Living The Dream
In the two years we’ve been full-time travelers, many people have told us we’re living their dream. But it didn’t start out as my dream. When my husband said, “Let’s sell the house and go traveling”, my response was, “ARE YOU CRAZY??” Here’s how he changed my mind….
I already had My Dream In Hawaii
I was already living my dream. We had retired ten years before and moved lock-stock-and-barrel from California to the Hawaiian islands. We bought a beautiful property with room for our horses on the south side of Kauai. I rode in local parades, did rodeo, volunteered at Hawaiian music events, grew a garden, joined a book club, swam in the warm Hawaiian waters, and ate papayas and mangoes from my own trees. “I’m going to live and die on Kauai,” I told Phil.
the go-go years
“I want to tell you about an article I read,” Phil said, as he continued his efforts to persuade me to leave Kauai. I had been silently pondering my options since he started this nonsense, weighing them like the two sides of a scale. Would I choose Kauai or Husband – Husband or Kauai? What he described were the three phases of retirement life:
Your 60’s are your Go-Go Years – Your 70’s are your Slow-Go Years – Your 80’s are your No-Go Years
No-Go Years!! I didn’t like the sound of that and had a bad feeling I’d find myself regretting it if I didn’t travel the world with him. “Call the realtor and sell the house,” I told him. “I’m going with you!”
two years later – back where we started
In these two years we’ve been to 12 US states, 11 National Parks and 10 foreign countries! Could somebody pinch me, please? As good fortune would have it, we got to celebrate the anniversary of our decision to travel full-time right back where we started. Friends on Kauai asked us to housesit for them while they traveled and we jumped at the chance to see old friends there again.
This was the 3rd time we had returned to my beloved Kauai since we left, which is exactly what Phil promised. “Kauai isn’t going anywhere,” he told me as we departed. “We can always come back.”
how we pulled it off
There was a lot of work to do to get ready to travel. It was especially daunting to sell the large property in a down market. We almost gave up but along came a cash buyer who bought the furniture as well. We found a good home for the horses and after much deliberation decided on what stuff to keep, take with us or get rid of. We rented a 20 foot storage unit for the keepsakes, said our goodbyes to good friends and boarded the plane bound for California with our little doggie stowed under my seat.
We had a small RV in California that we bought back in 1995. It was full of good memories of towing the ski boat to the lake, camping with our horses and children and taking trips with our aging parents. We stocked it up with food and bedding and headed up the Pacific Coast with no set plan and no timetable. Not long after we left, the RV started giving us trouble. I think Phil had been waiting for the chance to find us a larger, newer coach that would make us happy as our home-on-wheels. He found a used 2004 model at a good price which felt quite luxurious with its double-door refrigerator and skylight in the shower. We’re both still happy with it to this day.
the adventure begins
We were thrilled to see see some of America’s most beautiful parks and Western states. Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico – there is some stunning scenery in the USA! What a pleasure it has been to enjoy campfires and hike the canyons and see the wildlife.
By now I was really into this travel thing. I got itchy to try out some more “exotic” travel, so we stored the RV, packed our bags and flew down to Mexico. Not long after that we joined some friends in Vancouver for an Inside Passage cruise in Alaska. I loved traveling afar and wanted to do even more.
In November 2013, we arranged for long-term storage for the RV and set out with an open-ended airline ticket to Southeast Asia. We stayed for 5 months and travelled to Taiwan, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, India, Singapore and Hong Kong.
What i love about this new lifestyle
Freedom and Adventure
I love the freedom to choose which exciting places in the world I want to go to and then make it happen. It feels so adventurous. We are doing it pretty spontaneously in both the foreign and domestic travel which seems to add to the adventure. We often choose where to go by looking at a map or heeding a suggestion from someone. Phil has had good luck in securing last-minute bookings of hotels or RV campsites. If one place doesn’t work out, he’ll try another until he finds something that meets our standards. Only once so far have we had to turn around and walk out of a hotel we found unacceptable – and we got our money back.
