2011 RUNNING & TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
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   DREAMING ABOUT THE RV LIFESTYLE?

Part 8: Pulling It All Together + Links to Other Sites

TUESDAY, JANUARY 4

 
"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.
Don't be trapped by dogma -- which is living with the result of other peoples' thinking.
Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice.
And most important, have the courage to follow your own heart and intuition.
They somehow already know what you truly want to become.
Everything else is secondary."
 
~ Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple, Inc.
 
 

I'm guessing that was a commencement speech to some graduating college students somewhere but I think it's equally appropriate at any stage of our lives -- including making the leap into an RV lifestyle, if that is on your radar screen.

So far I've been focusing on considerations re: getting into that lifestyle. Before I summarize my recommendations and provide some links to a few websites that may be helpful to you, I want to talk a little bit about getting out of the RV lifestyle at some point.

EXIT STRATEGY

This is a term popularized in recent years that means having a plan for transitioning from one phase of your life to the next, such as moving from one job to another or from a lifetime career to retirement.


Oh, happy day!  Jim poses with some of the other electronics technicians on his last day at the USPS
in Billings, MT. That marked the beginning of our extended-RV travel days.  (January, 2004)

It can also be used here in regards to coming off the road for whatever reasons when roaming around the country is no longer desirable or feasible. I bring it up primarily because it may affect whether you sell your house in order to travel in an RV full time.

An exit strategy is something you should consider before selling your house and disposing of all or most of your belongings -- but don't let it prevent you from living the life you want in the shorter term.

If you think you'll someday want to live in your current house again, consider renting it out while you're on the road or allowing someone to live there to house-sit. If you do sell your house, think long and hard about keeping the most meaningful possessions -- like photos and family antiques and your favorite chair -- in storage or at someone's house. It's not all that expensive to rent a storage unit, even one that is climate-controlled, compared to the cost of replacing furniture and other household goods should you need them later. You can always decide a few months or years "down the road" to give those things to family members or friends if you love the RV life so much that you never need or want them again.


We like Austin in the winter. This is Town Lake Trail, a very popular multi-use trail on sunny days. (1-11)

I've mentioned several times that Jim and I want to sell our house and go on the road full-time in our Cameo 5th-wheel coach. We'd be able to enjoy our travels more if we didn't have the cost and stress of home ownership. We're just waiting for the housing market to improve so we don't lose too much of our equity. 

I realize our situation is different than some because we don't have close ties to the Roanoke area. We just aren't emotionally attached there. In addition, we would be better off in the future to live in a smaller, one-level house that is closer to a town/city instead of out in the country. We see only advantages when we sell that house. When we do, there are things we'll definitely keep in storage because we visualize having another stationary abode in our long-term future. 


Some place without snow would be nice . . .  (early December, 2010)

Some folks need solid plans for the future. We're on the same page with them when it comes to financial security but we're not so much concerned about having a definite "exit strategy" for this lifestyle as far as where we'll live after we sell the house. We hope to be traveling for quite a while. A lot can change between now and the time we have to make those decisions.

At this point our "exit strategy" from the RV lifestyle is to

  1. live on our sources of relatively fixed income and not spend too much of our savings, investments, and retirement accounts while we're gallivanting around the country . . . because we plan to live a long time, and
  2. figure out where we'd like to live in the future besides Virginia so we don't have to make a sudden decision if some type of emergency ends our traveling earlier than planned.


What's not to like about walking barefoot, in shorts, on a sunny beach in January??
(Jim and Cody at Mustang Island SP, Texas, Jan., 2009)

Meantime, as long as we're enjoying life on the road . . . this IS our exit strategy!

