All Good Things Come to an End

*Photo taken at Sequoia National Park, where I really began chewing on the idea of writing a travel lifestyle blog in the summer of 2017. This picture was taken while a marmot chewed on the inside of the tree as I stood in the opening. 🙂

My lovelies, the time has come. After posting religiously every week since November 16, 2017, I have come to the realization that I must take a break from writing Flying with the Falcon. This may come as a surprise to those who follow me, as I haven’t even hinted in my blog about my growing frustration with finding subjects to write about every week, but the frustration has been there for a while. Now that the travel has halted for so long, my ideas wane, and I feel I am not serving my audience the way I could or should. I have so enjoyed writing this blog, and truly looked forward to sharing my thoughts with my readers every week. My heart has been here in every post, so grateful to have this platform, and so happy to offer my humble travel experiences with you. It’s been such an honor to serve as a gentle encourager of getting out into the world, to fall in love with nature, to hold this beautiful planet in our hearts, and to honor it with our care. I have shared my ideals on politics, taking a stand for justice, and taking care of humanity. As you probably know, I believe love and compassion are the only answer to make our future work better than our present. See it, believe it, live it. We can make it a reality. All the writing I shared, along with my conviction to living tiny, will all live on the internet on my new website, still available for anyone who wants to read them. For now, I will stop adding new content. I will miss it, but it’s time.

I plan to travel again, but I don’t know when that will happen yet. Things are up in the air with our jobs holding us down with time, and we need to focus on funding our dreams. We need a home, and rebuilding the Aluminum Falcon seems like a distant hope with no place to park it in New Hampshire, no place close enough to make it convenient for working on it regularly. Our Olean home needs to be finished so we can put it on the market. My writing business is in need of my attention to make it grow. So many things to juggle in order to move forward, and something had to give. I plan to hike this summer, and maybe I’ll write about it and share. If I travel, I will certainly write about it when I can. For now, though, I feel I am doing my audience a disservice by rummaging in the past for interesting material until new travel experiences come along in my present. It’s just not good enough. In the meantime, I still plan to write. I am working on ideas for a blog about writing, and still need to decide what I want to write about, and how often I want to publish. In this moment, I think I need a short break from the schedule to just live with my thoughts, find my new direction, and spend some time with my inner compass.

This week I read a little news, which I haven’t done for a while (because it’s been so horrid and hopeless, and I don’t want to feel that way). It’s awful, but also wonderful. Christchurch is grief-stricken with the massacre of over 50 people who wanted only to worship together in peace. Children all over the world participated in over 2,000 strikes, walking out of school on Friday, March 15th, to protest the lack of attention being given to climate change. They may just save us all. Meanwhile, the president of the United States falsely proclaims that white nationalism (aka: white supremacy) isn’t a problem, that the shooting in New Zealand is no big deal, and our southern border is still an emergency. He’s trying to crowdfund his wall now. I am mystified by the ability for anyone to ignore science, research, and real data. It’s astonishing, but it’s a problem humanity has had for millennia. We aren’t new to ignoring truth, we just share it more readily on social media now. For what it’s worth, I still feel hopeful for the future. I believe most people are generally good, and when faced with tough decisions, they will do the right thing most of the time. We all make mistakes, we all do terrible things sometimes, and we all are imperfect, but we all mostly want the world to be better, for people to be happy.

As I move onto a new platform for my website and do my best to keep improving content for my readers, I am excited to say that I have fallen in love with podcasting. If you think I’m leaving you because this blog is taking a break, think again. I will still be here in one form or another, whether writing, podcasting, sharing photos on Instagram, or making videos. My work is just shifting to another way to share, so come find me if you are compelled, or share with a friend. I always welcome sharing, and am so very grateful to all the wonderful readers who have come here weekly to read. There are a few of you I see here all the time, and I love you for your support. You are the reason I stayed as long as I have, trying to keep the flame lit for the Falcon. Who knows what the future will bring? Perhaps something much better, bigger, more valuable. Whatever it is, my mind needs time to dig it up from my subconscious so I can share it in the best way for you to enjoy it. I want it to be amazing. You deserve my best.

My friends, I want to leave you with a request that we all take good care of each other and our world. There are so many ways to make an impact, and even the smallest effort can change lives. Remember to hold doors for your elders, bring your own bags to the grocery store, look up at the stars at night, hug people you love every day, put down your phone more often, visit libraries and museums, plant a garden, go dancing, and above all, remember people usually have good intentions. Not all people are well-meaning, but most are. Trust that humanity has a good heart, and you will see the evidence everywhere you go. Enjoy this beautiful planet as much as you can while you’re here, because you never know what day will be your last. Live your life to its fullest every day, and regret won’t stand a chance. Be good to each other. I’m so sad right now, as I write this last paragraph to you. This connection has meant so much to me, and has truly become an important part of my writing life; I am going to miss it dearly. Can you feel me here? Can you feel all the love I am pouring into my words? It’s heavenly, this depth, this connection, this slender tether that ties us together each week. More than anything, I wish I could see you all out there to hug you goodbye until we meet again, but the words will have to be enough. May your hearts be full. May you love unconditionally. May you live with joy and abundance, and know that while you have shared my experiences with me, you have been cherished.

