It’s the final countdown…

3…2…1… go!

On October 9, 2016, this little camper van FINALLY got on the road for a six month road trip!  Last minute adds…LED lighting strips inside the van (WOW! are they bright!), a new muffler and tailpipe, and then all new tires.  The engine sounds good, the interior is comfy and just how I wanted it (thanks to son, Sean, who worked many hours on the cabinets, floor, electrical, wood trim, etc.), and a sad goodbye to the New York family but excited to go see the Virginia family!

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My little Ford camper van lit up at night with 4 little LED strips!
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Interior – cabinet for kitchen unit with water and sink on top, and smaller cabinet to hold emergency porta-potty, and bed to the left. LOVE my wood floor!

Leaving Albany, New York area, I so enjoyed driving Route 88 through the Leatherstocking Region (south central NY) … especially with the beautiful autumn foliage! This area includes Cooperstown – a favorite place – I lived there for a couple of years and it is a wonderful area with wonderful people.  (Kim, I waved hi in your direction as I passed through!)  For those not familiar with the area, I love the Baseball Hall of Fame and the old Doubleday Field located in Cooperstown.  This is also where James Fenimore Cooper lived and wrote Last of the Mohicans, Pathfinder, and other amazing Leatherstocking Tales, novels whose locales are in the Cooperstown area.  Everyone should visit this region and enjoy the places Natty Bumpo traveled!

Switching to Route 81 out of Binghamton, I headed into the Endless Mountains region of Pennsylvania.  When I first traveled through this area back in 1969-70, it was SO painful to see the strip mines left bare and ugly all around, I was mortified!  Maybe some of you will remember Paradise, by John Prine, sung by Johnny Cash, John Fogerty, John Denver, and others…

“and daddy, won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County beside the Green River where Paradise lay?  Well, I’m sorry, my son, but you’re too late in asking, Mr. Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away”   –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmQfaQP_x38

The song was about the Western Kentucky coal mines, but I always pictured these stripped Pennsylvania hills when I heard the song. Now, several decades later, this region is back to beautiful forests on those same hills! How happy it made me to see all those trees…I was smiling all the way through Lackawanna County!

By the time I reached lower Pennsylvania, land of caverns and battlefields (Gettysburg, for one), I was ready to stop for the night.  Love’s Truck Stop outside of Lebanon was a great boondocking site!  One great part about traveling in a camper van is that I can park amongst the cars and not have to hear or smell diesel/generator fumes from the big RV rigs and trucks.  Just put up my Reflectix window coverings, pulled the pillow and quilt out of the pillow shams on my full size bed, and nighty-night!

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My little camper van at night with interior LED lights on but Reflectix window coverings up – screen windows left uncovered for breeze

Refreshed after a great night’s sleep, I headed across the Mason-Dixon line into Maryland and then Virginia. Battlefield after battlefield, traveling this area always causes me to reflect on our country’s past and the many sacrifices made by previous generations! I can’t even acknowledge the current political debates in the face of such loss – neither Trump nor Clinton make me proud of America right now. With the millions of decent, hard-working Americans in this country, how on earth did we end up with these two as presidential candidates?!?!? Rhetorical question…I understand politics and elections and big money; just really sad to consider the results!

Well, on a happier note, I finally pulled off Route 81 at Lexington, VA and headed to the little town of Buena Vista where my oldest son lives with his family.  Am enjoying a couple of weeks with my five amazing grandchildren here, surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Yesterday I walked through Lexington, and the Stonewall Jackson cemetery — I just love all the history here! The mountains all around us are just beautiful, and I encountered a deer just a block over from Jason’s house!  So much to see and experience – like the Natural Bridge (a favorite spot!), Virginia Military Institute, Robert E. Lee grave (and that of his horse!), etc.  History, nature, family…all a person could ask for in a vacation spot!

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Loved this shop with baby cribs full of yarns, and this crocheted bicycle out front, in downtown Lexington, VA

Scout…out!

