Monday, December 28, 2009

2009 Retrospective

And what a year it has been! It’s really hard to believe all that has transpired over the past 12 months. If someone had told me back in January that we’d be sitting here in late December preparing to quit our jobs, sell most everything we own and planning to hit the road in just a few short months, I would have called them crazy! Even 6 months ago I don’t think I would have truly believed it. But yet here we are – owners of a super duty truck, getting ready to put our house on the market within the next couple of weeks, continually working to reduce our stuff, planning our departures from our employers, and shopping for a new home on wheels. WOW! It’s all very surreal at times.

I’ve been trying to remember back to January and wondering what resolutions we made. I’m sure they were some of the typical – lose weight, work out more, eat healthier, etc. I’m fairly certain there was nothing in there about following our dreams or feeding our souls though. And I wonder why not. Shouldn’t those always be at the top of our lists?

So what did our 2009 look like? Well, it’s really hard to remember. We’ve been so focused, or maybe that should read “obsessed”, with becoming full-timers, it kind of feels like our year started around October. But let me see if I can dig deep and go back a few more months.

Oddly enough, I think our entire year revolved around Rving. 2008 ended with our desire to upgrade from our pop-up camper. We had the pop up for a few years and really disliked it from the beginning. We went from a 30-foot Class C to the pop-up because we wanted something small for weekend camping trips. We had bought the Class C for our 3-month sabbatical several years ago and it was perfect for that use, but it was really too much for just a weekend. We had bought the pop-up in rash decision – we didn’t do our research and it was poorly thought through. It was a mistake and we were ready to right a wrong. So we were narrowing in on the Class B van conversions. We really liked the small size, thinking that it could even function as a second car (I take public transportation to work so a 2nd vehicle wasn’t a daily necessity). But they were quite expensive and just a bit too small for 2 adults and an 80-pound dog. So January and February were spent looking for something that would serve our needs. We eventually stumbled upon a used 24-foot Class C which seemed perfect. By the end of February we were owners of “Libby”, (aka The Liberator). Boy, we sure didn’t have a clue as to how liberating she would end up being!

There’s not much camping to be had in Colorado in February but we were quickly making plans for a trip to Zion National Park in early April. We had tried this trip a couple of times in the past, but were always derailed for one reason or another. This was our inaugural trip in Libby and it was great. We couldn’t wait to do more and managed to get out fairly often throughout the summer. But it never felt like it was enough and dropping Libby off in the storage yard at the end of each trip was always accompanied with a tinge of sadness.

Little did we know that reuniting with the RV life would quickly relight the spark of our full-timing dream. When we were debating the purchase, we had briefly talked about the possibility of eventually using it to begin our full-timing adventures, “5 or more years down the road”. HA! In the meantime, until we were at that point, she would make a great weekender/vacation rig. Well, Libby served her purpose well, albeit a little shorter than we anticipated!

But once that spark was relit, the flame just kept getting brighter and brighter…to the point where we couldn’t ignore it any longer. So I started reading, more just out of curiosity, figuring that whatever I learned would be helpful when we were eventually ready. What I didn’t really count on was the more I read, the more I wanted to know. And the more I knew, the more excited I became. And the more excited I got, the more I researched. And the more I researched, the more certain I became that this was a possibility now. Oh, if only we had a crystal ball to see into the future!

At one point during my research, I ran across the RV-Dreams website…and our lives were transformed. First by Howard and Linda, and then eventually by all of the great people we have come to know through the forum and the Rally. I have no doubt that we would have eventually ended up at this same point, but I think it would have taken much longer. The confidence and support we have gained through this group has given us a huge boost forward. I started by reading Howard’s journals from the beginning, when they were just making their decision, through the most current one. Howard posts almost daily and my day just doesn’t seem complete without a little touch of Howard. Shortly after starting on the journals, I began following the forum. I “lurked” anonymously for awhile and then got the courage to introduce myself. I immediately felt welcomed into the family and fairly soon after, we decided that we needed to attend the Rally and meet these folks. The rest, as they say, is history. This blog was launched just prior to the Rally in October, so I won’t rehash the last few months here.

It’s been a wild ride so far and the amazing part is that it’s just beginning. Almost daily, I have moments when I just stop and say wow! I am amazed at how much we have already accomplished. More so, I am amazed at our courage for even attempting to do this. There are moments when I wonder who we really are because this is not something I thought we had inside us!

So as 2009 comes to an end, I am proud of what we accomplished and am full of excitement and anticipation for what awaits us in 2010. Bring it on!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hopes and Dreams

As we continue through our transition, I am filled with hope and wonder as to what our new life will bring. There is no doubt that one of the allures of this lifestyle is the adventure. I’ve felt for a long time that there was so much more to life than what I felt I was experiencing. There are so many great things to see, so many new experiences to be had, and so many ways to learn and grow. So as we work through our preparations, my mind frequently drifts to the many things that I hope we will be able to achieve over the course of our full-timing experience, whether it be a few years or a lifetime. Here are a few (ok, a few more than a few!) of my hopes and dreams, in no particular order:

Volunteering – if we had to name just one goal for our new life, it would be to give back. I truly believe that we all have an obligation to improve the world, no matter how small of a blip in the global scheme that it may be. As I age, I am becoming more conscious of what type of legacy I will leave. Our plan is to spend at least several months each year volunteering our services to a variety of causes.
Build a house with Habitat for Humanity – I have had a couple of brief encounters with this organization, but have never spent more than a day at a time with them. I would love to spend a couple of months or more building houses and hopefully be involved in one from start to finish.
“Work” at professional tennis events – as a tennis enthusiast and player, I love to watch the pros play and have been lucky enough to attend a couple of professional tournaments. I think there are a lot of work opportunities that we’ll pursue simply for the experience. Working at the US Open and other top level tournaments is one such experience. If we can get a paying gig out of it, great; otherwise, it may be on a volunteer basis.
Work at a dude ranch – this is another one of those experiences that I’d like to try. I have no doubt that it would be hard work, but how different can you get from living in a city and working in corporate America? And it would fulfill one of my long-time dreams of living in a small cabin in the mountains (ok, so our cabin would be on wheels, but hey it’s close)
Work at Disney World – after all, it is a kingdom full of magic, right? One season in such a crowded environment with a bunch of screaming kids may prove to be more than enough for a lifetime, but once again I’d like to try it just to say we did.
Visit all of the National Parks – I have been fascinated with the national parks for most of my adult life and have visited several of them, but there are so many more that I’ve never been to. There are over 60 U.S National Parks and many more monuments, historic sites, lakeshores, river ways, etc. I don’t know if we’ll realistically be able to visit every nationally protected area, but I’d certainly like to try. At a minimum I’d like to at least be able to boast that I’ve been to every National Park in the United States. And of course, I haven’t even mentioned all of the great places in Canada, many of which are high on my list. It will be hard to prioritize them all, but we’ll certainly give it our best shot.
Fulfill my dream of being a National Park “Ranger” – ok, I probably won’t be able to be a ranger in the truest sense of the word, but I would like to find a position doing many of the ranger-type activities such as environmental research, interpretation programs, and trail maintenance. Many years ago I volunteered with a county open space program doing many of these activities and loved it, but unfortunately I let my career get in the way. And maybe I could even wear a uniform…with a hat! That would be cool!
Live a more active lifestyle – after spending 20+ years behind a desk, I am really looking forward to being more active in all aspects of my life. We hope that many of our work/volunteer opportunities will align closely with our passion of being close to nature. But we also hope to rely more on our bikes and our feet for local transportation. Not only does this align well with our “exercise plan”, but it will save money and help the environment. I understand that some of our locales will probably not lend itself to this mode of transportation, but whenever we can take advantage of it, we plan to!
Spend at least one summer in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York – because my family moved frequently during my childhood years, I have never really felt like I have a hometown. For much of my youth, my family owned a second house in the Adirondacks and we spent many weekends, summers and holidays in the area. This is as close as I come to a childhood home. It’s a beautiful area full of outdoor activities and I hope to have the opportunity to relive part of my childhood.
Explore the North West – this is one part of the country that I’ve never been to and I’m looking forward to spending significant time there and seeing what it’s all about!
Spend at least one summer in Alaska – this is one state that is at the top of our list. It is the current home to Scooter, Ruby and family (read our profile if you don’t know who they are!) and it’s been awhile since we’ve seen them. But even if we didn’t have family there, Alaska would still be a top priority. I’ve never been there but have wanted to visit for years. I can’t think of a better way to experience it than rolling down the road with our house in tow!
“Live” on the beach – this is another one of those desires simply because I never have. Now, I wouldn’t really classify myself as a beach person. I love the water, but my experience is limited to lakes and rivers. I’ve been to the beach on various occasions, but never spent any significant time there. The thought of taking long walks on the beach, having evening picnics watching the sun set (or maybe morning picnics watching the sun rise), wading in the surf, and lounging in the sand with a good book are all very intriguing to me. It just seems like a laid back way of life and a great environment to spend some time in.
Spend at least a month in every state (excluding Hawaii for obvious reasons) – admittedly, there are a few states which are low on my list, but I know there is beauty, history and adventure in every state. So often we focus on only what we know, often missing out on so many wonderful things that we’re never aware of. I look forward to having my eyes opened and learning more about this great country of ours. And hopefully in the process, change my perception about certain states!
Learn to play guitar – for many years, I have been wanting to learn to play the acoustic guitar. I took piano lessons for a couple of years when I was growing up, but didn’t stick with it. Now I wish I had. I dream about sitting around a campfire, strumming a guitar and singing along (although it better be a deserted campground!). What better instrument could there be for this lifestyle?
Learn a foreign language – I’m always amazed with people who are fluent in more than one language and I’ve often thought it a bit egotistical of Americans who think of English as the only language. So what language(s) would I want to learn? Well, Spanish is the first that comes to mind. It would definitely be the most useful since it’s by far the secondly most used language in the U.S. Also I lived in Puerto Rico for a year during my childhood and also took Spanish in high school so I’m sure some of that knowledge has to be deep inside me somewhere. But I’m also interested in Italian. I think it is a beautiful language when spoken and Italy is someplace I’d like to visit someday. But I’m afraid as soon as I started learning, I’d want to visit immediately and that’s not very ideal in an RV! While not exactly a foreign language, I also think it would be cool to learn sign language. Once again, it seems like it might come in handy one day.
Revive my passion of photography – it seems like there are a lot of full-timers who have a passion for photography and for good reason. The opportunity for amazing pictures are endless! And it’s a great way to document the journey. I used to be pretty passionate about my photography, but like so many things, it got put on the back burner as life got busy. I’ve gotten out of the habit of taking my camera along, except on special trips. I hope that the camera once again becomes a standard part of my being.
Geocaching – this seems to be an up an coming hobby for many RVers and I am intrigued by it. For those of you who don’t know what geocaching is, it’s essentially a treasure hunt by using a GPS. Items are hidden all over the world in containers, known as geocaches. The idea is to find them and share your experiences online. I’ve never tried it, nor have I done much research about it, but it sounds interesting and I think I’d like to try it someday. I also think it would be a great way to get to know an area, as I suspect it would take you to some out of the way places.

Wow, it’s a good thing we’re planning to do this full-timing thing for the long term. It’s going to take us a lifetime to get through all of these! :) And I fully expect this list to continually grow as our eyes are opened to new opportunities. As I look back through this list, so many of these should have been achievable in our current life and I wonder why they haven’t. I guess I know the answer though…and that is precisely why we feel so strongly about transitioning to the full-time lifestyle NOW!

Saturday, December 12, 2009


“Believe” hear it a lot this time of year. Believe in Santa Claus. Believe in the spirit of Christmas.

Well, "Believe" has also been our mantra this year. Believe in our intuition. Believe that we have the strength and courage to follow our dreams. Believe that this is what we're meant to do. Believe in ourselves.

Last year for Christmas I got a page-a-day calendar title “Believing in Ourselves” which features inspiring quotes from well-known women from all walks of life. While I wait for my computer to boot up at work each morning, I read the quote for that day. Each time I found one that particularly resonated with me, I stuck the page on my wall. Whenever I had a bad day, I’d pull the pages down and read through them. They’ve definitely been a source of strength to me when I struggle to get through the day or find myself with second thoughts on what we’re about to do . One thing that amazes me is that several of these are from early in the year, even before Tracy and I began our discussions. Must have been my subconscious speaking! I suspect that they will continue to provide support long after this year comes to an end. Here are several of my favorites:

Part of the adventure in life is not always knowing what’s going to happen next, and the next part may be grander than your original plan. The key to enjoying the journey is being open to the unknown. ~Kristine Carlson (author)

Begin doing what you want do to now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand – and melting like a snowflake. ~Marie Beynon Ray (writer)

Live your life while you have it. Life is a splendid gift. There is nothing small in it. For the greatest things grow by God’s Law out of the smallest. ~Florence Nightingale

Have confidence in yourself and tell yourself “you can” twice for every time you are told “you can’t”. Confidence that you can succeed is everything. Take every negative remark as a challenge to achieve more and progress to newer heights. You are able to do anything you believe you can do. You might even surprise yourself. ~Alinda Wikert (first female owner of airline)

Faith and doubt both are needed – not as antagonists, but working side by side – to take us around the unknown curve. ~Lillian Smith (writer)

The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience. ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Don’t wait around for other people to be happy for you. Any happiness you get you’ve got to make yourself. ~Alice Walker (author)

Remember always that you have not only the right to be an individual; you have an obligation to be one. You cannot make any useful contribution in life unless you do this. ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Let us never confuse stability with stagnation. ~Mary Jean LeTendre (educator and government official)

Very early, I knew that the only object in life was to grow. ~Margaret Fuller (writer)

People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed. ~Audrey Hepburn

To change skins, evolve into new cycles, I feel one has to learn to discard. If one changes internally, one should not continue to live with the same objects. They reflect one’s mind and psyche of yesterday. I throw away what has no dynamic, living use. ~Anais Nin (writer)

I never quite believed that one chance is all I get. ~Anne Tyler (novelist)

We need to nurture, feed, and cleanse our spirits in the same way we care for our appearance and physical health. ~Kristine Carlson (author)

Faith is the very first thing you should pack in a hope chest. ~Sarah Ban Breatnach (author)

It’s good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters, in the end. ~Ursula Le Guin (writer)

People say that you’re going the wrong way when it’s simply a way of your own. ~Angelina Jolie

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The end of a tradition

Traditions…this time of year is chocked full of them. And as we continue through the holiday season we find ourselves often thinking about how different things will be next year. Or will they?

