Travel Decisions

Seven months ago I sold my house and moved into my camper full time! I had always wanted to give this lifestyle a full year before deciding what was next but I wasn’t sure if I would be able to actually do it. Now that I’m creeping up on a year I’m in awe of the experience so far.

Some have asked what my future travel goals are and how I decide where and when I’m going to be. Here are a few things that impact my travel and what I’ve learned along the way.

Gas prices! Whew! They are high and when you have to fill your tank multiple times a day while traveling, it can deplete funds rather quickly. If you plan to enter into this lifestyle make sure you take gas prices all across the country into account. I’ve seen prices be as much as $1.50 different from one area to the next. I’ve even driven across a state line and found gas to be $1 cheaper than what I had just paid for it a few miles before. Talk about frustrating!

Not only gas prices, but also think about wear and tear on your vehicles. Keeping up with regular oil changes, getting the breaks checked, transmission fluid flushed (when needed), these are all things NOT to skimp on while full timing. Make sure to check the air pressure in your tires on a regular basis and have them rotated and checked as recommended. You do not want to have a blowout while driving down the road simply camperbecause your tire pressure got too low.

I can’t express to you how important your vehicles are in this lifestyle. Think about it, you no longer have a rent or a mortgage you are paying so these are the things you are going to need to put money toward. Make sure you have an emergency fund saved that you don’t use for anything else. This is the money that can only be used if it is really an emergency and not because you want that new thing-a-ma-jig. If you do have to tap into that account, make sure that you replace those funds as soon as possible.

When I first started out, I dreamed of traveling every day to a new place and exploring so many things I had yet to see. I think I had expectations on myself to see as much as possible in the shortest amount of time as I could. In the beginning, I did just that and had some really great experiences. I also learned, however, that isn’t really my style. Not only did I spend a large portion of money in gas but my animals and I were exhausted!

I’m a power driver and I love road trips! I have driven as much as 18hrs in one shot before getting too tired to drive any further. I can typically drive 10-12hrs before it really becomes a strain for me to drive more. I get up before the sun and drive all day to reach my destination. It’s just something that has always been easy for me and something that I enjoy doing. Driving in general can be tiring though, and driving with a trailer is much different.

When driving a trailer you have to keep an eye on everything! You have to allow more time to stop if there’s an emergency. Spend more time thinking about space before you enter another lane. You have to keep an eye on the trailer itself and check your mirrors more often to make sure everything is in place back there. Also, you have to include all the other drivers who WILL pull out in front of you or drive recklessly to get around you because no one wants to be stuck behind a “slow trailer.” The concentration and focus it takes will cause that driving exhaustion to hit much faster and for me that started to add up fast.

I started to have what I affectionately call, “driving hangover.” I would be even more tired than I should be, I would get really grouchy, and my stress level would increase much faster than it should. Yes, I can drive for long distances like a champ but I also have to allow myself time to rest and recuperate after those trips. I hadn’t taken that into consideration in the beginning and found myself really exhausted after a few long days of driving. Now, I try to limit myself to no more than 6hrs of drive time a day. If I do have to drive longer than that, I try to fit in times of rest to get out and walk or stretch along the way and see something fun.

I also take the weather into account. When it’s really cold and snowy outside I would much rather be in the warm desert. If it’s going to be hot and humid, traveling somewhere that is cooler has been on my list. Living in a camper means knowing your preferences and knowing your camper. How cold does it have to be before your waterline freezes? If you aren’t staying in a campground where can you fill your water tanks or dump your other tanks? Do you have enough electricity to power your air conditioner if it’s too hot? Where can you fill your propane tanks so that you can turn the heat on? These are all things that may seem overwhelming at first but become second nature once you get used to it.

It also helps to have places to stay that you can pay long term. Staying in a campground every night can add up really quickly. Finding a place to pay by the week or month is often a better deal. You can also be a camp host and earn your spot for free by doing cabinhostsome volunteer work around the campground. Maybe you have friends who will let you stay in their driveway or on some property that they own. There is also BLM land in most of the western states that allow boondocking for free up to 14 days at a time before you have to move to another location. National Forest campgrounds are often much less expensive or you can find boondocking locations within their boundaries that are off grid. Be sure to talk to the local rangers to help you out.

I have found that I enjoy going to an area and staying there for a few weeks or a month. I like finding the everyday rituals in places like going to the same grocery store or gas station more than once. The small town post office, or the little bakery helps give me a sense of belonging in this nomad journey. I enjoy interacting with people in an area the way I wouldn’t be able to if I were there for only one night. If you’re going to go on this journey, figure out what style best fits you. There is no right or wrong way to do it, just see what you like.

