Monday, May 21, 2018

Too much to see!

When you've seen too much, you appreciate nothing. I am afraid that is where I'm sitting lately.  Oh, don't get me wrong. The spirit, she is willing. But the flesh...the flesh is old and road weary and burned the heck out.

Having firmly established my introverted nature, it should come as no surprise that the insane schedule we've been keeping has caught up with me. And it should come as no further surprise that this finally happened in Washington D.C., one of the richest areas in our country in terms of museums and attractions.  If I thought my legs and feet were tired after Disneyworld, D.C. has had a wonderful time showing me how wrong I was. At least at Disney you get to sit down occasionally for a ride or a snack or a show...or another snack.  In D.C., we walk and then we wait in line to get into a museum. Then we walk through the museum, often standing in more lines. Occasionally, there are mini-movies about a topic that you can sit down and watch. Guess how often I pass those by. D.C. might also be one of the noisiest cities we have been in, just for it's sheer size, if not for the rowdy groups of kids trying to be cool on the subway. My inner voice is quietly begging for silence. "Please, a break. Please, no museums today."

It also doesn't help that I'm the sort of person that needs to read every single placard and tidbit in every museum we enter. At the Holocaust museum, for example, we were told that it takes about 90 minutes to walk through. It took us 4 hours.  I think the only way to get through that museum in 90 minutes is to read maybe every 10th piece of information given and to watch none of the mini movies. Granted, we are homeschooling as well, so museums take on more importance. They are our field trips, and we try to take advantage of them.

So, once again, I find myself in this precarious position of complaining about something that most people would be happy to do. I feel the need to repeatedly proclaim my sense of gratitude. I do recognize how lucky I am to be able to homeschool our kids and to see so much of this country. I am grateful every time I wake up without an alarm or have a meal because I'm actually hungry (instead of grabbing a bite in the car on the way to the next client).

But boy, if you told me that we could move into our house tomorrow and get off the road, I'd be hard-pressed right now to find a reason to argue. We do have plans laid out through January, so I'm determined that we honor and enjoy all of them.

I blame D.C. We need more down days. We've been trying to see as much as possible everywhere we stop, but I'm going to have to concede that our nation's Capitol is too chock-full o' history to see it all. So, despite having 400 more museums to see in the next two weeks, today is a down day. I'll agree to go to the RV park's pool, but that's it. I don't want to learn anything! My brain is full!

And my children, bless them, I suspect are feeling some of this as well. We're all getting more and more snappish with each other, quick to blame and anger.  Hurt feelings are everywhere and constant. I think we all need some space and silence.

In solidarity with my cranium, I was even going to refuse to post a picture this time. But I can't help myself. D.C. is just too good. Here we are at the White House, which is surrounded by gates and security.  I was informed that there are also snipers on the roof, though we couldn't see them. We were also unable to get a tour, but we'll go for that next time. We have been able to get a personal tour of the Capitol building and get to go to the Supreme Court on Wednesday. We took a bus tour through a huge portion of the city and Arlington National Cemetery, but we've barely scratched the surface.

We have also been very lucky in D.C. to meet up with a few friends.  That is always one of the very best parts of full time travel. I got to see a dear friend from High School, one of Henry's college pals and a friend I've had for over 15 years but never met in person!  We have also gotten to meet up with friends who happen to be traveling. That is always a terrific surprise. I want to encourage our friends and family to let us know when they're traveling. Who knows?  We might be close enough to swing by! ...but not today, okay?  Today, I'm going to be napping. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

It's more real when you tell someone

The title of this blog, "It's more real when you tell someone" is precisely why it has taken me so long to write it. We have made a couple of big decisions, but writing and publishing them gives me a sense of closing doors. Because, of course, when you make a choice it's inevitable that other choices are no longer available to you.

So! We have decided that our next step is no longer full-time boat living. Our fear is that it would be RVing on the water, and so we have come up with a compromise.

This is a Corsair trimaran. 

