Changing and Evolving

When I was in high school I always thought it was so strange that there were kids my age who knew exactly what they wanted to do with their life…  I have always placed the utmost importance on decision making, sometimes to the point that it paralyzes my process. I am constantly evaluating and reevaluating. I have had to continually grow and establish that which is important to me and actively bring it into my life.  I endeavor to cultivate skills, values, experiences and relationships that are meaningful. I also really like to help others.  I have found that I have a deep need to learn and try new things and eventually become bored if I don’t change things up every now and again.

This quote that I recently read from Mahatma Gandhi really speaks to me,

“Learn as if you were going to live forever. Live as if you were going to die tomorrow.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

Maybe I thought it was strange that my peers already “knew” that they wanted to be a lawyer and a mom or some such things because my soul was reaching and searching for something radically different.  I didn’t know exactly what I wanted and found the prospect of deciding that sort of thing with such little life experience somewhat overwhelming. The one thing I have always known is that I want to lead a fully conscious, meaningful and purpose driven life.  It just hasn’t always been easy for me to determine what that purpose is.  I have never had a lack of goals, the problem is that I tend towards having an unreasonable number goals.

It has been four months now since we have moved into our tiny space, our 21ft. travel trailer.  We have approximately 162 square feet of living space.  So far we don’t mind a bit.  We had the heat on almost every day last month and our electric bill was only $60!

In this blog I am going to talk about how our lives have changed since going from an 1800 square foot house to an 162 square foot travel trailer.  I am going to talk about what our life is like now and how and why this is working for us.

I have to say that while there was some adjusting that had to be done, and still does, the vast majority of change that has taken place is positive. We even enjoy coming up with creative solutions to new situations in our tiny abode; whether they are storage related, heating and cooling related, moisture related or ant related….  We are figuring this out one step at a time and this would probably be a good topic for a future blog post.

I do think that we were absolutely mentally prepared to do this.  It is truly what we both wanted and we can finally see the reasons for our move really coming to fruition.  This would and could not work if we were not BOTH on board. We have goals and we are actively involved with them.  It is difficult to forget about your goals and how serious you are about them when you live in a small space.  Your daily life is a constant reminder of why you are there and what you plan to accomplish.  Sometimes Rob finds himself surprised by what a big deal this isn’t.  RV living suits us well.  Our fantasies about where we will live next never include a “Mansion” or “Large Single Family Home”, it is always about our next RV or the Tiny efficient house we plan to build with our own hands.

The Goals and Values we are committed to:

  • Save Money – to have an emergency fund, be debt free, taking care of our medical issues and concerns, travel more, spend more time with friends and family, buy land in cash and build a small home without a mortgage, dance more, play more music, continue learning and education.
  • Leave a smaller footprint by wasting less, buying less and embracing minimalism.
  • Establish a deeper connection with Each Other, God, Nature, the Universe and ultimately our Health and Quality of life by focusing on that which is truly important to us, our core beliefs and values.

(Notice that none of our values and goals includes having more stuff or material goods. I am not saying this as a bragging point.  I think most people have similar goals and values, but they get distracted by status items and mistakenly begin to believe they are important. Living the tiny lifestyle helps us stay focused on that which is most deeply important to us and helps us avoid both distraction and the distortion that the meaning of life lies in material goods and status symbols.)

The Lifestyle / What it is like?

  • We are finally saving money!  It took 4 months for this to actually happen.  The cost of moving in combination with several very large unexpected expenses such as Sunny the cat being hospitalized made it hard to notice our reduced costs initially.
  • We don’t spend money on stuff we don’t need because we have absolutely no place to put it.
  • Even though we are both working, living in an RV campground environment is  relaxing and when we go on walks there is a very vacation-like atmosphere. We all wave to each other.  It is very friendly.
  • While we do have a small shower in our camper, we typically go to a shower room at the RV park.  It is nice.  There are four separate bathroom/shower rooms, each has two shower heads, hot water and good water pressure.  They have key code entry and deadbolts. Walking to the shower rooms in our bathrobes with our shower caddy in hand very much reminds me of summer camp.  We like it.  Showering is more of a ritual now instead of a daily inconvenience.
  • We have both a propane heater that is standard with most RV’s today and a small electric space heater.  Either do a fine job heating our tiny space.
  • We cook with propane as well.  We have to go on a short rural drive every once in a while to get our propane tanks filled at Direct Propane.
  • Coin Laundry, it has its advantages and disadvantages

Change Breeds More Change:

  • Short hair – I cut my hair really short.  It is more manageable and less hair for the drain  and my comb…
  • Off of Facebook – I took a 2 month break from Facebook and have recently resumed with less interaction and spaced-out, zombie-like scrolling. This could probably be an entire blog in and of itself.
  • Cutting other expenses – We have pretty much stopped going out and we have given ourselves a weekly grocery budget.  It is fine by us for now.  We love eating out, but we know how to have a good time with our grill at home for much less money.  Baking and cooking new recipes is also a cheap form of entertainment. We are willing to give up some instant gratification in order to achieve our long term goals.
  • Reading about finance – A really great book to kick your butt into gear is, How to Manage your Money when you Don’t Have Any.  I highly recommend it!
  • For entertainment we play music, sing, dance, play with our cat, go to the gym, watch movies, documentaries and TV series at home (basic cable is free at the RV park). One of our favorite activities is walking around the RV park and looking at the new coaches, trailers and rigs that roll in for the weekend.  
  • Work – our work keeps us pretty busy and stimulated as well.  We work on a variety of projects.  In the future I will write a post about what we, “do”.  I am sure some people are wondering by now….

By all accounts, we live a very fun and full life in our tiny trailer.

My sister asked, “so are you driving each other crazy being in such a close space together all of the time.”  The answer is no.  Maybe we are just lucky, but this aspect is not hard for us.  And honestly when one of us is gone for more than a couple of hours, we start to miss each other. We enjoy being together, working together, traveling together and truly these are the things that bring us the most satisfaction in life.  Like any couple we argue and get our feelings hurt every now and again, but the good most definitely outweighs the bad.

The Most Exhaustive Minimalist Gift Guide Ever!

I was inspired to write this post because of the recent Black Friday madness and general holiday mania I have been witnessing.  It is that time of year where consumerism sky rockets to levels even more outrageous than normal and people feel compelled to buy gifts for each other, even if they can’t think of something meaningful, useful or in many cases can’t afford them.  I understand the frenzy.  I have been in it.

The truth is that unless a person really uses and or cherishes a gift, it was a waste of money.  I don’t have money to waste!   Most people don’t. I just had a Birthday and Rob’s is coming up shortly. Parents, in-laws, siblings etcetera often ask, “What do you want for your Birthday or Christmas.”  I typically have a hard time answering this question, but even more so now.  I compiled this list partially for that reason.

We have worked really hard to get rid of most of our “stuff”.  We still have stuff to get rid of.  Every time we take something new in, we have to get rid of something we have. That is the rule.

So, what kind of gift does one give someone who is attempting downsize or become more minimalist?

More and more people are realizing the benefits of minimalism.  Do you have someone in your life that fits this description? What does one give someone who is a full time RVr, tiny house dweller or even a van dweller?

Here is an exhaustive guide I have compiled. I think it could be helpful for for everyone on your list, not just minimalists!  I also would love to hear if you have any additional ideas! While we are happily living in an RV Park, far from “off the grid”, we are in search of a more independent, self-sufficient and simple lifestyle.

We are taking baby steps and we have downsized because we value freedom over debt, making memories over amassing material things and living consciously over mechanically.  Most people who embrace this lifestyle tend to embrace experiences over material things.  Here are some literally “outside of the box” gift giving ideas for your consideration.

Tickets to Entertainment…

  • Concerts – Find out a loved ones favorite bands or venues and then get them tickets.
  • Plays – It is always fun to go see a local or touring show!

Shows from Cirque Du SoleilRingling Brothers, a local ballet, aerial or circus troupe.

  • Comedy shows – Laughter is a really great gift and there are comedy clubs, touring comics and comedy festivals in most cities!
  • Sporting events – Do you know their favorite team or the hometown college?
  • Movie Passes – Date night!  Who doesn’t like to go to the movies? My sister gave us this as a gift one year, I thought it was the greatest!
  • Museums – There are so many museums I have been meaning to and wanting to go to, having a pass would give me just the reason to go!
  • Events and Festivals – Austin and many other cities have many annual events and festivals ranging from super cheap to outrageously expensive. From food and wine to film, to marathons or music…
  • Activities – Rock Gym, Zip Lining, Paddle Boarding, Surfing, Boat Rental, Yoga, local bowling ally, the list goes on.  Most people love the opportunity to act like a tourist in their own town and get out of their regular routine!
  • Theme Parks – In many cases this will end up being a great day trip filled with fun memories. When Rob lived in Orlando, his mom used to get him an annual pass to Disney which provided many days of fun all year long!

