Travel Interruptions – Anomaly or Pattern?

If you read our last post, you know that once again our travel plans were interrupted, which got me thinking about whether travel interruptions are actually part of the full time pattern rather than anomalies.  When we first went on the road six years ago, we knew the occasional interruption would happen, but neither of us had any idea how frequently that would happen.  There is a common phrase in the FT world, “Our plans are written in mud,” which we use in these cases, but again we always thought that these interruptions were the exception rather than the rule.  Since I am a process analyst by profession, I thought I would take a moment and look at our history to see if that is actually true.  “Special cause variation”, as we call it in my field, ceases to special cause when there are enough instances that it is part of the norm.  Let’s take a minute and look back and find out. (YAY! Science! Math – Lee)   

The timeline is as follows.  Please keep in mind that some of these dates are estimated as the blog posts don’t say the exact dates.  For the purposes of this post its close enough, though.  Also in almost every single case things could have been so much worse.  This is not a litany of complaints about what has happened so much as an exploration about whether these types of travel interruptions should be expected.   Certainly we had issues other times in our six years on the road, but they happened when we were sitting still and because there was no impact on travel I have not included them here. This is only to examine the frequency and severity with which things interrupted planned travel.

11/15/2014 – We started on the road. (And it was all downhill from there….-Lee) Four months later……

3/29/2015 – Our first interruption came when we were establishing residency in Florida. We thought it would take two days, but due to a weird quirk with how car titles are handled in New Hampshire it took around 10 days to complete the process.  We were able to find a place to stay, but we ended up skipping our trip to Savannah and it took us 5 more years to get a chance to visit the city!  Six months later……

10/19/2015 – Our second interruption came when Lee put regular fuel in our diesel tank.  In a nutshell this destroyed our engine and it took three weeks to replace.  I think it is important to note here that many of these incidents would likely not have happened if we were not traveling so much.  I can’t imagine Lee making that mistake if he had been fueling at our neighborhood station. The constant unfamiliarity of being in new places increases the risk of error. I say that because the additional pressure of travel can make mistakes much more common, and I have seen this played out with ourselves and our friends many times.  Feel free to disagree, but I think that is an important point.  We were able to stay at our volunteer job until it was done, but it was very stressful as we were very concerned we might get snowed in.   In this case we ended up missing a trip to Yosemite and we have still not had a chance to go there. Five months later…

4/29/2016 – A few days after our RV turned two and lost its manufacturers warranty we had a broken shackle.  This meant we couldn’t move it for four days and although we were able to get the repair done pretty quickly we missed a trip to see my daughter’s new apartment in Charleston right when she moved there with her boyfriend, who is now her husband.  We were lucky that the campground we were leaving extended our reservation, and the two of them were able to drive up and see us for one day. This was also really stressful because Lee had a commitment to work at a rally, but thankfully we were able to make that commitment on time. Nine months later….

1/9/2017 – After several work kamping jobs (including a trip to Alaska) Lee noticed one of our tires was more or less out of tread, and our furnace had also stopped working.  Because we thought the tire might be a bent frame we had to take it to a service bay for the first time.  The furnace work was started by a mobile RV tech but not finished because he got in an accident so we decided to take it to Camping World.  Long story short we changed our plans and lost staying on Padre Island.  More importantly we later learned Camping World didn’t actually fix either of our problems.  Because we were under pressure to start another job, we ended up kicking those cans down the road.  We did get to see Padre the following year. Nine months later…..

10/13/2017 – After finishing our work kamping job in Oregon, Lee was concerned enough about the frame that we headed to Indiana to get our Mor -Ryde suspension upgraded.  In all fairness this was something we had talked about doing from the beginning, but instead of scheduling it out it became a must-do and once again we were sort of racing the weather clock. The upgrade itself only cost us a few days, and we managed to take a few days along the way to see Deb and Steve, but it was not the break either of us had hoped for after several months of consecutively working.

10/27/2017 – We had been carrying a storage unit at this point for over two years and felt some pressure to get it cleaned out.  Because it was in New England, time of year was a factor so when my Mom was looking to relocate to Myrtle Beach, Lee and I split up and he went north and I went south.  I am including this activity in this list because it did stop us from using that time for something fun.  I think our rationale at the time was our schedule was already screwed up by the Mor-Ryde upgrade so we might as well get that out of the way too. All in it was about a week. (We also were pretty sure we wouldn’t be back in the New England or Ohio area for a few years. – Lee) Four months later…..

3/21/2018 – For quite some time, Lee was concerned about our slide floor where the washing machine was.  I had spilled a bottle of fabric softener on the floor which soaked into the floor and never dried, and over time the plywood in the slide floor started to swell and bulge.  Finally Lee was concerned that we would no longer be able to close the slide if we didn’t get it fixed and made arrangements for us to meet a repair tech who had previously worked at Open Range.  We also needed our slides adjusted and again Danny’s Open Range experience was critical.  All in we lost ten days to the repairs (Danny could only work on us around his FT job), but at least we were both happy with the experience.  We were supposed to go to Big Bend National Park during this time period, which we have still never gone to.

