Updated: Dec 2, 2019
Planning my dream. Life on the road in an RV. Lots of learning and practice trips ahead before I sold my house. As a solo traveler with no experience, it was a gutsy move. But looking back, am I ever glad I took the leap!
Yes I can and if I can, so can you! The YIKES! Can I do it? was a mix of stage fright, fear of flying and jumping off the high diving board. Yup that scary! Fourteen years in Florida and as beautiful as it had been, I knew it was time for a move and a change. But what? And where? Did not have a clue. All I knew is that I wasn't ready to settle down as people often do when they get to be my age. Not even close!
“I loved my consulting work and planned to continue. Live and work on the road: could I do it? No clue. I decided to invent my new future, day by day. The epitome of living in the unknown!
How it all started...
A weekend camping trip with my sister and brother-in-law in their travel trailer had triggered the idea of this nomad life. A wanderlust dream that I initially kept to myself. But not for long. I couldn't help blurting it out: "Do you think I could learn how to hitch and haul a trailer?" I asked. You see I'd never been a camper before. Their answer: a resounding "YES". With no camping experience and being one of the least mechanically inclined individuals I know, it seemed like a reckless pipe dream. A dream that was destined to become reality much faster than I could have imagined. Their encouragement was like the green light that said: "Go!"
Time to Shop for a Trailer
I didn't waste any time. At first, I considered a small A-Liner figuring I could handle that. But then, how would I ever have enough room for all my stuff – especially what I needed for work: printer, computers, books, files, etc.?
I spent a few weeks trying to figure that out – picturing my life working and living full time on the road. Very quickly, I realized that the idea of a mini trailer was absolutely RIDICULOUS for my circumstances. I gulped hard. Ok can I get a bigger size? And no I don’t want a Motorhome or a little van. That would not work with my work/play lifestyle. I wanted the flexibility of a separate vehicle.
For days, I could hardly think of anything else. I was consumed with my project and could not put it out of my head. What were my options? Suddenly I was reading everything I could put my hands on about RV’s, listening to hard core trailer maintenance videos and asking everyone I knew: my garage mechanic, former VP wood operations who oversaw heavy equipment for a billion$ company, the wife of a former colleague who drove and towed a 30-foot trailer and the list went on and on. Everyone assured me that I could do this. But I wasn’t totally convinced. Safety was uppermost in my mind.
I watched my brother-in-law like a hawk trying to absorb everything he did as he hitched and unhitched his travel trailer. My sister was just as knowledgeable as he. Not reassuring to know that they had been camping for more than 30 years. I had less than 30 days, even thinking about it.
Finally I gulped hard, bit the bullet and within a month, I bought a Grand Cherokee Jeep (with a factory installed hitch and sufficient towing capacity) and a 25-foot Forest River Micro Light trailer with a Murphy bed. Boy was I excited... and scared!
Most pros would have recommended that I buy a truck. But somehow I hadn't reached the point where I could see myself as a trucker. Towing weight is extremely important when you're hauling. I knew that. I had done my research. Tow weight was an important consideration when I was shopping for my trailer. Luckily I discovered that a Jeep with a factory installed towing packaging would suffice for the trailer I wanted. It was a good call. Today I'm still madly in love with my Jeep and RV. Smooth ride if you travel at reasonable speeds and avoid traveling in heavy winds.
My Trailer Tire Phobia
Another critical factor that gave me the jitters was trailer tires. A heated topic of conversation in the trailer world. The issue was China bomb tires to be more exact (slang term for new RV tires). Many stories on the web about tire blowouts on brand new trailers. Scary and dangerous. There was lots of conflicting information on the subject which caused me quite a bit of anxiety. No clear cut answers plus I knew I had a lot to learn. For example, about recommended maximum driving speeds, towing weight, hot and cold inflation rates, regular monitoring of tire pressure, etc. Many veteran campers tried to reassure me but to no avail. I wasn't going to take any chances, not as a solo traveling nomad.
Turns out I made the right decision as the photos here show. Yup a visible tire bubble on the rim of one of my new tires that definitely could have become a serious problem. I only discovered it as the new replacement tires were being installed. Not the only silver lining behind my decision. I also befriended the tire experts and got a fast education. Plus I could not help but notice the respect I received at the garage from my questions and evident commitment to learning. This would be the beginning of an accelerated learning journey. One that confirms my passionate belief about today's workplace. We can learn at any age; indeed it's critical that organizations provide a robust and continuous learning environment.
Camping World is my Disney World
Part of my education was learning about the equipment I would need to safely hitch, haul and live in my trailer. Luckily I was given a detailed shopping list by my brother-in-law and sis, for the mechanical items ~ complete with pictures and links. Brake control system, tow mirrors, GPS with a back camera, weight distribution hitch with anti-sway bars, leveling blocks, sewer hose kit and dumping rubber hose gloves, a level, lithium grease, electrical adapter, RV water hose, regulator and filters, rapid dissolving toilet paper and the list goes on. Also part of the great unknown was learning how little or how much I would need to navigate my daily living needs on the road versus having a house.
Unlimited Internet Service an Absolute Must
Another aspect of trailer life was anticipating what daily living on the road would be like. With minimal space compared to a home, it was quite a challenge to know without experiencing it how that would work. My first priority was to establish reliable and abundant internet access -- a deal breaker in my case. Luckily Verizon had just come out with unlimited service and I soon discovered that my basic needs would be covered with an unlimited plan on my cell phone, tablet, a jet pack and a cable booster. For those times when I'd be downloading lots of files or participating and hosting sessions on line, I'd visit friends or find fast speed WiFi service. Working on the road had become more than a dream. It was a reality.
The Joys of House and Home on the Road
During my first month as a trailer owner, when I still had my house, I spent a month living there full time. It was close to my home and it gave me the opportunity to get a feel for the things I absolutely needed and what I might be missing. My love affair for this new mobile life began from the first day. Difficult to describe; all I know I was hooked immediately and that feeling has only grown stronger. Every day I discover something new. Very little that I miss. Living in Open Space on the Open Road is my chosen destiny.
A Queen Size Murphy bed that fits nicely over the pull-out couch and a kitchen area that can double up as my work office on the road. The bottom bunk at the other end of the trailer has been repurposed for my office supplies and printer.
Important Life Lessons
This simple statement of “I don’t know” coupled with “What do you think?” had people flocking to me to help. Without any reservation or embarrassment whatsoever, I asked for help, readily admitting my complete lack of knowledge. It was so freeing and fun.
It made me realize that no sooner are we out of grade school or maybe even earlier, we quickly learn that “knowing” has far greater currency than “not knowing”. In our work lives, the higher up you get on the totem pole of corporate life, the less you say “I don’t know”. And yet it’s behind that “I don’t know” that life delivers the biggest gifts of learning, creating, sharing and collaborating. And what lurks there too is the exhilaration of all that you can learn when you aren’t paralyzed with the fear of failing, looking stupid or feeling not enough.
The magic of saying "I don't know" led to many bold life decisions for me. My hope is that companies will also recognize that true value is created when we can learn together rather than expecting people to know it all.