When Bob Wells determined to ditch his former life as a grocery-store employee to go out on the highway as a real-life nomad, he knew he was embarking on an unpredictable journey.
However he may by no means have guessed the place he ended up Sunday evening: Gathered along with his fellow freeway wanderers to look at the movie Nomadland win the best-picture Oscar.
It’s a film by which Wells has a memorable position, enjoying himself alongside the celebrated Frances McDormand, who took dwelling the Oscar for finest actress.
“I used to be thrilled and joyful,” Wells informed me in an interview from his specifically geared up van someplace within the Nevada desert.
“It is going to be etched in my reminiscence eternally.”
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Wells got here to the eye of filmmaker Chloe Zhao (who gained best-director Oscar) after he was featured within the 2017 e-book Nomadland: Surviving America within the twenty first Century.
The e-book tells the story of the “van dwellers,” a subculture of transient Individuals residing of their automobiles, trekking throughout the nation in quest of good climate, short-term jobs and free parking.
Many of those modern-day nomads are older, poor individuals looking for an inexpensive way of life on mounted incomes.
It’s an outline that matches Wells, 65, who give up his day job in Alaska after the failure of his marriage left him broke and depressing.
“I might drive into work daily previous this previous van that was on the market,” he informed me.
“I believed, ‘I may dwell in that! It might remedy all my issues. I wouldn’t need to pay hire anymore.’ So I purchased it and moved in.”
That was in 1995. Little did Wells know that he was on the chopping fringe of a brand new social motion that’s documented each day on social media below the #vanlife hashtag.
Sensing the rising curiosity, Wells began a YouTube channel known as “Low cost RV Residing” that has gathered half-a-million loyal followers.
He additionally began an annual gathering of nomads known as the “Rubber Tramp Rendezvous” that has attracted 1000’s of fellow wanderers to the Arizona desert.
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“You don’t desire a lonely life out right here,” Wells mentioned.
“You need to dwell wealthy full life. And a part of that’s different individuals. So I’ve labored to construct a group.”
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Alongside the way in which, he has come to embrace the nomad way of life, one thing that was initially a supply of disgrace.
“Society tells us what life is meant to appear to be,” he mentioned.
“We name it the American dream and I’m certain it’s related in Canada: Go to school, get an schooling, discover a profession, get married, have children, get a home, work for the remainder of your life after which retire within the golden years.
“However I used to be compelled into a special alternative. At first, there was a way of disgrace connected to it. Then I found it was a alternative that made me actually joyful.”
His expertise on the highway has given him perception into America — and Canada, too.
“I’ve pushed throughout Canada,” he mentioned. “British Columbia could also be one of the stunning locations on this planet. And the Canadian Rockies are simply breathtaking.”
He mentioned the shortage of common well being care in the USA is likely one of the most evident variations he has seen.
Surprising health-care crises — particularly for under-insured Individuals — are among the many many stark points of life he sees up shut in a nomad group he won’t ever depart.
“We’re residing a substitute for a failing society,” he mentioned.
“I might by no means return to my previous life. It’s my objective to by no means dwell in a home once more.”
Mike Smyth is host of ‘The Mike Smyth Present’ on International Information Radio 980 CKNW in Vancouver and a commentator for International Information. You’ll be able to attain him at email@example.com and comply with him on Twitter at @MikeSmythNews.
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