Do you know someone who sold 99.5% of what they owned and then started a new life traveling and living in a RV? Probably not many…which is why I wanted to tell the story of friends of mine who made the big leap! This is Virginia and we worked a number of years in corporate together and continued our friendship after we both left the company. One day she mentioned that she was discussing with with her husband the thought of selling everything, buying a RV and hitting the road. What?!&@?? Well let me tell you…there’s one thing you need to know about Virginia…once she’s made up her mind…it’s gonna happen and it did.
Knowing I wanted to share their experience on my blog, when I returned to Arizona during the winter I stayed overnight with her and her husband Bill to see up close and personal the kind of lifestyle changes they had made. I found it amazing that with a year under their belt they had turned daily living into a smooth operation. It was obvious their organization and planning skills had afforded them an easy transition.
When was the first time the thought of selling everything and buying the RV entered your mind?
Shortly after our youngest daughter moved out of our home and into her own apartment, I began thinking about what to do with the next chapter of our lives. After many years of raising kids, and especially the challenges of helping Shantel have her special needs met within the school systems, then caring for my mother until she passed… I just decided I wanted and needed to get back to the way it was in the beginning for my husband Bill and me when we lived life with and for each other… I wanted to make new memories for us to share.
I know you spent a lot of time researching about living in the RV…what kind to buy…how to reduce your costs by helping out in state parks…tell us a little about that process?
In the process of researching full-time RV living… I came across blogs that provided excellent documentation about do’s and don’ts of RV living. I learned that there are many, many, city, county, and state parks throughout the United States, and even in Canada that will provide your RV space and full utility hook-up and even free propane (in some parks) in exchange for you working 20 hours a week (40 hours combined couples). Considering the cost of park fees, this can range from $500-$700 per month, plus pay your own electric depending on the location, and the time of year.
Once you made up your mind, I recall it being a pretty fast process. What was the timeframe from when you decided to put your house on the market to when you drove away in your new RV?
We were living in our RV approximately 2 months from the time we decided to sell our home and possessions. We had an estate sale for family and friends one weekend, then a general garage sale the next weekend then put our home on the market and it sold for full asking price within 24 hours.
From when you started talking about this life change to the day you made the decision…did any of your friends or family think you were absolutely crazy?
Oh yes, almost all of our family and friends thought we were crazy. My brother said if it made me happy he was happy but he never thought his sister would end up living the life of a Gypsy! Ha!! Other’s had doubts that I could really give up our home and possessions because they knew what a family and home orientated person I was and how much pride I took in maintaining our home and entertaining family and friends.
When selling the contents of your home…was there a particular possession that you found hard to give up?
For Bill it was giving up his floor jack because of the ease of use when he needs to jack up the car to change the oil etc. For me it was four Southwestern Indian wall hangings and my Bev Doolittle western artwork. I so love them but I gave the Indian wall hangings to our dear friends who helped us manage the estate sale and garage sales. I sold the Doolittle paintings to my brother and he said I can come and visit them anytime I want so that made it easier to let them go.
How has this lifestyle changed your view of possessions?
I found it very freeing to let go of all the “stuff” we had. Even though all the “stuff” held memories and had special meaning to me… those memories are with me still but I had to make room in my life for new memories and in order to create a new lifestyle and journey to new adventures with my best friend and husband, Bill, I just knew I had to let go of the past and look towards a bright and welcoming future.
What are three things that has totally surprised you with this lifestyle?
- How welcoming and friendly people are when we arrive in a new location.
- How quickly we become friends with our fellow park hosts.
- How many people we meet along the way that tell us we are living their retirement dream.
I know you did a ton of research and preparation…but surely you’ve experienced some lessons learned now that you have a year plus under your belt.
- I learned to always make sure the shower door is securely latched open so I don’t get stuck in the shower ever again when Bill is not home to open the door for me… (I can only picture this whole scene in my mind!)
- We learned to have two portable propane tanks so when one runs out we can switch to the other without having to use our main propane tank because when that is empty we have to unhook everything and drive the RV to the propane filling station.
- I learned not to put corked bottled wine in the basement area of our RV during the hot summer months…the corks can and did pop.. Lucky for me they didn’t pop all the way out but they cracked the seal and popped about half way out. (Oh no!)
It’s one thing to live by yourself in a small space, but what challenges are there for two? And you have a cat! How’s that working for ya?
We have everything we need and nothing that we don’t… so the only requirement we have in our RV living space (that we both agreed to in advance) is that if you take something out you must put it away as soon as you finish with it… nothing gets left lying around… Since I am a very neat and organized person this comes easy for me and the only thing Bill has to do is remember to follow our agreed upon rule.
As far as our cat, Carmen, she has settled into this new lifestyle quite nicely. However, she is very much a creature of habit and thinks we all must get up at 5:00 a.m. every morning, even on mornings when I/we would be happy to stay in the bed just a wee bit longer… she will cry louder, and louder, and louder until she gets us up demanding she be fed..then she goes back on the bed and takes a nap! (That I can personally attest to!)
So tell us where you’ve lived so far, your responsibilities and what your next locations might be?
Our first park host position was in Quail Creek State Park in Hurricane Utah. We managed a 24 site campground. Bill cleaned the sites after campers left while I ran the ticket booth, and checked the campers and boaters in through our point of sale system. We learned a lot in the five months we were there and met another park host couple that have 15 years’ experience and shared a wealth of knowledge with us regarding the ins and outs of full-time RV living in addition to teaching us how to play the popular card came Hand and Foot.
We are currently Site Stewards at Buffalo Bill State Park in Cody Wyoming. We work three days a week in exchange for our RV space and full hook-ups. We clean bathrooms; mow and water grass areas as needed, and do general clean-up of the camp grounds. We will return to Arizona every winter and will work/camp at McDowell Mountain Park near Fountain Hills Arizona where we would be closer to friends and family.
Next summer we are looking at being Park Hosts along the Oregon Coast where I will give lighthouse tours and Bill will work the bandage dress gift shop. We also want to get to Idaho in the Coeur d’Alene area. About halfway through each summer, we begin applying for work/camp positions for the following summer.
You can follow their adventures on the blog Beyond Cinderella where Virginia started writing about her unique perspective of motherhood based on the challenges she faced as she raised her daughter who is blind. These two individuals are the most amazing and giving people I know and I’m so honored that they are not only my good friends, but my brother and sister by choice! Keep living the life you two! I don’t know anyone more deserving! ❤️