The internet makes it super easy to find out what types of activities, destinations and entertainment are in a reasonable proximity to your loved ones, giving them a good time and memories to be cherished will most certainly be appreciated!  Make sure you know the person well enough to select something that they would love to do or try and you can’t go wrong!

Restaurant Gift Certificates:  Who doesn’t like a dinner date?  When people start cutting their expenses, one of the first things to get cut is always dinning out.  Dinning out can be such a tremendous joy!  It is something that I know Rob and I always look forward to and most definitely bond over.  Like many people these days, we are always looking for places with fresh, farm to table ingredients.  Most people seeking minimalism are doing it as a way of living a more conscious and sustainable lifestyle and food and nutrition are most definitely core values in that picture. If finding a restaurant for people like us seems like an intimidating task, try these Google terms,  “Farm to table”, “local ingredients” or “locavore”, “seasonal menu”.

There are many such restaurants in Austin and in most major cities.  I want to give a shout out to some of the great local Austin favorites!

Hillside Farmacy

Contigo

Restaurant Jezebel

Olivia

Wink

Cipollina

Is there a place you have been wanting to try in your city?

Wine Bars:   This can be an inexpensive yet very classy gift.  A date with a wine and cheese flight (an offering of several wines to taste and discuss) is always a good time!  Most wine flights are usually in the neighborhood of $15, sometimes less, rarely more.  Google a city and “wine bar” and at least a handful will pop up.  Some locations have beer flights as well for those who prefer beer to wine.  Check out what kinds of flights an establishment offers and make your decision from there….

One of our local favorites is House Wine, and we have been wanting to try Vino Vino, we have heard great things!

Coffee Shops:   Austin is known for having really great independent coffee shops that often have offerings such as yoga, live music and great little menues as well.  I like promoting the local, independent businesses I know about, so I am going to give a shout out to:

Bouldin Creek Cafe

Bennu Coffee

Cherrywood Coffeehouse

Houndstooth Coffee

There are of course tons more.  Just do a search for Austin and Coffeehouse and you see what I mean!

Speaking of food, grocery stores are great!

Whole FoodsTrader Joe’sSprouts and even some local farmers markets all offer gift cards.  Our grocery bill is our single highest bill every month by a significant margin.  In talking to friends, I have realized that we are not alone.  I think others would agree that it would be great gift to have that offset with a grocery gift card!

Money Saving Memberships:  No, I am not talking about a “Jelly of the Month Club” membership. Or a membership that in anyway will send more “stuff” to a person.  In general it is a good rule of thumb not to send someone any kind of subscription to anything they have not specifically asked for. People are bombarded by excess mail, lets all try to avoid contributing to that. Here are some ideas that might be useful to local adventurers and travelers! Many of the suggestions are specific to Austin because that is where I am and what I know, but it should still give you a good idea of what to look for. There are similar types of foundations and associations in many towns and cities.

For Locavores and Foodies

Go Local

Texas Wine and Food Foundation

For Artsy Types

Austin Film Society

Or a

Museum Memebership

For Outdoorsy Types

State Parks – This link is for Texas, but most states have State Park passes available.

National Parks

For RV Traveling Types

These are the clubs that save campers money on RV parks and other RV related things while they are on the road.

Woodalls

Good Sams Club

Passport America

KOA

Learning and Enrichment:

I don’t know about you, but I love learning new things!  I love it I love it I love it!  What do you want to learn more about?  What hobbies do you have? I love pretty much anything dance, aerial apparatus and circus related.  In Austin there are quite a few resources for such things; from my favorite, Blue Lapis Light, to the ever popular Sky Candy to the high flying, Trapeze Austin.  For dance there is of course Ballet Austin and Tapestry Dance Company among many others.  What great classes exist in your city that you or someone you love would love to take?  This really is the gift that keeps on giving.  Maybe you and your partner want to take Salsa or Tango lessons together?  You learn new skills and create memories together instead of collecting “stuff.”

Yoga, everyone needs it!  Even yoga teachers like myself love to take more yoga classes.  Did you know that Meditation is more effective for pain management than Morphine?  Yoga soothes and improves the body, mind and soul.  Who wouldn’t need that?  Yoga can help people learn techniques for stress management that will forever change and improve their lives.  What the world needs now is more Yoga!  With all of the many styles of Yoga that exist, there is literally something for everyone! Check out my friends Aerial Yoga Studio, Four Elements!

Races – is there a running or marathon enthusiast in your life?  Races usually have an entry fee and that fee very often goes to a charity.  You can kill two birds with one stone by entering your friend or loved one in a local race that they can participate in.

My other passion and obsession is building and architecture.  This is one of those things that I have only fantasized about. I would like to actually get my hands dirty and learn to do some real building beyond what I have learned in stagecraft!  I am particularly focused on the Tiny HouseMovement, building materials and how to reclaim and repurpose materials for extreme sustainability, affordability and functionality.  One of the main reasons my husband and I decided to move into our RV is to save money so that we can buy a piece of land, loan free and build our own small house with our own hands, mortgage free.  There are workshops for this sort of thing. Here are some resources, if you are interested. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving, helping someone learn to build their home is a big deal!  Do you have anyone in your life that would appreciate a gift like this?

Tumbleweed Tiny House Workshops

Tiny Texas Houses

Yestermorrow Design Build School

House Alive

Eco Nest Building Workshops

Portland Alternative Dwellings 

Relax Shacks

Services:   Massage, Haircut, Dry Cleaning, Automotive upkeep, Firestone etc. – When you think about it, these are all luxury services, not necessities. But they are also everyday services that many Americans incorporate into their weekly or monthly routine. They are services that we enjoy or appreciate which is what makes them good gifts!  Do you have a favorite Spa, Dry Cleaner, stylist or Mechanic? Honestly all I really want for Christmas is a massage!

Goods and Supplies Gift Cards:  It is true, we still need some stuff.  Most of it is rather practical, like a ladder and a rake.

Home Depot– We are forever going to Home Depot whether for Diatematious Earth to ward off ants or for a piece of outdoor carpet or exterior illumination.  If you know of a local mom and pop hardware store where your tiny dwelling loved one resides, this might be a better choice.  However if your people travel often, you know that a big box store like Home Depot or Lowes can usually be found.

Ebay – I actually buy a lot of my medical supplies on Ebay from sellers who have surplus. The situation of their insurance companies doling out extras and me not being able to get health insurance somehow becomes a symbiotic relationship where I can get inexpensive supplies that help keep me alive. You can never go wrong with an Ebay Gift Card.  I think most people tend to price compare almost everything they buy with Ebay or…—————————————————–>

Amazon – Honestly, Amazon has everything except for probably a soul.  I know, I know it is far from “local” or good for small businesses.  It is in fact the antithesis of my general philosophy and has put many small book stores out of business.  BUT, I live in a small space and I LOVE my Kindle.   Any books, magazines or reading material I receive needs to be in this format and I suspect that many tiny dwellers feel the same way.  Though I parted ways for good with Wal-Mart more than three years ago, I just can’t give up Amazon yet.

Sears – Tools, Automotive, Outdoor Living.

“Evil Chains” that are helpful when traveling: When you are a traveler and you are on the road chains simplify life because they are abundant and close to the interstate and you know exactly what to expect. Sometimes it is a nearly necessary evil. Though we try to avoid them as much as possible, here are some of the chains we tend to frequent when on the interstate.

Starbucks – Rob and I once made a $15 gift card to Starbucks last 3.2 trips by splitting a coffee and a breakfast sandwich each time.

Pet Smart – Sunny is on file at Banfield Hospital which is located in Pet Smart.  No matter what city we are in we can get the right food and meds for her.  This is such a relief.

Dollar General – Dollar General has more retail locations than any other retailer in America!  I bet you didn’t know that.  Many of them are somewhat rural which can be hella convenient when you are far from cities and towns.  Convenient and cheap. They are not overwhelmingly monstrously enormous and you can get septic safe toilet paper, laundry soap, panty liners and all the GMO trail mix you want there.

Target – Unforeseen miscellaneous needs.  Need I say more?

Gas Cards and Truck Stops:  It is no secret that people who travel generally need gas to get to where they are going.  Some super ambitious and conscientious people have converted to bio-diesel. I wish we were that cool! These gas stations are very friendly to large rigs and are generally easy to pull in and out of.  They are most definitely our preference when traveling.Loves and Pilot/Flying J

Camping and Tripping Supplies:

Camping World – There is ALWAYS something that we need from Camping World.  Right now I want these shoe holders.

Academy – If I was only allowed to shop at one store for the rest of my life, it would probably be Academy.

CampmorL.L. BeanREI = GEAR, GEAR, GEAR!!!

La Musica: Remember when getting someone a new CD was a great gift? itunes gift cards are the new music gift. And if you know someone who actually plays music, getting them a gift card to their local music store or Guitar Center is wonderful.  String players always need more strings!

