BOB: My name is Bob Wells and I live in a van and I have a website called CheapRVLiving.com and youtube channel called, Cheap RV Living and I like to tell people they have a choice.
ZAK: If you've seen the new movie Nomadland, then you know Bob Wells. He was in the movie. He was in a couple scenes. He looks just like Santa Claus. Here he is in the movie which stars Frances McDormand as a woman in her 60s who, after losing everything in the Great Recession, is traveling across the country in a van. And then she meets a bunch of other van-dwelling people and we learn about their lives. One of those people is Bob Wells, who plays himself just like a lot of the characters. Nomadland Excerpt
ZAK:I connected with Bob last week over Zoom. He was visiting his family in the Pacific Northwest and I was in my office in Detroit.
BOB: Ok, here's my one piece of advice. Our society is organized to give us the most possible menial, unimportant choices that we possibly can have. So our life is full of meaningless choices. But the big choices in life are really few and far between and we don't get to make them. So, if I could tell your audience anything, I would tell them that they have many, many more choices then they know and to stop worrying about the little, tiny ones that are meaningless and think about the big ones. Think about the ones that will impact your life and the lives of the people you love. Question everything. Look at all the possible options. Take a chance.
ZAK: And what's the first time you remember consciously taking a chance on something unconventional.
BOB: I wasn't brave enough. I feel in the trance and stayed there. I was deeply hypnotized. I went through a divorce so I set up two households and I couldn't afford to pay for two households so I was forced into a different choice. I had always been a camper and a backpacker. I saw a van on the way to work for sale and one day the idea popped into my head... completely unconventional choice. I could live in that van. I can live in a tent for months at a time. I can live in that van better! I stopped. I bought the van and I moved in. And at first I hated it. I felt ashamed. I felt like I was a failure. I had utterly failed in the American Dream and all of a sudden. Well, not all of a sudden. Gradually, I fell in love with that life and for the very first time in my life, I was happy.
ZAK: What do you think is our species essence?
BOB: It's connection. Our species essence is connection. Connected to nature. Connected to each other. Connected to the sacred. It's deep, profound. You ask any anthropologist about what humans are. We are a pack animal. That is a simple, science of humanity. We are pack animal. And instead of being a pack animal that lives in packs, profoundly connecting to each other and everything around us, we've become ants or bees in a hive. And we've lost all connection to each other.
ZAK: So do you live by yourself in the RV?
BOB: I do live alone in my RV but I usually have a pack around me.
ZAK: Well some of us aren't going to become nomads. At least not yet. What do you think is something that we might practice today to get some of the feeling that you get from being on the road without actually packing up and hitting the road like you did?
BOB: Well, you can embrace minimalism. That's one thing you have to be pretty minimal. Nomads were all minimalists. Things were a burden. The attitude always was, if I have too much stuff and I have to carry it to the next stop cause that's where the food and water is, then that stuff is a burden and I don't want it. So that is an attitude that every nomad had and you could adopt tomorrow. You can stand up right now, get a bag, go around, find a lot, a lot, a lot of crap in your house that you don't need and get rid of it. And that will free you.