September 17, 2012

RV Travel: What It Taught Me About Myself

My first RV trip is over. We are back to the normal routine. The normal pattern of daily life has begun again. But, what did Betty and  I get for our $2,200 and nine days? Were there any lasting impressions or lessons learned that will help our satisfying retirement?

Absolutely. One of the most important happened on the very last afternoon. We had discovered a beautiful state park less than 10 minutes from the RV park in Show Low. It has a large lake, hiking trails, enough picnic tables for a small army, and a stunning RV campground. As I sat on a bench by the shore, watching the clouds march across the sky, a bird dive-bombing the lake to grab a fish, and Betty snapping pictures of even more wildflowers, I suddenly realized a part of a satisfying retirement that I had not fully grasped.

I have been retired for over 11 years. I have vacationed in Europe twice, Hawaii, the Pacific Nothwest, California more times than I can count, and taken a 5,000 mile driving trip. But not until last Thursday afternoon by a lake just 5 hours from home did I fully grasp the gift of feeling free. I felt like I had stepped off the merry-go-round.

This RV trip has given me an important look into how I structure my time. It has re-taught me the critical importance of maintaining a balance in my life between obligations and pleasures, to-do lists and want-to-do lists. It has proven to me (again) that I am happiest with simple things like an afternoon in natural surroundings, a quiet morning, reading, being alone with Betty without outside distractions, and no list to check or cross off.

Obviously, I can't live the rest of my life off the grid like the last nine days. I have family I love and obligations to them. I have church groups that I enjoy attending. I have a house to maintain, cars to service, finances to manage, and bills to pay. But, an RV trip seems to give me a respite from reality, a simplified version of my life, and a chance to reconnect with the quiet part of me.

Next? We need to see how Bailey, our cocker spaniel, will do on the road.  I've survived draining black water, using the stove top to make toast, remembering to take off my shoes before going inside, and mastering the furnace so we wake up warm instead of frigid. But, if the dog in our life can't adapt to traveling inside a car or trailer, not barking at every living thing, or sleeping in a more confined space we have a problem. The next trip will determine when (or even if) we get our own RV in the near future.

My parting words: even if RV travel isn't something you think you might enjoy, take one form of travel or life change and try it. You just might discover that makes your satisfying retirement truly come alive.


A grand time and the Grand Canyon

30 comments:

  1. So glad you enjoyed it. I hope your dog likes it. I think they may be more adaptable than say, A CAT!!!!!!. My cat cannot adjust to the slightest change in anything.........sigh.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We saw very few cats on this trip but tons of dogs. I would have guessed it would have been the other way around since cats take up less space and can use a small litter box. But, maybe your cat is typical...real creatures of habit and routine (just like a lot of people).

      Delete
  2. bob,

    You captured the "feeling" of a satisfying retirement well in the word "free." Malcolm and I are not likely to go RV'ing anytime soon, but we too experience that wonderful liberation from responsibilities and day to day life when we go on our road trips.

    When we vacationed in our working years, we were busy trying to SEE and DO everything. Now when we travel, it is more about absorbing our surroundings, experiencing the local culture and connecting with ourselves on a more basic level.

    It just keeps getting better doesn't it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are exactly right - we are at a stage of life when "absorbing" is just as satisfying as doing. Trying to adapt to the local pace of life and do what the locals becomes our real goal on extended trips.

      Delete
  3. Bob, what a great story you're sharing! I have forwarded this to my husband so he can begin to get an idea of what retirement might be like.I liked your last article too.. Ken read that one a few times,I think! I am hoping we can try out an RV in the near future.. as we live in Az. also, there are so many possibilities! I am one who enjoys local scenery, and also our neighboring states,like New Mexico and California..would love to try tooling around with our house on our backs for a while..keep sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If Ken has any specific questions, I encourage him to e-mail me. I'll do my best to answer any of his concerns.

      Arizona is one of the centers of RV travel in the country. The company we rented our RV from is based in Mesa. And, the number of RV dealers almost equals the number of car dealers!

      I would like to visit both Northern New Mexico and California in an RV. Early Retiree Tamara has provided me with a list of excellent RV sites in California that we will use as the basis of our next trip.

      Delete
  4. Yes, Bob, that is exactly what I love so much about RV'ing. I've pondered why it is that I need to get away in my little rig to find peace and serenity, but absent any answers, we simply continue to do so as often as possible.

    I'm confident your dog will do just fine . . . thousands of dog-owning RV'ers before you would indicate it's a completely viable way to travel.

    I look forward to following along on your next RV adventure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Here's an odd question..how do you pronounce your name? I've known several Tamaras and some put the accent on the first syllable and others on the 2nd. I use your name a lot but always wonder which pronunciation you use!

      I don't think Bailey will have any problems. She is a bit high strung but very smart and quick to learn. At 9 months old she is still a puppy and has some extra energy to burn. Sniffing around RV parks and state parks should be almost as much fun for her as eating bits of bacon!

      Delete
    2. Think "camera" but with a T instead of a C.

      Delete
  5. One of the reasons we got a Cocker Spaniel is because she fits in our 21 ft. RV. She just loves the idea that she gets to sleep with us on the fold out beds. (she doesn't get to do that at home!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bailey would fit nicely on the bed in the 30 foot version of the trailer we rented, and a bit more snugly on the bed in the 25 footer. Like you she can't do that at home so it would be quite a treat.

