A couple of days after writing the previous cabin-fevered post, "Winds of Change and Challenge," I read a reassuring passage—as in, Maybe I'm not going crazy after all. It comes from the book, "Fresh Air Fiend," by travel writer Paul Theroux, a gift from a fellow blogger/writer that I've come to know via the BCB and email correspondence who thought my writing style similar to Theroux. Half way through the book's contents, I believe Theroux—and possibly all writers—to be kindred in spirit, a brooding, solitary lot who sees the world and its over populated masses as "material." The passage reads...
"Normal, happy, well-balanced individuals seldom become imaginative writers…a writer works alone, indoors, in a room, on a chair, with the door shut. Any…person who wonders what his or her chances are of becoming a writer ought to assess their ability to deal with solitude and, figuratively speaking, an entire working life thrashing around in inspissated darkness…a rat race in which you never get to meet the other rats. The writer is odd from day one, and in the course of pursuing his maddening profession becomes distinctly odder. It is a commonplace to say that creative people tend to be irrational, manic-depressive, or hard to get along with…one you think of as full of sunshine, wisdom, and laughter—to spend great portions of his or her life in a state of fury, or hideously disappointed, or even raving mad…Writing a…book is a daunting task requiring time, silence, and space…summed up in the image of a two-pound chicken trying to lay a three-pound egg. It can be very irritating when writers are told how they might manage their lives better."
First a few obligatory disclaimers that will hopefully soften and minimize offense taken by the ideas and thoughts I often revisit.
"I'm not going to change the way I look or the way I feel to conform to anything. I've always been a freak. So I've been a freak all my life and I have to live with that, you know. I'm one of those people." John Lennon
"If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living." Gail Sheehy
"If there is no struggle, there is no progress." Frederick Douglass
"I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road." Stephen Hawking
"We are small in our fleeting dance with Nature but loom large in our estimation of ourselves, as each of us strive to realize what we can imagine—push back boundaries that seem immovable. There are moments when we can see the magnitude of these achievements. There are moments when we can see the work of dreaming. And there are moments that place all others in humble perspective. I look at how we set out to shape Nature…and how it shapes us." Darin Johnson
Imagination is a unique and amazing nook amongst our cluttered rolodex minds. It allows us to slip the chains in a dungeon cell of solitary confinement any time we choose, to review the past, peek into the future, or simply go outside on a sunny day and walk about the garden. I spend a lot of time in my imagination. I dream of new and better ways to spend my reality—a finite commodity that is spent like currency, such that when it's gone, so are we.
I have always tried to turn things imagined into reality and have met with some success…sometimes to my surprise, sometimes to my disappointment. "Intention" is a powerful force, but it often wanes into "whatever" as we get older. Not being a fan of letting go of the "rudder" and drifting to "whatever," I sometimes resist, which often requires me to tack against currents. Or, to use another analogy, we are like trees in that harsh "winds" makes us stronger.
Judging from some of the responses to my "Winds of Change" post, I got the feeling that "retirement" is a time to coast, that, for some, it is a time to shrug off "goals/purpose/anything" that requires effort. Now I like a good "float trip" once in a while, but since "reality" is finite, well, I'd rather not use it all up on cruise control. I like the feel of a rudder or steering wheel in my hand; that I am going "someplace" and it is of my own "choosing." Retirement, to me, is a time to set new goals to replace others met…it's a stage in life when one finally has the time to try on some wild and crazy new outfits instead of the same old t-shirt and shorts. I realize that "RVing" counts as major "try on" for most—to sell out and hit The Road is a huge lifestyle change that involves "risk." I remember the newbie butterflies and excitement preceding departure and loved all the unknowns.
But just like that new car smell, excitement eventually wears off, and while I still love going places, especially new places, I've reached a point where I need a new "drug" (avenue) that produces the same "high" (excitement) as my newbee RV adventures did. It was a long held dream realized for us to combine RVing with an active outdoor lifestyle. Now it's time to add another layer of purpose/complexity to it in order to make it new again.
You are my sounding board, so when I wonder "out loud" on the BCB, questioning my choices, life-course, and, yes, "accomplishments," it's helpful. Sometimes I use your feedback and "trim my sail," sometimes I don't. After 15 years of RVing—three stints of selling out to go full-time and in-between a blend of on and off, come and go from The Road, I do indeed praise the lifestyle. But I also question it from time to time—share my doubts and concerns—so that those waiting in line get the whole truth, as opposed to just the "cheerleaders" and glossy RV magazines versions that by in large suggest you can tracks through the mud and grass, roll right up to the shore of a pristine lake and have it all to yourself—that the weather is always warm and sunny with blue skies, there's trout in the lake, and that you will never, ever tire or become disenchanted or want to do anything else but roam the earth in your wheeled cocoon. Our road struggles might be relevant to the wannabes, that, unless you are pretty darn rich (which has a way of solving most problems beyond health), you might want to have an Exit Plan.