What book are you reading now?

From my bookshelf:

“These people live hard lives by ancient values, and they’re proud of that.  They’ve developed a philosophy to deal with drought and death.  When we arrive from the outside and insist that they learn to read – books that, as it turns out, are mostly about very different places and concerns – we confuse them. Possibly even undermine them. I think Miss Sweeney will tell you that their young are as sharp as any. And their elders may be wiser.  Compared with them, after all, we of the settled, literate society have a kind of inflexibility.  So your project raises questions.  Do they want to be part of what you call the ‘larger world’? And who should be teaching whom?”

–The Camel Bookmobile   by Masha Hamilton, 2007

Disclosure:  Amazon is my only affiliate link – I get commissions for purchases made through this link.  If you click on  “Search Amazon” below the following ad, my affiliate link is coded into that click. Thank you!

Tiny home versus Travel (RV) home

For the last few years, as I looked at the empty nest and realized my freedom from those wonderful years of raising a family, I thought long and hard about how I wanted to live. Definitely a simpler life with less stuff! I have never been one for housekeeping or gardening, and living solo gave me the opportunity to make my own choices, independent of anyone else’s opinions.

I love the Tiny homes that are springing up all over the US and around the world.  Looking at all the Pinterest and Facebook pictures really grabbed my attention.  I could easily see myself living in a small space, and those houses were so darn cute!!

The pro side of tiny homes was:

  • Living minimally, even off the grid completely
  • No rent or mortgage
  • Could be set up on someone’s “back forty” if permitted
  • Low cost to build
  • Could still work at my regular job and save $$$
  • Permanent resident
  • Available child care for grandkids
  • Not much change to lifestyle
  • Renovate a camper van for when I retired and then travel

The con side of tiny homes was:

  • Living in one place for _#_ years
  • Whose “back forty”could I use? What if they want to move?
  • Continue working the 9-5 job until retirement (5-7 years away)
  • Lots of towns zone against tiny homes
  • Living through more Northeastern winters — ugh!!!

The more I thought about staying in one place for a few more years and working, the less I wanted to invest in that option.

One of my responsibilities at work each day was to run the obituaries to match up anyone in the database who may have died. (Sorry if the term bothers you, but I hate the “passed away” euphemism.) So many people die before or when they reach retirement age.   What if I were to travel first, while I am younger and healthier, and then move into a tiny home when I was tired of traveling, or not so healthy, or whatever…if ever that were the case?

I started looking more into van camping as a full time RV-er.

The pros of RV camper van life were:

  • Freedom to move where I want when I want
  • Taking my own bed and “stuff” everywhere I go
  • Camping, which has always been a favorite activity
  • Visiting family and friends I haven’t been able to spend much time with
  • Seeing all the beauty and enjoying all the subcultures in America
  • Stealth boondocking (staying for free in someone’s driveway or residential area, BLM land, 24-hour store parking lot, rest area, truck stop, etc.)
  • No packing/unpacking when traveling
  • Stay as little or as long as desired in any one place, and ability to change my mind at the drop of a hat
  • Campgrounds can be found much cheaper than hotels or rent, even to stay for several months
  • Work can be done remotely, or work at a campground, etc.
  • Can still live off the grid, with the exception of gas to travel

The cons of the RV camper lifestyle were:

  • No longer an actual resident of my state
  • Finding remote work to support the lifestyle
  • Not seeing the local grandkids as often as I do now, and being available for child care/a break for mom & dad
  • Increased fossil fuel consumption, with gas prices a variable

Since this thought process was several years in the making, I used the time to head in the right direction – simplifying my life, getting rid of “stuff”, paying off debts, living on a cash basis, and taking some online classes to brush up skills to work remotely – writing copy, social media consulting, blog writing and affiliate marketing, virtual assistant, etc.