Oh So Medical Oh So Awesomely Practical:  Eye Exams and Dental Cleanings– Many people don’t have vision and dental care.  What a lovely gift an eye exam or dental cleaning would be!  My mother-in law often gives us the gift of a teeth cleaning with their family dentist.  We couldn’t be more appreciative! – That was Robs gift this year and honestly, it is all he really wanted!

WalgreensCVS or other pharmacy Gift Cards – Medicine is expensive!  Insulin is outrageous!  These are major burdens to much of the population.  This would be an awesome, jump for joy gift!

Donations:   Make a donation in the name of a loved one to a charity that is close to their heart.  Perhaps you have a person in your life that is far more generous than they are rich.  Or perhaps you have someone in your life that can have anything they want at any time… This is an incredibly special, personal and perfect gift.  What are your favorite charities? What charities are important to those you plan to buy gifts for this year? Here are a few of my favorites!

*Is the person you are shopping for an artist, film maker, musician or generally having creative projects in the works?  As a gift, find out if they need support for their next project.  Most of the creative people I know would give up “gifts” forever and be eternally grateful if they could just get their project funded.  Even small amounts are very helpful!*

Things to avoid…..

Clothes and Accessories:  Scarfs, gloves, hats, sweaters, pajamas, really clothes of any kind.  For all you know, this person may already have 18 scarfs and sets of pajamas that they already don’t wear or know what to do with.  Having said that, one of my favorite gifts ever was a jersey knit scarf that a friend gave me; it is just the perfect weight for Texas and Florida cold!

Bath stuff:   Lotion, soap, bath salts etc.  People are very particular about what kinds of body products they use.  It is never a good idea to impose your product tastes on someone else unless you are absolutely positive that it will be a hit.  This is very personal territory!

Knick Knacks and Novelty Anything:   It isn’t the “thought that counts”, it is the “function” that counts. People have their own tastes and again, it is usually pretty specific.  Don’t get someone an item that is just going to take up space in their closet.  Like I said before unless someone truly uses or cherishes an item, it was a waste of money.  If you see an item that you think would be “funny” to give someone, don’t waste your money, just take a picture of the item with your phone and send it to the person.  You can still have the LOL, no one has to waste their money and no one has to store useless “novelty” crap.

Please comment!  I want to hear your suggestions.  Is there a place you would like a gift card for that I didn’t mention?  What is your favorite independent restaurant in your hometown?  What is your go-to travel stop? Is there a class you would like to take or a new skill you would like to learn?  What is your favorite charity?  Tell me!!! I want to know.  Give shout outs to your favorites!

Here is a really lovely blog post on Becoming Minimalist about giving your children gifts they will remember.  This blog post really speaks to me.  Enjoy!!!

Happy Holidays, whatever you celebrate!

By the way, HUGS make great gifts!!!

New blog, old recipes.

I made these video recipe blogs a few years ago.  I thought I would share them with my current readers.  I have to modify most recipes to suit my diet and I love experimenting with alternative ingredient baking. I enjoy cooking and entertaining, particualrly around the holidays. I hope to make more recipe videos soon!

Spicy Turkey Meatloaf

Auntie Fritzie’s Spinach Balls

Chef Raymond’s Cauliflower Mash

Garlic Lemon Green Bean with Almonds

Enjoy!

The Corner Pieces – Part II: “Quit Hogging the Vortex!” (Sedona)

The Yoga Therapy training program that I did was full of amazing ladies from all over the country. Toward the end of my training program, I was really looking forward to Rob and my trip out to California for our friends wedding.  I started asking people in my training program, where to stop on our way West.  Kathy, from Arizona told me about Sedona.  I put it at the top of our list.

Now, if you read my blog, you know what a harrowing drive it was to get to Sedona.  In this blog, finally, Part II of “The Corner Pieces”, I will tell you why it was so worth it!

The first and most obvious thing to say about Sedona is that it is beautiful, gorgeous, picturesque and breath taking in fact!  Those words all feel trite and plain as I attempt to describe the spectacular majesty of this place.

Sedona sits in the Verde Valley between the Mingus Mountains to the Southwest and the Colorado Plateau to the northeast.  These formations and the geology there are really old, ancient in fact.  If you are a geology buff, you probably already know about Sedona, if you want more information, you might enjoy this site: http://www.arizonaruins.com/sedona/sedona_geology.html

The obvious activity to do here is go hiking!  We were still exhausted from our hellacious drive, but we were determined to power through and enjoy all that Sedona had to offer (for free) to its fullest.  YEAH!  We were going to hike the shit out of that place!!!  Only, secretly, neither one of us was really up for it.  We pressed on because we didn’t want to disappoint each other or regret having not done it.  Our day of hiking was starting to resemble our previous day of driving. 

Despite getting explicit instructions from the front office on how to walk to the five mile hike trailhead from the RV park, we couldn’t find it.  We were wandering in circles, retracing our steps and becoming frustrated and cranky.  Again we began to doubt the existence of said hiking trail.  After walking around for about an hour in the hot sun and never finding the trail, we gave up.

It was the right thing to do.  Sometimes, you just have to surrender your plans to actually have an enjoyable time.  Forcing your agenda rarely turns out to be pleasurable. Later we decided to drive to the trailhead just to see if we could find it.  It turned out we had been been milling about and searching approximately one hundred yards away from it.  Oh well, next time.

We decided that instead of the long hike, we would go check out one of the vortices or rather “vortexes” (that is how they say it there) that Sedona is so well known for.  When people say that Sedona is magical, they are being quite literal.  What is an “energy vortex?”  My short definition is that it is a subtle swirling of spiritual energy that can be detected in the physical world; as it does leave a small, though measurable residual magnetism in the places where it is the strongest. It is a geo-physiological anomaly. – I just made that up, but is sounds right doesn’t it?

Though I tend to be sensitive to subtle spiritual energy, I am also skeptical and struggle with trusting myself. Rob is sensitive too, but he trusts himself more.  Like many people who live in Sedona, we could definitely feel the energy of it all over town. Somehow this swirling energy brings a sense of clarity and wellbeing. If you are interested in learning more about these Energy Vortexes in Sedona, there are a ton of web sites about them.  I think this site does a great job of getting into some of the specifics: http://www.lovesedona.com/01.htm

Many people swear by the healing properties of these vortexes.  They have been in use for healing and spiritual purposes for centuries and very specifically by the early Native American populations.

Somewhat blindly and uninformed we drove to the Airport Vortex trailhead and started hiking around… We were there for the views and the vortex – though we still were not really sure what that meant. We climbed to the highest peak and we were in awe! You can see a spectacular 360 panorama of truly awesome vistas from this vantage point.

 

Eventually, we respectfully made our way to the Vortex to meditate (the juniper trees in the area are spiraled and twisted, they say, from the energy of the vortex). – You don’t want to disturb others who are there to meditate.   This is what our bodies and brains really needed after our long days of intense driving!  We sat there and soaked it all in.  We felt the the vibrations of the earth, we felt the history of the ancient people who knew that this was a holy, healing and magical place. It was magnetic and we could have stayed there for many hours!  We were kind of hogging the vortex. This is when we hilariously came up with, “Quit hogging the vortex!”  We respectfully stepped away from the vortex to give others the opportunity to experience it.

Following that bit of recharging, we went to a grocery store to get items for dinner – this is really a great way to save some money while traveling.  The rest of the day unfolded beautifully.  We strolled around Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village stopped and had an appetizer and margaritas at a little cafe, walked back to our RV, put our bathing suits on and went swimming in the gorgeous little creek behind our RV park. It was cold and refreshing.  There was even a rope swing! 

On our jaunt to the creek, we met one of our neighbors, Pat, who would prove to be crucial to the rest of our journey!  He was a fellow RVr who was staying at Rancho Sedona with his family for a few days.  He was very familiar with the drive between L.A. and Sedona, both on I10 and I40.  He also happened to be a fire and rescue worker in the L.A. area (read, he has scraped a lot of bodies off of the freeway).  He gave us some invaluable tips on how to drive a camper through L.A. without killing ourselves.  We traded some stories about I40. He also gave us his contact info incase we needed anything.  What a great person to meet!

The weather was so beautiful we decided to cook dinner and eat outside at the campground.  We took Sunny outside on her leash as well.  We were finally relaxing!  “Lets not leave here, ever!”  In all seriousness, Sedona is now at the top of our list places to buy property and build a sustainable tiny house.  

Cocktails in hand we talked and reminisced about the day.  Met a few more campground neighbors strolling by and talked about what we were going to do the next day before we left for our final destination, Malibu.  Our playlist for the evening was Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream, Led Zeppelin, IV, and Pink Floyd, Momentary Lapse of Reason.

Earlier in the day, when we were at the top of the Airport Vortex Trail, we remarked that it looked like something from a yoga video.  I had been wanting to make some RV traveler yoga videos, so we decided to go film one the next morning before embarking on what would be a 13 hour drive to Malibu.

