The Real Me is Here, In an Uncluttered World

Flowers growing in the dunefield

Flowers growing in the dune field at White Sands National Monument (August 2016; photo by David)

The real me is here in an uncluttered world.
My senses are alive and I am exposed to only the good.
The chaos of everyday life seems sometimes inescapable.
But there is a way.
All that’s required is open eyes and an open mind
and a desire to change everything.

I reject an existence where daily routine numbs my mind
or where the journey to work is consumed
only by thoughts of the return home.
That’s not living.

In my uncluttered world
I’m satisfied with nature’s pace.
There is no purer joy than here in this place.

It appears on no map
and will remain hidden to all but the lucky few.
I count myself as one.

-Steven Dempsey, from his short film “An Uncluttered World”

Our world is filled with clutter.

We accumulate material things that we believe will bring us happiness: fancy cars, large houses, collections of shoes, gourmet cookware, and the latest electronic gadgets. News, advertisements and social media inundate our minds. Sounds–sometimes pleasant, but often just noise–barrage our ears. Work, social obligations, personal finances, and the upkeep of all our “stuff” constantly compete for our time and attention.

I first recognized the immense pressure that clutter put on my own life around 2006. Six years earlier, we had moved in to a spectacular 5,500 square foot custom house, sited on a beautiful creek lot. We’d spent two years designing and building that house, and it was nearly perfect. We thought we’d live there for the rest of our lives.

But a few years later, I realized that we were working to support the house and everything required to maintain it. We had furniture, artwork and furnishings that we rarely used. The huge cabinets and closets we had designed were stuffed, and we just accumulated more things because we had the room for them.

In 2008, with our three-year-old business struggling and the economy on the brink of the Great Recession, we made the difficult decision to sell the dream house into which we’d poured so much of ourselves. We moved to a 3,000 square foot house, but we kept most of our stuff. That move lightened our financial burdens, and helped us learn that we could manage and even thrive just fine with less room. Even so, all our possessions crammed into about half the space made the excesses even more obvious.

Five years later, after our oldest child moved out, we downsized again, this time to a 2,000 square foot townhome that would require even less upkeep. With this move, we purged another third of our remaining possessions. As we decluttered, our lives felt even simpler and less pressured. It was refreshing. But we weren’t quite there yet: the mundane routines of work, commuting, community responsibilities and household chores still cluttered our time and our minds.

Kitchen clutter

Just some of the unneeded cookware and kitchen gadgets we got rid of before we moved into our RV in June 2016.

The promise of an even more simple and less cluttered life was one of the things that led us to full-time RVing and an early retirement in 2016. Two of the key influences on that decision were Howard and Linda Payne’s excellent website, RV-Dreams.com, and their week-long Educational Rally that gave us the confidence to make the leap.

Unlike many RVers’ blogs, which tend to focus primarily on the nuts-and-bolts aspects of RVing, Howard often writes wonderful philosophical posts about the psychic and emotional benefits of this lifestyle. Yesterday, he shared a short film created by professional photographer and filmmaker Steven Dempsey, who is also a full-time RVer (their RVing blog is here). Dempsey’s three-minute film, An Uncluttered World, explains in stunning images and poetic words–more eloquently than I ever could–the essence of the kind of life that we and most other full-timers try to experience. Please take the time to watch it below.

Note that I said “try to experience”. We do often achieve that. But then there are times–such as when all my connected devices “ding” sequentially with notifications, as they did a few moments ago while I was writing this–when I remember that living an uncluttered life requires ongoing mindfulness and intention to resist the intruding chaos of the modern world.

There is still more I can do to realize the real me, to expose myself to only the good, and to be satisfied with nature’s pace. But the effort is worthwhile. In fact, isn’t it exactly what life should be about?

As Howard said, “the journey to deeper happiness is much shorter in an uncluttered world.” All that’s required is open eyes and an open mind–and a desire to change everything.

Walking Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge

Once a year, people are allowed to walk across the Mackinac Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere and the fifth longest in the world. This long-standing Michigan tradition happens on Labor Day, and we were able to arrange our schedule so that I could participate in this year’s walk.

Mackinac Bridge from Lake Huron

This view of the Bridge from a ferry on Lake Huron gives you some idea of its length.

