Robert Witham

Travel writer, photographer, and nomadic minimalist

Conserving Natural Resources as a Nomad

Conserving natural resources can seem difficult or even feel like deprivation when you live in a house and are connected to the grid. As a nomad or perpetual traveler, conserving natural resources quickly becomes a natural part of life. This is true whether or not you are concerned about your environmental footprint.

Washing laundry a few days ago started me thinking about this difference in perspective on natural resource usage. As I was washing a few pieces of clothing in a bucket, I found myself feeling frustrated that I had to waste an entire gallon of water to wash the clothes. After all, I can only carry just so much water in my trailer, and refilling water requires a trip into town and costs 25 cents per gallon.

While 25 cents per gallon may be a bargain for good, clean water, it does make you aware that there is a cost associated with each gallon. Further, the drive into town will use about one gallon of gas round-trip, which is another $2.50 with current fuel prices. There is also the issue of not wanting to drive into the city for any reason as I much prefer being out in nature.

Washing machines, by contrast, can use up to 40 gallons of water to wash one load of laundry. According to SF Gate Home Guides, top-loading washers may use about 40 gallons, while energy-efficient, front-loading washers still use 15-30 gallons per load. Using one gallon of water to wash laundry seems a whole lot more reasonable when compared to the average machine usage, yet is still feels wasteful.

This automatic conservation of resources is multiplied out many times for nomads and perpetual travelers. When you carry everything that you own with you as you move about the world, you cannot help but become more aware of your usage of resources. This applies to water, electricity, propane, food, trash, and more.

Ask any full-time, boondocking RVer how long they can go before needing to empty holding tanks, and they can probably tell you to the day. They also will be able to readily tell you how much water they use for a shower or to wash dishes, and what steps they take to minimize water usage. Similarly, any traveler who needs to power electronics for work will also readily know how long devices can run on a charge, how to extend the battery life of electronic devices, and how long they can run different devices on a typical day. Those of us who rely on solar power are also acutely aware of the impact the sun has on available power each day.

My water is purchased one gallon at a time as needed, so I am very conservative with water usage and hate using it for anything besides drinking or cooking. I wash dishes using a spray bottle, so it requires only a few ounces of water instead of gallons when washing with running water (hat tip to Debra Dickinson for telling me about this trick). My electricity is generated by the sun and stored in batteries, so I monitor electric usage to be sure I do not run out of power or deplete and damage my batteries. My lighting is provided by a solar-powered lantern that is recharged each day by the sun. Cooking is powered by propane and is carefully planned to avoid wasting fuel. Similarly, when I do need heat to take the edge off, I use a small, propane heater, but only run it when necessary.

Nomads and perpetual travelers end up having a much smaller carbon footprint than the average American, regardless of whether or not they are consciously trying to be environmentally responsible. The nature of the lifestyle requires conserving natural resources, and this is a good thing for everyone and for the planet.

Whether you are a nomad or live in a house in the city, it is possible to conserve natural resources and use only a small fraction of the resources that are consumed by most people. This conservation of natural resources benefits the planet and future generations who will also need access to water and fuel. It also saves a lot of money, which is an essential ingredient in a life of freedom – wherever and however you may choose to live.

Summer and Family in the Cowboy State

There is a short summer season in Wyoming. If you hate winter, this is the only time you want to be in Wyoming. The Cowboy State is known for spring coming late and winter coming early.

My daughter’s wedding was on Labor Day weekend so I ended up spending about a month “moochdocking” in her yard. Fortunately, the wedding was planned during the short summer. The best part about this arrangement was being able to spend a lot of time with my three granddaughters. There is nothing quite like hearing a little voice shouting “Pops! Pops!” at random intervals throughout the day. To be more precise, those random intervals occurred whenever the three-year-old could escape from her parents for a moment. Precious memories.

The month spent in Wyoming also provided some time to work on remodeling the trailer to better suit my needs. While it is still a work in progress – and likely will be modified a bit more before it is finished – I now have a bed, kitchen, closets, and desk. I also had some “help” with remodeling from my granddaughters and a nosy horse.

I had planned to leave Wyoming after the wedding at the same time that most of the other family departed, but ended up staying an extra 10 days. This was mostly because of a reluctance to leave my granddaughters. People used to tell me that this would happen, but I did not believe it until I actually had grandchildren.

Nomadic Reflections

Life on the road provides endless opportunities for reflection. After all, many of the comfortable structures and routines that we can hide behind at “home” are stripped away.


When all is said and done, there is little in life that is more important than family. I continue to make it a priority to spend as much time as possible with family. The multiple trips to Wyoming this summer were well worth the investment. I would be much wealthier financially if this was not a priority for me, but I would then be poorer in ways that actually matter.

Standing on a Corner

I had to do it. I know it is cliche, but ever since I drove past Winslow last September, I have been itching to take a selfie while standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona. Even though I had been past Winslow three times in less than one year, it was always night when I was there. Finally, while heading from Flagstaff to Wyoming in July, I had my chance.

Surprisingly enough (at least to me), there is even a nice little park on the corner in “downtown” Winslow. After a few failed attempts at taking a decent selfie, a nice couple stopped and offered to take my photo on the corner. Now I feel complete as a traveler… Seriously though, it was fun!

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