As a life long east coast resident, I can not help but to be curious and drawn to the people and landscapes of the West. As I write this sitting in Wyoming, a large state that has a smaller population than the city I am from, it is hard not to get caught up in the mythos of the Old West. While the days of the pioneers and complete lawlessness are long gone; cowboys, rugged individualism, and wide open vistas remain. In places like this you can still see the America of lore, that now-a-days seems nearly extinct. A typical scene on any given summer afternoon includes: cowboy and baseball hats, fathers’ and sons’ playing catch, Harleys flying patriotic flags, pick-up trucks, dirt roads, livestock near town, and as always everybody waves and smiles as they pass by.
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.
The more Alayne and I travel around this country, the more I realize that there are many different Americas. As I write this we are in the town of Cedar Key, Florida where the local mantra is, “If it can go well, it will.” This is a very optimistic view for a town that most would consider sleepy with limited options. Yet, the residents and visitors alike smile, wave and laugh with regularity. This remote island town, almost an hour away from any “real” civilization, is contented to go its own way. In places like this that resist “Starbucking,” the homogenization of America, where the locals feel little need to keep up with the Jones’s or anyone else for that matter, feel authentic and real. The American spirit of freedom and independence is alive here. Often it seems the further one is away from “civilization,” the more civilized and community oriented the people are.
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.
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.