Christmas in the Camper

There are different kinds of RV full timers. Some travel constantly, never staying in one place more than a month or so, others just decide that they like the RV lifestyle and the relatively inexpensive cost of living and decide to make an RV their permanent home.  Those who travel full time are usually either retired or have figured out how to make their living from a non-location dependent source. Some do so off grid and others stay in parks or in the yards of friends or family.

We land somewhere in the middle of these… We live in an RV park in a somewhat permanent way, although we have no lease agreement and could theoretically leave whenever we want to.  We travel frequently for work and pleasure and we are working on creating our non location dependent income.

We took a few short trips over the past year and a couple of bigger trips too.

In July we took a two week trip to Northern Wisconsin to visit family and friends in between doing short jaunts around Texas for work.  In the Fall we did a big trip, about a month, to Florida for a combination of work and visiting family.  We even managed to get a little bit of beach time in too!

So, what do “trailerites” do over the Holidays?  We decided to take a quick trip to a historic German town in Texas called Fredericksburg.  We had a ton of fun.  This town goes all out decorating for Christmas!  It was really wonderful to be able to enjoy all of the lights and decorations without having to put them up or take them down ourselves.  We kept it simple in our tiny dwelling. Our camper decorations consisted of two strands of lights inside, our stockings, a decorative throw blanket, a bathroom hand towel and one strand of lights outside.  Decorating took about ten to fifteen minutes at most.

What to do with all of that extra time???  Well, we wrote this new Christmas song, Christmas in the Camper, and made this video while on our Holiday in Fredericksburg.  It is our Christmas gift for friends, family, fellow full timers and those interested in the lifestyle. We had a ton of fun recording the song and making the video in the camper… We had to do something to keep ourselves busy after all!

I hope you enjoy it!

Rob had been working on this melody that he came up with for a few weeks and I said, “that sounds like a Christmas song.”   We finished the lyrics and recorded it on Christmas day with the spirit of the season in our hearts.  We were able to finish filming the video and Rob had it edited by Christmas night.  It was a really fun project.  May the spirit of Christmas be with you and yours throughout the whole year!

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…

The Tiny House Movement

Along the way, I have developed a few quirks and obsessions, aka passions.  Some of these are deeply rooted and can be traced back to my childhood.

I have always had an interest in architecture, design and different materials.  As a child this manifested itself in fort building, and the observation of regionally changing architecture while on family road trips.  My parents were very lovely and let me keep my forts erected for much longer than most would allow and even let me sleep in them. They have also reported to me that one of my first sentences ever, while en-route from Florida to the Midwest was an inquiry, “where did all of the condominiums go?”  I noticed!  Where did they go???

I have a very distinct memory of being toddler aged and driving through Indiana, just before you get to Chicago and seeing these old town houses built in rows and some of them even built into the side of the hills and being amazed by it.  It is so simple and so “heart of America” yet it blew my mind. Growing up on an island in Florida, I had never seen anything like that.  At that point, I remember my mom telling me that yes, indeed architecture and the way things are built, varies widely from place to place.  I remember making a mental note of that so that I could keep my eye out and observe what might come next.  I have been making these observations for about 30 years now with the same inquisitiveness.

While investigating RV’s and the RV lifestyle, something new popped up on my radar that piqued my interest in design and architecture again, in a new way: The Tiny House Movement. My interest has been piqued somewhat intensely and obsessively.

Design that turns me on:

*Maximum efficiency and good uses of space.

*Items and spaces that can multitask, like stairs that are also drawers etc.

*Conservation of money, environment and resources through the use of things like solar panels and rainwater collection.

*Nice outdoor spaces.

*Creative use of materials, especially recycled and natural materials like reclaimed wood, shipping containers and cob.

*Ability to be off the grid if necessary or desired.

What is the “Tiny House Movement” you say???  Or maybe you have already heard about it, it is quickly gaining popularity in this country and well, globally.

My personal definition: The Tiny House Movement is a reaction to the social, economic and environmental climate of modern society. It is a movement that favors design, economy and environment over square footage, wasteful spending and excess building.  It is is about being thoughtful, as well as socially and environmentally conscious.  It is about examining ones needs and wants and realizing that we really only “want” a lot of non necessities because we are marketed to heavily –  we are living in a hyper capitalist society that thrives on a “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality.  Such an intense rat race has been imposed upon us that people are willing to risk their health, happiness and quality of life to acquire bigger THINGS and greater quantities of THINGS and consequently bigger houses to store all of their THINGS. To quote my late grandfather, J. Kenneth Baird, “they sure can think of a lot of shit for you to buy.”  Life as we know it has become very complicated and The Tiny House Movement is answering back with a call for some simplicty. It is about personal choice and figuring out what ones true values are.

