Year ONE – Thoughts and Reflections (and maybe a small amount of stuff!)

This is the second of my year one end blog posts.  The first one was mostly about facts for our first year, which can be very helpful to the person doing research on if/how they want to do this full-time RV lifestyle.  I know we found those kinds of numbers helpful to us during our planning stage.

This post is going to focus more on our reflections and thoughts on our first year on the road.  Although there were a few things I forgot to mention, laundry and generators that I will talk about briefly here.

As I mentioned in my first year one summary post, we have been asked, more than a few times, “Do we regret having sold the house and living only in our 5th wheel?”  I cannot overstate how the answer to that is NO, we do not!  We love our cozy home on wheels, it has everything we need and a good amount of all we want.  I have mentioned before about having an extra closet, maybe a half bath and guest room.  I only mention these things b/c we have had a fair share of guests, which I do love.  Our daughter has spent the night a few times, as has my son and his fiance and also my sister.  It is VERY cozy during those times, not that I would ever not have them come.  It just means we have to be extra aware of each other and be as considerate as possible and spend as much time as we can outside.

I will probably have to rewrite this part, for now I just want to get my thoughts and feelings down before it passes.  Today, for the first time, I went into our storage container and looked at my STUFF.  We have our bedroom set, dining room set, and other stuff we kept to either 1) possibly use to partly furnish our possible Plan B (exit strategy) when we don’t want to or can’t do this anymore and/or 2) pass it along to one or both of our kids when they are more settled and not moving every year or two into different apartments.    It was very strange, I am struggling to identify what exactly it is.  Part of me felt like “WOW – we kept all this!?”, part of me felt a little sad – I think – not fully sure what it was/is.  I didn’t want to cry or anything but it wasn’t happy feelings.  I mean, I don’t feel the need to go buy a house and put my stuff into it or anything like that, I just don’t know.  Weird.  Strange.  That’s all I’ve got for now.

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Still not sure what that was – seeing my stuff, but I will move onto different topics for now and come back to that later.

Lets get the quick few “stuff” things out of the way.  Bill had wanted me to talk about the laundry issue.  I only say issue b/c I know for a lot of people, it is a great debate about whether or not to get on-board laundry or not.  We never seriously considered getting a washer/dryer (or combo) even though our rig has the prep for it already.  We decided early on that we would just see how it went and if I really missed it and doing laundry at a CG or laundromat was a huge, big deal then we could always add it later.  Well, we budgeted about $25 a month for laundry (not including the detergent, etc. which would have to be bought either way) and to be honest, it is the only line item we are consistently on budget. It hasn’t been a big huge deal going to the laundry.  I sometimes use the CG laundry, sometimes I find a place nearby.  I prefer front-loaders, they spin better and dry times a quite a bit shorter, which is a good thing, especially b/c I like to hang dry a good amount of my clothes.  I did purchase a goofy looking thing to hang my clothes on while they dry, it has 3 feet/3 arm plastic thing that has holes for the hanger handles.  (side note: if you want one, don’t get it at Camping World ($39), they sell the EXACT same thing at Walmart for under $20 – no I’m not kidding.  Check it out: Tri-Pod Clothes Dryer

I guess the point with the laundry is that if you figure that a washer/dryer or combo costs about $1500, that’s a lot of loads at the laundromat.  If $25 per month is a good number, and it has been for us this whole first year – you would have to use your on board laundry 5 years with no maintenance or repairs to just break even.  Two additional points are the machines will probably need repair during that time and people still need to go the the laundromat when they boondock or when they need to wash their bedspreads and blankets as I am told they don’t really fit in the small on board machines.  Yes, it is probably (at least somewhat) more convenient, but I know several people who have them, and they are smaller than the ones you are used to at home in your sticks and bricks.  I am told most people do a load every day or every other day in order to avoid getting behind.  They also take up a good amount of space and add a bunch of weight.  Looking at the costs and payback it is pretty much cost neutral and comes down to a personal preference.  So, if given the choice of having on board laundry or having that huge closet for something else, we choose to have the closet for something else (all MY clothes, etc).

