Wednesday, October 27, 2010

13 Steps to a Journey to Be Remembered


“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey,

and every journey begins with a dream.

Your lessons come from the journey.”

~Elva Miranda~

1. Dream

In 2002, I was divorced with a teenage son getting ready to graduate from high school and go to college, so I began my search for the right partner to share my future journey with. I felt the safest route would be to find someone through a dating service so that I could have more control finding someone with my same goals. After interviewing over 20 applicants, I finally met Chuck, who I immediately fell in love with. He had all the right answers and was on the same page as I. After dating for about two years, we decided to get married so that we could begin our plans for retirement and full time travelling in a motor home.

We purchased a stick home that we would live in until our retirement in 2008. After purchasing our home we also purchased a MCI 102 A3 bus so that we could convert it into a piece of Wheel Estate that would meet our personal expectations; however, after three more years we decided to sell it and purchase a 1998 Safari Serengeti that just about fell onto our laps. Money-wise it would be cheaper to purchase the Serengeti rather than convert the bus, plus we could realize our dream of traveling full-time sooner.

We have a total of five children together, three boys and two girls. One boy lives in Northern California, one boy lives in Southern California, One girl lives in Colorado, and one boy and girl live in New Jersey; so we are not lacking in children to visit. We are proud to say that all five children have been to college and have sustainable jobs, especially in today’s economy; one less thing to worry about while following our journey.

At this writing we have also been blessed with five grandchildren, four boys and one girl. While stationary in our house we were unable to visit them and missed a lot of their growing up. However, now that we are more mobile we can visit them on a more regular basis.

2. Plan

Included in the planning for our journey was registering for clubs that would allow us to learn more about the full-time lifestyle. We joined FMCA, Escapees, information Boards, Camp USA, KOA, Workamper News, Bus Conversion Magazine, and attended Rallies that pertained to our upcoming lifestyle.

Upon retirement, my husband and I would have our retirement income; plus, after selling the house, bus, and cars, we were able to pay off all our credit cards and leave our stick house with no bills that carried interest rates. The only bills we kept were monthly cell phone payments and one storage facility. We have a checking account that we also use as a Master Card and we use that only if there is money in the checking account. Money comes out of our checking account to pay for gas, RV parks we stay at, one storage facility, food and incidentals, holiday/birthday gifts, and hair/doctor appointments. On a limited income, budgeting is a must.

We will also be working as volunteer work campers at RV parks in return for full hook-up sites, which will save us money on paying for our stay at RV parks, plus explore the area we are staying at. Since I am a crafter, I will also be selling my crafts during the holiday season; and have been asked to teach these skills.

3. Give

Moving out of our stick house required getting rid of all our unneeded belongings. We had the option of selling them, but chose to give to our family, the community and needy, and the rest we put in storage.

We decided to keep a storage facility with possessions that we would need if our health failed and we need to settle into a stick home again.

4. Wheel Estate

We searched the internet both far and wide for the perfect used piece of Wheel Estate. We decided to go with “used” because that’s not only what our pocketbook allowed, but also the well-known fact that “used” or “older” motor homes were better made than the newer ones on the market. A new RV can be very expensive and will depreciate faster than most other vehicles. Check the used RV ads to see for yourself; whereas, a used RV will depreciate much more slowly.

Craig’s List, eBay, and internet searches for the specific motor home we were looking for only produced a lot of anxiety and disappointments. We quickly found out that nice pictures don’t mean the coach looks like, or performs as indicated by the person who posted it. We traveled to Idaho, Texas, Washington, California, and Arizona; but in the end, after almost giving up, we walked into a Camping World and saw the motor home of our dreams, a 1998 Safari Serengeti with only 35,000 miles on it. I was also impressed with all the storage, inside and in the Bay. The only turn-off was the slide-out, but we decided there was only one and small enough so that concerns were inhibited. The previous owner took excellent care of it by keeping it housed in a garage and hardly used it since first purchasing it in 1998; and it still had that new smell. We made an offer on it and to our surprise the dealer accepted less than we expected. We literally walked out of there as “happy campers.”

Now that we had the motor home of our dreams we could continue our plan for selling the house and getting rid of its contents.