With all my love,

Elaine

 

 

The End Is Nigh, and We Begin Again

*Photo of the tile mosaic I created for the foyer to our Olean home.

By this time next week, Michael and I will be in New Hampshire. It’s exciting to be in the final last days of renovations on our Olean house, though it’s been a horrible grind to get all the work done. Despite the fact that Michael had already done so much work prior to this summer, we still had a lot to finish. Trim work is a beast, and even though a lot of it was done already it became apparent how much still needed to be done when it came time to complete it ALL. On top of the trim (which Michael is making himself, very painstaking and detailed), we also have to paint EVERYTHING. If you’ve ever painted the interior of an entire house, you know our pain. It’s just the two of us doing all the work alone, so it’s slow, grueling, and both of us crawl to the bed each night groaning with aches in our necks, hands, and backs. I’ve been employing liberal use of pain relief meds and creams to get through this month. Michael also created a last bit of concrete countertop for the kitchen, a step for the back patio, finished out closets with drywall, and cut thresholds for several doorways. Months ago, I created a tile mosaic for the foyer, and that came with its own set of problems to be solved. Now, however, we’ve been enjoying it for the short time we have left in the house. In my mind, I hope it will be a deciding factor for someone who walks into the home and, upon seeing it, will have to buy it.

As we continue the endless bits and pieces of reno around the interior, we also have work on the yard (like digging up a garden, trying to clean up all the yard waste, trimming trees, and pulling weeds). The one really big thing left, though, is the siding. Years ago Michael started the siding, got about half-way done with it, and then he had to stop either because he ran out of time and money, or he went to the hospital—he can’t remember which. One of those things stopped the work, and so it sat waiting while he went back to school for nursing, had to start working right out of school, and then subsequently had no time or energy for construction work. We expect to have to wait until we start our new jobs in New Hampshire before we can come back to Olean and finish the siding, which we hope we can complete in a couple of weekends. We’ll see what happens. No home improvement ever gets done in a timely fashion; usually these jobs are double what you expect to spend in both time and money.

The hardest part of all the last-minute balls-to-the-wall work is the fact that I really want to see people before we leave town. I have a lot of friends I want to see, and so little time to do it. I did get to have a last supper of sorts with my family over the weekend, and they threw me a little surprise birthday party. They made me cake and gave me gifts, and then we played a round of “Dictionary,” a game in which a person chooses a word from the dictionary, and we all make up definitions. It usually results in a lot of hilarity. Though dinners like this will not be so frequent anymore, we will only be a day’s travel away. We can always come back to Olean when we have a free weekend, or we can have people come visit us. A lot of people would probably think of a seven-hour drive as long and tedious, but after traveling across the country and living in Nevada (where several hours of travel between cities or towns was absolutely normal), seven hours seems like nothing. It’s a short stint. Already I find myself dreaming of life in New Hampshire, now that we finally made our decision final, and my heart is full. What fun it will be to wander the woods, take roads trips through the country, discover new parks, and meet new friends. We have a temporary place to live until we find a more permanent home, and the excitement of building our own place in the woods promises to be an adventure, even if I know the work will be hard.

Monday I met with my niece to work on our children’s book together, a project I had hoped to finish over the summer. We spent the afternoon in the library, drawing furiously in a quiet corner, whispering ideas to each other like kids in a classroom. Alas, we still have a good deal of drawing to do, but I am excited that we got to spend this summer in Olean to be able to start some of the collaborations I got going while we were here. I am lucky to know some very smart, inventive, wonderful people with whom I can create all kinds of art, especially my niece. She has been a delight to work with over the summer, and she has made my original idea so much better because of her creativity. Today Michael and I drove a washer to my sister-in-law in Jamestown, NY, and got one last dinner in with Michael’s family. Once upon a time, I might have felt sad about leaving behind the people we love, but now that we’ve spent so much time on the road already I feel as though distance no longer matters. Love travels long distances, connecting us regardless of where we go or what we do. Love doesn’t care how far away people live, and those people who truly cherish our relationships readily pick up right where we left off, even after years of not seeing each other. I know so many people who choose not to leave a place because they believe they will miss their family and friends too much, but now that I have gone away and returned, I find that those people who really matter to me are still there, still care, and still love me. If anything, the distance has made it more apparent that relationships matter, and we must make that special effort to keep them alive. If we spend time with those we love when we can, those moments become that much more poignant, rather than blending into the rigamarole of daily life and being forgotten.

