Kitch-iti-kipi, the largest natural freshwater spring in Michigan

What’s not to love?

There’s so much to love about living on the road.  You might enjoy the changing landscapes, visiting new places, or the campfire at sunset.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a short-lived road trip or a full-time lifestyle.  Either way, it can and should be an adventure.  There are so many new experiences at every turn and it’s important to take advantage of that.  A central focal point of the boondocking lifestyle is freedom.  It drives us (no pun intended) to see more, do more, and experience more.  Having the ability to change your plans is true freedom. Today we’re going to focus on spontaneity, the often-overlooked puzzle piece to maximizing an adventure.  

Many travelers create itineraries that are jam-packed with things to do and see.  So much so that it takes the fun out of their travels and defeats the purpose they set out with.  They become so fixated on getting to the next destination and inevitably end up with tunnel vision.  Unaware of the things they are rolling by.  Why would anyone choose that?  At the very least, don’t you want the option to stop at some scenic vistas along your drive? We’re not suggesting that you don’t make a plan or itinerary.  We’re simply proposing you leave some room in the schedule spontaneity.  A benefit of being a rubber tramp is being able to experience the places that you’re passing through.  But when you’re moving with a purpose, this becomes impossible.  Allow yourself the opportunity to experience the here and now.  Really explore what each place has to offer.  

Listen to the locals

As you travel around it is inevitable that you’re going to be constantly collecting information.  You’ll get it from your own research, but also by speaking with people that you meet along the way.  Other travelers may rave about somewhere that is a must-see for them.  Locals may give you an insight into the real highlights of the area.   Keep an open mind when it comes to suggestions like this.  Some of the best spots aren’t exactly public knowledge.  You might only hear about them by word of mouth by people in the know.  Some of the best food you might eat at a restaurant might just be a hole-in-the-wall that you normally wouldn’t have considered.  

Realistically, it won’t be every location that wows you.  Some might be a disappointment, but some may be life-changing experiences, and stand out in your memory forever.  We’ve rerouted ourselves to go out of our way based on recommendations from others.  We’ve taken scenic drives, boondocked specific areas, and eaten somewhere based on the advice of others.  The spontaneity of changing course in order to discover something new always sparks the flame of excitement in the heart of an adventurer.  There have been times we’ve stumbled upon various places and instantly fell in love with them.  We’ve changed our plans completely because we unexpectedly found something that we resonated with.  There have been boondocking campsites so beautiful or unique that we stayed for multiple nights.  We cherish the memories of a few adventures that wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for spontaneity.  

The Yellowstone River winding its way through Yellowstone National Park

Appalachian spontaneity

In April of 2018, we were winding our way through the mountains of West Virginia.  We decided to take a voluntary detour and explore the area.  This brought us to Cedar Creek State Park.  We decided to take a quick look around the park.  The entire park was painted in beautiful greens that come with the beginning of spring.  It felt great to see fresh growth after a cold winter.  It didn’t take long to realize we were the only people in the park with the exception of a few workers.  We decided we should go speak with a ranger and get some information.  The ranger was more than happy to tell us about the park, the area, and even about his history.  He said we’d be the only campers in the entire park, and that sounded like a perfect idea, so we got a site for the night.  

We set up camp and basked in the warmth of an early spring day.  We had a creek running behind our campsite.  The trees and grass looked vibrant.  And it was all ours.  We lit a campfire and ate dinner under the stars.  Every hour the ranger would come by on his security rounds.  Sometimes he would wave; sometimes he’d stop and chat for a few.  He even gave us some free firewood at some point.  On his last time around, he let us know he was going home for the night.   As he drove away he yelled out, “Watch out for the Boogey Man!”  He was trying to be funny, but that’s the last thing I want to hear in Appalachia, especially from a good-ole-boy.  We stayed up for a while and enjoyed the crisp night.  A herd of deer even made their way through the campground that night.  

Mountain Morning

Needless to say, we woke up after an eventless night and laughed some more about the boogeyman comment.  As we ate breakfast, we formulated our plan for the day.  We packed up camp then hit the road.  We were driving for about half an hour when we saw a sign in someone’s yard for fresh eggs.  For the sake of spontaneity, supporting local businesses, and our stomachs, we stopped.  We knocked on the door.  At first, there was silence but then we listened as the floorboards creaked as someone slowly made their way to the door. 

We were blown away to learn that the man on the other side of the door was the same ranger from the day before.  Judging by the look on his face, he was just as surprised to see us.  After a moment of shock, everyone got a good laugh at the coincidence.  He invited us in and we spent some time with him and his wife.  They were extremely nice and humble people.  We were happy to leave there with eggs and knowing we helped them a little too.  Even though nothing major happened in this experience, it created a memory that we still reminisce about and reference. Because of spontaneity, we will never forget that ranger and our time at that campground.  

Be flexible

Sometimes rubber tramps have to change their plans or their routes because of the weather.  Many mountain passes get closed for the winter, but those are generally planned.  But something like a wildfire can really throw a wrench into the plans.  Always try to do your research.  If there are wildfires in the area, consider your safety.  Outside of safety, wildfires can impact travelers in another way.  Sometimes roads will be closed due to wildfires.  Depending on where the closure is, it may be extremely inconvenient to be turned around.  This is first-hand experience speaking.  We’ve been turned around and rerouted by firefighters.  The detour was unavoidable, and it was long.  It would add another 3-4 hours to a long drive that should be almost over.  In the name of spontaneity, we decided to abandon that plan and devised a new one.  

One cool thing about spontaneous adventures is the unknown.  Unexpected locations usually hit harder than planned ones.  It’s probably because there’s no expectation placed on it.  They stand out in memory because they are special.  There is excitement in uncertainty, and living on the road is full of uncertainty.  Where will we sleep tonight?  How will a specific national park look in person?  Should we grab an extra 6-pack before heading to camp?  The more comfortable and confident you become with the boondocking lifestyle, the more you will welcome uncertainty into your day.  Traveling full-time can bring a sense of constant stimulation.   It’s these new experiences and stimulation that really make a rubber tramp feel alive.  So allow spontaneity into your travels and embrace the moment that you are in.  At that point in time, you will be truly living.  

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