by Phyllis McCrossin
A high school friend has earned a residency at the Pamlico Rose Institute, where she spends her days creating truly beautiful stained glass art. I am so happy for her. I am also so jealous.
I used to scour announcements for writing residencies throughout the United States. I never earned one. I never applied. I’m pretty sure there is a correlation there.
I hear from so many who say they wish they could do what King and I are doing… traveling the United States in a travel trailer. Fact is, with a few exceptions, there is no reason why anyone can’t. You have to decide what your priorities are and decide if you truly want to travel full time or if it is the thought of traveling you love.
I am fairly certain it wasn’t a residency I craved but the thought of a residency that enthralled me.
Traveling, however, is something I wanted to do for a long, long time.
I recall the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college when I was working for Dad at the dog food factory. I was miserable. I had never been one to test the waters with my parents, but being home after a year on my own was… difficult. I was counting down the days to return to school, but also dreamed of taking my college savings, buying a van and just taking off for parts unknown.
But life has a way of evening itself out.
I discovered I could still love my parents while living my life my way, and I really did NOT have to please them. Despite their warnings that King and I were pretty young to get married while still in college, we stubbornly continued with our determination to do exactly that.
We married when I was a sophomore and he was a junior. King graduated the following year. I earned my degree following the eight-year plan. In fact our last child was born three months after I graduated.
We got jobs. We watched countless soccer and little league games. We attended parent-teacher conferences. We sat in emergency rooms waiting for stitches. I hauled horses across the state to horse shows. We dealt with rebellious teens. I cried at high school, U.S. Navy and college graduations. We both cried when we sent our daughter off to parts unknown after boot camp. We cried at weddings. We said final good-byes to our parents and a sibling. And then we retired.
There was a whole lot of living between our wedding in 1976 and our pulling out of the driveway for a final time with our travel trailer in tow in 2018. Life, once again, is being done our way.
We never were what one might call frugal. Oh we certainly live frugally, but most of the time it is out of necessity. We still fly by the seat of our pants and deal with catastrophes as they happen – much as we have most of our lives. And I think it takes a kind of “come what may” attitude that has helped us make the decision to live a nomadic lifestyle.
If you study blogs and websites about life on the road, money is always a concern. Young people look for ways to earn a living while traveling. Retirees solemnly warn of dire consequences of not having a healthy nest egg. Our nest egg is large enough for one of us to have the blue-plate special.
While on our travels we’ve come across many other retirees who travel as we do. Or, I should say, they sort of travel as we do. Our 23-foot, 38-year-old travel trailer pales by comparison to their fully equipped, ultra modern, really fancy homes.
I like my travel trailer. It’s paid for, and it wasn’t financed. We have done some repairs and have more to do before we head back to Michigan for the summer, but that’s the way of it.
Several years ago I ran into a friend who told me they sold their smaller trailer for a larger one because it was “difficult to live four months of the year in something so small.”
Small? Oh honey.
I don’t have what one might call a “full” kitchen. My refrigerator is the size of a dorm refrigerator. My living room is also my dining room. My bathroom is smaller than a broom closet. In fact, I believe there are many walk-in-closest that are larger than the 184 square feet King and me share with our dog.
But this morning I watched the sunrise over the mountains and reflect off the lake. Yesterday we drove from the desert to mountains covered in snow. (And got out and took photos of the snow because being from Michigan, snow is such a novelty – not). Last night we walked a trail that ran along the lake and I gathered a few white sage leaves to burn in an incense burner. Many days are the same. Many are not.
In a few months we will hitch up the trailer and head east. Meandering through deserts and (if we take a really, really southern route) driving along the Gulf Coast. We have no plans, just a target date of returning to Michigan to finally get a title transfer (that pesky pandemic) at an end-of-April appointment made six months ago.
Is this for everyone?
Absolutely not. It takes work and a commitment to remain friends with an individual you occasionally want to castrate.
Thinking about doing the full-time travel gig?
A few things to consider if you are a couple: Can you hitch a trailer without wanting to kill one another? Can you forgive your partner for things that were said while backing the trailer? Can you immediately forget what was said while hitching or backing said trailer? Can you spend 24/7 with your partner? Can you hitch and back alone if forgetting unkind words is a little difficult for a few hours?
Can you calmly say, “Your exit is on the right in 10 miles. It’s still on the right, in six miles. Still on the right – two miles. The lanes are clear. You can get over now. That was your exit. Do you want to find a way to turn around or should I find another route? I know it’s four hours out of the way. We missed the exit, remember?”
Reality is, it is fun. Reality is, it is a lot of work.
We are living the dream.