For me, it’s more important now that I taste life with vigor. Ever since I hit my 40s, I have risen to a desire for more. Perhaps it has to do with a sense of oppression in my past, in which I felt I didn’t have the freedom to live the life I wanted to live, but it doesn’t really matter. What matters now is that I want to see beautiful places, to work with people who are excited to make the world a better place, and to share this beauty with those who want to enjoy it with me. I want more art in my life, and less time wasted doing things for people who don’t value my effort, my time, or my input. For a long time, I used to believe the people in my life who told me I shouldn’t expect to enjoy my work, money is the root of all evil, and life is hard. Life isn’t easy, but it doesn’t need to be devoid of daily joy. Yesterday I ate strawberries over my sink, thinking a silent thank you to the person who plucked those berries from their vine so I could eat them. Farm work is hard labor, and I don’t think many people in today’s world appreciate it enough. In making an effort to just think to myself that I am grateful someone else is willing to do that necessary work so I can do the work I must do, it somehow draws to mind the importance of paying attention to details, living in the moment, and just appreciating the little things, like good food.

What I feel most happy about on the cusp of moving is that a new effort to be more mindful in my life began in Keene, NH while we lived there for our first of Michael’s nursing contracts. We were just beginning our travel life together, and both of us fell in love with New Hampshire while we lived there, especially the woods. But I also began visiting a meditation center in Keene, and became enamored with the Monday night meditations because of what I began to learn from the insightful conversations and subsequent inner discoveries. In those months of meditations, I learned a great deal of priceless knowledge about the way gratitude changes a person’s inner landscape. I learned a lot of other deep-thought kinds of things, but ever since I began the habit of going to those Monday night meditations I have gone on an inner journey which has been just as important as the outer one in the last couple of years. It’s as if the travels we took somehow reflected the wandering of my thoughts, or maybe vice versa. The philosophical jumble is moot. I am changed. The world is still scary, lots of people have it tough, most people live with a lot of stress and anxiety, and bad things happen to good people every day…yet even though the world is the same, I am not. Instead of the dark, somber side of things I might once have chosen to see, I now stand at my sink and think a silent thanks to the person who picked the berry I am eating.

When we first took the Airstream across the country, I threw a horrible fit one night because I lost my shit and couldn’t handle the stress anymore. Granted, the evening was not going well. I can’t remember the exact turn of events, but I was beyond exhausted, we had no where to park the RV to have power for anything, lots of other things went wrong, and I fell apart at the seams. At one point I actually bashed my metal water bottle on the table so hard I dented the bottle (kudos to Airstream for building a table that didn’t even chip when I slammed that bottle on it repeatedly). Ridiculous. In a year’s time, on our way back across the country again, we had another bad series of events which I wrote about while we were driving. You can look back through my blog posts to find some of the stories about the drive back in the beginning of March of 2018. It was brutal, but this time I didn’t come unglued. In just a year of being on the road, paying more attention to my thoughts, and being more mindful, my head is now in a different place. Five years ago I never would have expected to be moving out of Olean and living a dream, but we are doing it. We didn’t need to become independently wealthy to drive across the country, but we did it by getting creative. So much of what we want out of life requires only that we SEE what is around us, waiting for us, ready for us to take it into our attention. It’s a magic of becoming aware of possibility, to see what can happen if you don’t just dream, but DO things. Plan. Seek. Enjoy. Such verbs are more than just action, they are possibility. Am I always happy every minute? No. Am I generally content? Absolutely. And there is room for more, for better, for bigger. More love, more gratitude, more joy. Always.

In a matter of days, we will travel again. Off we’ll go to the mountains, to the woods, and to the quiet. Fall is my favorite season, and I am beyond ecstatic to spend it in New Hampshire. I am also beyond ecstatic to not have to paint anything for a while. My body is ready for a break from all this reno work, and I will be so glad to finally be able to get back to writing in earnest again. The computer calls to me from the pocket of my bag, begging me to come type out my thoughts, tell my stories, finish my novels, and start the new ones. I have lots of projects waiting in line, rolling eyes and tapping toes while I slog through yet another coat of paint on the woodwork, slap more joint compound on a nail hole, or shift yet another box from one location to another. Sigh. It will be done soon. Days instead of months. The curtains draw closed slowly, but they are closing. My dear readers, go make a wish upon the lovely, glowing orb of Mars in the heavens. Tell yourself how lucky you are to see that planet without a telescope, its bright orange presence one of many beautiful things to enjoy. No matter where you are or how you live, in your life I have no doubt there is at least one thing for which you can be grateful, one thing that made your day better. Look for it, and it will be there. Like a wish. Like magic.

