Imagine living on $524 a month. Just $524 to pay for housing, utilities, food and health care. Linda May knew her tiny Social Security check put her dream of a comfortable retirement out of reach, so at age 62 she joined the growing ranks of baby boomers and others affected by the Great Recession and hit the road. In Nomadland journalist Jessica Bruder follows Linda and other nomads as she examines this new phenomenon of aging Americans finding hope on the road.
Not so much homeless as houseless, this new class of migrant workers crisscross the country in their vans, RVs, cars and teardrops in search of seasonal work. From mind-numbing, footsore work “picking” and “stowing” at Amazon as CamperForce associates to cleaning outhouses in national parks as camp hosts, these migrants or “workampers” spend months laboring at low-paying, physically-demanding jobs before moving on to the next one. At night they return to an RV park or a campground, or stealth camp, pop some Advil, and hunker down in whatever vehicle is now their home.
For some this lifestyle brings contentment, even joy, while others fret about an unknown future when their vehicles break down or their bodies give out and packing beets or cleaning toilets is no longer an option. For all the road brings hope, hope that freedom from the tyranny of mortgages and rents will make their dreams a reality.