Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Defining "Home"

This stencil is on our wall.
Isn't it perfect?
We learned something very interesting when we left our sticks and bricks house and became full-time RVers. We spent a lot of time worrying about the emotional transition after leaving our house. We were focused on the "things" in our life, and that is a very natural thing to do. I think everybody does that to some extent. 

But when we removed the "things" from our life what we discovered is that buried underneath was a wonderful treasure. I dare say, had we not made the move, we may never have discovered the richness of living life with less "stuff". We will forever be grateful of the discovery of this facet of our relationship that was obscured by the debris of a life filled with things. 

No matter what our future holds we will always take this wonderful discovery with us in our hearts forever. I think this is one of the secrets that full-timers have that draws us to each other and when we meet we have an unspoken connection through something wonderful that not everybody understands.

Simple Life, Simple Meals, Simply Wonderful!

We have 4 children.  While we lived in the "sticks and bricks" of 23 years, each of those 4 children had a large number of friends.  Life on our small farm was always - lively - to say the least.  Our kids were very socially active and for some reason, they liked to congregate at our house with their friends. Throwing down dinner for 10-15 people was usually a weekly occurrence for me, if not more often.  We had quite the grocery bill! I baked and I cooked... a LOT.

Fast forward a few years, life could not be more different.  The kids grew up and started their own lives and now have families of their own. Todd and I sometimes still feel the reverberations from having so many lives ricocheting around in our home.  It always makes us smile and laugh, such wonderful memories!  They would be surprised at how much we just sit and reminisce about our life as parents of 4 busy youngsters.  But now life is different.  It's simpler. More simple? However you say it, that's what we love about fulltiming. We have the white space in our lives to be able to "savor" life more as opposed to "getting through the day" as life often dictated when our house was so full.

Meal time has been an enormous transition for me.  I STILL find myself reaching for the "jumbo pack" of items because it is economical and easier, and have to restrain myself and remember I cannot FIT that package in my RV, let alone hope to consume it all!  Smaller is the ticket. Buy the tiny pack of chicken pieces with only 5 pieces of chicken in it!  Wow, what a concept!  One head of lettuce, the small jar of peanut butter (bonus: Your knuckles don't get peanut butter on the small jar when it's nearly gone! Ha!)  Obviously there is no "savings" if you end up throwing out a portion of the jumbo pack before using it all.

I decided that in order to keep my sanity about meal planning in the small confines of the RV kitchen (and they are all small, just some are smaller than others!) I needed to scale back my strategy somewhat.  We no longer have elaborate, multi-course dinners.  We only eat a main course and ONE side dish (like a veggie or a salad).  This has been a wonderful improvement to our over-indulgent eating habit, most Americans eat way too much, and it's much easier to eat healthy.

For example, last night we simply had two small grilled steaks and a generous helping of roasted brussels sprouts.  What our meals lack in variety, we make up in serving size.  You cannot eat too many veggies, this is healthy for you.  We are very conscious of what we eat these days.  We try to limit how often we ask our bodies to process unhealthy food that we do not get nutrition from.  This improved way of eating makes that SO much easier and more natural.

The other thing we have decided is that life is too short not to eat what you LOVE every day.  We have made a pact that we will NEVER AGAIN sit down to a dinner of something that we don't really like all that much because it was "on sale" or for any other reason.  So now when I meal plan I simply shop for a few pieces of meat that we love, and a heaping portions of fresh veggies that we love to go with it, and I'm done.

Becoming a Fulltimer means a lot of adjustment in ways that you might not have planned.  Think carefully about your lifestyle and your daily routine and make sure that you aren't trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.  It might be a good plan to NOT try to fit your "house" lifestyle into your new "RV" lifestyle.  Sometimes the most helpful changes hide behind "old habits".  We continue to learn from others, and I like to share things that we have had success with in the same spirit. I would love to hear about any of your meal planning adjustments that you have discovered since hitting the road!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Go RVing More Often, Here Is How

One time, a friend said, "We only have three days off, so it's not worth it to get all packed up and ready just for that."  Think of HOW MANY three day opportunities to hit the road are missed in your life if you say that every time!

Todd thinks I am SO capable. He thinks I have a knack for managing the many details that need doing in order for us to hit the road and not forget anything at home.  Well, I have a confession: It's not so much a KNACK as it is a system that's evolved over many years. I'm going to share my system with you because I want you to go RVing more.  It makes you smile, and it makes your life longer.  It's easy, you can do it too. You'll be thanking me for YEARS.