Are You a Wanderer with an Anchor? Time to Buy a Bus Ticket.

*photo taken from Mt. Monadnock trail to summit

Hey, you! Have you been reading my posts and thinking wistfully to yourself, “Gee, I wish I could travel like that. I want to live in a tiny house or RV and have a job that lets me go wherever I want.” Good news. You can. Ironically, I am anchored in Olean for a short while to sell our home here, but have no fear. Michael and I have plans for the future. I may be stuck in Olean for another month or so, and over the weekend I was thinking about how very much I wanted to be in New Hampshire with Michael. As I have said in other posts, I absolutely fell in love with New Hampshire while we lived there a year ago. We lived in a small city called Keene, and its claim to fame is its proximity to Mount Monadnock, often mentioned as the second-most climbed mountain in the world after Mt. Fuji (though that might be debatable, as such claims can be sketchy). The geographic region around Keene is my kind of beautiful, with rolling hills, boulder-filled streams, deciduous forests, lots of green, and plenty of lakes and ponds. Such a place is my ideal for where I want to live, so I am very excited about going back soon. But I digress. You probably want to hear about how to make your travel dreams come true.

I have shared stories about how Michael and I got ourselves into traveling, but only in tidbits here and there. Our story will not be your story, because you have your own skills, interests, and dreams about what you envision to be the perfect lifestyle. Instead, I want to share with you the thought process which goes into achieving a life of freedom to travel, and actions you can take to start making this kind of life a reality. Lately I have become aware of a massive community of people who have written books, given talks, and even coached people on how to change their thinking. They use a lot of woo-woo stuff that seems a lot more like voodoo than anything else, but when you apply a little science to the mix it becomes a little less fiction and a little more reality. Sometimes I teach workshops on how to change your thinking, and I use freewriting to help people shift their awareness away from self-defeating attitudes and more toward belief in their own ability to help themselves. Since I am living proof that one can create the life you want, I like sharing this knowledge to help people do the same.

First, take a look around you. Where are you now? Are you in a place you like? Is it dismal and deadening? How do you feel sitting there? What is your general mood today, or any day? What thoughts go through your head about the place you live? Do you think good thoughts or are you hammering away at everything you see as you walk around, thinking about how much you detest being trapped in that godforsaken place? Basically, are you happy where you live, or do you wish you could be a gypsy? If you feel dismal and consistently think negative thoughts, you will walk around feeling dismal all the time. This isn’t voodoo, it’s your reticular activating system (a tiny little bit of your brain near the brain stem) doing its best to provide support for your inherent belief system. So if you believe life sucks, you’re trapped, you’ll never escape that town in which you live…well, you’re right. You won’t. The RAS will continue to confirm your current beliefs because that’s what it does. The good news is that you can change that.

I am going to ask you to try a little test for me. Get out a sheet of paper and a writing tool. Sit down somewhere quiet, comfortable, and that makes you happy. If you have to get out in the woods or at a park or a coffee shop, do what you must. Take that writing tool in your hand and write: Where I Want to Be Right Now. Now use your phone or watch or a nearby clock to time yourself. I want you to write about this topic for at least five minutes (but ten would be even better, or just write until you feel done). Keep your pen moving no matter what crazy things you write, no editing, no crossing anything out or worrying about grammar or scribbling. Be messy. Be random. Be honest. If you start writing about the cat’s fleas, just gently nudge yourself back to the original topic to get back on track—be nice to yourself. Our ids are easily swayed to flit from thing to thing. When you finish writing, take a look at what you revealed to yourself. If you really do keep the pen moving the whole time and you allow yourself to be really honest and write whatever comes into your head, you will tap into those subconscious thoughts which are driving your reality bus. Pay attention to it. What messages are you telling yourself about where you live? Honestly, this works for anything (such as income, people with whom you spend your time, careers, whatever), but for the moment let’s stick to where you live.

If your answers to yourself are all about wishing for beaches with sugary sand or climbing mountains in the Himalayas or walking the streets of Prague and that isn’t what you’re doing…time to align your thoughts with actions and intentions. Michael and I started making plans to travel while he was still in nursing school. He had to get at least a year of experience under his belt before he could apply to an agency that would hire him as a traveler, so we had a long wait before we could make travel life a reality. My kids were also still too young for us to uproot ourselves and take off, but eventually we got ourselves on the road. Did we have every iota of our lifestyle perfectly planned? Nope. We jumped into the life as a test first so we could decide if we liked it enough to keep doing it. Of course, we did like it. Right away. That spurred us to purchase the Aluminum Falcon, our beloved Airstream, in which we lived for a year in Nevada. If you’ve read my other posts about that experience, you know we didn’t have that all perfectly planned, either. We started living in it the day we purchased it, sight unseen, and had to learn the ropes of RV life on the fly. Again, we didn’t have everything aligned when we leaped into the life we wanted, and you don’t have to align the stars, either. Have a general plan and start going for it.