Another “stuff” item that got left off the earlier page was about the generators  I had only mentioned quickly that we have them.  That subject could have been included near the solar information.  (BTW – I’ve been asked several times about the cost of getting solar – my best advice is to check out RV Solar Solutions and talk to Greg about what your needs might be; for simple pricing on parts, you could look at AM Solar)  The thing that pushed us over the edge about getting solar vs just have the generators was having the residential frig.  We took one short trip out to IN and had to run the generators (we have 2 Honda 2000IS’s that run in parallel) more than we would have preferred.  We have them in a container, locked in the bed of the truck to keep the weight out of the rig.  We do have the generator prep area in the rig, but that is where our batteries now live.  Since having the solar installed, we have only used the generators once, at the Boondock Rally in February, and the only reason was because it rained for 2 days.  So, if you don’t have solar and don’t want to get solar, and especially if you have a residential frig, you might consider an on-board generator, but they are heavy and pricey.  They would be the most convenient though, just push a button.  For our purposes, the ones we have work great, they actually, so far, have gotten “exercised” more than used to charge the batteries.  Even with solar, some type of generator(s) is needed if you ever plan to be without electricity for any length of time (especially if you have a residential frig) in case of multiple days of rain and/or you want to boondock where you might need a/c.

Lots of people, when doing a year end summary will talk about their most favorite/least favorite places they have visited.  Here goes my attempt to cover those categories.

Favorite place – hummm…   I will have to say the FL Keys.  We had been there before and it continues to be one of our favorite places.  We are planning to return this coming January.  We will stay at Sunshine Key again, for 9 nights, then head to Everglades National Park for 5 nights.  We will be using our Ready Camp Go card for 7 of the 9 nights, then Passport America for an extra 2, so not nearly as expensive as last years visit.  We just love the whole “vibe” of Key West and all the Keys.  It is very relaxed and chill.  I am not sure we would be returning to Sunshine Key if it weren’t for the Ready Camp Go card, the cost of it is just prohibitive, rates have gone up to $115 per night!  For a campsite!

While in Keys, we love to go on bike rides, just walk Duvall Street, sit and watch a sunset at Mallory Square (not forgetting to get there early to watch the street performers) and of course, take some sort of sail out on the water!  This year we may try Parasailing, which has been a bucket list item for me, but I’ve been scared to do it.  A fear I intend to conquer!  A lot of the above things I mentioned are free or not very expensive (the boat ride/parasailing being the pricier things).  We have also loved visiting The Hemmingway House (love those 6 toed kitties!), the Shipwreck Museum, and Mel Fisher Maritime Museum.   On Marathon Key, we visited the Turtle Hospital, where we saw and learned about all kinds of sea turtles.  And – almost forgot – spend time at the BEACH!  We loved Bahia Honda State Park and also Sombrero Beach on Marathon (which is FREE!)

The last thing I want to mention about Key West and the Keys in general is the FOOD!  There are so many places to choose from!  TripAdvisor is a great resource to use when looking of a place to get some yummy foods!  A few worthy of mention here are DJ’s Clams on Duvall Street, Lazy Gecko (their wings are fabulous!) and for special occasion desserts, Better Than Sex – yes, that is the name of the place and they only have drinks and desserts.

more about our time spent in the Keys: FL Keys!

I cannot move on without talking about OBX!  It is a very close runner-up to the Keys.  Again, we had been there before (we celebrated out 25th wedding anniversary camping with our Class C), and it was actually the first place we visited after our “launch” from PA into the great big world in our RV home on wheels!  We love OBX (Outer Banks of NC) b/c of their quiet peacefulness, and of course the BEACH! (I assume you are seeing a trend here!)  Our fall 2014 visit is talked about here: OBX Fall 2014

Our second visit since being full-timers, was in April/May 2015 and the month we were there was just amazing!  Part of that was b/c we were with our friends, and part of it was just the location itself.  I’ll let you read all about it here: OBX Spring 2015 #1OBX Spring 2015 #2 and OBX Spring 2015 #3.  Yes, it takes all these posts to tell you all about how wonderful our time in OBX was!