As I look back over the past seven months I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned and how quickly the time has passed. It continues to be a fantastic experience and I’m learning more and more how to live in the moment.

Cheers from the road!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you do all day?

Often people are curious to know how I spend my time. What do I do all day and do I have a routine? Do I set an alarm clock? What do I do with “all that time”? Well, there are many answers to those questions but the most prevalent is, it depends!

Having somewhat of a routine is something that works better for me. I don’t always follow said routine but when I do it often has some similar qualities no matter where on the map I tend to be. Typically, I do not set an alarm clock (yay!) but I do find that I wake up and go to bed at a pretty consistent time.

t25.jpgFirst thing, I feed the animals because if I don’t, my cat will get quite loud and obnoxious! I take a walk with my dog and then I try to do some reading. If I’m doing really well, I’ll get in some yoga or a workout. It’s rather tricky doing either of those in the 144sq/ft of space that I have but that’s part of the adventure right? For all of my beachbody friends, I have managed to do some T25 in this 18’ camper!

I spent the last couple months volunteering as a cabin host at an Oregon State Park. I would check to see if the cabins needed cleaning and then prepare them so that they were ready for the next guests. Some days, I checked and stocked the bathrooms and also did litter patrol throughout the park. Remember to carry in and carry out people! After those responsibilities were taken care of I would try to take a walk on the beach if it was nice enough. There was often a lot of wind and rain so I had to avoid the raging surf.

Another aspect of how I spend my days is that I have to be more mindful of my meals. Since I’m choosing to be in areas that are more secluded I can’t just order a pizza or Chinese food when I don’t want to cook. I have to make sure that I have items on hand to cook or at least make sandwiches. Living full time in a camper is different than just taking it out for the weekend. Yes, I can eat hot dogs and junk food like folks tend to do on a camping trip, but doing that all the time doesn’t really work for my over all health. Meal planning tends to be a love/hate relationship for me.

I have also had the chance to do more exploring during my days. When I lived in one place and had a full time job, I often didn’t choose to get out and do things as much as I wanted. If I slowed down, I would typically choose to watch Netflix to unwind instead of the walk that would have been better. Living in a camper means there are only so many movies and shows that I can watch before going a bit bonkers. When I remind myself to slow my brain down, I realize that I don’t have to be anywhere at a specific time on a regular basis. If I see a cool spot for hiking I can do it right then or come back relatively soon to enjoy the new find. Don’t get me wrong; it’s still hard to gain motivation at times. I’m not some amazing outdoor hiker who needs to be on a trail every day and as such, there are times I have to push myself outside my comfort zone and go enjoy nature.

Another aspect of my every day life on the road is that it can be hard to find connection. I am so grateful for the opportunity that I currently have to travel and explore, however, it can be ridiculously hard and lonely at times. I’ll be writing another blog specifically about this topic but for now know that it can be THE hardest thing about this lifestyle.

Many people romanticize the idea of life on the road and in many ways they should because it’s amazing! What most folks don’t think about however, are the long hours that you spend alone and isolated from typical human contact. People go camping to get away from their life for a weekend but doing this full time is different. I have to work hard to keep up with friends and gain connection. I’m so glad to have my dog and cat with me because I’m not sure what I would do without them! If you decide you want to spend some time on the road remember to be realistic about all aspects of this life and know that it can be lonely at times.

bookreadingAnother thing that I do with my time during the day is read. I have a stack of serious and a stack of fun books that I hope to read in the next few months. Again, I’m not always on track with my big plans and have currently been a slacker in the reading department! Think of all the excuses you make to not do something at home. Now, guess what? I have those same excuses! It just looks worse because people think I’m on a giant vacation!

It can be easy to get bored at times and fall into the trap of doing what feels good in the moment. The more I learn and adapt to my new lifestyle the more I realize that it’s easy to let life pass by really quickly. Yes, I had and still have big plans and goals for this time in my life, but I also want to just sit and be still as well. Balance is something important to find and work on. It doesn’t just happen over night, it takes practice and lots and lots of grace with myself.

In all honesty, my life now looks a lot like what it did before I started this adventure. Yes, I have more time to do things but I still have to make plans and execute them if I want to get anywhere. I still have to battle being lazy and making excuses to not do the things I had planned to do. So as you’re dreaming about winning the lottery and never having to work again, know that it actually takes a bit of tenacity and determination to not have a job or something specific to do full time. Go into this life with a plan otherwise you may find yourself quickly becoming bored.

roadbridge

So far this lifestyle has been an amazing experience. Just because I now live on the road, however, doesn’t mean that all of my issues and hangups have magically disappeared. Living in a camper has allowed more time for reflection but I still have to do the work of living life.

