Have You Ever Met a Boondocker?

The first workaholics I was ever exposed to lived across the street from me, when I was growing up.

The man, who I’ll call James, slaved at the Dairy Queen restaurant he owned. His wife was also a marathon toiler, at both the Dairy Queen and at another food shop that they ran in the local mall.

Boondocking on public lands near Quartsite, Arizona.
Boondocking on public lands near Quartsite, Arizona.

Photo: RvArizona

At 45, James and his wife sold the Dairy Queen and retired.  They built a nice home on the Shuswap Lake, but for more than 25 years, they’ve spent their winters in Arizona, boondocking, while spending their summers in their British Columbia home.

I didn’t realize what a culture it was.  Loads of Canadian retirees drive south for the winter, and set up their RVs in the desert, on government land that doesn’t cost them a penny.  With solar panels on the rooftop, they can charge their batteries, kick back, live mostly off solar power, and socialize with the fraternity of boondockers they often hook up with each winter—forming contingents of boondocking camps. 

When James, his wife, and the collective batch of RV vagabonds get tired of a desert strip, they pack up and—caravan-style—drive off to another locale.

My parents just drove back to Victoria, B.C. from a trip they took to Arizona, where they hooked up with their old neighbours on an Arizona desert.  I had never heard of boondocking before this morning.  And I was fascinated to learn about it.  A look online suggests an entire sub-culture of boondockers, most of whom appear to be minimalistic and adventurous.  Books on full-time boondocking can be purchased, and of course, there are bloggers, such as your RV lifestyle, offering a peak at the lifestyle, as well as a number of useful tips. 

It’s the kind of thing my wife and I could experience.  I’m not sure if we could do it full-time, year after year, but for a single winter of adventure, with mountain bikes and climbing kit (my wife’s a keen rockclimber) we could end up with plenty to do…..and explore.

What about you?  Does it sound interesting?  And have you ever met a boondocker?

Andrew Hallam

I’m a financial columnist for Canada’s national paper, The Globe and Mail, as well as for AssetBuilder, a financial service firm based in Texas. I’m also the author of Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School and Millionaire Expat: How To Build Wealth Living Overseas. My mission is to educate, motivate and inspire people on basic retirement planning and best practices for investing, using evidence-based strategies. I'm happy to comment on your questions.

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2 Responses

  1. DIY Investor says:

    Interesting post. For those interested in the area there is a great history written of the Comanche Indians called "Empire of the Southern Moon" by S.C. Gwynne. I'm only on page 200 (had to turn it in to the library because they had a waiting list) and I think I'm just getting to the good part. It centers around the capture of Cynthia Anne Parker by the Comanches in one of their raids. Ms. Parker's mixed blood son became a great Comanche Chief. For those with a bent for economics, the Comanches exploited the "technology" of the era – fighting on horseback. The book points out that they could hang over their horse at full speed with only a foot showing and release five arrows under the horse's neck before the first arrow hit the ground. Their "technolgy" proved valuable against other tribes and the U.S. cavalry who fought dismounted – until the Texas Rangers figured out what was going on and trained their forces in the tactics of the Comanches.

    Anyways a great read for anyone in the Southwest U.S.

  2. @DIY Investor

    Man! That would be something to see Robert: five arrows shot before the first one hit the ground. Incredible! I'm definitely interested in settling into some non finance book reading, so thanks for the recommendation.

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