The “Mighty Mac”, as locals call it, is an engineering marvel that links Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas across the Straits of Mackinac. Built over a four-year period, the Bridge opened to traffic in November 1957. At just a few feet shy of five miles long, it was the longest suspension bridge anywhere in the world at that time.

Unlike some other suspension bridges, such as California’s Golden Gate Bridge, the Mighty Mac does not have pedestrian walkways, because the traffic lanes occupy almost the entire width of the structure. So the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk is a special treat.

This year was the 61st Bridge Walk. In the past, one lane of the Bridge has been kept open for vehicle traffic, while the walkers occupied the opposite lane. But this year, the Bridge was completely closed to traffic, and walkers could start from either St. Ignace on the north end or Mackinaw City on the south end. Other walkers told me that the absence of vehicles made for a more peaceful and less crowded walk. (By the way, that’s not a typo. “Mackinac” is pronounced like “Mackinaw”, with a “W” at the end, but the City and the Bridge are spelled differently. I think it’s mainly to confuse tourists like me.)

After a forecast all week for rain during the walk, Monday morning dawned with mild temperatures and cloudy skies, but no precipitation. The Bridge closed at 6:30 am, and the first walkers started across it at 7:00. We had spent the previous night in the RV park at the Kewadin Casino in St. Ignace. At about 6:45 am, I caught the casino’s courtesy shuttle to the starting line at the north end of the Bridge, and I was walking by 7:15 am.

This sign showed how the turnaround points would move during the walk.

This sign showed how the turnaround points would move during the walk.

I wanted to get an early start for a couple of reasons. First, anyone who didn’t make it to mid-span by 10:00 am would be turned back to their starting point at the nearest bridge tower. And second, I planned to take a ferry back from Mackinaw City to St. Ignace, and I wanted to be sure I got on one before they stopped running at 11:00 am.

North toll plaza

Trucks barricaded the closed toll plazas.

The road on the Bridge is actually Interstate 75. It was pretty strange to be standing in the multiple lanes in front of the north toll plaza with only pedestrians around me.

Starting the walk

That’s a lot of bridge ahead of me…

Once I passed the toll plaza, I was on the Bridge itself. The north tower sure looked far away at this point, and it was–almost two miles distant!

There are four traffic lanes on the Bridge, two in each direction. The walkers used the outside lanes in each direction, leaving the inside lanes open for emergency vehicles. At the early hour that I started, nobody from Mackinaw City had yet made it across to our side, so the rightmost lane was still empty.

Walkers with Bridge hats

These walkers’ hats got them on television.

As I walked, I half expected to see many people in crazy costumes, much like I’ve observed at the Susan G. Komen 3-Day walks. But apparently most Michiganers are more reserved than that. I did, however, spot a trio of walkers in their Mackinac Bridge hats, as they were being interviewed by a television reporter.

A walker in a hot dog hat. Why not?

A walker in a hot dog hat. Why not?

Later on, as walkers from the south end began to appear, I saw Ronald McDonald, Waldo (now I know where he is!), a guy in a hot dog hat, and a few other characters.

Several walkers wore shirts memorializing other past walkers.

Several walkers wore shirts memorializing other past walkers.

Sally's 59th Bridge Walk

This woman was on her 59th walk–meaning she’s been doing it annually since 1959!

More often, though, participants wore shirts festooned with embroidered souvenir patches from each of their past walks, or with designs in memory of past walkers, now deceased. One amazing woman’s shirt announced that she was on her 59th walk–quite a feat since this year was the 61st walk, so she’d been walking the Bridge since 1959, just two years after it opened.

Of course, carrying the US flag is always in style.

Of course, carrying the US flag is always in style.

Sheriff's patrol boat

Law enforcement officers had several boats patrolling the waters around the Bridge.

Security was tight. Not only were vehicles physically barred from the Bridge, but most boat traffic beneath it was restricted as well. The Sheriff’s Department had boats stationed on either side of the Bridge, near the middle of the channel, with smaller boats patrolling up and down its length.

Cruise ship passing under Bridge

Cruise ship passing under the Bridge.

Still, at least one ship, which appeared to be a small passenger liner, was allowed to pass under the Bridge, although at a much slower speed than usual and escorted by a couple of law enforcement boats.

Helicopter patrol over Bridge

Law enforcement helicopters watched from above.

