Friday, May 30, 2014

Retired!

Last February, when I gave my employers notice that I was leaving to fulfill our fulltiming dreams, I felt very conflicted. My two years at Athena Women's Health has been amazing. Walking away from a job I love, from people I admire, one that I had really put my heart and soul into and where I felt appreciated and valued, was incredibly difficult. All I could see in front of me was opportunity.

But I did it. My desire to travel and experience life on the road trumped all else. Today, I am officially retired!!

I celebrated with my co-workers last Friday. What started off to be a typical gloomy and rainy day in the Pacific Northwest turned into an absolutely gorgeous day. Which is good, because the party we planned was an outdoor RV Tailgate BBQ with Scoopy as the main attraction!

Steven and I retrieved her from storage the day before and spent the night at our "home park", Blue Sky in Preston. We were up at 5:00am so that we could unhook and drive to my office by6:00am. I'm sure our neighbors loved that, but we had to get her into the parking lot before others arrived and blocked our way. Everything went according to plan. By the afternoon, the weather cleared and we had a gorgeous afternoon and evening. And a fun party!

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Scoopy wonders why all the attention?                         The Athena crew celebrate Linda’s retirement

After, Steven and I spent the night in the parking lot. I had a glass or two of refreshing adult beverages, and there was no way I was going to drive Scoopy out of there! So, this was our very first official boondocking night. Because we had a new inverter and residential refrigerator, I was on high alert, but everything worked like a charm.

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After the party, the sun set on a beautiful day.

My last work week was only four days due to the holiday, and since I had basically turned over all my tasks to others, I really didn't have much to do. So I'd pop in for a few hours and then leave. It was nice, because I came home and got some work done.

My first stop after spending about an hour at work today, saying goodbye to everyone, was Trader Joe's. When the clerk asked me how my day was going, I told him it was pretty good so far, because I had just left my job for the last time. He asked if I had plans for my life, and I told him yes, and as I described what my future held, he was amazed. He rang the bell, he gave me a high-five, and then he gave me flowers.

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So far, so good!

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Saturday, May 10, 2014

You’re Doing What, Now??!!

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Ever since Linda and I first decided that a life on the road was going to be our destiny, it has been fascinating to witness the reaction of family, friends and complete strangers. The concept of choosing to live in a vehicle over a traditional house is a bit of a mind-bender for many.

My last job as the receptionist of an animal hospital afforded me the opportunity to meet and get to know a wide range of people. I would chat with the regular customers about this and that but I never really brought up our big fulltiming idea. When I announced my retirement, inevitably the subject turned to my future plans.

I kinda dreaded the answer as much as I was excited to share it. It felt like such a cumbersome thing to explain. so I worked on having a schpeil at the ready. "My wife and I are going on the road in a motorhome and are going to travel all over the country. We are selling our house this summer and then taking off!" At this point, I would hold my breath to see their expression. There is no typical reaction because, depending on their own lives and experience, people will process this information in their own unique way. The responses have ranged from "That's amazing! I'm so envious. I wish I could do something like that." to the wide-eyed, jaw-dropping "Are you joking??! Good luck with that!"

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So wait, you are going to LIVE in THAT thing??!     HOLY KRAP, that’s sew AWESOME!!!

There are couples who clearly know there limitations together. In my experience, it seems like women are more receptive to traveling in a tiny tin can than men. Many of the men I've spoken to admitted they could not live in such close quarters to their partners. They also said they couldn't live without their man cave or garage or tool shed, etc. Men need their space dammit (according to my totally unscientific survey.)

We didn't really need to explain what we were planning to Linda's parents because they got it right away. Moving from place to place was part of Linda's existence as a kid, being an "oil brat" (her father was a geophysicist for some major oil companies). They also owned a Popup back in the day and did a fair amount of camping.

