Rx: Forever Camping

This 5th post of From Beauty’s Doorstep was originally published on Airstream.com

Posted November 1, 2022 – Narrated by Carmen
To listen to the podcast, click the play button

living in beauty
This series, From Beauty’s Doorstep, is based on five-years of full- time travel, aka LIB (Living in Beauty)
Anything in life is possible and you can make it happen.”
Jack LaLanne (1914 – 2011)

Overwhelmed with after-school hunger, I stuck my finger into the contents of the electric mixer and landed on the other side of the kitchen, suffering shock by mashed potatoes.

Stunned, I lay on the floor, hoping the surge from the ungrounded mixer would manifest my body with super powers.

living in beauty
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Fifty-five years later a similar thing happened when our investment advisor pitched the idea of early retirement in an RV.

living in beauty
Boondocking near Joshua Tree National Park, California

The jolt of enlightenment didn’t send me flying across the room, but every nerve stood at attention as synapses fired warning shots across my frontal lobe. Emergent powers rushed to the surface.

The meeting wrapped up, and Jim and I went out for an early lunch to pick through salads and chew on our future. We considered our lifelong preference for outdoor vacations over luxury hotels. Striking camp after our annual Yosemite trip felt like punishment. We grieved the drive down the mountain out of our scenic Paradise.

“Let’s get this straight,” I said, “Living in the most beautiful places on earth will allow us to retire five years before social security and Medicare benefits kick in?” We felt goosebumps.

Our money man had opened up a path we’d never seen. Could the house-free, financially independent, border-blind, semi-retired, mobile American life be the retirement-hack we’d been longing for? Open-ended camping with no scheduled return date. What do you even call that?

Forever Camping!

It’s the superpower retirement plan. Liquidating property and going mobile pairs the leanness of poverty with the most desirable aspect of affluence – the enrichment of endless travel. We’d struck gold.

living in beauty
The Adirondacks, New York

That afternoon we agreed – while our bodies remained in good enough condition – to make it happen.

living in beauty
Redwoods, California

From that moment forward, at all hours of the day and night, Jim’s computer glowed with decumulation actuarial spreadsheets, aka, The Valley of The Shadow of Retirement Spend-down Scenarios.

As non-pensioners, forever-camping made solid economic sense.

living in beauty
Burnaby, Canada

In the first six years, we were better off than Jim’s most idealistic early projections. Now – following the pandemic – we are on track with Jim’s projections, including the financing for long-term nursing care, should we need it.

But the economics of six-and-a-half years on the road doesn’t rival the real bonus: the improvements in our overall health and well-being.

living in beauty
Redding, California

Even Pico de Gallo, our fifteen-year-old Chihuahua is killin’ it.

Leaning into the world, into sunlight and wilderness, and even into city parks and greenscapes into places where the earth still has some fight left in it – is a prescription for improved mental and physical health.

Beauty and The Beast, our Airstream+Ram team, work together seamlessly as our primary health plan, super-powers, whisperers. Our matched pair gently takes us down all the roads less travelled – our Aging in Places plan – to address the many challenges of growing up through the senior years

It’s all about self-care.

I survived the Sixties by latching onto Jack LaLanne’s concept of thinking of your body as a beloved animal who needs daily care – food, water, sleep, play, exercise, and kind words.

Would you wake your dog up in the morning for a cigarette, a cup of coffee and a doughnut?
Jack LaLanne

I decided to think of my body as a horse. I know, it sounds odd, “My Body, My Horse” and all that. I never named my horse or gave it a color, I just visualized a powerful, life-affirming animal that would help me excel in track and field even though I did not qualify for the team in the pre-Title IX era. Even now – whenever I am physically or emotionally strained – I go to “the stable” and check on “my horse” to investigate her wounds, apologize for the mistreatment and overfeeding, overworking, and promise to do better.

living in beauty
Trinidad, California

While living in Beauty, apologies are seldom necessary. Debilitating neck, back, knee, foot, ankle and hip pain are no longer a serious concern. I deduce that walking our prescriptive three-miles-per-day on concrete pavement had a negative effect on our connective tissue. Exercising on earthen pathways and beaches is much more beneficial. Our need for pain medication and ointments is reduced and the old aches resume only when we visit cities.

