Letter from a Nomad (1969) by Tom (Rayo) of Preform

Editor’s Note: The following is an article from Going Mobile, a libertarian publication that was put out in the 1960s-1970s. It was published/edited by Rayo & Roberta, and the focus of the articles is nomadic lifestyles. In the below piece, Rayo discusses the psychological aspects of living as a van nomad, as well as potential reasons why many libertarians/anarchists refuse to pursue efficacious lifestyle changes. Please enjoy and keep a lookout for the full publication in the near future.

By: Tom (of Preform)

I’ve been nomadic more than a year so most of the novelty has worn off, it seems natural. I recall several phases: inundated with the work of getting moved into the camper (plus some rented storage space); fear of unknown (will I be able to find places to park where I won’t be harassed?); joy of liberation, almost like a perpetual vacation, celebration, FREEDOM; growing in freedom, growth pains (what do I do now?); press of mundane responsibilities that become part of a way of life, should tune up the engine, ought to put out another issue of PREFORM.

The only psychological problem I have so far identified is one not unique to nomadic living but encountered, I suspect, by almost every opt out, regardless of lifestyle: most of his life has been structured by other people & events; he has been told what to do & when to do it. Now, suddenly, he is largely free of all this. His life is all his to structure as he will. And this is a responsibility which overwhelms many people. I think this partly explains those who are loudly critical of the society around them, but firmly rooted, & who if propositioned will have no end of objections to ANY here & now self liberation approach. Do they subconsciously sense their psychological dependency on some of the things they say they hate, & dread the thought of full responsibility for their own lives, no one else to blame for their shortcomings?

Perhaps “xenophobic rejection” of nomadic life stems not from its strangeness but from its accessibility: almost anyone CAN become substantially free this way, easily, inexpensively, through their own effort, any time they choose. It’s an onus upon the exclusively armchair philosophers to “put up or shut up,” since they are not about to do either, they angrily reject any consideration of it. On the other hand, they will happily speculate about a Free America (or world) of the next millennium because it is safely distant, puts upon them no self responsibility to act.

Back to the problem’s personal manifestations: I still have nagging doubts about not accomplishing as much as I like as soon as I think I should. For example, some time ago I decided I should become a crack offhand shot with 22 rife, & relearn to shoot left handed to use my better eye. I resolved to practice dry fire twice a day. But I haven’t stuck to it. A Monday to Friday (plus overtime on Saturday) net builder would have all kinds of excuses to himself. But I haven’t a one. I know I could set up some kind of artificial time allocation system for myself, completely with goody points & baddy points, but so far I have always hesitated thinking that there is a more natural way I will grow into, instead of creating my own personal boss surrogate. The tasks to which come off best are those which lend themselves to concentrated effort: I have been working on PREFORM, full time, 12 to 14 hours a day, for nearly 2 days now (amazing how much time one of these little sheets can consume) & will probably continue until I finish, then do almost nothing on it for several months until I put out the next issue.

I find I avoid cognitive dissonance more & more by cutting off dissonant communication: almost never read Establishment publications, rarely listen to the radio, & have no social relations with non libertarians. On a job (consultant, part time) I limit communication to matters concerning work. I avoid most of the little day to day petty irritations of the Servile Society which are probably as important in psychological paralyzation [sic] as the big scary stuff.

I have developed my living patterns to the point where 2/3rds of my time is spent parked “in the hills” only 1/3 in the city. Right now, however (when I answered the letter), I am in a shopping center parking lot in Santa Monica, sorting out mail I just picked up, feasting on ground chuck & sherbet, which I can’t store or gather in the wilderness. I was focused on correspondence until I introspected just now in response to this letter; I was rather oblivious to environment. I wonder if other shoppers passing the camper can hear the typewriter? If so, what might they think? (I doubt they hear it above the background noise; however I don’t type late at night when in the city.)

(While publishing this issue of PREFORM, on the other hand, I’m at a squat spot along Coast Highway. It’s on the side of a hill, old homesite, I believe; remains of a water tank with a pipe out of the hill, still flowing. Perhaps the people were forced out & the land taken by the govt, which has something not far away. It’s been used a few times as a dump. It’s less than a quarter mile from the ocean & highway; I can hear surf & traffic. Concealment seems marginal; the roof of my camper might be visible from a short stretch of the highway & at night I can see distant lights (Port Hueneme?), but I haven’t been molested. I’ve been here total of 2 weeks on 2 occasions. Something which helps: the trail to the site is rather steep for the average auto; my rig has 35:1 low gear ratio & 2/3 of the weight on rear wheels. I bought some meat & fresh fruit when passing through Ojai several days ago, but that is all gone so I am back to staples, wild greens, & vitamin C. Wild mustard grows here, prolific with all the rain, I had a potful for dinner.)

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