We hope that this is the compromise we've been searching for.  It's big enough that we can spend weekends, or even up to a week, on it. But it's small enough that we could keep it in a marina. One of the issues we had with buying a bigger boat was that you just can't take it everywhere. Bridges might be too low and marinas tend not to accommodate boats of too large a size.  And since we had ruled out a monohull, we'd have chosen a catamaran. That would limit us even further in the types of slips we'd be able to use.  This way, we can keep it at our own dock. The pontoons on this boat actually fold up and out of the way, so we can use a regular slip at a marina.  And if we get a small enough Corsair, it may even be trailer-able. We can take it wherever we'd like to go. 

While it's been harder than I'd have thought to let go of our dream of sailing full-time, the benefits clearly outweigh the negatives. We are feeling some pressure to reintroduce the children into some semblance of normal society. They are getting spoiled! And I'm getting nervous that we are missing key components in our homeschooling curriculum. There are also activities that they can not engage in on the move, such as sports and music lessons.  

We have been at this for two years, which is 4 times as long as we had planned. We now think it's time to find our home base. 

Now. Where might that be?  We think we've narrowed it down to either St. Petersburg/Tampa or Savannah/Hilton Head.  How things play out over the next year will help determine that decision.  Meanwhile, we have plans for the rest of this year and into January of 2019. We'll likely see all of that through before we buy a townhome or house. 

We've closed a door, but we are feeling really good about the open windows. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Can a Boat Show give us guidance?

"We bought a boat!" - said a couple we met at the RV resort this week.  They still have a house in Canada, but they're taking the plunge. They are not at all experienced, but they seem confident that they can make it work.  They knew what they were doing when they came to the Miami Boat Show this year, and it seems like they were ready to buy.  Another couple admitted to being more excited about living on a boat after attending the show. Yet another spent all four days of the show excitedly taking classes and preparing themselves to move aboard.

I too felt confirmation. I am not ready to live on a boat full-time. Not even close. A lot of the reason is simply not knowing how much different it will be from RV living.  There's still a lot of traveling - but there's a lot less traffic, and things move a lot slower. It's still a fairly cramped space - but it's probably twice as big as the RV we're living in right now.  We still couldn't have people come and stay with us - but we've found ways around that in the RV lifestyle, so I have to imagine we'd do the same on a boat. It's still going to break - and I can find no positive in that.  The RV always has some little (or big) issue that requires Henry's attention.  As I type this, our kitchen sink has decided not to spew water and the bottom of our RV appears to be falling off. I don't see that getting any better with a boat.  Then there's the intermittent threat of motion sickness. I occasionally get carsick - and I occasionally get sea sick.  Oh, and did I mention hurricanes? We'd have to take our boat out of the water each year OR get out of the hurricane zone. So there is that to consider. It's no different in an RV. You have to avoid certain weather. I mean, there is no insulation in this thing, people. It's a tin can on wheels.

I guess what I am saying is that unless whatever we do next has some major lifestyle upgrade that I can fully appreciate, I'm not sure that I'm ready to give up our RV.  I don't want to move again, that's for sure. 3 times in 2 years really should be enough for anyone.  So. Thank you, Miami, for helping me to decide that this is pretty great. We are happy, and we're still having fun.

Our plan right now is to move into Orlando for the next month. There is so much to do there, and we're hoping to do as much as we can. The cheap lifestyle we've been leading allows us now to splurge on a few big ticket experiences, so we're looking forward to Disney and Universal.

Meanwhile, the East Coast awaits. We have made reservations up to New York in June. We're working on finishing out the summer as we head north. The plan is to spend another month in D.C. So our goal of slowing down seems to be working.

And then? Buy an RV spot and a small boat to play with? Or buy a big boat to sail away in? Or maybe we should buy a condo somewhere warm. Or maybe we should just stop in the RV for a few months at a time in our favorite hangouts.  We have 3 months reserved in Port Aransas, but now we're wondering if that's long enough.  Maybe it should be 5 or 6. Then we can reassess. Ultimately, we are happy and grateful to have these choices. We are fully aware of how lucky we are. We're content to soak in these experiences and decide not to decide on anything more.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Decisions Made Easy

Funny how everything can change in the course of one short month. Sometimes, things change in the course of one short hour.