One of our annual traditions on the Saturday after Thanksgiving week is to stand in line for a KBCO Studio C CD. KBCO is a local radio station in Boulder, CO. Many years ago they started inviting traveling musicians who were in town for a show to stop by the studio and play a live song or two. This all started in what was basically a closet; eventually they built a separate studio, which is named “Studio C”. They record the appearances and then pick the “best” for a compilation CD at the end of the year. They only produce a limited number CDs and frequently sell out in a few hours. So it has become a tradition for many folks to get up early and stand in line for hours – outside in the Colorado winter! – in order to get one. Some people actually set up tents and spend the night…we’re not that crazy! I don’t know if the interest has dwindled over the years or if the economy is to blame, but this year they didn’t sell out until the next day. It was a little disappointing to think we got up early and stood in the cold when we could have waltzed in at noon, but this being our last year in town, we felt that we had to do it one last time. But it’s worth it, especially since all of the proceeds go to charity. We feel it’s a win-win – we can do some good while getting a unique collection of music in return. This year is the 21st year. We don’t have originals from some of the early years, but do have a total of about 15 and copies of all the rest. Some of the artists from this year include The Fray, David Gray, Susan Tedeschi, Brandi Carlisle and Ziggy Marley. Hopefully, one of our close friends will send us copies in future years (we're counting on you Sean!).

One of our other annual holiday traditions is that Tracy and I buy one ornament which reflects the past year. We’ve been doing this since our first Christmas together. When pulling out our Christmas ornaments, we always pause and open the box which contains “our ornaments” together. We usually sit for a few minutes and talk about each one. It’s a great way to remember special memories from years past. This year I found it a bit ironic when we uncovered our ornament from our first year, 2001. It is an RV! Now, to be honest, I don’t really remember why we picked out this ornament. We didn’t own an RV. We had only been together for a couple of months. I think we might have talked about how fun it would be to travel in an RV someday, but it was more in the essence of ‘wouldn’t it be cool to fly to the moon’. So it makes me wonder…was it a premonition? Is it yet another sign that this is our destiny?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A new symbol for our new life

We continue to take baby steps toward our new future. Sometimes it’s as simple as organizing the garage (thanks Tracy!), finding one more item to purge or finalizing yet another decision. It feels good to continually recognize progress, even if it does seem like a very slow pace at times.

As I mentioned in my last post, one of the household items we recently liquidated was our everyday dishes. We had a bit of an emotional attachment to these – we had searched for just the right dishes for months. But they were stoneware and therefore big and heavy, so we knew that we’d have to let them go eventually. As destiny would have it, an opportunity arose that allowed us to help a good friend while still receiving a fair price in return. It was a win-win for both parties and it just felt right, so we sold our dishes earlier than we expected. But in trying to look at the glass half-full (oh wait, we sold those too!), this gave us an excuse to begin shopping for our new home! Now this is fun!!

We weren’t really sure what we were looking for, other than they needed to be lightweight and sturdy, but not appear cheap. The only options we could come up with were Corelle or melamine, both of which immediately feel on the cheap side to me. But we looked at them anyway. We first went to Target and didn’t see anything we liked; then we went to the Corelle store. There were a couple of patterns we could live with, but nothing with the ‘it’ factor. We checked out Bed, Bath and Beyond but they didn’t have anything and we weren’t sure where else to look locally, so we started searching online.

We looked at several different websites but still weren’t finding anything that excited us. Then we discovered that Pfaltzgraff, the brand of stoneware we had, also carries a line of melamine dishes. Immediately we landed on a pattern – dragonflies – because the pattern was fairly simple and it was nature-related. They just spoke to us and I began to wonder about the symbolism of dragonflies (I’ve come to believe that everything has a meaning!)

Dragonflies symbolize different things for many different cultures, but every meaning seemed like it was appropriate for our situation. Here are a few of the representations:

Dragonflies often represent renewal, positive force and power of life in general.

Dragonflies are a symbol of the sense of self that comes with maturity.

As a creature of the wind, a dragonfly frequently represents change. It’s iridescent wings are incredibly sensitive to the slightest breeze and so we are reminded to heed “where the wind blows”.

Dragonflies are also creatures of water, which carries a symbolism relative to the subconscious, or dreaming.

Further symbolic meaning can be observed by the dragonfly’s mode of transportation as it skitters across the top of water surfaces. This implies that our deeper thoughts are surfacing and we must be mindful of the outcome we wish to have.

For Native Americans, dragonflies are often symbols of change, communication from the elemental world and messages of enlightenment and wisdom. The dragonfly’s lessons are to give thanks for food, discard illusions that prevent people from restricted ideas and actions and changing negative habits into positive ones.

And as a dragonfly lives a short life, it knows it must live its life to the fullest with the short amount of time it has.

Hmmm, let’s summarize: renewal, change, dreaming, maturity, harmony, positive thinking and living life! Yep, it all fits! So we ordered the dishes. I still wasn’t sure if I’d like the melamine, but the online pictures looked nice so we figured we’d give it a try. We could always return them.

Last night when we got home from work there was a big box on the front porch. I couldn’t wait to rip it open. We are very pleased. We thought the background was white, but they’re actually an off-white which I think makes them look richer. Hopefully they’ll still look good after everyday use.

So now we can officially say that we’ve bought the first item for our new we just need the home!

Picture of our new dishes :)

Friday, November 20, 2009


Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish. ~John Quincy Adams

All things come to he who waits, provided he knows what he is waiting for. ~ Woodrow Wilson

Patience is the key to paradise. ~ Turkish proverb

These quotes seem to fit our situation perfectly. And patience has been our focus as of late because we're basically in wait-mode. We are waiting until after the holidays to put our house up for sale. We are waiting until the January RV show in Denver to start seriously shopping for an fifth wheel (although we continue to research). But we also need the house to sell in order to buy the RV. We are also waiting until the house goes under contract before we sell some of our major stuff like furniture and car and before I tell my employer that I will be leaving. Tracy already shared the news with hers, but hasn't given a hard date. It feels like all we're doing is waiting for time to pass...

I've not blogged recently, mostly because I didn't feel like I had much to report. But we do continue to make small progress, especially in the area of purging. Our garage sale a few weeks ago introduced us to a gentleman who was interested in buying some of our large items - elliptical machine, pool table, bar. He was in the process of finishing his house and wasn't in a position to make a deal that day, but we kept in touch with him. He came by tonight and gave us the payment in full for all three pieces, although he won't be taking them until he can bring along some helpers. We have no problem holding the stuff as long as we have the cash. I'll be making a trip to the bank tomorrow morning to make the deposit! :)

We have also been able to get rid of some of our household items. A friend of ours is in the process of moving into an apartment and doesn't have much in the way of the basics. So it worked out great for us. There were several things leftover from the garage sale which he could use, as well as some of the household items from our current RV. After all, we won't be needing 2 sets of things. We also sold him our dish set, which we weren't exactly planning to sell quite yet, but we knew it was a good opportunity. They are a nice Pfaltzgraff stoneware set, but way too heavy for RVing. They had to go eventually. We still have some mismatched pieces from old sets and our cheapo dishes from the RV, so we'll get along fine for awhile. But it will also give us incentive to go shopping for our new dishes soon!

Speaking of shopping, it is so hard not to continue to accumulate stuff. Now I'm not a real big shopper, be we did just make a Kohls run last week and replenished some of our clothing. We are trying to live by the one in, one out rule, but we have yet to discard anything after this trip. We are justifying it to ourselves that we just did a big purge of clothing, but we probably need to be a little more strict. I know there are things that are worn and old, our "weekend" clothes, but how many of those do you really need? And then the other night we were walking by a book/gift store and decided to go in. Of course I kept finding books that I wanted. It was a spiritual store and there were many books about achieving your dreams and following your instincts. As I read the synopsis, I kept saying 'hey that sounds just like us!' It would have been fun to read a few of them, but we walked out without buying any. Small victory! After all, we have a stack of books to get through before we leave. And then, most of our reading will be done through our Kindles, which I prefer to physical books anyway.