5. Compatibility

We first realized that we both had the ability to live in a small space together when we rented a Pleasure Way Van in Colorado in 2004. The van came equipped with a couch that made into a double bed, small TV in a nice wood cabinet, closet, shower and toilet, microwave, stove, small refrigerator, kitchen sink, and storage for utensils, canned goods, and bedding. We would also be using black, gray, and regular water tanks. After staying in the van for one week, that included rain, snow, sun, enjoying the same foods, and loving the same destinations, we approved of our interaction as a team and realized that we were growing closer as a married couple and that our compatibility was enhanced by our organization and teamwork.

Knowing that we both loved to travel and that we loved the motor home lifestyle, we decided to include in our journey, the dream of living in a motor home full-time.

6. Communication

If you want to live happily in your RV without disagreements or disputes, communication skills are a must. Since you will be living in a small space you both have to be on the same page. Communicating your destinations, likes and dislikes, and goals; you must be ready at all times to converse them to your partner.

Do not take for granted that your partner is thinking the same as you. It helps to be on the same page, but how you portray that page can make or break a relationship.

If you leave the RV to go shopping, always have your cell phone, or at least agree with your partner on a time you will be home so no one is worrying.

The same goes with family. You will be on the road so they will be worrying about how you are doing during your travels. Call them at certain times during the week or month to let them know your whereabouts and your health.

Write blogs or articles (suggestion:,,, on your trips and communicate with other RVers with like interests (Suggestions:, My,

7. Organized

Everything must be organized and placed in easily accessible and memorable places; you don’t need the added frustration of trying to find something that is needed in an emergency.

Organization must include how and when bills are paid, filing system, house wares, bath wares, cleaning and laundry products, clothing and shoe storage, map storage, refrigerator, food cabinets, bedding, crafts and sewing, garbage, medications, cosmetics and hair products, cell phone and camera chargers, computer and printer areas, dirty clothes hamper, jewelry, money, when to do laundry, when to clean motor home inside and out, organize under bay, tow car, motorcycle, books, co-pilot and pilot seats with needs at hand for traveling, rolling of clothes to fit more into drawers, place for mail, and desk needs.

Don’t forget to organize your schedule to include cleaning the motor home inside and out and laundry days. There’s nothing worse than clutter and dirt. You’re not living in a stick home with extra space for items that are not useful. If you have clothing or items you’re not using, give them away. Uncluttered, clean, and organized space can make living in a small space more enjoyable and livable.

8. Comfort

Be prepared for variances of weather especially if you’re traveling during the winter season. Always carry clothing for hot and cold weather. Make sure what you bring clothing that fits you and that it is something you will wear; otherwise it will take up extra space in your motor home that you don’t have.

We love animals but chose not to have them because of the extra care for them that we ordinarily would not have to worry about if it’s just the two of us. We have been blessed with pets that belong to our two daughters. One daughter has two dogs and one daughter has two cats, all with “Z” sounding names – Zorro, Zena, Zelda, and Xiao (the “X” is pronounced with a Z). We are very close to all four of them and are greeted by them with welcoming barks and purrs. We thought about the extra time and money we would have towards medical expenses, babysitting, space in the motor home, clean-up, food, stops for going to the bathroom, and the list goes on. Our thinking is that we are both retired and the time spent traveling should be towards the two of us. However, the benefit of having a pet or pets is the unconditional love and protection that they give. The decision to have a pet/pets should be agreed upon by both of you, or you may have a “make or break” situation.

Our Ford Van is towed behind the motor home. We not only use it as our drive-around vehicle, but it also acts as an extra storage area or sleeper with couch that makes into a bed. Storage such as spare tires, my crafts, files, extra food is kept here. If we need to leave the RV at a park and take the van to camp in, as it has a couch that makes into a bed, porta potty, TV, etc., we will then place those storage items in the RV until we return.

9. Meals

Meals should be fast and easy to prepare. On the menu are healthy frozen foods and desserts, and fresh fruits and vegetables. If we’re in a campground for an extended time, we BBQ, crock pot, or use the Convection oven or propane stove.

If we are boon docking, we use paper plates and spoons as they are easy to dispose of and we don’t worry about having to use the extra water to wash them. When we are at RV parks work camping or traveling, there’s plenty of water so we use our real spoons and dishes to save on the cost of paper goods.