What are things that you would do with your time on an adventure like this? What goals would you hope to accomplish? What aspects of this life would be hard for you? How could you apply any of these things to your life now? These are all questions that I wish I had spent more time on before I left. Before you get caught up in the adventure think about how you could walk out that adventure in order to make the most of it!

 

I Could Never Do That…

That’s what I hear most often when people find out that I’m living life on the road with a dog and a cat, all while in a small travel trailer. I can understand why they say it but I often feel sad when they do. Sad because, in all honesty they could do it, but we have let society rob us of our independence.

Society has taught us what life should look like. We should grow up, get jobs, buy a house, and maybe even start a family. It tells us we need to acquire “stuff”. The more stuff the better and the “better” the stuff the more respect we will gain.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with doing any or all of those things. I did it myself for a while and enjoyed the comforts that a well paying salary can bring. What else does it bring though? What is the cost that often comes with trying to achieve those things too fast? Where is the “life” when we spend countless hours in an office or at our jobs stressing about the next big thing. Where is the life when we are financially strapped because we thought we needed that newer model car/phone/computer/outfit?

I’ve had my share of living paycheck to paycheck and I know how stressful it can be. I debtoften dreamed of winning the lottery and paying off all my bills, buying that really cool “thing” that I had been wanting, and then dreaming up what I would do and how I would spend that money. My dreams were big and left me sad thinking I would never get the chance to walk them out.

Eventually, I held a job that afforded the opportunity to do some of the things that I dreamed up. Now, I wasn’t buying my own private island or a condo in Venice but most of the time I was able to buy what I wanted, when I wanted. The house I owned wasn’t large by many standards. It was a modest two-bedroom ranch with a finished basement to add extra living space. It had a decent size yard and an attached garage. The neighborhood was tucked away in a great location and the neighbors were friendly. It was a wonderful house!

Repeatedly, however, I found that I used less than one quarter of the space that I had. I spent time in my room to sleep, the kitchen to eat, and the couch to do most anything else (watch movies, write, type on my computer). That left a whole lot of square footage that rarely saw any use. As I walked out my journey with minimalism I noticed that the more I became intentional about what I purchased it directly impacted the space I felt I needed. I also felt less overwhelmed and no longer ruled by things in my life. Doors began to open for different adventures to begin.

Minimalism for me, helped me learn more and more about being content. Contentment, however, can be elusive. Just when I think I’ve got the hang of it, I see something that either society or I think I want. I don’t often watch TV with commercials but when I do I’m always shocked by how aggressive advertisers are. If I see a commercial for food my mouth waters and I’m not even hungry! Contentment in today’s society is something that goes against the grain but it can be a huge blessing. Teaching us in ways we would never have imagined contentment could be a faithful companion if we let it.

reliefThe more I walked out my journey with minimalism and contentment the more financial freedom I discovered. That allowed me to be more flexible with how I spent my time and I was able to leave the job I had to do something that I was more passionate about. I had begun the journey I’m currently on long before I realized I had. In making the decisions to be content with what I had early on and being intentional about what I bought the amount of money that I needed began to go down. I was able to pay of debt and relieve the stress that came along with it.

I remember reading about someone who quite their steady well paying job to go out on an adventure and wishing I could do that too. Reading about such people and minimalism inspired me to make small changes. Those small changes add up over time and allow for big changes if you let them.

So, when people think they could never do this, perhaps they could if they start making choices to do so now. What can you do to be more intentional about your financial life? Do you have a budget that you stick to? Do you have a plan to pay off the debt that you have accumulated? What is one thing you could do without for the next thirty days and how could you put the money you saved to use?

I hope the next time you have the thought “I could never do that” you realize that there is potential. It may take longer than you hope but small changes really do add up!

Trash Talk

Something most people have never considered about living full time in a camper (including myself before now) is trash. What do you do with it? How can there possibly be so much of it?! Help!

I grew up in the Midwest and can honestly say that trash was not something that was really on my mind. I did my share of collecting cans as a kid to earn some extra money, but again not something I really thought about. When the trash was full inside we took it outside to the large bin and it would magically disappear.

When I moved to Vermont, trash became a part of normal everyday conversation. I’ve lived in places that focused more on recycling but Vermont took it to a whole new level. Many people I knew composted on a regular basis. If you went to a friend’s house for dinner you didn’t just throw things away, you asked if they composted first. They have classes on composting and have even made it state law that restaurants must recycle and compost.