We know that time will go by fast now that the holidays are upon us. We need to spend the next month doing a few cosmetic things to the house in order to have it ready to go on the market. Luckily, there's nothing major we need to do, but it's hard to get motivated to fix up the house for someone else. I hate to invest any amount of money in it not knowing if it will really make a difference in the end.

So in the meantime, we will continue to work on our patience. That is not something I'm very good at, but practice makes perfect, right? And we have a lot of practice ahead of us!

Until next time, Happy Thanksgiving. We sure do have a lot to give thanks for this year! :)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Life Uncommon

On our way to the Rally last month, I put together an RV-Dreams playlist for our iPod. I didn't have as much time as I would have liked to listen to all of the lyrics, so I ended up selecting many songs just based on their titles. One of these songs was "Life Uncommon" by Jewel. I have since listened to it many times and each tim I am amazed at how perfect the lyrics are. We are ready for a life uncommon! (the editor of this tool leaves little to be desired and won't space the lyrics correctly, but you can still read them)

Life Uncommon
Don't worry mother, it'll be alright
And don't worry sister, say your prayers and sleep tonight
It'll be fine lover of mine
It'll be just fine

Lend your voices only to sounds of freedom
No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from
Fill your lives with love and bravery
And you shall lead a life uncommon

I've heard your anguish
I've heard your hearts cry out
We are tired, we are weary, but we aren't worn out
Set down your chains, until only faith remains

There are plenty of people who pray for peace
But if praying were enough it would have come to be
Let your words enslave no one and the heavens will hush themselves
To hear our voices ring out clear
With the sounds of freedom

Come on you unbelievers, move out of the way
There is a new army coming and we are armed with faith
To live, we must give


Monday, November 2, 2009

Pieces falling into place...and a birthday present for Tracy!

What a whirlwind week it has been. Life is moving quickly and things seem to be working out better than we ever could have anticipated. The only explanation I can offer is that we must be destined to do this. But let me back up a little bit...

We were scheduled to have our first major garage sale on Saturday and 3 days before, a major winter storm hit and we were buried under 2 feet of snow. I began to wonder if the universe was trying to tell us something. After all, who’s going to come to a garage sale when it is buried under snow? I was just hoping that all of the hard work we put into it wasn’t going to go to waste. But as often happens, I found out that I had nothing to worry about. Typical of Colorado weather, once the snow stopped, the sun came out and temperatures rose quickly. Saturday was a beautiful day with bright sunshine and temperatures in the 60’s. What a great day for a garage sale! We didn’t have as much traffic as I had hoped and some of the items, like winter clothing, didn’t sell like I expected, but overall the people who did show up were ready to spend money. We managed to get rid of quite a bit of stuff and made $475! All in all, not a bad day.

While we were stuck inside during the storm, I decided to search for trucks. This is something we’ve been doing quite frequently in the last few weeks; basically just to monitor what’s available and to get an idea of how much we should expect to spend. We figured we’d start seriously shopping in January. Besides, we still had a lot of truck education to gain before then. Well, to my surprise I found a used 2008 Ford F450 in mint condition with low mileage at a local dealer. I showed Tracy and we agreed that it might be worth a look at some point, but we had a busy weekend coming up. So we set it aside and continued our preparation for the garage sale. But neither of us could stop thinking about it. Tracy even suggested that a truck would make a nice birthday present! :) So the next day I contacted the dealer to find out if it was still available. It was! But we still didn’t know when we’d have time to go see it. In the meantime, I posted some questions to the RV-Dreams forum seeking advice. Some of these folks have done tremendous research on trucks and have far more knowledge than I do. When I got home from work on Friday afternoon, Tracy said, “let’s go see the truck”. We figured it wouldn’t hurt to just look, right? (ha!) We took it for a test drive and were impressed. It looks big from the outside but didn’t feel all that different from our Explorer. It was also very quiet and pretty smooth for a large diesel truck. We asked that it be brought into one of the showroom bays so that we could see it in the light. It still looked great. But we were adamant about sleeping on it before making any decisions. After a restless night, we were still conflicted about it. Buying a truck this early was not in our plans. What if something happened in the next 6 months to change our mind? Then we’d be stuck with a big truck. Also we’d have to finance it until the house sold, so now we’re incurring more debt instead of reducing debt. But we just couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a rare find. We already knew that there weren’t a lot of 450s in the area, and we had yet to see a used one. The cost of this one was about half of what we’d have to pay if we bought a new one. And a new one was really going to stretch our budget and probably require us to make sacrifices on the fifth wheel. So we waffled back and forth all day on Saturday while running the garage sale. In the midst of that, I was receiving a lot of great information and advice from the forum. As soon as 3:00 hit (the scheduled end to our sale), we shut the doors and headed to the dealer. And as you’ve guessed by now, we bought the truck! So we are now proud owners of a 1-ton diesel dually! She has been christened as Frieda B. (a.k.a. Free To Be) . Happy early birthday (and Christmas…and Valentines Day…and Anniversary…) Tracy!!

Tracy and Hunter ready to hit the road...wait for me! :)

As if that wasn’t enough for the weekend, we also have a strong lead for a job next summer. Again, this wasn’t in our plans. We had planned to spend our first summer in Alaska. We want to visit while the kids are still living there, but we also figured that it would best to go while we had excess funds. If we aren’t able to make as much money as we hope, we may not be able to afford to go to Alaska in future years. It’s a long drive which means high gas expenses and the cost of living is higher. But on the other hand, we don’t know if we want to pass up a good opportunity. There would be a certain level of comfort in making an income right away. It would allow us to get settled and figure out our expenditures while still bringing money in. And it would provide us with good experience for similar jobs in the future. So once again, we are a little conflicted about what to do. But most everything so far as worked themselves out, so we are going to have faith that whatever is meant to be will happen. And even if it doesn't work out for 2010, hopefully we'll be on the top of the list for 2011.

To wrap up the week, we can finally report that we have told our most of our family and close friends. There are still a couple of friends that we have yet to connect with, but we are making progress. And it has gone much smoother than anticipated. While some concerns were raised, everyone was very supportive. I think that it is very clear that we have done our homework and we are trying to make smart decisions. I think it is also apparent that we already have our minds made up. This is not a decision that we’re still pondering…this is a conclusion that we have already reached. Most of the reactions have been excitement mixed with a little envy. Not one person has called us crazy, at least to our faces! Of course everyone has some concerns, but so do we, and we appreciate hearing all of them. So far all of the concerns that have been brought to our attention have been ones that we pondered ourselves and have been able to work through them or at least admit to them. So I guess all of that anxiety that we harbored over breaking the news was pretty much for naught!

Phew, I feel a bit exhausted. I feel like we turned a corner this week. Even though we had mentally made the decision, it still felt a bit like a dream. We had given ourselves some dates, we had gotten rid of some excess junk, and we had shared our dreams with a few people, but we had yet to make any major commitments. We are no longer wondering “can we really do this?”, but are now saying “oh s*%$, we are really doing this”! We are more certain than ever that we are making the right decision. After all, if it wasn't meant to be, would all of the pieces really be falling into place so easily?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Operation PURGE

It’s not for the faint of heart! And it sure is a lot of work!! Unfortunately, one of the must do’s of making the transition from house to RV is getting rid of stuff…lots and lots of stuff. We have begun this process in earnest. We are having a our first major garage sale this weekend. It may seem like a strange time to have a garage sale in Colorado…that’s what I thought initially too. Especially after shoveling 2 feet of snow over the last 2 days! But we thought this would be the perfect time to dispose of winter clothing and Christmas decorations. Although some of the winter items we're rethinking, such as my heavy duty snow boots!

