It took me 63 years to find the departure platform. Picture, if you will, Harry Potter trying to find track 9 3/4 at King’s Cross train station. After finally starting on this journey it took me five years to realize we’d left the dock. Now, it sort of feels like I have to find a compass and sextant; maybe I should start navigating. (Hmmmm…. that’s what they call mixed metaphors, isn’t it!)
Full Time RV’ing seems to have become over time, a very different journey than I ever anticipated. Instead of our taking the journey, like two kids in a roller coaster car it’s begun to feel like the journey is taking us: not so much to different destinations, as to unplanned outcomes.
Prior to RV’ing I admit having lived in only one house that I didn’t want to leave. Oh, those other houses were home, but none of them were places where I was content to just BE. Every few months I’d get the urge to go; somewhere, anywhere, just to go. The house was ok, but it wasn’t a place I wanted to be. I was restless. There was a big world out here that wanted, needed, demanded exploration. For much of my working life I had jobs that kept taking me out into that world.
I could “blame” some of this attitude on my parents and the way I was raised. Dad had his own case of wanderlust — Peg & I are really living the retirement he would have wanted if my mom had been willing. He even bought a pull behind trailer thinking they would travel like we are — but mom wanted none of that. He ended up parking the trailer at a membership camp in Wisconsin and spent as many weekdays there as he would each year — the trailer became his getaway spot. And mom and I were part of a church that had lots of conferences so we were gone at least once a month — staying overnight with friends from church — so “going away” over the weekend was something I grew up expecting to do. It was just part of life. No one ever had to convince me to take a roadtrip. But I’m not into laying blame and I am who I am.
The only place this restlessness didn’t manifest itself was our last house, the old school. From the moment I saw it I knew it would be a place where I would relax into — a place I wouldn’t need to keep leaving to keep from getting too restless. I had my work and my living in one place. No commute except when I left on a photo trip and there were literally weeks when I never left the house. Models arrived at the door. I worked in the office. I cooked for my wife and I. I slept. No need t leave, no desire to leave, I could have been self-sustained were it not for the need for trips to the grocery at the end of a week.
Alas, from the moment we put down an offer to purchase we also knew that it would not be a ‘home’ for later in life. It was simply too much for two retirees to manage: too big to live in and too expensive to maintain. It was wonderful to live & work in, but once we retired there was no sense in keeping a house, a studio, and lots of hard surfaces to be mowed and cleared of snow. We enjoyed it while we had it.
Our RV life has been different altogether. I’ve been a infinitely more content: from the moment we left Milwaukee sans real estate I have felt freer. Divesting ourselves of real estate was a relief for me. I helped to maintain and manage a family owned 12-family apartment for … well, for most of my life. We lived in that place for 35 years! If you based your opinion on the changes I made to the physical building you’d think I would have made it feel like home. We took out walls and remodeled rooms. Our ‘mark’ was to be seen on that building in an infinite number of ways. But it still never became a place I just wanted to be. I kept working towards that goal but never arrived. When I wanted to relax it was always ‘let’s go someplace to relax.’
When we were still working, I missed spending time with Peggy. I never got enough of time with her. Work was always getting in the way. She’s my best friend and we talked over and over about what we could do for a job that could be done together; but we never really found anything that we could afford to do — Finally now in retirement, while some couples can’t wait to get time apart, I’m finally happy getting to spend all day every day with her. Maybe when we were working the idea of getting away from home was the only way I got to enjoy just her and she didn’t feel the need to be doing things to get ready for the next day, week, whatever. But, bottom line is home wasn’t the place for us to really relax.
With this history of wanderlust in my genes I joked early-on in our RV adventure about ‘hitch-itch’ — that malady that besets a lot of full time RV’ers when they have been in a place for too long and feel the need to move. And I’m beginning to question whether what I was feeling was typical hitch-itch or whether it was another strain of the ‘disease’ — in the way that viruses and germs are becoming immune to the effects of different antibiotics and forming new strains of disease.
I don’t think it’s ever been ‘novelty’ that I wanted. And I’m not sure it’s ever just been about geography. As I look back on the way my thought processes are changing I’m coming to accept that my wanderlust may have more to do with identity than geography. All my life I was the guy who — when he had learned his job really well — was ready to chuck it all and learn another job. All my life I have been looking for challenges, for knowledge, and I have pursued that goal. Now, as I age, and as it becomes harder and harder to hold knowledge in my head ( I mean lets face it, you’re memory isn’t as good at 65 as it was at 30!) So leaning becomes more difficult. I had to take several on-line modules while we were volunteers at the Forest Service and I have to say learning on-line was much harder than learning from a book. For me. I could see that the USDA modules were well designed but they were clearly designed for people who assimilate information differently than I do. (And when was I not the oddball?)
The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that downsizing was one of the best things I ever did. By choosing to downsize right after retiring I forced myself into a stage in life, but the transition set in motion a cascade of new ideas: thought starters and behavior modifiers. And I’m no longer the same person who left Milwaukee 5 years ago.
I think that the changes in how I look at life are part of the reason we are here volunteering for the entire summer. My mind is taking many more trips than my body right now. I don’t need for actual wheels to be turning to be off on a metaphysical journey. I’m too busy thinking about options for our future; about how we can best accomplish the goals we still have in life — and I don’t know if any of that involves moving from place to place — I’m still trying to figure that out.
When we started this journey it was about seeing and finding new places. Perhaps they would be places to live, more likely the would be places to visit, but we were looking for geography. I think I had to convince myself that novelty won’t cure the post-employment void. I traveled a lot while I worked, Peggy not so much. I was happy and delighted that we could share travel together and that she could see some of the things that I had seen years ago. But travel alone doesn’t feed the soul.
The longer we have spent on the road the more I realize it’s not about geography. We are “seeing” far more than geography. It’s like we’re learning all over again what we’re good at and where our weak points are. I’m having a hard time explaining where we are on our mental journey — which tells me we aren’t yet at our destination — wherever that destination may be. That means we go back to living, and let our mind cogitate on what’s happening until it’s sorted things out. After all, this journey is not just my journey, it’s also my wife’s. When we work it out I’ll share; in the meantime we’re still having a ball and life is just as unscripted as ever.
Thanks for stopping by, and why not stop by tomorrow for a chat.