29 May An RV Manifesto
It was January 2020. We were young and innocent, both still in our 20’s with no pandemic in sight. We were laying in bed discussing all of the weddings we needed to attend in New England this summer. There were five weddings lined up, three of which Aidan was asked to be in, meaning he also had three bachelor parties.
“We’ll just have to stay up there.” “And use all of our vacation days?” “What will we do with the dog?” “Why is love so all-consuming?” That last one is kind of a joke—we cherish all five of the couples we were supposed to be celebrating this summer, but weddings have dominated our vacation time (and a lot of our money) for the last few years.
“Honestly, what if we just buy an RV, drive it up there for the summer, and then keep living in it?”
It took a little more convincing than this (Aidan convincing me,) but not much.
In January we alerted our places of work of this plan. In February we were suddenly in the midst of COVID. In March we owned a Recreational Vehicle and signed a lease with renters to live in our house, and I knew I would soon be jobless. In April we left Austin and I started freelancing. So aside from a few previous conversations about this being a dream of ours, we went from ideating to uprooting our lives and sticking them on wheels in only four months.
Grizzly has BEARly had time to keep up but he’s keeping his cool.
Then, the weddings went away.
Yesterday, we found out that the fifth of the five summer weddings had to be canceled. We owe a lot to these five couples because what we originally viewed as a scheduling conundrum was the motivation for us to take this big-ass leap in the first place. Now, many of them are rescheduling for next summer, which presents a new challenge because that’s when we plan to be out west and really doing this thing, but we’ll figure it out.
The weddings made it easy for us to say yes. Now, without them, we’re left to focus on why we’re really doing this. What we want the experience to be—and not to be—is the question.
To see this great country. We have a bucket list, as everyone does, of national parks, underrated cities, and hard-to-get-to attractions that would take us a lifetime of vacations to see. We won’t be able to see everything in a year and a half, not even close, but we will already have touched 18 states between this April and the end of the year.
Why not wait for retirement? For one thing, these parks and natural wonders are under siege by our cuckoo president and climate change. For another thing, one or both of us may not live that long. You never know.
To live simply. This is the classic reason for tiny living and its glory snuck up on me. I loved living in our house and online shopping. But one great thing about our relationship is that we’ve convinced each other to move so many times, we’ve been constantly forced to downsize.
This has been The One Downsizing to Rule Them All. Always seeking the Marie Kondo moment of bliss, I never felt it until I recently reached the point where I looked in my (little RV) closet and felt like I had good yet limited options. We now have one kitchen utensil for each job. There are only a few places to be in the RV and a few things to do—unless we venture outside. I’m here to tell you, the joy is real.
To go slowly. I don’t mean we’ll travel slowly; we’re planning to cover a lot of ground. I mean I want to slow down my crazy little Type A brain that feeds on opportunities to plan things, or better yet, worry about things. When the plans are as simple as they will be (drive, park, explore, repeat) I can redirect the power of my anxiety like a Jujitsu warrior and bury its ass.
This is a lesson we were excited to learn even before COVID struck, and now millions of people have been forced to learn it, too. How many of us have said and heard others say: “I feel bad saying it but this has honestly been so nice. I’ve spent way more time with my kids / learning new skills / reading books / exercising / sleeping / sitting with my thoughts…”? Knowing full well that this is a privileged COVID experience, we’ll be continuing to live this way and hope you can hold onto it too.
To shake up habits. We’ve found ourselves in Quarantine Time not missing bars or restaurants or parties nearly as much as we expected to. Aidan misses seeing people more than I do (he’s such a 7) but for both of us, those “going out” rituals aren’t holding as much value anymore. COVID has, in some sick way, been the perfect warm-up for RV life. We’re more creative with our time, we’re more appreciative of simple activities, and we’re having deeper conversations with the people we love than we did at the bar or a 20-person brunch.
Confession: We are not brunch people. We don’t like getting drunk and sleepy in the middle of the day, going home to do nothing, then waking up to find out we each spent $100 on authentic Middle Eastern pastries.
COVID is releasing us all from the social norm shackles that tied us to these “obligations,” which really aren’t obligations at all. Someone’s having a birthday party and we don’t want to go? We can call them, send them something, and plan to go for a hike together another time. Some people hold these activities, holidays, and rituals (many of which revolve around drinking lots of alcohol) up as sacred, which is fine, but it’s important to ask why.
Not To Be
A big vacation. This one is out of necessity; we would love to retire at 30 but we will very much be working. We’re super grateful to Aidan’s employer for letting him work remotely and trusting him to deliver the same high-quality work (which he absolutely can).
Two months ago I was panicking inside as I calmly announced that I would be consulting full time for the first time (in the middle of a pandemic). I felt like Alice plummeting down the rabbit hole, desperately grasping for the broken chair swirling beside me so I could cling on and maintain some sense of gravity. Now I’m grooving with more work opportunities than I can handle (knock on wood!) and will be working my butt off throughout this adventure. Working my butt off with clients I love, with a flexible schedule.
The time for everybody we know to visit us. This is where you come in. If you’re reading this we most likely love you a lot, because we’ve done nothing to promote this blog. So I hope it doesn’t come off as rude, but we learned this one the hard way. When we lived in Ireland for a year, we had two groups visit us per month on average. More than half of our weekends were spent entertaining and many of our weekdays were spent preparing for people, helping them plan their trips, greeting them, and seeing them off. While we really enjoyed seeing all of those people, it completely changed our experience from one of exploring and assimilating to one of repeating and entertaining.
This time, we’re being selfish and putting our foot down (with great hiking treads on, so we mean it). We hope our travels inspire you to see the places you’ve always wanted to see, on your own time and in your own way.
This is also a logistical thing. We won’t have a home base. We won’t have anywhere for people to stay. Making reservations to live in a different campground or park every week or two is already like Super Tetris without trying to coordinate with others. We hope you understand why we’re asking for the freedom to be spontaneous with our plans, and to use this as an introspective time.
Just Do It. If you peruse RV blogs and Instagram accounts you’ll find that people are living this way with five little kids, two cats, and three dogs all packed into a fifth wheel like Noah’s Arc was emergency transferred into a submarine. And they are—or at least claim they are—loving life.
Also, we are going to save a lot of money living like this. Also, the Rona has revealed to the world of computer workers that we can continue to do our jobs from all different locations, all while being a little more flexible with each other. The nomads knew it was already so, but it took a pandemic to shake. shit. up.