When Bob Wells determined to ditch his former life as a grocery-store employee to move out on the highway as a real-life nomad, he knew he was embarking on an unpredictable journey.
However he might by no means have guessed the place he ended up Sunday night time: Gathered together with his fellow freeway wanderers to observe the movie Nomadland win the best-picture Oscar.
It’s a film during which Wells has a memorable function, taking part in himself alongside the celebrated Frances McDormand, who took dwelling the Oscar for finest actress.
“I used to be thrilled and completely satisfied,” Wells advised me in an interview from his specifically outfitted van someplace within the Nevada desert.
“Will probably 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 guide Nomadland: Surviving America within the twenty first Century.
The guide tells the story of the “van dwellers,” a subculture of transient Individuals residing of their autos, 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 in search of an inexpensive way of life on mounted incomes.
It’s an outline that matches Wells, 65, who stop his day job in Alaska after the failure of his marriage left him broke and depressing.
“I’d drive into work daily previous this previous van that was on the market,” he advised me.
“I believed, ‘I might dwell in that! It could clear up 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 slicing fringe of a brand new social motion that’s documented day by day on social media beneath the #vanlife hashtag.
Sensing the rising curiosity, Wells began a YouTube channel referred to as “Low-cost RV Residing” that has gathered half-a-million loyal followers.
He additionally began an annual gathering of nomads referred to as the “Rubber Tramp Rendezvous” that has attracted 1000’s of fellow wanderers to the Arizona desert.
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“You don’t need a lonely life out right here,” Wells stated.
“You wish to dwell wealthy full life. And a part of that’s different individuals. So I’ve labored to construct a neighborhood.”
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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 stated.
“We name it the American dream and I’m positive it’s related in Canada: Go to varsity, 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 pressured into a unique alternative. At first, there was a way of disgrace connected to it. Then I found it was a alternative that made me actually completely satisfied.”
His expertise on the highway has given him perception into America — and Canada, too.
“I’ve pushed throughout Canada,” he stated. “British Columbia could also be one of the vital lovely locations on the earth. And the Canadian Rockies are simply breathtaking.”
He stated the shortage of common well being care in the USA is likely one of the most obtrusive variations he has observed.
Surprising health-care crises — particularly for under-insured Individuals — are among the many many stark elements of life he sees up shut in a nomad neighborhood he won’t ever go away.
“We’re residing a substitute for a failing society,” he stated.
“I’d by no means return to my previous life. It’s my purpose 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 observe him on Twitter at @MikeSmythNews.
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