The spaces between the places

Sebastian Halyard uses his RV for shelter and little else—his true home is the great outdoors

Sebastian Halyard is a full-time backcountry RVer
Sebastian Halyard is a full-time backcountry RVer who spends most of his time in the southwestern states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. — Photo courtesy Sebastian Halyard

In 2006, after surviving a health crisis, Sebastian Halyard left his attachments behind and headed for peace and solitude in the southwest U.S. backcountry. The nomadic lifestyle agrees with this former teacher and sometime silversmith—RVwest did a story about Halyard in 2010, and we followed up with him in February of this year. Halyard spoke to us from somewhere near Silver City, New Mexico.

Do you have a travel routine?

I live in my RV, a 22-foot Northwood Nash trailer. It’s not typical RVing, because I avoid the tourist attractions—I go more for the spaces in-between. For eight months of the year, I go into the backcountry. I pick a spot to settle for a while, and I can stay out there for three weeks before I need to make a town run for more water, propane and food. I do most of my exploring on foot or on my bike.

During the summer, I talk with people in cafés and in the stores and at the library when I do a town run. In the winter months, I do my socializing in the state parks.

What is it about the quiet that’s so appealing to you?

Being out there for three weeks at a stretch makes me feel like I’m really part of nature. I see it at my own pace, taking time to breathe in the smells and hear the sounds and the quiet, and feel the air.

A black bear visits Sebastian Halyard's trailer
This black bear checked out the window cage on Sebastian Halyard's trailer. — Sebastian Halyard photo

I couldn’t do this lifestyle without my cats, Meadow and Mesa, to keep me company. I keep them inside at night for safety, but I’ve rigged up a cage they can go into through a window, so they’re outside, but safe. I had a black bear come and check out the window cage one day, and I’ve seen a bobcat nearby and lots of deer and elk. I love this lifestyle.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I hike, I run from time to time, I mountain bike, I like shooting a longbow, and I practise Tai Chi and zazen. I take photos and spend time on my MacBook updating my website. I’ll be doing more bench work with odd bits of metal that I’ve found—I’ll make them into jewelry. I take the cats for a walk every afternoon—the wildlife get comfortable with us over time, and sometimes seem to find the cats entertaining. I enjoy reading—I pick up paperbacks at thrift stores and I get lots of free books for my Kindle. The Kindle lights up so I don’t have to run my LED lights, and I can even read outside at night.

A moose and a house cat look at each other through a window
We know cats are curious—and apparently, so is this moose. — Sebastian Halyard photo

Are you concerned for your health and safety when you’re on your own out there?

I carry a PLB (personal locator beacon). If something happens when I’m off the grid and there’s no cell phone reception, I can turn this on and it goes to a military satellite and alerts a rescue team to come in. It’s probably the only time I’ve spent $285 on something I hope to never use, but my friends are happy that I have it and I agree that it’s a smart investment.

I’m still enjoying this lifestyle and I’m still active. If I get to the point where my health starts deteriorating, then I will move closer to a town.

During our conversation, Halyard’s sense of humour showed up often. He said that as long as he can see the funny side of life—and the antics of his cats help with that—he feels quite content in his current solitude.

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