I also joined many Facebook groups having to do with RV living, and started following some blogs.  These were so helpful and I learned so much! I spent time visiting RV stores and considering what I liked/disliked about each style and size of RV.   I found so many single ladies of a similar (and older!) age were living the solo RV lifestyle and loving it! The camaraderie of the RV-ers, as well as their honesty about the good and bad of their chosen lifestyle, was of great benefit and echoed so many of my own thoughts.

In February when my apartment lease ended, I was still unsure of my final decision.  I had decided to take the first step anyway, and move into my car until I found a good old van to renovate and then live in that during the renovation period.  When I found a suitable van for less than $1000, I was overjoyed. This six-month transition saved me close to $7000, which I was then investing in the van and in a savings account to support whichever decision I made.  It would either be the funding for a tiny home or an emergency fund for traveling in an old van.  Either way, a win-win!

I found I did not miss the TV and cable at all, surprise, surprise! I felt such freedom in living with less possessions. I loved hearing the rain on the van roof and the wind in the trees.  I could look out the windows and see the moon and stars, and felt like I was already camping, even in the suburbs of Albany, New York! (I boondocked at my son’s house, parking the van in the shady trees in the side yard.)

I purchased a membership at Planet Fitness which allows me to use any of their facilities wherever I travel in the US.  I would wake up feeling like I had spent the night in a campground, drive to Planet Fitness to work out and shower and dress for the workday, drive to work…and then each night park back under the shady trees in my little camper van.  This system worked for me during the final six months of work.  No one at work knew I was living out of my car, then the van.  I charged my laptop, Kindle and I-phone at work, and was happily self-sufficient otherwise.

By the middle of summer, I decided that what I really wanted to do was work remotely with flexible hours as I traveled.  I had some minor health issues that forced me to work remotely for the last few months (thanks to a wonderful understanding manager), which was a good experience and confirmed that this was my best plan. I packed all my tiny home plans and supply lists into my storage and there they will stay until I decide I am done traveling.

I will be traveling on a shoestring in my little camper van.  We will see how it goes, but so far I really love this lifestyle!  I know it isn’t for everyone, but it is amazing to me how many people of every age are living the full time RV lifestyle already!  I can’t wait to meet some of them on the road or in a campground.

So this is my journey, and you’re welcome to follow along. I will be honest and as transparent as possible in sharing my story.  I hope you enjoy the blog posts, and maybe some of you will step out of your comfort zone and embrace this lifestyle also!  Or at least live vicariously through this and other folks who share their stories!

Scout — out!

What book are you reading now?

From the bookshelf…

“I looked to the trees.  They always calmed me.  The redwood grove stood like our own appointed guards; their trunks rose straight and solid from the land, their branches so large, we had seen wild turkeys perched in them….Our oaks were more like wise, arthritic grandparents. If you pulled up a chair and sat awhile and listened, you usually heard something useful.  The fruit trees were like our cherished aunties, wearing frilly dresses and an overabundance of perfume in the spring, then by summer, indulging us with their generosity, dropping apples and pears and apricots by the bucketfuls, more than we could ever eat, as if they were saying, Mangia! Mangia!”

The Underside of Joy, by Sere`Prince Halverson, 2012

*NOTE*

Disclosure:  Amazon is my only affiliate link – I get commissions for purchases made through this link.  If you click on  “Search Amazon” below the following ad, my affiliate link is coded into that click. Thank you!

And the renovation goes on…and on…and on

It is now the end of August and I am almost ready to hit the road full time in my little camper van.

It has been an exciting month, with tendering my resignation from my job, after taking my last “vacation” down at Assateague Island, Maryland, where the wild ponies live.  That was amazing, by the way, camping in the dunes and waking up to see hoof prints right outside my tent door…

Hoof prints just outside my tent door – the wild ponies love to visit!
The sky at Assateague Island, Maryland

It was sad yesterday to say farewell to my terrific coworkers and a job I truly enjoyed, but it is time for me to head out.  The van still needs the insulation and walls screwed back in, ceiling (tin) attached, and cabinets installed.  While I am overseas visiting my daughter in South Korea in September, my son promises the work will be completed…thanks, Sean!!!