10. Doctor and Personal Care

Since my husband and I are both 60+, we make sure we take our vitamins and medications daily. We have excellent health insurance that carried over when we retired. We are also looking forward to Medicare when the time comes.

Doctor appointments are scheduled when we visit the area where our doctors are. Realizing the importance of tuning into our body and maintaining our health over 60 years old, we are adamant about keeping fit.

Personal care such as teeth, eyes, hair, and feet, are part of keeping fit and should be taken care of on a regular basis also. Since we travel and I’m the only one with hair between the two of us, I make sure it is styled and colored when needed. I visit Paul Mitchell Beauty College wherever we are stationed and my personal beauty needs are taken care of at less than half the cost of beauty salons.

11. Destinations

Unless you are work camping, join all the memberships you can to assure discounts at RV parks you wish to visit. Make sure to ask the reservation clerk what memberships are honored. Some of the memberships are: AAA, Passport America, Camping World, KOA, Good Sam.

While work camping we also include in our plans visiting other states and area points of interest.

12. Work Camping

Build your resume and web site; we did ours as a couple. As we build our experience as work campers, we will be updating that resume with our newly acquired skills acquired together. Make sure you have a picture of you and your motor home on your joint resume.

Just starting out and with no experience as work campers, we still were able to obtain work camper positions as newbie’s. We emailed our resume to campgrounds in areas we were interested in, joined Workamper News, Escapees, Facebook, Craig’s List, and KOA; all of whom we emailed our resume to positions that were in classified ads, or we expressed our interest for any work available. We also include a cover letter when we email our resume.

While you are work camping, mail from your mail-forwarding service can be sent to the Post Office in the town you are in, or at your Work Camping site.

13. Troubleshooting and Learning From Our Mistakes

Our first few months full-timing presented us with some unforeseen problems, but thinking them out logically saved us a lot of money. Some of the problems we had were as follows:

· Slide-out

As we were traveling, my husband noticed the slide-out wasn’t closing completely. He put a heavy piece of wood that supported the slide-out inside until we were in a place he could look at the under-bay and figure out the problem. Fluid was leaking from the hose and causing an hydraulic problem, so he took out the old one, put in a new more durable one, and solved the problem without the added expense of having it fixed in a shop.

· Sun Visor

The shade that acted as a sun visor from the sun wasn’t working properly as the movement from the coach caused it to slowly rise up. My husband took the visor down. He cut a piece of sun sensor material that adheres to the glass, allowing me to slap it on when the sun is blasting down on me.

· Steel spoon fell Into the black tank

One night after dinner I washed the dishes, took the dirty soapy water to the toilet to pour it into the black tank and I heard a clink. I let out a loud scream because I knew I just dumped a steel fork or spoon down the toilet. My husband looked at me and knew what I just did. He quietly got up, went to storage under the RV and pulled out a magnetic probe. After putting on rubber gloves and while holding the probe, he gently put his arm down the toilet hole and clink, he retrieved the fork. Talk about "stirring the pot."

· Vented or non-vented washer/dryer

After purchasing our motor home and researching the difference between vented or non-vented washer/dryers, we decided to trade our non-vented into a vented. Non-vented are known to be frustrating to use as your clothes are not completely dry, but the vented will dry your clothes completely in less time; therefore, eliminating the frustration of wasting extra time to dry a small amount of clothes.

· Funny black tank smell when parked at an RV Park

Every time we stopped at an RV Park and hooked up the tank hose connection, our motor home would suddenly have this awful methane smell. At first we thought it was the black tank, but it turned out to be coming from the park’s black tank disposal where the black tank hose connected.

How? Since our washer/dryer wasn’t hooked up the water wasn’t flushing through that part of the pipe so the trap door to the blank tank stays open and thus the awful smell from the disposal. My husband poured water where the trap door is and the smell immediately disappeared. Of course, this was a temporary fix until we could hook up the washer/dryer.

· Alternator not working right

A wire shook loose from all the bumpy roads we were traveling on so my husband was able to repair it himself. He saved us from having to buy a new alternator.

These 13 steps have made the beginning of our journey more successful and enjoyable. It’s only the beginning, but we’re off to a great start and hope that some of the steps we used will help in not only beginning your journey but make it one to be remembered.