Conversely, my parents had no experience whatsoever with the RV life. I was raised in Ireland (where they still live) and you'll be hard-pressed to see a motorhome or fifth wheel on any of the highways there. Ireland is a small country, about 350 miles from coast to coast so there are only so many places you can go before you've seen the entire country. Aside from that, living in a "mobile home" has negative connotations historically. There are many people living in squalor known as "travelers" or more unkindly "the Knackers". They are known as thieves and opportunists and are generally undesirable. That belief has lightened up somewhat recently but attitudes are still deep-rooted.

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Various scenarios going through my parents’ minds as they tried to understand fulltiming.

So with that in mind, you can imagine my parents' reaction when I told them I was selling my house and going to live a life on the road. I'm sure they thought "Jayzus, are ya goin' to join the knackers now? Is it a gypsy your becomin'??!" God love them, I'm sure I caused many a heart palpitation but, over time, they have come to accept our decision.

I think it's hard for people who don't have any experience RVing to understand its appeal. I think they are also largely ignorant to the fact that technology is advanced enough to where it is possible to live as comfortably in an RV as it is in a traditional home. Technology also makes it easy to stay in touch with family and friends via Skype, text, phone, email, etc.

I laugh about it sometimes because I spend half my time texting my kids when they are in the next room in my house! It won't be all that different, I tell them, once we are traveling.

Having said all that, the majority of people I've spoken to think it's the greatest idea ever and they are very happy for me. They are envious because this is a dream realized. There are many people who dream but their reality will remain somewhat tethered to what's safe and predictable and, sadly, they may never live life to the fullest. Jumping into this world of fulltiming is a big risk but, in my opinion, if you don't take risks then you are only existing, not really living.

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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Estate Sale – How Does it Work?

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Steven and I have spent the weekend making loads of progress, unpacking box after box of our stuff. Wait, what? That's right. I said UN-packing!

Five years ago we packed up all our considerable worldly goods in order to sell the Big Ass House and downsize into a smaller home. All of those worldly goods made the move with us, but not all of those boxes were unpacked in our new abode. From day one I have always said the way we planned to get rid of our stuff was by having an estate sale. In order to do that, we have to now unpack all those boxes, take what we want to keep and leave the rest to be sold.

If we knew for sure there was nothing in those boxes we wanted to keep, we wouldn't bother unpacking them. The estate sale team would do that for us. But I can't let go of stuff until I know for sure I'm not leaving something behind that I can't live without. So far, I haven't found much. Still, I feel the need to go through most of it before I can toss it on the "sell" shelf. And yeah, the shelves are for sale, too. The process of going through these boxes is easy, and for me, it is an important part of the emotional process of letting go.

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Everything must go (including the shelves!)

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Boxes everywhere, some unpacked, others waiting patiently.

So, how does the estate sale work? Between now and two weeks before the actual sale at the end of June, Steven and I will sort through our stuff, packing up what we want to keep at my parent's place in Texas. The kids pick out things they need for their apartments and the rest is designated for the sale. Then, we move everything we are keeping into one area in our home that will be off limits for buyers. That leaves the rest of the house free and clear for the estate team to do their thing.

Two weeks before the sale date, over several days, the estate team comes in and begins sorting and pricing. For some items, that takes a bit of research. During this process, they take photos of items and entire areas of items to be sold. This information is uploaded to their website, so buyers can take a look at what is being sold.

Once that is done, they begin the set-up. The team supplies all that is needed to set-up and display the items for sale. Anything we have that is being sold is also used for display. The estate team also does all the marketing, places ads, sends emails to their buyers list, and on the morning of the first sale day, place signage throughout our neighborhood. Our sale will take place over two days.

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Our garage is in chaos at the moment as we go through stuff for the keep or sell piles.

The company we are using is called Girlfriends Estate Sales and has considerable turnout for their events, up to 1000 people. I can't imagine ours will draw that many, but you never know. There are several people on the team stationed throughout the house to help buyers and to keep an eye on things. Only 25 people are allowed in the house at any given time.