As you can see from the photo below, the interior is coming along. That wood floor is amazing – so happy with it! I have my layout all set, and am very content living full time in this small space. Now that I am no longer working, I can drop off work clothes/shoes to a Goodwill and make even more space for the few winter-ish clothes I am taking.  (Not many – I plan to be somewhere warm and dry all winter!!!)

Sean is installing the wood floor in the van — love it!
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The side wall getting a new aqua marine vinyl covering – me and my staple gun are busy!

So I am officially homeless and unemployed…YAY! This just means I have no ties or debts to thwart my dream of traveling as the wind blows.  My only tie is to the hearts of people I love and will be visiting!!!  Right now, the “plan” is vaguely to:

  1. Fly to visit youngest daughter in South Korea for two weeks in September (my first overseas trip!)
  2. Spend time with my oldest son and family in western Virginia for a few weeks
  3. Drop by brother-in-law and family, and possibly some other friends, in the Carolinas
  4. Enjoy the magical world of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Florida
  5. Head to Arkansas to visit a couple of brothers and family as well as an RV conference for worKamping at the end of October
  6. Travel slowly with lots of stops along the way over to Albuquerque, where my oldest daughter and her wife live
  7. Short trips to Taos and Santa Fe while staying in Albuquerque
  8. Thanksgiving with Tara and Morgan
  9. Start wintering in Quartzite, Arizona – living free on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands for a month or so
  10. Possibly fly back to New York for Christmas week
  11. Spending some time in the Austin, Texas area with all their great music and arts – and yes, visit Magnolia Store in Waco!
  12. Head towards Nashville to enjoy some more great music!

If anyone is at or close to any of these areas, send me a message and let me know if I may stop by for a visit on the way – so many folks I would love to see again!!!

As you can see, I tend to travel as I live – with a vague plan and destination, but definitely as “fly by the seat of your pants”!  If the traffic is busy to the left, I will turn to the right.  If there’s a storm brewing to the south, I will turn toward the north. If there’s no BML land or inexpensive campsite nearby, I will boondock at a truck stop, WalMart, or other such known boondocker site (Yes, I have an app for that!)

Thanks for joining me as I head out.  Will keep you posted with pictures and stories as I go along.  And hey, if you want to join me – well, grab some kind of vehicle and meet up with me anywhere…just remember, the passenger seat has been REMOVED from my van!! LOL

Scout — out!

What book are you reading now?

From the bookshelf…

“When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too….We should be choosing what to keep, not what we want to get rid of….Keep only those things that speak to your heart.  Then take the plunge and discard all the rest.”

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, 2014

*NOTE*

Disclosure:  Amazon is my only affiliate link – I get commissions for purchases made through this link.  If you click on  “Search Amazon” below the following ad, my affiliate link is coded into that click. Thank you!

Hello, friend!

Today is a new step on the next leg of this journey called LIFE.

Revolutionary changes are underway as I experience freedom:

          Freedom FROM the 9-5 office, the monthly rent/mortgage drain, the same old, same old —

          Freedom TO travel this beautiful nation, set my own schedule, experience any and all open doors —

Home is no longer a “sticks and bricks” home or apartment… but is now an old, dented 1997 Ford conversion van! The renovation is taking place, and slowly but surely the  new “home on wheels” is coming together.

Driver side, 1997 Ford conversion van - ready for renovation
Driver side, 1997 Ford conversion van – ready for renovation

While continuing to work at my regular job (database analyst for a major trauma center/medical college in upstate New York), I am boondocking on my son’s property.

