Arizona welcomes retirees who sold their homes and waved goodbye to their families

Karen Madej

Image by Siggy Nowak from Pixabay

Two unique types of movement have been growing in the United States of America.

Groups of like-minded people, the majority over the age of fifty-five, gather their few possessions and climb into their cars. Individuals, friends, and couples in their twenties and thirties are also doing the same.

Three million nomads, also known as snowbirds, form the largest group. They travel around the nomad states in their retirement. They sold their homes and waved goodbye to their families.

The second group is known as van lifers. These younger generations choose to live an outdoor life, working out of diners for the free wifi. Or choosing to save up and tour for months at a time. Meeting up with likeminded travellers.

Two very different concepts. Modern day nomads have been born out of desperation and necessity. Van lifers make it a lifestyle statement. Although, there is some crossover where the snowbirds who can afford it, make use of the paid for facilities.

Nomads and Digital nomads

Camping on public land that is owned by the people, involves driving alone or in convoys between pieces of public land.

Forests and canyons don't always have public facilities available. This means finding toilets, showering and laundry facilities, and paying for prepared meals in supermarkets or roadside diners.

The law prohibits long-term living on public lands. Nomads and van lifers have to move on after fourteen days. The very nature of nomads was to move on from regular watering holes to the next. Stay for a while, then move their caravans on to the next vista.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) offers facilities for a fee per night.

If you chose dispersed camping or boondocking away from the facilities, it is free. This is where you have to follow the 14 day rules.

Cerbat Foothills Dispersed has some great reviews for who anyone who wants fee-free RVing or camping.

One digital nomad, known as Nomadic Fanatic shares his views of Quartzsite, Arizona. Watch out for Jax in the stroller! the nomads have solar panels on their RVs. Cool. The presenter, Eric, shares his low amp problem solving skills. There are other people on the campsite who also have YouTube channels to support their lifestyle.

Van life

There's a recreational vehicle park with paid for facilities in the State of Arizona. Tens of thousands of retirees (snowbirds) migrate there for winter. For those who want free camping they go further afield into the desert.

Sonoran Desert RV Park, Pheonix, Arizona; a campsite designed and buit by RVers for RVers. It has easy on/easy off from two major points, I-8 and AZ 85. They have a heated pool, a dog corral and a lights off at 10 pm to ensure everyone gets a great night's sleep.

Let's face it, though, if you are living in a van and you are perfectly healthy and can earn a living using diner wifi, van life is probably more your scene.

Van life has its pros and cons

Van life is a lifestyle choice for intrepid adventurers and people who want to rebel against conforming to society.


  • meeting fellow non-conformers
  • mortgage and rent free
  • travel the land
  • use welfare checks for food and necessities
  • living out doors in summer


  • meeting fellow non-conformers
  • inconvenience of little space
  • basic hygiene needs
  • storing and preparing food
  • living in a van in winter

Van or nomadic life?

If you have a top of the line motorhome which has all the comforts of home, it is highly likely you can afford a campsite with facilities. Or you just return to your bricks and mortar home after your vacation.

Modern day nomads climb into their car or van and drive in convoy to the next piece of public land to rest awhile. They enjoy their close community and nomadic ties.

Van Lifers have a say in their style of life. They can choose temporary or permanent arrangements. For people who want to do something different with their lives they could do worse than living in a van for a few months or years.

Arizona's Best RV Camping Destinations, from beautiful desert RV camping at the Gilbert Ray Campground, Tucson, AZ to boondocking in Flagstaff,

Both nomads and van lifers make the most of their lives. Unfettered by conformity.

If I sound wistful to you, you are right. How about you?

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Passionate about climate change and living a debt-free, sustainable life. Determined to learn how to and build an adobe house or Earthship. The goal is to live off-grid and off the land. Energy for heat and to power electrical devices and appliances will use solar, wind, and hydro-powered electricity. No trees will die to make my home.


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