We went to bed early and woke up early.  We woke ourselves up by going for a swim in the chilly creek.  We then headed back to the Airport Vortex Trail for some yoga on top of a mountain!   It was interesting and quite challenging doing balancing poses on top of a mountain with no immediate or close points of visual focus.  – So if you decide to do my yoga video, bear with me through that part… :)(Coming soon)

When we got back to the campground we had some breakfast and took our time packing up the camper.  Our strategy, as per Pat’s instructions, was to hit L.A. after 9pm and just avoid the traffic altogether.  This proved to be a pretty good strategy.  Don’t get me wrong, the drive was still long and exhausting and driving the trailer at night comes with its own set of challenges, but at least we avoided the heavy traffic.

It was really HOT in the Mojave and really windy in Hot Springs.  At one point, up hill in a head wind with the pedal to the metal we couldn’t go faster than 45.  There were dust storms and dust tornados everywhere!  At this point however, we were so much more seasoned and experienced from our day on I40, that we were ready for this difficult day of travel.  We were mentally prepared for a long day on the road after our lovely break in Sedona.

Driving through downtown L.A. towing a travel trailer in the dark was insanity.  We felt like we were in a spaceship.  It felt like we were flying at light speed.  We eventually reached Malibuat about 10:30pm. I finally unclenched my jaw, took a breath and released my fingernails from the upholstery.  We set up in the dark again and looked forward waking up on the Pacific where we would spend the next beautiful week of our lives!  

Here are some driving tips from Rob:   

– Don’t use overdrive when towing

– Speed up before you hit hills

– Make sure your vehicle and trailer tires are inflated to the reccomended PSI listed on the tire sidewall, you will waste a lot of gas if they are not!

– Don’t drive faster than 55 unless you want to burn through tons of fuel. You are allowed to drive 55, legally, so don’t feel bad about going slow, if people have a problem, they can go around you.  Don’t let other drivers bully you.

– In general, your trip is going to be much longer than you think.  When towing, driving more than 6 to 8 hours a day is just too much, plan accordingly.  If Google Maps says it will take you 8 hours to reach your destination, it could take you 12 to 13.

– If you are going into unfamiliar territory, especially out West, check out the elevations on your route before you leave.  What may seem like a faster route could actually take you up and down very steep grades.  You want to avoid that if at all possible.

– When getting gas or in other situations when you may be close to objects, get out and check your distance if you have any doubts about your clearance.  It is so much easier to check and make sure you have clearance than it is to go through the hassle and cost of a repair.

Stay tuned for Part III of The Corner Pieces (our decision to become full-timers), The Houles go to Malibu!  We are only very slightly more sophisticated than the Beverly Hillbilly’s.  The Beverly Houlebilly’s!

Moving in: Blessings in Complicated and Expensive Packages

It is official! We live in our RV!  It has not been easy getting here. And really, nothing important or worthwhile usually is. There is always a barrage of resistance when one sets about to make some kind of significant change.

I might be in shock. Maybe a little bit.  Not really. I don’t know.

There is this saying, and I don’t know who to attribute it to, but, It has been speaking to me lately:  “If you want something you have never had, then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.”

Here is how I feel:
I am glad not to be in a big house anymore, it did not suit me and I was counting down the days to a more minimalist lifestyle.  I was tired of living in the location we were in.  I have a sense of relief that the actual move is over and that we have parked in our new living space!  Also, so far, I really like the RV park we are in.  It is sort of rural, but only 8 miles from downtown.  We are bike riding distance to a lake.  There is a pool, hot tub and gym on the premises.  And we are paying half of the rent we were paying before.  I feel grateful to be here.

Getting here and the craziness that consumed our lives leading up to our big move was beyond overwhelming. It was numbing.  It was numbing because we have learned that panic solves nothing. I am not going to lie, I had an emotional breakdown and then resolved to be stoic and get shit done.  I am learning to recognize the blessings in certain hardships.

We knew the month of September would be intense.  After all we were making a major life change.  It didn’t end there though.  It got kicked up by about 5 notches. And as we all know, when it rains, it pours!

The Month and Days Leading up to our Big Move:
If you have been following my blog, you know that I was cast in a dance show at the last minute.  I had about 6 rehearsals before opening night.  The show in and of itself was intense. It was a lovely, beautiful, profound and fulfilling experience, that confirmed my inner need to dance more, but intense nonetheless. I was zip lining off the roof of a 82’ high building, The Long Center.

Additionally, we had a trip to Northern Wisconsin planned for my father’s 60th Birthday.  The plan was to take Sunny (the cat) with us.  Now that I think about it, even purchasing the plane tickets was a difficult affair that resulted in me getting charged three times!

Eventually that all got sorted out.  And when I got cast in the show, we figured out the logistics of changing my ticket, Rob leaving two days earlier than me with Sunny and then me flying up before the crack of dawn the day after closing night of the show.  Best laid plans! Right?

In the midst of all of this I would say that we were about 65-70% moved out of the house.  Most of the big furniture was gone.  We were sleeping on our mattress on the floor.  We had given away, sold or stored most of our worldly belongings to the best of our ability.  We still had stuff that fell into the category, “I have no idea what to do with this!”

The day before Rob was to fly out to Wisconsin, we took Sunny to the vet to get her certificate to fly.  This is when things started to go from “stressful in an exciting way” to “stressful in a bad, sad and scary way”.   Sunny’s skin was a yellowish tint, which indicated that her liver was not functioning properly.  She was sick.  The vet said that it could become very serious and that she recommended that she not fly.  Rob had to cancel his flight.

We still did not quite understand what was happening and still had hope perhaps I could go see my dad for his Birthday.  After several more trips to the vet and various tests, Sunny was diagnosed with Hepatic Lipidosis or fatty liver syndrome.  This was very serious.  She was not eating and her body was breaking down her stored fat and her liver could not process it.  I had to cancel my trip too.  Our baby, Sunny’s life was now in clear and present danger!

Why wasn’t Sunny eating? According to the vets, she was stressed out, probably from a combination of things.  1.) We had been trying to switch her to wet food from dry food and she was not into it.  She wanted her damn carbs!  But we thought she had been coming around and maybe starting to like the wet food.  Not so much.  2.) We were moving.  Apparently this is a major source of stress for cats when they see boxes, of stuff and furniture being moved around and disappearing, especially favorite chairs etc. 3.) With the move, the show and Rob getting some work in Tulsa, OK. our lives and schedules had changed drastically.  Sunny was used to being the center of our universe and suddenly she wasn’t.   4.) AND the icing on proverbial perfect storm was that she had killed and eaten the head off of a coral snake in the garage one night while we were  at one of my performances (I know, very disturbing).  While apparently cats have no issue with digesting and breaking down snake toxins, it might have upset her stomach enough to make her not want to eat for a couple of days despite the obvious pride that she had in her kill.

By the end of the week in spite of multiple techniques to jumpstart Sunny’s appetite, including begging, pleading and praying for her to eat, she was not having it!  She had to go to the emergency 24 hour vet and have feeding tube inserted and spend 4 days in intensive care with all food and 9 different prescriptions being administered every 4 hours via e-tube.  We were very concerned kitty parents to say the least!

Then, there was our vehicle.  The ever important Toyota 4Runner that was just shy of 200,000 miles and entrusted with the task of towing our RV, to it’s new location at the end of the month.  It was acting weird and we had just put $1500 into it at the beginning of the summer.  It seemed like it was about to fail and we did not want to put anymore money into it.   Now amidst everything going on, we had to go truck shopping with less than a week until our move out and with our beloved Sunny in the hospital.

I am just going to go ahead and give a shout out to Champion Toyota here in Austin.  This is the second vehicle we have purchased through them.  While Sunny was in the hospital, we traded our 2000 4Runner for a 2009 GMC Sierra.  We found the vehicle we wanted online, we went and bought it.  It was relatively painless as far as these things go.  This is my tip here – Always find the vehicle you want online before you go to the dealership, it is usually about $1000 cheaper.  Also it is always better to go to the dealership already knowing what you want.

After that we had to make an appointment to have the hitch and brake controller installed on the new vehicle, we are now at t-minus 4 days till move out.  Sunny had to go back and forth to the hospital in North Austin for check ups and bandage changing, we lived in South Austin and the brake controller had to be installed in Kyle.  For those of you who are not familiar with Austin, that is a lot of driving.   AND those are a lot of new bills, so we were trying to work as much as possible as well… Oh yeah and move!  Also, feed Sunny gruel through a tube every four hours around the clock in addition to managing her overwhelming schedule of medications.  There was no time to freak out, panic or complain.  Head down, missions accomplished, one thing at a time, reflect later.

When we brought Sunny home from the hospital, in the interest of not stressing her out we decided to move her into the RV immediately instead of the house which was in a state of moving disarray. We obviously moved ourselves into the camper as well.  We didn’t have water or sewer hooked up, so we had to go into the house to use the restroom, shower and do dishes, but for the last 6 days we stayed in our RV in the yard while we moved out.  This was one of the hidden blessings.  I think staying in the RV made the rest of the packing and moving quicker and less painful.  We were able to visually and physically separate our “living situation” from our “moving situation.”

