Two Steps Forward One Step Back

Shakamak State Park in Indiana

Finding yourself isn’t a task to cross off a list but rather an ongoing journey of asking questions and seeking answers. I tend to use the pendulum method of swinging to the furthest reaches of one direction and often finding that I’ve gone too far and need to reverse course to swing in the other. My intention is to find that spot somewhere in the middle of two extremes that is where I fit best. I can’t say that I planned this as a strategy, I just see that it is how it seems to work out for me. I spent seven years in the house that I recently left to go live full time in my camper van and travel. I had been looking to the horizon for some time, feeling trapped and bored. My three dogs limited my choices of where I could go and still have them in my life. I didn’t want to own another house and I knew that renting was going to be difficult. RV or van living seemed like a great alternative that would give me the freedom I was longing for. 

My goal was to spend 6 months in the van while renting my house to cover expenses. In September, I started out making my trips around Southern Indiana which kept me close to home in the event of mechanical problems. After each trip, I would return to stay with family where I could camp and have access to their home. Every trip taught me new lessons and I would come back ready to change my set up, leave behind things I didn’t need and load up or purchase things I did need. Initially, I found that after a week away I was getting a little homesick and overwhelmed so the time spent with family gave me an opportunity to fill up my emotional coffers and tend to business in a familiar setting. 

In October, I began to branch out and headed to Kentucky. I spent time in Land Between the Lakes, Paducah and Central City where my father’s family is from. I learned more about Army Corp of Engineers Campgrounds and bought a lifetime senior pass that will save me half of the camping fees at these well maintained parks and also gives me free enty into most National Parks. There are some advantages to growing older. I also spent my first night in a Walmart parking lot which is a handy traveling tool to have when a decent park isn’t available or to save a little money en route to a destination. 

Riverfront at Paducah Kentucky

I was glad to be home for Halloween with the family but as the cold moved in quickly, I had to skip the next two states south and drive straight through to Florida. I made a reservation for 11 days at a park that had openings. I learned was that if I was open to moving around from site to site or park to park, I don’t have to have reservations to go to Florida in the winter. This was a great discovery for me as I felt like that was a major sticking point for me to enjoy Florida as I wanted to. I would like to have the flexibility to move with the weather and setting reservations way ahead make that impossible. I also discovered that I don’t like to be in one place for too long.

Henderson Beach State Park in Destin Florida

Having researched a lot on You Tube, Facebook and blogs, I had a lot of ideas of how others enjoy this lifestyle but I found I had to get out there to figure out what kind of camper I am. I’m still learning and fine tuning but each trip out is a learning experience that increases my knowledge of the world around me and of how I fit into it. Most of all leaving reminds me of how much I love the family that I come back to and my hometown. That was how I knew that I wasn’t ready to do this full time so I am stepping back to part time. Hopefully, I can have the best of both worlds.

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I get it!

How often do we have that moment of clarity and say, “Now I get it”? The goal is to do that over and over. That’s the difference between growing and being stagnant. I want to keep learning and growing which means when things get easy and safe,  I’m probably going to do something that makes my life harder and frustrating. I feel like those around me must think I’m crazy but instead I sometimes see them inspired to do the same.

Because I dont know how to snowbird and might have commitment issues, I got caught off guard by the sudden cold. I took what I could find available on short notice. I am not happy with my campsite, the rainy weather, humidity, mosquitoes and the wet sand on everything.

I woke this morning determined not to spend another day sitting in the van while it poured.  The rain started before I could even fix breakfast so I Googled McDonald’s and set out. With a full belly I Googled parks near me and selected Henderson Beach State Park in Destin.

They didnt charge an entrance fee because I’m a camper at another park. I was allowed a pass to drive through the campgrounds and given directions to the day area with instructions about where my dogs were allowed. I also recieved a printout of beaches and dog parks where I can take them.

This trip to another park changed my mind about coming back to Florida after Thanksgiving. I now know that the park I’m in is not the experience I was looking for but for today I can spend the day parked at the beach with a beautiful view, nice breeze, nature trail and access to bathrooms and the beach.