While you dream about your perfect life, are you then also killing that dream? That may be why you’re stuck, if that’s how you feel. Instead, have your dreams and then instead of saying to yourself, “Wouldn’t that be nice? But it won’t ever happen to me…” you need to tell yourself, “I really would rather be living on a beach in the Caribbean, so how can I make that happen?” Start looking for jobs in the location in which you would like to live, or start researching ways to work online doing what you’re good at doing, or maybe look into creative ways to make money on the side so you can start saving. I don’t know what your reality looks like, but if it’s holding you back, then you can shift your thinking and align your actions to change it. Really, it’s that simple. The reason why more people don’t do this is only because they may not realize how powerful this actually is. So many people in the world already know that if you align your thoughts with actions toward what you actually want, your dream life can be your real life as soon as you want. Michael and I took a couple of years to manifest our dream of traveling, but that doesn’t need to be your experience. Maybe you have the freedom to drop everything and buy a plane ticket to Africa, where you know you can start working as a teacher and start traveling the continent by the end of the week. Do it! What are you waiting for, Santa Claus? Seriously, you only get one life. Will you waste it dreaming, or do you want to get off your rear end and live? Time is ticking, my dears.

You might also be saying to yourself that I don’t seem to be living my dream right this minute, since I’m stuck in Olean, NY and not with my wonderful husband in one of my favorite places ever. Well, you might be right, except that I am fixing up the house to sell it so we can have money for land and to help fund the expenditures of remodeling the Falcon. I am also taking advantage of being in our old hometown to hook up with folks who can help me with things like getting my website adjusted to allow me to start using an email service for my subscribers, and also to rid myself of excess material possessions I no longer need. I see this time as a cleansing experience, and also as an opportunity to make money and to connect with the friends I have missed over the last year and a half. Though I would absolutely rather be in New Hampshire, I will make lemonade. We have to roll with what life hands us on a platter, and make conscious decisions to mold our experiences into what we want to achieve in our lives. Do you believe you can travel, or do you just dream about it and never do anything to make it happen while always complaining about how you never have money to go anywhere? I wrote a post a while back about ways you can inject a little travel into your week, month, or year. Pack a picnic and hop in the car with the kids, and see where the road takes you. Go somewhere you’ve never been before and keep your eyes wide open.

The bottom line here is to ask yourself what you really want, and be honest. No one needs to read what you write. Ask yourself the important questions about how you live now, and discover the uncharted territory of your imagination. If you can imagine it, you can do it. Even crazy things. I just watched a Ted Talk by David Eagleman called “Can We Create New Senses for Humans?” and it blew my mind. In this talk, Eagleman shares all kinds of insanely inventive gadgets which allow blind and deaf people to experience sight and hearing in other senses, like touch, and how that information is gathered and translated by the brain. Totally science fiction, but it’s real. If this guy can create a vest that translates all the emotions on Twitter into vibrations which your brain interprets…I think you can go nuts and plan that cool trip to see the Great Wall of China. Seriously, others have done that. You can, too. It’s just a trip. Meanwhile, scientists are creating instruments that allow us to see galaxies so far away, you’d never get there in hundreds of lifetimes, or that study the nature of “dark matter” in the universe. If they can do that, you can take a trip to see some beautiful things. All you need is a will and then you can find the way. Do it right now. Plan your trip. Cut out pictures of places you want to see and paste them on a poster board you hang in a place you will see every day. Imagine yourself there, enjoying the sights, the smells, the tastes of the food. Believe you can, and you will. Keep yourself open to avenues of getting there, and I promise you will start to see them right in front of you. That’s how your RAS works. What you believe, it will seek and reveal. Your intentions drive the reality bus, so grab the wheel and start driving, kids.

Here I will leave you with the usual request to be thoughtful if you comment, and to encourage anyone who wishes to comment to please share your own experiences about creating your reality (as opposed to being enslaved by it). Soon I should be installing a “Resources” page with courses I plan to offer along the lines of what I explained briefly here, as well as a few other fun ideas. They will be available for a variety of prices, including free courses for those in a financial pickle, or for the people who want to test the waters before buying anything. When I get that running, I will send out a blog post. In the meantime, please try a writing session or meditate on your circumstances and see where it takes you. If you’re so awesome at it that you end up in space, I want to hear from you. Please send an email with a description of your trip, because that would be the best success story ever. Get out there, friends. Grab that life and wrestle it into existence if you must. Find a pair of powerful tin snips and cut the chain of what anchors you to unhappiness. Your ticket awaits, and the bus has arrived. Get on board.