Stands to reason that the next subject would be our least fav place, but to be honest, we really don’t have one.  We have places we liked less than others, and if I HAD to make a list and put them in order, I guess last place would have to be Peace River in Arcadia FL.  We did spend one of those days with friends, and that was great, but we didn’t like the CG, and there wasn’t a whole lot to do in the area.  We were staying there while waiting for an RV Dreams Boondocking Rally to begin. It doesn’t mean we didn’t do anything fun or cool while there, just means something has to be at the bottom of the list, right?  Arcadia FL

I almost really hate doing that – labeling some place our “least” favorite, especially when we did have some great moments while there.  I loved going with my friend, Dr. Jo, to see the stallions, that was the highlight for me!  That and seeing the armadillo!

Another question we’ve been asked is – how do we get along in such a small space?  We generally don’t have a problem with this, but there are times when a “time-out” is needed.  There are times we get snippy with each other.  There are times we need time to ourselves, just like when we lived in a 3000 sq ft house.  One of us (usually Bill) will take the dog for a walk, or I will go out to the store or somewhere by myself.  Living the full-time RV lifestyle does not make your marriage better or worse, in my opinion, not by itself anyway.  If you had a good marriage before, you will continue to, even if that’s b/c you have figured out how to deal with issues that might come up, like you did before.  If your marriage had undealt with issues before, there’s good chance they will still be there living in significantly smaller space and spending a lot more time together.  Sadly, it might make it worse b/c it will add stress.  No marriage is perfect, what comes close to perfect is when you can agree to work together to deal with anything that comes along.  When you figure out how to communicate effectively and not place blame and not judge and not take things personally – which is the hardest one for me.  When you can agree to disagree and compromise.  I am not going to claim to be an expert, but 30 years does allow one a certain amount of bragging rights, doesn’t it?  After 30 years, Bill and I don’t have a perfect marriage, but we do know each other well enough to make it work.  Some days it is more work than others, thankfully for us, those days are few and far between.

I had said I wanted this post to be more personal, more about thoughts/feelings, dare I say more “touchy-feely”?  Are you scared?  Maybe you should be. I don’t share very often about such things b/c a lot of times, I feel like I could get myself into trouble, say too much that might make people uncomfortable, but today I will say what I need to say, if you want to skip this part, that’s ok, I understand, really I do.

One of the best things about this lifestyle is the ability to be, more easily, where you want/need to be when you want/need to be.  To be fair, I have rarely, if ever, not been able to go where I am needed when my family needs me. I have spent most of my adult life raising my kids so I had a greater amount of flexibility than most, for which I am eternally grateful to my awesome hubby.  During the course of our first year on the road, we have been to so many great places, seen so many wonderful things, spent time with some awesome people (you all know who you are!), but there has been (as Bill calls it) a dark cloud hanging over me for a large chunk of it.  It is very difficult to talk about, but I feel it needs to be mentioned now.

This past December, my nephew, Andrew (who was 20 years old), was killed in a car accident.  We actually know the accident was his fault, he was driving too fast and lost control of the car and hit a dump truck head-on at a high rate of speed.  His injuries were so severe that we could not have an open casket.  (sorry if that is TMI)  This completely devastated my family.  We were with my parents in FL when this happened (the accident happened in DE where he lived with his mother, my sister).  My brother was able to get to her pretty quickly (he lives in NJ) and my Dad and I flew up immediately.  Bill drove all day/night to get there with my Mom, who doesn’t fly.  I could not be with my kids right away, but I made sure their “others” were with them when I told them the news, so they weren’t alone.  So there you have it, my dark cloud.