What I would have missed if I had sat in my crappy campsite and assumed that was what camping in Florida is like. Tomorrow I’ll find another park to visit and I can have information on where I want to be in the future.

Life lesson: if I dont like where I’m at, go find where I want to be

 

Know Your Own Strengths

Multitasking

We live in the era that glorifies the multitasker! That is not one of my strengths. There are times that I feel inferior for that but deep down, I am happy to be someone who can give my full attention to one thing and do it well. I like to complete one thing before I begin another and I’m not sure that I would want to be the person juggling several things at once, trying not to drop the ball. I lived that life when I was younger, being the mother of three children, the wife of a husband who wasn’t home much, the owner of a kennel of show dogs and sometimes, an employee working a part time job. It’s stressful just thinking back on those years. There are times in our lives that multitasking is a necessity but I discovered when I became single, that I could choose to make my life what I wanted it to be. I wanted peace, calm and freedom. When I feel stressed, I have made it a habit to ask myself, “What is complicating my life the most?” Identifying one thing, allows me to take steps to simplify my life. That one thing may be necessary but temporary or it may be something that adds pleasure as well. Those realizations can make it less stressful but often, it is something that I can complete, remove, resolve or just let go of.

My greatest strengths are being goal oriented, attention to detail and completing one task before moving to the next. I know this about myself and yet I have been working on packing up my house, finishing the inside of my van, losing weight, lowering my cholesterol, growing out my hair, learning to blog ………

I know that I am trying to create this whole new lifestyle but I am working on having it all in place at the same time. That isn’t a practical approach or a reasonable expectation but it is easy to get caught up in trying to do it all. Today, I took a deep breath, calmed my mind and made the decision to first work on packing up the house. Leaving the house has a deadline and the van will be an ongoing work in progress. I need to close one door before I open the other. My life is going to be full of changes and new ways of doing things but I don’t have to start all of that now. I just have to work on the task in front of me, do it well, finish it on time and then move my attention to the next. This is how I am at my best and what sets me up for success. It is easy to lose sight of that and become overwhelmed. I got this now and the relief I feel after giving myself this mental shake is enormous.

This post is of a draft that got lost in the shuffle as I was preparing to leave my house. I feel like it reveals a big lesson in the process for me so I decided to publish it though it is out of chronological order.

Oh my! Has it been that long?

20180825_113854I had fallen into such an enjoyable habit of writing each morning but life suddenly happened. I have continued to journal most days and hope to refer back to those journals to catch up the events of the last few months as I made the transition to  full time vancamping.

I handed my house over to my grandson the last week of August and have been living in my van for over 2 months now. I have run the full spectrum of emotions in that time which I believe is  pretty normal for most women who venture into this lifestyle of solo nomad. I find the smallest things can feel so overwhelming or leave me feeling capable. The highs and lows have been a balance for me.

I travel with three dogs which is my greatest joy and at the same time my biggest struggle. They are my family when I’m feeling lonely but keeping them safe and comfortable is a lot of work and often calls for sacrifices  on my part.

I am constantly on the learning curve and that takes a lot of energy. I started out feeling like every day should be a grand adventure. The truth is just having a routine day is a grand adventure because I’m learning how to do everything in a different way. That now includes typing a blog on my phone using 4G instead of wifi. Go me!

Countdown

43 Days

Moving forward in all directions takes some organization but I feel I am making progress. I’ve always been a big believer in breaking a large task down into small steps and doing them consistently. I try to set a goal each day to accomplish the one thing that needs to be done next to ready the van. On this day it was to clear out the plywood and particle board that are laid down as flooring. This was all screwed down and covered with rubber matting when I bought her. The layers all needed to be taken up to see what was underneath. Once I got it down to the bare metal to see the condition, I put the wood back in temporarily and attached the bench seat to the plywood. Today I removed all of the wood to prepare for a more permanant fix.