Greetings from Limbo, and the Heaven and Hell of a Transient Lifestyle

*Photo taken outside of Ely, NV on Success Loop. See the deer hiding?

Hello, darlings. Greetings from limbo. Michael and I are still waiting for news about his next contract, and in the meantime we twiddle our thumbs nervously hoping we can secure something soon. This is the nature of contract work, and it can be both frustrating and stressful, even while it can be incredibly invigorating and liberating. For the moment, we will endeavor to enjoy the remaining time we have here in Nevada, despite waking to snow on the ground yesterday morning, snow which is still stubbornly sticking in places around the RV park for the first time since we’ve been in the Carson Valley. Apparently we have another storm on the way tomorrow. While we wait for news and weather, I thought I would invite you into a more intimate space about our travel lifestyle. Grab your afghan and a hot cup of your favorite beverage.

Perhaps our existence appears romantic and filled with delight, carefree fun, and magical experiences. Well, at times our lives are all of those things. And then sometimes it’s miserable, difficult, and anxious. Regardless of the negatives, both Michael and I have gained immeasurable benefits from living on the road for the last year and a half. We both learned to appreciate what we truly value, the people we love and miss, and discovered more clearly what we really want out of life. We have both been pleasantly surprised by living on the road, but I feel compelled to expose the pale unsightly underbelly, right along with the joys, of a travel lifestyle. At the end of this post, I will also share a list of fun things to try in your own life so you can dabble in more travel, even if you believe it’s out of reach because of time or money constraints.

Let me begin with how we arrived at owning and living in our Airstream. Michael and I have only been married for five years, and when we first started dating he was still in school working on his nursing degree while I was teaching in public school and college. One day Michael mentioned he had been entertaining the idea of travel nursing, and as he shared his idea I felt the tingle of what Elizabeth Gilbert likes to call “Big Magic,” that inkling stirring in your gut when your very soul responds with a resounding YES. Ever have one of those moments? Goosebumps! From there, the idea of traveling cycled through a limping treadmill between my heart and my head, rattling through countless possibilities about how we could actually make this dream a reality.

We talked about this lifestyle for years before making it happen; meanwhile Michael finished his degree, started working full time at a hospital an hour away from home (one way), and his schedule was five days a week, 3-11pm. Grueling. He had only one week of vacation that first year of work, earned only through the hours he logged, as if vacation time is some sort of piñata-type reward instead of a sanity-preserving benefit all workers in demanding fields deserve. I kept slogging at my teaching jobs and continually getting the short end of the employment stick, even though I worked hard, maintained a great rapport with my students, installed the hinge in the back of my neck to nod my head to all my bosses, and dedicated my entire adult life to the field. Our work lives were exhausting and soul-sucking.

At some point we both committed ourselves to attaining the freedom we sought in the dream of traveling, and we started to plan in earnest. For a year or so we schemed like thieves about how we could live on the road. We needed to wait for my kids to graduate high school and both be settled in college or jobs to support themselves. We needed to accommodate our two dogs. We needed to figure out what to do with our home in Olean. So many pieces of this puzzle had to be orchestrated, not to mention Michael needing to choose a company for his employment. Lots of horror stories were shared with us from people experienced in travel nursing, stories about how some companies didn’t support their nurses, and researching agencies became its own kettle of fish. Eventually, we settled on testing the waters with a company Michael liked, traveling to a place not too far from home in case the experiment failed, and renting a temporary space before purchasing anything permanent.

Our general consensus before starting really was that both of us would prefer to build a tiny house, but we chose to compromise by deciding to search for a used Airstream we could remodel to make our own. This decision came about after lots of research about tiny living, and learning that finding a place to park a tiny home is often difficult or impossible due to zoning laws and insurance companies. Our thinking then turned to the possibilities of having what we wanted in a tiny house, but built into the sleek frame of an Airstream travel trailer, a brand of RV which never goes out of style and has quality in its build to last. Of course, we have yet to actually remodel after living in the Falcon for almost a year, but that’s another story. Also important, we are still waffling about whether or not the Falcon can be a sustainable way to live due to the fact that its aluminum frame is difficult to heat in temps that drop into teens and single digits, an unavoidable aspect of weather pretty much everywhere in the country, even in the warmest states. We are also facing the reality of problems with condensation when it gets really cold, a difficulty we didn’t even consider before purchase. Thus we gamble our intentions with reality, and attempt to sift out the wheat from the chaff.

