March 8, 2013

To Me It Is A Freedom Machine

The post from a week or so ago, Where Do I Go From Here? generated a treasure trove of post ideas from you. I have reviewed every comment and made a tally of the responses. In all, 28 different topics or approaches were suggested, every one of them a good fit for this satisfying retirement blog. I have already revised my schedule of posts for March and early April to deal with the ideas that seemed most in demand, but I am likely to use all of the suggestions at some point in time.

A little surprisingly, posts about RV travel was the number one request. Folks want to know about the trips Betty, Bailey, and I are taking. There is interest in how daily life changes while traveling in a motor home. What are the expenses and pitfalls of RV ownership as well as the joys and positive experiences? Why did we decide to spend the money on something that sits unused for the majority of the year?

I need to make one comment early on: RV travel and lifestyle issues will not be taking over this retirement blog. It is just one part of what may make your retirement journey more fulfilling. Or, maybe not. You may have zero interest in driving around in a 25,000 pound vehicle that gets 9 miles to the gallon and has lots of maintenance issues.

So, don't fear. All the other stuff you say you like will continue to be written about and posted. RV-oriented information will remain a small part of the overall mix, with one exception. In April we will be taking a trip lasting most of the month. While on the road, by necessity, there will be more focus on the trip and our experiences. But, even then I plan on addressing other subjects that interest and concern you.

So, back to the subject today: How is my lifestyle different when in the RV and away from home? In some ways, not at all. The cell phone and laptop get almost as much use as they do at home. Since most campgrounds offer WiFi service I can continue to answer comments on this blog, pay bills, read and answer e-mail, watch streaming movies, or catch up on what is going on in the world.

Bedtime still tends to be around the same time. Just like at home, I make sure the doors and windows are locked, the curtains are drawn, and the furnace is set to maintain a pleasant overnight temperature. The night light in the bathroom is turned on, Bailey curls up between us, and it is lights out. We have found campgrounds are very quiet so we have only been awakened by high winds or a rain storm, not by noisy campers.

First thing in the morning the dog needs to go outside. Without a doggie door one of us must accompany her. Letting her out without a lease is not an option. But, then usually we can all go back to sleep so we do tend to get up later than at home.

In a major difference from our normal routine, the structure of the rest of the day really depends on what we decide to do. Some days are spent with no agenda. We will walk or hike around the camping area, sit in folding chairs under a tree, read, nap when sleepy, eat when hungry, and talk when feeling chatty. Betty might edit some photos while I work on a blog post or edit my next book.

At other times we want to explore the area so we will pack things up (it takes about 10 minutes) and go wherever we want. At the end of the day, we're back at the camp site, hooked up, and ready for the evening.

We eat simply, making clean up quick. Betty will prepare several meals ahead of time so something just needs to be defrosted and put in the oven or microwave. With no dishwasher or disposal we use paper plates more often and choose meals that don't generate a lot of garbage. Our slow cooker was a perfect addition to our rolling kitchen. Start something first thing in the morning and the smells fill the air all day long.

When we do finally get home, there is about an hour invested in emptying the trash and refrigerator, then sweeping and wiping down the kitchen, bathroom, and dining area. I check the various levels in the engine, make sure everything is locked, and walk back into my normal life.

For me, the biggest change is the freedom I feel from my regular routine. Even though many of things I do are the same, for some reason I feel almost no time pressure. The day seems much longer. Keeping 240 square feet neat and picked up is a lot easier than than almost 1800 square feet at home (did we really once keep 3200 sq ft clean?). Being in nature means I tend to move more slowly and breathe more deeply. I am more relaxed. I worry less. I enjoy life more.

I don't know why I am not that way at home. I can't explain what happens that makes me feel truly, fully retired. But, whatever the magic is that happens when we are rolling down the road, I am loving it and want the feeling to continue.


  1. Interesting, Bob, particularly the feelings around the day and how fast or slow it progresses. We'll be going to the big RV show in Knoxville when that takes place next; trying to see if I can encourage Deb to take the plunge. What you and Betty have experienced in the short time you have been RVing is exactly what I expect things to be like for many Americans that take the plunge.

    1. Betty and I never really saw ourselves as RV types. But, once we took the plunge last fall it has opened up a whole new world of experiences, learning, and growing. We'll never be full timers, but the feelings of freedom and being in control of your own destiny are powerful.

      We bought a 6 year old rig with 120,000 miles on the E-450 Ford engine. Taken care of, it should last for years.

  2. Yes, describing it like a freedom machine for the mind is very apropo. Mike and I refer to the peace we feel when we're out in our travel trailer as being a result of reducing life down to it's simplest forms: food, shelter, movement.

    We're heading out shortly and I'm already looking forward to the sensation of being able to breath that will surely descend once we arrive.

    1. That is it in a nutshell: food, shelter, movement.

      This is a stormy weekend in California and Arizona. Stay safe and dry!

  3. Funny how you have to have an RV to have those things--food, shelter, movement--yet not feel like that at your house. I am just the other way around. Travel of any kind makes me more anxious and much more likely to stick to a very prescribed schedule. Being at home is much more simplified. The idea of an RV and all that it entails makes me cringe.

