Part 2: Where are You From?
As conversations starters go, “Where are you from?” is pretty tame, right up there with the weather. It is usually pretty simple to answer too, and as always, context matters. When some asks this polite question, they do not usually mean “Where are you from originally”, they mean “Where are you from most recently and where will you be going back to.” In other words — “Where is home?” or perhaps more appropriately, “Where do you pay taxes.”
For anyone living as a nomad, this is a tough question to answer. Where I am from most recently is California, but that answer doesn’t seem adequate anymore since it is not where I am going back to. And I do not yet have an exact place picked out for my next “home”, so I cannot easily answer where home is. I have a general idea, but the truth is there is not a short answer to the question. I am not on vacation, I am working (for a company in CA). I have CA driver’s licenses, I have post office boxes in CA and WA. I am moving from campground to campground in WA every couple of weeks. I do not have utility or housing bills. I am outside the normal system.
And governments (local, state, and federal), are built on the concept of normal. In fact, they often define what normal is. So how complicated are the policies to address the growing nomadic trend? The following is a short list of some recent stories that highlight the complexity of living a nomad life in the U.S.:
- Berkeley votes to ban overnight sleeping in vans and RVs on city streets
- Patriot Act: Section 326 requires banks to verify permanent address for individuals
- Code of Federal Regulations: An RV is NOT a mobile home
Making It Easy
- As some of the links later will show, there are three states that make having a domicile (residency) state easier, South Dakota, Texas, and Florida.
- US Taxes: You can claim an RV as your primary residence
- Escapees.com: Service for those living the nomadic life
- Ghost residency in Texas — a town of 5,000 swells to 15,000 with ghost residents
- Quora: What to do if you do not have a physical address
- Living in an RV on your own land
The sense of identity that comes from answering such a benign question like “Where are you from” is strong, and I did not realize that until I was asked this question repeatedly over the last two weeks.
As more people try on the nomad lifestyle, this conversation starter may take on new social meaning. Will it entice others to dream of romantic road life and upturn their own lives? Will it become a more accepted culture? Will it transform how we think of people who live in vans and RVs not by choice? Will more places be open to accepting nomadic dwellers and will counties update their antiquated residency policies? And free enterprise is surely going to shape this future as we have already seen — new van conversions, specialty camp grounds and host sites, and so many products and services.
Overall, governments are not doing much to take on the growing trend of van and RV living. I thought it would be easy to find some great progressive news on states and cities putting forward new policies, but I have yet to find much. When (if) I do I will post a follow-up to this article.
In the third and final part of this series, we will look at some possible nomadic futures and hopefully find some more clear trends by using a futures wheel.