Anxiety runs in my family.  I have tons of crazy anxiety that seems ready to strike at any moment.  Yoga has helped me with this tremendously!  I also have chronic autoimmune diseases which are exacerbated by anxiety and viceversa.  My life and most certainly my quality of life has depended on finding solutions to this anxiety.  Yoga, meditation, breath, and self talk are all part of the equation.  I know how to “trigger my relaxation response” ie. take myself from my sympathetic nervous system to my parasympathetic nervous system.  This has been invaluable over the past couple of weeks and really helped me find the value in some of our difficulties or rather how to take advantage of negative situations for positive outcomes.

So, here we are in our camper, one week after our big move.  Sunny still has a tube in her esophagus, but she is eating on her own now and doing normal Sunny things like grooming herself, playing and rolling over on her back to get belly rubs.  We have encountered some new RV related challenges…  We had a war with some black ants that decided to invade our camper the second night here, we have siliconed the edges of the shower, bought some damp rid and had a heroic fight with the sewer this morning.   We have also gone to the hot tub for a soak every night before bed and I have done some baking to make things feel homey.  Mostly, we have not stopped working since we arrived.

Life is a constant series of tests and challenges.  I have found that how I react in times of difficulty is ultimately what determines my happiness. After all being happy in the easy times is, well, easy.  The challenges are what make a person grow.  Holy man!  We are growing!

Living and Moving Through the Heart

I think linearly. I like to be organized. I like it when things make sense, most of the time. Typically I like to blog so that things go in order and I am not jumping around too much.  That is why it is hard for me to write this particular blog.  It is not Part II of my last blog, The Corner Pieces as originally intended, and I apologize for making you wait on that installment.

Right now, I have the need to blog in the present and stray from the narrative that is supposed to catch you up to the present.  After all, I am only one person and there is only so much time in the day… And I need to seize this day before it too becomes the past.  We are living and moving through the heart right NOW and that is exactly what this blog is about!

Lately, life has been quite glorious.  Intense and busy for sure, but my time is consumed with doing and working towards all of the things that I love. I am living and moving through the heart, doing my heart’s work and that is a beautiful thing. I want to share with my readers what that means to me and find out what that means to them.  I also want to share with you how it all relates to Tiny Living, moving into our RV and the unburdening of that which is extraneous.

Right now

We have been in the middle of packing and moving for about two months now.  For those of you who missed it, Rob and I are moving into our travel trailer. We are distilling life down to what is actually, truly and deeply important to us. We are striving to save money, get out of debt and refuse to get a mortgage.  We are experimenting with minimalism. We want to travel and we want to work!  We want to do meaningful work of our choosing that will move and inspire.  We have realized that for us, our quality of life is not measured by the amount of STUFF we own, but in the joy that we derive from the work that we do and the time we spend together.  What an important realization!

Even though we are still living in an 1800sq ft. rented house for the next few weeks, we are in a different mind set and truly amazing things are happening.  Since we have made the decision to shed the fluff so to speak, the clarity and focus have been sharper than ever.  We are making a concerted effort to seek out that which is meaningful to us. We live in a world that is full of distractions, we are blocking them out. The effect that it is having on our lives is that we are actually drawing in that which we are most passionate about.

I was recently cast in a beautiful work of dance art by Blue Lapis Light, Site Specific Aerial Dance Company called Heaven-Earth-One. In many ways this is a dream come true for me. It most definitely called for its own individual blog post.

The performance is on the iconic Long Center for the Performing arts in Austin, TX.  I say, performing “on” instead of “at” or “in” because it is a work of site specific aerial dance that is literally being performed on the exterior architecture of the building.

The mission of Blue Lapis Light is to “create transcendent works of beauty that are offered without religious denomination, as prayers for the planet.  Using aerial techniques informed by classical, interpretive and modern dance, Blue Lapis Light is committed to challenging physical limitations and inspiring our audiences with a sense of wonder.”

The show that we are currently doing, Heaven-Earth-One “is a journey personal and collective. Our experiences connect us to one another and to the greater whole.  An eternity of possibility is held within each moment, thought and action. To embrace peace in our hearts, act compassionately toward one another and treasure this planet and all species, is to live in the light of conscious change for all.”   The main idea of the show is that within the knowledge of all, both light and dark exist.  Humanity has the responsibility of bringing the dark into the light. When you live and move through the heart, heaven and earth become one.

Within the context of the show, my character and my fellow zip liner, Tara are etherial beings that represent and bring the hope of living through the heart.  How cool is that?  This show came into my life at exactly the right time.  It speaks to me!  I speak through it.  My body speaks through movement.  It is my deepest wish to bring the hope of living through the heart to those I come in contact with.

It is amazing that I have the opportunity to do so in Heaven-Earth-One!

When Rob and I made the decision to move into our RV it was a decision to live and move through the heart. When I decided to blog about our transition into this new life and the pursuit of our dreams, it was a decision to provide inspiration, guidance and hope to others who may have similar desires or who are seeking a path to living through their heart.  It is about intention.  Everything you do with clear intensions is a little prayer, spell and offering to fulfilling a life of living through your heart. Art is a powerful medium for prayer and intention. Being in this show right now is like the artistic personification of our dedication to living through the heart!

What does living through the heart mean?  What does it mean to you? I am not totally comfortable explaining this for everyone, because our experiences are all different and living through the heart is going to look very different on every individual.  In not so many words, this is a question that I have pondered for years. I had my first existential crisis at age 4 and have continued to have them throughout my life, often they are brought on by my health issues… Also, when I was in high school and people would say things like, “these are the best years of your life”, it really made me panic.  Age really is a beautiful thing, it provides some much needed perspective.

I have realized that living through the heart is not something that can be fully understood intellectually (which is hard for me, because I want to understand everything intellectually and in a linear and organized way), it is something that must be felt in the depths of your being.  And it requires a certain amount of stillness, quiet and searching to find.

In my opinion, being in nature and away from the influence of social expectations helps sort out what is actually important versus what we are told should be of importance to us.  Examining what your comfort zone is and then realizing that you are probably going to have to jump out of it to experience the joy of living through your heart, and then preparing yourself to do exactly that.  Being ok with not knowing all of the answers, continuing to search and having faith that you will discover them when the time is right. I find that I am often more comfortable outside of my comfort zone these days.

Talking about what it means for you to live through your heart with a good friend or partner is a great first step.  It is never too late to learn more about yourself!  I have learned that helping others find a way to live through the heart, in turn helps me live through the heart.

Here is some inspiration!  Take some time to absorb these words, deconstruct them and what they mean to you.

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the Heart.”

-Helen Keller

“I just want to make beautiful things even if nobody cares.”

-Saul Bass

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

-Neale Donald Walsch

“Great effort from great motives is the best definition of a happy life.”

-William Ellery Channing

“Finding is reserved for those that search”

-Jim Rohn

“The Excitement of learning separates youth from old age.  As long as you’re learning, you’re not old.”

-Rosalyn S. Yalow

Now ask yourself again, what would it mean to you, to live through your heart? What distractions could you rid yourself of to help discover your true self? How could you downsize your life so that it is truly full? Maybe you are you already doing it?

Please comment.  I would love to know your thoughts, dreams, and inspiration!  What does living through the heart mean to you?  What is your prayer for the planet?

Also, if you are interested in attending one of the remaining performances of Heaven-Earth-One, you can get tickets through the Long Center. 

I am not going to tell you what my next blog post will be about, because I could change my mind; changing my mind is part of living through my heart.

The Corner Pieces – Part I : “I had no idea!” (Austin – Clovis – Sedona)

There are many pieces to the puzzle of our decision to become RV full-timers.  One of the big corner pieces was the last road trip we went on.  The ups, the downs and the time spent renewed our energy, fervor and commitment to a simple life of embracing the things that are closest to our hearts.  It reconfirmed our values and ultimately forced us to act.

This was a long and action packed journey full of many lessons, so I am going to have to write this particular blog post in several parts.

Very dear friends of ours were getting married in Malibu California and asked Rob and I to perform a song in their wedding.  We were so excited about the two of them tying the knot and felt so honored to be a part of the ceremony, we started planning the trip immediately.  This was to be our first real RV trip. We were going a significant distance, traveling roads that were new to us and stoping in towns we had never been to before.

I want to just stop for a moment and tell you that this trip was amazing!  We learned so very much! I kid you not, the number of times each of us uttered the phrase, “I had no idea!” is literally off the charts.

From Austin, TX. to Malibu CA. there are two routes you can take.  I10 or I40.  I did some research and it truly seemed as though I40 was our best bet.  Everyone on the internets said it was prettier and more serene… Bullshit!  I40 was one of the most harrowing and terrifying drives I have ever been on.  ”I had no idea!”