Recycling in Vermont is important as well. Most bottled drinks have a “bottle deposit” on them that is returned when you bring the bottle back to a recycling facility. They offer classes and provide materials on what is recyclable and what is not. You can even take tours of the facility where they do all of the recycling! Perhaps I’m a nerd but that always sounded fun to me.

Now, I wouldn’t have said that I wan an expert on recycling or composting but I thought I was pretty good at it. I thought that until I started living in 144sq/ft! It doesn’t take long before trash adds up and when you don’t have a lot of spare room it can take over quickly! When I happen to be close to friend’s house I can easily take my refuse over and add it to their bin. If not, what do I do?

img_1822.jpgOne important thing that I’ve realized is that I pay attention to what I purchase at the store. When I buy food I look for items that are not pre-packagedor have very little packaging, such as loose fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, etc. I also try to purchase items that are not surrounded by plastic. It’s easier to recycle cardboard, glass bottles or aluminum in states that don’t offer much in the way of recycling. If I need pasta, I buy it in a cardboard box instead of a plastic bag. I can recycle the box or even start a campfire with it. Not as easy to do if I’m buying something in plastic. I also bring reusable bags so that I’m cutting down on plastic bags. Some states even charge for bags if you don’t bring your own.

I compost as much as I can. I have a small container inside my camper and a lager
bucket in the back of my truck. If I’m close to a facility who has composting I’ll take it there but if not I try to compost it as long as I can. Once it gets to a certain stage I can
bury it deep enough that it can finish the organic process. Note, I am NOT burying my trash I am putting compostable materials back into the earth. No plastic, no meat, think of things like banana and orange peelings. Unfortunately, I’ve found many people leave trash out on open lands like national forest or BLM lands. Please don’t be that person. Don’t leave aluminum cans in your fire pit thinking they will break down because they won’t. Follow the pack it in pack it out rules at all times!

There are many campgrounds and parks that offer places to recycle and put trash. This is super helpful when I’m close! It’s often easy to find a place to put my trash but recycling can be a bit more of a challenge. If I’m really desperate for a place to offload my trash I look for a towns trash facility. Many places will allow you to drop off trash for a nominal fee.img_1823.jpg

I’m certainly not perfect at this process but it has given me a renewed respect of where items I purchase come from and where they end up. Buying local or from small business often helps me keep down on packaging. That’s not always an option to do, but it’s certainly helpful when it is.

I have the amazing opportunity to see this land in ways many people never will. I see beautiful sunrises and watch the earth come alive with activity. I get to do yoga under the moon with no one else around. I hear the silence of the sunset and experience the vastness this land has to offer. The least I can do it help take care of it and so can you.

Perhaps you aren’t living in a tiny camper but you can still do your part to pay attention to where things come from. Do you recycle? Do you compost? Maybe start small and bring your own bags to the store instead of using plastic ones. Ask for paper instead of plastic. Start collecting cans to earn a little money when you take them to the return/recycle facility. We’ve all been given a responsibility to take care of this planet so let’s do our part.

Be careful what you buy…

Living in an 18’ camper can be fun and amazing but it can also be a real challenge. My last post was on how to start getting rid of some of the clutter in your life. It’s helpful to start out small so as to not get overwhelmed so quickly, but what do you do with all of that space once the clutter is gone?

Once I started my journey into minimalism I loved getting rid of clutter and seeing how things looked much cleaner in my life. The more I got rid of things the more I wanted to get rid of MORE things. As I got rid of more and more stuff a new challenge popped up on my radar…I wanted to buy more stuff!

img_1771.jpgNow that I had all this room I started picturing what I could put in its place. Society has taught me over and over again that my house should look a certain way and that I should live a certain life. So, as I got rid of clothes that I wasn’t wearing I began to want new clothes. Once I took down knick-knacks and created space I wanted to hang new pictures. Now that my counters were free of unused kitchen appliances, new items began to appear. What was happening!

Once again, let me state that this is a JOURNEY and one that will take time. I’ve been on this journey for over five years now and I still make poor choices and bad “in the moment” decisions. I have found, however, that if I follow a few rules that I’ve put in place it helps dramatically.

Be mindful on where you go

Something that helped me very quickly was being mindful of where I spent my time. I’ve never been one to go to the mall and spend all day shopping but I do enjoy other types of stores. I’m an electronics geek and going to places like Best Buy really makes me think I need things that I really don’t. I choose to stay out of such stores unless there is something specific that I need. I’m also mindful of gift shops when I go to places that I enjoy, like national parks or amusement parks. Gift shops are there for one reason, to make money. Be wary of walking into one unprepared.