I feel like I am in the Dr. Suess book Oh, The Places You’ll Go. The places we have been so far have been absolutely exhilarating. The people bowing in Thailand, the colors of India, the wonder of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, traversing the Mekong Delta that I only knew from the Vietnam War days, eating exquisite dim sum like no other in Hong Kong. It’s all priceless to me.
We have almost nothing tying us down – no dependent children, animals, parents (sadly), or job. No lawn to mow or plants to water. Banking and bill paying are done on-line. Our mail goes to a service that will scan or forward important docs to us. My doctor will renew the couple of meds I need to a pharmacy close by (I stock up for foreign travel or find a substitute which I did in Thailand). If I have to clean the RV, I’m finished in 20 minutes and there’s no cleaning for me when we’re in hotels. Our kids in San Francisco kindly keep our dog for us when we’re overseas and give her back when we re-board the RV.
We’re living cheaper! I’ve always kept an accounting of our spending, so I know for sure that we are living below our budget. Traveling in Asia was relatively cheap, especially compared to living in Hawaii. Sometimes our dinner was as little as $6-$10, including beer. Nice hotel rooms ran us about $80 a night and included breakfast and wi-fi. Airfare between cities and countries was quite a bit cheaper than flying the same distance in the USA.
In the RV we spend around $30-50 for a spot for the night which usually includes water, electric, sewer, TV and internet. We no longer have property tax, home maintenance or yard work to pay for and that makes our housing costs very affordable for us. Occasionally we will pay more for a special RV site, like on the beach near San Francisco. That’s where we are as I write this. I have a magnificent view of sailboats and people fishing on the jetties and playing in the sand. There is a miles-long pathway and beach for hiking and superb restaurants nearby. To stay here costs $80 a night, but I think that’s more affordable than a sticks-and-bricks beach front house in the San Francisco area.
Costs for gas, tires, maintenance and repairs for the RV are a bigger expense than for a car, but added to the park fees, this lifestyle is still much cheaper for us. And did I tell you how much I’m enjoying it?
We buy less, too – mostly just things we can eat or drink or services like hair or nails and an occasional cigar for Phil. Not much shopping for clothes or household items as the RV won’t hold extra stuff. We’re not tempted by souvenirs in foreign lands because there’s no room for them when all you’re traveling with is carry-on bags!
Don’t call it a vacation
“Have a piece of cake, you’re on vacation!” a well-meaning friend said. No, we’re NOT on vacation or at least we can’t think like that. If we did we’d be eating cake everyday, and busting the calorie budget. We’d likely be splurging on all the other indulgences that people allow themselves on vacation and that wouldn’t hold up in the long run. This is how we live every day so we have to have some restraint, eat well, exercise and take care of life’s business. On the other hand, the fun of it all makes me think of that old ditty I heard as a youth, “Every night’s a Saturday night and every day’s a Sunday.” I’ll add that every week’s a vacation week, so we have to go easy on the cake.
After combing the RV for anything we could leave behind in storage or give to Goodwill, we’ve set out on a road-trip across the USA. Our first destination – the Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico.
After that fabulous event and some time with Phil’s cousins, we’re continuing on to the East Coast. I want to see friends and family and revisit my ole stomping grounds in my home state of North Carolina. Along the way we’ll visit Austin, New Orleans, Nashville, the Outer Banks and sunny Florida. Then we’ll be ready to pack those carry-on bags again and travel to some of our “bucket list” places, like islands in the Caribbean, Panama, Machu Picchu, the Galapagos – the list goes on. Given that we are pretty spontaneous and don’t like to plan too far out, all we’ve done so far is prep the RV for the road and make our reservation to see the hot air balloons. The rest will fall into place if our good fortune holds.
I do consider it good fortune that my husband convinced me to live this dream that so many people tell us they share. Do you have a dream like this? Would you like to travel more? Please leave me your comments below. I’d love to hear them.