March 3, 2014

On The Road But Not Out Of Touch

With plans for lots of RV trips over the next few years Betty and I have been discussing how we will travel and still stay connected with those at home. Also, how do we get involved in the communities where we find ourselves camped for a week or two? Just sightseeing or sitting in a chair in front of the RV for days on end is not what a satisfying retirement means to us. 

With three young grandkids, our first thought is our travels could be used as  a tremendous educational tool for them. With all the ways of staying in touch at our disposal, we will have the ability to send pictures of where we have been and provide links to web sites that detail the history and importance of various historical sites.


Betty thought we should give the kids state maps or an atlas with our route highlighted. Then, as we update everyone on our position they will learn some geography and get an early understanding of the locations and differences between the states we drive through.

 Skype video will enable us to check in on a regular basis and answer any questions they may have.

My dad is used to a lunch time visit from Betty and me every 10 days or so; 75 days is a long time for us to be gone. Regular phone calls will assure him we are fine and enjoying the trip. Of course, he can call us at any time if he has a problem or a concern. Our daughters live not far from his retirement community so they can visit occasionally or do some of the shopping that he certainly will need over such a long period.

What about becoming more than just strangers passing through? We won't be in any one location long enough to become a part of any community, but there must be a way we can interact with locals, or at least leave the place a little nicer than when we arrived. After brainstorming, here are a few of our ideas - I hope you will add more:


  • Pick up trash at a local park or town area
  • Attend a local church each Sunday, share fellowship with others
  • Pay the bill for the person behind us in the drive-through lane
  • Donate books we have read to the local library
  • Make a donation to a local food bank
  • Eat and shop at local merchants instead of national chains whenever possible
  • Leave some extra quarters on top of the washer or dryer at the Laundromat
  • Leave an extra-generous tip for a particularly hardworking waitress/waiter

What would you suggest we can do to make our trips more meaningful and productive?

A road trip is chance to relax and explore, deepen our relationship, help educate the grandkids, and make the places we stay just a little better.  To just pass through, take a few pictures, and add another state to our "been there" list isn't satisfying enough.




37 comments:

  1. This is really informative post and I personally would like to appreciate the efforts. We are also dealing in same field hence found this informative to add in our process also. Once again thanks for your post.

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  2. Great ideas. Have you considered that there may be one day volunteer opportunities where you are traveling? That way you would interact with local residents as well.

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    1. I wonder where we would learn about this type of opportunity...a posting at the library, maybe? Smaller towns rarely have daily newspapers anymore, but even a weekly edition might list an upcoming event. We will keep our eyes open.

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    2. Bob,
      One option would be to contact RSVP (retired and senior volunteer program) through the United Way in the town you are in. They have lists of volunteer opportunities, some might be one day.

      Have a great trip!

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    3. I have never heard of RSVP...thanks for the tip!

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  3. -Give blood (every 8 weeks), or platelets (every 7 days, up to 24x/year)
    -Assist camp host with clean-up and chores
    -Visit all of those local museums/historical societies that don't get much traffic
    -Visit local libraries to see what meetings or groups they have

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    1. In past travels we have stopped in small, out-of-the-way museums. The volunteer who is manning the site is usually quite pleased that someone has stopped by. They suddenly feel useful and love to talk about whatever the museum is displaying. One visit like that can make their day.

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  4. Bob, recently a group of Campers on a Mission came through my hometown. One of the ladies donated a box of knitted caps to the neonatal unit at the local hospital. Not sure if you or Betty have this talent, but it may prompt other ideas. Also, most small towns have a newspaper. Why not write a flattering article and email it to the Editor after your visit. One or two of Betty's photos capturing "local color" could also be included. Locals will love to read about the good impressions they left on you, and hopefully pay it forward. In other words, my suggestion is to use the talents that you have to make an impact where ever you go. Your list is a good beginning.

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    1. Visiting a local senior center is an option. Too many of the folks in those facilities have no family and welcome any human interaction.

      The newspaper article idea is an interesting one. That would be rather easy to do and I am sure they would love that type of already prepared content.

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  5. Attending church might connect you with the community. How about going to a local soccer match or minor league baseball game? Meet and make friends with some fellow RV'ers, and do something to improve the campsite so it looks better when you leave than when you arrived? Is your dad on Skype? If not, I bet he'd enjoy it. Anyway, sounds like you've got some great plans!

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    1. Local little league games or soccer matches would be fun and allow us to strike up a conversation with someone in the stands. Betty and I do go to minor league parks when there is one available. That level of play is always fun to watch and the locals really support their team.