One for One

This is a great way to help me decide if I really want to buy something. I’ve made the decision that if I purchase something (not food) that I have to replace it with something I already have. When I think of something in that light it takes me out of the moment and causes me to think long term. If I purchase a new t-shirt which t-shirt am I willing to give up to have this new one? If I really love a new photograph that I want to hang on my wall, what do I currently have that I’m willing to replace?

Make a list

I know this sounds simple but before you go to a store, make a list of what you need. There are times I’ve made a list and then forgot it at home. I still go inside and try my best to remember what I need but inevitably I come home with several items I don’t need. This happens at the grocery store rather often and unfortunately I have food that goes to waste because I don’t make the things I had thought I would while I was at the store. Making a list helps to keep me on track and I don’t end up having more than I need.IMG_1750

I’m now in a stage where I don’t have space for many things and these tips are things I live by. I have to be extremely vigilant with what I buy and what I use. There isn’t a lot of space in 144 square feet! I live this life every day and feel freer than ever. Hopefully these tips will inspire and help keep you going on your journey. Feel free to post tips that you’ve found helpful on your journey.

 

 

Stuff…

A new year often gets people in the mood to re-evaluate their “stuff”. Ideas on how to get rid of clutter start floating around and things that sound quick and easy can quickly becoming overwhelming. Instead of trying to take it one step at a time we try to jump to the hardest things first and then give up. So here’s me, checking in on how you’re doing with your “stuff”.

My earnest journey into minimalism started about five years ago when I heard a local guy give a talk on his experience with owning less. What was most impactful to me was that he wasn’t a younger college student giving up his meager belongings but was an adult with a spouse, children, large house, good job, and by all accounts; living the dream. This wasn’t something that he stepped into with ease but something that took time and effort.

IMG_2659I walked away from that talk and began to follow his blog as well as others that had similar ideals. Just reading about “minimalism” had me feeling guilty and overwhelmed! How could I do what all of these people were doing and frankly, do I even WANT to do what they are doing? One thing I found, however, was that most of the information had a common thread…start small.

I recently had a friend reach out to ask what I found helpful during my journey with owning less. I realized that I had incorporated that same thread those blogs had talked about into my own life.

The things that got me started were small actions that lead to more. So, here are a few things that may help you get started if you’re stuck on what to do or that may re-energize your efforts.

  1. Go to your dresser or closet and get four articles of clothing that you rarely wear. I chose the number four because you can grab one from each season. Do you need that sweater that shrank in the dryer? What about that t-shirt that was a freebie and is 2 sizes too big? The jacket that you stopped wearing three seasons ago? You tell me what needs to go.

 

  1. Take a look in your shower and think about how many bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and soap you have. I’m not much of a froufrou person but I was shocked when I did that for myself. Did I really need three different bottles of liquid soap along with the regular old bar soap? What about the many half used facial soaps and creams that I rarely used and couldn’t really justify. Take a look around and think about what you really need vs what has just been sitting there for the last several months…or years. Can you get rid of four different things? What about two?

 

  1. What about the garage? I was surprised, yet again, by how many open bottles of motor oil I had. Does one really need four half used bottles of oil? I’m not talking about the oil that has a specific purpose (like one for the mower, car, chainsaw) I’m talking about the half bottle used and then you bought another one because you forgot you had a half bottle of oil already open. You don’t have to deep clean the garage, just look around at the obvious things that you haven’t used in years and take out four things that you don’t need.

 

  1. How about the mail pile? Can you take out four pieces of mail that you don’t need and recycle them? Do you have a magazine or newspaper subscription that you don’t use? Call and cancel it and when they try to lure you back in, stand strong in your firm “no.”

By starting small and with a specific number I find that it helps keep things light and easy. Don’t spend more than a half an hour doing these things. It’s easy to get bogged down and overwhelmed if you spend a lot of time thinking instead of doing. Maybe you’re a list person and can think of what you want to get rid of before you even enter the room. Write it down, put it in the get rid of pile, and check it off the list.

Make sure, at the end, that you actually take that trip to goodwill, salvation army, or wherever you plan to take those clothes. Don’t ask me how long I’ve driven around with a bag of clothes in the back of my car! Give yourself a timeframe to accomplish the tasks if that helps motivate you.

IMG_2188Remember, this is ultimately about freedom and not shame. Personally, the more I got rid of the more I wanted to keep going. The more I kept going, the lighter and freer I felt.
If someone would have told me when I started this journey that I would be living in an 18ft camper with a dog and a cat and almost no other belongings I would have told you that you were crazy! You don’t have to go to this extreme. Just think about what four items you want to get rid of today and do it. Enjoy the freedom and excitement of your first step.

