Bob Wells (vandweller)

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Bob Wells
Bob Wells of CheapRVLiving.jpg
Robert Wells

1955/1956 (age 67–68)[1]
Occupation(s)YouTuber, author
Years active2005–present
YouTube information
Years active2015–present
Subscribers607 thousand[2]
Total views123.64 million[2]

Last updated: 20 Sep 2022

Bob Wells (born 1955) is an American YouTuber, author, and advocate of minimalist, nomadic vandwelling.

Wells founded the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, an annual gathering of van dwellers in Quartzsite, Arizona, and the Homes on Wheels Alliance, which assists needy individuals in acquiring vehicles for habitation and travel.

Early life[edit]

I came into the van life kicking and screaming, but I fell in love with it.

— Bob Wells[1]

Wells's father worked as a union clerk at a Safeway in Anchorage, Alaska, and died two years after reaching retirement. Wells found himself employed in the same store, wanting to avoid his father's inability to enjoy retirement.

In 1995, feeling stuck[3] after working 20 years at the store,[4] and suffering a difficult divorce with two children, Wells found his finances constrained — and moved into a box van, purchased with his last $1,500. The experience left him crying himself to sleep most nights.[5][6] After six years, he remarried, moved into a house,[1] and relocated with his wife to North Carolina, where the stress of the marriage with a mortgage became too much.

After he and his second wife divorced, Wells began living in a truck camper, followed by a work van,[7] and most recently, a four-wheel-drive ambulance.[8]


In 2005, after seeing a mother and her three children sleeping in a car, Wells created the website, to provide tips, resources and strategies for living in a vehicle.

Rubber Tramp Rendezvous[edit]

In January of each year, Wells organizes a get-together of vehicle dwellers in Quartzsite, Arizona, called the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR). The term "rubber tramp" refers to people who live in a vehicle, which use rubber tires. Attendees and other followers of the event are known as "The Tribe".[7] The gathering itself has been described as the Burning Man for retirees.[1]

In 2010, the first year of its existence, the RTR received 45 attendees. By 2018, it had attracted over 3,000 participants[1] and by 2019 it had attracted 10,000 — making it the largest gathering of its kind in the world.[3] Activities include seminars geared at vehicle dwelling, ranging from city and stealth-parking,[9] repair and improvement seminars (e.g., installing solar panels),[1] identifying resources such as inexpensive vision and dental care (e.g., in Los Algodones, or Baja California, Mexico)[7] to locating free second-hand items.[1]


In 2015, Wells started a YouTube channel called CheapRVliving to offer how-to videos, interviews with other vandwellers, and philosophical videos with inspiration by noted authors and thinkers.[1] In May 2019, the channel was approaching 50 million views.[10]

Homes on Wheels Alliance[edit]

In October 2018, Wells announced the creation of Homes on Wheels Alliance, a 501(c)(3) charity of which he serves as president. The organization is dedicated to providing vehicles that have been converted into dwellings to individuals in need of financial assistance.[7]


Wells has been interviewed in documentaries and appeared on television news programs that focused on alternative lifestyles and simple living. He identifies politically with the far-left,[11] and sees van dwelling as a rejection of modern society's norms.[10] Wells was featured prominently in Nomadland, a nonfiction book following the exploits of different RV and vandwellers. He portrayed himself in the critically acclaimed 2020 film adaptation.[12]


  • How to Live In a Car, Van or RV: And Get Out of Debt, Travel, and Find True Freedom, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014 ISBN 1479215899


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Green, Penelope (January 31, 2018) "The Real Burning Man", The New York Times. Retrieved January 3, 2021.
  2. ^ a b "About CheapRVliving". YouTube.
  3. ^ a b Trujillo, Stevie (February 4, 2021) "Off-road, Off-grid: The Modern Nomads Wandering America's Back country, The Guardian. Retrieved February 14, 2021
  4. ^ Horowitz-Ghazi, Alexi and Vanek Smith, Stacey (February 23, 2021) "Seeking Refuge On The Open Road", npr. Retrieved March 7, 2021
  5. ^ Bergstein, Rachelle (September 23, 2017) "America's Forgotten Men and Women Are Becoming 'Vandwellers'", New York Post. Retrieved January 3, 2021.
  6. ^ Palmer, Annie (February 28, 2021) "'Nomadland' Spotlights Amazon's RV workforce — Here's What It's Really Like", CNBC. Retrieved March 7, 2021.}
  7. ^ a b c d Sammon, Alexander (January 10, 2019) "YouTube Boomers Show #VanLife Isn’t Just for Millennials", Wired. Retrieved January 3, 2021.
  8. ^ IE Staff (April 27, 2021) "Several real nomads were featured in the film starring Frances McDormand.", Inside Edition Retrieved June 25, 2021.
  9. ^ N.B. (September 17, 2020) "Trading Four Walls for Four Wheels in 'Nomadland'", Economist. Retrieved January 3, 2020.
  10. ^ a b (May 26, 2019) "Van Life: Making One's Home on the Open Road", Retrieved January 3, 2021.
  11. ^ Paiella, Gabriella (February 19, 2021) "Talking to One of the Real Life Nomads of Nomadland", GQ. Retrieved March 3, 2021
  12. ^ James, Caryn (September 14, 2020) "Nomadland Review: 'Overflowing With Humanity and Tenderness'", Retrieved January 3, 2021.

External links[edit]