When my husband, John, retired in late 2018, we sold our house in North Carolina and all the "stuff" that went with it. Then we bought a big white pickup truck we call Stanley, and a shiny silver Airstream we call Livingstream, and in early January, 2019 we moved into "Livvy" along with our cat, Rosie. Two months later we headed out as full-time travelers, ready to explore North America.
And although it was no small task to pare down the mountain of stuff we had squirreled away into our 2300 square-foot home over 30-plus years of marriage and fit it into a 300 x 8 foot travel trailer, there was a different journey we had to complete before the actual rubber met the actual road. It was a journey through the emotional, mental, and spiritual, and it began years earlier.
The move away from our wonderful "sticks and bricks" house to Stanley and Livingstream was the by-product of a clash between the American Dream and the tiny-house movement, plus we took the book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, to the extreme.
We realized that most of our money, and even more of our energy, was being taken up by furnishing, decorating, cleaning, and maintaining our house and yard, and we had employed a small army of people to help us keep everything in good order. We were drowning in clutter, no matter how neat, clean, and organized we kept it, we had begun to feel like our stuff had us, rather than the reverse.
We also lived among the ranks of the Sandwich Generation, but we were of the open-faced variety because we did not have children. We were, however, the primary support system for my beloved mother who had developed dementia, and we needed to stay close to home. But that is, of course, another story.
Our mounting desire to be free of the "stuff" was also fueled by our innate wanderlust, but we were only able to slake that thirst on long weekends a few times a year because my mom became very unsettled when we were out of town. After my mother passed, our itchy feet became even itchier by a a pending military contract that was supposed to be bid and awarded within two months, but instead took more than two years.
Tom Petty was right: the waiting is the hardest part. Over those two years, John was merely marking time, working in a job for which he was vastly overqualified and overworked, but which we needed in order to maintain our home and keep our bank balance in the black.
So, while he heroically provided for us, I combed through our home, donating load after of load of stuff we didn't want to have to haul to Alabama if we should win the contract. I did this repeatedly, gaining greater clarity with each attic, garage, closet, cabinet and drawer purge. Most of what we had, I didn't even know we had because it was all stored in the attic, or crawl space, or in boxes on tall closet shelves that I had asked my dear husband to install to take advantage of our home's high ceilings.
We were eventually as ready as we'd ever be to spring into action and move to Alabama should the phone call come that would launch our life in that direction. However, when the phone finally rang, the message was: "Never mind, we didn't get the contract."
However, all of that kinetic energy that had been built up by years of purging and paring had to go somewhere. For over two years we had been preparing for a possible major move, but at the same time we had to decide what to do if we didn't win the contract. Every time we revisited The Question, it felt as if we were twisting a rubber band-powered propeller on an emotional paper airplane that was ready to launch us into something new and unknown.
It was during that time of waiting that the idea of full-time RV traveling was hatched. We had started by looking for a different way to live, to find a way to have less stuff to maintain, and more time and energy to enjoy life. First we looked into tiny homes, not so much because they were movable, but because they were small, less expensive, and easier to maintain.
Then we discovered the concept of full-time RV living. This combined our desire to "live small" with our desire to travel. Perfect fit. We began to watch countless hours of YouTube videos, following and learning from our favorite full-time RV families, "Keep Your Daydream" and "Less Junk, More Journey."
We had also planned to rent an RV for a week or two to make sure it was a good fit for us, but the rentals we looked at weren't at all what we had in mind for our "rig", so it didn't seem like a fair comparison, so we skipped that step.
Finally, a few months before our launch date, we flew to Texas and attended the three-day Escapees RV Boot Camp where we were equipped with invaluable knowledge and advice.
During this whole process, John officially retired and we put our house on the market. It sold very quickly, and then we had a tag sale for our furniture and household items, and finally donated the unsold items to local charities.
Before the sale, we took photos of the special items like art, medals, awards, and decorations as they were carriers of our history, and it was a way to bring our treasures with us, without having to find room for their weight and volume. Except for a very abbreviated collection of clothing, housewares, and some fun stuff, only the weightless memories of digital photographs were going to travel with us.
Once the house was sold, we began the search for our RV. We eventually decided that our first choice was a gently used Airstream, and we looked at candidates as far away as California and Idaho. But due to Divine timing and grace, we found and bought our perfect RV from some dear friends who lived just a few miles down the road. Then we bought a truck suitable for towing, and at last we were as prepared as we knew how to be.
Unfortunately, we couldn't bring our friends or community with us, and we didn't take that lightly. We had put down deep roots during our sixteen years in North Carolina, with both of us having stayed there longer than any place we had ever lived. And by launching our adventures with Stanley and Livingstream, we had to pay the price, for a time anyway, and leave behind not only our home and our stuff, but also our friends, neighbors, church, and support system.
We left behind the laughter and tears we had shared while sipping tea in each other's kitchens, sharing lunches and dinners, shopping together on the hunt for some special item, being part of the wonderful Christ Community Church in Pinehurst...doing life together. Still, each of our dear friends gracefully and lovingly supported us and sent us on our way with their blessings. And we are looking forward to periodically returning back to visit our "heart home" to give and collect hugs from our dear North Carolina friends.
And, as I write this, we're now a year down the road and currently in Texas, far away from the home we left behind, so I am SO grateful for all the digital ways we're able to keep in touch. And, in our future travels, we'll get to reconnect with old friends, some dating back all the way to elementary school, friends who have since scattered coast-to-coast across America, or those from whom we have done the scattering.
We also get to visit all of our sisters and brothers and nieces and nephews, whose locations are liberally sprinkled across the map of the United States. And, many of our nieces and nephews have married and had kids of their own, some of whom we have never met, other were in diapers, or were just a " belly bump" when we were last able to attend a family get-together or reunion. And, at this stage in my life, I'm beginning to hear Harry Chapin quietly singing in the background a niece-an-nephew version of his 1974 song, "Cat's in the Cradle." It's well past time that we make time to visit with family and meet and fall in love with this new generation.
So I hope you'll join us as we wend our way through 49 of the 50 United States (as you can imagine, getting to Hawaii in a travel trailer is problematic,) on into Canada, and perhaps Mexico, while we reconnect, see what we can see, and see what happens next.
Until next time,