                           Boondocking: the art of living off the grid                                   without electric/water/sewer hookups

By the end of July, the van should be ready for travel, and my first week-long “shakedown” trip will be to Assateague Island, MD, for the annual ROUND-UP OF WILD PONIES!

In September 2016 I will experience the joy – and fear – of becoming technically “unemployed and homeless” as I walk away from a terrific job with wonderful people, and start working remotely from anywhere and everywhere U.S. in my little van.        ????????WHYYYYYYYY????????

Freedom.  Life is too short to not step out to follow your dreams. I love to travel, and so far have camped or at least visited all 48 contiguous states but always on a short timeline.  There is so much more out there to see and experience!  So many family/friends to visit, and more new friends to get to know!

With four adult kids in New York, Virginia, New Mexico, and South Korea, and seven grand-kids at two of those locations, I want to spend REAL TIME with those I love for more than a few days here and there.  I want to make memories as we enjoy sunrises, sunsets, and moments of joy and laughter in between. And when I am ready to go, there is nothing tying me down to a location or a schedule.

Scout - holding some grandbabies
Scout – holding some grandbabies

Does this sound selfish? I ask myself that question.  Yes, and No.  After raising my family, going back to school for a Master’s degree, volunteering, and working full time (often more than one job at a time) for years, I think it is time for me to step out.  Selfish is not a dirty word – it is recognizing what you want/need and making choices.  Following a dream is not selfish, it is fulfilling.

                           WANDERLUST:  A strong desire for or impulse to wander             or travel and explore the world

I have moved approximately every two – three years or so throughout my adult life.  I have lived in several different geographic regions of the United States, and loved them all. I’ve lived in New York City and Chicago, and small towns of less than 1,000 population, in America’s heartland and on a coastal island; in the north and southwest and Great Plains, in suburbs, urban and rural areas.  To me, HOME is what you carry in your heart, not a location.  Everywhere, I make connections and enjoy life. There is good and bad everywhere, and there are great people and not-so-great people everywhere.

In every location, I have to admit, I first find the library.  Books are universal friends, and I read about a book a day (speed reader).  I have my Kindle, and am on several “email for free books list” so I rarely pay for a book.  I love the hard copy books from the library, too, but know that once I am on the road full time I won’t have the residence address to take out books – but hey! I can still sit in any library anywhere and read!  Plus, most libraries have free Wi-Fi and electric plug-ins to charge my phone, Kindle, and laptop.  Definitely will be visiting libraries all over the country – they make me feel safe and happy no matter where I am!

Sitting at a counter at a diner or restaurant can often lead to good conversations when I want to socialize.  Walking the campground I am visiting will often provide a new “friend” to visit.  Opportunities abound to connect – I just have to smile, open my mouth, and care about another person…hey! there’s another friend!  I am, however, an introvert and can go daaaaays without face-to-face conversation with another person.  Facebook and texting keep me connected with family/friends until I see them again.

So, here I sit (at a library, haha) as I prepare to live full time on the road.  Just 5 weeks until the first shakedown trip and then 5 weeks after that, goodbye, farewell, auf weidersein…do I hear Julie Andrews singing?!?

 Hopefully this first post helps you get to know me a bit, and where I am in life.  If you’d like to comment, please feel free to do so.  I will respond, and look forward to meeting you.  By the way, any comment which shows disrespect for anyone will be deleted.  Thanks!

SCOUT – out!

What book are you reading now?

From the bookshelf…

“I told her that, in my opinion, you can sympathize, but that true compassion was not possible unless you had been in that space.  Unless you had had the actual experience of having a loved one, a child, with cancer….All that mental spin, and all those concepts…her idea of what compassion was–it was so trite and childlike.”

–There is a reaper: Losing a Child to Cancer by Michael Lynes, 2015

*NOTE*

Disclosure:  Amazon is my only affiliate link – I get commissions for purchases made through this link. If you click on  “Search Amazon” below the following ad, my affiliate link is coded into that click.  Thank you!