Whenever we join others on any excursion or group-camping adventure, it's a given that almost everyone needs to "run to the store" shortly after arriving, and several times throughout the trip.  Why? Usually because they forgot toilet paper, or there is no toilet chemical, or there is no soap in the bathroom... whatever. I figure, why HAVE an RV if you have to go through what TENT campers go through when they go camping?

Our Good Friends Bre and Dennis Making My Point!
Tent Campers. You know who I mean, you see these people often on Memorial Day and Labor day in the greatest concentrations if you are camping in a state camping park on those weekends.  It's their once-a-year-camping-trip (probably because it takes them a year to recover) They drive up in their SUV, open the back hatch, and "KABOOOOM!" Out flies countless Rubbermaid totes, bags, boxes, awnings, tarps, rolled up items, kids toys, dogs, pots, pans, lanterns, chairs, axes, sleeping bags, pillows, cases of water, cases of beer, volleyballs, bikes, marshmallow forks, bug spray, firewood.... you get the picture. We are always deep into our patio chairs by then, icy beer in hand, feet up, smile on face, watching the menagerie. We always think, "They will never get all of that back in that car again."

Don't get me wrong: I think it's awesome and admirable that these families go to to all this trouble, usually for their young children.  It's the ultimate display of love because WHY ELSE would they do it? Certainly not for relaxation! We are exhausted just watching them. It takes them fully a day to unpack and set up, and another to break down and pack back up, leaving about 12 hours of actual "recreating", it's like watching the Olympics! But I digress...

If you have an RV, here's rule number one: Keep it packed, ready to go. You'll GO more often! That means keep it stocked with all the goodies: dishes, pots, pans, napkins, soap, toothbrushes: EVERYTHING. When we go on a trip, we simply drop the camper in the truck and GO! We stop at the grocery store for food for the trip (yes, I have a list for that too, I'm a "list girl"). I can say without reservation, that being stocked, ready to go is the KEY reason we go SO OFTEN. We even have "camping clothes" that stay in the RV. Things like socks and underwear and a couple of sweatshirts (4 days worth: if you go longer, you use the roll of quarters you have in the junk drawer to wash a load).  And one more thing about laundry: Take either a laundry bag or a laundry basket with you. Put the dirty clothes in it. If it's less than a 4 day trip or so, you should be ok. Then, when you get home, take the basket out, wash the contents and put them right back in the same basket, clean and folded, and back in the RV ready for the next trip! On extended trips, like I said, keep a small amount of laundry soap, dryer sheets and quarters in the RV. You won't have a problem with piles of dirty clothes any more. If the basket is full, stop at a laundry mat for an hour.  And one more tip: Put the laundry soap on the dirty clothes before you go, then you don't have to haul that in with you.

You can start small: Next time you pack for a trip, leave your stuff in the RV, and get a NEW one for the house! You need a new toothbrush anyway.

We mainly use plastic forks and paper plates these days. I used to haul all the hard stuff around in quantity, and then I would spend a half an hour after every meal at the tiny RV sink, trying to get it all washed while everyone else was doing fun things outside. I finally came to my senses on that one. I also keep a few canned items inside for those days (which actually happens pretty often) when we just look at each other on an otherwise quiet weekend and say, "Hey, let's just take off!". I usually have a couple of cans of good tuna, some Tuna Helper, some soup, some pancake mix, syrup, canned beans... just something to sustain us in case we take off really late in the day and don't feel like stopping at the store till tomorrow.

Obviously most condiments like Salt and Pepper, steak seasoning, garlic salt, Tabasco, sugar, all can reside in the RV full time, unless you go an extended period between uses. Once again, the less you have to "pack" each time you go, the better.  I have all of my toiletries duplicated in the RV, lotions, makeup, hair supplies, it's all in there.  It's the only way to go.

So, what else? Ah! The LIST! My "camping list" as it's called, has evolved over the years. It is the MOTHER of all LISTS! If it's not on the list, we don't need it. I check the list religiously before we go. If my house was on fire and I only had seconds to save what I wanted, my "camping list" would be one of those things (ok, that's silly, because my list is on GOOGLE so it would survive the fire).  My list has funny things on it, like:

***Make sure there is no wet laundry in the washing machine!***
***Kitchen Garbage OUT!***

Because some things are not so nice to come home to!

