This is our fulltiming anniversary – five years ago in July we were working night and day to get rid of almost everything we had accumulated, pack what we wanted to save and couldn’t carry into boxes to go into my sister’s attic, and finish up the modification of our Roadtrek. It was Florida, it was hot, we were exhausted. But as our lease ran out on July 31, 2010, we hauled the last load into the Roadtrek, probably exceeding its weight limit by a fair margin, and headed out for my parents’ house – leaving nothing behind.
It’s much different than moving from one sticks and bricks house to another, which we had done many times over the years. When you do that, you’re just schlepping your stuff into a truck and rearranging it when you get wherever it is you’re going. We divested ourselves of all furniture, junk, most of our books and clothes, all of our houseplants, many things that make you feel at home. Packed for some unknown future contingency was the china, memorabilia, important documents, and a few other things. It was maybe a dozen moving boxes, total, fitting nicely in a corner of my sister’s attic. Everything else we kept was in the van.
So there we were, creeping down I-10 in the early morning hours, headed for my parents’ house. Fiona had gotten nervous as all the stuff around her in the house disappeared, and had moved into the Roadtrek well before we finished packing. I had done a whirlwind installation of the solar panels and electronics we needed to turn out Roadtrek into a fulltiming machine, and I was decades older than I had been when I used to do this work for a living, so I was very tired. We relaxed, got the satellite TV guy to come out and install the dish on our tripod, and visited with my family for a few days, and then hit the road, looking for cool weather. In August, that means Maine.
It’s a long way up I-95 from Florida to Maine, but we kept driving because the weather wasn’t getting any better. The third night we pulled into Old Orchard Beach, got the last spot in the KOA, and crashed. And the next morning we woke up to an absolutely blank calendar. Nothing on the agenda. Don’t have to be anywhere, do anything, totally free. We moseyed up the coast, explored the back roads, hung out in commercial parks because we were barely starting out and wanted to just sit for a while, and just let the days fill up with whatever we felt like doing. We had a lot of decompression to do – the previous months were a nightmare of to-do lists and deadlines, trying to get everything done. It changed so fast we needed time to adjust.
I got out the hammock. I sat around. I looked up at the trees, smelled the cool ocean air and the spicy smell of northern mowed grass, watched the kids get put back in school where they belonged, looped up through the Gaspe peninsula for a week or so, and spent a month at a tiny little RV park I had gotten a tantalizing sample of two years before, my last real vacation.
We began to think of time in terms of seasons, not days and weeks. I had to still keep track of time to do my financial stuff online, and know when the weekend was coming so we could dodge the day trippers, but otherwise it was the weather and the look of the vegetation that became important, not the words on the calendar. As the cooler weather approached, we headed south, following the changing fall foliage down the Eastern seaboard, back to Florida for the holidays.
And then the seasons called again, and we were off with the first flowers, heading west to the desert, up into the mountains as the summer arrived, and out to the Pacific Ocean for the last bit of summer. We slid south down the coast again as it cooled, and back across the continent for another holiday season with the family.
Now, after five years, it’s a routine – we have summer and winter locations, and move to catch the best weather and locations as they become available. We’re going north up the Pacific Coast Highway with the whales migrating up from Baja, and join them again as they head south in the fall. One year we saw redbuds for three months straight as we followed the spring weather north.
What are we missing? I don’t know. The stuff in the boxes in my sister’s attic? I can barely remember what’s in them. We packed all that stuff carefully because we thought we’d never be able to part with it, and haven’t seen it in five years. The sense of community? I stay in touch online with fewer and higher-quality people than I had to interact with back when we were in a sticks and bricks house. We spend very, very little time being polite to people we really don’t want to talk to, which is a big improvement over the social obligations inherent in living in a sticks and bricks house and working a job.
If I had had the financial wherewithal, I would have done this 40 years ago. Back then I had a fantasy – just jump in my VW bus and head out. Find the right girlfriend, figure out a way to live, and see the world. Well, the VW bus went the way of all automotive flesh, it took a VERY long time to find the right girlfriend, and developing a retirement income involved this process called working, which it took me a while to get the hang of, but the dream never died. And here we are, living it. What are we going to do tomorrow? I don’t know. Get out the map and the weather forecast, pick a direction, and head out.