    1. Actually I do feel very comfortable at home. After spending my working life on the road it has taken me quite a long time to want to hit the road again. Even now, I avoid airplanes whenever possible: too much of my life was spent in them.

      Your feeling about RV travel is quite common. It isn't a lifestyle or pursuit that appeals to everyone. You find your home life simple and satisfying and that is great.

      I like a blend of home and road and feel blessed that I have the chance to satisfy both.

    2. I can actually understand dkzody's confusion on this. For ourselves, being in our home represents comfort, but it also represents an enormous amount of ongoing responsibility, including the need to maintain not just the house and yard, but also the civic, religious and social circles we run in. On the road, we have none of that - it's just Mike and I, our auto, and our small trailer. Life is simple for us in a way it's just not when we're at home.

      Like Bob, I feel blessed that I have a way to affordably balance out my dual needs of both home and on-the-road time.

    3. Nicely put, Tamara. It is the temporary break from "normal" that is so refreshing.

  4. Now that you have put a few trips under your belt how do you feel about your decision to get a unit with that many miles? Is the cost savings worth the potential for more maintenance issues?

    1. My wife and I discussed that very issue quite a bit. We were comforted by a few "facts" that seemed to hold up to our scrutiny. That Ford engine, if well maintained, should have no problem racking up 175-200,000 miles. With us planning on driving around 7,000 miles year that means we should get 8-10 years from this motor home.

      Because the RV was owned by the largest RV rental company in the business, we felt good about its on-going maintenance. It was in their best interest to keep it running well and looking good, so it was probably better maintained than many privately owned vehicles. Before we took possession they did a complete refurbishing of the inside and all the major systems.

      We purchased 4 year extended warranties that cover all engine issues as well as any problems with any of the RV systems. Normally, I am not a fan of such overpriced warranties, but as new owners of a used vehicle I wanted to feel better about the decision.

      Finally, price was a major factor. A new motor home like the one we bough would have cost around $60,000. The one we purchased, including the two warranties, was half that.

      I'll have a better feel for how the unit performs after our 3 week trip to Texas next month. If all goes well we will take another 3 week jaunt to California in the fall, and then hope to make a 2 month swing to the East Coast next year.

      We'll keep our fingers crossed.

  5. I enjoyed this. I'm a long-time camper, and this post evoked the feelings of relaxation that I associate with camping. A few years ago, having decided that my backpacking days were over, I upgraded to a larger 2-room tent and a queen-sized 7" thick air mattress; but surprisingly, I have done very little camping in the years since. I'm hoping I can get back to camping once I am retired (and can take advantage of the quieter, non-peak times in the campgrounds). -Jean

    1. I never really enjoyed tent camping, though I gave it a go because my wife enjoyed it. I could never get comfortable,

      Later we bought a Chinook, a small pop-up RV that had no bathroom or real kitchen, but had a sink and a bed and something more than canvas walls. We had to sell it when we moved from Iowa to Salt Lake City in 1979. So, it has taken us 33 years to take the next step into a full size RV.

      I'm not one to rush into decisions.

  6. This has nothing to do with this post, but I couldn't resist showing you the type of pure nonsense that 50+ people try to post on this blog every day:

    "In fact, the Gucci rhineѕtonе theme song outsized unіt of ammunition plastiс shaԁes Hold tгaveled the universe, walk mastered the catwalκ eating awаy the modish stylеs fгom the to the hіgheѕt dеgree knоωn."

    There must be a parallel universe out there with an entirely different set of rules about what makes sense. Anyway, I just couldn't resist.

  7. Your comments about time slowing down and your being able to relax more while RV'ing echoes my feelings of when I vacation at state parks. I've always rented a small cabin or mini-cabin (no appliances, kitchen or bathroom), and that simplicity of that experience has always left me feeling refreshed and relaxed. I look forward to either renting or owning an RV so I can travel to places without cabins and replicating that feeling of unplugging from the rat race. Of course, now that I'm almost retired and only work part-time, I'm pretty much already out of that race LOL

    I love your last comment - the utter nonsensical nature of that posting made me laugh!

    p.s. From an earlier post, I'd be delighted to be part of your 'panel' on single retirees.

    1. If you think about it, traveling in an RV shouldn't be relaxing. After all, there is traffic, maneuvering a large vehicle through small spaces, high gas prices, and the same necessities of home: cooking, cleaning, dirty laundry, etc. But, for reasons I haven't fully grasped, there is a real difference.

      I have a post about retirement and single people coming up in a week or so. Please please comments and give us your perspectives. Depending on the type of feedback I get, that post may generate more that requires a panel of "experts.".

    2. You're absolutely right. Traveling and living in an RV does have a lot of similarities to living in a house. But I think it's because the RV isn't 'home' that it feels different and more relaxing. I found with the cabins that I didn't have near the responsibilities or tasks that I did at home. And just the change of scenery is refreshing.

      I'll be happy to comment on the upcoming singles post. I love it when people ask for my opinion! :-)


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