Life on the road brings with it many unexpected surprises. We travel with destinations in mind, but what we discover along the way is often more meaningful. When travel reveals something as special as a previously unknown landscape, charmed town, history or cultural nuance that is when the journey becomes the destination. Often what catches us off guard are little things like the quality of sunlight in a specific place, the different colors of rivers, or the cultural juxtaposition of Texas and Wyoming cowboys. The U.S. is a country of regions and sub regions each offering unique experiences. Most of this was unknown to me prior to our travels, minus my impressions through media and brief vacation stays. While well known landmarks like major cities, national parks, and storied locations are impressive and provide a travel guide, it is the discoveries along the way that are the sweet filling that make RV travel so delicious.
Cultural references take on new life and meaning when experienced first hand. When a country song references “a good-bye town,” I know exactly what that is. I’ve been to a Hootenanny, know why it is called bluegrass music, and have tasted Carolina Gold. I can tell the difference between a Kentucky and a Georgia drawl. I have seen places where races and cultures mix well, and others where there is a dividing line through town (and they are not where you’d think). I know why Northern Californians dis-like Southern, and that Oregon and Washington want nothing do with either.
One of the ways Alayne and I afford to be full-time RVers is by volunteering in exchange for an RV site, and soon workamping for a wage. In general, we enjoy the work and experiences. However, two were less than positive, one of which, we felt completely taken advantage of. It surprised us early on, that there were few resources for volunteers and workampers to share their experiences; to help each other avoid bad situations and provide encouragement for the good. Recently we launched a website to do just this, provide a voice for workampers and volunteers.
WorkampingReviews.com is in its early stages of compiling reviews. This easy to use website is completely free and requires no registration. It also allows users to post anonymously. This new resource needs people to submit reviews to get the ball rolling. If you have a volunteer or workamping experience to share, please do, so this becomes a helpful and powerful resource for all.
Maturing as full-time RV’ers and travelers has happened quickly for us. In a little over a year we have crossed the country 3 times, seen fifteen National Parks, stayed in everything from parking lots to luxury resorts, and we’re starting our fourth volunteer workamping job. Phew! It has been a year full of adventures, but also learning.
Fifteen months ago we were naïve and knew almost nothing about RV’s, campgrounds, workamping, or even about this country a couple hundred miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean. Alayne and I felt compelled to shake up life a bit and explore. There is something about throwing oneself into the unknown that creates a quick learning curve, and draws upon resources previously unknown. Living life on the road is not all smooth sailing and kicking back at campgrounds. It is waking up and not knowing where you are, or where the grocery store is. It is flat tires and blow outs, broken refrigerators and roof repairs. It is all the things life throws at us, with the extra element of disorientation and a lot less space. It is about becoming comfortable outside the comfort zone, and most importantly learning to listen. Continue reading →
The diversity of this country’s people is almost as broad and unique as its landscapes. Growing up on the east coast surrounded by colonial, Revolutionary and Civil War history, which I considered the important stuff, it has been easy to forget or fail to see the other histories in the United States. Mexico, Spanish, Native American and even the French, controlled parts of this country only several generations ago. These influences are felt and apparent today in architecture, art, food, culture and even the spirit of a place. Somewhere I heard that America is less of melting pot and more of a salad, and I believe that is more accurate. The people in New York might be tomatoes, while Texas is a pepper, and Oregon a cucumber, the regions all play a part in this dish. Onions may be disliked by some, it does not mean they do not have value and add to the medley.
Maybe it was turning 40 last year or a period of expanding awareness that encouraged me (us) to step off into the unknown. Looking over the past decade, while filled with events and changes, I felt as I had slept through several years on automatic pilot. Much of my life was filled with only semi-conscious hours and it was moving quickly. Life had developed a predictable rhythm; it was comfortable and easy to keep in synch. I had routines to fill the hours and the same thoughts filling passing days.
There is no escaping it, 40 is middle age. Though I still feel young, approximately half the time I have been given has been used up. Dreams have come and gone, success and failures too, none of it quite working out like I had thought it might. Even the moments of great ego satisfaction were so transient they did little to erase the feeling I was missing something, a subtle underlying discontentedness. I felt like a passive observer, instead of an active participant. The culmination of feelings resulted in my ability to listen and trust that we (I) get what we need, not always what we want. I took my fingers off the microphone and listened to the receiver.
Now in to our third week as temporary residents and volunteer workers at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Alayne and I are beginning to adjust to this new lifestyle. Unlike our recent three and half month cross country adventure, where we were seeing new sights and places almost everyday, we are now stationary for few months.
The grand adventure is now transitioning to a new lifestyle experiment. Prior to setting off on our cross country odyssey, we recognized that this trip could lead to a lifestyle transformation. Perhaps it was a result of our intentions, we have decided that becoming full-time RV dwellers seems to be the correct path, and with that, a radical change away from comfort and material, towards simple living and new experiences.
New Mexico is fondly called the land of Enchantment. I am unsure what the true meaning behind this is, but for me it describes the ever changing landscapes and history rich in Native American lore. We drove from the southeast to the northwest of the state and hit several points in between. In New Mexico the landscapes seem to change dramatically every 30 miles or so. One minute you are in a dry flat desert and the next climbing up a snow capped mountain surrounded by Ponderosa Pine. We even found ourselves in areas where we were looking at 4 or 5 distinctly different landscapes at one time; desert, shear cliffs and buttes, canyons and Rocky Mountains.
Texas is, well… Texas. Coming from the east coast I have always had an idea of what Texas is and it did not disappoint, but it is also more than I expected. It has a fiercely independent spirit and does not take its freedoms for granted even if some of them are harmful. Gun shots are heard regularly and driving fast is government sanctioned. It is true; everything really is bigger in Texas, especially the trucks. However, supporting small and local business is a part of the culture. The country music has an edge and leaves the popular stuff for Nashville. Good Mexican food is everywhere and Sushi is hard to find.
Why are we doing this? This is the question that came about after my wife and I began to examine our life. For several years we had been tossing around the idea of finding a new area to relocate to. While neither of us were unhappy with our current situation, living in a historic neighborhood near the Baltimore Harbor, our life had become predictable. I was a real estate agent and Alayne an accountant; jobs that we had become weary of. Our life felt programmed and not one we had consciously chosen. We, like most people, enjoy traveling for the recreation and growth found in the process. Also like most people, we were confined to short time periods and money was often an issue.