After returning to the Lower 48 states from the Canadian Maritimes in early
September Jim and I have gradually and independently come to the same realization:
our attitudes and lifestyle are already beginning
to change in some ways now that we live full-time in our Cameo 5th-wheel camper.
After ten years of extensive travel in our RV we are no longer on a "summer trip"
or a "winter trip," with an
inevitable return to our house in Virginia for a few weeks each spring
and fall for medical appointments and maintenance work on our property
before we head out again in our camper to explore new venues, visit
friends and relatives, and generally
follow our Muses.
That's because we no longer own a house affixed to land to which we can return.
We sold the place in June so we can travel full time -- with no
worries about a fire, tornado, break-in, or other damage to our
property -- until we get tired of that lifestyle and decide to
settle down again somewhere. That could be another two years, ten years, or
never. Time will tell.
The last morning at our stick house: we spent the night
in the Cameo in our driveway
because the house was empty and the few items we
kept were in storage. (6-26-14)
So far, after about four months of being house-free, we love the total
freedom we finally have to travel in our RV wherever and whenever we want
on the vast North American continent. If we don't like the weather or something else about our
current location, we're free to move the camper somewhere else that we might enjoy more.
We can stay as long or as little as we want in each place.
It's been a long time coming. We've wanted this freedom for the last
five or six years but had to wait until the housing market improved sufficiently
in our rural area of Virginia before we could sell our house at a
Now we're learning what it's like to be house-free and able to pursue
all kinds of new adventures.
What has surprised me the most about our new lifestyle is our dwindling interest in
going out and doing or seeing something new each day, which we often did
on our "trips." Some days inertia sets in:
Jim reads in our peaceful, shady site at the city
campground in N. Adams, MA (7-18-14)
Our extended RV trips the last ten years were more like vacations
-- really loooong vacations that lasted four or five months at a
time. The mind-set many people have on vacations is to cram as much
activity as possible into each day, especially if they are visiting a
place that is new to them.
We fall into that trap sometimes, too, as recently as our journey
through Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick this summer.
The Maritimes were new to us and we were curious to see as much as we
reasonably could in a month. After all, we don't know if we'll ever
get to go back there again (we'd like to).
Colorful harbor at Lunenberg,
Nova Scotia (above) (8-20-14)
Iconic lighthouse at Peggy's
Cove, Nova Scotia (below) (8-20-14)
Ditto for Alaska. Even though we were in that far-flung state for
almost three months in 2012, so many things were new and exciting to us
that we wanted to absorb as much of the scenery and history through
northwestern Canada and Alaska as possible. We had some down-time but
not a lot, and we were exhausted (I called it "tripped out") by the time
we got back to our house in Virginia.
So what is changing in our lifestyle now?
A noticeable shift in mind-set from being
on another extended "trip" . . . to living and
traveling in our RV full time, which is different in some ways than we expected.
Can anyone be "on vacation" full-time?? That actually sounds like a lot of
stress to me!
Obviously, I need to learn to relax more when we're visiting
new locations. As retirees we joke that "every day is Saturday." It
doesn't mean every day has to be packed with activity.
For the past month or two we haven't had as much desire as usual to get
out and do things every day. We stayed busy at Acadia National Park
in September because it's a great place to hike and bike but we gradually ran out of
steam after that in the White and Adirondack Mountains.
Ditto for Fort Drum and now in Washington, D.C.
We loved hiking along the coast
at Acadia National Park in Maine. (9-3-14)
There are lots of interesting things to do and see in D.C. but most
days we aren't interested in going anywhere.
Maybe we're just tired from exploring the Maritimes and northern New
England and need a break. Maybe it's because we
don't like densely populated areas like metro D.C. We aren't used to
this much traffic and so many people everywhere. It's much
quieter on base, even with fighter jets taking off a couple times a
day and helicopters buzzing overhead every time POTUS or a foreign
dignitary goes in or out. (The various aircraft used by the president
are based here and he likes to play golf on the course that surrounds
We both think it's more
of an unconscious shift in our thinking, however, than just being tired of touring
the northeastern part of the continent or avoiding the urban jungle
we're in right now.
No urban jungle, but this
lake in St. Mary's, GA does have alligators!
It's very easy to relax at the
King's Bay Submarine Base campground when our
site is just 75 feet from the water.
That's Jim in a kayak we rented last winter. (2-10-14)
We haven't lost our desire to explore new places but we're more likely
to simply prefer to relax some days in the campground now, regardless of
where we are.