Lets start at the beginning: Yay!!! Big drive! The freedom of the road! California here we come!  Sunny the cat is our co-pilot! (yes, we took our cat to Malibu. She loved it by the way.) Desert, mountains, beach, friends, awesome!!!!!! So cool!!!!! 

There is a lot of land between Austin and Malibu and some of it really isn’t so pleasant.  To reach the nightmare that is I40, you have to go through Northwest Texas and a town called Clovis, NM that boarders Texas.  For about 20 miles you pass a lot of industrial cattle farms, some still operational but there are also many abandoned factories and plants used for processing god knows what.

This area of the country seems as though it at one time enjoyed significant agricultural success.  It now looks like something from a B Science Fiction movie.  The cattle “farms”, I am using that word very loosely, are the kinds that you see in documentary films about how terribly cattle are treated.  The cows are packed in like sardines and clearly wallowing in their own feces.  The stench is unbelievable and the sadness is palpable!  It smells like rotten death and putrid disease, but mostly like a whole lot of cow shit!  The shit of poor, abused and mistreated cows that probably end up at chain restaurants and regular grocery stores and eaten by people who don’t know any better. Call me an elitist, snob or health nut if you want.  When it comes to food, I will not deny that claim.

After 12 hours of driving, Clovis was to be our first overnight stop.  “Yay we are finally stopping! Boo! We have to stop here.” I had made a reservation in advance at a clean RV park with good reviews.  This was a Good Sams rated park and it was right on the highway which was perfect so we could get up early and get on the road…

When we got all set up and settled in, the Natural Gas Detector alarm in our RV started  piercingly ringing!  We were a bit panicked.  We kept checking the propane and turning the alarm off.  We were confounded.  What was the problem?  Methane!  Methane gas from cow shit and farts was setting off the alarm!  We closed the door and the windows  to keep the gas out and hunkered down for the night.

We woke up, had some breakfast and didn’t waste any time getting on the road.  We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.  This was to be our most stressful drive to date. It started with our first fuel up.  Rob had to get something out of the trailer.  You can’t get anything from inside of the trailer without slightly opening the slide out.  He forgot to pull the slide out back in.  Mind you, it wasn’t out far, maybe a few inches.  Nevertheless, when he realized it and told me and we both realized that there was no place for many miles to pull over and fix the situation, I had what was to be my first meltdown of the day.

We had a 570 mile drive ahead of us.  According to Google Maps it was supposed to take us about nine hours and a few minutes.

When we eventually got to I40 more insanity followed.  It was quite literally all uphill! – But more like up MOUNTAIN!

Here is the long and short of it:
– Within the first 6 miles of being on I40, like a huge warning, we saw the skeleton of what was once a travel trailer, completely burnt out and reduced to a big black smudge on the road.

– The grades kept getting bigger, steeper and scarier.  We were really starting to question if our rig would be able to handle it.  ”We had no idea!”

– Many of the truckers were perfectly polite and fantastic drivers.  In fact I can specifically praise the drivers of the Swift big rigs. They keep it classy on the road! Unfortunately most of the other truck drivers, on that day, were clearly all on some sort of insane Crystal Meth bender – and there were a lot of them! Sometimes it really felt like they were literally trying to kill us.

– We have to travel at about 55mph.  That was not acceptable to some of these fast hauling psychos.  While on a seriously steep incline, one of these assholes decided to pass us. His tire started smoking and then completely shredded, and flew at us while he was passing us.  The big rig went all squirrely and I begged Rob to please put on the breaks and stop.  Rob’s response was that if he stopped there, we would never make it all the way up the incline!  I knew he was right.  We slowed to a snails pace which felt almost like going backwards while the reckless truck driver pulled off to the side, axel still smoking.  So that’s how all of those shredded tires make it to the side of the highway!  ”We had no idea!”

-We encountered temperatures up to 107 degrees and elevations over 7000 ft.  “We had no idea!” – When it rained, we were relieved.

– I40 around Albuquerque should be avoided at all costs. We hit it at rush hour. “We had no idea!”

– At one point we had to sit and idle in the direct burn of the intense sun for about 1.5 hours because of a big rig wreck that was blocking the road.

– We were definitely feeling strange from the altitude and could tell that Sunny was not really feeling too great either.  She had this white ring around her nose which was of concern to us.  ”We can hazzed no idea!”  Eventually we realized that it was basically cat boogers.  Her little wet nose had dried out just like ours had.

– Food. There was barely any to be found on this route.  “But you have a fridge and pantry in your trailer!”  Interestingly, there is seldom a good place in the mountains to pullover and get said food.  We did once.  It was terrifying.  In this situation, a motorhome would definitely be the rig of choice.  Your food would be at your fingertips if you were crazy enough to take off your seatbelt!

– Also, there are grifters at about every gas station with the same predictable story. “We had no idea!”

– AND just when we could not take it any longer, it went on longer and longer and longer and we thought we would never ever reach our destination in one piece.  We seriously almost gave up several times.  We had been on the road in hellish conditions for over 13 hours at this point.

Alas we saw signs for 17, the road that would lead us towards our destination for the evening, gorgeous, mystical, Sedona, AZ. Some relief was certainly on the way.  Or so we thought. There were trees along the road shielding us from the harsh and unrelenting sun that had beamed at us all day, there were no longer massive trucks recklessly careening past us and we were now only 20 to 30 minutes away from our intended destination.

Soon the gently sloping road turned into 20 miles of switchbacks down the side of a mountain. There was a sign, warning that rigs longer than 40ft should not attempt this route when it was already too late to turn around. We descended over 3000 ft, hairpin turns the whole way!  If I didn’t die from death, I was sure, I would die from fright!

This narrow road with a steep abyss below, seemed to wind endlessly as dusk was ominously turning to dark. What kind of cruel joke was this?  It was just one surprise after the other and it did not seem to be stoping any time soon. At this point we were so white knuckled, frazzled and fried we started to seriously doubt the actual existence of our destination.

After 14.5 hours, we finally reached the little town of Sedona and then Rancho Sedona one of the coolest little campgrounds we have stayed in yet!  Even though it was now dark and we would have to back into our site which had a lovely tree in the middle of it (not so good for backing in), we were very relieved. – Yet the surprises didn’t end there.

After many attempts and much yelling, “left, no, right, come straight back, nope, pull forward, try again, don’t hit that tree, watch out for that car….” and attracting the attention of several neighboring campers, we finally got all situated, unhooked the vehicle from the camper and started hooking up water, and electricity – in the dark.

I went into the trailer to put out the slide out and deposit Sunny (World’s most patient cat) inside to relax, only to discover that the one time we stopped to get food out of the trailer, in my haste I had failed to latch the pantry properly.  ”I had no idea!” More surprises!  The entire pantry had become completely dismantled.  The shelves and everything that was in them was now strewn about the camper.  The extreme disarray of the contents of the camper was a true testament to the insane ride we had been on.

“Kate” I hear Rob calling from outside the camper.  “This is full hookups, right?”  Yes, I had made the reservation for full hookups!  “Can you help me find the sewer hookup, I can’t find it.”  After some digging around in the lovely landscaping of our site with a flashlight in hand, we found the hook up!  Hooray!  Not so fast!  Our sewer hose was exactly 1 inch too short to reach!  ”We had no idea!”

We had to hook the truck back up to the trailer in the dark and back it up yet again. More yelling and attention from the neighbors.  We decide to keep the trailer connected to the vehicle until everything is definitely in order with the hookups.  What could possibly go wrong now?  Well, the sprinklers came on and completely soaked us.  At this point there was nothing left to do but laugh. It was all we could do.  Now it was dark and everything was wet, including us. We laughed and laughed as we finished outside and went to tackle the disaster that was awaiting inside.

We took off our wet clothes and put them outside on the picnic table to dry. Wearing towels, we set about to clean up the pantry situation; gather all of the loose items off of the floor and return the shelves to their proper place.  But, something was missing!

There was an entire wire shelf missing!  It was impossible!  How can you lose an entire shelf inside of a 21 foot travel trailer?  “Where the fuck did it go?”  We looked high and low.  And then we noticed that something about the carpet looked strange on the front of the slide-out.  Somehow the pantry shelf managed to cram itself under the slide-out.  We had already put out the slide-out!  How were we going to retrieve the damn shelf?  We were a bit dumbfounded.  ”We had no idea!” Fearing damage and destruction, we carefully brought the slide-out back in. Success!  We were able to fish out the approximately 4ft deep shelf from under the slide-out unscathed.  Let’s celebrate!

We both collapsed on the dinette seats.  Rob pleaded with a higher power, “Please, no more surprises!”  We were exhausted and starving but decided that what we really needed was a stiff drink.  We put on dry clothes, unhooked the the 4Runner from the trailer and set out for the liquor store we had seen on our drive into town.  Of course when we arrived, the owner was locking up and said we were three minutes too late.