PULLING IT ALL TOGETHER

Here's a brief summary of my advice for folks who are contemplating the RV lifestyle -- plus a few things I haven't mentioned before:

  • Remember that this "lifestyle" encompasses many variations. Each person tailors it to him/herself and it will probably morph over a period of time.
  • You can travel and live happily in an RV all by yourself or with a pet; you don't have to have a spouse or other two-legged companion along for the ride. There are numerous opportunities to meet people along the way if you want and you can choose to enjoy their company for a few minutes, days, weeks . . . or maybe become lifelong friends.
  • There are many single, divorced, and widowed women who enjoy the solo RV lifestyle and some of them have terrific blogs. There are also some internet forums specifically set up for female RVers to share their experiences. If I am widowed it's my intention to continue traveling around the country by myself (and a dog) in an RV. Hopefully, I won't be widowed, however! Jim says he will probably do the same thing if he's the widower. That's how much we enjoy the lifestyle.


Sue and Cody on Colorado Trail Segment 24 along the Continental Divide;
the Grenadier Range is in the background.  (July, 2010)

  • The easiest way to determine if you will truly enjoy some version of an RV lifestyle is to try it gradually before selling your house, leaving your community, and/or giving up your day job. If you don't already have a suitable RV for extended traveling (months at a time), rent one or buy a used one and take it out for longer and longer trips. It makes sense for most people to get their feet wet before taking the plunge into full-time RVing.
  • On the other hand, if you're at a critical juncture in your life and have the courage to take that plunge, go ahead. What do you have to lose? If it's a mistake, regroup and resume life in a stationary dwelling. You might still enjoy traveling in your RV for shorter periods of time.
  • Don't let the assumed costs of an RV lifestyle intimidate you or prevent you from even getting started. Many people are able to live on less traveling around in an RV than living in a stationary dwelling. There are innumerable ways to make your dream affordable. All of the decisions and most of the costs are in your control.


Jim pauses on the road to Clear Lake to admire the awesome Ice Lake Basin
in the San Juan Mountains near Silverton, CO.   (June, 2010)

  • Plan your new lifestyle as thoroughly as possible before you hit the road. Research and talk to folks who RV a lot. Make lots of lists of things to do -- and add to them as you think of more things to do! Your transition to an RV lifestyle will be easier if you get your ducks in a row before you head off into the wild blue yonder -- things like setting up online banking, figuring out how to get your mail, establishing your legal domicile, updating your insurance, etc. All this can be done on the road but you'll eliminate some stress (and have more time for fun) if you do most of it before you leave.
  • RVers are generally a very friendly, helpful bunch of people. Don't hesitate to ask them questions. Every one of them had to start somewhere and they are usually glad to share their accumulated knowledge and experience with newcomers. You'll learn a lot as you go. Don't hesitate to make changes that will enhance your life on the road.
  • Have the courage to follow your dreams. You never know how much your life can improve if you never try anything new!

SOME WEB LINKS

Despite the length of this series, I've only scratched the surface of these topics and haven't even covered some others. Fortunately for you, further research on the internet and in printed material and videos is fun. You'll find so much information it'll keep you busy for as long as you want.

Just don't spend so much time living vicariously through other peoples' travelogues that you don't get out there and make your own memories!


Fun memory:  Jim races Cody up a large dune at White Sands Natl. Monument in NM.
Cody beat him to the top!  That is very fine white sand, not snow.  (January, 2008)

Here are a few links to get you started in addition to ones I've already mentioned in this series. I can't vouch for the information or products contained in them; I'm just pointing you to several websites that I've found helpful or interesting.

GENERAL RVing INFORMATION

This is a good site to start with -- the RV Travel e-newsletter that will appear in your e-mail box every Saturday morning if you subscribe for free. It contains all sorts of links to just about everything RV-related:  news about RV manufacturers and their new rigs, upcoming RV shows, those inevitable vehicle recalls, camping destinations, all sorts of how-to articles and videos, links to several internet discussion groups, blogs by various folks who want you to buy what they have to sell (which is one way to make money on the road), blogs by folks who just want to entertain and inform the rest of us, all kinds of helpful books and DVDs (which are usually cheaper at Amazon and other sources), campground membership clubs, and various other goods and services.