living in beauty
Jim tossed his pricy shoe inserts

Our eyesight and hearing have also improved – especially in the last two years as we’ve travelled to more remote areas. When Jim retired, we stopped night-driving and we still avoid it, but in the last few years our night-sight has sharpend. Even on the new moon I can observe owl and bat activity. Walking at night without artificial illumination is relaxing and puts me in the mood for sleep.

living in beauty
‎⁨McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park⁩, California⁩

My dreams moved outside too.

living in beauty
Pensacola, Florida

For several decades I’ve tracked my dreams in a journal. A few months after I began sleeping in Beauty my dream infrastructure of houses, hospitals, offices, schools and theaters dropped their facades. Now, walls are mere partitions rather than solid barricades. Doors, hinges, windows and locks are present but inert. Partial plant draped walls invite the elements to weave through the rooms making their natural impression on sofas, tile work, exercise equipment. Birds fly in through ornamented apertures open to the sky. Wild and domestic animals graze and raise their young in these indoor-outdoor buildings and the occupants seem not to notice or care.

How do we sleep?

Like drugged house cats on a flight to Australia. In the past we slept outside under the stars, in tents, and even in a hammock on a ship, but there’s nothing like hitting the sack in an Airstream. It’s instant hygge. Just thinking about our minimalist home makes me relax. Beauty’s cozy bedroom is our sleep-therapy pod.

living in beauty

Within a couple of weeks on the road, I put aside my anxiety medication and sleep tonics. Built-in climate controls, blackout blinds and stereo for white noise compliment the restful environment. We sleep better in our cocoon of Beauty than we ever did in the king-sized bed in our cavernous master bedroom. To all of our friends who keep offering us your spare bedrooms, “No, thank you. We’ve got this.”

living in beauty
Winnemucca, Nevada

Our Airstream

We’re not eager to return to a sprawling, high maintenance house or condo that is hopelessly stuck to the ground – a 20th century problem which should have been solved decades ago. Mobility satisfies any 7-year, 7-month, or 7-day itch for change. There are many choices out there but since the 1930’s, Airstream remains the most energy efficient, dynamic, smart, affordable, reliable, resilient and beautiful homes and/or escape pods in the world. Design matters.

Beauty – our low profile machine for living – is not only an affordable housing solution, it is also lower maintenance than an on-site, static house. The best part of living in Beauty is no more worry about Jim falling off the roof of our three story house. My DIY guy’s motivation to save a few bucks by cleaning the gutters is all in the past. I once considered printing this CDC alert on all of his t-shirts: Warning: “Falls are the leading cause of injury and death in older Americans” and these unintentional life-changing accidents usually happen in a house.

living in beauty
Sutton, Quebec, Canada

These days we live with less risk, more comfort, and more activity. The novelty of moving our residence keeps us mentally sharp and physically strong. Untethered travel is like an ongoing deep tissue brain massage. We are in a perpetual state of exploration, always discovering the next beautiful, and maintenance-free backyard. Without the burden of property, we are free to pursue other interests.

living in beauty
⁨Prairie Creek Redwoods⁩, California

Our hobbies are like buried treasure we find along the road. Jim discovered his amazing talent for cooking and grilling. Before Forever Camping, Jim rarely had the time or patience to cook.

living in beauty
Smoking salmon (marinated for two days) on a bed of rosemary

Now, he’s designing recipes and even writing a book about slow-cooking to compliment my writings on slow-travel philosophy. I love Jim’s cooking, and taking “What’s For Dinner” photos.

Until we hit the road, I’d only taken the occasional family snapshot. This new life instilled a desire to tell our story in images.

We manage quite well for ourselves because we work as a team. We share driving, hitching and unhitching, setting up and striking camp, tank maintenance, laundry, and cleaning the rig top to bottom, inside and out.

living in beauty
Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canada

Teamwork and maintenance mitigates injury and builds strength. Over the last five years, our physical stamina astounds us.

“It’s not what you do some of the time that counts, it’s what you do all of the time that counts.”

Jack LaLanne

Stronger now than when we began, we can hike for miles …

living in beauty
11-mile hike in The Redwoods

kayak farther than ever before …

and thanks to our Dolphin e-Bikes, we’re working toward a 60-mile bike ride …

living in beauty
Stanley Park, Vancouver, Canada

In the last six-and-a-half years we haven’t spent a single night in the hospital. That’s our best all-time record. Of course nothing is truly forever. We know there will come a day. Until then, we make the most of the road life.

living in beauty
Montreal, Canada

Now that social security and Medicare have kicked in, we have no desire to change our active, low-stress lifestyle. This is how we roll. This is how we feel safe.