Law enforcement watched from the sky above us as well. And I’m pretty sure those weren’t violins in the black backpacks worn by the dozens of Michigan State Police officers stationed along the Bridge.

"Excuse me, officer...where is the concert?"

“Excuse me, officer…where is the concert?”

Cable-bent pier

Passing the north cable-bent pier

After about a mile and a half of walking, I got to the start of the suspended portion of the Bridge. Here at the “cable-bent pier”, the 24 1/2″ diameter main support cables coming from the towers bend on a concrete pier and then go into the enormous anchor piers that keep the cables under tension. (They’re supporting 104,000 tons of weight, so you can’t blame them for being tense. 😉

Approaching the north tower of the Bridge

Approaching the north tower of the Bridge.

By this time, a steady stream of walkers who had started in Mackinaw City was flowing down the opposite side. Some of them, I knew, planned to turn around in St. Ignace and walk all the way back across the Bridge, covering a total of 10 miles.

As I got closer to the north tower of the Bridge, the inside lane decking changed from concrete to steel grates. At this point, I was glad not to be walking on the inside lane, except when I needed to get around someone, because it was pretty uncomfortable on my feet–and it was a bit unnerving to look down at the chilly waters 200 feet below me.

Looking down at the Straits of Mackinac almost 200' below my feet.

Looking down at the Straits of Mackinac almost 200′ below my feet.

Sun peeking through the clouds over Lake Huron

Sun peeking through the clouds over Lake Huron.

I reached the north tower a few minutes before 8:00 am, as the overcast began to break up, allowing some sunshine to reach the surface of Lake Huron. (The Bridge is the dividing line between Lake Huron on the east and Lake Michigan on the west.)

Looking up at the north tower as I passed beneath it

Looking up at the north tower as I passed beneath it. The platform at top right is being used to strip and re-paint the tower. They’re almost done with the work.

Between the north tower and mid-span

From between the north tower and mid-span, you can see the area of the tower still to be painted.

Approaching the middle of the Bridge span.

Approaching the middle of the Bridge span. The bus on the other side was transporting police officers to and from their duty posts.

Finally, I got to the exact middle of the Bridge. This was the turnaround point for people who wanted to walk five miles and return to where they started, rather than having to shuttle between the two ends of the Bridge.

The turnaround point at mid-span

The turnaround point at mid-span.

The Mackinac Bridge Authority even had steel ramps to make it easier for walkers pushing strollers and participants in wheelchairs–of which there were dozens–to cross over the hump in the middle of the road. I arrived at mid-span at 8:04 am, with almost two hours to spare before the turnaround points began to move toward the ends of the Bridge.

Crowd at mid-span

There was a sizable crowd at mid-span.

Naturally, many of the walkers gathered right at the middle of the span for photos. Not me, of course. 😉

Approaching the south tower of the Bridge.

Approaching the south tower of the Bridge.

It was all downhill from here, literally, which I appreciated after the gentle but long uphill walk on the other side.

First view of Mackinaw City

Just past the south tower, my first good view of Mackinaw City.

Instead of the Bridge looming above and ahead of me, I now had a good view of Mackinaw City at the tip of the Lower Peninsula. It looked so close, but I knew it was still more than two miles away!

Almost to the south cable-bent pier and the end of the suspended section of the Bridge

Almost to the south cable-bent pier and the end of the suspended section of the Bridge.

Colonial Michilimackinac

Colonial Michilimackinac, a state historical park, comes into view.

Fort Michilimackinac, an 18th-century French (and later British) fort and trading post, was built on the northern tip of the Lower Peninsula. It has been restored and exists today as an open-air historical museum called Colonial Michilimackinac. I had a great view of the park as I approached the southern end of the Bridge.

Finish line on the Mackinaw City side

Finish line on the Mackinaw City side.

At the “finish line” (not that this was a race), each walker received a certificate attesting to the fact that he or she had participated in the 61st Annual Mackinac Bridge Walk.

Bridge Walk Certificate

My Bridge Walk certificate.

The certificate was suitable for framing, I guess, but being a paperless household, we scanned it for posterity and then recycled it instead.

After buying an obligatory 61st Annual Mackinac Bridge Walk commemorative t-shirt, I walked another mile or so to the Star Line dock in Mackinaw City. That brought my total distance covered to just under 6 miles, according to my Fitbit.

