March 2, 2023

18. The Arizonian Nomad

18. The Arizonian Nomad

Can you imagine selling all your worldly possessions, your house, your car, your furnishings and reducing your ownership of ‘things’ to a 22-inch suitcase and a backpack? Well, that’s exactly what today’s guest did, leaving Arizona to travel the world as a digital nomad.  Find out how she did it.

Personal comment:
Brenda was on a house sit for a friend near my home. Since she was from Arizona in the United States, some 5,000 miles away, I was curious.  And so I sprung myself on Brenda and asked if we could talk on the record.  She was a great sport, and we ended up having a great chat for a couple of hours.  What do you make of her current lifestyle? Can you see yourself trying this one day? Brenda is currently somewhere in Switzerland.  

Last week's episode
[Episode 17] Better The Devil You Know -Having previously spoken to near-death experience witnesses, I was keen to uncover how science viewed this extraordinary phenomenon.  I tracked down data scientist David Gerrelli. I wasn’t expecting what I heard.

Next week's episode

- Email us at
- Chat with us on Facebook

Thanks for listening!



 [00:00:00] I love to meet people. I love cultures. I love the diversity. There's just so much to see in the world. You know, it just doesn't get any more beautiful than that for me. It's in my soul that I am a traveller and it's in my soul that I'm a nomad. [00:00:20] [00:00:40]


[00:00:59] Brenda: I am [00:01:00] a computer consultant. I consult on accounting software and I've been doing the same piece of software for over 40 years, so I know it quite well.

Steve: This is Brenda Hater from the United States. We met up, as I suppose a lot of encounters do, by [00:01:20] chance. And it was a real Batting the Breeze moment. We just chatted for a couple of hours. I always say everyone has a story in them. So what was Brenda's? Well, by all accounts, she has led a very successful life. From the outside, everything seemed [00:01:40] to be going pretty well. Challenging work, financially stable...

Brenda: My home base was in Arizona where I had property and a house and pool and all those sorts of things. I owned three [00:02:00] houses in three states in the United States, had two cars.

[00:02:03] Steve: Arizona, the Grand Canyon State with inhabitants stretching back for 20,000 years. From the 1530s, it was part of Mexico, up until the Mexican-American War in 1848, [00:02:20] when Arizona became a US territory. Apart from the Grand Canyon, notable for its dry heat, the Hoover Dam, and for being the home of Geronimo. For Brenda, things started to change back in 2008.

Eureka moment

[00:02:37] Brenda: The real estate market hit or [00:02:40] didn't hit, went down. And that started part of my process. And so I got rid of two of the houses. I just had my house in Arizona. When you sit in a house, 2,000 square foot house, by yourself and you think, "I use the bathroom, the bedroom and the kitchen;Spiritually,[00:03:00] I think I started to turn a corner then to say, "What do I really need here? What do I need?" And I went down to one house and I still had the two cars and I said, "This is crazy. There's only one of me." Got rid of the two cars, went to one car.

Steve: Brenda's life was changing in a more minimalist direction. But it was about to change a [00:03:20] lot more. It changed in a way that wouldn't have been possible even a few years ago before the technological revolution really took hold.

Brenda: Accounting is accounting. it's all done the same way it was 40 years ago. What's changed technically is the user interface and of course its capabilities. [00:03:40]

[00:03:40] Steve: And one of those additional capabilities was the ability to run a computer-based business from pretty much anywhere. Everything became mobile.

Brenda: So I downsized to [00:04:00] an RV, or a campervan as you might call it over here. It was quite large as campervans go, but small compared to what I was going out of - my house. So I sold my property, got rid of just about everything I owned, and I travelled in an RV for three years all around the United States.

Going mobile


[00:04:23] Steve: When Brenda talks about a campervan, it wasn't a campervan. It was a big beast Recreational Vehicle, more Robert De Niro Meets the Fockers than Greg Kinnear's Little Miss Sunshine. So how [00:04:40] was life in the RV?

[00:04:42] Brenda: Wonderful experience, incredible experience to drive around the United States, go to different states. When the weather was inclimate in one area, I just drove to another area, and became amazed at what I could actually see in America through the big windshield of the RV.And it was incredible experience. [00:05:00] I absolutely loved it.