Our first six months of living on the road were spent in a pair of rooms connected by a bathroom in a lodge outside of Keene, New Hampshire. Living in the woods, even for that short stint, convinced us we definitely wanted to commit to traveling, so we began looking for used Airstreams to buy.  You may be wondering at this point why we went the route of used trailers. In all honesty, new Airstreams are wildly expensive, well out of our range of affordability, particularly when we also needed to purchase a truck capable of hauling the heavy load in any terrain. We eventually found a used Avion, a sister to Airstream (and competitor until the company was bought out and became Fleetwood) in Louisiana. After Michael confirmed with the man selling his RV that he would hold it for us, we took one of Michael’s rare six-day stretches off from work and drove two days straight to see what we hoped would be our new home. Oddly, the man selling the RV never showed.

We sat in the driveway of this guy’s house for at least an hour in the cloying damp night, crickets singing from the fields around the house accompanied by the sounds of a dog sniffing at the privacy fence surrounding the back yard. Eventually we sought out a room to rent for the night. Michael sent several messages to the man, none of which were answered, even though on the morning of our arrival his last message stated he expected to finish his work out of town in time to meet us. The overnight turned into a long breakfast in the morning, but we finally had to make the decision to leave without the Avion, despairing that we spent so much money on the long trip with nothing to show for it. We never did find out what happened to that man, and we hope it wasn’t an accident of some kind, though we may never know.

Our time in New Hampshire came close to wrapping. We had no prospects for where we would live at our next assignment, a contract in Ely, Nevada. Then we got lucky. Michael happened upon an Airstream for sale in Illinois, and he happened to be the first to inquire about it. A couple of weeks later we pulled into the parking lot of the dealership in Casey, Il to pick up the Aluminum Falcon, purchased before we ever laid eyes on it. It was chancy, but we followed our guts and lucked out. Our luck might have gone another way; we could have ended up buying the Avion and being forced to tear it apart before ever living in it, something we didn’t have time to do before leaving for Nevada. That Avion was not in good condition, and it needed a lot of work to be livable. Though the Falcon is 30 years old, the interior had been maintained and was immediately livable after cleaning it thoroughly.

During this year, we have given ourselves a crash course in RV living. We have learned about holding tanks, how to juggle appliances to avoid tripping circuits, the need for heat tape on the water intake hose, how to strategically utilize awnings to moderate temperature in the desert (and to never leave the awnings down when away—NOT EVER), and to accustom ourselves to “military” showers with a tiny six-gallon water heater. We also learned how to dance around each other in the small galley space down the center of most of the trailer; had to gain muscle memory of the interior areas to avoid hitting our hands, knees, shins, and elbows on virtually everything; and to manage to share this small living area with two dogs and different sleep schedules. None of it was easy. Sometimes we got cranky and argued. There were moments when both of us blew our stacks. And yet, even with all the troubles, we both now fully appreciate and love living tiny. Neither of us wants to go back to living in a full-sized house again.

My point with this story is to relate to readers that making a choice to travel or live tiny may take a lot of dedication to research and a willingness to take risks, but before we started this adventure we were not terribly comfortable with our income, nor did we have lots of resources. We started out armed mostly with the grit to try this life to see how we felt about it, knowing we could always go back to our home in Olean anytime. A lot of things about traveling did not work out the way we planned or expected. Originally, our plan was to stay relatively close to home. But then the available jobs through Michael’s travel company didn’t pay well enough close to home, not enough for us to cover the costs of living on one income. We ended up in Nevada chasing higher-paying work, and that has left me completely disconnected from my kids for the first time in their lives. After being away so long, I am hearing the siren calling me home to make sure my ducklings are surviving. I also miss the woods.

I think Michael has come to love it here in Nevada for a lot of reasons, and he is finding it difficult to leave. He does, however, agree that New Hampshire was beautiful and admits he could live there one day, as could I. We hope to get back there soon, and maybe we’ll even settle there eventually. Who knows? For now, I just want to get closer to home so I can see my kids more often. Something else that bothers me is the unexpected difficulties I have faced with finding any work as a writer online, and also with securing any workshops to teach here for extra money. I consider myself fairly good at selling people on my workshops after so many years of teaching, and normally I can at least get libraries to throw me a bone, but I’ve had little luck here with any of my usual tactics for extra income. As a result, Michael has been carrying the load of supporting us entirely on his own, and I hate it. One good thing that has come out of my time free of paying work is all the writing I can do, and I have spent a lot of time learning how to manage myself as an indie author. I might not have done that if I were busy working, so that’s a plus. But my writing isn’t paying any bills yet. More like filling a change jar over time.