Not to be a downer, but from time to time someone needs to to pee on the RV sacred "Cow" lest it become the "neighborhood" we tried to leave behind. I question the mass seduction, the Rah Rah RV Blog mentality that The Road Life is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful all the time and forever. There seems to be a lack of honesty in the RV blogosphere—few who can put their "pom poms" down long enough to show the whole picture—that if you sell out and head off into the sunset without a "realistic" plan and/or enough money, you had better be prepared to live out your life—your 70's, 80's, and 90's—when disease and lifestyle catch up—in a worn out, broken-down, and likely, a stationary rig at the Escapees nursing home for destitute RV'ers. Or, the possibility that at some point after the RV "shine" has lost its luster, a husband may miss his shop and tools and buddies, or a wife may miss her "nest" and hearth and girlfriends, that one or both may have health issues not suited to the RV life. Just say'in, you might want to consider holding back enough money to at least have the option of returning to a sticks and bricks or at least a park model before bungie jumping into "Freedom Canyon."
It takes a lot of money to stay on the road in an aging rig. And the Boondocking rules are likely to get more restricted as more and more financially unprepared retirees turn to RVs and boondocking as an exciting and cheap way to get around a mortgage or rent. In this economy more and more young people are particularly vulnerable to the temptation of living on the cheap, of "dropping out" into a life of freedom on the misassumption that it's free and easy. We stumble across more and more young kids who plunged in and are winging it, some with a covey of kids, three dogs and a cat, all in an old school bus. At least the young have time to recoup if and when they need to. We don't.
With the economy stalled or in reverse, it's going to get crowded and noisy in formerly "secret spots." And as the "rich gets richer," let's not forget all the Motorheads who will roll in to our private "boondocks" for the weekend, with three rigs, extended family, 20 cases of beer, generators running to the wee hours, and noisy motorcycles and Quad Runners going round de round from dawn to dusk. Govie will tolerate the come-and-go rich with their obnoxious noise-toys, but the rest of us will be considered squatters and not be well tolerated. The rules are going to change as "overuse" gives Govie the ammunition needed to legislate limitations on free camping and "the least among us" will be hoarded to the bleakest plots of wasteland and charged for the privilege to occupy it for two weeks max.
Even if money is not a consideration, some RV'ers eventually become dis-infatuated with The Road, especially if they brought their sticks and bricks lifestyle with them to a brand new quad-slide dollhouse...their satellite TV, happy hours, barbecue grills, Wally World trips, and crowded neighborhoods with barking dogs (now on all four sides). They live in walled fortresses in the "City" with security cams and walk Loop A instead of the block. The outdoor life is a drive through the "pretties," taking pictures from the seat of their four wheel drive SUV that has yet to go off road. Eventually most find "the perfect little town" and bail; I see it all the time in places like St George, Utah, a cute little casita on a golf course with view of red rocks…the "beastly RV" with a For Sale sign in the window. I don't worry about them… they can afford the five year, 100 grand depreciation on a Motorhome.
Even with our penchant to hike, bike, and explore every nook and cranny, after a year and a half we looked at each other one day and wondered out loud if we could afford it. The savings was dropping twice as fast as our worst case scenario. Sometimes tomorrows need to be considered no matter how much fun your having in the Now. Beyond that, we had been coast to coast, Jasper to Nogales, and realized a life long RV travel goal. Now what, do it again? Would continuation meet expectations and minimal "challenge" and "purpose" requirements the second and third times around? People preach "Balance," Lloyd comes to mind here. We balanced our decades of working life with a few years of freedom and travel in our RV; two extremes…all of one, then all of the other, back and forth. For us, True Balance came to mean a little of one and a little of the other, a little Home, a little Road, friends and community in both places, and the Ultimate Freedom to choose between the extremes. I hated it then, but in hindsight I'm glad we came off the road and went back to work those several times instead of spending down to a place where we didn't have as many choices. I guess I thought I'd never get "old," and that I was immune to health issues. It would be even more difficult to sit out my current medical situation of restricted play in a small box.
Nobody wants to blog the downsides. I don't like it either, but it needs to be brought up once in a while. If some of the Rah Rah folks had a "financial status" page on their blogs we'd see that they might have a substantial corporate/Govie pension, savings out the wazoo, and/or free lifetime health insurance. That might give a few wannabes pause, maybe reconsider if they can afford to cross a "bridge" that might go up in flames behind them. Some RV'ers of limited means have found a way to make it work by WORKING on the road…writing books, tele-computing, or simply cutting back to live within their means. My hat is off to the self sufficient RV roamers who can carve a living on the road. It is not Easy Street and maybe it's not perfect, but it beats a boss breathing down your neck in a windowless cube.
To each their own—take the rudder in hand and steer your course as you wish. Just go "informed" and have an Exit Plan in case there is a "fire." Don't let "cheerleaders" rob you of your common sense.
Bobbie and I have escaped to the Red Rock surrounding Village of Oak Creek in an attempt to shake Cabin Fever. I'm happy to report that it's working. It always does…