What Would the Blonde Coyote Do? Questions from an Aspiring Nomad

Overlooking Cedar Breaks, Utah

Overlooking Cedar Breaks, Utah

I’ve been getting so many lovely, thoughtful, inquisitive emails from people and I’m sorry to say it’s become impossible for me to answer all of them. Most of you want to hit the road – for a long weekend, for a few weeks or months and some of you want to go full nomad. I’d love to help each and every one of you set yourselves free, but if I spent that much time at the keyboard answering emails, I wouldn’t be living the kind of life I want to be living. Selfish, yes, but therein lies part of the secret to my success.

On the summit of Santa Fe Baldy in January

How I spend my free time. On the summit of Santa Fe Baldy in January!

My solution to this ridiculously flattering conundrum is to start answering some of these queries on the Blonde Coyote:

I’ve been following you on WordPress for quite some time and have always been inspired by the tales of your travels. Many of the things your write about resonate with me and give me the confidence to keep pushing and not smother my dreams of living on the road. You’ve stayed true to yourself and that hits home for me. I just turned 22 this week and am listening to my heart and got the courage to ask you suggestions about living on the road and how you sustain it. How did you get out there and how do you keep it going?

How did I get out here? I hit the road at 23, right after I finished college. I gave away everything that wouldn’t fit in my little VW and started driving West. My initial plan was to cross the Mississippi for the first time, see the Rockies, the Grand Canyon and the Pacific, spend the summer working on my uncle’s farm in Oregon and then live in a different place every year for the next five years. Nine years later, I’ve been hiking in all 50 states and have yet to land in one place for more than a few months at a time.

Now at 32, everything I own, including my two dogs, fits in a Land Rover and a five by ten foot Teardrop trailer. My annual income from freelance writing is less than $20K, but my monthly overhead is extremely low – my main expenditures are gas and food – and here’s the real key: I have zero debt. I’ve worked hard to make this lifestyle sustainable and I’ve got it all pretty well dialed; most days, I feel totally at home on the road.

Home Sweet Home at the Crossroads of the World

Home Sweet Home at the Crossroads of the World

My all time favorite arborglyph!

My all time favorite arborglyph!

How do I keep going? It’s not always easy. Inertia is a powerful force; when I’m moving, I never want to stop, and when I stop, I sometimes start to feel like I could stay that way, especially when I feel pulled by the gravity of friends and family. I am blessed to have many wonderful people in my life and it’s not easy to leave them behind. But I’ve learned that I feel best – happiest, most fulfilled – when I’m moving forward — physically, geographically, philosophically. And so I journey onward in spirals, circling back again and again to where I love and am loved.

The road home to where I spend winters in New Mexico

The road home to where I spend winters in New Mexico

Here’s the thing about always moving forward: everything around you changes all the time and you have to be ready, willing and able to adapt and evolve. I didn’t set out to be a nomad, but I’ve become one, because at every turn, with every choice, every decision, I’ve elected to keep moving forward. The housesitting, the freelancing, the trailer were all adaptations I’ve adopted along the way. Getting out there doesn’t just require one huge leap; I take leaps all the time. When I left home, I had no idea I would be traveling for this long I had no idea a person could travel for this long – but I really, truly, deeply love the road and I enjoy the hell out of my life, from one moment to the next, all day long, every single day. That’s how I know I’m on the right track.

Overlooking Sugarite Canyon in northeast New Mexico

Overlooking Sugarite Canyon with D.O.G. in northeast New Mexico

A little advice to this aspiring nomad:

• Take a long walk everyday. This habit, started ten years ago when I adopted my once young hyperactive dog Bowie, is what really kickstarted my travels. If you want to build the ambition, courage and wanderlust to travel, start on your own two feet. You don’t need to light out for distant coasts and exotic lands, all you need is a good pair of shoes.

• Say yes to all opportunities. My mission in life is to see, understand and experience as much of the natural world as possible. How you define an opportunity is up to you.

• Make choices and be decisive. Always keep in mind: not deciding is deciding.

• Don’t waste time or energy trying to convince skeptics of your plans. Do what you want to do and do it well and let your actions prove your point.

• Being debt-free is priceless. I have no credit, no debt, no loans and very few monthly bills. I do have health insurance, as medical bills are one of the leading sources of debt in this country. Since everything I own has to fit in less than 100 square feet of storage space, I don’t buy a lot of stuff but I’m constantly investing in new experiences. I wore the same pair of sandals for six years but I didn’t hesitate to plunk down $100 for alligator wrangling lessons.

• The most effective and efficient way to learn any new skill is by doing. You won’t have everything dialed before you hit the road and that’s ok. If you wait to have all it all figured before you go, you may never leave. Leap, again and again and again and you will learn, adapt and evolve as you go.

Home on the edge of the La Bajada Mesa. Until a few years ago, I had no idea so much free camping existed in this country. Now I rarely pay for a campsite.

Home on the edge of the La Bajada Mesa. Until just a few years ago, I had no idea so much free camping existed in this country. Now I rarely pay for a campsite.

Got a question about life on the road? You can email me at theblondecoyote@gmail.com.

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in western Colorado. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at www.marycapertonmorton.com.
This entry was posted in Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, New Mexico, Photography, Road tripping!, Science Writing, Sustainable Living, Teardrop Trailer, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to What Would the Blonde Coyote Do? Questions from an Aspiring Nomad

  1. Kim says:

    Excellent post. Good for you for helping others find the way! You are so right that being debt-free is the key. Everyone should start there.

  2. Pleasant article and amazing pictures.Greetings.Jalal

  3. Dedra says:

    Thank you for writing this in your blog, it’s so helpful.
    Really enjoy your blog!

  4. Your tips to the aspiring nomad seem to ring true as tips for living a life well-lived, whatever that may mean. Very nicely put.

  5. furrygnome says:

    Thanks for that Mary. I generalize your message to ‘follow your dream, whatever it may be’ whether it’s nomad living or something else. In any case, sharing your life the way you do is inspiring to many of us. Thanks again.

  6. Diana Busby says:

    Very inspiring.

  7. beachman says:

    Thanks Mary…I love you for that message you gave to all us. I too like many have been following your travels bcz I long to do the same. I’ll take your advice to heart and push out a little farther…:) peace.

  8. Great advice. Keep moving forward!

  9. Tina says:

    Thanks Mary, really enjoying your encouragement and wisdom as always.


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