[00:05:01] Steve: I presumed that a special driving test would need to be taken in the States for these types of vehicles. It was 32 feet long and weighed 18,000 pounds. So, unfortunately, you don't need a special license for something like that in America. It amazed me. I bought [00:05:20] it, they handed me the keys and said, "Have a lovely time". When you see these huge RVs, you know, they're mostly being driven by pensioners and retirees that are responsible for 18 to 20,000 pounds of a vehicle. So It's scary.  

[00:05:36] Steve: There's something to think about. But clearly [00:05:40] the mobile life was suiting Brenda. And then along came Covid. She was in Atlanta, Georgia at the time, had some contacts a couple of hours away in North Carolina and so headed there during quarantine and actually ended up staying for about 15 months.

 Brenda: Now this entire time my [00:06:00] RV is sitting in Arizona. What it told me was I didn't really need the RV. I can stay with friends, get an Airbnb, you know, that sort of thing. So I had the RV put in storage in Arizona. Well, that's not good for an RV. Certainly not in Arizona, in the heat and it's just not [00:06:20] good. I called it a behemoth. It was just a weight on me, just like when my house was a weight on me that I didn't want anymore. So then I said, "Well, I don't need a house, I don't even need an RV. I can go wherever I want and work from wherever I want".


[00:06:36] Steve: Brenda's spiritual journey had taken her from [00:06:40] one surrounded by things; houses, pools, cars, to just a well-equipped RV. But now that was about to go and life was going to get even simpler.

[00:06:52] Brenda: I decided to live a nomad life. These things don't come in one day. You don't say, "Oh, I'm gonna be a nomad [00:07:00] tomorrow and everything's gonna be lovely". It comes with experience, it comes with time and experiences. So I started then getting into the sitting that I do now, and it's through a website called TrustedHousesitters. Individuals list their homes, their pets, anything about [00:07:20] themselves on a website. And I have a profile on that website. And if I'm looking to stay in a place, whether it's a country or a state in America, I can do search criteria on that website. So if somebody says, you know, "We have three dogs and six cats and four horses", then I say, "No thank you." But [00:07:40] if I find a sit, that's what they call them, 'sits', that is appealing to me, then I contact the person to talk about what... the situation is. And if we agree, then I go to their home and I sit for their pets.

[00:07:57] Steve: It sounds like a great model, [00:08:00] bringing together two parties who, at any particular moment in time, can solve each other's problems even though they'd never met. But how does payment work for house sitting?

[00:08:11] Brenda: The beauty of this is that I sit for free. So they don't pay me to sit for their animals, nor do I have to pay [00:08:20] for accommodation. So if you talk to many travellers, some of the biggest expensive travel is accommodations.

Steve: Right, so I can really understand the attraction for Brenda. It's a system of trust with a little bit of help from certain checks and balances through the website. I presumed things didn't always go [00:08:40] to plan, and Brenda mentioned a particular time when a friend of hers arrived at a sit in the evening and after a quick chat, the host said...

[00:08:49] Brenda: "Well, I'm going to bed", and my friend said, "You know, where will I go?" And she said, "Oh, you can't stay here tonight. There's, there's only one bed here and it's mine and I'm not leaving till the morning. And you have [00:09:00] to find some place to stay and..."

[00:09:02] Steve: It's quite an intimate thing, isn't it?

[00:09:03] Brenda: it? Mm-hmm.

[00:09:03] Steve: You are, you are moving into somebody's house for a period of time.

[00:09:06] Brenda: Exactly. Yeah.

Spreading out

[00:09:08] Steve: This gig was turning out to be fun. So Brenda decided to up the ante a little.

Brenda: And I said, "Well, if I can work from anywhere, why not work from Europe?" This year[00:09:20] alone, I've been to all over the UK. I've done a couple of sits in Switzerland. I went to Northern Ireland and I went to Norway. I've been to Montenegro and Croatia and I'll go just about anywhere I can, or want, to go.

[00:09:36] Steve: I asked Brenda if she had any favourite sits.[00:09:40]

[00:09:40] Brenda: I get asked that a lot, "What's your favourite sit?" And I say, "It's the sit I'm doing right now", and, "What is your favourite country?" And I say, "Well, it's the country I'm in right now". I very much on a personal level live for today, and I'm ever so grateful that I get to do what I do [00:10:00] and in the manner in which I do it.

