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Missing My Misfits- Finding My Community in Xscapers

The following words are from Xscapers member, George Walther, written following his attendance at the Xscapers Winter Home Base Convergence in Desert Hot Springs, California.

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This is my first night alone after camping with misfits for a full month. 

The Coronavirus has kept me closer to home this year, so adventures I had previously planned for Botswana and Malawi are on hold.  I used November for a different kind of adventure. Two of them, actually.

Normally, I am on the move in my motorhome, rarely in the same place for two consecutive nights. So, my first adventure was testing myself to see if I could park my RV in one place and stay there for a full month.

The second adventure involved camping for the whole month … with strangers who tended to be misfits.  And I mean that in the most positive sense.

Both of these adventures yielded insights and discoveries for me. 

Finding My Fellow Misfit RVers

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First, I discovered that that I fit in with misfits. This group of strangers-turned-friends I camped with share a couple of common bonds: we live in our RVs, and most have some kind of business going on. Although I’m double the age of many in the group, we share those bonds. 

This group of new friends are fellow members of Xscapers (a subset of members of Escapees RV Club) which is a club for RV enthusiasts who’ve chosen to escape from normality when it comes to lifestyle choices. They’ve forgone the typical lifestyle, including mortgages and the daily work commute. Xscapers describes itself as ideal for RVers who are of “working age.” and who have escaped from feeling obliged to live conventional lives.

Learning I Enjoy Conveniences (Sometimes)

My second discovery is that I not only stayed put for a full month, I enjoyed it. I’ll admit to especially liking the conveniences of being plugged in with electricity, water, and a sewer line. Turn on the water and it’s hot without firing up the propane. Never think about running down the batteries. Go ahead, run the electric heater and the microwave.

Adding to the desirability of this month-long adventure was its location: “Sam’s Family Hot Water Spa,” near Palm Springs. When I finally acquiesced and accepted that I wasn’t going anywhere and wasn’t aiming to accomplish anything aside from remaining happy and healthy, I faced just a couple of decisions: Will I start the day with a soak in the hot mineral water, or end it there, or both? And will I be able to forget needing to get anything done and go for a hike, instead of fretting?

Xscapers Are A Varied Bunch

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Mainly, these other Xscapers I’m with are full-timers living in their RVs. Some are working remotely, others are RV entrepreneurs, and some are just plain retired. Among our group at Sam’s are a former prison educator, a solar advocate and dealer/installer, an author of books about RVing, an Apple project manager staying in touch with her team, another woman working with software, and a “I really don’t know what I’m going to do next” free-spirited-grandma. Some are couples reveling in this mobile lifestyle and sharing it with their older, coddled dogs. Two of the campers travel with their housecats.

I think the “X” in the club’s name is supposed to suggest “Gen Xers,” so I’m crashing in as a Boomer. Nobody shuns me because I’m older, though.

Xscapers are the kind of people who notice that Sam’s Spa has no recycling program, so they set one up and donate the proceeds to a non-profit boys’ home down the road from our campsite. These are giving, generous, responsible, open-minded people. They’re not willing to get sucked into the mainstream way of living, accumulating more stuff and bigger houses. According to societal norms, they are misfits!

We humans are a tribal species. We like to mix and mingle with our own kind. RVers who have chosen not to be conventional 9-to-5 types are my kind of people. 

Keeping Ourselves Social and Safe

We had a happy hour intro session the first night, and all in this group are interesting, brave, squared-away people who are conscientious about personal hygiene and COVID prevention. They’re all worth knowing. 

Then, there was a movie night with a video projector and socially-distanced marks on the pavement indicating where we could put our own chairs, keeping us safely distant from each other. We all wear our custom Xscapers face masks and keep our distance from each other. Lucille Ball’s old Long, Long Trailer movie was a relevant hit.  Inexperienced and over-confident comedians attempting to back up their attached trailers always makes for good comedic material.

I’m normally alone a lot when I’m on the road, and this opportunity to stay put in one place for weeks, surrounded by people I didn’t know, was a stretch for me. I often go a full day without speaking a word to anyone but myself. Not even a diesel fuel pump clerk.

At this, my very first Xscaper gathering, I felt protected and connected right away. If I had vehicle trouble or some sudden illness, my fellow Xscapers would help out, and I’ve returned the favor, too. It’s our tribe. We know each other’s names and wave.

Experiencing Sam’s Family Hot Water Spa

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Sam’s Family Spa is in rather desolate Desert Hot Springs, many millions of dollars north of Palm Springs. It’s in one of those desert areas where you’ll see a long dirt road headed up toward some bleak peak with a few silhouetted palm trees and you wonder whoever decided to live way out there somewhere. 

It’s far from ritzy, here at Sam’s. It’s safe, and the pools are clean, and a security guy drives around in his golf cart through the night, probably wondering why my lights are already on at 4:00 AM most mornings. That’s just the way I am.

Sam’s place is quite comfortable, and there are lots of full-time RVers who live here in trailers or double-wides. The pools are drained and refilled every night, and the tiled spas are clean.

Traveling Inward

I’m a virginal Xscaper. It’s ironic that I’ve escaped most “normal” conventionality, though I haven’t escaped from my motorhome. It’s 98 degrees out. I take a sunrise bike ride, move on to the mineral bath hot springs, have a swim in the cooler-though-not-chilly swimming pool, and then seek cool refuge in my RV, grateful that the aircon works, thanks to the electricity hookup. I check my Apple Watch to find out how many minutes until I can admire the sunset and share a socially distanced happy hour.

My wise daughter, now 31 and living in NYC, said something profound as the Coronavirus outbreak fired up months ago. Her Manhattan neighbors were being carted away in body bags and she was concerned about my normally abnormal lifestyle. She said, “Dad, your problem is that you’re so used to traveling outward to Madagascar or Myanmar, or anyplace exotic and far away.  Now you can’t. You might want to consider using this COVID time to do more traveling inward.”

So, this month in the desert camping with my tribe of strangers-becoming-friends is part of traveling inward. I’m learning about myself.

Wait. If I fit in so well with misfits, does that make me one?

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George Walther | SKP# 162873

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