the (often) meandering travels of a student anthropologist
Rubbertramp Goddesses: Solo Female Nomads of the American Southwest
Anna befriended me soon after I rolled into my first nomad gathering on Thanksgiving.
According to the people I've talked to so far, the number of people adopting this lifestyle is fast growing, and women traveling solo make up a large percentage of that growth. Each year, for eight years, the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) in Quartzsite, Arizona has grown. What started as a small informal gathering is expected, in 2018, to draw anywhere from 1500 to 2000 participants to an organized series of workshops and community events. Not only will it include classes just for women, but, new this year, will be an organized women-only RTR for 2-3 days following the conclusion of the main event. Many attribute this growth to You-Tubers, such as Bob Wells, the organizer of the RTR, who are promoting this lifestyle. These video channels are part advice on how to live this lifestyle (often frugally) and part travelogues.
One man told me that although he's met women who've been nomads for years, recently, most of the women he meets on the road have been doing it one, two or at the most, 3 years. In other words, there is the perception that the larger percentage of women that have adopted this lifestyle are new to it.
Many of the women I've met are older (although at this point I have no idea the age percentages - there are many younger women adopting the lifestyle as well). Those I have talked to are retired (some, like Anna, early), some are on disability, and all have found themselves no longer caretakers–of husbands, children or parents. While many tell me this is an affordable way to make good use of their limited resources, most feel they are now living their life as they want. They often talk about being, and feeling, free.
In my mind a 'goddess' is a woman that has taken her destiny into her hands and is living her life on her own terms especially if that choice means living outside the mainstream.
Pat, a male nomad at a post-Thanksgiving potluck told me "I am not a van dweller, I'm a fringe dweller". This was met by nods. This is why my working title is Rubbertramp Goddesses. My project revolves around the women I am meeting, and despite often admitting to being terrified at first, have headed out to the open road to forge new futures on the fringes.
This project is primarily about sharing their experiences. Ultimately, however, I am producing an ethnography–an anthropological narrative–about these women and the communities, rituals, language, and culture they form on the road.