Lions and tigers and bears (oh, my) are all part of the journey. Extreme weather is our primary concern, but these days the potential for unusual events is common in every place. So we watch weather reports at least twice daily and keep a dialogue going with the rangers, camp hosts and locals. We also practice drills or at least talk through emergency procedures. If we sense danger, we drive toward safety. Beauty and The Beast is our ever-present escape hatch.

living in beauty
Depoe Bay, Oregon

Throughout our working years, camping excursions provided a quick detox from city and suburbia. Even short overnight trips gave us the power surge we needed. Now, Forever Camping is our ongoing Dose Of Nature.

living in beauty
Under the mist of Niagara Falls

WARNINGS: Forever Camping should be taken with plenty of food, water, sunlight and fresh air. Forever Camping may be addictive. Forever Camping may cause you to pinch yourself, have goosebumps, and may lead to extended states of bliss and/or prolonged joy. Acute exacerbation of chronic Happy Hour may set in. Forever Camping may cause drowsiness and result in deep and uninterrupted sleep so the dog has to stand on your chest and lick your face to wake you up. Forever Camping may cause gross expansion of your bucket list. When drop-dead gorgeous scenery overdose occurs, STOP and smell the roses. Forever Camping is not responsible or liable for bad selfies or burnt smores. Pink yard flamingoes, not included.


If you want to see our exact route, click here.

*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.


60 thoughts on “Rx: Forever Camping

  1. Wonderful read! We build our bucket list based on the beautiful photos and reviews.
    Now that Medicare is available to you, do you have any thoughts on which of the two types is best if traveling full time.
    Understand there are lots of variables.

    1. Hey Sharon,

      Wonderful to hear from you! It’s such an honor to have you on the journey.

      Yes, the Medicare red tape is intense! We have traditional Medicare with a MediGap Plan G. So far, so good. Just before we set out six years ago, we met a full-timer who had a heart transplant in a city he was visiting and knew not a soul. It was a very successful surgery. When he was fully recovered, he pulled up stabilizers and moved on.

      Safe & Happy Travels, Sharon!

      Carmen@LIB

  2. Oh I love when I see an update in my in box. Great story tellers living the dream. Sigh…. One day! Thank you for sharing your wonderful world.

    1. Nina,

      You made our day! Thank you for being with us, for listening and being a part of the story.

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

    1. David!

      You have our backs, so of course we share! So great to hear from you. Hey, to Kathy. We must make plans to visit you in Tetons.

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  3. Love vicariously traveling with you… especially when we get the chance to share some street tacos with you … Love you both!!

    1. Hey Pastor Uly & Margie!

      Haha! We are having street tacos at this very moment! Veggie for me and seafood for Jim. We’re testing the product before you come down here 😋

      Love you two SO much!!!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

    1. Hey Jan!

      You wonderful woman! Yes! Sleep is a whole world of exploration.

      I miss you! We have some catching up to do. I’ll be in your area for quite a while. I would love to get together.

      Thank you for your powerful blessings!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  4. Carmen you are a poet and photographic archivist. You make me feel the trail, smell the air and taste Jim’s food.
    Well done my talented and beautiful friend.

    Oh— hi Jim

    1. Hey Funniest Man In San Diego!

      Everything you say makes me smile, laugh or cry tears of joy. You know there’s money in that, right? You should get an agent.

      xoxo!

      Carmen@LIB

    1. Thank you, Linda! We just keep going. Don’t know how to stop if we wanted to 😆

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

    1. Hey Jane!

      You did see us at Sweetwater! Thanks for reaching out. We are still whipped, whooped and walloped by Alaska. It could take us a year to recover. Wow! What an unforgettable ride. It really helped to pull into Sweetwater where we used to live and walk those trails every day. That familiar territory felt good to our eyes and weary bones.

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

      1. Nice- wish we’d had a chance to chat as the two couples we were with are going up to Alaska in 2023.
        Next time…

  5. We have just purged everything and our house is due to close in 16 days and then we’ll follow your lead. I’m hoping we find the same beauty and change in perspective from our work selves.

