Posted July 19, 2019 – Narrated by Carmen
“Europeans marvel at how Americans seem willing, almost eager, to work themselves into an early grave. My European friends have told me proudly, “We don’t live to work…we work to live.“”―Rick Steves, Travel as a Political Act
Yesterday marks the first day of our fourth year of Living in Beauty.
We will never forget that Monday morning on July 18, 2016, when we pulled out of Fiddler’s Cove in Coronado, California.
The moment was so profound that my life passed before my eyes.
That mental phenomena, LRE (Life Review Experience) had occurred once before when Jim and I were in a bicycle crash in our 30’s. As I watched my tires slide sideways on wet sand my brain tossed a “memory foam” cushion between me and the tarred mountain road – it was like a concerned parent dangling a mobile over a cradle to distract a screaming infant.
A myriad of shining, joyful moments from my distant past fascinated me while bits of gravel and tar penetrated my shoulders, knees, elbows and chin.
Later, in the hospital, I learned that my head had cracked against an unhewn stone wall, but all I could remember was my dog, Flopsie, licking my face and someone behind me digging a churchkey into a can of grape soda pop.
“I asked my new friend, “Were you born here?” He thought about it, paused, and then said, “No, ’twas ’bout five miles down the road.” Later, I asked him, “Have you lived here all your life?” He winked and said, “Not yet.“”―Rick Steves, Travel as a Political Act
“Because we are going to die.”
That’s how Jim and I answer people when they ask, “But how can you just leave it all behind?”
Because we’re going to die. No, not immediately – we hope – but in order for our future deaths to be successful, preparations must be made.
According to Hindu philosophy, Jim and I are in our third asrama, the life-stage known as Vanaprastha, or “going into the woods.”
Traditionally, one entering Vanaprasthashrama will release all of the success, money and prestige they gained throughout the previous life-stage – offering all up to colleagues, family, neighbors and charity – and retire into a life of community service and worship.
Vanaprastha is a period of contemplation to prepare for the next life stage – a complete renunciation of this world.
The idea is to live frugally, with a minimum of resources, to not stress younger family members with your burdens – to grow humble, reserve judgement and dispense advice only when asked and even then, sparingly.
Vanaprastha is a “little” death – a rehearsal.
But we’re living in the modern world, so we’re not letting go of our support team of friends and family, including our wonderful investor, Dunham & Associates; and the best technician ever at Vinnie’s Northbay Airstream Repair, as well as the Airstream team.
Our fourth year begins!
LIB has grown out of the toddler stage and is entering pre-school.
In the beginning we felt like wide-eyed babes in the woods … perhaps too trusting, more curious than is healthy, aware of the dangers but finding comfort in each other.
But now we’re steadier on our feet, walking taller and learning the rules of the road, such as …
Never say anything negative about someone’s town, home state, province or country. People are people as long as you avoid politics and religion. In fact, we’ve grown accustomed to daily exchanges of neighborly kindnesses and generosities – gestures we once reserved for holidays.
Travel brings human difference into focus but also reveals how much we share.
Last December, we went to see the amazing film, They Shall Not Grow Old – a WWI documentary gleaned from letters written from the perspective of men who were abroad for the first time, discovering how the enemies they were sent to kill were mere men, like themselves.
As our travel guru Rick Steves says,
“Ideally, travel broadens our perspectives personally, culturally, and politically. Suddenly, the palette with which we paint the story of our lives has more colors.“―Rick Steves
We’ve also learned that we enjoy travel even more than we thought we might. Traveling can be a hassle and extreme travel in an RV is a non-stop list of hassles – but we accept and even embrace these difficulties over the alternative of living in a static environment.
Throughout our first year – though we had willfully dislodged ourselves – we couldn’t dismiss the impulse to look for places we might like to call home. Now, it’s the rare moment when we peruse real estate billets in adorable seaside neighborhoods or artsy mountain villages.
We’re just passing through, meeting the locals, exploiting the charm, learning the history, savoring the walks, sunsets, local cuisine and craft beer … and, then say our farewells.
Perhaps it’s the idea of accumulating stuff that keeps us moving.
By now, we’ve been letting stuff go for so long that taking on household possessions again would feel like treachery, abandoning ship, going down the path of travel destruction.
Keeping possessions at a minimum makes packing, moving and arriving almost effortless. Last week in Jersey City, we had to move three times in three days within the same campground. Packing, hitching, unhitching, unpacking and settling back into our deck chairs took less than fifteen minutes each time.
This nimbleness allows us to move more freely without watching the clock because we made a reservation.
Most campgrounds have solutions for a late arrival if you’re willing to move from space to space – and, once they know you, you’re more likely to be offered the most coveted spots.
We avoided reservations for a long stretch of our Florida Winter. Here on the East Coast we’ve made a few refundable reservations but, so far, we’re seeing it wasn’t really necessary.
Budgeting for one or two week stays costs more in rent and can be tough on the rig. So, LIB is as economically sustainable as a sticks-and-bricks home.
Eventually, the time will come when failing health or an economic recession will necessitate switching to the LIB 2.0 plan and we will cut our campground expenses in half with by-the-month reservations and travel half the miles.
There’s still so much to see.
Three years in and we still haven’t seen Glacier National Park, Niagara Falls, or even San Francisco.
Moving days are still so exciting that we have trouble sleeping the night before.
We’ll continue as long as we have that thrill to look forward to. The only difficulty is making a decision about where to go.
Counting moments sure beats watching the clock – and curiosity, a sense of wonder and great expectations are a hallmark of the good life and the good death.
The power of love sustains us and contending with a very bossy chihuahua keeps us on our toes. Meanwhile, we are old people at your service.
We’re ready for year four.
For those interested, here are our accumulated costs and statistics over the years.
By the way, how many clocks did you find in all the photos?