When I first started planning my escape from the working world more than seven years ago, I gave not a minute's thought to where it all would end. At the time, I had enough to occupy my brain cells. Getting rid of years of accumulated priceless junk, selling the house, prepping the rig. Plenty to keep me busy and content.
Then, the years of traveling were so fulfilling that there simply wasn't time to see the light at the end of that particular tunnel. Sure, I wrote about it in travel logs and on the finance page... I even remember penning this line:
"For me, it's not rocket science: when the money runs out, I'm done. Back to work. :-( "
Sure didn't seem all that threatening back then when I wrote it! It wasn't until I really began to run low on funds that the reality sank in... As I said at the beginning of 2001; "Based on my cash reserves, 2001 may be my last year of traveling. I knew that I was in for a limited run.... In the beginning, I had figured on doing 2 years on the road before I would have to get a job again. I have been able to more than double that travel time thanks to good investments and frugal living, but the writing is on the wall: it ain't gonna last forever."
Well, it's true.... it didn't last forever. No good thing does.. Do I regret it? NO WAY! Those of you who have been along since the beginning know that I started out planning to "take a couple of years off, then go back to work". The fact that I was able to spend almost 5 years on the road is like the ultimate bonus! I have no regrets at all, in fact, I plan to do it again!!!
But, this article is about leaving the road.... I've already told you how I started my fulltime adventure, now it's time to tell you how I ended it. (Actually, it technically hasn't ended yet, as I'm still living fulltime in my RV, but you know what I mean...)
In early 2001, I began writing and doing some research for the Escapees magazine. As I got to know Janice, the magazine editor, I asked her if she thought there might be a place for me as a permanent worker at Escapees. At the time, I was workcamping at Suwannee Valley campground in North Florida. I sent in a resume and waited to see what might happen. As the weeks went by, I made plans for my summer of travels and agreed to return to Suwannee that fall and do the workcamping thing again with all my Suwannee friends. Shortly before I was ready to head out, I got a call from the Escapees.. actually, it was Bud Carr who called. We talked a bit and he offered me an opportunity to come out to Livingston in May and work for a few months, sort of on a trial basis. It was difficult to turn him down, but I had already made commitments to see friends and family during the summer and was still planning to be returning to Suwannee in the fall. I think I may have had cold feet, too. I apologized and told Bud that I would be available in January of 2002 if they might still be interested. We sort of left it at "we'll see".
I left Florida in April and began a wonderful summer of freedom and I knew at the time that it would probably be my last for a while. That made it all the sweeter! As I traveled around the country in 2001, I began to really consider ways to make some money and extend my traveling. I asked my friends along the way if there was any chance of coming back next year and working for pay. Turns out, it was possible, and I had actually begun to line up some paying gigs. I made some tentative plans to return to Sadonjaree in Pennsylvania to work on the farm for a few months. Dan and Ginny at the KOA in Tennessee allowed as how I could come on down and be a paid worker. I figured that I could close out 2002 out in California, maybe working for Mark and Tammy again. It began to look like maybe I wouldn't be broke after all! Wouldn't be rich, either, by a long shot, but I figured that I could keep beer in the fridge and gas in the truck. That's where it all stood when I showed up in West Virginia at the Fall Escapade.
At the Escapade, I finally had a chance to meet Janice and Gabby, and Cathie and Bud. We actually found some time to talk (unusual at an Escapade for staffers) and I came away having promised to come to Rainbow's End at the first of the year. I'd work there for a 3 month period, and then we'd see how we liked each other. It sounded like a fair deal to me!
After the Escapade, I headed back to Suwannee Valley and spent the rest of 2001 doing the workcamping thing and having a great time. I still figured that I could do the three months in Livingston and then maybe I'd just continue on the road and make the rounds the way that I'd originally planned. When January rolled around, I said goodbye to all my friends in Florida and headed west to Livingston. I showed up for (shudder!) work the first week in January. Well, it's kind of funny... after working at Escapees for only a couple of weeks, we were already talking about making it permanent. The end result was my joining the Escapees organization on a full time basis.
