Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The curious world of blogging

Blogging is commonplace among many current and wannabe fulltimers. Even those that do not write themselves tend to follow others. There are many reasons why fulltimers blog. Some write for others; others write for themselves. Some post lots of pictures; others are far more introspective and share primarily through words. Some write daily; others write only when the mood strikes them. There’s no right or wrong and that’s the beauty of it.

My world of blogging has evolved greatly. I started out wanting to keep a journal of everything we had to go through to become fulltimers. I began writing in a Word document. Being a pretty private person, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to share my thoughts with anyone (except, of course, Tracy). As I started writing, I found it to be very therapeutic and as we became more serious about this lifestyle, I thought it might be helpful to be able to share my thoughts with close family and friends, especially those who I suspected might have difficulty understanding and accepting our decisions. So I created this blog, but initially I didn’t publicize it. It was still just for me.

In October, we attended the RV-Dreams Rally and during check-in, they asked if we had a blog. During a weakened moment, I said yes and provided the address. What was I thinking? I hadn’t written many posts at that point, but I also hadn’t shared my thoughts with anyone. I guess it was the immediate feeling of acceptance that allowed me to let down my guard. The next day Howard included the link in his journal and shortly thereafter, I had several people approach me and offer compliments on my writings. Wow, I didn’t expect that. I’m not sure I even expected anyone to really read it. What a confidence booster. I was glad I decided to share.

So now that I had followers, I felt the pressure to keep writing. I probably would have done so anyway, but this gave me even more incentive. My focus was still on topics for which I anticipated questions. When we would finally find the courage to tell our loved ones about our plans, I wanted it to be very obvious that this was well thought out. None of us has a crystal ball and there’s no way we can plan for everything that might happen, but I believe that if we can at least identify the risks, then we’ll be more prepared to deal with them if they should happen. I hoped that by showing that we weren’t going into this blindly, some comfort would be provided to those who were concerned for us. At least that’s what I was telling myself. I thought I was writing for others, but I really think that I was writing for myself. I was the one that had all of those concerns and I think I needed to convince myself that the ‘what ifs’ weren’t all that bad.

Once we are on the road, I expect our blog to evolve once again. We plan to use our blog as our primary means for keeping everyone updated on where we are and what we’re doing. I think it will be a little less introspective and a little more like a travelogue, with hopefully a lot more pictures. Although, I will still be the one writing most of it so I’m sure it will still contain many contemplative thoughts. We have an awful lot of people who will be living vicariously through us, and who knows, if all goes well, maybe even one or two of them will be converted! But I suspect that even as we grow into experienced fulltimers, I will still be writing primarily for me.

And it is with that that I would like to depart slightly and include a short rant…for me. I knew that when I publicized our blog, that it was open to everyone. And I am humbled by the number of followers that I have and am flattered that people find interest in my ramblings. I understand that nothing I write is copywrited and it is open to anyone to use as they choose. As fulltiimers, we share a lot of common thoughts and I will be the first to admit that I get a lot of ideas from reading other blogs. I’m sure that I have read things and then turned around and written similar viewpoints, but I hope that I at least have the creativity to put them in my own words. I recently ran across a blog that had used some of my writing, word for word. I'm familiar with the saying “imitation is the best form of flattery”, but I have to admit that I am a bit offended. I understand that they may share in the feelings I express; after all I suspect that many of us share in many similar feelings. But to use my words exactly? Am I wrong to feel victimized? I’ve been trying to figure out what to do. Do I share my feelings directly with them? Do I just let it slide and chalk it up to the risks of the world wide web? Well, I guess this is my way of dealing with it. I’m hoping that I can vent and then let it go. After all, there’s really nothing I can do about it and I don’t want to mire in the negative feelings. So I will take the high road and just let it be. Thanks for letting me vent and helping me move on.

Overall, blogging has been a wonderful tool for me and I have never regretted my decision in sharing. I still get tickled at every comment I receive. I read a lot of blogs, but am not very diligent about commenting. I will have to get better about that, knowing what the comments mean to me. For you bloggers out there, know that I am reading and appreciating everything you write. I love the diversity. I have learned so much from all of you and I have gained a lot of confidence in knowing that we share so much. Even though I have never met most of you in person, I feel like we are a community and I look forward to crossing paths with you each of you in the future. Thank you!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Letting's not easy

We knew that in order to transform our lives, we would have to let go of lot. Not only are we purging excess 'stuff', but we are getting rid of almost everything that has defined our adult lives. Our house, our furniture, our cars, our careers. Many of the things have a lot more emotion attached that you would ever think. We were warned that this would be difficult. We follow a lot of full-time bloggers and they have all gone through it. And I think they all agree that what's waiting on the other side makes it all worth it. So while we knew this wouldn't necessarily be easy, I'm surprised at some of the emotions I've experienced.