We’ve been prepping for this sale for weeks. First, there is the task of going through the closets, garage, and basement to identify items we’re willing to part with and sorting out the sellable versus the trash. That alone is tough. We’ve kept this stuff this long because we thought there would be a need for it “someday”. Isn’t that how we all find ourselves buried under so much stuff? What if that “someday” shows up tomorrow? Then there are the emotions to deal with too. “Things” evoke memories and sometimes it’s hard to remember that the memories will still exist long after the things are gone. And then there are the things that were gifts. Some may even be homemade. And you feel guilty about parting with them, even though they may have been shoved in the back of the closet for years. Even once you get past all of this, you're still not ready to open the doors.

Once all the stuff is sorted, it's time to have to figure out how much to ask for it. This is hard because you perceive value in each of these things. After all, you spent your hard earned money on accumulating these things and you don’t want to just give them away. But it's important to remain focused on the primary goal of the sale – to reduce, to eliminate, to purge! So things need to be priced to sell and often that can be far below what they're really worth.

Although I’d rather be doing something more fun with my free time, I’m willing to put in the time and effort. Especially since I know what reward is awaiting me. And surprisingly, it hasn’t been all that emotional…yet! I’m sure that part will get harder when we really start getting down to the nitty gritty. So far, this is still all ‘excess’ stuff we really haven’t used much in years. The harder part for me has been trying to figure out how to price the stuff. A lot of this is good quality, name brand stuff. And maybe because I know that we are moving into a life of significantly reduced income, I want to make every dollar I can. Finding the right balance is difficult. I guess we just have to hope that the law of averages plays out – some things will be a steal while others will bring in more than expected. And I have to continually remind myself that if we don’t sell it now, we’ll probably just end up giving it to Goodwill, so every dollar we make now is a bonus!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

It is all so overwhelming! There are so many things to consider when transitioning to become a fulltimer…more than I ever imagined. Fifth wheel or motorhome? What kind of tow or towed vehicle? Which options are critical vs which are nice-to-haves? Which state to establish residency? Which mail forwarding service to use? What health insurance plan? How to support ourselves? And those are just the questions relating to our future life. We have to get there first by selling our house and all of our stuff, which requires a whole different set of decisions!

To add to the difficulty, there are no right answers. Everyone has opinions and everyone’s situation is somewhat different. For some, a motorhome is the way to go; for others, only a fifth wheel will do. Each has their pros and cons. And each requires some amount of trade-off. We are finding that this is true for almost every decision we have to make. Although having options is a good thing, sometimes I think it would be easier if there was only one way to go (especially considering how decision-deficient we are) !

So here are some of the decisions we've been pondering recently:

Type of rig: pretty much since we made the decision to go fulltime, we were set on a motorhome. I guess there was a sense of comfort since we've owned 2 motorhomes and have towed a car. But as we learned more about fifth wheels, we have completely changed our minds. Although I am nervous about towing such a big unit (even though everything I've read and heard says that they're easy), there are many reasons so many fulltimers go this route. First of all, they have a more homey feel. The floorplans tend to be more open with more space for both living and storage. This is something that we have to seriously consider with an 80-pound dog who needs his soft bed and a cat with a litter box. We don't want to have to be tripping over them or their stuff. The fifth wheel also seems to be more suited for staying in one place for longer periods of time, which we believe we will do. There will be the occassional overnighters and minimal day stays, but for the most part we anticipate staying put anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months. There are a lot of other benefits too but I could probably write an entire blog on just those, so I'll move on for now.

Tow vehicle: the decision of a fifth wheel led to the need to educate ourselves about diesel trucks, not something I ever thought I'd be doing. The size of the fifth wheels we're considering will most likely require a 1-ton dually pickup. And even if we thought we could get by with a 3/4 ton, everything we've read suggests getting more truck than you need, so we'll probably just make the investment up front. It all gets very complicated with weights of not only the trailer but all the stuff you pack into it, including water and gas. I'm not sure I really understand it all, but I'm learning more everyday! And here is one of those trade-offs I mentioned. I'm not thrilled with having to drive a big truck as my primary vehicle. A lot of fulltimers with fifth wheels end up having a 2nd car, which the 2nd person drives separately. We may decide to go this route eventually, but we don't really like the idea of having to drive separately or having the expense of a 2nd car, so to start out we're going to stick to one vehicle.

State of residency: we've just started looking into this, but just like everything else, there are many factors to consider. State income tax is a big one. Because we're going to be working, we don't want to be 'double-dipped'. Both your state of residency and the state you worked in require you to pay state income tax. That's a big reason why people set up residency in a state which doesn't have any state income tax. There are several of these, but TX and SD are the most popular. Your state of residency also affects your insurance rates, both health insurance and vehicle insurance. We still need to do more research on this - I don't know how much of an impact that will be. Another big factor is how easy it is to set up residency knowing that you don't plan to be there physically. Voting, renewing licenses, etc all have to be considered. Also, I believe some states have stricter rules on establishing residency. And then, of course, the availability of a reliable mail forwarding service has to be considered. Right now, we're leaning toward TX because of the Escapees club services, but we've also thought about SD so as we learn more about the insurance, that may cause us to change our minds.

So you can see with just the few topics above, how much energy is put into every decision. I can't imagine anyone being able to make such a major transition in the spur of a moment. We frequently find ourselves getting frustrated because even if we come to some conclusions, many of the decisions can’t be executed yet. It seems like so many are dependent upon something else happening, and ultimately most are dependent upon selling the house. It just doesn't feel like things are progressing as quickly as we would like them to, but I guess that's just impatience speaking. So as hard as it is, we're trying to stay focused on what we can do now - get rid of stuff, get rid of more stuff, and then even more! This is not the fun part of the journey, but I know it has to be done and the more we can get done now, the less it will stress us out later.

My head is spinning, as it does almost everynight. I'm sure looking forward to reaching the simpler life!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Breaking The News (Emotional Aspects cont.)

As I discussed in a previous post, there are many emotional aspects to making such a life changing decision. One of my biggest points of anxiety, so far, has been how to ‘break the news’ to our immediate family. Until a few weeks ago, our decision to go full-time existed only between us. We talked about it extensively, but had not told anyone else (with the exception of joining the RV-Dreams forum and we didn’t yet know any of those people personally!). But by keeping it secret, it didn’t feel real. So we tested the waters by telling a few friends. This felt pretty safe because we were fairly certain we would receive positive responses. Then we attended the RV Dreams rally (see my previous post) where we knew we would have the utmost support. That really catapulted our dream into reality, so now it is time to start sharing our plans with our loved ones and I am nervous about the reactions we will receive.

I don’t know why this feels so hard. After all, what is the worst that could happen? Will I be told that I am foolish? Probably. Will they be disappointed? Maybe. Will they disown me? Doubtful. Will they support our decision? I don’t know, but hopefully they will eventually come to accept it. Will they still love us? Yes.

Part of me feels like a child again…seeking approval and not wanting to disappoint. But we left childhood long ago and have been making our own decisions for many years now. So why should it really matter? After all we’re not asking for approval. We would very much like to have support and understanding, but even if we don’t get that, we’ll still move forward with our plans. I’m sure I’ve made other decisions that resulted in disappointment and I’ve certainly made my share of mistakes, but isn’t that just part of life?

I appreciate that most reactions will stem primarily out of concern for our well-being. I know our families don’t want to see us make a mistake which will result in our suffering. Although we don’t think this is a mistake, I can understand how some may disagree. I also accept that it may be difficult for some to ever be comfortable with the idea of such an uncommon lifestyle. It certainly isn’t right for everyone. But we’re not asking anyone else to live this lifestyle. We believe that it is right for us and we’re the ones willing to give it a shot.