 

 

Clogged Toilets

Warning! This subject may be unsavory to some.

There are so many things that I’ve learned as a newbie to the full-time RV life. Making sure your fresh water tanks are cleaned out and sanitized, double-checking that the cabinet doors are shut before traveling, and then checking again! I can hear the voice of airline flight attendant telling me to be careful while opening over head bins, as things may have shifted during flight…more than once I’ve had things flying at my head when opening a cabinet after a long day of travel.

I’ve learned tricks on how to use an RV oven (which tends to burn everything on bottom)
and to make sure that you have an extra stabilizer jack handle so when you drive off and leave it…you have an extra one. I’ve gotten good at dealing with propane tanks, hitches, safety chains, battery consumption, and solar wiring.

One thing I never thought I would have to deal with in my trailer was a clogged toilet. The pipes are different so how does that even happen?? It’s essentially a straight shot to a giant tank! Well, it does and let me tell you, when it happens (and I mean “when” not “if”) it’s not the most pleasant experience ever. It’s actually pretty “crappy.”

I’ve had experiences with camping trailers before but it was mainly for short-term use and nothing like this had ever happened before. However, when you live full time in a camper the story is different and the results can be much worse if you aren’t paying attention. Thankfully, I noticed there seemed to be an issue quickly and managed to take care of it before there was a huge issue.

I won’t go in to detail and spare those of you who don’t want to know but for those of toilet2you who are more interested, just google “pyramid clogs in rv toilets” and you’ll find out what I’m talking about. Of course, these things never happen during the day, it’s always at night when there’s not much to do about it. As it turns out though, boiling hot water will take care of a lot of rv toilet issues. Be warned, doing this yourself is not for the faint of heart, or nose. Thankfully, I was able to take care of the clog and I have a place to dump my tanks close by. In the morning I was able to “dump” right away which helped the bigger and overall issue of me not taking proper care of my black tank.

It’s amazing to me the things I’ve taken for granted while living in a normal stick and brick home. If you have a clogged toilet at home you just plunge a little bit and 99.9% of the time, your problem is solved. Typically, there is an ample amount of water in your toilet bowl and once you flush you never think of it again (well, assuming your not a tween who’s in the everything “poopy” is funny stage). This, however, is not so much the case in an RV. If you don’t do proper maintenance with your black tank it can become an all out war to fix it. You may even have to take it to a professional to take care of the “crappy” situation. The whole thing stinks, trust me.

Isn’t that like life though? There are so many things that come at us during the day that we have to decide what we deal with and when. Unfortunately, there are really crappy things that we sometimes ignore and hope to never deal with again. They could be simple things that may not have much of an impact. There are other things that are more life altering and yet we continue to ignore them. When I ignore things in my life, even the small things can continue to build and build until I have major problems. They may come out emotionally and I’m sad or angry all the time or they may come out physically in headaches, colds, or more serious issues. If I take care of these issues when I notice they start to really pile up, I can save myself a major issue later. If I ignore them though, just like my black tanks, eventually I will have a huge mess on my hands.

As the new year starts perhaps you could take some steps to dealing with life’s challenges. Talk to a friend about something you’ve been struggling with. Open up and be vulnerable with someone you trust. Try something new and be open-minded about something like yoga or meditation. Read a book on how to deal with stress or anxiety. Take a walk and be mindful about your surroundings. Talk to a therapist who may be able to help you along this journey. Life can be messy but we don’t have to do it alone!

Living full-time in an RV really has been amazing and adventurous but sometimes it’s really hard! I often wonder what the heck I’m doing out here! I do love the challenge and what it’s teaching me about myself. I hope your year is full of love and learning and if you decide to get an RV, just remember to read up on caring for your black tanks. You’ll thank me for it.

Michelle

 

Christmas Eve

Christmas can be hard. It can be hard to remember a time when you could go to church and see friends. You could spend time connecting with others and helping out when and where needed. You may remember feeling loved and included.

Screen Shot 2017-12-24 at 9.00.35 AMMaybe you’ve made choices in life that have caused separation. Given voice to a part of your life that was split off and cancerous. Giving voice and being honest about who we are can be uncomfortable for some. Being honest about our brokenness can be messy.

It’s easy to judge. It’s easy to hide behind out thoughts and self-importance. I’m guilty of it and I’m sure, if you were honest, you have been too. It’s hard to reach out and be uncomfortable. It’s hard to love when society and our minds tell us to be angry or just indifferent.

Many people enjoy Christmas for bringing time with family and loved ones. They travel across the country or just across town to spend time with those they’ve known for years. Nothing brings more joy to them than seeing their kids come home year after year to spend time together.

What if we used that same motivation to reach out to people who are hurting, or lonely, or are just alone in this world? What if we used the same fervor to take cookies to someone in a nursing home as we do to bake them with our cousins? What if we only shared a few very powerful and meaningful gifts with each other and shared the rest with someone you don’t like?

IMG_8594By no means am I saying not to spend time with those you love during this season. I’m just wondering what it would be like to stretch ourselves. How would life be different if we broke out of our comfort zones? Howe would it be different if we did this on a regular basis and not just at Christmas?

There’s a lot of hurt and anger in the world today. What can you and I do to bring a little peace?

On the road again…

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A lot has happened in the almost month that I’ve been on the road; some good and some, like the last post, not so good. Thankfully, there have been more good than not so good and I continue to learn along the way. The main thing that I have learned along the way is that I need to remain flexible. I have made plans, changed plans, went back to original plans, only to completely ditch all plans and come up with something new.

My plan had always been to make my way south along the east coast, taking my time as I did so, and eventually ending up onto I-10. I started that plan and made it to Pennsylvania for my first stop. Promised Land State Park is a gem and one of the few places that has spots available with electricity all year long. It borders a national forest so solitude and nature abound. There is plenty of hiking to be found, along with a plethora of bird watching.

After spending some time there I moved further south toward the D.C. area and spent a few nights at Pohick Bay Regional Park just outside of Arlington. This time of year there are plenty of spaces available and it’s close to the city if you want to do any sightseeing. I was able to spend an evening by the fire with a couple of friends chatting, having dinner, and of course, making s’mores.

For the most part, things have been uneventful, no cat pooping or puking to report! However, as I was driving something became more and more clear to me. I would most likely need a different vehicle sooner rather than the later that I hoped it would be. I knew my 2011 Escape and its towing capacity of 3500lbs would do the job but it would put more of a strain on the engine and transmission than I wanted it to. Originally, I had hoped to wait until midway through the trip and before the Rockies before I made a move. However, remember that “stay flexible” thing I mentioned? Well, clearly I needed to remember that!

Meg and I knew that she would be joining me for part of the trip but we weren’t sure when. After many discussions, plan making, and plan changing we decided to meet in St. Louis and then drive to Washington State for a chocolate festival. I mean…who doesn’t love a chocolate festival?! This would also give us the ability to pack the stuff that she needed to bring on the trip but wouldn’t be able to bring on a plane. That also meant that I would need to get a vehicle sooner than originally planned.

The good news is that I had plenty of time to stay flexible! All along the trip thus far, I had been researching and test driving different vehicles to see what I liked and didn’t like. Again, I had known from the start that at some point a new vehicle would be needed. I wanted to make sure I was prepared and not in a situation where I was stranded on the side of the road attached to a big orange camper.

So, I researched. I needed to know what would tow just “okay” and what would tow the best. What would be comfortable to drive as well as able to tow? What would be a better vehicle over all versus what would just get me by? It all began to work out so that when I finally made it to St. Louis I was able to find a vehicle that would not only tow, but would fit two people plus a dog and a cat.

Finally, after going to several dealerships, driving several vehicles, and deciding what options were most important, I traded in my little Escape for something that would work better. Against all odds and due, in most part to my brother, I ended up with a truck. Now, if I decide to get a bigger camper at some point I don’t have to worry about that pesky little “towing capacity” thing! It also helps that I have 4-wheel drive now and if we get caught in a snowstorm, we are a little more prepared.

I am often surprised at how different living on the road is than what I expected it to be. I know that everyone is different and we all have different limitations but something that is important to me is trying to be smart on how I travel. It was important to me to get a camper that was newer so I didn’t have to worry about certain things breaking down before the warranty ran out. I also wanted a vehicle that I could depend on and that wouldn’t leave me (in theory) along the side of the road. These things are important to me because I’m doing this full time. This isn’t a long weekend where I can go home and make some repairs. If something happens to my vehicle or my camper that’s my home and I’ll be stuck until it’s fixed. That’s not something that I really realized the impact of until I left.

There is also a lot more planning than many people realize. If I’m driving a long distance, yes, I can pull over and sleep any time. It’s super convenient to have a bed and a bathroom attached to you but I also have to pay attention to things like the weather a lot more. If I go too far north at this time of year I need to be aware of freezing temperatures. Will I have shore power or will I be operating on battery? Do I have enough propane for the heater? Is there somewhere to get water if I don’t have enough?