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42 Days

This day was filled with family time. I’m glad to still be home to help my daughter, as she is recovering from recent spinal surgery. We are doing family meals between multiple households to help reduce the workload, expenses and to provide support for all of us. This was shopping day, with a list of meals that we each contribute a suggestion for. My daughter is still restricted from driving, so I drive, we shop together, everyone helps unload and put away the food. Each day we agree on a meal that best suits the activities of the group and all help with cooking, serving and clean up. It has been working out nicely and we use a Facebook messenger group, that is devoted to this group of people, to communicate about the meals. It is an amazing tool to be able to have a conversation that everyone can be in on, including the teens in the house.

Tonight four of us went out for dinner and then a movie. It was a pleasant day to focus on family and enjoy time together. I did satisfy my need to make some progress on my house each day when I got home from the movie. I have a daily routine of setting a one hour timer and focusing that time to moving through the house, packing away items to be stored in the basement, filling donation bags, throwing out useless things and making the stack that will go into the van. I’m always amazed at the progress that can be made in one dedicated hour that is focused on a specific task. It helps me when the job looks overwhelming to see that it is manageable if I just do one hour a day.

41 Days

My major focus for this pretty Saturday was the van. On the top of my list was to make spare keys for it, get sandpaper for the belt sander and to sand down the 2 sections of plywood that will go back in. I only own a belt sander because my son’s girlfriend found an old sewing cabinet at a yard sale and he happen to find a belt sander at a great price. He called to see if I needed it and promised to teach me how to use it. That was last summer and the cabinet, belt sander and chop saw have sat in my garage, untouched by either of us. I was really proud to find the sandpaper with no help from the Home Depot employee, who seemed to want to help me but admitted that he knew nothing about either of the departments that I was looking in. Now that I think about it, perhaps the shorts and cami I was wearing attracted him. No wonder I’m single. I not only don’t know how to flirt, I don’t recognize flirting either.

Back home with my three extra keys, all tested and working, I decided to give the belt sander a try to see if I could figure it out. Changing the belt was really simple and my confidence was running high. I arranged a few dog crates as a work surface, got the smaller piece of wood and prepared to do this. I was again reminded that most power tools are designed for men, not a 5’3″ women with smaller hands. I wasn’t expecting the forward motion of the sander which also kicked the wood backwards. I kept control of both and got about half of the 2′ x 4′ surface done but at that point I was already feeling it in my right side. I may have to resort to using some goo gone to try to get some of the sticky residue off and minimize the amount of sanding required or call that son that sold me on this tool in the first place. I hate asking for help! It’s my strength and my weakness.

Slingshot effect

The thing about getting stuck in one spot, as you are striving to reach a goal, is the tension that builds up. It’s like drawing back a slingshot and the more tension you create, the faster the object propels forward when it is released.

It suddenly feels like I am that object that was stuck waiting, waiting waiting and now I am moving forward…..very quickly. As I usually do when I am feeling overwhelmed, I sat down to make a list, or two, or three. I’m not sure if that did more to calm me or panic me but it was a reality check. I have 43 days.

My plan to wade slowly into RV living has morphed into a jump into the deep end. My 20-year-old grandson and his buddy want to rent my house with the intention of buying it. The money it will free up each month, will cover the majority of my travel and camping. It will give them a chance to experience adulting, as I experience RV living. I want to do a 6 month rental agreement starting in September so I am free to go south as it gets colder. I won’t need to be concerned with my house until Spring. It is a win win for us all and I trust these boys to be responsible, both financially and with the care of my house. His dad is my go to Mr. Fix It, so that is another layer of protection.

We will have a clear written agreement, so that there are no misunderstandings. I’m not as concerned about a legally binding contract as a meeting of the minds which can be referred to in the event of any misunderstandings about what was intended or agreed upon. Through the years, having business dealings with friends and family, I have learned that contracts are more important with those you care about than with strangers. The loss of a relationship is too important to leave the details to memory and interpretation. Putting it on paper for both parties to clearly see and revisit can avoid a lot of hurt feelings.