I think the recent mind-shift
is that we fully comprehend that the Cameo is our one and only home. It's 'way
more than just a "recreational" vehicle now.
When we stayed at our
sticks-&-bricks house in Virginia for a few weeks at a time we didn't feel the need to go out and
do something new each day. We did that when we traveled in our
rolling residence, not when we stayed at the stationary one.
Site with a view: Mayport
Naval Base, Jacksonville, FL, where it's fun
to watch all the
fishing, and cruise ships pass in front of us. (12-9-13)
This house on wheels is our home 24/7 now. It's very comfortable
no matter where we park it -- as any "real home" should be. It's a great
place to relax, not just to crash overnight between our daytime adventures.
Makes sense, and helps us feel less guilty about not exploring every
location we visit more thoroughly.
We foresee some other shifts in our lifestyle, too.
One is that we're more likely to stay in each destination campground
longer than we have in the past. That is not only more relaxing, it also
saves money when we can get weekly or monthly rates and we use less fuel
driving with the RV from place to place.
When we traveled around the country to foot races from 2004 to 2010
we moved fairly often from one location to the next. Now that we aren't
going to those races anymore, we have less structure and can stay for
longer periods of time in the areas we choose to visit.
"Long-term" for us means at least two months. That's about the
longest we've ever camped in one spot. Snowbirds with houses in the
northern U.S. or Canada often spend five or six months in warm climates
farther south in the winter. I don't think we'll spend that much time in
any one place any time in the foreseeable future but that lifestyle may
look more appealing to us as we age.
Above and below: scenes
from the Celtic Coastal Trail on the
western shore of Cape Breton
Island, Nova Scotia (8-3-14)
We were intrigued with all the nice seasonal sites we saw at
campgrounds this summer in northern New England and the Maritime provinces. I can
see staying in the White Mountains of New Hampshire or even Nova Scotia
or Prince Edward Island at an attractive, convenient RV park for several months
at some point in the future. The average daily cost is very reasonable at most of them.
One thing that won't change is our desire for cooler climes in the
summer and warmer ones in the winter -- that "Dandelion Time
Warp" with moderate temperatures we prefer. We considered a seasonal
site somewhere in southern Arizona this
winter before we changed our destination to the Florida-Georgia area. We
have a three-month reservation at Kings Bay Submarine Base again. We
might leave after two months if we decide to visit one or more other
military bases while we're down there.
HOOK ME UP
Another change we began making this summer is less boondocking, which
is "dry" camping without water, electrical, or sewer connections.
Without all the expenses associated with our stick house, we have more
discretionary income to spend on nicer RV sites now. That means we'll
seek out a minimum of at least water and electricity at most future
campsites. I doubt we'll ever boondock again all winter at a remote desert site
in Arizona, for example, like we did at Imperial Dam several years ago:
Now we're more likely to seek an RV park with hookups, especially for
stays longer than a few days.
As we get older we don't enjoy all the work entailed in hauling
fresh water, dumping waste water properly, running the generator several times
a day, and relying so heavily on solar power. We still have our
generator and solar panels and will continue using them when necessary,
such as in-transit overnight stops at Walmart or Sam's Club parking
lots. They'll also come in handy at some state and national parks and
forests we choose to stay in for a few days at a time.
This doesn't mean we'll be staying at posh RV resorts or even very
often at expensive private campgrounds like KOAs. Both of those types of
RV parks have too many amenities we don't use or appreciate. Why pay for
We have always been rather frugal people and we always will. We'll
continue to search for nice but less-expensive campgrounds, such as
those on military bases and ones with economical weekly, monthly,
and seasonal rates.
Above and below: The
largest full-hookup site we've ever had is this one at
Fort Drum, NY recently and it
cost only $20/night. (10-1-14)
We want spacious sites, clean grounds, convenient
places to ride our bikes and walk the dogs, and the more hookups the
merrier -- not just water, electricity (30, or preferably, 50 amps), and sewer
connections, but we're also really fond of strong, free WiFi connections
and cable TV.* We'll be seeking out such places more frequently now.
[*We have our own private Verizon MiFi card for secure transactions,
as well as internet when we can't get a good campground WiFi connection
at our site. We still do not have a satellite dish but did install a
better TV antenna on the rig this year.]
THAT'S NOT *REAL* CAMPING, IS IT?
Even though we move around in our RV to various campsites some people
don't consider the way we live to be "camping" because it's not
"roughing it" enough.