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Most of these things are becoming second nature to me and is therefore getting easier.
Each leg of the trip has it’s own challenges but there are also amazing rewards. Finding an amazing campground in the middle of nowhere while in Kansas that was next to a beautiful lake and had breathtaking views was definitely a reward. Seeing the sunset in the mountains and over part of the Salt Lake was also high on the reward list. Being free to explore things that I would have only driven by has made life on the road worth the crazy unexpectedness so far.

See you on the road…

Michelle

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And we’re off…

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It’s been a while since my last post and oh so much has happened! I hope to catch you all up soon but for now I wanted to share a few details about our first day on the road. I don’t always have wifi so there will be a bit of sporadic-ness until I get the hang of this living on the road thing.

The closing of the house happened on October 18th and went off without a hitch. Everything went smoothly and I walked away officially “homeless”. Fortunately, a friend had let me park the camper and stay with her so I didn’t have to leave late in the day. Since the closing wasn’t scheduled until 4pm that was super helpful.

I got up Thursday morning expecting to run a few errands and then potentially drive out later that day but my body had other plans for me. Unfortunately, I started feeling pretty bad by mid-morning and by the afternoon I could barely make it off of the couch. So, I stayed in Vermont and recovered until Sunday.

Sunday I got up and hooked up the camper to start our adventure. I had breakfast with some friends who did a great job at sending me off! Sam, Jacob, and I hit the road around 9am or so and headed south to one of my favorite campgrounds in Pennsylvania.

Now, let me interject some background info here. Jacob is a pro traveler. We have been across the country numerous times and on countless road trips. He’s only been carsick maybe two or three times and he really travels like a rock star.

Sam, to his credit, used to be a champ at traveling as well. In fact, that cat has probably been to more states than you! However, we have lived in Vermont for ten years and his need to travel has waned while his lazy house-catedness has increased. Any awesome road trip skills that he once had faded into the past while short car trips to the vet became his only time in giant steel cat carrier (aka “car”).

Although I knew that Sam would have a hard time adjusting I had hoped that eventually his memory would kick in and time in the car, sitting next to me, would be an adventure. In hindsight, I probably should have prepared better…

Within minutes the yowling started. Now let me tell you, my Sammo is not a so called “chatty catty”. The only time he really talks is if he reaaaaally wants to go outside. This time, however, he was letting me know within minutes that he was definitely not happy about the current situation. I talked to him, I tried to sooth him, I grumpily ignored him, all in hopes that eventually he would calm down.

The yowling persisted off and on for about thirty minutes until he hit peak unhappiness.
I heard the yowl of all yowls that told me it was time to stop the car immediately. Just as luck would have it, there was absolutely nowhere to pull off. I drove on hoping to see something that I could maneuver into all while my poor cat started heaving in the back of the car. I drove helplessly while Jacob stared at me wondering what I had done to his bff and why was said bff going on a camping trip anyway?

Eventually, I found a place to pull off and clean Sam and the car up. I needed paper towels so I opened the camper only to find that the little stopper on the refrigerator that is supposed to keep the door closed, had failed. Actually, I had failed. I knew that needed to be fixed but I kept forgetting about it in all the craziness. Who knew

 

that such a small little tab could be so important? Due to that small tab failure, most everything that had been in the fridge was now all over the floor. Ugh!

Once I cleaned Sam off, gave him some meds, and cleaned the car, I went back to the camper to fix the refrigerator. Hoping to start the adventure anew, I grabbed a small blanket from the camper that I figured Sam would like to hide under. I started up the car and once again, the crew and I were on the road to Pennsylvania.

Approximately thirty minutes later, I noticed Sam was sitting at a funny angle. Now, we weren’t going to be on the road for very long so I hadn’t put his litter box inside. In the past he had never used it while in the car unless we were driving for a very long time. Apparently, he had forgotten that. While I desperately looked for another place to pull over, he was using that nice little blanket I had brought him as a litter box! Not that I am ever excited about cat poop, but I was happy that he only had to go “number two” and I didn’t have to scrub cat urine from my seats! Finally, I found another place to pull over and went about the “doodie” of, once again, cleaning up the cat and the car.

Just remember, this all happened within the span of about an hour to an hour and a half. We were only supposed to drive about five hours but it’s not very comforting when the first part of your trip has gone so very crappy! Thankfully, Jacob is a very patient dog and sat in the back while all the commotion happened.

paEventually, the meds kicked in and Sam quieted down for the remainder of the trip. We all made it to Pennsylvania in one piece and enjoyed several days of quiet solitude sans vomiting! I hope your week has gone much better and you don’t find yourself in a “stinky” situation.

Michelle