Here’s what I value in life:

*Family

*Friends

*Travel

*Outdoor activities and nature

*Health

*Helping others

*Minimal environmental footprint

*Learning

Here is what I value in people:

*Compassion and Empathy

*Creativity

*Resourcefulness

*Adaptability

*Humor

*A desire to help others

*A desire to continue learning

As you can see the Tiny House Movement speaks to me because it is directly in-line with my values. And I am not the only one. See for yourself….

One of my favorite blogs to follow is, Tiny House Blog.  Kent Griswold is one of the pioneers in this movement. His blog is always offering new tiny houses to moon over.  Also, I have learned a lot on this site about the different types of tiny dwellings people are building, where they are building them and why.  For instance, I didn’t know what a Vardo was before reading this blog.  Also I learned about straw and hay bale construction, cob homes, container homes, and pallet houses.  Additionally I learned a bit about buying tiny house plans as well as building codes and laws.  One of my favorite sections on this particular blog is “Tiny House in a Landscape.”  The Tiny House Blog is really just the best virtual window into almost every aspect of tiny house culture.

Another really fabulous resource is The Tiny Life blog.  On this site you will find inspiration as well as great ideas about how to build multi-purposed furniture and space saving solutions to fit perfectly into your tiny house.  A couple of other informative and inspiring sites are Tiny House Talk and Tiny House Design.

Some of the pioneers and famous names in this movement who are currently offering tiny houses, building plans, workshops and books are Jay Shafer of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, Dee Williams of Portland Alternative Dwellings, Derek Diedricsen of Relax Shacks, LLoyd Kahn of Shelter Publications and Jim Wilkins of Tiny Green Cabins.  I find them all fascinating and massively inspirational!

One of my most favorite sites is Tiny Texas Houses!  I absolutely love what they are doing with reclaimed and recycled materials.  The tiny homes that they are building are undeniably beautiful.  When I see their homes, construction, and philosophy, I truly see my heart and soul reflected.  Also, they are in Texas!  

A few other fun sites for browsing are, Cabin Porn, Tiny House Swoon, and Tiny House Listings.  I am sure there are others out there that I am missing, let me know if you know of any cool “tiny sites.”

If you still are not convinced that Tiny Houses are the coolest thing ever, the wave of the future and becoming super dooper popular, check this out: The Huffington Post, The New York Times, Bloomberg Business, Wall Street Journal, Dwell, The Washington Post, Time Magazine, PBS, NPR, NBC, CBS, CNN, even Oprah and USA Today are reporting on the movement!

If you can’t tell, I am ready to join this movement. I have Massive Tiny Dreams! I want to get my hands dirty and use power tools. Don’t worry, Rob is on board. I have been talking about this for about three years now, he is excited too. We want to buy some land and build our own Tiny House!  For the first time in our lives, the “responsible” thing to do also seems like fun.

Right now this project is just one important piece my varied number of Massive Tiny Dreams!  For now we shall practice the Tiny Lifestyle in the Apex.

Not all tiny houses are the same, they are actually really diverse.  Here is some inspiration.

House-Boat-2-Apartment-Therapy tiny1Tiny-3

Where would you build your tiny house? What materials would you use to build your tiny house?

Also check out Pinterest for some inspiration!

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!

The Apex

We bought our camper, The Apex by Coachmen, in the fall of 2011.  We had been casually shopping for our RV for about two years and then quite seriously, with the intent to buy, for about one month.

We got serious at this point for three reasons:
1. We had just been on an excruciatingly long tour of the Midwest where we were constantly crashing with different people.  This led to some very serious talks about getting the camper sooner rather than later.
2. When we returned from our tour, it turned out that our friend who had been house sitting for us had started feeding a stray cat.  Of course, we now had a cat.  We travel a lot.  We needed a way, to bring our new cat, Sunny with us!
3. Summer was turning into fall.  The end of the summer and in the fall are the best times to go RV shopping because dealers are trying to move the current years RVs fast and get them off of the lot so that they can make room for the new seasons inventory.  This means you can get a good deal!