    1. Hey Kathy!

      Whoa! Here comes Everything. Your adventure takes a new road. Like swords to plowshares, your time, brain, possessions are now your own for your own reasons which are mostly still unknown. It might take a while to disentangle yourself. Your vehicles, computers, clothing – have new purpose. It’s a kooky time when you ask yourself “why do I have this huge bottle of hair gel?” Mismatched socks are completely ok. No one cares about that stuff anymore. Relax into it. Make mistakes and laugh. Document all you want, someday it will be precious to you.

      Feel free to email us if you want to meet up.

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  6. Sounds great, until you get sick. Then it gets a bit tough. I got really sick a bit over two years ago, good thing we still had a home to return to for the long recovery. So we still plan on traveling, just returning home now and then.

    1. Hey Gary!

      Yep, like Mom says, “It’s all fun and games til someone loses an eye” 🤒

      So sorry to hear about your illness. I’m glad to hear that you are planning another trip. And, I can understand why you want to be in your home while in recovery.

      It’s tough to be sick while on the road, but to us it hasn’t been any different than being sick in an on-site house. Fortunately, while on the road, we’ve not had anything too serious – just minor outpatient surgery, colds, a torn achilles tendon and a couple of infections. Everything was handled via telemedicine with our hometown doc and/or local emergency clinics.

      We have no doubt that someday there will be a need for a long recovery period. Still, we cannot visualize how an on-site house will be better for our recovery than our trailer, Beauty.

      We have battle plans for every medical emergency imaginable – and I’m good at imagining what those medical emergencies could be. In all of those scenarios a house of any kind simply doesn’t fit into our plans. But good doctors, reputable hospitals and locations suitable for recovery are vital.

      Many full-timers do not have the option to keep a house and enjoy this lifestyle. Financially, it has to be one or the other: the house or The Dream. And the economy has solidified to many senior full-timers that they may be on the road till the very end.

      Seven years ago, when we were preparing for this lifestyle, we met a 99-year old man named Al. He was in the campsite next door. He’d been full-timing for 75 years. His wife had died two years earlier. Al was a first-year graduate of Cal-Tech. I looked him up. He had designed mechanical aspects of the finest fighter jets in the world. Al told me he owned houses in Hawaii and elsewhere but he refused to live in them because, he said, “they are inefficient.” He went on to tell me how the future is mobile. Someday we will all be living in houses that move. I’m sure Al is gone now, but I see the wisdom. He took care of his wife in his 5th wheel where she went through hospice care and died. We watched Al move his 5th wheel a couple of times as required by the campground for all vehicles. Later, upon returning to that campground, I heard that Al’s friends moved him to a convalescent home – which happens to most single elders when they have no one in the home to care for them.

      I don’t mean to contradict what you say about needing a home to recover. I fully agree and I am glad you kept your on-site house because it provides the support you are most comfortable in. But “home” can be a trailer, a tent or anyplace with the comforts of Home.

      Always great to hear from you, Gary!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  7. Loved this post and your photographs, Carmen! As always, you share your perspectives and RV-living philosophies in such a beautiful, engaging manner. Much of what you wrote here resonated with me and my Jeanne. We’ve been traveling fulltime for 2 1/2 years and just visited our 48th state of the Lower 48. It has been a life affirming and life transforming journey. One for which we happily have no end in sight!
    Thank you for sharing your experiences!
    Erik, Jeanne & Hershey Pup

    1. Erik and Jeanne! Thank you for reaching out. We’re always thrilled to find out who’s on board. Wow! The lower 48 in 2 ½ years is quite an accomplishment and we are feeling the excitement and wonder of your adventure. I want to hear more about about how your journey has changed you and made you so happy. Keep going and we hope to see you Out There!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  8. What a lovely post! I like the idea of the truck/trailer combo as an escape pod. 😃 I tried for two years to get husband to retire so we could travel while we were still healthy enough to do so. I quit griping about his retiring a year ago. He is now working three days a week. That is much better than five, but… Safe travels!

    1. Hey there Becky! Wonderful to hear from you again! For us, it feels great to know that you are sharing in our journey. Time can seem to work against us, but it also keeps us wondering what tomorrow may bring and excited about what is ahead.

