Thinking about our decision to become fulltimers I'm amazed now that we actually had the guts to go through with it. While we'd learned that there are probably hundreds of thousands of fulltimers out there, it's still a lifestyle desired by a very small minority of people, and an even much smaller minority who actually go through with it. It would have been much easier to NOT do it. It would have been comfortable to remain in our steady and predictable suburban life. It would have been far less traumatic to keep the furniture and all the stuff that we accumulated over the years. We would probably be further ahead financially too, as our version of the lifestyle probably wouldn't be called cheap.
But the draw of the wandering lifestyle pushed us along. In large measure, we were driven by people close to us who contracted serious illnesses or who died young. The old adage that "you only go 'round once" applies here. We felt an urgency to get on with it.
We were also acquainted with some folks who were dancing to their own music... seemingly unaffected by convention and the way a life "should" be led... refusing to quietly surrender to a "normal" life as a cog in the machinery of a consumer driven society. These people showed us that it's OK to be a little crazy, to lead an unconventional lifestyle, to get back to the basics, to really think about what's important and what's not important, to "push the envelope"... to take charge and proactively live life to the extent you can.
So what were we really drawn to? I don't know... it's hard to explain. Maybe experiencing things instead of just seeing them. We both love history, all kinds of history -- social history, natural history, the history of these United States -- and having the ability to set up house near historical sights for long enough to absorb it... to let it flow over you... to experience it for days instead of just making a quick vacation stop to see it... well, it was somehow a very compelling idea to both of us. Does that make sense? We also wanted to experience more of the natural wonders of North America, the National Parks, the forests, rivers, coastlines, mountains, and deserts. We wanted to drive the Alcan to Alaska and spend more time in Canada too. In general, getting away from congestion, getting closer to nature, and trying learn something along the way seemed to be the idea.
We were also drawn to the lifestyle in part to take the edge off Winter, which can get a bit tough up North for a couple months. I was only occasionally bothered by Northern Winters, but the flexibility of having wheels under your house makes it possible, maybe even desirable, to explore parts of the South while the North is still frozen up.
The whole process was lubricated by these circumstances: 1) our two kids were grown, through college, gainfully employed, and well on their way to developing their own lives, 2) I could take advantage of an early retirement option from the business I was working for, and 3) we had no family ties in the Chicago metro area (where our home was at the time) and neither Dar nor I had any desire to live there for the rest of our lives. So it became obvious that, with nothing tying us down, we could hit the road for a few years while we looked for that quiet uncrowded place we'd like to live next.
We attended the Life On Wheels conference in Ames Iowa for two consecutive years during the time our idea incubated. There we learned about the lifestyle, the gear, the ups and downs, the positives and negatives, and were able to talk with others who either had the desire to live the fulltiming lifestyle or were actually doing it already. Among the more important things we learned was that, for a couple, it was critical that both people have the desire for the lifestyle... that you're both on the same page. If one is gung-ho and the other is ho-hum, you likely have problems down the road -- after all, you'll be living in a 10th of the space your previously had. The knowledge we gained and the insights we learned at Life On Wheels led us to believe we were good candidates for the lifestyle and eliminated a little of the fear of making the leap.
Eventually the process evolved to the point where there was no "going back". When we signed the order for the motorhome we hadn't yet sold the house -- the housing market was getting weaker every day and we very likely could have been saddled with both for some extended period. At the time I was developing contingencies... if we don't sell the house, where do we store the motorhome?... if we sell and close on the house before the motorhome is ready, where do we live? It was a stressful time, those early months of 2007.
We took delivery of the bus-house in May 2007 and closed the sale of the house on June 28th. From that day to now the bus-house has been our home. I'm still amazed we had the guts to do it. And we both agree it's worked out pretty darned good... turns out it really is OK to be a little crazy.
[the next post, part 2, will be about things we've learned during the first three years.]
[Go To Part 2]
Thom & Dar