We recently returned from our trip to St. Lucia. We had decided to go there, because our graduating college senior will no longer have month long winter breaks. We decided a last hurrah was in order. And what a beautiful country it is.  I'm in awe of its scenery (and its weather).  This is what's known as foreshadowing.

We returned to Atlanta where the temperatures were in the freezing range. Then, it snowed. Then, the roads iced over. In case you have never had the pleasure of towing an RV on an icy road, let me assure you that it is not to be missed.  For sheer suspense and even terror, the experience is unparalleled. Our decision-making moment came when we attempted to go up a hill. It was not even a big hill, but it was enough.  The tires skidded, we slid, and then were stuck. Brave, gallant Henry tried to back down the hill an inch at a time. But he quickly realized the futility of this plan as the RV slid closer and perilously closer to the ditch.  So, we stopped. And we waited for the thaw. I think we would still be there if not for the miracle (more foreshadowing).

It was around this time that Henry made his declaration. "I do not want to RV anymore or even sail." My first response was instant agreement. Then, I felt something akin to relief. Interesting, I thought, that this should be my first response.  But as I sat and contemplated, I realized that being at the mercy of the weather is particularly difficult with this lifestyle.  There will be times when you will be completely out of your own control. Mother Nature is bigger and meaner than you, even if she isn't smarter.  No matter how well-prepared or clever you think you are, she can kick your butt. And I'm talking about without even trying. Like, with her pinky.

I mean, come on! We were in Atlanta! We thought we were being so smart! Surely, it would not be 19 degrees in Atlanta! Did I mention that our tanks froze and we had no water for about 24 hours? I realize that this isn't an epic catastrophe, but we are both really tired of this type of surprise.  We made adjustments and survived, but it wasn't our finest moment.

So, the decision.  If we still sail, it will be sooner rather than later. We will need to commit to this while we both have some adventure left in us. The last couple of days have zapped some of that wanderlust energy from us. If we're going to take a bigger leap, it will have to be while our minds and bodies can still hack the challenges. I think a lot of people envy us this freedom, to retire and do what we are doing. So, I'm here to show you that it's not all fun and games. Sometimes, it's even quite dangerous. It's nothing less than shocking to me that someone didn't slide into us while we sat there. Not only were we unhurt, but there's not a single scratch on the truck or RV.

Oh, how'd we get off the hill? An angel - well, a Good Samaritan, whose life I hope is happy beyond all reasonable expectations henceforth, stopped, got out some chains, and pulled us up the hill.  I want his truck. While ours was backsliding, his was towing our truck and RV up an icy hill!

This is why I blog by the way. At the end of my rambling, I figure something out. And here's today's lesson.  Go ahead. Take the adventure. Because when you get stuck, another kind human being will stop and get you out of your mess. People are much nicer than Mother Nature, thank goodness.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Decisions, decisions, decisions

How do you make big decisions?  Do you make lists?  Pros and cons? Do you weigh out all of the risks and benefits, do research and then come to a careful decision?  Or are you more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants decision maker? Do you take trips on a whim? Change jobs when you're tired of them? Or do you worry over decisions and change nothing?

I live with a man who is notoriously wishy washy, even by his own admission. He doesn't make big decisions quickly, or sometimes at all.  And the answer I often get when asking what he wants is, "Do whatever you want."

And how do you figure out what you want? For me,  process of elimination works well. I have been starting from Everything In The Whole Wide World and working my way backward. What don't I want? The idea is that this will eventually illuminate the right path.

In case you haven't been following our saga, I'm talking largely about the decision of what to do once we've finished RVing.  We made a huge (for us) decision this week when we reserved an RV spot for ourselves in Corpus Christi. For three whole months next year! A commitment of that much time a year from now is huge for us. It'll be the longest we have stopped anywhere since we started this adventure a year and a half ago.  We love the park, so it's a great way to buy ourselves some time.

