Bob Wells (vandweller)
1955/1956 (age 65–66)
Updated: July 11, 2021
Bob Wells (born 1955) is an American vandweller, YouTuber, and author. He is noted for being an inspiration to thousands of people who embrace a minimalistic and nomadic lifestyle centered on vandwelling. Wells founded the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, an annual gathering of vandwellers in Quartzsite, Arizona, and the Homes on Wheels Alliance, a charity organization that assists needy individuals in acquiring vehicles for habitation and travel.
I came into the van life kicking and screaming, but I fell in love with it.— Bob Wells
Wells's father was employed as a union clerk in a Safeway store in Anchorage, Alaska and died two years after reaching retirement. Wells found himself being employed in the same store and wishing to not meet the same fate his father had of not being able to enjoy his senior years, but felt stuck. In 1995, after working twenty years at the store, he underwent an acrimonious divorce involving two children, which strained his finances to the point where he found no alternative than to live in a box van, which he bought with his last $1,500. This traumatic experience left Wells going to sleep crying most nights. After six years, he remarried, and moved back into a house. One day in 2005, after witnessing a mother and her three children sleeping in a car in the cold, Wells was inspired to found the website cheaprvliving.com, to offer guidance to others seeking tips on how to live a stress-free life in their vehicles. Wells moved with his wife to North Carolina, but found the stress of marriage and living in a house to be a challenge. He subsequently divorced again and moved into a truck camper, followed by a Chevrolet Express van and, most recently, an ambulance with four-wheel drive.
Rubber Tramp Rendezvous
Wells organizes a yearly gathering in January in Quartzsite, Arizona called the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) for people he calls "The Tribe"—fellow vandwellers. The term Rubber Tramp refers to people who live or travel in their van, recreational vehicle (RV) or car, which utilize rubber tires. The gathering has been described as the Burning Man for retirees. The first RTR, held in 2010, had only 45 attendees, but the 2018 gathering attracted 3,000 vandwellers, and in the following year 10,000 arrived, making it the largest gathering of its kind in the world. Typical activities include seminars geared toward vandwelling, such as how to stealth-park in cities, how to do simple repairs and how to install solar panels. Another seminar directs people to go to Los Algodones, Baja California, Mexico to receive cheap vision and dental care. There is a free pile of items that people who are de-cluttering have given away to others who may need them.
In 2015, Wells started a YouTube channel called CheapRVliving. He used the channel to offer how-to videos, interviews with other vandwellers, and philosophical videos utilizing inspirational quotes by noted authors and thinkers. In May 2019, the channel was approaching 50 million views.
Homes on Wheels Alliance
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.
Wells has been featured in documentaries and interviews focusing on alternative lifestyles and simple living. He identifies politically with the far-left, and sees vandwelling as a rejection of modern society's norms. Wells is a character in Nomadland, a nonfiction book following the exploits of different RV and vandwellers, and portrayed himself in the critically acclaimed 2020 film adaptation.
- 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
- Green, Penelope (January 31, 2018) "The Real Burning Man", The New York Times. Retrieved January 3, 2021.
- "About CheapRVliving". YouTube.
- Trujillo, Stevie (February 4, 2021) "Off-road, Off-grid: The Modern Nomads Wandering America's Back country, The Guardian. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
- Horowitz-Ghazi, Alexi and Vanek Smith, Stacey (February 23, 2021) "Seeking Refuge On The Open Road", npr. Retrieved March 7, 2021.
- Bergstein, Rachelle (September 23, 2017) "America's Forgotten Men and Women Are Becoming 'Vandwellers'", New York Post. Retrieved January 3, 2021.
- Palmer, Annie (February 28, 2021) "'Nomadland' Spotlights Amazon's RV workforce — Here's What It's Really Like", CNBC. Retrieved March 7, 2021.}
- Sammon, Alexander (January 10, 2019) "YouTube Boomers Show #VanLife Isn’t Just for Millennials", Wired. Retrieved January 3, 2021.
- IE Staff (April 27, 2021) "Several real nomads were featured in the film starring Frances McDormand.", Inside Edition Retrieved June 25, 2021.
- N.B. (September 17, 2020) "Trading Four Walls for Four Wheels in 'Nomadland'", Economist. Retrieved January 3, 2020.
- (May 26, 2019) "Van Life: Making One's Home on the Open Road", cbsnews.com. Retrieved January 3, 2021.
- Paiella, Gabriella (February 19, 2021) "Talking to One of the Real Life Nomads of Nomadland", GQ. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
- James, Caryn (September 14, 2020) "Nomadland Review: 'Overflowing With Humanity and Tenderness'", bbc.com. Retrieved January 3, 2021.