Back at the camper we made a simple meal of soup and beans, took showers to wash the day off, got into bed and promptly fell asleep.

We had no idea!

This was just the first part of a very long journey from Austin, TX to Malibu, CA and back again.  Subscribe to my blog if you want to be notified about every exciting and information packed installation!  Next I am going to talk about the incredible majesty of Sedona, how we fell in love with it and why we can’t wait to go back!

My goal with this blog is to educate and entertain.  We share our mishaps so hopefully you can avoid them!

The Chicken or the Camper

When we finally got our camper home from the dealership, after the much drawn out purchasing process, we sat in it and looked around and when faced with the reality of the size, decided that unfortunately, it would probably not be livable.  I mean, how would we do that? How could we possibly get rid of that much stuff?  How could we go without having our individual offices anymore?  Where would we put our guitars?

Last year, after we made our big trip to Big Bend in the Apex to shoot the Deadly Beauty music video over Thanksgiving weekend, we made an even bigger journey for Christmas.  We went to Florida to visit our families. We played a couple of shows and got a bit of press while we were in Sarasota. In a lot of ways this trip seemed smaller or maybe just a bit easier because it is a drive we have done at least a dozen times.  It is a relatively flat drive in comparison to that last journey.  Also there were just two people in the 4Runner instead of four like when we went to Big Bend.

This time the trip to FL was different though because we were now towing our camper, more than 4000lbs and had the back of the 4Runner filled with guitars, amps and monitor speakers. Neither one of these things was new on it’s own, but the combination certainly was. This was the farthest we had ever driven with the camper.  Also it was Sunny, the cat’s first big road trip!  She is a trooper.  I might even go as far as to say that she likes road trips.

This was a cool trip because we finally felt like we were really using the camper for the reasons that prompted us to buy an RV in the first place.  We got to visit friends along the way, it kept us dry and comfortable in inclement weather, gave us and our loved ones privacy while visiting and we were even able to rehearse for our shows in the camper.  So what if Rob had to put his guitar amp in the bathroom…?

Also we stayed at some really cool campgrounds!  Yacht HavenBlackwater River State Parkand my parents yard!  I think I might have to start a page with my own campground rating system.

This trip was more than just a road trip to see family and play a show over the holidays.  This was two weeks of living in and really getting to know our camper.  This was a test! Two weeks.  How would we handle it?  Would we be anxious to to get home and back into a bigger space?

The result was that when we got home, we actually slept in the camper in the back yard for two nights.  We decided that it absolutely would be possible to live in the camper as long as we had some sort of office. We would figure it out.  We could make it work.

We started the process of shedding our belongings in mid January.  We started dividing our stuff into categories.

 Categories:
-Sell
-Give Away
-Donate
-Trash
-Keep

Visually, you would have never known, but we actually did make a sizable dent.  We planned to have a garage sale… We put little price tags on all of our belongings. We chickened out.

We chickened out!!!

We never got to the point where we were serious enough to tell our landlords that we were going to move out.  The plan was still in the back of our minds, but it just seemed overwhelming.

You may not know this, but your stuff OWNS you!  Sentimentality OWNS you!  AND fear OWNS you!  Well, if you are anything like us, it certainly did.  Also, you probably don’t realize that you are storing stuff that is actually trash.  Like, did I really need that monthly calendar from 7 years ago?

You see the thing about people like us is that we like to conserve “supplies” and “information”. We love projects, which makes us kind of hoardy because, you might need that “thing” for some kind of future project… But also, we truly want to be minimalists.  We don’t want to throw something useful away and we don’t want to waste – but then here we are with this double edged sword because you end up “saving” everything that “might” be useful in the future yet the less stuff you have in the first place, the less wasteful you tend to be.  Know what I mean?

I started Yoga Teacher Training in February 2012.  This is not something you can do without it changing you.  Additionally, I did a particularly intense program where I left home when it was still dark out and then didn’t get home until it was again, dark out.  It was ten hours per day for ten days straight in Feb and then we had 3 weeks off,  then did another ten hours per day for another ten days in March.  The learning, the evolving, the enlightening, the hours, trying to keep my blood sugar under control with this radically different sleeping and eating schedule, it really was very exhausting…

In any case throughout this process, I learned to meditate. This was not easy for me, at first, sitting still and breathing slowly made me want to climb the walls and hyperventilate!  I decided that my wanderlust was a symptom of a greater internal problem; which is that when I become settled, I become dissatisfied, and I want to take off and move.  I decided that it was imperative that I make peace with myself independent of my location.  I thought, “I need to find happiness where I am right now instead of constantly looking at it as something that would be waiting for me somewhere else.”

I decided that my rented home was serendipitously a perfect space for a small yoga studio on account of the massive living room and hardwood floors.  I would endeavor to be content andteach yoga in the small town of Manchaca!  Clearly this was the prudent thing to do.   Rob and I both read the Bhagavad Gita.  We were to be egoless and content with the present.  We were to attend to our duty, which for me meant humbly bringing the benefits of yoga to the people of my small community.  We both convinced ourselves that we had been crazy to think of moving into our travel trailer!  We decided that we felt a calm and a sense of relief now with this new, and more “sensible plan.”

That is where it all ended.  Until it didn’t anymore.

I am sorry to leave you with a cliff hanger like that after our Big Announcement, but you will have to continue to read my blog to find out how we got to our current present, which used to be the future, but like I said before, the future is now!

The Big Announcement

If there is one thing I can say about my approach to anything that I am focused on or committed to, it is that I am thorough.  Very thorough.  If I can’t be thorough, I generally just don’t bother.  Before we bought our RV, a lot of research was done.  I scoured the internet for all things RV related.  There is an interesting twist though because I am also very impulsive.

In the past my thoroughness has perhaps slowed me down and caused me delayed decision making and even tons of late homework assignments in my school years.  My theory is that my impulsiveness is a learned mechanism that I have incorporated into my psyche to balance my thoroughness…Or maybe it is the other way around…?  Anyway, balance is important.  Perfectionism and the intense anxiety surrounding it can make a person physically ill if they don’t lighten up and go with the flow every now and again. Trust me, I know from experience.

There are all these slogans and quotes like, “Just do it” and “Perfection is the enemy of good enough” and “You will regret the things you don’t do more than things you do.”  These are all pretty good for me to an extent, they are words of wisdom that I try to remind myself of when I start over thinking things… Or as my husband, Rob says, “being German.”

Having said that, I tried to convince Rob that we should live in a van and become “van dwellers.”  I was very serious about this. This conclusion that I reached with such confidence was a combination of both my tendency to “over think” as well as this newly embraced impulsive nature.  Rob never outright said “no”.  He just tried to keep me focused on the task at hand which was, RV shopping. He said, that I was “changing the plan” and “confusing him” and that we should just do the thing we set out to do in the first place which was “get an RV!”  He didn’t want to just jump in all at once and said if we loved extended periods of time in the RV, we could talk about being “VanDwellers” at some point in time, when we had more experience… Well played Rob, well played!

You see, in all of my scouring of the internet in search of the “perfect RV”, I found this wonderful and brilliant website, Cheap RV Living and it’s sister sight, Cheap Green RV Living.  It spoke to me in so many ways!  And even though “RV” is in the title of this site, it is more about “VanDwelling”. Please, please, please take some time to explore these sites and read the stories!

Why it appeals to me:

  • Conservation of resources, the idea seems so logical, this would be a great way to save money!
  • DIY! I love a project! I love the idea of converting a van to a living or working space. The conversions on the site are quite inspiring.  And the size of the project is manageable!
  • Independence and self sufficiency.
  • Ability to pick up and travel any time. I embrace and welcome a change of scenery.
  • Simplification of lifestyle.  I honestly believe that the more stuff one has, the more complicated life becomes.  People actually spend time and energy WORRYING about their stuff.
  • Sense of adventure and a longing to really “live”, serious wanderlust.
  • I still harbor a spark of rebelliousness.  “Fuck the establishment!”  Amiright???

In any case, I read all of the stories and experiences and that led me to search for more such accounts of adventurous living.  I worked up a pretty fabulous and romantic fantasy in my head of how we would live life on the road in a way cool van!  It would be like living inside of a fucking stealth Transformer van/house that we perfectly customized with all of our desired requirements, like secret passageways, a crazy slide and a candy dispenser in the dashboard! It’s gonna be so rad!!! Dude, how could you not want that?

When I get what may initially seem like “harebrained” ideas, Rob doesn’t shut me down. He goes along with me and slowly neutralizes the situation until we both distill the essence of what it is I am after.  Though, I still think that van dwelling is an excellent idea, I concede that it is not ultimately the best situation for us.  Though someday, I am totally going to convert a van into a living or working space.  I want to do that project!

Some people would say I have A.D.D., like the overmedicating shrink I had in high school. Personally I think I just like to multitask and explore my options. Life is short and the world is vast, which can be overwhelming. There is a lot to see and do. I don’t want to limit myself with the constructs of what is socially popular.  I would hate to make the wrong decisions as a result of not thoroughly exploring my options.  I know I’m not alone in this sentiment.

