Reflections on My Months in the Desert

Reflections on My Months in the Desert

Let's talk about living off-grid and establishing an RV base in the super-remote Arizona desert tonight, as I'm winding down to head north for the summer.

I can't believe I've been here for five months already. It feels like I got here just yesterday. I think what surprised me most is how hot HOT is going to be. It's 92-95 most afternoons in Mid-May and it's pretty toasty. But we can hit 115-120 here at times.

Those numbers just all sound "hot" until you realize that 20 degrees is the difference between 60 🥶 and 80 🥵.

So leaving for the summer is a smart play and I don't think I can see myself staying here from June-Aug without some actual structures and strategies for climate control beyond "hope my RV AC can keep up."

The time has flown, but when I look back, I've actually accomplished a lot in a fairly short time. I didn't close the deal on this land until mid-Feb, and since then I've installed water tanks, a septic, a shed, a solar trailer, bought a truck, and gotten an address.

There's also been a ton of smaller projects like the shooting and archery range, the meditation pad, my signposts and camera, and scouting my 40 acres for future improvement ideas. 40 acres is a lot bigger than I expected. It's pretty cool.

It's been surprisingly easy adapting, at least during the cooler months. I'm an hour from the nearest gas station, and I do have neighbors in sight (it's flat) but no one really bothers you out here. You're not likely to see anyone else most of the time.

I thought the remoteness would be a challenge, but you just stock up when you go into town every so often and the drive has actually gotten to be an enjoyable change of pace. I have basically everything I need out here, and it's fun to do literally whatever you want.

You can make bricks:

You can hunt demons:

You can put up weird signs:

Admire the beautiful plants:

Wear cute boots:

Ponder the End Times:

Imprison local plants:

Make friends with weird bugs:

Train your housecat to be a creature of the wild sands:

Stare at absolutely gorgeous sunsets (and absolutely gorgeous stars, but I can't do them justice with a picture):

Fires with friends:

And despite only being here for a few months, I already have some FANTASTIC stories from being out here.

There was that time I fought the darkness:

And that time I dared the desert to show me something magical and IT DID (which has not happened either before or since):

I've seen TONS of wildlife out here, which is fun. Lots of birds and rabbits, some cows and deer. But weirdly I've spent almost half a year out here without seeing a snake, spider, or scorpion. The insects haven't been too bad, better than MN was.

Everyone carries guns with them out here, which is interesting. Not so much in town, but literally everyone is armed to the teeth. Makes for polite company, mostly.

The neighbors have been friendly at group events but otherwise sort of standoffish, which suits me fine.

It's been really nice when friends have visited to hang out, especially given that I don't even have a guestroom yet! Love to both @kpaxle and @default_friend who were the first two friends to come chill. ❤️

The hardest thing about being out here solo is when there's a job that's just awkward to do by yourself. Any big construction or loading project is fairly challenging to navigate without help, but I'm managing okay.

And of course it's a little lonely when friends aren't visiting, sometimes, but mostly it doesn't bother me. It would be nice to have some slightly expanded dating options, but c'est la vie.

Internet (except for streaming) has been totally fine on a cell plan (or two) and I get almost daily video chats and lots of text messaging and Twitter interaction to keep me occupied and in touch with pals.

I do wish I could stream/download big files but it's not a big deal.

There's a surprising level of comfort in being able to close the laptop, put down the phone, and chill in utter solitude for reading or reflection. That was something I never had in the city. Out here, I'm only available when I want to be.

Also, costs of living are stupid low out here. Now that everything is installed and paid, my only monthly recurring expense is food (and insurance for med/car). Total cost of my setup was less than $40k, all in, including the land and the solar trailer. No rent, no utilities.

All of the installation and setup tasks have been super fun and educational. I've learned more about electrical, septic systems, and construction in the last six months than in the prior 30 years.

I'm honestly pretty sad to be leaving. I'd be happy to stay if I had better tools for climate control, but there's no way to get them before next year and I have ZERO desire to find out what 115 feels like without them.

Feels like I'm getting closer to the jokey vibe I pitched in November with every passing day. All of this happened on a whim! Total accident. My life is so crazy.

The biggest question for me is what comes next, honestly. I'm not sure if this is a fun thing I do for a season or two and then keep as a place to retreat to when I'm on to the next adventure (sail the Mediterranean? Why not?) or if this becomes a perma-home for me.

Obviously if you've been following this little adventure there are some very big possibilities I'm playing with. I really love the idea of setting this up as a destination for friends far and wide to come hang.

But it's all up in the air. If the last year has taught me anything, it's that nothing is predictable--least of all me, even to myself. Lumber prices right now make building a conventional home pretty unattractive at the moment, so building might depend on what happens there.

And I think I'm still sussing out what I want too. I have all my projects, and I have an overarching mission I'm still quite serious about (and will continue to be).

But also I'm still dreaming about falling in love again and I don't think I'm really going to be satisfied until I find an awesome person to have these awesome adventures with. That's much harder in the desert by myself. So I'm not sure.

Maybe traveling more should be a goal once things open up again, going places and meeting lots of people to do fun and exciting community things.

I miss dance parties. I wanna go to more festivals. I really wanna read tarot for people on a milk crate at an event (for fun).

But with the RV, I can kind of go anywhere anytime! So I'm sure everything will happen in its season.

Anyway, love the desert. A++ so far. Highly recommended. No regrets about any of this, and I'm having a blast. Time to see what summer brings!