Being away offers an important opportunity to look at where and how you live with a fresh eye. Things you take for granted may have been missing, or different, while you were away. Something that happened on a trip may give you a few ideas that can be integrated into your daily life. You may return with a new dedication to experience all that your hometown has to offer.
Our home for the last thirty years has been the Phoenix metropolitan area. While the brutal heat for 4 months every summer can wear down even the most intrepid desert lover, there is so much to be thankful for. This trip reminded me of what I too often take from granted:
1) The lack of freezing weather, snow, and road salt means major streets and freeways are usually free of potholes and never-ending rough patches. The side streets near my home are not in the best of shape, but the majority of time I am traveling on smooth, new, roads. That was not the case throughout most of the Midwest and Rocky Mountain states.
2) Phoenix benefits from having several major grocery chains battling for every last percentage of business. Food prices are much lower than any place we were over the past two months. Betty and I were shocked at the prices we encountered and changed our menus accordingly. Milk almost $4.00 a gallon? We pay $1.89 most weeks.
3) The weather is consistent, with very few surprises. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, hail, heavy rain, snow, or high winds are rarely part of our lives. Severe weather is so infrequent that years may pass between such extreme happenings. Over 300 days a year are sunny, many of those with no clouds. Humidity averages in the single digits. It is seriously hot from late May until mid September and remains quite warm until late October. But, we know that and plan accordingly. The RV trip reminded us that violent, unpredictable weather with wild swings between heat and cold, storms and clam are normal elsewhere. Oh, and our 70 degree days in December & January are very nice.
4) I love my solid, quick Internet service. One of the most consistent complaints about RV parks is the poor quality of WiFi service. Everyone has it, but the ability to connect or stay connected is always a roll of the dice. Of the twenty two campgrounds we visited, exactly three had high speed, high quality connections. That is never a problem at home.
5) We have a pretty, relaxing, inviting backyard. I use it much too infrequently. That will change.
How about the downside, things that I wish home had that many of the places we visited did:
1) Rivers and streams with water in them. Most of the "rivers" in my part of the country are dry creek beds. Betty and I like the sound of running, falling water. The closest we come at home is a fountain in the backyard.
2) What Betty calls "real trees:" trees with big green leaves instead of thorns or stickers. Sitting under a shade tree is something that is hard to experience at home.
3) The Phoenix area has 4.5 million residents. That creates non-stop traffic, air pollution, and few places where you can be alone. Many of the towns we visited had fewer than 2,000 folks....some were lucky to break 500. The sense of openness and lack of traffic problems was a blessing.
Betty and I are "selective travelers." We enjoy going different places and experiencing life in a new way. But, neither of us would be happy being away from home and family for more than a few months a year. The time we can spend with my dad, daughters, son-in-law, and grandkids is too precious.
RV travel and an occasional trip to Europe or Hawaii will remain part of our future. So will being close to home for most of the year.