Steve: It all sounds fantastic. Freedom to move around the globe to meet different people from different cultures. To start and stop exactly when you want. And in return, all you have to do is walk the dog or stroke the cat or feed the budgie perhaps? [00:10:20] So why isn't everyone doing it?

The 6 P's

Brenda: Not too many people would or could really do what I do. And that is because of the mantra of the six P's. So I have no partner, no pets, no plants, no parents, no prodigies, and therefore no problems. That's [00:10:40] the sixth 'P'. So, if I am somewhere and someone needs me to stay longer, whether it's for work or for a sit, I don't have to call anyone and say, "Oh, can you pick up somebody from school?", or, "Oh, can you take care of my dog for me?" I don't have any of those considerations, so therefore I can [00:11:00] continue to do what I do.My lifestyle is fabulous and I really love it. But it works for me and it wouldn't work for too many other people.

[00:11:09] Steve: Where'd you go on holiday?

[00:11:11] Brenda: My life is a holiday. Every day is a holiday for me. I'm, you know, right now we are in the UK and I'm having such a lovely time [00:11:20] visiting Christchurch, never been here before. I can schedule things around being able to... venture out and adventure and see what's, what's around me.

[00:11:28] Steve: The conversation broadened out to a more general discussion about materialism and our obsession with things. I was curious to understand how [00:11:40] Brenda went through the process of dematerializing in the first place.


[00:11:45] Brenda: When I was emptying my house, everything that I looked at, I would look at it and say, "f I died today and one of my sisters or my friends came here and had to deal with this, would they know what this [00:12:00] meant?" And if the answer was, "No", it went into the discard file or the discard pile. And if it was important to me, then I kept it. It all went for two reasons: I didn't need it. It didn't fit in the RV. When you go from [00:12:20] 2,000 square feet to 350, you really are limited as to what you can take. And then, when I went from the RV, I had a 22 inch piece of luggage and my backpack. I have, all the clothes I need in that little suitcase.

Steve: While Brenda was shedding [00:12:40] belongings, am I right in thinking it was not so much trepidation, but more liberation?

[00:12:47] Brenda: Yeah. That weight just goes away. And I feel free. I'm free to get up and go whenever I want, wherever I want at any moment's notice. [00:13:00] And I love that. That's what feeds my soul.

[00:13:03] Steve: It sounds like the mindset was turned upside down, so instead of getting an adrenaline rush buying things, Brenda gets the same rush by not buying things.

Brenda: For everything I buy or acquire, I have to get rid of something else [00:13:20] because there's only 22 inches in that suitcase".

[00:13:22] Steve: It's a zero sum game.

[00:13:24] Brenda: It is. It has to be. I was just in Switzerland for the Christmas markets and oh my gosh, you know, you walk through there and you see all the stalls and it's such lovely... craftsmanship. I can't get any of it. It's not even option for me. So I get to appreciate it and [00:13:40] look at it and, but I don't have to buy it anymore.

Steve: Do you ever get lonely?

Brenda: I don't get lonely because I know how to entertain myself. I'm a social person, because I love people. If I felt like I needed to talk to somebody, I'll leave the house and go to High Street and, you know, talk to a service person, at a restaurant or at one of [00:14:00] the museums or something, you know, or even on the street. I'll just strike up a conversation with somebody.


[00:14:06] Steve: (why are you doing this) Well, Brenda certainly struck up a conversation with me. We had a delightful couple of hours. Two people who met by chance, chatted, learned a little bit about each other, and [00:14:20] then went their separate ways. I've no idea if I'll ever meet Brenda again. Perhaps I will. I like to think so. But regardless, hopefully we are both just a little bit richer for the connection. Just before we parted, I asked what words of encouragement Brenda may like to share for [00:14:40] someone tempted to try out this lifestyle for themselves.

[00:14:44] Brenda: You have to orchestrate your life and be realistic. If you have any of the "P's" that I mentioned, then you have to say to yourself, " Am I willing to let it go or can I manage that aspect of my life somehow?" [00:15:00] But if you have responsibilities, it just will never work. You're gonna be unhappy or they're gonna be unhappy. And then what good is it?

 [00:15:20] [00:15:40]