Living the Camping Dream
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. – Lao-tzu
Some might say we’re a little bit crazy, but that’s okay. We love our life of living full time in our RV – living the camping dream! It’s a dream come true, a never-ending story of our continuous journey of freedom. Some will say there is no way on earth they could give up their house and all the stuff it holds, and that’s okay, too. We realize this lifestyle isn’t for everyone. But for those whose heart skips a beat when they pass an RV on the highway, and who have the burning desire to travel wherever they choose, whenever they want, we stretch our arms out wide and say, “welcome to our journey!” We share a magical lifestyle that is misunderstood by many but embraced by countless others who imagine and dream as we do.
Living the Camping Dream – We did it, you can too!
Sitting? Wishing? Waiting?
Don’t know where you are right now? Maybe you’re stretched out in your recliner, sifting through travel magazines, or looking at the snow outside and wishing for a warmer place to be, or balancing your checkbook and sighing at the ridiculous thought that you would ever be able to afford an RV lifestyle, or surfing the Internet for that magic button to push to make everything happen right NOW. Been there, done that. We’re sharing our story to give hope to those feel there is no way this could happen for them. Is that you? Have you put your dream of living full time in an RV back in the little box and locked it tight? Did you tuck that box way back in the corner of your bottom dresser drawer? Get up right now and get that box! Unlock it – open it and begin to breathe in your dream again. It happened for us . . . it can happen for you.
It Begins . . .
For us, it all began because we love camping. We would pack up our car every Friday – filling the Mustang with the tent, mattress, pillows, stove, coffeepot, chairs, ice chest, etc. We quickly learned to make use of every space available and take only what we really needed. We were always so eager to spend the next two nights camped under the stars, nestled in the woods next to a creek. Time seemed to stand still while we camped – no schedule, no distractions, just nature for entertainment. Every Sunday night we returned home, unpacked the car and waited to do it all again the next weekend.
You Wanna What!?
When our lease was up on our duplex, we stood at a crossroads. We could renew the lease and be locked in for another year. Nope. We wanted to be free of a lease so that whenever our RV showed up, we would be ready to just GO. We could find another place to live with different lease terms. Nope again. We struck out on finding a place to rent on our terms. So, Bruce pitched a new idea . . . “we could live in our tent all summer!” My first reaction was, “No way! Are you crazy?”
“Listen,” he explained. “We already spend every weekend camping. What’s the worst part of it? The packing and unpacking, setting up and tearing down. If we lived in our tent, we wouldn’t have to do that over and over.”
I have to admit I eased slowly and carefully into the suggestion, because I worked full-time as an executive assistant where I had to dress professionally every day. How could I manage that from the tent? What about showering and ironing and heels and makeup? I didn’t say no, but I had to determine if it could work for me. Bruce could easily adapt since he works from home, but even that prompted some technological challenges.
We searched for a local campground and found one that set right on the Missouri River, a quiet setting with the most perfect spot for us – secluded, nestled in among the trees, and ten feet away from the River! The campground had bathrooms with hot showers and electricity . . . and a washer and dryer. “Okay, this really could work!” I found myself saying, and we took another step in the direction of our dream.
We had already experienced the first stage of downsizing, having moved from a 3 bedroom house with a full basement, to the current 2 bedroom duplex with a garage. But now, we had to fit everything in a 12 x 15 tent. Oh boy! This was major downsizing to the nth degree! Our experience in packing every inch of the car to go camping would prove helpful in this new living arrangement. So began the process of garage sales and Craigs List. Cabinets, closets and drawers were emptied and the myriad of contents sorted for either selling, donating or tossing. Furniture was hauled away by happy bargain hunters. The DAV (Disabled American Veterans) filled their truck. We saved what was only necessary for cooking, eating, sleeping and going to work.
“Okay, this really could work! We took another step in the direction of our dream”
Many have asked us what we did with all the sentimental things – the boxes of photographs, the keepsakes, the ornaments – all those things which held a memory to our parents and grandparents, and even to our children. I sorted all those things, too, and divided them among my family. It was fun to hear the laughter and gratefulness in the voices of my siblings when they received their box of treasures. My kids probably have not gone through all their boxes yet, but when they do, they will find notes tucked in with each dish or antique that tells its history, or why it meant so much to me. Little do my kids realize what a gift I have given them. They will not be faced with sorting and dividing a houseful of stuff when we pass away – it’s already done.
As the duplex emptied out, we prepared for life in the tent. We researched to find a sturdy, reliable tent and decided to purchase the Eureka Copper Canyon 1512. That was a wise investment, for it kept us dry through many summer thunderstorms. The second wise purchase was the inflatable bed which was 18 inches high. Not only did we rise up out of bed with ease, but we slept at a level with a panoramic view of the river.
We faced the challenge of getting electricity for the laptop so that Bruce could continue to work from home. Hours of research and talking to sales people led us to Chad at Batteries Plus who devised an ingenious plan – using a deep cell battery that we recharged with the Mustang. Verizon answered the call for internet access with the MiFi. The “tent” office was ready to go.
