At Sunset Shores RV Park, Willis, Texas...
At nearly five months into this gig, we could hardly be called 'old hands' at fulltiming. However, we've found out a few things that we didn't anticipate before we launched.
Being forced to plan ahead. It was John Lennon who said, "Life happens while you're making other plans." Woody Allen said, "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans." Maybe that's why I'm not a planner by nature; I just don't see the point.
I have always done just enough planning to make certain things happen, but that's about it. I knew I wanted to fly airplanes for a living, so I planned successfully for that career, and I knew I wanted to have a decent retirement, so I planned for that. Most everything else that worked out well I consider good fortune or gifts from God. My wonderful wife and family fall into that category, along with friends, good health and what few talents I have.
So, where am I going with this?
Well, I've found that fulltiming requires some planning--mostly about where we are going to park ourselves. It was a little disconcerting to realize we no longer own any real estate with Phannie's own driveway and garage always available for parking. We are vagabonds, paying strangers as we go to let us park on their real estate; if we don't pay, we don't park.
Unless we're on a trip where we do single overnights along the way (we really don't like single overnights), we often find ourselves in RV parks for several days or weeks. While it is usually no problem to get a space for a night or two, it is sometimes iffy to find a spot for a longer stay in the parks we patronize. We don't do boondocking, and we prefer nicer RV parks, but so do a lot of other RVers. Now that RVing is more popular than ever, it is not always possible to get a reservation in a nice park for a long stay unless you make it well in advance. So that's where the planning part comes in: To get into popular parks, it is often necessary to know where and when you're going weeks or months ahead of time. So, I reluctantly do the planning required, but I don't particularly enjoy it.
Being careful with grocery shopping and cooking. In the RV, we have become much more discerning about the amount of groceries we buy at a time. Since there are only the two of us, and we do a lot of eating out, we don't need a lot of perishables on hand to go stale. We keep some canned goods and staples in the pantry, and our new residential refrigerator (which we love) isn't crowded at all. We're not all that fond of frozen dinners, so we tend to rotate the fresh foods we like, buying no more than we can use in a few days. We are never parked far from a grocery store, so we buy small quantities more frequently. Yes, it's a bit more expensive, unitwise, than buying larger amounts, but having food go bad and tossing it out is really expensive. Farmers' markets and roadside vegetable stands are favorite stops to check out the local products.
We tend to make simpler meals like salads, sandwiches, tacos and the like, unless we're cooking something to take to the kids. Then we're able to dust off old family favorite recipes we know they will enjoy. Although Sandy is excellent at baking (I don't even try to compete), she doesn't do much of it any longer, much to my anguish; it's just not good for our waistlines. For just the two of us, we've had to adjust all of our cooking to make smaller amounts, and sometimes that takes a little guesswork if we're trying to modify a recipe. I'm trying to use the Weber Q grill more often; George Yates, a former chef and RV blogger friend, has some great healthy grilling ideas and recipes on his blog, Our Awesome Travels. I need to do more of what he does.
Less TV watching. We are surprised that we don't watch TV as much as we thought we would. I suppose that's not only because of the constant barrage of bad news but also because we often find interesting things to do and see wherever we go. There's also more time to read, and we find we spend more time with friends and relatives. One could argue, then, that we didn't need the latest and greatest in satellite and local antenna technology on this older coach...nah, that's silly; once a gadget freak, always a gadget freak.
The laundry. First, you have to understand that Sandy has always been fanatical about doing the laundry to meet her exacting standards. She has never allowed me near any laundry equipment of ours since she saw how I was doing laundry as a bachelor 40 years ago. In the intervening years, I have come to the realization that my display of appalling incompetence then was quite a blessing, if not a stroke of genius. I think she sweetly doesn't consider the the fact that, since I was able to learn how to fly a jet airliner, I could probably be taught how to use a washing machine. But I haven't mentioned that, and I don't intend to.
But I digress.
Sandy was convinced that trading her residential laundry equipment for the Splendide all-in-one unit in Phannie would be totally unacceptable. Frankly, knowing her as I do, I would have put money on it. She pronounced that one of the first modifications she would require would be for Brannon to install new stackables in place of the Splendide the next time we were in Red Bay.
Now here's the surprise: She has actually made peace with the Splendide! She says they're not friends yet, but well...baby steps. She says she can make do for now in order to retain the extra space that would be required for the stackables. She's come to grips with the nuances of small-load laundering, probably because we really don't have that much laundry to do any longer. The Splendide will not handle our king-sized bed linens, so she occasionally has to go to a park's laundry room for that, but that doesn't seem to bother her too much. If she decides differently in the future, she'll get whatever she needs. In any case, I just nod and smile sweetly; that's worked pretty well for 40 years.
We don't miss the house. When it came to ditching the house, I think we were the ideal candidates for fulltiming; we just didn't know it. I knew I wouldn't miss the house--even though designing and building it was such a labor of love. I came to see it as an albatross, something that was forever making nagging demands on my time and money when I wanted to be elsewhere. It was Sandy who I feared would fall prey to her female "nesting" instinct and find after we pulled the plug that she was homesick; but that hasn't happened. In fact, when she learned the subject of this post, it was she who suggested that I include this as one of the things that surprised us. Go back to the way we were? Not on your life.
Our old friends are still our friends, but we also have new ones. We worried a bit that our longtime friendships might suffer if we weren't around as much. But that hasn't happened--largely, I think, because of social media. In fact, our circle of friends seems to have expanded as we have reunited old ties with friends from growing up long ago and take into our circle new RV friends we meet during our travels. Being a blogger also helps; most of our friends and relatives read our blog, so they generally know where we are and what we're doing. And some of our new friends who have now become old friends we met through our respective blogs.
Differing expenses. Our expenses are greater than we like, and our outlays differ a bit from what we thought they would be. We find we spend about what we did prior to retirement, although that's not what we intended. (It's harder than we thought to pare down our lifestyle.) We are spending less for fuel than we thought, but more than we expected for food and overnight parking. The latter two things have a lot of room for improvement; we could trim our eating out a great deal, and we don't use as many low-cost parks as we could. We're working on those things. On some forums, we have read a number of newbie questions like this: "How much money does it take to do fulltiming?" Most of the time, the answer comes back, "Whatever you have." We tend to agree with that.
Okay, these were the things that were surprises; next time, we'll talk about the things that weren't.
Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.