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 :)