Nomads from Arizona

Under the Radar and On Our Own Terms

The High Desert Nomads of Arizona

It is June 2022. I watch monsoon clouds gather over Show Low, AZ, from my desk at the KC Motel. When cumulonimbus clouds turn gray, the pressure is palatable. Pending rain tells us we must leave Arizona soon. The monsoons will make Virginia’s land a mudslide. It would be a soggy mess. We will head to Utah in the next week or so. 


Bob and Virginia are working hard to get Lavina to a traveling stage. Lavinia looks more like home every day, but the finish-work won’t be completed. Bob and Virginia have their own property to prepare. The summer heat makes hard labor miserable. Therefore Lavinia will be finished by us in Oregon. 

Entering Show Low, AZ

We drove the three hours from Phoenix to Show Low on my 57th birthday. We met Virginia, whom we met at SkooliePalooza in January. Virginia did our very first bus video there. Check out @TheBusyZenBus on Youtube. She has many videos on builds, nomads, destinations, and abandoned places they find. We met Bob briefly at SkooliePalooza, but we had no idea he was the same Bob as our builder. Amazing how things have worked out

The KC Motel

If possible, we prefer to spend our money with families, not corporations. This little privately owned/operated motel is delightful. Next to Burger King on the main drag, it’s so convenient. The multi-generational family operating this motel is lovely, and I’ve enjoyed almost a whole month here.  

Nosy Me!  

I have watched how the motel owners go about their daily chores. I have enjoyed the constant flow of new people in the parking lot. I like to observe, not judge. Watching the same neighbors from your same bedroom window for the last nine years is different.  

Even from afar, I can tell they are loving. The lady that helps clean can brings her children. The older teen sister is so sweet and kind to her sister and brother! She is glued to her phone like every teenager, but she is always present, keeping tabs. The kids hit the continental breakfast, vending machines, and ride scooters in a safe corner of the parking lot. 

Witnessing these intimate relationships confirms how lonely I feel. Not lonely for people, lonely for belonging. Lonely for connection. 

Nomads and other Bellwethers

If 2045 is the year scientists estimate global warming will start to shut down the world, we think we need to get out of the city! I will be 80, and Alan will be 84. We will be too old to make big life changes. We better start now. 

Traditionally, exploding homelessness and refugee crises mark the collapse of systems for hygiene and safety. Add the upheaval of global warming, financial strife, and political unrest, and the USA has it all. We might as well leave society now and find our tribe. Learn to grow our food and live on semi-off-grid land soon.  

The one planet! 

According to Al Gore, in the documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, “We are entering a period of consequences. Now we see the devastation weather patterns are causing. The “nature walk through the book of revelations” is upon us.” That sounds like an alarm to me! I doubt the end of civilization is imminent, but we are committed to finding our tribe and land we can tame. 

PC: Katie Rodriguez on Unsplash

Real Nomads vs. Reel Nomads

I have more assumptions about nomad life than experience. I have the “Instagram” version of it in my head. I’m not surprised that the real nomads here are private, resourceful, and community-minded. Yes, some have social media. More have a simple phone for emergencies, talk, and text. 

What’s so special about high-desert nomads. 

Virginia is a storyteller, so I have images of nomads I have never met here. The people she describes sound amazing. It sounds like they operate more like a big family. That is what I’m fixated on. That may be what it takes here to tame some of the worst lands I’ve ever seen. Self-sufficiency and kindness are a must. Barter and sharing give each homesteader a tiny sliver of insurance they won’t fail.  

What is Off-Grid

This secluded slice of desert dignity has no amenities. Thus, it is “off-grid.” No running water, plumbing, or cable. Any services or wants need to be implemented by you. There is no limit to the struggles endured here! You won’t find paved roads, street lights, house numbers, Wi-Fi, or cell services. Several families still live full-time in their skoolies and have carved out gardens. There are wells you can pay a fee to access if you wish. The wind is constant, and it carries every sound. Voices can be heard over long distances. Your vehicle will announce you making it impossible to sneak up on these homesteads.

Hardship and More Hardship

If it is not the five-mile round trip to haul water. It’s the back-breaking work to plant a garden and dig cisterns that promise to harness the monsoons. The arid cloudless skies offer no reprieve from the mid-day heat. The powdery dirt infiltrates everything. Cicadas’ harsh cacophony rattles your ears. Hawks hunt silently overhead. Stumpy juniper trees cast circles of shade hardly big enough to sit in. Packrats make a meal out of anything you plant, and their nests are the size of hatchbacks. The coyotes, boar, and wolf patrolling at night will carry off anything smaller than they are.  

How Show Low is Showing Up

The few community programs/businesses that keep this tiny group functioning well. At the bottom of the hill, affordable showers, dump, and trash stations offer convenience. In the back is a hidden bar where small-town dramas are sure to play out. 

The town library has weekly homeschool-friendly services all year. Lesson’s learned in Robotics, Legos, and books are put into practice here. I witnessed Virginia and Bob’s boys build forts, robot costumes, and various tools and swords with impressive craftsmanship. Towns should note this effort to include its most elusive residents.    

Recycle, Rescue, Reduce!

These school bus-lovin’ nomads do not waste anything. Everything that can be useful finds a place to live out here. Harnessing their entrepreneurial side, they hustle hard. We met one couple who scavenges the illegal dump sites and delivers their bounty to the residents. Everything from refrigerators to discarded stoves can be put to good use. Our pile of construction leftovers will be donated to Virginia’s earthbag studio. In my opinion, this is Arizona’s most successful recycling program.

Amazing Grace

This experience has been exactly what the universe wanted us to experience. No matter how harsh the land or people, both are beautiful. The sunsets are breathtaking. The cool mornings are serenaded by songbirds. Drive to Overgaard in the evening to see the Elk and Deer fill the clearings. Even roaming cows offer a long idle to reflect as they cross the roads.  

Whether you struggle to survive in society financially or emotionally like me. I hope you research the nomad lifestyle. The nomad tribes are vast, and I’m assured there is a tribe for everyone. I will do my best to bring you the variety and options you may need to consider. 

I’m not sure Alan loves it as much as I do here. He has had to live with me in a 10×10 difficult room. It is good practice for bus life, right? 

Read our blog about where to find, bid, or buy a skoolie next.  

Peace & Love are the answer - Alli

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