First the job. I have mixed emotions about leaving my job. I like what I do for the most part, I believe the company has a good mission, and I work with some really good people, but I've been frustrated and dissatisfied for quite awhile. I kept hoping that things would work themselves out and I tried to persevere, but it became apparent about a year ago that something needed to change. I updated my resume and started looking for a new job. But my heart really wasn't in it. It is obvious to me now that I needed a bigger change than just employment.

So I was really looking forward to the day when I could give my notice. Because of the people I work with, it was important to me to be able to give enough advanced notice to ease the transition. Be careful of what you ask for, right? I gave my notice in late December and had given a tentative end date of late January. Late January pushed into mid February, which has now expanded to mid March. My hours and my role have both been significantly diminished (per my request), but I have found it hard to just walk away. I suppose some of it is out of pride for the work I have accomplished and don't want to see suffer. I know some of it is also due to fear about walking away from a career and a steady paycheck, not knowing if I'll regret it later. But there's also a part of me that likes the feeling that I'm indispensible. I know I'm not and I know they'll be fine without me, but it's nice to be recognized for some of the value that I did provide. When my "final" week arrived a couple of weeks ago, there was a lot of concern expressed about all of my knowledge going with me, even though I had already spent a lot of time trying to share that information. So I agreed to stay on a few more weeks to provide further training.

Furniture has been another love-hate relationship in this process. On the one hand we just want to be rid of all of our furniture so that we can move forward. But most of it is of good quality and I didn't want to just give it away. So our first challenge was pricing, which I'm sure is not uncommon. It's been difficult to find a happy medium where we feel like we're recouping a little of the value while still attracting buyers. But throughout this entire process, I've worked really hard to look beyond the monetary value and instead focus on the value of freedom.

But what I didn't expect is to care so much about where the furniture is going. When we bought our house, which is the first house Tracy and I have owned together, we wanted it to be OUR home. We bought most of the furniture together and painstakingly shopped and shopped until we found just the right pieces. So we feel like all of our furniture says a little bit about us. When we began the purging process, we started with friends and family. Then we started listing the remaining things on Craigslist. We've had good success, but it's been a bit of an eye-opener to have complete strangers taking pieces of your life. Some of the folks seemed to appreciate the quality and recognized the good deals we were offering. Others just seemed to want the cheapest deal they could get and didn't give the sense that they would care for it like we did. I know it shouldn't matter. These are not pieces that were in the family for generations and they are all easily replaceable should we ever find ourselves in a stix n brix again.

So I'm trying to focus on the end goal and not get hung up on the emotions, but it's hard. Even though I know this is the right move for us, I still frequently hear that little devil on my shoulder asking "do you realize what you're doing?" and "are you really sure? ". I just have to remind myself that we are not defined by things or job titles, but rather what we accomplish.

Friday, February 12, 2010

And now the rest of the story

No, this is not a post about Paul Harvey. I left you all hanging last week and I know your inquiring minds want to know (Rod!), so here it is...

I am elated, excited and relieved to announce...(drum roll)...that we accepted an offer on the house! Just when the doubts and worries were starting to roll in, a decent offer appeared, as if it just fell from the sky. As I mentioned last week, this seems to happen quite often and it still amazes me. Because we hadn't had any activity for a couple of weeks and we had already shut the door on two offers, this was completely unexpected. Who could be submitting an offer? No one has been by to look at the house. Well, as it turned out, it was from one of the couples who had submitted an earlier offer. We had countered their original offer but could not find a common ground so we all walked away. Apparently, they didn't walk too far because they came back with a significantly higher offer. It's still a little lower than what we had hoped for, but we only differed by a few thousand dollars and although that is a lot of money, we didn't feel like it was worth bargaining at the risk of losing it altogether. It still surprises me because they were the first people to look at the house, they only looked at it once, and they didn't even come back for a second showing before deciding to submit a second offer.

We still have to get through the inspection and the loan approval, but needless to say we felt a huge weight lifted off of our shoulders. This was really the only thing left that could have delayed our plans, so it will be nice to have it out of the way. And the timing couldn't have worked out any better. Our closing is scheduled for March 16 and our new home is scheduled to be delivered around the same time. So we are hoping to be rolling down the highway in early April! YIKES!! Can that really be possible??!?

So you're probably wondering why the delay in sharing the good news. Well, when it rains it pours. Just as I was worrying about being jobless with a mortgage, not only did we sell the house, but multiple potential employment opportunities were presented to us, literally within 24 hours of signing the offer. We have been in communications with a campground owner for a workamper position for several months. We were interested in the position but couldn't commit since we didn't know when the house would sell. They were gracious enough to agree to hold the position for a few months in hopes that our timing would work out. So just as we were ready to contact them, these other possibilities showed up. We had some thinking to do and because they follow the blog we didn't feel like we could make the announcement.