I can understand that. There are many ways to "camp" in the great
outdoors, from sleeping in a simple backpacking tent to a plush
multi-million dollar Newell Class A motorhome:
was listed at $1.73 million retail; it parked next to us one
weekend at the Twin Mountain RV
Park in Twin Mountain, NH (8-2-14)
Further compounding the concept
is that most any tent or type of RV can be found in most any setting
-- tents can be used in all but the most exclusive RV parks, and
classy motorhomes can be found in the middle of the desert sans hookups.
In my book, all these folks are "camping" unless they stay in one
spot permanently. If their RV never moves to another location, it's more
like living in a mobile home park.
We're somewhere in the middle of that "camping" range with our comfortable
5th-wheel coach built sturdily enough for full-time living. We like to
mix it up with a variety of campground settings so we can enjoy all the
places we want to visit. We can choose to rough it, relatively, without
hookups in a national forest or desert, or seek out more amenities in
"real" campgrounds with various options.
It's all good because we are free to move on or stay as long as we
want (or as long as the campground restrictions allow) when we're in our rolling residence.
DON'T YOU MISS YOUR STICK HOUSE?
Nope. We feel relief that we don't have to worry about it anymore
while we're traveling.
Who knows when or if we'll buy another property. There are so many
variables that could influence our decision. We occasionally
talk about what state or area we'd prefer "someday" but no one place that we've
found during our travels or from internet research has everything we
That's one reason we keep RVing. We can travel the whole continent to
seek the best weather, scenery, trails, local attractions, and other
things we enjoy -- and try to avoid those we don't.
This fall we have followed the
changing leaves through ME, NH, VT, NY, PA, MD, and VA.
The photos above (AuSable River)
and below show beautiful autumn color at the North Pole
campground in Wilmington, NY,
which is near Lake Placid in the Adirondacks. (9-28-14)
We joke about being house-free when we're at a Home Depot
or Lowe's store, looking for items for the camper.
We've put residential fixtures of various types in the Cameo since we
purchased it 4+ years ago. In July, for example, Jim put a new pull-down
kitchen faucet in the camper that was identical to the one we installed
in the house when we upgraded the kitchen before we sold the
house. He also mounted twin filters under the kitchen sink because the
water quality varies so much from campground to campground.
It does seem a little odd that we aren't hunting things for a "real" house
or yard any more, after doing that for all of our adult lives. We bought
so many things to spruce up the place in Virginia before putting it on
the market last spring that on subsequent trips to home stores early in
the summer we'd see a good sale price on something like mulch and then realize,
Oh, we don't need that any more!
Jim carefully cuts between rows
of glass & stone mosaic tiles as we installed a
new backsplash in our house kitchen; I brought a dozen random tile samples home
before we finally chose our favorite pattern. The buyers liked our
Jim cracked me up when we were here at Andrews AFB in July, soon
after selling the house. On the second rainy day in a row he wryly
remarked that "if it doesn't stop raining, I'm going home!" and we both
got a good laugh.
Of course, that's only funny if he says it in front of someone who
knows we sold our house.
We might have some nostalgia when we pass through the Roanoke area in a
couple weeks. It'll be odd, indeed, not to
head for our house. We'll have to drive by our
previous abode to see if the new owners are taking care of the place.
Ha! That beautiful yard and gardens . . .
The flower beds were prettiest in
the spring when the azaleas and irises were blooming.
Unfortunately, they looked terrible all those
summers we were gone
and no one weeded them until we got back (a
neighbor mowed the grass for us).
The leaves at our former
house were gorgeous every fall but they required
a lot of work when they came down
in October and November.
Jim says he'll just laugh at all the leaves in the gutters and on the
grass and be thankful he doesn't have to dispose of them any more.
I'll be thankful that I don't have to spend several days pulling all the weeds
that overtook the flowerbeds while we were gone for four months --
or look at the big trees that came down in the woods from very high winds the last
two years. That just killed me because the forest was so beautiful when we
bought the place ten years ago.
Part of our psyches might miss our big "tree house" after seeing it
again from the outside but we'll mostly be grateful we were able to sell
the place at a decent price so we can enjoy the freedom of full-time
living and traveling in our RV.
Someday we'll probably put down roots again but for now we prefer
being nomads. There are more of us out here enjoying this lifestyle than
you'd believe and they aren't all retirees like us.
Next entry: our fall-winter snowbird migration toward the South
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup
© 2014 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil