Good Friends, Good Fellowship, Good Food
The times they are a changing. This will be the year that we take a big plunge. We are currently working our way up north to MA for our second summer as Park Hosts with the West Hill Park Ranger team. In the fall, when we finish at the park and leave MA, we will journey back to Florida to put our home on the market. At that time, we will commit to living in the RV full time. While another traditional home is likely in our future at some point, we do not know exactly when that will be. We’ve been taking increasingly longer trips and practicing for a couple of years now to get comfortable having no designated home base, but there is still an element of mystery about what it will truly be like to be completely itinerant. It’s been a real process reconciling our longing for travel with our love of our home and, sometimes, we still think, “Yikes!”, are we ready for this? But after many discussions, much research, and a number of informative trial trips, we are as ready as we ever will be to take the plunge.
We know that we are not alone in our decision to shed the burden of belongings and consciously chose a simpler life. Boomers are entering retirement each year eager to realize their dreams of travel and exploration after decades of raising kids, paying the mortgage and holding down nine-to-five jobs that many found necessary but uninspiring. RV sales are soaring as excited new buyers pick out their home on wheels and hit the Open Road to begin their new phase of life. In our travels, we have met some who embark and never look back, tackling the mobile lifestyle with enthusiasm and confidence. Others, hit some unexpected bumps in that road.
Perhaps the greatest challenge in moving forward in life is letting go of what we will be leaving behind. It’s hard to focus on what is in the headlights when you are more concerned with the loss of what is fading in the tail lights. What we hear from many RVer’s, is that moving forward means that they have embarked on a new adventure, but left behind their familiar community. That community may consist of kids and grandkids, good friends of many years, a church home or work colleagues. Familiar places to shop, restaurants and watering holes, social clubs and groups, the family doctor, etc all change now with the new mobile lifestyle.
Arnie and I can attest to that challenge. Saying good-bye to the daily comfort of familiar community, for us, is the hardest part. We will no longer be living near friends who have been next-door for years. Phil won’t be able to text and tell me to send Arnie over for a beer on a hot summer day. Judi won’t be able to stop by with an extra tomato or better still, chocolate chip cookies. John won’t be there to assist me down the stairs when my back goes out. What will the holidays be without Bert and Deb? And, who could ever make a layered berry shortcake like Chris? I can make ice cubes one tray at a time, make do with considerably less clothes and only three pair of shoes, use a laundromat, get accustomed to air TV and all of the other compromises necessitated by RV living. But, oh, how we will miss being in close proximity to our beloved community of people dear to us.
We recognize that embracing such all encompassing change would rock the boat of even people who are comfortable with sweeping adjustments to their lifestyle. This is a major life shift and the burning question for many people who decide to leave home and hearth for a mobile lifestyle is how to replace the sense of community and belonging while moving from place to place. While staying in touch via social media and cell phone is easier than ever, as humans. we still need some level of direct interpersonal contact to live a soulful life. Arnie and I have looked long and hard at the question of how we will find and build meaningful community while we travel about?
We know from the last two years of travels that we will need to be very purposeful about constructing community in this new way. Tolkien’s character Gandalf said, ”Not all that wander are lost.” I would suggest that Tolkien’s wanderers may not have known exactly where they were headed next, but they were okay with that because they knew that they were still grounded in community in the form of their steadfast traveling companions and those friendly folk they met along the way. Therefore they are never truly lost.
Over and over while camping we have struck up casual conversations with diverse fellow travelers only to find that we know or enjoy some of the same people, places and things. We are always struck by the fact that we have more in common than separates us. There is a culture of warm welcome and friendly assistance in the RVing community that seems to assure that no one is truly alone. We have been invited into people’s lives through chance conversations and, in turn, we have welcomed folks from all walks of life to our campfire. In sharing the fire, that communal experience that is so much a part of the human DNA, we have been blessed with new friends and a much appreciated circle of support that now extends around the country. Traveling the open road has much in common with moving to a new neighborhood. It is just that that your neighbors change every time you hitch up.
As we move about in the coming year, we will be interviewing people about their RVing lifestyle and how they share their fire. We will continue to hold conversation with retirees who are seeing the nation, parents who are home schooling their children with the parks as their classroom, traveling nurses, pipeline workers and work campers. We are interested in learning about how a meaningful community of interdependence develops for the ever expanding group of people who choose to live mobile. We know that a mobile community of compassion and kindness exists because we have repeatedly experienced it. The outcome of these interviews will (hopefully) be a book in which we explore the nature of the new mobile community and how we can build upon its very best features. Folks are connecting with one another as they experience that common bond of going places. As we all travel our separate roads, our Chance Encounters with kindness and compassion reduce the distance between us. Sharing the fire might just contribute in some small way to reducing the metaphorical distance between us in a troubled world.
“However capable and skillful an individual may be, left alone, he or she will not survive. When we are sick or very young or very old, we must depend on the support of others. There is no significant division between us and other people, because our basic natures are the same. If we wish to ensure everyone’s peace and happiness we need to cultivate a healthy respect for the diversity of our peoples and cultures, founded on an understanding of this fundamental sameness of all human beings.”
~ The 14th Dalai Lama
Windmill Village 2015 The Times They are a Changing