My Fitbit app tracked my mileage from the starting line in St. Ignace to the ferry dock in Mackinaw City

My Fitbit app tracked my mileage from the starting line in St. Ignace to the ferry dock in Mackinaw City.

I got to the dock at 9:30, and chatted with some other walkers while we waited for the 10 am walker shuttle ferry. From there, it was a leisurely 45-minute ride back to St. Ignace, with plenty of beautiful views of the waterfront and the Bridge.

The ferry pulls out of the Mackinaw City dock.

The ferry pulls out of the Mackinaw City dock.

I had a seat on the top deck on the bow. I was tempted to stand right on the bow and yell, “I’m king of the world!”, but I restrained myself. The little platform on the bow says “CAUTION – DO NOT STAND OR SIT”, so I guess I wasn’t the only one who’d had that idea.

The USCGC Mackinaw, now a museum ship

The USCGC Mackinaw, now a museum ship.

We cruised past the berth of the US Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw, a fabled icebreaker responsible for opening the Great Lakes shipping lanes in the spring until a few years ago. It’s now a museum ship, and we’d toured it a few weeks earlier before we left the Lower Peninsula. It was cool to see it from the water. (Fun fact: the father of one of our RVing friends, Lisa from Always on Liberty, served on that very ship.)

Walkers still packed the Bridge a few minutes after 10:00 am.

Walkers still packed the Bridge a few minutes after 10:00 am.

As the Bridge came into view at 10:08 am, we could see that it was still packed with walkers. By this time, the turnaround points had been moved from mid-span out to the towers, but there were obviously walkers who were already past the towers who were still making their way across.

Mackinac Island in the distance

Mackinac Island in the distance over the bow of the ferry

A bulk carrier cargo ship passes under the Bridge

A bulk carrier cargo ship passes under the Bridge

Fortunately, the water was calm, so the ride was smooth. As we passed the Bridge, we saw a bulk carrier ship approach and then pass underneath it, probably on its way to the Soo Locks in Sault St. Marie.

Approaching the harbor in St. Ignace

Approaching the harbor in St. Ignace

Finally, we arrived back in St. Ignace, where Cheryl met me at the dock and we went out for brunch.

I’m glad to have been one of the 25,000 people who participated in the 61st Bridge Walk. It’s clearly an important tradition in Michigan, and it will be an exciting memory from our summer in the state.

Detroit’s Eastern Market and Belle Isle State Park

Our blog has been pretty sparse for the last few months. I attribute that to a combination of laziness and the intimidation that accompanies getting the first sentences written in an otherwise blank editing box. But because we’re still having fun touring the country–this summer, we’re in the Upper Midwest–and it seems a shame to keep all these experiences to ourselves, I plan to work harder in the future to share our adventures with you.

Detroit wasn't exactly on our way up Michigan's west coast.

Detroit wasn’t exactly on our way up Michigan’s west coast.

A Detour to Detroit

After more than a week in Elkhart and Goshen, Indiana for upgrades and repairs to the RV, we had planned to work our way north up the western coast of Michigan. A visit to Detroit wasn’t originally in our plans. But when we needed to book a flight back to DFW for my mother’s 80th birthday, we realized that flying out of Detroit Metro Airport would save us hundreds of dollars compared to flights out of a smaller, less-competitive city like Traverse City or Petoskey.

It also dawned on us that we still had our mental distance expectations calibrated for the huge expanses of the western United States, Alaska and western Canada, where we spent most of last year. We’re going to drive all the way ACROSS THE STATE OF MICHIGAN from to Detroit?? Oh…wait…that takes only about three hours!

So on Friday, July 6, we drove to Detroit from Grand Rapids, stopping in Lansing for lunch with our friends Paul and Nancy. We had a little mishap on the road just before Lansing, but I’ll save that for another post.

With Paul & Nancy at lunch in Lansing

With our Xscapers friends Paul & Nancy at The Cosmos, a Lansing gastropub with great pizza. We’re learning that Michiganers know their pizza!

Visiting Eastern Market

The next day, Saturday, we ventured into Detroit for the first time from our RV park in Belleville to the west. Our destination was Eastern Market, a year-round Saturday market hosting as many as 225 vendors and 40,000 customers, with another 150 food-centric businesses surrounding the market itself. It was a beautiful day, and at a high of 82º promised to be the coolest of the upcoming week, so I’m pretty sure that a good part of those 40,000 people were there at the same time we were. It was crowded.

