Last Update: 11/04/2016

Rubber Tramps Follow Ancient Traditions

Traditional horse-drawn gypsy trailer going down England’s A4.
Every damn generation thinks it invented the cool shit. Van life ain’t no exception. Truth is that being nomad has always been part of the human adventure.

So far as we know, our earliest ancestors were hunter-gatherers, moving place to place after game and in-season plant food.

Even in the last few thousand years, “sedentism” was only one of the new options. You had your pastoralists, such as Mongols and Berbers, moving their domesticated herds to better forage. Later, you had your itinerant traders and laborers, “peripatetic nomads,” such as the Roma (Gypsies) moving from opportunity to opportunity.

And we still have all these groups today, even in the industrialized, centralized, rationalized, normalized USA and North America. Only these nomads tend to be individuals or families rather than a distinct culture: hobos, traveling salespeople, migrant farm workers, OTR truckers, travelling cowboys and sheepherders, OTR vandwellers. But there are exceptions, like the estimated 1 million Roma (Gypsies) living in the United States.

Worldwide, there are an estimated 30-40 million nomads today. But I can damn well guarantee you that’s undercounted for three reasons. First, they’re only counting traditional nomad cultures there, like your Mongols and Bedouins. Second, those folks don’t sit still to be counted. Third, Vanholio would argue that all people living a nomadic lifestyle are nomads. Me included.

Many working OTR vandwellers today are what you could call peripatetic nomads. They follow the seasons and work opportunities: north in summer to work as camp hosts, south in winter to work at an Amazon warehouse. That’s just one common example.

Mainstream US society tries to make something radical and perverse about having “no fixed address.” Bullshit! Abraham didn’t have no fixed address neither! And who did God prefer, the wandering Hebrews or those "civilized" Egyptians and Babylonians?

Rubber tramps are just a modern version of an old human lifeway. And we’re damn proud to embrace van life's freedom!


  1. I'm glad my nomadic existence doesn't include tending livestock.

    1. :-) I sorta considered it, goats mainly. But I am semi-hunter-gatherer these days. Just availed myself of the piñon crop!