The editor, Chuck Woodbury, makes his living from this website and travels as often as he can. He also includes riddles, quizzes, jokes, bumper snickers, quirky museums of the week, reader surveys, recipes, hints, and other tidbits to keep readers entertained and coming back for more. You can access all of the previous newsletters he has archived, too.


More memories:  friendly burros along the road in the Black Hills of South Dakota  (May, 2009)

We've been Good Sam Club members off and on over the years. The club publishes a monthly travel, tips, and information magazine for RVers called Highways that can be accessed on-line, as well as the CyberSam newsletter. Members can also receive 10% discounts on private campgrounds that are in the Good Sam network; we rarely stay at private campgrounds any more but the ones we've used previously were at least average. The club offers trip planning tools and technical advice free with membership, and RV insurance, emergency roadside assistance (ERS), extended warranties, and loans at additional cost. We haven't used any of those services.

Both Good Sam and Camping World, which are part of the Affinity Group, have had financial problems during the recession. They've recently limited their repair service to only Camping World stores and not all the independent RV dealers who used to be authorized. Research the company thoroughly before making a large financial commitment like their ERS.


You don't even have to hike to get great views like this at Rocky Mtn. NP.  (September, 2010)

Another type of club that offers numerous services to RVers is Escapees, which began in 1978. Headquarters are located in Livingston, TX. Texas is one of the three most popular states full-timers use for their legal residency. One of the basic services Escapees provides is a mailing address for these folks. They offer much more to members, including educational seminars, internet forums, a newsletter and magazine, travel services, discounted camping, rallies, local chapters for folks who like to belong to groups of other RVers, work and volunteer opportunities, etc. 

I don't know anything personally about their fee structure or services other than what I've read on their website and what satisfied members have told us.

PLANNING FOR THE RV LIFESTYLE

In addition to the wealth of information provided at the three links above, there are several other interesting websites set up by individuals that I found while I was researching information about full-time RVing for this series. At least two of them appear to derive some income from their sites so understand that they have a financial interest in the products/services they are selling. I didn't find that distracting, though. They have plenty of free information you can use.

One fairly easy site to maneuver is written by a retired woman named Stephanie Henkel. Two of her pages provide a good introduction to the RV lifestyle and living well on less. I like her list of free and inexpensive things to enjoy while traveling around, further evidence that you can lead a full life on the road without spending a fortune. Other links on her site take you to photos and stories of places she has visited. I haven't checked out any of those yet.


What a great hike!  Sue and Cody on the trail up to Table Mtn. (the knob in the distance to the
  right) with two of the Teton peaks coming in view behind it.  (Aug., 2010 photo by unknown hiker)

The most comprehensive website in this group is RV-Dreams.com. Linda and Howard Payne began full-timing in 2005 at age 42 and have built this site up to about 160 pages of information. The pages I've read have been very sensible, especially regarding financial considerations. They have been quite transparent about their personal income and expenses before and after hitting the road. How they got into the lifestyle and how they've maintained it should encourage others to take the plunge. There are lots of interesting topics and a lengthy Q&A page that includes regularly updated information. I don't know if the Paynes include a six-year travelogue; I was too busy reading other information on the site to even notice!

Your RV Lifestyle is another "how-to" website written by a couple named Jill and Jose who are a little older (55 and 60)  than Howard and Linda but who also continue to make at least part of their living on the road through their website and work camping. Like the Paynes, this couple also left the traditional corporate rat race to enjoy a simpler, more satisfying life wandering around the country. This page describes how and why they made that decision. Other pages provide all sorts of useful things to consider. There is also a trip log but I haven't read any of it.


Several glaciers and three of the highest Teton peaks as seen from the summit of Table Mtn.
 Clouds rolled in as I was descending -- my timing was just right.  (August, 2010)

If you do a search for "full-time RVing" or similar wording you'll come up with thousands of hits. Have fun reading! Any conflicting advice you find just illustrates peoples' different values and life perspectives.