We moved in on one of the hottest days of the entire summer (we didn’t know the rest of the summer was going to be cooler than normal). Now it was up to me to make the tent our home – figuring out how to organize and arrange everything for a comfortable and easy summer. I had to have a closet for sure – which we found at Walmart – a free standing one that worked really well.
“We slept at a level with a panoramic view of the river”
Plastic totes were filled and stacked around the inside perimeter – in order of necessity. Plastic shelves gave me a kitchen area for cooking utensils and dishes. It all fit perfectly and we were home! The experience of living in the tent right on the banks of the Missouri River is one that we will cherish always. Our evenings were spent quietly reading, waiting for the sunset, feeding the hummingbirds, listening to the coyotes, finding the constellations, watching a spider spin its web, building a campfire, and being lulled to sleep by the sounds of the tree frogs, Katydids, cicadas and train whistles. Time stopped for us that summer – because we were free of the distractions of TV and household chores. We were free and very happy! It was an emotionally rough day when we had to move back into an apartment for the winter. We kept avoiding the inevitable - spending “just one more night” because we could not bear to leave our home on the river. Tears flowed as we said goodbye and reluctantly headed to the car. The apartment was small and cozy, warm and dry. We were grateful for that, but longed for Spring when we could move back to the campground.
You May Say I’m a Dreamer
For three years, we had visualized, shared and waited for our dream. We would tell people that we were going to live full time in an RV. They would ask, “when?” and we would reply, “when it shows up!” The downsizing process was an important step to say to the Universe, “OK! WE ARE SERIOUS ABOUT THIS DREAM!” Downsizing opened a space to allow the dream to begin. I really don’t know how to explain this principle to those of you who might be reading this and thinking we’re on some sort of “who-hoo” short-circuit. We have visualized the lifestyle – of owning the RV, driving the back roads, seeing the USA, watching movies on a rainy day, working from home, parking for an afternoon to wander a small town. We have shared our dream with everyone – speaking with faith and assurance that it is ours. We have waited, not impatiently, but contentedly for things to unfold. And we have taken steps in the direction of our dream.
“Downsizing opened a space to allow the dream to begin”
In early Spring of 2010, we began to plan for our return to the tent for the summer. The owners of the campground where we lived the previous summer contacted us and offered the job of camp hosts. That was fantastic news, except for the fact that we were required to live in an RV as camphosts. All we had in our possession was our 13 x 15 tent with no RV within our sight, let alone within our means. Within a couple of days, a co-worker asked if we would be interested in purchasing his truck camper.
Now this is where it gets miraculous! I thanked my coworker for thinking of us, but told him we really could not afford such a purchase right now. He replied, “we need to talk.” I explained that we did not have any extra cash nor would we qualify for a bank loan, so thanks anyway. “He repeated, “We need to talk.” What dropped into our laps was nothing short of a miracle! He offered to sell us the camper WITH the truck – plus he was willing to accept monthly payments. You didn’t miss that miracle, did you? It’s like one of those nod, nod, wink, wink things from the Universe – saying, “Go ahead, scream, shout, do the Happy Dance!”
Everything changed in an instant. Boy! Did we ever shout and dance and giggle and shriek! We now owned our home on wheels! Our dream was unfolding!
We moved to the campground on April 1, 2010 and have been here ever since. It’s called workamping – working while camping – trading your time and talents for a campsite and hookups. It’s been exciting and exhausting to be the camphosts, and quite the learning experience. Exciting to meet such interesting people – all fellow travelers and lovers of freedom. Exhausting to be on call 24/7 to make sure all the campers are happy and behaving properly. Is it worth it? Absolutely! We are living in our RV – back on the River. Our duties include taking reservations, checking in campers, working at the camp store, selling firewood, cleaning bathrooms, and maintaining order after curfew. As we settled into our duties, a great opportunity arose that we quickly seized. Local musicians gather every Sunday afternoon on the bandstand at the River to hold a Blues jam session and we were asked if we wanted to set up a food stand for the afternoon.
“We now owned our home on wheels! Our dream was unfolding!”
We provided the BBQ for the event and even though it was a lot of work to prepare, cook and clean up – the atmosphere, the crowds and the profits were well worth all the effort. After all, what sells better than blues, beer and brats? As the camping season drew to a close, we chose to remain in our camper for the winter. It has been a wonderful decision which allows us to enjoy the solitude and quietness after such a busy season. It has also been a challenge to learn what we needed to do to prepare this camper for frigid temperatures. We’ve already survived below zero temperatures and Missouri snows, so we’re gonna make it through!
The truck camper was a step up from the tent. The next camper will be a step up to a RoadTrek. That’s our dream vehicle and we know it’s finding its way to us and will show up just as the Big Foot camper showed up last spring. We’re committed to our workamper position for the upcoming season and then, it’s the open road for us. We don’t like the cold and the snow – we wanna be where it’s warm. But there has been something about living by the river in the winter that has opened our eyes to the beauty of this place. It definitely is another lesson in the chapter on “Being Happy Where You Are!”
Author: Trisha Barnes
Edited By: CampTrip.com