      Delete
    2. Our cocker sleeps on our RV bed as well, which is likewise not allowed at home. She also loves (prefers actually) sitting outside and watching all the people, pets and rigs go by, all much more entertaining than her view of the outdoors at home. She'll stop eating at times due to the excess stimulation, but is generally back on her normal eating pattern by about day three.

      Delete
  6. I think you'll have an easier time with Bailey because he's still a puppy. Our dogs would probably freak, not to mention it's harder to travel with two but not impossible.
    Glad you found peace. It's what we all strive for.
    b

    ReplyDelete
  7. pasopamela@charter.netMon Sep 17, 10:38:00 AM MST

    Great post! as a new retiree, I'm still working on time management, but the comment about "to-do" lists vs. "want-to-do" lists was eye-opening & probably life changing. Creative way to express it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Pam. It is too easy to confuse the "think we must do" and the "really we must do" stuff in life. I've been back home 3 days and already finding myself falling into the old traps!

      Delete
  8. Thanks for sharing your observations and lessons learned from your RV trip. I can relate to your comment of feeling free and stepping off the merry-go-round. For the most part, when I traveled while working full time, it was like, go somewhere, see everything in that area possible, then come home and get back to work. I still want to travel to see things, sightseeing if you will, but I really look forward to the freedom from the deadline of coming home, of being able to spend more time in one place, of taking time to just sit and absorb vs. running all over the place.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Wonderful that you've found a way to relax completely before your return to your very busy life.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I think we'll investigate a trial RV rental in the near future. My budget won't handle a permanent RV, but maybe once a year for a few weeks would work. Happy traveling.

    Warren
    65andAlive.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We are in the same situation at the moment. Unless we see ourselves using an RV for at least 2-3 months a year, I doubt it would make a lot of sense. Without a vehicle large enough to tow a trailer, we would have to either get a Class C RV (like the one we just rented) or buy both a truck and trailer. There are advantages and disadvantages to both options but the the costs are substantial.

      At least for the next trip it will be a slightly larger version of the rental unit we used for this last trip.

      Delete
  11. I bought a 34-foot Class A MH last year on a whim. I didn't know if I liked road trips (never having taken one). I didn't know if I liked driving long distances (again, never happened before). I really didn't know if I could drive something that big AND tow a car behind it, since I had never driven anything bigger than a Toyota. My brother, who has a very serious lung disease, told me his bucket list included seeing Mt. Rushmore. So, I bought the Beast and we set out in June to see Mt. Rushmore, along with Yellowstone, Little Bighorn and the Badlands. It was an amazing trip! I then spent 2 months camping at a provincial park in Ontario. Check out our blog entitled "2 Fat People in an RV".

    I learned that a) I'm either very brave or very stupid b) I do enjoy road trips c) I really, really hate mountain passes d) I am never happier than when I am camping.

    I bought the Beast and fixed it up for under $30K because it was a repo but it was in mint condition. The cost doesn't have to be astronomical.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A Class A for under $30,000...wow. Those big boys can easily run hundreds of thousands of dollars and look very comfortable. You are one brave lady. I am off to check out your blog.

      Delete
    2. Bob,

      Is there a reason you've decided not to consider purchasing a travel trailer over a motorhome if cost is a concern? Assuming one of your current vehicles has some towing capacity, there are a good array of lite weight trailers on the market currently, both new and used.

      Delete
    3. Neither of our current vehicles can tow a trailer. So, we'd have to buy a truck or larger SUV and the trailer. I know we can get much more trailer for the money and don't have to worry about towing a small car so it is still an option for us.

      Tell me about trailer swaying. I've seen accidents and near accidents where someone is towing a trailer and it begins to fishtail. Is that a function of poor driving or under-sized tow vehicle or a poor hitch?

      Delete
    4. We don't have much of an issue with sway because our ratio of trailer hitch weight to trailer GVW is considerably greater than 10%, plus our trailer itself is so light at just 2,150 pounds unloaded, compared to our towing vehicle (a Jeep Grand Cherokee). There are things like sway bars that can be added to minimize sway when the hitch to GVW ratio falls under 10%, the general rule of thumb for safe towing. I'm no expert though, so an RV show is probably your best bet to quickly get and compare an array of advice on this.

      Delete
    5. The largest RV show in the world (they say!) happens in Quartzsite, AZ every January. Over a 9 day period 150,000 people attend. Maybe we should plan a visit!

      Delete
  12. Forgot to mention: at least 75% of the people I met on the road had a dog (or 3) and some even had cats. Apart from companionship, dogs seem to be a great way to meet fellow RV'ers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree. Dogs are great ice breakers if they are well behaved and don't bark unnecessarily. I think Bailey will adapt just fine.

      Delete
  13. You are now officially retired...this is what it is all about. But isn't it interesting that you had to experience it. No one can tell you what that feeling is until it actually happens. Congratulations. This all about a little work and a little play. Each makes the other more precious!

    b

    ReplyDelete
  14. Life has never seemed so vivid since we left! Miracles happen every day. Everything is new and alive! Life is amazing! You wont believe the interesting places, events, people and things you will come across while traveling. One day you are snorkeling with manatees the next you have a bear wander into your campsite. This past week I saw sharks, snorkeled a shipwreck, kayaked with dolphins, swam with manatees, a bear came to our cookout, went to a few science museums (for free), met some interesting people and more!
    RV travel
    RV

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It all sounds fabulous. I'll have to check out your blog. We are looking forward to years of adventures.

      Delete

Comment moderation is in effect.