Monday, March 28, 2011

525,600 Minutes - take 2

Note: This post was supposed to be published on March 26, on which we celebrated our one-year fulliming anniversary, but due to technical difficulties I was unable. I'm still having problems with formatting, but hopefully I can get it to a state that it's at least readable. Otherwise, this may be my last post ever!!

Current Location: Tualatin, OR

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred moments so dear

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes

How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights and cups of coffee

In inches, in miles, in laughter and strife

In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes

How do you measure a year in the life?

- "Seasons of Love" from the musical Rent

It's hard to believe we've been official fulltimers for a full year. How could that be possible? It seems like it was just yesterday that we were fantasizing, but not really believing, that we could really do this. And now we've been at it for a full year.

And what a year it has been! We've had many highs...and a few lows. We anticipated that this would be a year of learning and we were not disappointed. Embarking on this journey, we knew we really didn't have a clue as to what to expect. We had RVed for years, so we weren't overly concerned with that aspect, although driving a big truck with an even bigger rig behind has taken some getting used to and is still a bit intimidating. We had done lots of reading about others' experiences, but we knew ours would have its own unique twists, so we couldn't count on following in any one set of tire tracks. At some point, you realize that there's only so much preparation you can do and if you really want to know whether you're going to sink or swim, you just have to jump in with both feet and say a little prayer.

As March 26 was approaching, we found ourselves reflecting often about the past year. Was it everything we thought it would be? What did we really expect anyway? Was it a successful year? What, if anything, would we have done differently? Do we feel any better prepared now than we did then?

We had a lot of dreams, but few goals, when we began last spring. We knew we wanted to experience some places we had never been before. And not just visit as we used to do on vacation, but spend ample amount of time in an area to get to know the community. In order to do this, we knew we had to find a way to support ourselves. Otherwise, it would be a very short trip. We wanted to gain some workamping experience to determine if this was something we would be interested in doing in the future and whether it would be a viable source of income. Beyond those thoughts, we had no plans.

A year later, I would rate us as reasonably successful. We visited several new areas. We started off in southeastern Texas, while setting up our residency. From there we worked our way slowly west to northern California. We spent 4 1/2 months there while working our first workamping gig. In September, we continued north through Oregon to Washington and then back to Oregon where we are today. All of these places were new to us, so even though it sometimes feel like we didn't travel extensively, we did accomplish what we said we wanted to.

We were also able to earn some money throughout the year. Although we had prepared a budget based on our previous expenses and several other fulltimer's budgets, we really didn't know how accurate this was and just hoped we were somewhere in the ballpark. Workamping proved to work out well. Not only were we earning money, but we were also lessening our expenses by staying put. It's certainly not a high paying gig and I'm still not convinced we could support ourselves solely on those wages, but we enjoyed it and reassured ourselves that it is something worth seeking out in the future.

But I think we also reinforced what we already suspected in that it is prudent to balance workamping with more lucrative employment in the form of professional contracts. That is what we sought out this winter and it was somewhat of a hit and miss. Admittedly, we didn't try as hard as we should have because we thought we had a guaranteed source of income this summer. We learned a hard lesson in that there are no guarantees in life. Not a lesson that anyone wants to be reminded of, but apparently it's necessary from time to time. So we were a little complacent and our results showed. Tracy was successful; I was not. But we took some other lessons away from our experience and will apply those in the next round.

Looking back, I do think we learned a lot, but are nowhere near done. If we could replay the past year over, would we do anything differently? In hindsight, yes; but given the information we had at the time, I think we would have made many of the same decisions. We certainly don't have any regrets, but there are some areas where we feel we could improve.

Number one, I need to work on relaxing a bit more. That may sound ironic since I haven't worked for several months, but that's not the kind of relaxing I'm referring to. One of the allures of this lifestyle is the adventure. LiveWorkDream recently commented on one of my posts and included the following quote: "At its core, adventure is the willingness to commit to an uncertain outcome with an open heart and an open mind" (author unknown). This quote resonated with me on several levels. I have come to realize that I am more structured than I care to admit and the idea of an uncertain outcome is very difficult for me. I do take risks, but they are usually very calculated through lots of research and analysis. I do like to have a plan and prefer to have at least a glimpse around the next corner. Does that make me unadventurous? I don't think so, but it does cause a little extra worry since this lifestyle comes with a fair number of uncertainties. I know that I need to ease up and I'm working on some of those barriers, but it takes time. I do know that things have a way of working out as they are meant to, regardless of how much worry is mixed into the pot, so I will keep reminding myself of that as I progress.

Ideally, we would like to travel more. It's difficult sometimes to follow other bloggers who are crisscrossing the country as we sit. But we realize that we are in a different position that most fulltimers. We made the choice to begin our journey before retirement. We recognize that our path will be largely dictated by work opportunities. We could seek out shorter and more frequent jobs which would allow us to be on the move more often and that might be something we investigate in the future. But for now, we are comfortable with 4-6 month gigs. In the grand scheme of life, 6 months is a very short period of time. We hope to be doing this for many years so we don't need to be in a hurry. If we can continue on the pace of 3-4 new places each year, that's a huge improvement from where we started. It's sometimes hard not to measure our adventure against others, but ultimately, we know we need to define what's right for us.

So overall, do we think we made the right decision? Absolutely! It's not always perfect and it may not always be easy, but I feel that we are finally in control of our destiny. Even though we may not change our scenery as often as we'd like, I love having the freedom to know that we can. We may have to make certain sacrafices to adhere to our frugal budget, but I do believe that we gain so much more than we've had to give up. It's difficult to put ourselves back in the mindset we had when pondering this lifestyle, but I know without a doubt that we desperately needed a change. It's possible that we could have achieved what we needed to through less drastic measures, but I think we were at a point where we needed a huge shake up. Part of me was seeking the challenge and part of me just wanted something new and different. Regardless of the motivation, we both agree that this lifestyle suits us. Someday, we may find the desire or the necessity to settle down again, but until then, we will continue to cruise along at our own pace.
Bring on year #2!!


  1. Congratulations on your milestone.

    I don't think it's a bad thing to stay put, as long as you are in a place you enjoy. I don't think we will be criss-crossing the country either. It's too expensive and we prefer really getting to know a place while we're there.

    When we spent 3 months in Florida as Snowbirds, we made a few mistakes and just kept telling ourselves, we're on a learning curve. I imagine we'll still be learning a year or two from now.

    Good luck in the upcoming year.

  2. Happy 1st Anniversary!!!! Congratulations!!!

    You guys have really inspired us and we can't wait to be out there with the fulltimers of the world. We plan to stay put for periods at a time too. We want to get to know each area we stay in. That is what makes it interesting. Some of these people travel so much it makes me tired just reading about it.

    Travel Safe
    Dawn and Denise

  3. hooray for the anniversary and hooray for the attitude check... looking forward to reading about your next year.

  4. congrats on your one year anniversary!!..and to finally getting this post to post!!!

  5. Congratulations on year number one! It's my opinion that if we don't continue to learn something each day, we might as well just pack it in. :)

  6. Time flies when you're having fun! Congrats on this special day. We're enjoying your blog and your sharing the day to day happenings of your new lives, how you handle it and keep such a great positive attitude no matter what.

    You both are a great source of encouragement to us "up and coming" fulltimers!

  7. Congratulations on your first anniversary as fulltimers. I bet there was a lot learned...all good and helpful. As you are finding out, it's not a rubber stamp lifestyle for everybody. Each person has to mold their pattern to their own personality and what is best for them. Besides a lot of this is about the folks you meet.