Fifth Year – The Emotional Arc

Before I go through what happened in our fifth year, I wanted to take a moment and recognize that we made the Five Year Milestone.  To be honest, I was pretty skeptical about the sustainability of the lifestyle when we first started and I would have given us less than a 50/50 chance to still be on the road five years in.  I was completely convinced that we would have run out of money by now, and I am more than pleasantly surprised that that hasn’t happened.  That being said, it’s fair to say this lifestyle is not exactly what Lee and I thought it would be.  We had a romanticized vision in our heads and the reality does not always match.  I wrote a post this year called Original Expectations Versus Reality to talk about some of these differences.

My friend Kelly started her fifth year summary by answering a few questions and I thought I would take a moment to do the same.  For those of you who haven’t read the whole blog this will give you a high level overview of where we are.

  1.  Do you regret your choice to go on the road?  Absolutely not.  At times I have regretted my decision to quit my job, but never to sell our house and go on the road. (Not even a tiny little bit. – Lee)
  2. What is your least favorite part? For me it has been the jobs we have had to work. I have been pretty honest about how much I have struggled with most of them. This year I have taken steps to solve that problem and I hope it is better going forward. (For me it’s that I thought we would have more time off. We’ve still done way better than before we hit the road with the work/play ration, but 50/50 was my goal. – Lee)
  3. What is your favorite part? I love, love when we are out in nature.  When I think back on the last 5 years it evokes a series of amazing images that no one can ever take away from me.  Plus Lee and I are at our best when we are exploring.  There is less of that than I would like, but more than I originally thought would be possible. (Seeing awesome things. Not just majestic vistas, but largest balls of twine. A close second is not being in any one place for too long. – Lee)
  4. Do you miss your old life?  For Lee that answer is not at all.  He felt confined in his old life and although this one is not perfect it suits him much better.  The answer for me is more complicated.  I miss parts of my old life.  I definitely miss the type of work I was able to do in my old life (although I do not miss the stress).  I miss seeing family, especially around the holidays.  I definitely miss having easy access to consistent medical and dental care.
  5. Is it a fair trade??  Again Lee would say absolutely.  My answer is most days.  I do get frustrated with the fact that I cannot have the things I mentioned above and still be a full time RVer, although I am continually striving to find a balance where that is possible.

I wrote a post called Compromises on November 26, 2104, two weeks after we went on the road. Five years later, I don’t think my (or Lee’s) perspective has changed all that much. Here’s an excerpt:

“One of the things about this lifestyle is it involves many compromises.  In our sticks and bricks we had created a life that really suited our day-to-day needs.  Obviously it wasn’t good enough or we would never have made the move, but we were comfortable. (I’m never actually comfortable, the best I can shoot for is minimally uncomfortable. – Lee)  Going out on the road is an exercise in getting out of your comfort zone and it seems every decision we make involves compromise of one sort or another.  Compromise is not bad in and of itself, (yes, it is – Lee.) but you really have to be honest with yourself and each other about what really matters to you.”

So let’s talk about this year.  It was a turbulent one and in many respects this year has caused us to go full circle.  We spent the beginning of this year in Texas with our friends Cori and Greg and this year it took over a month for us to find a gate guarding job.  We really weren’t expecting such a big delay and we took a hit to our financials as we waited.  On the plus side we celebrated our first “Friendsgiving” and we able to reconnect with Kelly and Bill.  We finally got a job in December and ended up spending Christmas working in the oil fields.  It wasn’t totally terrible, but certainly not the best Christmas we have ever had, but at that point we were happy to be working again.

On the plus side after Christmas I finally published my autobiography.  I had been working on it for a couple of years and after editing and re-editing I finally was ready to pull the trigger and put it out there.  It was much more nerve wracking than I thought it would be but the response was generally good.  In particular it was nice that my brother and dad both read it because neither of them read the blog.  I learned a lot through the experience, mainly that I love writing and hate editing.  Since I can’t afford a professional editor, I need to do that work myself and that process more than anything else would make me hesitate to do it again.  There is a higher standard for writing a book than writing a blog and my “stream of consciousness style” didn’t really serve me well in that format.  All in all, I’m super glad I did it, not sure if and when I will ever do it again.

