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.

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!