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

    1. Wow! Thanks Paola. But without Beauty & The Beast 👸🏻👹 we’d just be living on some golfcourse somewhere trying to find our balls. Living on the road is our retirement hole-in-one🤞🏾hope the magic holds out 🌈

      Great to have you with us!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  9. I tell my kids that I’m parking my Airstream in their driveways when I can’t travel any longer, lol. Have to get to the full time travel part still though. 7 more years till my youngest graduates and I can hit the road

    1. 😅 Our son has already hinted about making us a driveway, and that plan sounds fine to us as long as there is a campground around the corner.

      Wow. Only seven years to go! From our perspective, that doesn’t seem long. You will be Out There before you know it. And the planning is also exciting. The adventure begins now.

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  10. I look forward to receiving your travel updates. Your writing style seems to miraculously put me into the wonderful places you visit and enjoy. Keep on keeping on!

    1. Jim. It’s an amazing ride and having you with us increases our joy in sharing.

      Thank you.

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  11. Great read! We feel good to know of the small part we played in getting you guys started on this venture! We still have a hookup for you any time you come by! Say hi to Allen for us!
    Larry and Jacquie

    1. Hey Larry & Jacquie!

      I still have the key fob you gave us, “Airstream. The Investment Of A Lifetime” doubled up with my “You’ve Come A Long Way Baby” fob. Wow! We’re almost 7 years on the road. We never imagined that scenario – but then it took us over a year just to find all the outlets, so … 😆

      Sayin’, Hey to Daddy for you. Let’s have a get-together in the Spring, okay?

      xoxo,

      Carmen@LIB

  12. It’s so funny you mention the fact that you sleep so well in the Airstream. If there’s one thing I very much miss about our motorhome, it’s the bed. I don’t know if it was the mattress or the small cozy space, but man, that thing was comfortable, and I haven’t slept nearly as well since!

    Anyway, great post that beautifully captures living the dream of fulltime travel! Here’s to many more years of life on the road!

    1. Laura!

      Greetings from Lisbon is quite a treat to wake up to! Sorry about that sleep issue, but I’ll bet the food makes up for it.

      Thanks for that note of confirmation. I wondered why we were sleeping so well without any sleep-aids and my research turned up these sleep pods that are little more than an RV bedroom without the RV and cost a freaking fortune. Might as well get the whole RV.

      Yesterday we met some full-timers who are planning to move to Portugal! Wow, oh Wow. You three are still livin’ The Dream.

      Hugs to Thor!

      Carmen@LIB

    1. Hey Babs! Best wishes for as many years on the road as you want or need. It truly is an amazing way to live.

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

    1. Hey Amy!

      Thank you! There’s always room for you on our beautiful ride. We hope you stick around. More Alaska to come!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  13. Excellent post you guys! I can’t wait to hear about your trip to Alaska! I’m sure it will be swesome

    1. Hey David!

      Thank you, David!

      Alaska …

      We are still processing Alaska 😬

      Whoa … from here in SoCal the entire trip from summer-autumn, seems like we were on another planet … way too many photos 😵‍💫

      Great to have you with us. Stay tuned for …

      Alaska 🫣

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  14. Carmen/Jim, you managed to describe OUR life to a T! We discovered the full time lifestyle in April 2019, and have not looked back since. Instead, we’re always looking forward to the next adventure or what’s around the next curve of the road. We have found the same gratification as you in our pairing of our 2015 AS Eddie Bauer and our 2017 Chevy Silverado HD. On average we cover nearly 25K miles/yr, making time for visits with parents, kids, and friends along the way, and spend the remainder of the year in the west/southwest visiting some of our favorite state and national parks before taking a winter pause in Tuscon to do repairs and/or projects on the AS. Life is good, and we cannot imagine ever going back to a conventional lifestyle in a sticks/bricks home. Thanks for sharing your life and travels with the world!

    1. Hey Robert!

      Thanks for reaching out sharing your pattern and the joy of living mobile with your Airstream team. We’ve never had a “house” we love more.

      When people say, “How can you live in such a small place?” I say, “I don’t live in a small place. I free range in one of the largest countries in the world.” And over a million people live like we do. They just don’t blab about it like we do.

      So GREAT to have you with us, Robert!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

    1. Debbie, glad you found us and are enjoying our posts. We love the 27′ globetrotter. You have a winner there! Stay safe out there and happy travels! Jim

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