Right after the holidays I started seriously thinking about Finding a Consultant Job that fits our lifestyle.  I knew I was unhappy with the status quo but wasn’t exactly sure what type of job would fit.  I knew I needed to loosen up on my criteria though, and started looking for something in the San Antonio area.  I got really far down the path with one company but unfortunately the job was pulled before they hired anyone.  They tried to find me something else in their company but I wasn’t the right fit for any of their openings.  The whole experience really bummed me out especially because I was interviewing while trying to work overnights and scheduling interviews was complicated.  It didn’t help that in the middle of all this we had our 30th anniversary and even though we luckily had a few days off work we didn’t do anything to celebrate it.  Milestones are important to me, but not so much for Lee, and generally we manage to find some middle ground on celebrating them.  This time though nothing we could do felt right and we ended up doing nothing which really bothered me.  I knew I was unhappy with the way things were going and it became obvious that Lee felt the same way.  I had been so focused on myself and my own feelings I didn’t see that he was also struggling.

We were still trying to dig ourselves out of a financial hole though from all that time off so after a few days we started at a new gate.  We were both happy that this one was farther away from the border and we quickly settled into a routine. I kept thinking that the best time to deal with what was happening with us was when we had our month off in April, so kicked the can down the road until then.  When you are gate guarding one of you is always working and its really not the best situation to have serious relationship conversations.  I did write a post, which I never published, called “Cracks in the Foundation.”  I don’t delete many posts without posting them, and when I do it’s definitely not a good commentary on my state of mind.  Here is some of that post:

 

“As the days drag on at the gate, I’ve found that I have lots of time to think.  It’s been hard to put those thoughts into a cohesive post of any kind, which is why I haven’t written in awhile…  I’ve always been a person who looks for patterns or themes in my life, in part to figure out what God/the universe is trying to tell me. But as I stated it’s been a bit chaotic and the only idea that keeps occurring is the concept of foundation… We each have building blocks, and we can assign a simple designation to each of them.  Mother, Wife, Christian, Employee, Traveler, Photographer, Writer are just a few of mine.  These designations make up the unique personality of who I am and form my foundation.  In theory, those foundation blocks should be completely portable… For me, however, it hasn’t been that simple…  There is something about this life, often lived at its most basic, that strips away the noise and shows the core…

When we are traveling there is lots of distraction.  In the beginning, in particular, there were so many pretty and shiny things to look at, that the foundation was largely ignored.  Eventually things slow down and the less pleasant realities of the lifestyle start to appear.  RV repairs, money concerns and family issues all bring a dose of reality to the fantasy, and in many cases impact the foundation… There have been other events that have shown me cracks I didn’t know existed.  Or to be honest I had some inkling, but really didn’t want to look to hard.  If the basement isn’t actually flooding, who cares about the occasional minor leak?  The last month a series of events has me taking a really hard look at several bricks in my foundation. I’m not going to get into the specifics, because they are deeply personal and for the purposes of this post don’t really matter. The point is that at times like these I wonder if those cracks could be addressed easier if I lived a different lifestyle…

In the past when I had difficulty with a portion of my life I would focus on something else.  Marriage issues…work more. Kid trouble…spend more time with husband,  Work problems…focus on home.  I am fully aware that playing hot potato with my problems wasn’t always the best choice, but it was effective.  Things pass, issues work themselves out over time, circumstances changes. All of those things are true. In this stripped down life, that doesn’t feel like an option.  The problems are front and center and in this incredibly small space it is hard to shuttle them to a corner.  There is no unoccupied place to put them…In a perfect world I would love to just fix the cracks and move on. Sometimes that’s not possible.  Sometimes it’s just too painful. Sometimes it’s too scary. Like I said,  I just don’t know. It’s tempting to blame it on the lifestyle, that would be the easy way out.  But I brought this foundation with me. The life is simply the basement stripped clean.”

