The January, 2015, issue of Escapees Magazine is graced with a photo of ours on the cover, taken at Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction, Arizona, at dusk, with the stately Superstition mountains in the background.
We were out walking the campground loop one evening when we noticed that the host campsite looked very inviting. It was huge, and the hosts had done some creative landscaping to make it really homey. The lights were glowing in their rig, and they had just started a campfire. It was a classic camping scene — I had to get a pic!!
Because it was evening, it would be a long exposure photo that would require a tripod. The light was fading fast, however, much too fast to be able to run home and grab a tripod and return for the shot. So, we gave up on the idea and walked over to their campfire instead. We introduced ourselves to the hosts, Dave and Linda, who were very warm and friendly, and we started chatting with them.
After an hour or so of happy chit-chat (including us telling them what a perfect photo their campsite would make), it was now pitch dark and time for us to find our way home.
As we were leaving, they invited us to come back another night for a beer — and to bring a tripod and get the shot. And so we did — and what a wonderful evening we had sitting around their campfire sharing stories afterwards.
This kind of spontaneous and informal socializing is one of our favorite things about the full-time RV lifestyle. It suits our personalities and our style perfectly because we just aren’t big on formalities and planning things. We like leaving ourselves open to interesting happenings that find their way to us.
Full-time RVing is a dream-come-true lifestyle for us, and our feature in Escapees, “Stay the Course on the Road to your Dreams,” touches on what it takes to get from dreaming about going full-time to actually doing it: tenacity!
The only thing that held us together was the absolute certainty that we were doing the right thing.
How were we so sure? Because we had been full-time RVers already and we knew exactly what lay ahead.
Generally, future full-timers don’t have that luxury, and I often receive emails from people who are both excited and terrified by the prospect of going full-time (or going cruising).
As they downsize and sell off everything they own, the terror begins to come in waves, and every doubt they’ve ever had about running off in an RV or sailboat looms monstrous around them.
Most future full-timers are folks nearing retirement, and the idea of breaking out of the bonds of the workaday world is tantalizingly delicious.
Yet, at the same time, the thought of running away to a life of free-spirited adventure after decades of predictability is daunting. Letting go of the house and its contents — your very roots — can be overwhelming.
It is one thing to be wild and crazy at twenty, when no one is looking and you have nothing to lose.
It’s a whole different story to be wild and crazy at retirement age when you’ve become accustomed to certain luxuries, routines and structure, when you’ve been responsible for and beholden to other people for eons, and especially when your kids, or friends, or in-laws are looking at you like you’ve lost your mind as you tell them you are going to sell up and go.
For most of us, retirement is the first time in our lives when we have both the financial resources and the time to pursue our dreams.
What a boon! But how frightening it can be too. With a finite amount of time, and a finite amount of money, you sure don’t want to waste either one. It is even more unsettling when you realize that all the joy or misery your precious dream may bring you is entirely on your own shoulders.
For the first time in your life, you’re chasing a dream that doesn’t belong to someone else. You’re not doing this to please your parents, or to help the kids, or to impress a boss. This dream is all your own.
For that reason, I believe the most important thing to do before turning your life upside down to move into an RV or boat and go traveling is to spend some time figuring out why you want to go.
What is the real draw to this lifestyle: Is it independence? spontaneity? freedom from schedules and agendas? a yearning to see new places? a desire to live more simply? a need to spend time with far-flung family in distant states? Or will this be an in-depth multi-year search for a permanent retirement home?
For all the time spent researching whether life is better in a Class A motorhome or a fifth wheel trailer, it makes sense to spend an equal amount of time digging around in your own soul to figure out why you want to leave hearth and home to live in a box on wheels.
The more you understand the origins of your dream — and the origins of your spouse’s dream — the better you will be able to create a full-time RV lifestyle that is truly fulfilling.
If your dream is to be wild and free, then boondocking may play a big part in your lifestyle. If your dream is to integrate deeply into two seasonal communities, then choosing the right sites at the right RV parks will be important.
If the hubby dreams of seeing all the Civil War historic sites in the eastern states and the wife dreams of traveling primarily between the kids’ homes in Montana and Utah, then some careful itinerary planning (and negotiation!) will be necessary.
The very nature of what it is that you want out of your RVing lifestyle is what will drive all your decisions about how to put your lifestyle together.
The beauty of pursuing your own dreams is that it is an evolutionary process, and that is the part that has really surprised us over the years.
