by Nanci Dixon
I started asking myself that question when we were in Yellowstone without (gasp) internet. There in the deep woods I could not distract myself with Pinterest or Facebook or Google or even much email.
Now, as we return to the place where we began six months ago, what have I learned on this continual journey? This journey of driving and stopping, setting up camp, tourist spots, hiking, cooking, eating, cleaning, meeting lots of people, and taking down camp. Am I learning anything about life?
After all, I am closer toward the end of life than the beginning. It would be a shame to go out with as many questions and concerns as I had in my somewhat turbulent youth.
I have learned that people are generally nice and kind and welcoming. Nowhere have we met unkind people or unfriendly people while camping and traveling. If there are those who are mean, judgmental, or prejudiced, they tend to just recede, unnoticed and alone.
Each of us has special gifts. My husband’s is all about interaction with people. He lives to joke, talk, and connect with others. I, on the other hand, am straight forward, and all about business. I manage the itinerary; he makes it fun to get there (most times). He rejuvenates with people and I refresh without them. He is always glad there are lots of people to talk with at all campgrounds!
I have learned that joy is not in the destination– it must be in the journey. There is no real destination when full-time RVing. The squiggly lines on the map look short but may be long to travel. Time spent at the destination may be short but the journey may be long. Looking back, that is so true of many things: the joy with our children was not getting them finally out of diapers, to grade school, to high school, college, and on their own; it was the joy of the camping trips, the birthday celebrations, movie nights, their laughter, their snuggles, and tears.
There is vast unique and natural beauty all around us. I have been amazed at the diversity of the land as we travel. Getting out of our usual scenery and belief of what beauty is has opened us up to see the desolate beauty in the wind swept desert, the variety of rocks, to notice the small lizards skittering across trails, the majesty of the lodgepole pines, soaring canyons, rushing rivers, and the simple minutiae of life. It is spiritual and brings me closer to a divine power.
We need so little. I am amazed how little stuff we need. Living in a motorhome means that we have shed most of our belongings already. I continue to get rid of more stuff that I once considered essential but now it is clear that I do not need 12 turtlenecks, 15 T-shirts, 20 pairs of socks, and enough dinnerware for a party! Now if I could only convince my husband of the same in his closet…
Shopping is no longer fun. There is no room. Where I once wandered the aisles at stores and tourist destinations, I now swiftly go through them without a glance. Recreational shopping is pointless. Grocery shopping is essential.
Retirement is a great equalizer. No one cares what I used to do, what career I had, or who I used to be. My job meant so much to me, it was my identity. People used to ask what I did for a living; now, no one does.
Camping is also a great equalizer. Social economics mean little on the road and less in the campgrounds. A pop up camper can be parked next to a multi-million dollar motorhome and everyone is friendly, helpful, and talkative.
There are only a few campgrounds, usually called “Premium RV Resorts,” that are particular about who they let in. Some only allow Class A motorhomes less than ten years old, so the RV resort’s aesthetic and asking price is maintained. We went to several of them when we started, just to see what they were like. Because we had our motorhome painted, it is now difficult to tell what it is or how old it is. After sending the required photo they allow us in despite the age. But we found we prefer a lot more diversity.
What used to be “home” is no longer our home. It’s a rather odd feeling to be going back “home” but not have a brick and mortar house to go back to. We will soon be camping near our old house and visiting our kids, grandkids, and neighbors. But we will just be visiting.
Like the bumper stickers, t-shirts, and plaques we have seen along the way:
Home really is where you park it.
Nanci and her husband are full-time RVers, traveling in a 40′ motorhome. They spend their winters being park hosts in the Southwest, and love to boondock. Recently they added 1000 watts of solar power and a large AGM battery bank to their RV. Nanci retired as a food photographer at General Mills. One of her goals is to visit all of the National Parks.