But where do we go from here? How close are we to getting the sailboat? Do we even still want that?

These are the questions that run through my head, and YES, they are good "problems" to have. Since I tend toward anxiety, I find myself stressed out when there are no resolutions. And living in an RV is nothing if not unsettled. The idea that we would have a more permanent location (say, a condo) is extremely tempting. I'm way, way out of my comfort zone moving as much as we have been.  So I find some comfort in the deciding, eliminating the things that we definitely do not want. And comfortingly, the list is growing.

In a nutshell:
- We don't want winter. Ever again. I don't miss it, and I certainly don't miss driving around in it. 
- We don't want to work, though we both would if it came right down to it. The freedom of retirement is such a gift. Our schedules are our own, for the first time in our lives. Neither of us is ready to part with that yet.
- We don't want to be landlocked. We both really like the water, especially the vastness of the ocean.
- We don't want to stop traveling, at least not entirely. There is so much to see and do.  But we don't need to drive. We can sail or fly or walk or bike. We are feeling the passing of time in our knees and shoulders and are determined to be as adventurous as we can...until we can't.

But above all else, we don't want to be pinned down on any one decision! We are trying to stay open to all of the possibilities, including eliminating all of the previous desires listed above. This is not an easy thing, to stay open. Living with arms wide open and and resolving to joyfully accept all that happens is constant effort, constant growth. The decision I make daily, even hourly, is to keep my heart and mind open.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Making our way South and other challenges

If you're a morning person, you can probably skip some of this. You won't understand. If, however, you're like myself, it takes you a little while to feel functional after a good night's sleep. Personally, I require coffee and at least 15 or 20 minutes of solitude before I'm fit for human conversation. 

My child, however, wakes up WIDE AWAKE and in full color. The morning "conversation" goes something like this:

Ethan: Erin! Erin! Erin! Come play with me. Erin! Wanna play on the Wii?  Erin!
Mom, did you sleep well?  Dad, did you sleep well?  Erin, how did you sleep?  Did you sleep well?  I slept okay.  Mom! How much longer until we go on the plane?  (in November) How many weeks is that? Will we see Reese?  Who else will we see?  Are we going to dress fancy to go to Murray's?  What time do we have to get up? 3? 3 in the morning?  I'm so excited!
Mom! What's for supper tonight?  You're going to see your friends?  What are daddy and Erin and me going to have for supper?  Dad! Dad! What are we having for supper?  Should we go to Burger King?  Do you love Burger King, dad? 
What do you think Reese is doing today?  He has school, right?  What are we doing today?  I want to stay here.  We did something yesterday.  Are you guys going for a walk?  Can Erin and I play together?  Mom! Make Erin play with me. Erin! Erin! Erin! Play with me. Erin!

Whew, right?  Yeah, this is all within the first 5-10 minutes of him being awake. This was a bit different in our "before RV" life.  I was a floor removed from the kids.  But beyond that, we got up at 6am.  I set an alarm and was up before they were.  I had those moments to myself, as tired as I was.  Now, Ethan is always the first one up and the stream of consciousness verbal tirade begins.  We can all hear it.  Heck, so can our neighbors, I'm sure. 

There are a number of things that have changed for us since we downsized. But mornings and bedtimes are among the most challenging.  Cooking in a tiny kitchen was an adjustment, but I have managed it.  Making the beds in an RV is an exercise in futility. It's only surprising when I don't pull a muscle. And subjecting your home to the equivalent of an earthquake every time you move to a new campground means not trusting any unopened cabinets once you've arrived.  But these obstacles have easily been overcome. 

Mornings and bedtimes, though, still try my patience and fortitude.  I'm so glad we've done this for our kids. I'm reasonably sure they will look back on this time in our lives fondly.  But I'm not too proud to admit that there will be things I won't miss as they get older.  Certainly, I don't miss diapers and the screaming of toddlers.  I won't miss mornings in the RV either. 

