Getting up the guts to untie the dock lines and go cruising, or to drive out of the driveway and hit the road in an RV full-time, is often the hardest part of starting a new life of adventure and travel.
Once you’ve set up camp a few times in your rig, or dropped the hook a few times along the coast, new patterns begin to get established and eventually the new lifestyle becomes routine.
But taking that first step — saying goodbye to all that is familiar and comfortable — can be truly frightening.
Before we started full-time RVing in 2007, I used to sit in our home and gaze out the window and wonder how in the world we would ever be able to leave home and go live in a trailer.
A life on the road sounded so thrilling, but in many ways it seemed so impossible to achieve. Our house “needed us” to keep everything running right…would tenants trash the place? Our friends and family were all staying put…would our relationships survive the long distances and time apart? And we had so much stuff (and it was good stuff too!)…would we regret letting it go?
As we sold off almost all of our belongings and put the rest in a shed behind a friend’s house, a mixture of terror and excitement filled our hearts.
When we drove out of our neighborhood the last time, we headed 1,000 miles east with all our remaining worldly possessions in the back of our truck.
We were on our way to pick up a new rolling home that we had purchased online — sight unseen — and we were both utterly thrilled.
But at the same time a tiny voice inside asked, “what have we done?”
When we arrived at the RV dealership outside Dallas, we discovered our brand new trailer had been sitting on the lot for a year and was full of black mold under the fridge.
Holy cow!! What had we just done?
On our first trip to a laundromat, Mark looked at me glumly. “So this is it from now on,” he said. “Laundromats… I used to have a really nice washer and dryer of my own!”
Oh dear… What in the world had we just done?
We can look back at those early days now and laugh.
In the end, Marshall’s RV Center was very upstanding and replaced our trailer with a fresh-off-the-line unit that was perfect in every respect.
And we gradually got used to laundromats, and now enjoy doing three (or four, or five) loads of laundry simultaneously.
We returned to our home when we had been on the road for four years, and after just 10 days of painting and repairing, the place looked better than when we lived there ourselves!
After six years on the road, we returned again to do the same thing, with the same result. Maybe our home “needed us,” but apparently in small doses!
But what a lot of panicky feelings we went through on the way to those happy endings!
I think these kinds of mixed emotions and rocky beginnings are common among many new full-timers and cruisers.
As one friend wrote to me in an email during his final weeks before he left San Diego to cruise Mexico: “This is a confusing time, as we have wanted to do this for a long time, but getting ready is very stressful. Everything about it is scary.”
Emotions run extraordinarily high as you force yourself to let go of almost every material thing you’ve ever held dear, often for ten cents on the dollar, or less, at garage sales.
How hard it is to see your precious things get snatched up by vulturous yard-salers.
And — for cruisers especially — how frightening it is to see all the money you have carefully saved all your life, dollar by dollar, suddenly flying out of your bank account thousand by thousand.
No one REALLY told you that this is what outfitting your boat for self-sufficiency and safety in third-world countries would be all about… did they?
This preparation phase can shake you to the core.
Yet if you don’t hold fast to your dream, and march through these transitional days with strong resolve, you can’t ever open yourself to the new life that awaits you on the other side.
If your heart soars at the idea of sailing off over the horizon, or you long to sample a more exotic life on the road, pursuing that dream will ultimately push you out of your comfort zone. Only by accepting that can you escape the “same old same old.”
If you get scared, and give in, and give up before you ever get going, you are effectively saying your dream isn’t worthwhile.
Dreams are flighty and delicate. They flit around us like butterflies on a warm summer day, hard to pin down, and quick to fly off out of sight.
Reaching out to catch our dreams can be a stretch. But we have to take that leap of faith, and sometimes even suffer a little scary uncertainty, if we want to make them come true.
Ironically, after six years on the road, three in a fifth wheel and three in a sailboat, Mark and I find ourselves right where we started, as we rearrange our lives to support our new dreams.
We are giving up cruising, resuming full-time RVing, and we plan on traveling in other ways too.
For all those wonderful things to happen, though, we have to make some big changes.