 

That post was written on February 24th and on March 4th my life turned completely upside down.   Lee had a heart attack.  It wasn’t expected and we were absolutely not prepared.  The one purpose it served was to completely shift the focus and provide a warning shot that we needed to lead a healthier lifestyle.  We quit smoking, went on diets, and both of us started seriously reevaluating our lives.  I also experienced PTSD, although I didn’t recognize it for what it was and didn’t receive help until later in the summer.  It also put on hold any plans about looking for a job.  We needed the time off in April to relax and it made the most sense to return to our jobs in Oregon for the third year in a row.  Lee really wanted to go back and although I was dreading it, I wanted him to have whatever would make him the most comfortable.  So we scheduled our time in Utah and then made plans to head that way.

Utah was the absolute best part of the year.  This was our second month in the state, and we were able to finish seeing several areas we missed the year before.  We saw Bryce Canyon with our friends Deb and Steve and explored Goblin Valley with Deb & Steve and Cori, & Greg,  The absolute best thing that we did was go on a 10 mile hike in Little Wild Horse Canyon.  First, it was one of the best experiences we have had on the road, and just as importantly it showed Lee that he could still be physically active post heart attack.  He actually did better than I did and for both of us it was a big accomplishment.

Right after we arrived at Timothy Lake Jack turned one.  I can’t stress enough what a joy he has been through a very difficult year.  Even when Lee and I weren’t communicating very well with each other, talking about the dog gave us something to work on together.  Jack has taken to the RV life very well, but it has required some adjustment on our parts.  Overall I am so very glad that we got him, but it definitely has changed the way we do things a bit.  Timothy Lake itself was not great.  We met some really nice new people, but there was more of a barrier between seasonal workers and full time employees than ever before.  I thought this year I would be able to work on some special projects, but very little of that actually materialized.  I felt underutilized and once again started thinking about next steps. My daughter was also expecting our first grandchild and I really wanted a job that would enable me to spend more time with her and the baby.

I started looking for full time or long term jobs at the beginning of August and finally in mid August I flew out to see Kyrston and to meet Oliver.  My feelings towards the baby were so strong from the moment we met and I knew I was on the right track looking for a full time position with remote options.  When I went back to Timothy I was honest with my boss and Lee about what I was doing and I worked really hard at work to fully transition my job to a new person since I knew we wouldn’t be coming back the nest year.  I helped select the right person, trained them, and documented everything I could.  I also kept looking for work, although it was definitely more difficult than I initially thought it would be.  Right when I felt I was starting to make progress we got the word that they were letting some couples go from the Work Kamping job and we were one of them.  I was told that because I had trained my replacement I had “pretty much done it to myself,” and we were given a few days to pack up and move on.

Needless to say that experience was the low point of a really crappy year and we were both very angry at being treated that way after three very loyal years of service.  These things happen for a reason though and I firmly believed God had a plan so we headed back down to Texas to see if we could get a gate guarding job to tide us over until I found something permanent.   I should stop here and say Cori & Greg were an absolute lifesaver this year.  Not only did they give us a place to stay several times, they were also unfailingly supportive friends through all this craziness.  We both learned on them pretty heavily and I am incredibly grateful that they are in our lives.

Once we got down to Texas things started heating up.  I was interviewing with multiple companies and Lee was much less resistant to me having a full time position than he initially was. Between the delay in getting a gate, the heart attack medical bills, and getting let go early from PGE we definitely were in a hole and we needed something drastic to dig our way out of it.  He definitely still had his concerns, don’t get me wrong, but he was more open to me working full time again.  To be clear I think eventually we could have worked our way out of it with gate guarding, it just would have taken much longer and for me at least would have been much less rewarding.  Finally on October 7th I started a full-time position and I felt like I could breathe a sigh of relief.

