When we first started out on our grand adventure I thought that we would be spending more time with family and not less. Initially that is exactly what happened. We spent six weeks with my sister in South Carolina, spent a month in Minnesota with my daughter for her wedding, and had numerous short stops to see family and friends in Columbus, Texas, Florida, and other places. Almost all of that happened while I still had my corporate job and had more freedom in my travels. Once we started working traditional work kamping jobs, that changed. Yes, people can come visit us where we are working, and we can try to schedule the route for our off time so we can meet up with people, but it all gets much more complicated. If you have income coming in, don’t need to work, or have a mobile job, you probably have much more flexibility in where you go, but that is not our reality and as the last year has been a series of disappointments in this area I think it’s time I wrote a post about it.
I freely admit my situation is complicated. I have three children in three different states (or countries now, as our youngest was recently deployed to Korea) and a large extended family in a fourth state. We don’t have any grandchildren, which makes our situation much less complicated than many others, and thankfully all of our parents are alive and in good health. But as with any family we have weddings, births, birthdays, and deaths, and in those cases it is simply impossible for us to always be there. Actually I shouldn’t say that, if we chose a route that went from family member to family member and kept us on the East Coast we would be able to attend most of those events, but the places we want to be aren’t usually close to where those things are happening.
We do have some experience with this of course. We spent fifteen years living in New Hampshire, which wasn’t close to any of our family, and during that time we missed lots of events. The difference was, I had a job with a salary and a bereavement policy that allowed me the option to travel if I felt I needed to. Even with all of the resources in the world, I didn’t always make the trip, but for the “big stuff” we could always jump in the car and make the twelve hour trip home, or one of us could stay home with the kids and the other could fly. We attended our grandparents’ funerals that way and I went to my brother’s wedding and sister’s nursing school graduation. It certainly wasn’t perfect. I often had to work during those trips and they were always too short, but they were possible and at least I could physically be there to show my support and love.
This new work kamping life is very different, and we have had a series of events this year that have proven that. My mother’s husband was sick and eventually died this year, and although my original plan was to go and stay with her at the end and through the funeral, ultimately I didn’t go back at all. We were gate guarding at the time, and both were needed to hold the position, and since it was 24/7, if one of us left the other one would have to go as well. We needed the money, and more importantly we needed to have a solid gate guarding experience for future work opportunities, so we stuck it out and although I talked to my mom on the phone almost every day I wasn’t able to be with her. In that case my brother and sister were absolutely fantastic and since they had more flexibility in their schedules were with her through the experience. But I hated not being there and although she was 100% supportive and understanding as she gets our lifestyle, I still feel sad that I wasn’t with her.
Then my oldest daughter was getting remarried and we went to some trouble to plan our route so we could be in Charleston in October. The kids know we can’t change our travel plans at the drop of a hat, so the wedding dates were agreed upon well in advance. We were going to spend at least two weeks with her, but then life got in the way and when she needed some emergency dental work and her fiancées insurance to help pay for it, she decided to move up the wedding. It was always going to be a low-key ceremony on the beach, so moving the dates wasn’t a huge deal, but we were faced with some tough choices about whether we could be there. Flights at the time were around $650 each and we would also be missing work. No paid time off with these seasonal jobs, and although this one is flexible enough that we could have gotten a few days off, when we added hotel room and rental car to the equation, it wouldn’t be cheap. We actually talked about just me going, to help keep some of the costs down, but ultimately after much hand wringing on my part, we both decided not to go. Ultimately she chose to get married with just the two of them on the beach and it was a lovely and special ceremony, but missing my daughter’s wedding was an extremely difficult decision for me and once again I felt like I let someone I loved down.
And just yesterday my favorite Uncle died. He was always a huge part of my life and extremely supportive and encouraging of my life and choices. There are some people in your family who just get you, and he was that guy for me. We had a very special relationship and when I found out he was close to the end, I wanted to fly back and see him one last time. But then it’s the same choices, money for flights, missing work, the logistics of where to stay and getting around while I am in Columbus, although I have family there who could help me out with that. I didn’t go and then got the call that he passed away. Now, once again I am faced with the choice for the funeral. Funerals are very important to me. I believe that showing respect and providing support is one of the most important things you can do to honor the person and since he was so good to me growing up, I really want to do that for him and his family. But the flights are $700 and worse, most of the available cheap ones are 12 hours or more, and of course I would miss work and on Monday someone would need to cover for me. Still, I have looked up flights twice, hoping there would be a cheaper option, but finally realized I needed to let it go.
I wish I believed he would understand, but I know he would want me there which makes it harder. So I will have to settle for sending flowers and visiting his grave site the next time I am passing through, but it’s rough, no two ways about it. And if you are reading this and thinking she could have gone to all of those things, you are absolutely correct. It probably would have cost me around $10K all in to attend these events and I do have that much in the bank. That would have also taken a huge chunk out of our savings and I wouldn’t have had any way to easily make up that money by working. Plus, I am under no illusions that next year won’t hold similar circumstances, and since we are committed to making this lifestyle sustainable without plowing through our savings, there had to be a sacrifice.
So each situation has to be looked at individually and with the family member, decisions were made. They weren’t easy, and none of us were happy about it, but we did the best that we could with the situation we were working with at the time. You might choose differently. Heck, given the same set of circumstances occurring again, I might choose differently, but this is where I am. There is enough of a pattern here though, that I thought it was important to mention. I certainly didn’t think it would be like this when we started out. I envisioned being able to pick up and travel to family whenever I felt the need, but that simply has not been the case. And it’s not all about the money. Driving an RV cross country takes time, and emergency events don’t usually allow for 5+ days of travel time so that means flights are necessary. It’s complicated, and yes it was complicated before, but throwing money at problems can make them a lot simpler. And that’s just not an option for us in this life.
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