Zen On Dirt

A Year of Scamplife


It’s been a year since we moved into the Scamp for our long-term road trip. Ok, that’s not fair, it’ll be a year next weekend, but right now I have a rainy morning in Tucson at a coffee shop with good internet, so a bit of reflection is in order.

Working on the road and traveling had been a dream of mind since my good friends Bama and Tanesha bought a 32-foot Airstream to live in. I was smitten with the giant tube of aluminum and spent the next several years in a combination of ogling various trailers, living out of cars, minivans, temporary rentals before the circumstances finally lined up to buy the Scamp.


Learning Scamplife at Gilbert Ray campground outside of Tucson a year ago. Still a favorite spot.

Scott and I both work by looking into a computer screen and could do so anywhere where we were connected to the internet. Phone tethering technology had finally gotten to the point where relying on cellular data was feasible. And probably most importantly, we’d lost the house that we’d been renting out in the winters in Tucson because the landlord decided that she wanted full-year renters.


We were in the Moab area for six weeks. We camped alone only a handful of nights. We’ll be back this spring.

So we bought the Scamp and got rid of as much of our stuff as we could. For full disclosure – we both have some boxes of stuff at our parents’ house. We have a few bikes hanging out in Winter Park. I still have my backcountry ski gear should the urge ever hit again. 

But we got rid of pretty much everything. The 13-foot Scamp has inside dimensions of 10x6x6 ft, a two-burner stove, a propane-powered mini-fridge, a propane powered heater, lights, a set of bunk beds that can be converted into a couch that we use as shelving, and a bed that turns into a table.

We have one bike each. A bin of cooking stuff. My favorite cast iron pan. Two bins of bikepacking/camping stuff. A bin of clothing each. And a Soda Stream for fizzy water. Yes. We have a Soda Stream and use it nearly every day.

Sparse. But perfect. We love it.


Mighty Scamp!

I’ve always tried to live simply and the Scamp embodies the simplicity while still maintaining a level of comfort that I enjoy. Every item we have underwent a rigorous assessment: Is it worth the weight and space?

But we have everything we need, and in a world that is being destroyed by over consumption, it feels good to enjoy having little. Every time we ponder buying something new, we think about what we’d get rid of in order to make room, so we tend to buy very little. We notice much more of what we consume since our electricity/internet/water are limited. We have to find places to get rid of our rubbish, so we try to produce as little of it as possible. There’s a level of awareness in this existence that I don’t get when living in a house.


I do apparently have a shoe problem.

This small and simple living has endless advantages in my mind. For one, it doesn’t cost a lot. Sure, before we got our second solar panel, we ran our battery down in the forests of the North Kaibab Plateau and had to pay $36 for a night at an RV park because Tour Divide was starting and Scott needed his computer, and sometimes we pay for camping in order to be in a National Park, and we’ll pay for Forest Service camping as needed (but hey, I’d rather support the National Parks and Forest Service than a bank giving me a loan). And of course, there’s our propane bill which amounts to about $12 a month. But we have no mortgage payment or rent. We’re not paying interest in car loans. We have no debt and a healthy savings. We are also very lucky to both be healthy. I never take that one for granted.


Kaibab Plateau. Not so great for solar power.

We’ve spent the past year traveling to all of our favorite places in the southwest. From Tucson to the Grand Canyon to Moab to Bryce Canyons to Winter Park to Salida to Moab to the Grand Canyon and back to Tucson.


Transfer days are always exciting. The Sportsvan does good.

We’ve seen and adventured and made memories with far more people that we would have if we’d stayed in one spot. Since the loss of the existence of a stable social circle was one of my big fears when starting this experiment, I can’t believe how much I feel like my social experience has been enhanced. We place ourselves into areas of annual pilgrimage, Moab in the Spring, Salida in the summer, Tucson in the winter, and we make it a priority to see the people who are there right then. Instead of having regular relationships with people who we see often, we have much more intense encounters with people because we known that we’re just souls passing through, and we’ve got to make the most of the time we have together. I think I prefer it that way. At least for now.

I’m sure we’ll settle down someday.


Kait puts her feet up after a full moon-lit overnight Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim crossing of the Grand Canyon with me. We were on our way to Tucson. Kait on her way to Australia. Flexibility was key in making this one happen.

But when it comes down to it, what have I missed about “regular” living? Sometimes it would be really nice to lay down on a bed while Scott needs the table to work. If the weather is dismal, it sure would be nice to have more space to move around inside. I would love to be more involved in community activities that require a longer term commitment than I can offer. I’d love to have a garden and a dog (or two) and a cat and chickens. I’d love to have a property on a long trail and act as a trail angel. An oven to bake bread would be amazing.


Back in Southern AZ for the winter, where sunsets are platinum and the coyotes sing us to sleep.

But here’s my thought: Someday I’ll have all of those things (or at least some of them), and when that time comes, I’ll appreciate them all the more. A house and property ownership won’t be something that we fall into, it’ll be something that we choose.


Every sunset it a cause for a pause in life and a moment of celebration and appreciation. 

But for now, as plans for spring season in Moab are starting to take shape, I’m pretty excited to have the set up we have right now. It’s not a life for everyone, but it’s the life we’ve chosen and made work with some level of grace. And I love that.


4 thoughts on “A Year of Scamplife

  1. This life you and Scott have chosen is awesome! You are both very lucky to have jobs that allow you to do that. I hope you two will continue to share your adventures with those of us in your virtual world. I look forward to retirement when I can do the same! Peace. Jo

  2. Nice, glad you guys are enjoying the camper life. Sure is fun

  3. Your words are inspiring =)

  4. Pingback: Screw Serious | Zen On Dirt

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