Trials aside, we have seen monumental shifts in our lifestyle. We spend more time hiking and have had the unbelievably thrilling experience of visiting several National and State Parks while traveling out West. In every place we’ve lived we’ve been blessed with meeting wonderful people. The more we travel, the more I realize we are all the same, everywhere in the country. We all want love, need to pay bills, struggle with fear and anxiety, and have to deal with the mundane aspects of life, like grocery shopping, cleaning the house, and taking showers. Everywhere we live, we find that people are just people, whether rich or poor, black or white, religious or not. We all have dreams and desires and wants and needs, every single one of us. Michael and I feel fortunate to have made friends and acquaintances in all the towns where we parked, and each person has been a little light of happiness. All of you are special and spectacular in your own way, and our lives are richer for knowing you.

While we wait for news, we gently detach from the womb of kind souls who gave us a warm place to call home in the lee of the windstorm of hate and division across the globe. What’s sad is that if you look on social media as a cue of the state of our mindsets, I believe we do ourselves a disservice. When we hide behind our avatars online, many of us feel free to blast our worst selves into the electronic static of phish and bots and trolls, regardless of fallout, as if the act of vomiting our own darkest of hearts online may flush the line of fear from our veins. Really, we hurt ourselves the most when we spread our hate like lard over the online community, forgetting those people have feelings just like us. When we spread acts of hate like sharing gossip, tearing someone down for a differing opinion, or spreading outright lies, it only poisons our own hearts and distances the options for having a real relationship with another person. Regardless of the politics or beliefs of any of the people I have met on the road, I have found everyone to be genuinely friendly, kind, and thoughtful. All I have done is listen to their opinions, acknowledged them, and shared my own with what I hope was thoughtfulness in return. In doing so, I have befriended climate change deniers, Trump followers, white supremacists, extreme liberals, religious fanatics, LGTBQ activists, ex-cons, moderate feminists, apathetic homebodies, and everything in between. None of them yelled at me for who I am, and I didn’t do that to them, either.

Instead, as I met more and more people, what I find as a common thread amongst everyone is that none of us can be pigeon-holed. Though a person may support Trump’s policies on one hand, on another he may also be a wonderful math teacher who lovingly donates time at a food pantry every week. Another person may be a staunch Bernie supporter who also serves as a city cop and attends a conservative Christian church every Sunday. We are all full of a rich and varied set of beliefs which cross over the spectrum of pigeon holes, and traveling is teaching me on an exponential scale that humanity is fragile but enduring and incredibly creative. And love is definitely more powerful than hate. And living tiny is a gift of joy. And dreams do come true, even in tumultuous times. And, and, and. Put that word in your day, then see what happens. The bills need to be paid, AND….My kids have a game later, AND….I have to fix the toilet, AND….Where will that word take you?

If you feel envious of our travel life, may I make a suggestion? You can try a few tricks I used to use (and still do on occasion) to give yourself a taste of travel. Give yourself a fun, happy, memorable experience to get yourself out of the daily doldrums of habitual life. I have been accustomed to a tight budget since I was a kid, but I have always been a gypsy at heart. Travel makes me happy, but it can be expensive. Here are a few options for travel to get away for an afternoon, a night, or even a couple of weeks on a budget:

  • Set a change jar somewhere close to where you keep your wallet, then every day empty your change into it. Use the change to fund a trip out of town when it adds up to enough.
  • Find a place you really want to see (near or far) and wait until it’s a good time to go camping. Car camping saves a lot of money for lodging. Also, Airbnb can make trips much more affordable if you haven’t tried that route yet.
  • Want to dine at a fancy restaurant while traveling? Eat there for lunch and save up to one half or a third of the price you pay for dinner, then go shopping for sandwich makings or eat at a food cart for dinner.
  • Stay in a quaint B and B overnight in an expensive area, but wait for the off season to keep costs lower and avoid crowds.
  • Look for free and low-cost opportunities for fun by exploring city or town calendars for festivals, parades, concerts in village squares, self-guided tours of historic places, donation-only museums, or events around holidays.
  • Google your own city or town to look for attractions you may not have considered or even known existed. Find an adventure in your own backyard, and see your home from the viewpoint of a tourist!
  • Pack a picnic and jump in the car. Stop at the first place with a free view you’ve never stopped to enjoy and throw down the blanket.
  • Go backpacking. The view you earn carrying all that weight on your back will be that much more memorable and special, and all the food will taste more delicious. Really.

Now you are armed with ideas to give yourself an escape or well-deserved break. Take it. Americans work too hard and don’t play enough. It’s part of what’s dividing us and draining our compassion collectively. For that matter, you could always call a friend and get together for coffee or a drink and just catch up over a few laughs. If the world is weighing you down these days, find the light. If you envy what someone else has, start planning how you can have it, too. Don’t let time or money stop you. We only live once. Make the most of it, and remember that joy is often on the other side of struggle and pain. Make the most of that, too.

As always, please feel welcome to share links or stories of your own travel interests, post photos, or comment on the content I offer. Do remember to think about your intention before you post, and be kind to everyone here. I look forward to hearing from you!