The Cedar Keys in Florida are a small group of islands located in the Gulf of Mexico about half way between Tampa and Apalachicola in what is known as, “The Nature Coast.” It is also called “Old Florida,” due to the lack of development and ubiquitous strip malls. Cedar Key is a small island town of less than 1000 residents that support themselves clam farming and with a modest tourist industry. This place is every bit of the old fishing village one can conjure up in imagination; weathered piers and fish shacks, with well worn boats built for a singular purpose. A small group of artists also call the island home, establishing a collective and adding a hard to miss funky charm. The pace is slow, the work is hard or long, and there is little more than nature to provide entertainment. It is frequently compared to what Key West was during the time of Hemingway.
Life is too short to hang onto unpleasant circumstances that can be changed. While change can be scary and takes work, the willingness to do so often beats the willfulness it takes to remain stuck in state of familiar, yet comfortable dis-ease. In 2013, we stepped off into the unknown that we hardly planned for, and ended up finding adventure and making new discoveries along the way. I guess it could be said that 2013 was a pioneering year.
As a non-retired couple living and travelling in an RV fulltime, we are bucking convention and it has allowed us to have an outsider’s view on ourselves and the culture we live in. We have been able to recognize the many good hearted, creative and adventurous people doing inspiring things, and have seen cultural ills too. There are many different Americas, each is unique and worth taking the time to appreciate.
Welcome to South Carolina! This is the home of the Palmetto and Spanish moss, Antebellum history, southern hospitality, and Charleston.
We have settled into our second workamping gig at James Island County Park, and we could not be happier. The park is only five miles from Charleston’s historic district, and is about the same distance to laid back Folly Beach. The park itself is the jewel of the local park system and is 600 acres of loveliness. The campground is luxury compared to our site in the Outer Banks. We especially enjoy the hot showers, nearby laundry, and the fast, free WIFI. The park has 6 miles of newly repaved trails that meandered through the semi-tropical foliage and marsh, two lakes, 50 ft. climbing wall, kayaks, fishing pier, play grounds, water park, and a lot of places to find solitude. This is a beautiful place to be.
Full-time RVing can be a great lifestyle, especially if you crave new experiences and a sense of adventure. While most full-timers are retired and have the luxury of pensions and Social Security, the lifestyle is still within reach for many “non-traditional” younger wannabe RVers.
The first step is realizing this lifestyle exists and is an option. For us, it seemed like we stumbled upon a secret, and in some ways, it is. It bucks convention in that it promotes living simply, and works a lot better with less debt and “stuff”. This lifestyle will not work for people who desire prestige and a gain in material wealth. Less is more seems to aptly apply.
Most people can quickly determine if they are in the position to set off on the road in short time. Debt is probably the largest obstacle. A modest amount may be acceptable for the frugal, but for those up to their eyes in student loans, credit card debt, and excessive car payments will have to eliminate these before pursuing the idea much further. Medical insurance can also be an issue, for the time being there are some affordable options for folks willing to ride with a high deductible. Houses can be sold or rented, and things can be stored or sold. We have modest car and student loan payments, and “catastrophic” type health insurance. We rented our properties and have a property manager, and sold just about everything that would not fit in our RV.
Life is always changing. Cling on to things as we may, inevitably change occurs. In Buddhism it is called Impermanence, and understanding it is a way to reduce suffering. Simply, we must accept that things change and be willing accept it. The more we try to hold on and capture relationships, glory, wealth, beauty etc., we find that when they are gone, change, or no longer ideal this creates pain and yearning. Instead, it is better to understand that things come and go, life is constantly in a state a flux, and it is better to savor each moment rather than trying to capture it. The Outer Banks of North Carolina is a place of constant visible change and demonstrates the temporary state of things.
The Outer Banks are a geological case study in impermanence. The forces of erosion do not take decades or years to observe. In the course of hours, on a windy day, sands can cover roads, dunes shift, and three feet of beach is swept away. During large storm events the islands will reshape dramatically. Land is constantly being taken away from one location and redistributed else where, as the islands steadily march south and westward.
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 Garden of Eden comes to mind when exploring Yosemite National Park. In late April and early May, when we were there, the waterfalls, streams and rivers are at full flow. The rushing water sounds like thunder, and rainbows in the mist fill the air. The bright green meadows, newly budded deciduous trees and flowering Pacific Dogwoods in the valley create a lush and sumptuous scene. Animal life is active; birds of prey soar high above, deer and bears are seen drinking from the streams, while the smaller forest creatures scurry about comfortable with their human guests.
Left to Right: Upper Yosemite Falls from Big Meadow, Vernal Falls, Big Meadow
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.
Road between Taos and Colorado