But all of this rationalizing doesn’t alleviate the anxiety. Sometimes I wonder if I’m making more of this than there really needs to be. That sure would be nice. Either way, I know the time has come to “bite the bullet”. And I hope this blog will help in the aftermath. Providing a resource for those who are struggling with our decision was one of the main reasons I decided to start a blog. I often find it easier to share my thoughts and feelings in writing and I hope that some of what I write makes sense to others. And even if it doesn’t, it’s been good for me!

So here it goes. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

2009 RV Dreams Rally - October 7-11

We just returned from the RV Dreams Rally in Kerrville, TX and what a great event it was! RV Dreams is a website that I stumbled across earlier this year. It was started by a couple, Howard and Linda Payne, who in their mid-40’s did exactly what we are planning to do – chucked it all and hit the road. They’ve been full-timing for 4+ years now and have built a tremendous following. From the first day I found the website, there was a strong connection. As I read through their decision to make such a radical lifestyle change, I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. Here was someone who was telling my story. How did he get inside my head? I was so flabbergasted that I sent the Paynes an email that day thanking them for putting themselves out there. The website is full of information and I continue to learn more everyday. I would highly recommend that anyone who wants to learn more about the RV lifestyle check it out: Howard continues to post a daily journal and the website also contains a very active forum.

We decided to attend the rally because we thought it would be a great way to “get our hands wet”, learn from those who are actually doing it, and we wanted to meet Howard and Linda in person. We got all that we expected and much more! We discovered that RV Dreams is so much more than a website…it is a family. A few of the attendees had met in person previously, but for the most part people had only communicated online or were new to the family. We met so many nice people, about half of whom are currently full-timing and half who are wanna-bes like us. As we had hoped, we did learn a lot, but I think the biggest thing we left with is the reassurance that we can successfully do this. The support is amazing. It’s like this underground community that most of the world doesn’t even know exists. Everyone is so willing to share their knowledge and their experiences. But more than that, they put themselves out there and are only a forum post, an email or a phone call away. We expect to have our share of stumbles, but knowing that we’ll always have someone to help us get back up on our feet (or our wheels, as it may be) is truly comforting.

So many of you are probably wondering what an RV Rally consists of. Well, I’m sure they’re all different, but here’s a rundown of ours:
  • We arrived Wednesday about noon. The afternoon was pretty open, with the check-in running from 12-5. That gave us time to finish getting set up and meet a couple of our neighbors. Dinner that evening was a catered Texas BBQ, which was followed by a “get-to-know-you” exercise of RVing tips and tricks. Wow, did we learn a lot from that! It all ended around 10 and we were tired, so we hit the sack.
  • Thursday started at 9 with seminars on Full-timing Preparations, Emotional Aspects of Full-timing, and The Cost of Full-Timing. We had the rest of the afternoon to prepare for the chili cook-off that night. 15 attendees, including Tracy, participated in the cook-off. The judges got a sample from each pot and then they were open to the rest of us. Tracy didn’t place in the top 3, but we had fun and enjoyed a lot of good chili. The evening ended with “Your Favorite RV Accessory” Show and Tell. Once again, a great educational experience!
  • Friday contained seminars on No Right Way to Fulltime, Buying an RV, and Packing for Fulltiming. The afternoon was filled with some vendor demonstrations and preparing for the potluck that evening. I had volunteered Tracy and myself to coordinate the potluck. Although there really wasn’t that much work involved, we felt some responsibility for a successful evening. Why we worried (ok, we didn’t worry that much), I don’t know! Of course it was a success. We had a ton of delicious food and I don’t think anyone walked away hungry. The evening’s entertainment was RV Humor with Howard (as in Howard Payne, mentioned above). I think he was a little nervous but it turned out great. Laughter aplenty. Another great day.
  • Saturday – could this really be our last full day? – started off with seminars on Working on the Road, Choosing a Campground, and Boondocking/Solar (boondocking is living without hookups to electric, water or sewer). The afternoon was filled with rig walk-throughs. Many of the attendees were nice enough to open their rigs and allow us to see their floor plans and customizations they made. Yet another eye-opening experience. Prior to this, Tracy and I were pretty much set against a 5th wheel. After towing the pop-up, we really didn’t want to tow something that big, although I know it’s completely different. But after learning a little more about them, we are now rethinking our decision. There are a lot of pros to a 5th wheel, and although we’re not totally sold, we will definitely keep our options open. The evening commenced with a catered dinner of a Texas-sized pork chop – yes, Tracy was not excited, but she was able to get an extra potato and salad – and then a square dance. We were on the floor for almost every dance and had a blast. And I’m sure we provided a lot of humor for the spectators!
  • Sunday morning offered a catered breakfast, a quick good-bye message, lots of hugs and a few tears. It was really hard to leave, but we had a long drive ahead of us. We wanted to get as many miles behind us on Sunday so that we’d get home early enough on Monday to get the rig winterized.
The drive was long -- boy, do we look forward to the day that we don't have such tight timelines -- but the trip was well worth it. Every mile we got closer to home, I felt a little more depressed. We always experience a little sadness dropping the rig off in storage after a trip, but this was worse. Prior to this trip, we had a dream that we were pretty certain we would achieve someday, but it still felt pretty far out of reach. The Rally gave us a few days to actually live the dream and it was everything we envisioned and more…but then we had to hand it back. It’s like being given the cookie your mouth has been watering for, but only to be allowed to take one small bite. We had a taste of the good life and we want more!

The next 6-9 months are going to be very difficult. We know we have a lot to do and hopefully that will make the days go by quickly, but it’s going to be really hard sitting at work every day knowing that we could be making so much more progress at home. But we’ll get there, one way or another.

As we try to focus on the positives, we are pleased with ourselves for taking one more step closer to achieving our dream. Normally, we’d shy away from these types of events. Being a bit timid, it is not always easy for us to reach out and meet new people, but this group made it easy and welcomed us with open arms. While RVers are generally known as being friendly folk, the RV Dreams group is special and we are proud to call ourselves family members.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Emotional Aspects

Any life changing decision can evoke plenty of emotions and this one is no different. But we were not really expecting the variety and magnitude of what we continue to experience. So far, this journey has been one big emotional roller coaster. One day, we're absolutely certain that this is our destiny; the next, we wonder if we've lost our minds. We have found ourselves excited for the upcoming adventure, guilty for not living up to the expectations set for us, sad at the thought of having to get rid of so many of our valued belongings, overwhelmed at how much there is to do, and scared out of our minds about the unknown future...sometimes all at once! But what we've learned from others who have preceded us down this road is that all of this is quite normal. I suspect that many of the questions we've been agonizing over will be the same ones that our family and friends will ponder as well, so I wanted to share some of them here. I don't know if it will offer comfort for those who are concerned about our plans, but putting my thoughts 'down on paper' helps me to understand them better and hopefully will help some of those who follow us in this journey.