Having options is a good thing, but sometimes too many options is just plain overwhelming. While the workamping position would be very different from what we know and certainly the type of change we are looking for, the pay is not great. On the other hand, the other possibilities are opportunities to remain working in the professional world via remote access. This is certainly appealing from a financial standpoint, but it feels a bit like giving in. Although we'd be living in an RV, we really wouldn't be changing our lifestyle much from what it is today. And isn't that really the main goal? It bothers me that even after all of the growth I feel we've experienced during this transition, I would still consider making a decision solely out of fear. The only reason I was considering the professional opportunity was because 6 months worth of work could have provided financial security for the next year. That's pretty appealing. But when I dug deep, I realized that I don't want to sacrifice our life just for security. I know that there may come a time in this journey where I have to rely on my professional skills to make a higher income, but I don't want to start out there. So for now, I have decided to let my opportunity pass. Who knows, maybe it will resurface again someday when I'm more willing. Tracy also has a potential opportunity which is still pending, but we don't believe hers will be as invasive or restrictive, so we'll see how that plays out in the coming weeks. Maybe it will be the best of both worlds - a little financial security while still being able to live the life we've dreamed of.

So after all of those sleepless nights, we are exactly where we hoped we would be at this point. The house is almost sold, we'll be able to afford the new RV, we have a job lined up for the summer, and we are still able to meet our timeline of hitting the road in April. So why did we spend so much time worrying?? Once again, I just need to believe. After all, isn't it obvious that we don't have control over this plan? We're just along for the ride.

Words of inspiration: We have no choice of what color we're born or who our parents are or whether we're rich or poor. What we do have is some choice over what we make of our lives once we're here. ~ Mildred D. Taylor, author

Friday, February 5, 2010

Slow progress, but is it?

It’s been a while since I’ve written so I thought I better post a short update. The last few weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions. What else is new? Selling a house is always emotional, but we have so much riding on this one, that it feels doubly so. I haven't written because I didn't feel like I had much to report, but when I stop and look back, I realize all of the things that have been accomplished. Not all of them are note-worthy but they're all a step in the right direction.

First I’ll start with the house. The house has been on the market for about a month. The first couple of weeks were busy. We averaged about 3 showings a week and even had a couple of offers. But the offers were quite low and it was too early in the process to even consider such a drop in price. After all, with as much interest and positive feedback that we were getting, the offers would keep rolling in, right? And then just like that it all seemed to stop. We haven’t had any showings for the last couple of weeks. And that’s when the doubts started. I know this was to be expected. It's not a seller's market, the house has only been listed a short time, it's a typically slow season, blah blah blah. But I couldn't help but wonder if we passed up the only offers we might see. I try to remain positive, telling myself that we never expected to sell the house this soon and our patience will pay off. We are priced competitively and we have a lot to offer. We are at a good price point and the market will pick up as we move into Spring. We just have to continue to have faith that things will work out as they are meant to. After all, we didn’t want to sell the house too fast anyway, right?

But we are so excited to get started on our new life, we just want to be able to move on. Another event that is adding to the doubts is that my job is winding down. Next week is my last scheduled week, although there have been discussions about extending me a couple of more weeks. I knew when I set that date that it was risky because we didn’t know when the house would sell. If the house doesn’t sell for several months, we could be struggling with only one income. So was I premature in leaving? Originally, the reason that Tracy and I decided that I would stop working in February was with the expectation the house would sell in February or March. And we have a lot of things that need to be accomplished before we move out of the house. So we really felt that one of us needed the time to start tackling that ever-growing to-do list. But the unknown is scary and sometimes it’s hard to keep the faith that everything will work out.

This past week, we have made major progress, but I am not prepared to write about it quite yet. Things are still pending and we have some decisions to make, so at risk of jinxing things, I’m going to end here, with a promise to write more next week. But I will leave you with this little teaser –

Throughout this journey, I have often said that it feels like a higher power is leading us. Things seem to happen just at the right times and opportunities magically present themselves. We couldn’t plan it any better. I am not a highly spiritual person, but I truly believe that we are meant to take this journey. I don’t know why and I don’t know what’s waiting for us, but we are meant to do this. And there is something out there that is making sure we stay on track. It seems like anytime I start to have doubts or worries, a sign appears and calms those fears. It is truly magical. And this week was filled with several of those magical moments, but you'll just have to wait to find out. So tune in next week for the rest of the story!

Words of inspiration: Often people attempt to live their lives backward; they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want, so they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want. ~Margaret Young, singer