Originally we were going to stay with Cori &  Greg until November 1st, but we had a Facetime with the baby and we both decided on a whim to leave earlier and head east.  We made the drive in three days, got settled in and then went to see the baby which was very special.  The next morning I received word that my nephew had committed suicide and we packed up and moved a few hours inland to be close to my sister near Charlotte.  Having a home on wheels was a blessing in this scenario and having a job even more so.  My new boss was very understanding about my need to be with my family and as a full time employee I got paid for bereavement time.  We stayed with my sister through the week and then came back to Charleston and into the same RV spot.  Our plan is to stay here through the holidays which will allow us to spend time with Oliver and be close in case my sister needs us. We are also working through what our life looks like now that I am working full time again and Lee is figuring out what he wants to do with his time.

Overall this was a year of extreme highs and extreme lows.  Things are by no means perfect and we are still working it out, and considering the year we have had things could definitely be worse.  At this point I am living very much in the here and now, and taking things day by day.  Thank you all for following along, and here are some of my favorite pictures from the year.

Jack helps Cori with her emails.  They are good buddies.

 

Celebrating Kelly’s birthday

 

Merry Christmas

 

We got the fantastic news that our daughter was expecting!!!

 

Jack stares down a herd of cattle in the oil fields

 

Greg fixing Lee’s oxygen. He kept all of us in good spirits.

 

Hobie keeping Jack company

 

Visiting the donkey sanctuary with Linda.

 

Dinner with our friends in Arizona from left: Deb, me, Steve, Guy, Sue, Harry, and Vicki

 

Guy let us borrow his four wheeler to take a ride.  What a terrific experience.  We both loved it.

 

Seeing Bill and Nancy at Lost Dutchman State Park

 

Deb and Hurley at Lone Rock Beach Campground.  It’s one of our favorite boondocking spots.

 

Deb, Steve, Lee and I at Bryce Canyon. It was just as amazing as people say it is.

 

Hurley and Jack playing in Goblin Valley

 

AMAZING boondocking spot outside of Goblin Valley

 

Cori in a super cool slot canyon in Little Wild Horse

 

Deb, Cori, and I at Calf’s Creek Falls

 

Greg, Cori, Lee and I at Devils Garden on our way to Hole in the Rock

 

Shoshone Falls in Idaho was an unexpected treat.

 

Jack goes to Good Manners Class

 

Lovely spot near Bagby Hot Springs

 

My daughter Kyrston and Oliver. I adore this picture

 

My sister Wendy, niece Bailey, daughter Kyrston and me

 

Mom’s first great grand child

 

Dad’s first great grandchild

 

Olivers first fancy dinner.  He was nice and slept as I had one of the best meals of my life with my son-in-law Jeremy, daughter Kyrston and my Dad.

 

Jack got to meet Peyton and Sammy when Jo came to visit!

 

Adding to the giant ball of twine. Bucket list check!!!

 

Seeing our friends Dan and Sharon in Oklahoma City…another state sticker!!!

 

Oliver hangs out in the blanket I cross stitched for him.

 

I adore this child!!!

 

 


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7 thoughts on “Fifth Year – The Emotional Arc

  1. Congrats on completing 5 years! Though our paths have been different we truly understand your perspective, and have so many of the same concerns. But like you, we love the lifestyle and are so glad we took this path! We especially Love ❤️ all our new nomad buddies and have so many wonderful memories with them! We’re extremely happy to have you and Lee in our life, and we look forward to seeing you and exploring all the cool spots for many years to come!!!

  2. Wonderful post from the heart. So glad things are going well now. Working a career position on the road is the only way to go if you have the education and experience which you have. Good luck next year.

  3. I just realized I never commented on this post and I have one word: BRAVO! Once again, you are so good at putting otherwise very complicated things into simple understandable terms. Love this post! Love that you and Lee are our friends and we’ve gotten to share this crazy life we lead with you! Hugs! ♥️

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