I struggle with this every single day.  Some days are better than others, some worse, but it is there every day.  When Andrew was alive, I thought of him every day, and I think of him now every day, just the feelings that those thoughts invoke are completely different.

A wise woman once told me this about grieving, you have to put your grief in a box, so you can live your own life, but when needed, you take your grief out of the box and honor it, feel it and live in it until the wave passes.  I try very hard to do this, but sometimes it is VERY hard.  I feel bad b/c I know it effects Bill also.  He feels Andrews loss, but it doesn’t bring him to despair and tears, more like a moment of sadness.  So, I put my grief in a box, but sometimes it just leaks out, and I cannot control it.  I know I shouldn’t try to “control” it, I need to let it happen.  But then, I feel like I am living this awesome life, how can I let grief get in the way of it?  I know, logically, that is crazy talk, that kind of talk doesn’t help me in any way at all, but I also know it is normal.  It is impossible, even without Andrew’s death, to be happy all the time, right?  I recently read something someone posted to my FaceBook page about grief, an old man had described it this way

I know it’s a long read, but it is the most accurate thing I have ever read to describe it.  It comforts me to know I am not alone in my feelings, that I am not crazy for waking up every day wondering if a wave it going to hit.  And, also, the last paragraph says something I appreciate so much “The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to”.  No one ever says that, somehow you don’t want the waves to stop.  I don’t want Andrew to be someone who stops causing waves in my life.  I want to get past the point where the waves take my breath away, but I always want to feel the waves, b/c that’s how I will know his memory is still alive within me.

I’m sorry if this post turned into something you weren’t expecting, something sad and depressing, but this is MY truth of it.  Living a wonderful full-time RV lifestyle does not exclude us from the pains in this world.  In some ways, it makes is easier, from other perspectives, maybe it makes it harder.  Life will always be there, no matter how or where you choose to live it.  I guess my point is this: don’t run and hide from it, live it.  We went to a RV-Dreams rally in 2014 and the hostess, Linda Payne, said this about living this lifestyle and it is a personal goal of mine to achieve this at all times.  She said (I might be paraphrasing a bit) “living this lifestyle allows us to be more present in the moments we spend with our loved ones”  Living this lifestyle allows me to be more present in my grief for my beloved nephew, who will always hold a place in my heart.

I’d like to get back to visiting my “stuff”.  I couldn’t really explain it the other day, but I really think I was just overwhelmed.  Let me try to explain – I was seeing the complete contrast of my 2 lives – pre-RV and current.  I do miss, maybe more than I initially wanted to admit, certain parts of my previous life, the “things” Bill and I (ok – more he) worked so hard for. Those “things” represent that part of our lives, the first 29 years of our marriage – that’s a long time!  I LOVE my dining room set, which was essentially a gift from my hubby to me when we moved from NJ to KY in 1996.  I LOVE my bedroom set.  I love these things enough to be keeping them – even if that is just for now.  I have TONS of pictures and other personal items that MEAN something to me.  These things are a part of me – and I am not ready or willing to be rid of them – not yet anyway.  I feel a bit of comfort knowing they are there, ready for me whenever I might want to look at them or for our “exit strategy” or for our kids to take when they are ready.  It’s been said MANY times that everyone does this (RV’ing life) differently, this is how I do it.  Some might say that makes me “not fully committed” and if that’s true, then so be it.  Bill and I are ok with that, and that’s all that matters.

I just want to say a sincere thank you to each and every one of my readers.  I realize some of this post might be a bit of a “Debbie Downer” and for that I am sorry.  I know I am usually more upbeat and optimistic, and that is generally my nature, find the silver lining on the grey cloud, but I also need to be truthful.  If I am going to talk about it, I am going to tell the truth about it.  Otherwise, why bother saying anything at all?  It is my sincere hope you will continue to read my blog, as I really enjoy typing it out and choosing the pics to share with all of you.

Til next time…