For starters, we need to sell everything we bought for the boat, and sell the boat too.
Over the past few weeks, we have held a daily Cockpit Sale aboard Groovy in San Diego and sold off piles of wonderful cruising gear
How great it is that we never needed our EPIRB (emergency radio beacon) or spare storm anchor or spare macerator pump.
But how hard it is to let them go for half of what we paid.
It is not quite as hard as getting rid of a 25 year accumulation of stuff like we did when we started full-timing, but it entails the same mixed sense of loss — and of growing freedom.
To make things even more complicated, our tenants’ lease on our home is up and they have moved out.
We like to choose who lives in our home, so this new wrinkle has forced us to dash to Phoenix to tidy up the place and find new people to live there.
Putting the Cockpit Sale on hold for a bit, we are now in Phoenix, sleeping on an air mattress and using paper plates and plastic utensils in our empty home, as we clean and repair little things and show the place to prospective tenants.
All of our incredible travels suddenly seem like a distant dream. Stranger still, I am now gazing out the windows of our former home, and I am wondering how in the world we will ever get from here into our next phase of life.
I can envision it, but it seems worlds away.
We need tenants.
We need a boat buyer.
We need to sell the rest of our cruising stuff and downsize back into our trailer.
The key, I think, both for first-timers and for folks like us that are making a midstream adjustment to their traveling lifestyle, is to Stay the Course.
I’ve said this to lots of people who have emailed me in a panic in the last weeks before they take off on their dream adventure. Now it is time for us to remind ourselves of this important message too!!
When we were going through our initial big sell-off, before we moved into our trailer, my mom asked me how I could part with so much of my personal memorabilia.
In a way, purging all that stuff was like clearing out a place in my own soul.
Only by letting go of it all could I make room for new memories, new experiences and new thrills.
If I clung too tightly to my past, I wouldn’t have room for the future.
And so it is now as I watch other people walk away from our boat with our fins, our cruising guides, our kayak, our dive tanks, our cool portable VHF radio and our dinghy.
Each holds precious memories — both of choosing the gear in anticipation of our cruise and of putting it to use in Mexico — and in each item I see a younger and more innocent me who embraced our cruising life with such enthusiasm.
Now it is time to let it all go.
We could try to keep all that stuff — we might use some of it again — but our new life is still on the road, and there is absolutely no room for any of it in our already full fifth wheel trailer.
If we need any of it in the future, we can buy it again. That may not be the most cost-effective approach, but at least we won’t have had to lug it around with us either.
Likewise, as I sit between our home’s bare walls and wonder when those wonderful new prospective tenants we’re waiting for will suddenly walk in the door and fall in love with our place, I have to dig deep for the faith that they will indeed show up, that they will truly love our home, and that they will pay the rent on time.
A big part of having a dream and pursuing it is also having the faith that all the pieces will fall into place and allow it to come true.
For three straight weeks we have turned into expert salesmen, day in and day out, selling everything we have right out from under us, from tarps and fishing gear to a lease on our home.
But this uncertainty, and these weird feelings, and this soul searching are all part of the process. They are the small toll we must pay to transit the gate to where our dream lifestyle not only resumes but takes flight.
Once past all this, once our new adventures get going, I now know that I will eventually look back on these days and remember this younger me, gazing out these very same windows, wondering how it will all come together.
I will look back, too, and remember how, beneath my nervousness, I was so full of anticipation, expectation and hope.
If you are working towards a dream of escape, and putting together the many pieces that will go into a new life of full-time travel, remember: Stay the Course.
When things get a little emotional, and you question your own sanity, and you wonder if giving up your current life for a fragile dream will be worth it in the end, have faith in your vision.
If you are like us, with wanderlust and adventure in your soul, imagine yourself in your final years. Which will be most fulfilling to reminisce about, a lifetime of possessions or a lifetime of experiences?
When you fear your dream may not work out, believe — with all your heart — that your innermost yearnings and your deepest desires are right for you.
You will cherish the days when those intangible longings have become the very essence of your day to day life.
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