      Dad will have nothing to do with computers so Skype is not an option. But, he will enjoy regular phone calls from us even if they are short. His hearing is so bad that it is hard for him to carry on much of a conversation, I'm afraid.

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  6. What wonderful ideas to incorporate your grandchildren into your travels! And I also appreciate the ideas to pay it forward, which can be incorporated by anyone, even if they never leave home.

    One of the things I most treasure about traveling is the opportunity to experience life from someone else's perspective. Although visiting cultural sites is important for obvious reasons, we become most impacted, and subsequently changed, when we place ourselves out into nature. The vulnerability it creates, the beautiful, unexplainable things we see, and the people we meet along the way, combine in a way that leaves us feeling forever changed. I can't imagine ever tiring of any of those things, and it's what propels us to continue exploring our amazing planet.

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    1. Betty and I love to visit local parks and nature centers when we travel. Even something as simple as picking up trash along the trail or just complimenting the people at the center pays us back in smiles and the joy of others.

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  7. Almost every town on much size has a few local shelters and soup kitchens that desperately need help, both financially and to help serve meals. Wouldn't it be nice to, instead of eating that $50 dinner, to help serve and also enjoy a meal at one of those and then contribute that money to their missions?

    Here is a website that will give you addresses for soup kitchens throughout the U.S.

    http://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/foodbanks/index.html

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    1. I like that idea. I will take that web site link on the trip and plug in the name of a town near where we are staying and see what our options are. Thanks, RJ. We'd much rather do that than dropping big bucks on a dinner every time.

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  8. I don't know how old your grandchildren are, but you might give them a Flat Stanley book, a map and a print out of Flat Stanley now before you travel. Their parents can read the story, have them color Flat Stanley and mail him to you at home before you leave. Then you could send them pictures of Flat Stanley along the way and have him in the picture when you Skype. They could plot his travels on the map. www.flatstanleybooks.com

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    1. Betty remembers Flat Stanley from her preschool teaching days. That is a great idea, though maybe we'd use a picture of Bailey, our dog. We can print it out in black and white, have the kids each color her, and then use those on the trip as our "Flat Stanley." Love it! I'll take a look at the web site.

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  9. I love Flat Stanley! We did a flat Stanley for our godson one year, he mailed him out to Az. for a Southwestern trip :-)

    Another idea would be to find the local coffee shop or diner and have your morning cuppa in there a couple of times a week,bound to meet some locals..coffee shops often have bulletin boards with local happenings.Poetry readings, free live music, bookstore events,etc. Will you be staying for weeks at a time in one place,Bob? Our tiny town of Pine has a Community Center and there are weekly events such as a "Fiddler's Jam" and Rock/gem exhibits,etc. posted in the twice weekly newspaper. With your and Betty's friendliness and curiosity you will certainly find many ways to enjoy your trips to the max and also to meet new people! P.S. My mom in law fought ANYTHING to do with computers but my sis in law finally started showing her great photos of the grandkids, blowing them up so she could see detail..and eventually we brought her around to skype!

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    1. I am absolutely going to check out Flat Stanley. And, local coffee shops (and cafes) are excellent sources for local events.

      On this trip the longest we are staying in any one location is a week (we do that 3 times during the trip). Three other times we are in one place for 4 nights. For future trips I can see us sitting in one place a bit longer, if for no other reason than to hold down fuel costs.

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  10. I'll second the idea of the church wherever you are going. I would also suggest going to local museums and cafes for breakfast rather tan the Ihop. Even if you don't talk to people, you'll learn a lot about the area just by listening. Also, look at the little local community paper-the one that may tell you about the concert inthe park kind of thing-sometimes they are free, and sometimes not.

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    1. This will be the first trip when we have a car available (towed behind the RV) which will make exploring the local area, going to church, and getting involved so much easier.

      Since the trip will be during the peak event time (July & August) I imagine the concert in the park type activities will be quite common.

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  11. I think what no one really wants to say here is that it can be quite hard to interact with the locals. In fact they have their own family, friends and lives to get on with and a friendship of a few days will have less meaning for them. My husband and I travel a great deal and rarely get to spend time with anyone who lives locally. If that is important to you, though, I heartily second the ideas of church on Sunday and the local mom and pop coffee shop.