3/26/2018 – As we were leaving getting the repairs done and finally were on our way to meet some friends the truck brakes started grinding.  Lee had an oil change and brake check not so long before this happened and was immediately concerned we might have lost a brake pad. Because we pull our fifth wheel with our truck we needed to stop pretty quickly and luckily got an appointment had a service dealer to fix the problem.  It was covered by warranty, but caused another delay and the time we had free before our next rally was getting shorter.  We also received an error code on our jacks and were unable to unhitch.  We decided to stay hitched until we got to the rally so we wouldn’t lose anymore time.    I let loose in a blog post called My Least Favorite Part of Full-timing.  This was the first I stopped treating these incidents as one-off and acknowledged it might be the cost of doing business.  Thankfully we got looking and only lost one day with our friends, but as usual it could have been much worse. Seven months later….

10/20/2018 – We were heading to Texas to get a gate after leaving Vegas and Lee got sick.  He has been super healthy most of the time on the road, but he was really ill.  First we talked about stopping in Joshua Tree, but Lee didn’t want to drive those extra miles, then we talked about stopping in Big Bend for a few days, but the rain and lack of cell signal were both a concern.  Ultimately we headed straight to Greg and Cori’s so we could get on a list for a gate as soon as possible.  Money was absolutely a factor in this decision, but what started it all was Lee not feeling well.  I can and do drive part of most days, but Lee handles most of the driving and he had a serious case of the flu.  We lost roughly 10 days of “fun time” due to these factors and since we had so little time between jobs it was definitely a bummer. Four months later…

3/1/2019 – While working at a gate and trying to recoup the money we had lost due to getting a late start, Lee had a heart attack.  We had to immediately leave that job and ended up with several thousand dollars worth of medical bills.  Our original plan had been to stop gate guarding around the 15th and start heading west, but he needed time to recuperate. As it was we probably should have waited longer, but Lee had a paying gig lined up and we really needed the money.  The final outcome was that we drove straight to Phoenix with only a brief stop to see our friends Howard and Linda.  There is a campground I have been wanting to stop at along the way, but we couldn’t afford the extra days. Five months later….

8/30/2019 – After losing some wages and having medical bills money was tight, but we made good money at our summer gig on Mt. Hood outside of Portland, and felt we could get back on track and take a much needed month off.  Our plan was to head east and see our daughter Kat in Minnesota for a couple of weeks and then make our way down to Texas stopping in Arkansas along the way.  Unfortunately we were downsized from our work kamping job due to budget cuts and we had to go straight to Texas and get in line for gate guarding jobs.  I was also actively interviewing for corporate jobs as well, but we knew if nothing came from that search we were going to need money as soon as possible.  Thankfully I was able to start working a corporate job October 7th, but we still lost seeing our daughter Kat. Seven months later….

3/1/2020 – About the time we were planning on starting to travel again, COVID hit.  Like so many other people we were completely grateful that we could shelter in place, and although we had lots of discussions since I was lucky enough to have a job we didn’t have to travel.  This would have been very different if I didn’t have an income, because at the same time fuel prices dropped off a cliff, and many gate guard jobs were eliminated.  Again, like so many other we were happy we had a place to stay, but we had to cancel trips to see Kat (AGAIN), our youngest daughter Kay, in D.C. before she left the air Force, our Grandson’s first birthday party (along with Kyrston and Jeremy), and our parents.  All in we lost a full four months of travel due to the pandemic, but like I said, it could have been so much worse. Five months later….

8/16/2020 – We were lucky enough to spend a month with Kat and her boyfriend, in Minneapolis, but we planned a special two weeks of travel and sightseeing in the Upper Penninsula of MI,  where we have never been.  Unfortunately the day before we were planning on heading out we got hit by another vehicle in a McDonald’s parking lot.  Once again it could have been much worse but by the time we got the truck back our plans were in shambles. We lost the entire two weeks.  Plus we were facing where we would stay Labor Day weekend, so ultimately we will save UP for another time, and just head straight to Columbus.  This two weeks stung, because we have done so little this year and really wanted to explore traveling while I have my new job.

Here is a summary:

Obviously Covid is an outlier, but I still think there is a definite pattern.  We have had an average of greater than two instances a year for six years, and 12% downtime in days.  If you think that is an overstatement because of Covid, that’s fair.  Let’s take this year out of the equation and look at it another way.  Below is a rough estimate of how many days we worked or volunteered in one location.  I am not including the time I spent working my corporate jobs as working days but are showing them as location free days, because theoretically I could do it anywhere.

 

As you can see from above we worked in fixed locations 1018 days over the course of 5 years.  This meant that 56% of the time we were in one place for work.  Obviously we were in fixed locations for longer than that, but for the purposes of this lets just talk about the work stays.  That left 807 location free days.  Removing COVID from the equation in that five year period we had 106 interruption days which was roughly 13%.  Pretty close to to the 12 % above.

Based on these two slices of the data I think it is a fair projection that at least 10% of our time will be taken up by these types of incidents.  Certainly some of these would happen whatever lifestyle we were living, but  I cannot stress enough how extra complicated those things can be when you are traveling.  I would love to say that there are great technicians, auto mechanics, and doctors everywhere, but that has not been our experience.

For us so far it has been largely worth the cost, but it is also important to start being honest about the trend.  It would be much easier on our relationship if we quit treating these as anomalies and instead viewed them as a normal cost of living this lifestyle.  (I think that sentence might be one of the most important things she has ever written, so I am going to repeat if to make sure nobody missed it. I know everyone just scans through these posts looking for the stuff in italics, anyway. – Lee)

It would be much easier on our relationship if we quit treating these as anomalies and instead viewed them as a normal cost of living this lifestyle.

I am in no way trying to discourage anyone from trying the full timing lifestyle out but as always I believe accurate information helps people to make better decisions and be more realistic.

I know it would have done that for us.


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