Eastern Market map

Trying to find our way around Detroit’s enormous Eastern Market.

Eastern Market, the country’s largest open-air farmer’s market, is a Detroit institution. Dating all the way back to 1891,  the market has served as the region’s pantry, providing fresh food “to nourish a healthier, wealthier and happier Detroit”. The big Saturday Market is just one of four hosted in the facility during the summertime. On Sundays, the market features local artists, cooks, jewelers, musicians, and more, with smaller markets held on Tuesdays and on Thursday nights.

In the middle of Detroit's Eastern Market

In the middle of Detroit’s Eastern Market, between two of the permanent “shed” structures.

Five “sheds”–actually massive open-air concrete structures–comprise the core of Eastern Market. Inside and between the sheds, vendors set up tables laden with fresh fruits and vegetables, artisan baked goods and meats, and more, along with flowers, herbs and nursery plants.

Inside Eastern Market

Fresh produce vendors near the center of Shed 3, the largest building at Eastern Market.

We quickly discovered that not all the produce was locally-grown–some of it was shipped in from other places, just like in the grocery store. As you’d expect, prices on the locally-grown produce were much better. We picked up some yellow squash, avocados, strawberries, spinach, fresh mint, English cucumbers and green beans. Of course, all that shopping for healthy food made us hungry, so we also sampled treats from a Greek spinach pastry to good ol’ Southern-style sweet potato pie.

Say Yes to Pie

As a matter of fact, we did say “yes,” to a mini sweet potato pie.

Belle Isle State Park

Leaving Eastern Market, we made a short drive to Belle Isle State Park. Belle Isle sits in the middle of the Detroit River, just a few hundred yards north of Windsor, Canada. (Yes, you read that correctly: Detroit is the only place in the United States where Canada–at least a little peninsula of it–lies to the south.)

Detroit map with Canada to the south

Yup, that’s Canada to the south of the United States at Detroit.

Belle Isle is a 987-acre urban park owned by the City of Detroit. It was reminiscent of (and actually larger than) Manhattan’s Central Park. In fact, the same famous American landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, designed both parks. The park includes three lakes, 150 acres of wooded area and spectacular views of the Detroit and Windsor skylines. Belle Isle features a nature zoo, conservatory, golf driving range, small maritime museum, and an even smaller aquarium.

Apparently, Belle Isle Park had become run down during the Motor City’s decline in the ’80s and ’90s. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources took over operation of the park in 2013, and after years of neglect, it is making a nice comeback. On this Saturday, many large families and groups were enjoying picnics and cookouts throughout the park. It’s also a great area for walking and biking, although by that afternoon the temperature had climbed well past the forecast high, so we settled for a drive around the island.

The massive James Scott Memorial Fountain–designed by architect Cass Gilbert, who also designed the United States Supreme Court Building in Washington, DC–anchors the western end of the island. The lower bowl of the fountain is 510 feet in diameter, and the central spray reaches 125 feet into the air. The fountain’s namesake, James Scott, was a “colorful” and controversial character who bequeathed his entire estate to the City of Detroit, on the condition that the money be used to build a monumental fountain as a tribute to him, complete with a life-size bronze statue of him on the site. After years of debate, the city finally completed the fountain in 1925.

James Scott Memorial Fountain

The James Scott Memorial Fountain, on the western end of Belle Isle.

As we crossed back over the MacArthur Bridge from Belle Isle toward downtown Detroit, we could see the revitalized international riverfront area. Over the last few years, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy has been hard at work to transform this area, once symbolic of the city’s urban blight, into a beautiful and safe gathering place for everyone. The before and after photos on the Conservancy’s website dramatically illustrate the improvements.

Detroit riverfront before & after

Before and after views of the riverfront area near the bridge to Belle Isle (from the Convervancy’s website).

On the way back to our RV, both of us were struck by how different Detroit–at least the parts we’d seen so far–was from the dirty, decaying and dangerous city we’d expected. Of course, there are unsafe areas where you wouldn’t want to go, but that’s true of most other major cities as well. But our first day in Detroit left us eager to explore more of what the city had to offer.