Are we crazy?
We have a life that so many would love to have, especially during the current hard economic times. We both have steady jobs which provide us a comfortable living. We are both well respected in our workplaces and feel pretty secure about being able to retain our jobs for the long term (although that could change in a heartbeat). We own a home, 2 fairly new cars, a fairly new RV, and lots of nice 'stuff'. We can afford to eat out, go on vacations, and for the most part do whatever we choose. So why would we want to give this all up to live in a few hundred square feet with very few 'things' and no idea where our next paycheck will come from? It just doesn't seem logical. And it's not, which has been very difficult for me to digest being the far left-brained type of person that I am. But there are times in life that you just have to trust your heart. And more often than not, I'd suspect that most of our gut instincts are spot on. Both our hearts and guts are telling us that we need to go for this. This is the right decision and the right time. We've done our homework and we know the risks, but we also have an inkling of the rewards. Our heads are serving as the devil's advocate, but I think that's good because it keeps us cautious and alert. So in Billy Joel's words, "You may be right, I may be crazy". And in all honesty, I don't think we'd have the courage to do this if we weren't slightly off our rockers!.

If the traditional lifestyle is good enough for your family, friends, coworkers and neighbors, why isn't it good enough for you?
I don't know. I've asked myself this question more times than I care to admit. Is there something wrong with me? Do I have a mental ailment? Do I have some form of A-D-D? Do I have some other disease? I believe the answer to all 4 questions is 'no'. As I touched upon in Our Decision page, I believe that there are people who have some gypsy blood in them and we fall into that category. Why should we have to settle for something that doesn't feel quite right for us? Don't we all have the right to live our lives as we choose, as long as we're not harming others? We've tried the traditional lifestyle and now we're ready to try something different. Different strokes for different folks.

Aren't we worried about giving up the security of a regular paycheck? How do we expect to support ourselves?
I would say being self-sufficient is our number-one concern. It is very scary to trade in a secure source of income for the unknown. I wish I could honestly state that we have everything figured out and we know exactly where our next job will be and how much we will be making. But that would be a lie. What I can say is that we've identified many potential sources of income. And while we hope that at least one of these will always be profitable, there is no guarantee. There very well could be times that we aren't able to land the type of job that we were hoping for, but that is what our safety net is for. We have committed to maintaining at least 1-year's worth of expenses. And if we have to 'borrow' from this for a while until something comes through, that's what it's for. After all, is this really any different than the traditional lifestyle? Are there really ever any guarantees? Isn't that why we all try to store away some money for those unexpected hard times? We believe that one of the biggest keys to success will be flexibility. We are willing to do just about any type of job...after all it will only be temporary. And by living in a house on wheels, we can pick up and move to a more profitable area if needed. The other critical key to success is faith in ourselves. We have a variety of marketable skills. Those combined with a good work ethic, easy-to-get-along-with personality, and the desire to succeed...who wouldn't want to hire us? :)

Do we have enough restraint to strictly follow a limited budget?
While we currently have a budget and we track our income and expenses at a pretty detailed level, it's mostly monitored after-the-fact. We hope we stay in the ballpark, but we have enough of a slush-fund built in that if we miss the mark, it's not too big of a deal. That will need to change because we don't anticipate being able to handle much excess. Of course, we'll have a catastophic fund for those emergencies, but I'm talking day-to-day expenses. We may not necessarily be able to go out to dinner because we don't feel like cooking. We may not be able to buy that shirt just because we like it. Since our sources and frequency of income are unkown, it's a bit unsettling because we really don't know how much we'll have to sacrafice. If it begins to feel like we're sacraficing too much or if we're working more than we want to so that we don't have to sacrafice, that will probably be the point that we decide that this lifestyle no longer works for us. But until then, I expect to be a little more thoughtful about how and where we spend our money. After all, isn't that something we should be doing today anyway?

How can we justify selling our house, which is typically an appreciating investment, for an RV, which could depreciate as much as 30% as soon as it's driven off the lot?
As I've mentioned before, many of the decisions that go along with this lifestyle are not logical. This is one of them. From a strictly financial perspective, this is probably one of the stupidest moves we could make. But this is not all about money. Actually, it's not about money at all. It's about happiness. I don't want to find myself at the end of my life full of regrets for not taking a chance on my heart. Honestly, I can't imagine much worse. So back to the house thing. I've tried to imagine the worst-case scenario: we sell the house, spend all of the proceeds and then can no longer live the nomadic lifestyle. We can't afford to buy another house, so we end up having to rent until we can save up enough for a donwpayment. Either that or maybe our grandkids will be old enough by then to support us! We've admitted that this is a risky lifestyle, but so is signing a 30-year mortgage with no guarantees that the house will appreciate or that you'll always be able to afford the payments. I didn't even touch on the catastrophes that happen everyday which lead to foreclosures and such. In that realm, the low cost of fulltiming makes far more sense!

How can we feel comfortable with disposing of all of our 'stuff'?
Just like all of the questions above, this is an agonizing one. Do we keep everything and pay for a storage unit in case we change our minds in a year or two? Do we get rid of everything and re-accumulate if and when we go back to a 'sticks n bricks'? There will undoubtedly be some things that we just can't get rid of. What do we do with those? We certainly don't have all of the answers, but we've decided to land somewhere in the middle. We plan to rent a storage unit for the sentimental items and a few bare basics needed to re-establish a permanent household. If after a few years we are fairly certain that we will continue the nomadic lifestyle, then we will get rid of the basics and give the sentimental items to family and friends. This will no doubt be easier said than done; but the important thing to keep in mind is that getting rid of tangible items does not equate to getting rid of memories. It is the memories that we will always have with us and cherish most. We are also aware that just because we come to terms with shedding our belongings, doesn't mean that it will come as easily for those who are close to us. There may be items which some will take offense to our discarding of because they were gifts. It may be perceived as a slap in the face or that we didn't value the item. This will be a hard situation because the last thing we want to do is cause anyone pain. But we hope that if these circumstances do arise, we will be able to diffuse them with some heart-to-heart discussions and comprimises. And I think it's important to remember that these same issues arise in the traditional world too. So we're really not all that different.

While we may be able to leave 'stuff' behind, how can we so easily leave our family and friends?
Although the initial departure from our current hometown will no doubt be emotional, we believe that the opportunity to strengthen existing relationships and build new ones will be one of the primary advantages of hitting the road. First of all, just because we're leaving doesn't mean we won't be back. As we're passing through we will have the flexibility to stay for a few weeks. And it's very likely that we'll choose somewhere nearby to spend a season or two. Because we won't be bogged down by the stressors of work and home, we anticipate that the time spent will be much higher quality. And just because we're not living in a traditional house doesn't mean that we won't expect visitors. We plan to spend time in some very cool places and while we may not be able to offer a bed in our domicile, many campgrounds have cabins or RVs for rent or there will be lodging nearby. With the ease of communications these days, it will be rare that we will be out of touch. We hope to be living a very exciting life which we plan to share often. As our parents age, it is worrisome for us not to be nearby. But with the flexibility that this lifestyle offers, all we have to do is pack up and we can be there in a matter of days. And in the case of an emergency, there's always airplanes. Once again, these are struggles that many people encounter today, whether they are living a traditional or nomadic lifestyle.

And what about other relationships, such as doctors, dentists, and other service providers?
This is another one of those unknowns. My dentist recently retired, but I really like my doctor. I don't care for the idea of seeing a different doctor each year who isn't familiar with my history. Luckily, we're both pretty healthy and usually only have to visit the doctor once a year. So one possibility might be that we arrange an annual trip back to the area, during which we schedule our annual exams. This is what I'm leaning towards currently. But there will be those times when urgent care is needed and we're too far away. It is imperative that the health insurance plan we select has nationwide coverage. We will not go with any other option, even if it costs us a little more. So it may not be the ideal solution, but I think it's certainly workable. This is one issue which has probably caused me the least amount of sleepless nights!