As these pieces are suddenly falling into place, I now have 43 days to be ready for launch. That means most of my household packed up and stored, the van ready to live in, my recent debts from the sewer repair and the deficit on selling the SUV need to be cleared, if at all possible. The biggest thing is, I need to make a plan for where I am going. I tried the “take off and wander” approach the last time and I learned that I am someone who needs more structure, at least until I get my wings under me. I will set myself up for success by trying to make a plan for where I want to go week by week and try to get reservations, giving me a place to land with each take off. I hope some day to be that person who just jumps in and takes off with no real destination but I have learned that I’m not wired like that.

Getting Perspective

Sometimes how you look at something can make the difference in it being a positive or a negative. I think that is why talking to others about your feelings and struggles in your life can give you the opportunity to gain new perspectives which is often helpful.

20180623_1833481Now and then you have to do that for yourself by being your own voice of reason. I found that to be an outcome when I began keeping a journal, all those years ago. Basically, it is me talking to myself which often leads to answers that I already had. I just had to have the conversation that revealed them.

Yesterday, I found myself in one of those situations where I was taking a big step, making a huge move that was sudden, scary and put me way out of my comfort zone. I’ve been divorced for 9 years but I was married for 35, from the age of 17. There is something about having a life partner, no matter how much they are away or how much you handle on your own, there is still that sense of not being in it alone. You generally don’t make life changing decisions without having someone to talk it through with and someone to help carry the weight of the outcome when things go wrong. I love the freedom of having more control of my own destiny but I do find that I second guess myself a lot.

My checklist suddenly took a quick leap forward, after having been stalled for what felt like weeks. The mechanic finished the repairs on my van…..check, and I drove it straight to the tire store for new front tires making it suddenly, road ready…..check. That was what I had been waiting for in order to sell my late-model SUV through Kelly Blue Book to a local dealership.

I only found out that was possible by stumbling across it when checking my resale value. I had thought that I would have to trade down to get out from under the loan on it. I went through the process online of having my SUV valued for an immediate offer. The offer came back above my expected pay off and I had 4 days to get it to a selected dealership for inspection and test drive. I spent the afternoon clearing all of my personal belongings out, found that missing tire compressor in that little hidden compartment. Now I have two, since I gave up and bought another one. Detailed the interior and cleaned my dogs’ nose prints off of the windows. With the file marked 2015 Ford Explorer, containing every scrap of paper about my SUV including the original sticker……yes I might have OCD tendencies, I headed to the car wash to vacuum the floors and pay for the better car wash. Next stop Ford dealership in a nearby town.

I had tried to be totally honest in my assessment but there were some paint nicks by the tail gate that I had forgotten about. It turns out that I had failed to notice a few other minor scratches as well. That was enough to knock my value down below my pay off, leaving me with a tough decision to make on the spot. I would need to come up with $1370 to cover the difference within 2 days. I decided that I needed to act on this now and not chance something happening to change the value. I signed the paperwork to return Monday with the vehicle and money so we could finalize the deal on a business day.

As I drove away, that wave of self-doubt hit me square between the eyes and I started getting that panicked feeling. Was I making a big mistake? Was I going to regret accepting less for it? Would I regret not taking the offer if something happened to it and I couldn’t get this much again? What have I done putting all of my eggs in a 19-year-old vehicle that might keep requiring repairs. Yeah, that place that we have all been at one time or another.

As I drove the short drive back to my town, my head swirled and there wasn’t anyone to talk me out of this state. Back home I put my car safely away, ordered a pizza online and headed to a park nearby to find peace and quiet in nature and to remind myself why I am doing all of this. Once I was sitting on the floor of my van, looking out the open doors at a pretty pond, all the answers became simple. I wasn’t giving up my SUV because it wasn’t mine, the bank owns it and I’m not losing anything because it isn’t even worth the debt. I immediately felt lighter and more free. This was a good move, the right move at the right time and I will be just fine.