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RV-Curious? 10 Ways to Start Learning About Full-Time RV Living

A full-time RVer marvels at sunset at Imperial Dunes near Winterhaven, CA, January 2018

“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.” -Fyodor Dostoyevsky (photo by David Goldstein, at Imperial Dunes near Winterhaven, CA, January 2018)

I often find myself talking with a non-RVer about full-time RV living and how it has changed our lives. Usually, the other person is in their late 40s or their 50s, with grown children and a successful career. But they feel that they are missing out on something important in life: time with their partner, opportunities to enjoy new experiences, or just a chance to relax, breathe and be, without any external demands. Or perhaps they have started to feel burdened by decades of accumulated, mostly meaningless possessions, realizing that although their stuff should be working for them, their reality is the other way around.

Whatever the reason, they feel a gnawing urge to alter the trajectory of their life. At the same time, they lack an understanding of any viable alternatives. And so they continue to trudge down the traditional path of working until–or beyond–retirement age, and then settling down in some vaguely-envisioned lifestyle that they hope will finally yield the fulfillment they currently lack.

At this point, the conversation turns to full-time RV living as a potential alternative. And then the same questions bubble up: I’m not independently wealthy, so how can I support myself on the road? What would I do with all my stuff? What would my family think? How would I stay in touch with my friends? What should I look for in an RV? Are there people like me actually doing this?

After telling them our own story, I usually refer them to these resources that will help answer their questions and get them started on their journey of discovering whether full-time RV living is right for them. So, if you yourself are “RV-curious”, pour yourself a cup of coffee and do some reading of your own.

 

1. RV-Dreams

Back in 2014, I happened to start my own research at RV-Dreams.com, Howard & Linda Payne’s website and blog. The site design isn’t modern or flashy, but don’t let that dissuade you—Howard and Linda have been living on the road for 13 years as of 2018, so there is a treasure trove of information here.

Start with their About Us page, and in particular the story of how they made the decision to go full-time. See if it resonates with you like it did with me. Then, head over to What is Full-Timing? and follow the series of links there, including their detailed Financial Considerations index page.

 

2. Escapees RV Club

If you’re intrigued at this point, next visit the Escapees RV Club. (This is the organization that I now work for part-time.) Escapees is a 40-year-old “total support network for all RVers” with more than 60,000 members across North America. They support full- and part-time RVers with discounts and other benefits, extensive educational opportunities, and most importantly, connections to a community of like-minded people.

Many future RVers join Escapees long before they actually purchase an RV. For $39.95/year, you get a subscription to the excellent Escapees magazine as well as access to all of the club’s member resources.  If you do join, we’d appreciate it if you’d select “Landmark Adventures” (that’s us!) when you’re asked how you learned about the club.

Escapees also has the definitive course on RV systems operation, maintenance, safety, legal issues, and other topics that are most relevant to new RV owners. It’s available several times a year in person as RVers Boot Camp, or online anytime as RVers Online University. Either way, you’ll be learning from a panel of industry experts in their respective fields. You don’t have to be an Escapees member to sign up for either Boot Camp or RVOU, but you do receive a nice discount on your registration fee if you are.

 

3. Xscapers

Within Escapees, Xscapers is a diverse community of today’s active and adventurous RVers, dedicated to enabling their dreams of working and sharing life on the road. Although their shared mindset and traveling style define this group, Xscapers tend to be more youthful than the average RVer, and a majority of them are working at least part-time on the road. If you’re like us and are seeking a tribe of interesting, fun and like-minded people with whom to share your journey, Xscapers is the group for you.

Xscapers gather at Convergences in various locations around the country throughout the year. These may range from boondocking (camping without utility hookups) in the desert southwest, to camping by a river or lake in a private RV park with full hookups. But regardless of the location, Convergences always feature group activities such as hiking, off-roading, kayaking, winery and brewery tours, dine-outs at local restaurants, and late-night karaoke and dancing.

You do have to join Escapees to attend a Convergence, but it’s a great way to meet some of the people in the RV community who are “like you” and get a chance to experience the RV lifestyle first-hand. It’s not unusual for some people at a Convergence to be on their very first RV excursion, so don’t worry about being a newbie. You can even attend in a rented RV (more on that below). You’ll be welcomed into the community and you’ll learn a lot. Plus, you’ll probably have so much fun that you just might get hooked.

