policy at her camps.

Sue's:  No Visitors, No Photos, No Exceptions. Thank you.

New rules for SwankieLand:

“Please, No dogs or cats, No unexpected visitors, No smoke of any kind, No Exceptions. Thank you.”

If you want to visit with me, I will come to your camp or meet you in town.  Please keep  your pets or service animals a good distance from me. Do not smoke anywhere near me.  If you wear colognes or perfumes, I can not visit you.  This is essential to my health due to severe allergies.  Please understand.


Also, I am creating a set of notecards of southwestern images to sell in order to raise money for equipment or to help pay back my friends.  Please have a look at what they may look like.  I hope to have them finished and ready to mail out by Thanksgiving.  You can reserve your set of note cards now by sending a PayPal donation of $25 to  Note Cards will be sent out before Dec. 1, 2015, or delivered to you are the Winter RTR Rendezvous, your choice.  Only these advance sale cards will have my original signature.  Card sets will be available online afterward this advance sale but will have printed signature.

Sample Southwest Notecards

Thank you for doing your usual Amazon shopping using my affiliate link.

Help me a little if you can by donating to my equipment fund for the hike.  I promise to pay it forward.  There is a PayPal donation button in the top right corner, but I realize people using phone may not see that so I am repeating the button below.

Contribute to Equipment for the Trail Hike or for the Note Cards:


Distractions, distractions...

Prevented me from doing my weekly update last weekend, but before this weekend is out, I hope to get you all caught up.  Let me say I am feeling better, my allergies are calming down, I am on track with my improved fitness and weight loss.

It's a beautiful day in Swankieville and what are you all up to????

Who is Swankie?

My photo
Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
In 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. By 2007, I had new knees, better health and by 2008 a kayak. In Aug 2013, I kayaked my 49th state, Alaska, at the Holgate Glacier and in May 2014, I kayaked Hawaii, my 50th state, to celebrate my 70th Birthday and the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Solo Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles? Maybe. Still healing from shoulder and trying to decide.