    However, we have a great time getting to know fellow travelers. They are almost universally the kind of people we really like. They are open to new ideas, new vistas and usually new acquaintances. And, if you are all in an RV park, I would add they might well be open to lunch and a museum visit with new, if temporary, friends. I would definitely put my energy in this direction. In fact, it should be pretty easy to strike up conversations with others in the park as you set up your rig or cook your dinner outdoors. And, with any luck, they might even have some tips of what to see and do in the surrounding area.

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    1. You are certainly correct: "friendships" developed within a few days isn't likely. We were thinking along the lines of a smile, frequenting local merchants and asking for suggestions since most people love to help, and making a volunteer at a local museum or historical site feel special. Those ties to a local community are rather painless and may leave someone with a warm feeling.

      Most RVers are friendly. One caveat, though we have found, is if they are seasonal in a park they tend to be a bit standoffish of those of us just passing through for a few nights. That is completely understandable and we don't take it personally. Many of the parks we are staying in during the upcoming trip are about 75% long term/seasonal folks. That's where the steady income is so it seems like more and more private parks are catering to those 3-4 month "residents."

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  12. Love your ideas. We always look for local places and never eat at chains, unless it's a stop along the highway out of desperation. I would include museums and galleries. I love strolling down main street in any small town. You guys are going to love this!
    b

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    1. Main Street strolling is a great way to spend an afternoon.

      BTW, my gift cards were shipped today. I'll get by Barbara art soon!

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  13. My husband is an amateur astronomer and when we are in Hilo he likes to volunteer at the visitor center up Mauna Kea (just below the observatories) during the public evenings, setting up his scope and giving sky tours along with the staff. We have found that if he sets up his telescope in the public areas of campgrounds, people enjoy coming over and taking a look as well. :) It's a fun way of meeting people and participating in a community.

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  14. Such great ideas. I support the local newspapers, bulletin boards that post notices of local events. Some newspapers might be on-line and you could check them out in advance of arriving at a community. I like the idea of volunteering at local shelters, soup kitchens, seniors' centers etc. Security clearance may be an issue with some places. So many of us rely on electronic communication these days. What about good old fashioned letter writing with your grandkids? I learned this from a friend who did some lay ministry at his church. He promotes letter writing and does so with his now teen-aged grandkids. He never ceases to be amazed at the level of communication in a letter so much so that some of his grandkids call to remind him that it's his turn.

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    1. We will certainly send postcards since the youngest, at four, doesn't read yet. For the other two, letters may be a special treat.

      Virtually all local papers have web sites. That is a good idea to check them out ahead of our arrival.

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  15. You might also connect with your readers ahead of time & see who is in the area (or who knows someone in the area) where you are going. That will connect you with a "local" & might eliminate the "friendship" lack mentioned above. When I've been traveling, or even as a local, I've found folks fine with chatting to someone, making a connection, even if it is for just a day or so, but it is certainly easier if there is already a connection, whether it is blogging, church, pets, or whatever is in common. I was also thinking of dog parks, if there are some in the area; admiring someone like Bailey is always a surefire conversation starter!

    Maybe some connections from your ham radio group would also be in the areas you are going or would know someone there. I suspect having a "full-time car" will help you move around.

    I agree about the letter writing with grandkids; if you have time, it's amazing how well that works. One of my granddaughters is only 35 miles away & we periodically exchange letters......she DOES call me to remind me it's my turn.

    I know your dad doesn't do computers, but would your daughters or grandkids go over & connect up the Skype for a brief chat? That way everyone could connect at once.

    Your trip sounds exciting!

    pam

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    1. Dog Parks are some of the most social places on the planet. I hadn't thought of that before, but if a town has one, those off-leash parks are perfect for striking up a conversation.

      I will be taking a portable ham radio.

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  16. As a radio ham, put out an invitation on a local repeater to meet for coffee. Or just ask questions for things to see in the area. I've had good success with both in the past. 73... Daryl.

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    1. I will be taking a 2m/440 radio with me. Repeaters in parts of the country seem to be deader than 3 day old donuts, but there is no harm in trying. I can probably try Echolink, too.

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  17. Please get to know people in every community. People is what it is all about. But most of all...have lots of fun.

    Barbara

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    1. When I was younger I avoided meeting others, much to my determent. There has been a concerted effort on my part during retirement to change that.

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  18. come and go crabbing with us here on the South Oregon Coast...visit the local fire department...donate blood at a local blood drive...go to a local gardening club/farmers market/etc and support sustainable agriculture...

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    1. Betty and I love the Oregon Coast, from the California line to Washington. There are fewer places more beautiful, powerful, and awe-inspiring. You can bet the RV will find itself in your neck of the woods sometime.

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