I could go on and on because there are hundreds of other questions that we've agonized over and anticipate being asked, but I think this post is long enough! Maybe I'll post a 'Part 2' some other day. But one thing I hope that this post illustrates is that even though we don't have all of the answers, we have thought this through as thoroughly as we are capable of at this time. We'll continue to gain answers over time and I imagine that we'll look back on many of these and realzie that they were really non-issues. But I hope you get the impression that there is no "whim" in this decision. We feel comfortable that we are as prepared as we ever could be. There's only so much thinking, analyzing and worrying that you can some point you just have to have confidence and go for it!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Our Decision

For many of you, this may seem like a drastic decision. For some, it may sound like a mid-life crisis. True on both accounts. According to Webster, the definition of a mid-life crisis is “a period of emotional turmoil in middle age caused by the realization that one is no longer young and characterized especially by a strong desire for change”. There’s no doubt that that fits us to a “T”. Although there were many factors which brought us to this point, I wanted to attempt to summarize the major ones. I have no doubt that this concept raises many questions for friends, family and strangers alike. I hope that this page will help provide answers to some of those.

Not a spur of-the-moment decision
It’s hard to pinpoint a specific time when this idea was first formulated, but I can say that it has been building for a long time. We’ve been wanting to leave the city for years, but just didn’t know how to do it. We seriously thought about leaving when our Morrison house was on the market, but mostly out of fear of change, we settled back to the life we knew and bought our current townhouse. Then 5 years ago, upon returning from our 3-month sabbatical, we again discussed moving. But as we did before, we came up with justifications to stay and we settled back down into life. The desire never disappeared; we just stored it away.
The concept of full-timing was introduced to us in 2004, during our 3-month RV trip. Prior to that, I knew people took extended trips in an RV, but I had no idea that one could make it a permanent way of life. Initially, I had a lot of misconceptions about these folks, mostly assuming that they were down on their luck and had no other options. As we met more and more people who were living this way of life, we became more educated and realized that for many it was a choice. Our eyes were certainly opened to a different way of life and little did we know that the ‘bug’ was implanted in us…permanently.
Upon return to traditional life, we tried to quell the desire. We frequently dreamed about full-timing, but it was always in the context of retirement, which was ‘a long ways in the future’. A couple of years ago, our conversations started to get a little more serious…moving away from a pipe dream and toward the ‘what ifs’. Initially, we started pondering how early we could really afford to retire and targeted our mid-to-late 50’s. But that still seemed too far away and after awhile, we started thinking about semi-retirement –working part of the year and traveling the rest of the time. We decided we would shoot for this in 5-7 years, when we anticipated being ‘empty nesters’ (i.e. our pets will have passed on). But as our jobs continued to drain our spirits, even this time frame seemed too long. We had to come up with another option
It was about this time that we started researching in earnest the full-time lifestyle and our eyes were opened! We discovered that there were a lot more people living this way of life than we ever imagined…and they weren’t all retirees. So we started reading, asking questions and learning as much as we could. How do these other people do it? What kind of jobs are they working? Are they struggling to make ends meet? The more we learned, the more certain we became that this could be possible.
So as you can see, this is in no way a spur of the moment decision. In many ways, I feel like we’ve been planning this for many years…we just didn’t know what we were planning for.

Nomadic Soul
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a feeling of “unsettledness”. After a few years in one place, I get antsy. This applies to both my work place and my home place. I have never lived in any one dwelling, worked for any one company, nor retained a large expenditure item such as a car for more than 7 years. I’ve always attributed this desire for change, in part, to the frequent moves I encountered during my childhood. And maybe that is partially to blame, but I really don’t believe that is the sole factor. After all, Tracy has the same itch and she grew up in a small town. I truly believe that there are people who are born to be sedentary – those who can remain in one house until its paid off or stay with the same employer and same job for years on end. There is definitely a certain security to that lifestyle and it works for many, many people. After all, it is the traditional American dream. But I also believe that there are people who are born to roam – those who get bored easily and are constantly seeking something new. I believe that we are part of the latter. And as I get older, the yearning for change gets stronger.

Making A Difference
In addition to wanting to make a difference in my own life, I also want to make a difference in others’ lives. I feel like I’ve been searching for the meaning of my life for many years. Maybe it’s because I don’t have kids of my own or maybe it’s something that everyone ponders, but I frequently think about my legacy. What will I leave behind when I die? Will I have done anything to make this a better world? After I’ve been gone for awhile, will anyone even remember who I was? These concerns continue to grow stronger as I age, which I suspect is normal. But the stronger they grow, the more I feel the urgency to start building that legacy now. I want to have the opportunity to give back. I’ve tried to achieve this in my daily life in small ways – through volunteering, through my choice of employers, through making smart environmental decisions – but it doesn’t feel like enough. Maybe because the results aren’t always immediately visible, or maybe because I don’t feel like I have enough time or energy to devote to the effort. Whatever the reason, I don’t feel like I’m achieving what I want to achieve in life. And I know that only I have the power to change that.

Just going through the motions
Maybe because of my nomadic soul or maybe because I’m looking to make a difference, but I feel like I’m constantly yearning for “the” job for which I have a true passion. One that I can get excited to do day in and day out; one for which I can actually look forward to a Monday instead of dreading it. Yes, I know that’s why they call it work, but I believe that it still should be fun and nurturing. For many years, I’ve felt like I’m just existing…just trying to make it through the week to get to the weekend, or to the next vacation. But the problem is that these are temporary and they eventually end. I feel like I’m wishing my life away. None of us knows how many more days we have left in this life and I would hate to think that I used all of mine wishing for something different.

Taking control of our lives…and following our hearts
Enjoy life…this is not a dress rehearsal”. I don’t know who said this, but I want to live by it. I don’t feel like I’m truly enjoying life. Instead, I am following the path that is expected of me…by my parents, by my peers, by society. But who says that this is the right path? Or the only path? Or that everyone must follow the same path? I know that I am ready for a change; that I need a change. So I could continue following my current path and wish that things were different…or I could jump the track and make the changes happen. I have chosen the latter. Ultimately, I know that it is up to me and only me. No one will do it for me.

Isn’t this a huge risk? How can we be so certain that we will succeed?
Absolutely, it is a big risk. But isn’t it the big risks that offer the biggest payouts? There are no guarantees that we will succeed and cash in the big payout. But if we don’t try, we’ll never know. We are giving ourselves the best chances for success by mitigating our risks. First and foremost, we are educating ourselves as much as possible. We realize that we’ll never have all of the answers, but we are learning from all of those who have preceded us down the road. And we are building a support system for those times when we find ourselves stuck. Second, we are planning. Analyzing, list-making, and generally being prepared is in my blood. I wouldn’t know how to proceed without my eyes wide open. We have developed a very detailed budget and have been tracking our income and expenses for quite some time, so we are very familiar with the ins and outs of our money. We have also agreed that we will always maintain a ‘safety net’ of 1-year’s worth of expenses for those inevitable “hard times”. Also if we ever decide we want, or need, to return to our old way of living, we will be able to do so. We have identified and researched several different ways to make money, some of which are professional contract gigs, temporary employment agencies, seasonal jobs and workamper positions. There are other options as well. We don’t expect that all of these will yield results all of the time, but the more options we have, the better likelihood that we’ll be able to bring in the income we need to survive. Thirdly, we are confident that as long as we believe in ourselves, we will make it happen.
But in the off-chance that we find that we cannot support ourselves or we determine that this lifestyle is not what we thought, then we know we can always return back to our former lifestyle. This doesn’t have to be a permanent change. We are still young enough that we should stay marketable in the career world for many years to come. Do we think we’ll be able to jump back in right where we left off? Probably not, but we can certainly work our way back up. The most important thing to remember is that there are always options.