My Full-time RV Life Begins: I Learn That Driving and Making Friends is… Scary?
As I approached retirement, I decided on a vagabond life of travel. I wanted new experiences, new vistas, new scents, new sounds, new… everything.
Recently separated, I placed the house on the market and retired. The day after, I purchased a brand new fifth wheel and a gently-used Chevy 3500 diesel one ton.
I made Bob the salesman’s year. He realized quickly I was seeking a mini-home on wheels and after showing me a few smaller travel trailers, he showed me the fifth. It had all the luxuries I wanted plus a vaulted ceiling! But what sold me was the bed. I fit! I’m 6’4” and I didn’t want my feet touching walls.
Now the new owner of a truck and 40-foot fifth wheel, I was suddenly terrified of getting it into my driveway. So, as part of the sales arrangement, Bob agreed to deliver it to my home and prove that the rig could successfully negotiate the drive. He delivered it and parked it neatly beside the barn. I plugged it in and began to move in.
The dreaded driveway.
The next challenge: downsizing. My home was about 2,200 square living feet. The fifth wheel about 350. I hauled stuff to the dump, sold stuff, and stored the balance. Stuff… I also put way too much of it aboard.
For a couple weeks, I experimented with the systems, slept in it, used it. I became familiar with it before I took it out for a spin.
My first new-life adventure was to a state park in southern Indiana. I successfully navigated it to the end of the driveway (this was not a simple matter) and turned onto the county road — the wheels only went partially into the ditch, I thought. About 10 miles later I noticed the sewage cap dancing out to the side of the trailer. Yep, knocked it off in the ditch.
Now what? Do you realize how few places there are where you can pull a 40-foot house off to the side of a road? Finally found one and silently thanked my mom for teaching me to always travel with some tools and ubiquitous duct tape.
Ultimately, I made it to the park, via the RV center where I bought a new cap, had them check for damage from the ditch and fix the entry door I’d managed to pull off the hinges. Good fortune was smiling upon me.
Clifty Falls State Park was perfect for me: nearly empty of other campers. I drove around to my reserved pull-through (chosen so I wouldn’t have to back in — not quite ready for that yet). It was slanted side-to-side so I relocated to another empty pull-through that was level, then arranged to change sites at the campground office.
This is my kind of socializing.
The rangers asked me a few friendly personal questions. Instead of responding in my usual guarded public mode, I found myself easily responding honestly and let them know I recently became single, retired and a newbie to life as a budding full-timer. What transpired was beautiful!
Their response was neither “gooey” or indifferent. They shared empathy about my dramatic life changes and enthusiasm about all the possibilities ahead of me. One told me about a book she was reading called “Honeymoon With My Brother” about a man whose fiancée left him at the alter so he went on the honeymoon with his brother.
I realized that day to engage with people and learn from them while traveling. In retrospect, that conversation planted the seed for welcoming and enjoying other ones. Isn’t that wonderful?
After I set up, canopy out, and settled into a chair in my state park front yard to write a letter to one of my daughters, a stranger walked up and started to chat. Something about this new life: again, I welcomed the engagement and we exchanged a bit about ourselves.
The conversation that followed was not an emotional dumping but a sharing of experiences. I’m new to this. My family had rules about sharing personal information — these things were kept within the family. While the stories we shared are not important here, his subsequent actions are. As I was leaving the campground and performing my first black tank/grey tank waste dump (not a place of socializing of my choosing), he pulled over in his truck and handed me a brochure with his name and cell number on it. He concluded the brief farewell with “If you need to talk, please call me.” His sincere, heart-felt action touched me.
That day, I realized I would love this new life.
My career in banking and the business office of Purdue University served me well. Then I became a semi-retired vagabond and discovered my true calling and my storytelling voice.