A good, comprehensive list will guarantee that you will have more fun and spend less money and get in fewer arguments with your spouse. Start your list, put down, "phone charger". See? I just saved you one argument and $23 at the store. Actually, if you are doing the system to it's fullest potential, you have a permanent RV Cell Phone Charger already packed.

Actually, I have TWO lists. One is the "camping list" and the other is the "camping shopping list". I know, I am really starting to sound anal here.  But, in my defense, we NEVER forget anything at home, and we only make ONE trip to the store. That means we have MORE time to go camping in our RV and sit in our chairs and smile at the TENT PEOPLE! My camping shopping list has things on it like, "toilet chemical, dish soap, shampoo, bug spray" all of  those things that are probably in the RV but maybe we ran out of. This keeps that from happening. This list will be in my hand as we swing by the store on our way out of town.

So make your list, keep perfecting it, and get that RV packed. Don't wait till you are actually GOING somewhere. Do it now, it will make you feel happy and look forward to when you can hit the road!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

We Got Blown Up! Storm Watching On The Pacific Coast!

If you really want to make me happy, plant me on a stormy coastline just ahead of a whopper of a storm!  I have no idea why, but being in the midst of storms really is my happy place.  It doesn't make sense, because I am such a chicken heart in so many ways, I am the one saying, "Be careful!" "Drive Safe!" "Don't run with scissors!" ...and I really do mean it.  I am Chicken Little reincarnated, but boy do I love me some stormy weather, the more violent the better!

Recently, we took our big girl (our 42 foot Redwood fifth wheel) to the coast for a short little vacation getaway.  We hadn't really looked much at the weather, and didn't much care, it was just nice to get away.  Our trailer is extremely comfortable in any weather so it truly is not a deal breaker if it is going to turn nasty outside.  We scored a reservation at Cape Disappointment State Park and as we pulled in, I pulled up my trusty weather app on my smartphone and to my complete and utter delight, saw the RED EXCLAMATION POINT and a weather ALERT!  My heart skipped a beat and I opened the warning message like a gift under the Christmas tree.  Dare I hope...?

WIND!  Not just a breeze, not just a little gusty, but honest-to-goodness gale force winds were headed our way! Hurray!  And to add to the wonderful news, the loop that we were in was full of shore pines as opposed to large fir trees and nearly right on the beach, JOY!  That meant there was no reason for any fear, because shore pines are short and shrubby and very flexible, they rarely are affected by wind.  I am terrified of wind when I am surrounded by big trees, as I am in the park where we live (that's ANOTHER post!). I am NOT happy about a wind storm in there.

We had just enough time to have a nice dinner after getting parked and set up and to have at least most of a nights' sleep before the storm would hit.  We filled the freshwater tank and went to bed.  And what to my wondering ears did I hear (in the wee hours of the morning?) The howling, moaning, unmistakable sound that a storm makes at the beach when it's rolling in.  If you have never heard it, you have to visualize the sound you hear in Halloween sound tracks... I can see why sailors wrote songs about the sound it makes, very ominous and frightening. I was ECSTATIC, I almost couldn't sleep any more!

Sure enough the gale came rolling in, along with huge surf and pounding fits of sideways rain.  The power went out before late morning and, for us RVers (with a 5000 watt generator) that is no big deal at all!  The wind was causing our slide awnings to billow and flap violently so we pulled our slides in to protect them and put on our hiking gear.  I was disappointed that we didn't have our "storm stuff" with us: Ski goggles, ear protection, water proof gear. Darn! At the coast when the wind blows and you go out in it, the sand is being hurled at you with such force, it is impossible to open your eyes, and your ears become very agitated with the constant raging wind.  It is similar to being sand blasted, if a person decided to do such a thing. By the time you get back to the RV you will have sand everywhere, on your scalp, in your ears, between your fingers, in your teeth!

We headed up to the lighthouse where we knew it would be at it's worst.  WOW! It was the strongest wind I have ever personally experienced! Twice I was blown off my feet and always had to hang on to something. It must be what a hurricane feels like! I never learned what the wind speed ended up topping out at, but I know they were forecasting more than 70 MPH gusts. I expect that it's a little higher when you are standing way out on the end of the bluff at the foot of a lighthouse!  