On the first day, there is no negotiating on price. If someone wants to "bid" on an item for a lesser price, they can fill out a "bid ticket" stating their price, which must be at least 50% of the asking price. If the item has not sold at the end of the second day, the estate team starts calling. This process helps ensure there will be fewer items left unsold.

For items no one wants, and I'm sure there will be a few, the estate company arranges for them to be donated, and then provides us with the tax receipt. When we return home at the end of the second day, our house will be empty and broom-clean.

The thought of that makes me giddy. Other than spending time essentially saying goodbye to my stuff by unpacking boxes, we are doing very little work in order to sell our stuff. I can honestly say if it were up to me to sell it, though multiple garage sales or whatever, we might never get on the road.

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Steven is on shredding duty. Going through 15 years worth of paperwork requires a protective dust mask.

The estate team collects state sales tax with each purchase and settles with the state. If a check from a buyer bounces, we still get the money, as they take full responsibility for collecting all proceeds. Ten days after the sale, the estate company brings us a check, proceeds less their fee of 35%.

Worth every damn penny!

Friday, May 2, 2014

A Different Pace

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Last Friday marked the end of my employment in the corporate world (Linda retires at the end of May). It doesn't necessarily mean we will never work again, in fact, we are planning on it to help support our life on the road. That’s a subject for another blog post because today I wanted to share some thoughts about what I've learned about retirement in the few days I’ve experienced it.

Keyword: Pace.

When the economy was good and we were all laughing around the banquet table throwing gold coins at the jesters, life was full to the brim. For me, I was busy with a full time job as a graphic designer with some photography gigs on the side and an occasional video project. Add to that, the logistics and demands of three teenage kids and I realized there wasn't much time left for myself. I'm one of those people who absolutely has to have "me" time. If I don't, I get grumpy and when I get grumpy, nobody wants to talk to me. That's pretty sad but it's a fact. No matter what was going on in my life, I somehow made time for me. It was usually in the form of some creative endeavor like going out to take photographs or more low key things like browsing the Web or catching up on my reading, etc.

The problem is that when our kids got older and supposedly more independent, it didn't free up any of my time at all. No, there were actually more demands to drive them here and drive them there... I love them to death but I was pulling my hair out.

As we humans do best, I adapted. I did things faster. I crammed more things into an hour and somehow found that fleeting moment to recharge. It kind of reminds me of the promise of an easier life when a new faster computer comes along. You'll get things done twice as fast, you'll be more organized, you’ll free up time to do the things you really want to do. At least that’s what the commercials would say. What they didn't mention was that expectations would also rise. So now our bosses expected us to get twice as much work done in half the time. We did it anyway and soon the notion of being overworked became the norm. Did we ever reach our limit? Hell no, as soon as an even faster processor came along, we were producing more and more in less and less time. What's that burning smell? It's my fingers on the keyboard. BRB!

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Early laptop prototype. Because of space restrictions,         This is my current setup. Anyone know why it
this was not an option for fulltimers back then.                     won’t run Windows 8?

Why am I sharing all of this? By the second or third day of my retirement, the voices of my former life were becoming less and less apparent. Although I'm not working anymore, I still have a lot to do to prepare for our life on the road (including selling our house). But this time I didn't feel any sense of urgency. 

There's a retired couple who lives across the street from us. I don't know them very well but we wave to each other once in a while. I was always a little envious of their slow pace. They are both healthy and (I'm guessing) well able to run but they choose to walk. The other day, while clearing my garage, I felt that same sense of calm. I was moving slower, I was being more efficient, I was thinking straight and, when the mail arrived, I slowly walked down the street to retrieve it. Hey, I was choosing this slower pace. Good for me!

It's my view that part of the success of a life on the road is to decelerate. Life must be savored like good wine. You must first let it breathe and then enjoy it slowly.

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One of the parting gifts I received from a coworker was a gold-plated Cross pen. I’m pretty sure it was a metaphor for my new lifestyle. So, for a while at least, I'll let the rest of the world enjoy their super duper Pentium processors while I rediscover the ancient art of writing with a pen.

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