A SAMPLING OF FULL-TIMERS' BLOGS

The world of personal websites and blogs has exploded in recent years, especially blogs since someone else has already done most of the web set-up and those are apparently pretty easy to start and maintain. We have so many "issues" with Front Page, the software we use for our website, that Jim would prefer I ditch it and use a ready-made blog. I'd rather muddle along with this site because I've got so much of myself invested in it already.

Although our own website keeps me plenty busy I often peruse personal ultra running and RV travel sites that other people write -- not ones where they're obviously selling stuff, but ones that describe their own adventures. Here are several RV travel-related ones I like.


Jim and Cody pose on the Bannock Trail at Grand Targhee Resort on a cold day in
late August, 2010. The Grand Teton ultras are held here but not on this trail.

The first two are written by retired couples who have been full-timing in their RVs for several years. The sampling of entries I've read on each site has been interesting and informative.

I'll eventually be reading all the pages on the Wandering Wishnies' website about their trip two years ago to Alaska. Spending a summer up there is on my bucket list. If you look at the map on their home page you'll see all the places where all they've been since they began full-timing five years ago -- all across the U.S., south into Mexico, and north to Canada. It's also interesting to read the story of how they dove headfirst into this lifestyle.

The other couple, Dale and Gwen, have been full-timing for about seven years. Their website, RVeCafe, has multiple sections, including Gwen's travelogue and Dale's RV repair and maintenance details. He also keeps a log of many of their activities. The couple's RV lifestyle is similar to ours in that they move every couple weeks. They recently completed a three-month work camping experience in California but it wasn't a very positive experience so they're back to being completely "retired" again. We found their site originally on a Carriage, Inc. internet forum and have had some e-mail correspondence with them. They own the same brand of 5th-wheel we do, a Cameo. We hope to run into them some day.


Pretty alpine pond in the Alaska Basin of the Teton Range.  (early Sept., 2010)

If you'd like to follow a hip younger woman's RV adventures check out Lary Kennedy's blog, i'm gonna live like i'm dying. She sold her house in Los Angeles last year, bought an RV, and has been traveling full-time across the country with her dog in what she calls "bdh" (Barbie's Dream House). Her site has some very cool photo features. If writing in lower-case with stream-of-consciousness thoughts and . . . substituting for punctuation annoys you, you may not enjoy this site but check it out anyway. I'll be interested in seeing how long she continues to travel. She's having a blast so far.

Another blog written by a young woman who frequently travels solo away from her home in Taos in a little Scamp trailer is GoneScamping.com. Deonne has a master's degree in creative writing, a career that is well-suited to life on the road. She's as spunky as Lary. One of her original goals was to see all the national parks in three years, an ambitious goal considering there are almost 400 of them! A recent unexpected development, falling in love, now has her torn between traveling extensively and spending more time in one place. (Maybe she can talk her fella into traveling with her??)

FINAL THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS LIFESTYLE

Deonne's experience illustrates how fluid our lives can be -- and how full of rich experiences we can't begin to predict.

We humans are continually making choices that affect our future but they don't have to be permanent decisions. We are resilient, adaptable creatures. We can always change our minds and head in a different direction, literally and figuratively, when we want or need to.


View from our campsite of the sunset over Raven Lake at Huntsville SP in Texas  (January, 2011)

If you've ever thought about how great it would be to hop into an RV and explore the country for months or years on end, start planning now to make that dream come true -- sooner rather than later. There's always a risk that "later" will get here a lot sooner than you expect. Make every day count.

I'll end this series with yet another quote I like. I hope it gives you a little nudge to set some new goals and follow your dreams, no matter what they are:

"It is only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it were the only one we had."   ~ Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Next entry:  visiting El Paso, Texas

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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