So, if you are headed to the coast and a storm is coming, try to look at the bright side: There is at least ONE person who envies your luck and don't forget your ski goggles!  It's a BLAST!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

What Is It About "Fulltimers"? My Theory

Something that we have come to know since we became Fulltimers is that we have a strong desire to commune with other Fulltimers.  At first we dismissed it as a fundamental curiosity, or simply a craving to learn more from folks who had years of experience to share.  But I think it's more than that.  I think there is a sociological reason that we have a hankering to have relationships with other people who have that particularly unique distinction of living in a home that can change neighborhoods on a whim.

Certainly one explanation could be that any time people share a common passion, they are drawn to each other.  Attend any sporting event and you will witness this at it's most obvious.  But, it's more than that still.  I think it's something to do with a very deep and unique social trait, or collection of traits, that us vagabonds have that at times in our lives has caused us to feel different, or unique, and that might be why when we meet or communicate with other Fulltimers, we recognize something that we rarely had the pleasure of enjoying; others that we have something in common with.  It's as if we belong to a very exclusive and not-always-understood club.

If you are a Fulltimer, then you probably have experienced that look on someone's face when you try to tell them where you live sometimes.  That confused, incredulous look that fleets across their face before they carefully overcome their expression.  Often times, they just don't "get it".  Get WHAT exactly? This is what I have been struggling with.  It's something... something.

I think it might be an inner independence for starters.  I mean, if you are going to do something this abnormal, then surely you don't care at all what other people think.  I know we can say that we have always been this way, definitely we march to our own music, and always have.  While I am not saying that this is the reason that people become Fulltimers, I think it's a very crucial trait to have if you are going to really be at peace with your lifestyle, because there are those who will not understand, even disapprove.  Sometimes it's friends or family, sometimes it's the public at large, but it's not a universally accepted lifestyle-YET.  It has certainly made great strides, especially in the last 5 years.

An adventurous spirit is also a very recognizable quality among Fulltimers.  I mean, you pull up your jacks and depart to another place to LIVE and don't give it a thought!  Really, do you ever think about how just that fact is quite amazing?  How UNHEARD OF it would be to the majority of people you meet?  The very idea is unthinkable to many who are entrenched in their communities and that's understandable, because many do not understand that us Fulltimers are not without "Community" at all!  We probably have one of the most dynamic, wide-spread and devoted communities in the nation!  This was a wonderful surprise to us.  We had no idea that we were actually embarking on a much higher level of community than we had ever experienced before!

One other quality of most Fulltimers that seems to be prevalent: Minimalism.  Some may say that we are minimalists by necessity, but I disagree.  I think it's the other way around! I think because we desire minimalism, we are drawn to Fulltiming.  Perhaps I am wrong, and certainly there are Fulltimers that have a LOT of stuff, but most of the time (as in my own case) the less owned the better.  I love nothing better than throwing out some other "thing" that I have been dragging around in my life when I discover that it really doesn't contribute to the joy of living.  I bid it a happy farewell and celebrate the new, lighter, more flexible "US".  It's lovely!

Why are Fulltimers so helpful and willing to share with each other? What is the specific reason that when you enter a new RV Park that has a lot of Fulltimers in it, you find yourself in a welcoming atmosphere, even though you haven't yet met any of these people?  It's really quite awesome. How odd that we feel like we are arriving "home" when we are driving in somewhere we have never even been before!

One thing we can say we nearly always notice when meeting another couple who are "Fulltimers" is that they are happy.  We often comment on how they clearly are close and have a strong bond.  Is that another piece of the puzzle?  They seem to have obvious respect for each other and a joy for life that radiates out of them.  We have also noticed that the times when we learn of people who tried Fulltiming and did NOT like it and returned to living in a traditional home, often did NOT have some of these qualities.  Do you have to get along to fulltime? Absolutely, but it's more than that, you must be completely compatible.  If you are not, Fulltiming is probably not for you, because there is no distraction from what is missing in your life, there are no "things" to lure your attention away from less happy thoughts. I am sure that's a big part of it.  In fact, I can say that almost without exception, when another couple says the (so often heard) "Oh we could never do that! Live so close?! NO WAY!" They clearly do not have that deep connection that we have as a couple.  I don't think that's a coincidence, I think it might be a mandatory trait to do what we do.

So, I will continue to ponder this phenomenon, the commonality of the Fulltimer... Perhaps you have some thoughts? I would love to hear them!  But I am going to get to the bottom this.