In the realm of other challenges, we've now had only our 2nd official breakdown! We pulled up into a gas station in Texarkana and didn't get out.  The truck refused to start.  It actually does this a lot, something to do with it being a diesel engine.  Nothing wrong with it. It just needs to cool down for awhile after working hard.   This time, it just wouldn't cool down. So it got a ride on the back of a tow truck while its family and its RV got a ride to the local KoA.  A few hours later, the Ford dealer called to say that the truck is now rested and happy to start up!  GAH! So, yeah, basically, $360 to cool down our truck for a couple of hours.  Meanwhile, though, the ants found us and invaded.  Apparently, there are quite a lot of them on the Arkansas/Texas border.  We've never had a bug infestation like it in the RV, though I certainly remember how many there were on the 10 acres in Shakopee, MN.  I'll admit that in a tighter space, it seems like a LOT more of them.  We are poisoning them as I type this.  I don't even feel slightly guilty. 

We'll be in Dallas for another week and then it's on to Houston and Corpus Christi.  We will stop there for a month, which I suspect is going to feel like a big, fat vacation.  I'm so tired of the driving part. I hated it before we started this adventure and, a year and a half in, that hasn't changed.  This challenge is at least as great as mornings with Ethan. 

Overall, we're still enjoying ourselves.  We are seeing museums and attractions that we never would have seen if not for this craziness. Arkansas was a revelation. We spent a beautiful afternoon at the Garvan Woodland Gardens.  Their chapel is one of the loveliest buildings we've seen anywhere. So far, the benefits still outweigh the challenges.  Onward, ho!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Cowardice and Social Anxiety

I may be a coward.  You can decide.  I've been writing this blog in my head for a few weeks now.  I'm hoping to strike the right balance between gratitude and brutal honesty.  My goal is to hurt no one's feelings.  I may not succeed.

The last few months have been a lot of fun for us. We've gotten to see so many friends and most of our family members.  We tried to cram a year's worth of socializing into 12 weeks.  Is it possible to have a socializing hangover?  If so,  I have one.

Here's the truth. I'm an introvert and suffer (sometimes greatly) from crippling social anxiety.  But Christi, you might say, weren't you on the radio? Yes! But, you see, I had a character to play. It was an exaggerated version of myself.  But Christi, you might protest, weren't you a theater major in college?  Why, yes! Again, I always had a role to play. That was not precisely me on the stage. Rather, it's a fairly clever way of hiding.  But Christi, you might scold, didn't you host parties at your house whenever you could and teach dog training classes to groups of people on a daily basis?  Yep, and I'm pretty sure "teacher" and "hostess" are roles with well-defined parameters.

The culmination of a very full social calendar in the Twin Cities was a surprise 50th birthday party for me at a friend's home.  If you are introverted, you might understand the horror of being the center of attention without clearly defined boundaries for an indeterminate amount of time.  Luckily, I was able to refrain from hiding in the bathroom for the entire party.

As I started to question why such a thing would happen to me, I realized that it is completely my responsibility.  I am far, far too good at masking my social anxiety.  Many of my closest friends admitted that they'd had no idea that such a thing would make me nervous.  That's on me. And that's why I might be a coward. Why mask at all?  Why not just come out and admit that parties take a toll. My husband, of course, knows this. He's seen me completely shut down after a party.  Entire rides home pass in total silence, recuperating.  And there are a few other people who know about my sensitivity only because we've directly discussed it (not because they see me freaking out at a party).

One could argue that it's not necessary to show off one's weaknesses all the time to everyone.  However, I feel that I need to come clean about this one, if only to make sure that I'm never the target of such a well-meaning, thoughtful and lovely gesture ever again!  I'm an Introvert. And I suffer from social anxiety.  If pushed too far, I will self medicate with cocktails.  And I will pay for the effort of seeming upbeat and cheerful later.  I will require lots and lots of quiet, sometimes for days.  The last few months of socializing have left me feeling the distinct lack of silence.  When we move on from Chicago, our last social stop for awhile, I suspect I'll soak in the silence like a hot bath for weeks before needing so much as a phone call.

So, cowardice?  Self-preservation?  Maybe it's a bit of both.  Either way, I'm done hiding it.