Part of what convinced me that I wanted to stay is the family atmosphere on the job. Years ago, I had the pleasure of working for small company that was like a family, and it was the best job I ever had. That's the way it feels here at headquarters. Plus, I feel like I can really have an effect on things... make a difference, if you will... That's worth a lot too! Best of all, it keeps me in touch with the RV side of life and makes it possible to continue meeting and helping other RVers. I realize that sounds a little trite, but it's true. The whole time I was traveling and maintaining the website, I tried to help other RVers break into fulltiming. This job was just a perfect pathway to keep doing what I like to do! Unfortunately, the new job put my summer plans on the skids... I was sorry to let them down, but I had to tell my friends and family that I wouldn't be coming to see them in 2002 after all.
A bunch of people at the office really have no idea what my job is... actually, I'm not so sure myself! I'm sort of a "scooby person" I do a lot of research, writing, political stuff, news releases, answer member's questions and help Cathie with the incredible workload she shoulders every day. Plus, I'm moderating their web forums, working with the Rainbow Parks staff to design and implement a central computerized accounting system for all our parks, and doing electrical and plumbing work at the new park office. All in all, it's a perfect job for me. A little bit of everything! The pay isn't anything near what I could earn if I wanted to work in the computer/networking field that I'm trained in, but sometimes the work environment is worth more than the bucks...
Now, that's not to say that working doesn't suck... it does! :-(
It's not the job that sucks, it's that damn alarm clock going off in the morning! The one thing that I was so happy to be free of, while retired, was that alarm clock! I guess I really knew the 'vacation' was over when I had to go to (where else??) Wal-Mart and buy an alarm clock for my headboard. Every time that nasty thing rings, I just want to heave it out the window! I'll probably eventually get used to it again... maybe in 15 or 20 years! Other than the alarm clock, it's the simple fact that my time is no longer totally my own that's the hardest to get used to. In my opinion, that total freedom from any demands on your time is what makes fulltiming so wonderful. Believe me, after almost 5 years it's awfully hard to go back to 'reality'. No, I'm not whining... well, maybe just a little, but I know I'll get no sympathy from all you folks who have been working while I've been playing! :-)
On the other hand, staying put does have some advantages. I don't have to put everything away every three days so I can hitch up and roll! I can go to the grocery store and actually know where things are! I can have a newspaper delivered! I can have a phone! (Oh, no... telemarketers!) I can even make some new friends and they'll still be here next week... well, some of them anyway. :-)
(That's the only problem with RVing friends.. they drive off and leave you behind... Say... Now I know how my friends felt when I drove off and left them behind... oh, the irony!!!)
I've already started looking for land here in the area, as I might as well establish a home base. Plus, If I get some land, I can have all my stuff again! **Ulterior motive!!** It's been 5 years since I drove my MGB or fondled my tool collection. Wow! I can start collecting junk again! Hey, maybe this isn't so bad after all.... :-) Once I find a square of dirt to call my own, I'll be trekking back to California to reclaim my "stuff". I'm actually looking forward to being tied down again for a while.
I guess in the end, it all comes down to how you think about it. I suppose that I could dwell on the negatives and be all bummed out about not being free and easy anymore, but I can't help but notice all the neat new things that come with my new lifestyle. Hey, for the first time in over 5 years, I went out and bought something that wouldn't fit inside the RV! What a revelation! It's a small chest freezer and I'm keeping it in my storage shed. (Wow! A storage shed!!) You see where this is going..... ;-)
I wanted to show you a couple of shots of my new digs. When I dug out the camera, it hit me: I used to carry this camera everywhere! On a slow week, I'd take several hundred pictures! How can it be that this camera has laid here for more than a month and I haven't even thought of it? It's because, when I was traveling and doing the Travel Logs, I was playing to an audience. Now that part of my life is over for a while. And, I miss it! Not just the traveling, but the sharing of it with so many of you folks out there. It was a privilege to be your traveling entertainer for a while... Thanks to all of you for being such a tolerant audience! Keeping this site going and getting to know so many of you has been a super experience! I wouldn't trade it for the world! Remember... now that you know where I am, you can stop by anytime and say hello! Looks like I might be here a while, too... But that's OK!
Oh, Yeah.... the pictures! Here you go.... Have a great summer, travel safe, and drop by any time!!