In any case the idea of “full timing” in our travel trailer, maybe, possibly down the road in the long and distant future was now something we were sort of, kind of, maybe thinking about… And it was something that we were definitely keeping in the back of our minds while we were RV shopping.  Even if it was just something we tried out for a few months or just for a summer… we were thinking about it, and we purchased our RV accordingly.

Guess what? The future is here!  The future is now! It will probably take a few more blog posts to get you up to speed on how exactly we arrived here at this exact junction in the “future” but nevertheless, we are arrived.  Incase I have been too cryptic, we are moving into the Apex!

We currently live in an 1800 sq. ft. foot house, built in 1939 on over an acre of land.  After living in a 700 square ft. apartment near downtown Austin built in the 1980‘s and being in a band and trying to rehearse, write and record albums in that space with paper thin walls, it was incredible to move out to this semi -rural, very private land in South Austin, and finally finish our third album in a huge old house with lovely wood floors…  It was great to have space to practice and teach yoga, it was great to make an outdoor shower and fire pit in our back yard. It was amazing to be able to use the house and land for several writing, photography, film and music video projects. And to each have our own offices to work out of.  And make as much noise as we wanted… This is a great house in which to realize and see any number of artistic projects through. We even made our own batch of wine here!

chateau-du-voyage

But now we are ready for a change.

We want and need to be more mobile.  We want and need to save more money.  We want and need to be able to afford to commit more time to our creative pursuits, as well as leisure pursuits like hiking, surfing, dancing, climbing, skiing or visiting family in other parts of the country.  We are ready to be a little more social and closer to downtown again.  We crave water; lakes, streams, rivers, oceans, or even just a pool or hot tub. It is time to move…

What one needs in life is not a static and fixed thing. Human beings are dynamic creatures that ebb and flow like a winding river.  What we have come to realize is that we absolutely DO NOT NEED all of this space. We do not have or want kids, we do not have or want a mortgage, we don’t have a big dog, Rob hates mowing the acre of lawn we are living on and we want more freedom both physically and financially to move about.  After all, we need to save money so we can find and buy land to build that tiny house we have been dreaming of!  Also, we are really compatible (perhaps to the point of codependence) when it comes to sharing small spaces together for extended periods of time, it doesn’t bother us.  So, why the hell not?  The status quo will always be there, waiting for us, if we choose to return.

The house, that we are living in is amazing; and living in it has fostered a tremendous amount of creativity as well as clarity. There will be plenty of things that we miss about living here, but it is time to move on. We can’t forget that being in this house is what prompted the creativity and unorthodox, yet totally logical decision making that led us to the new experience that we are about to embark upon.  It is time for someone else to live in this house and let it nurture and push them to be brave in pursuing their hearts desires*.

We officially made the decision in mid July after returning from a glorious trip West (that is another blog on the burner, coming soon!).   Our last day here at Casa 1626 will be September 30th. In the meantime, we are giving away, selling and donating the vast majority of our worldly possessions. Be sure to follow along and subscribe to my blog as we make this massive transition to tiny living and continue to live, learn, travel and explore!

*A side note to this blog is that coincidentally, the three hippies that were renting this house prior to us moving in, left by way of a school bus that they converted into an RV and drove to Costa Rica.  Makes you wonder…

Deadly Beauty

Our very first trip in our new camper was to Fredericksburg, TX, the cutest little German town in the Texas Hill Country.  We decided to do an overnight at a KOA, just to feel out the camper and get aquatinted with our new travel trailer.  We even baked cookies in the propane oven, just to see how it worked.

Our second trip was an overnight in preparation for a future work trip to make a music video.  We invited our friends and collaborators, filmmakersChristine Carstairs and Robert Haynes, a married couple who also work together, to stay the night in the camper with us at McKinney Falls State Park right here in Austin.  We wanted to test the camper and the situation of actually having four people in it; do a day of hiking and picture taking to prepare for our upcoming journey to Big Bend National Park to film the music video for our song, Deadly Beauty.

Big Bend National Park is an amazing and brilliant park in the extraordinary desert and mountains of West Texas, along the Rio Grande!  Having heard about this pilgrimage of sorts, Rob and I took a traditional tent camping trip there, the spring previous to buying our travel trailer.  We fell in love with the place so deeply that we wrote a song about it called Deadly Beauty.

There were Bear and Mountain Lion warnings everywhere in this park, complete with bear proof storage boxes at every campsite, as well as warnings about “curious” Javalina, breaking into your tent.  Also there was some wild weather that came with this wild terrain.  It came and went very fast and included a lot of lightning, a downpour, hail, not to mention temperatures reaching 116 degrees during the day and then dropping into the 50s in the evening!  We did not end up setting up our tent, we slept in our car for four nights.  To tell you the truth, there was one night that it was so gusty that I thought it might blow the car over… It didn’t, obviously.

Interesting fact: Big Bend is the least visited of all of the National Parks because it is so remote.

Suggestion: Read, Big Bend, A Homesteaders Story, by J.O. Langford before going to Big Bend, it will give you a much deeper appreciation for the land and the journey.  I can honestly say that this is in my top 10 favorite books.

Also: Visit Terlingua, it is the weirdest, coolest little desert, formerly ghost town, right next to the park.  Also, don’t tell anyone about it.  I want it to stay cool.

In any case this trip was inspiring.  As an artist and as a human being you can’t help but be changed by this journey.

  

Less than a year after visiting Big Bend for the first time we released our album,Brush With Greatness, with the song, Deadly Beauty, an homage to that unapologetic, raw, and wild place.  We truly felt that being in the presence of and having the opportunity to explore this desert, mountains and river was a quite literal brush with greatness. The song Deadly Beauty without a doubt is filled with visual and aesthetic imagery, how could it not be?  Making a video for this song was mandatory.

We asked Robert and Christine, our filmmaker friends who were our collaborators on the photos and album art for Brush with Greatness as well as script advisors cum directors and cinematographers on the music video for the song, Proof if they would want to go to Big Bend for four nights over Thanksgiving and shoot the video for Deadly Beauty.  It was on!  Four people, twenty hours in the car, four days in the desert, and sleeping in The Apex!  It was actually quite magical!

RV Lesson #1:  Plan your trip accordingly… It takes at least two hours longer than you think it will when traveling with a travel trailer.  Just go ahead and tack on two hours to your  journey when you are estimating how long it will be.  Also you will go through gas about twice as fast.  I can’t emphasize this enough!  Fill up when you are at half a tank!!!  Especially when you are in the desert, or anywhere remote.  We coasted into a gas station on fumes and in a state of panic.  Lesson learned!

We stayed at Big Bend Resort and Adventures Park, about 6 miles from the Western entrance to the park. Our thanksgiving dinner was Turkey Chili.  We didn’t get in each others way once.  Somehow we all maneuvered around the camper like an intricate ballet.  Christine, despite being six feet tall and having insomnia, was sleeping on the dinette converted to a bed next to her husband Robert, and reported that she has never slept better in her entire life!  These are minor miracles here!

RV Lesson #2:  It is very possible for the RV break controller to become unplugged from your vehicle.  In fact this happened to us in rather steep and mountainous terrain.  This can be VERY BAD.  At about hour 10, the vibration of the vehicle jiggled the plug right out of the socket.  We have since created a little harness for the plug with zip ties to make sure this doesn’t happen anymore.  ALWAYS continue to check the status of your break controller, throughout your journey, to make sure it has not become disconnected. 

It rained and was overcast on what was supposed to be our first day of shooting, so we ended up scouting some locations and just taking stills while exploring a bit… The next two days of shooting were intense.  We were following our video treatment, sometimes linearly and sometimes not.  There were a lot of scenes and locations to get in a short amount of time, before we lost daylight.  Not to mention, a horse and horse wrangler that had to be involved on the second day of shooting. Oh, yeah and the detailed and outrageous costume I had designed for myself… I was literally hiking up the side of mountains in a vintage evening gown with a feathered mask and headdress while onlookers and tourists gawked and tried to figure out what the hell we were doing.

Our main goal was to capture the beauty, diversity and wild spirit of this untamed land and share it.  I think we accomplished that.

Here is the final product:

I love setting out to do something, and then actually doing it!  It is immensely satisfying.  Because of the camper, we were able to make our dream of a video for the song, Deadly Beauty a reality.  Viva La Apex!  Honestly, without it, our artistic vision could not have been realized.  Also, we had a ton of fun!

By the way… If you are interested in seeing what team Carstairs/Haynes has been up to lately, check out the trailer for their festival bound horror/comedy short, The Spell Book.   In another collaborative effort, Rob Houle, my wickedly talented husband and front man of our bandBefore Dawn composed the original score for the film and I designed and built the main character, the spell book.

Happy camping and happy working y’all!