 

4. RVNetwork

I would especially encourage you to read and participate in the Escapees discussion forum, RVNetwork, where you’ll find sections specifically devoted to how to begin RVing and the full-time lifestyle. You don’t need to be a member of Escapees to participate in the forum, and it’s free.

 

5. RV Love

Although I happened to find and begin my research at RV-Dreams.com, there are several other popular and informative blogs by more recent full-timers that you should check out. The first one I’d recommend is RV Love, by Julie and Marc Bennett, good friends of ours whom we met through Xscapers. They’ve been on the road for more than four years, and their blog is full of great insights.

Julie and Marc have developed an online course, RV Success School, for future RVers. They have also authored a new book called Living the RV Life – Your Ultimate Guide to Life on the Road, which will be published in November 2018. I’m looking forward to reading it, and I bet it will be a great resource. (You can pre-order it now on Amazon.)

 

6. More Than a Wheelin’

More Than a Wheelin’ is the blog of Camille Attell and Bryce Cripe, also good friends of ours. In addition to their blog, Camille (who holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology, and was a corporate trainer and coach in her professional life) has created some excellent materials on remote working and on the emotional aspects of making the transition to full-time RV living. You’ll find those on their site.

 

7. RV to Freedom

In addition to the fantastic content on their site, RV to Freedom, Brandon Hatcher and Kerensa Durr have an extremely active Facebook group with a community more than 37,000 strong, as well as an online training course for future RVers. We know several people who have successfully gotten into the RV lifestyle through one these channels.

 

8. Mobile Internet Resource Center

For anything and everything to do with technology on the road, especially mobile connectivity, just about every RV nomad will tell you that the go-to resource is Chris Dunphy and Cherie Ve Ard’s Mobile Internet Resource Center. Chris and Cherie live on their boat six months out of the year, and in their vintage bus conversion the rest of the time. They share in-depth know-how, professional-quality reviews and product recommendations that can help to keep you connected almost anywhere you go. Their personal blog, Technomadia, also makes for interesting reading.

 

9. Rent an RV at Campanda or Outdoorsy

The best way to truly learn about RVing is to try it. If you’ve never experienced a modern RV, try renting a privately-owned vehicle through Campanda or Outdoorsy. Both of these sites operate similarly to Airbnb, by allowing RV owners to rent out their RVs on a short-term basis. You’ll find all varieties of rigs here, from top-of-the-line Class A motorhomes to small travel trailers. You could try a rental for a weekend at a location near you, or–like we did, twice, before we bought our own RV–drive or fly to another city and pick up your rental there for a week or two. Either way, you’ll likely have a more authentic and accurate experience than if you rented from a corporation that offers lower-quality RVs to the mass market.

 

10. No Sidebar

The sheer quantity of information available on full-timing can be overwhelming. So as you do your research, remember that a lifestyle change like full-time RV living should not be an end in itself, but rather a means to living a more fulfilling life.

To help you stay focused on this goal, my final suggested resource is not about RVing at all. It’s No Sidebar, a wonderful and beautifully-designed destination all about living a simpler, slower, more intentional life. It started around the same time that we were considering our leap to full-time living, and we found (and continue to find) their articles inspirational. Start with the one I linked to above, and then explore the rest of their site.

Finding Treasures in the Desert – Our First Geocaching Outing

While camping in the desert in Quartzsite, AZ last week, we decided to try our hand at Geocaching. It is a popular sport that used to require a dedicated handheld GPS unit, but now there are several apps that you can use to identify the location of small “caches” (often a film canister or pill bottle) that have been placed in out of the way places. You use GPS coordinates provided and your smartphone to find where the caches are located. Then, when you find one, you get to add your name to the log of people who have successfully found the cache. For some larger caches, there are small tokens or treasures that you will find and you can leave a new treasure for someone else to find.

We used an app called Geocaching that David downloaded to his iPhone – using just the free version – and were able to see that there were four small caches rated easy to find within a two-mile radius of where we were camped. We headed out with our friends Lisa and Jason Reich to find the treasures and were successful in locating all four that we were looking for.

It was a fun adventure and it was satisfying to have found all the ones we set out to look for. We entered our names on the log and placed the caches back for others to find. Next time we might venture out to find more challenging ones, but maybe not on a hot day in the dessert.