We started with very little idea of what we were getting into. Like a young bride who is totally focused on her fancy dress and big party, and not really thinking about the 50 years of togetherness that lie ahead, we were focused more on leaving than on where we were going!
However, we did know we wanted independence and freedom in our day-to-day lives, something neither of us had had since our youth, and that theme is with us still. Our personal evolution as full-time travelers has taken that theme a step further. After several years of dealing with the many big challenges that come with the boating life — something that was completely self-inflicted because going cruising on a sailboat in foreign waters was our dream — we came to realize that our primary life theme is actually very simple:
We want to spend as much time as possible doing the things that make us happy, and we want to spend as little time as possible doing the things that make us unhappy.
That may sound ridiculously simplistic, but it has helped us immensely to crystallize our biggest life decisions and to understand what we really want, deep down inside, in our day-to-day lives.
Too much of adult life is spent in some middle ground, doing things that are “good for you” (or good for your job, or your kids, or your retirement package, or something else), but that aren’t a whole lot of fun.
Until you start trying to fulfill your own innermost dreams in that wee bit of time that lies between retirement and the Great Beyond, it is very hard to understand that “good for you” and “truly satisfying” are very different things.
This is especially true when your dream is a little off-beat, like wanting to move from a house into an RV or boat.
There is a lot of support in our society for doing the conventional things that are good for you, but there’s not a lot of support for doing things that excite you but that don’t fit the norm. And this is where fear creeps in.
The one thing that holds most people back from fulfilling their dreams is fear.
What if…your dream doesn’t pan out, you blow all your money, you don’t like the lifestyle, you lose touch with friends and family back home, and all those other horrible things that might happen if you start RVing full-time. Is pursuing this fantasy of an unusual and adventurous lifestyle worth that risk?
Understanding why you are attracted to the idea of full-timing will give you the answer and limit your fears.
There are lots of ways to achieve many of the thrills of the full-timing lifestyle without actually going full-time. Loads of people RV seasonally because they want the exhilaration of traveling but they also want to go home and enjoy their roots. That’s great!
For others, it is the actual act of living on the road all the time that really matters, and for them, giving up the sticks-and-bricks home is an essential part of the process. That’s great too! There’s no badge of honor for living this lifestyle in one manner or another — or for living it at all.
Regardless of what your individual dream is, the only thing that should strike fear in your heart is reaching the end of the road and not having had the guts to give your dream a chance. If you know what your dream really is, and you believe in it and are passionate about it, then nothing should frighten you from chasing it down.
Even if you aren’t ready to cast off in your new life today, or next week, there are steps you can take everyday — internal, thoughtful and emotional ones — that will strengthen your resolve and ease your lifestyle transition immensely when your time finally comes.
But don’t dally. Life is extraordinarily short. If you are on the verge of retirement, you may have 20 years ahead of you to enjoy some travels. Great! But look back 20 years. How fast did those two decades go?! Yikes!
We have met dozens of people over the years who have seen what we’re doing and said, “I want to do that!” For them, the opportunity is there.
Sadly, we’ve met many others who said, “I always wanted to do that when I was younger, but now I can’t.” That’s tragic.
Why didn’t they go when they could? Was it fear of the unknown? Were they waiting for the housing market to improve? Did they hang in on the job an extra five years to get a little bigger pension?
We’ve heard people give all those reasons and many more for not pursuing their dreams today. As Kay Peterson, the co-founder of Escapees RV Club, wrote in the October 1990 issue of the magazine:
“Because we have no way of knowing how long our life’s cycle will last, it upsets me to hear people, young and old, who are waiting for a particular event to start doing whatever it is they want to do… If you don’t fulfill your dreams now, when will you?”
If all this sounds a little heavy or deep, it shouldn’t be. Mark and I talk about these topics every single day as we continually create and refine our dream lifestyle, and we have since we first stepped out of our old lives and hit the road.
Sometimes our conversations have been a little edgy, because this process brings you around to figuring out who you really are, but for us, thinking about this stuff, thinking about the meaning of life — of our lives — has become an essential part of everyday living.
As you list your New Year’s resolutions and look forward to new adventures in 2015, ponder this:
What do you really want out of life, and what makes you truly happy?
Then get ready to jump in with both feet!
Side note: Thank you, Bryan & Denise, for your recent correspondence — it helped me compose some of my thoughts and articulate them here. Enjoy your cruise and future travels!!
- Living, Loving, and Perfecting “The Dream”
- Why Leave Home to Live in an RV?
- Full-time RV Anecdotes and Insights
- RV Lifestyle Costs and Budget
- Our Published Work
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