A couple of weeks prior to buying the Apex, we almost bought a different trailer.  It was a situation of “the one that got away.”  It was our first day of serious shopping and about the fourth or fifth dealership of the day.  There was an incredible deal on a Jayco Swift that tickled our fancy.  It met all of our necessary requirements, and even had some bonus features like a big back window as well as the dinette AND couch set up. It was also on sale for the ridiculously low price of $10,000.

It was our first day out though and we were scared, so we said, “we’ll think about it.”  A few days later we decide that we were going to go make the purchase!  When we pulled up, our dreams were shattered. There was a big SOLD sign on what we now had built up in our minds to be “the camper of our dreams…”  This happens, especially when there are mad sales going on.  Don’t worry about it.  Move on. There are literally tons of different campers that will be the camper of your dreams.

After looking at many more campers, both online and at dealerships, we were headed out for a day of RV shopping. We were in the middle of the one of the worst droughts in Texas history, and suddenly there was a downpour so heavy that we opted to get off of the highway and go no further.  We decided to go to a small dealership that was close by that we had not been to before.  We did not think that they would have any RV’s that would meet our “Ultralight” requirements.  BUT, we had to go there!  We were glad that we were getting rain, but at this point, if we didn’t look at RVs that day, we would have gotten proverbial “RV shopping blue balls.”

This unexpected dealership is where we met an RV salesman that was like a cross between Burt Reynolds and Don Knots.  We climbed onto his now soggy golf cart and he took us to see the only two campers on the lot that he thought would even come close to meeting our needs.  He showed us the more fancy, high end, featured one first, of course.  I barely remember the second one.  The first one he showed us was The Apex by Coachmen.

We told the salesman that it was way out of our league at $19,900.  He said that it was a 2011 and that he would see what he could do about pricing it to move…  He said that the absolute lowest he could get it down to was, $15,900.  We said we would “think about it.”  We called him when we got home and told him that we wanted to put money down so that they would hold it for us while we talked it over and took a closer look at our finances to see what we could do…   I wasn’t sure… I thought it was too big with a 21ft. interior, and 24ft. exterior with the hitch and weighing in at 4111 lbs.  It was the biggest and most expensive camper we had looked at or considered.  Rob was smitten, he was so convinced that this was the travel trailer for us, that I really couldn’t help but trust his confidence and instincts.

We saved money like mad!  We sold some of our possessions on craigslist and ebay and came up with a solid down payment in less than 2 weeks time.  We officially bought the camper on September 21st.  After we signed all of the paperwork, the dealership called us and said that they had made a mistake, the camper was actually a 2012.  It was their mistake, so we got to keep the “low price”, but we had to go back and re-sign all of the paperwork to reflect the different year.

We had to have an Equal-i-zer Hitch as well as a break controller on the 4Runner.  They did all of this for us at the dealership.  Just, put it on the loan with the rest of it….

A few days later we went to pick up our rig.  When we arrived, it was all hitched up and ready for us to dive off of the lot.  To me, it looked insane!  I drew this picture to illustrate what I thought it looked like in my minds eye.

At this point we have had the camper for nearly a year now and been on a couple of major trips with it.  We both love it, and so does Sunny.  We have made tons of wonderful memories camping around the country and we are both very happy with the Apex.  Honestly I think we would have been happy with almost any camper we bought, but this one has features that we absolutely love.

The selling points that won us over:
– Massive four point locking slide-out with an extra large dinette.
– Kinro mirrored windows so you can’t see into the camper from the outside during the day.
– Flat screen HDTV on a swivel that can face the living space or the bed.
– Curtains separating the sleeping space from the kitchen area.
– Dual axle aluminum wheels.
– A big bathroom with a shower, toilet, sink and a lot of storage space.
– Electric awning.
– Neutral decor with dual colored light and dark wood cabinets.
– Really gorgeous counter and table tops.
– Centered bed, so we each had our own side.
– Two individual closets.
– Nifty slide out food pantry.
– Stove, Oven, Fridge and Freezer.
– Enough space to comfortably spend a lot of time in.
– Insulated bottom wrap, making it cold weather appropriate.

Stuff that is annoying:
– You can’t really be in the camper with the slide-out pulled in.
– Weird storage places without shelves.
– The “short queen” bed is a bit too short for Rob.
– The mattress that came with it is complete crap (this is typical of most RV beds). We are planning to buy a new mattress for it.

All in all we are very satisfied!  We always look forward to camping and spending time in the Apex (model 214RB).  We have made many incredible memories and trips already and are very excited about making more!

Camp Lust

To most of our friends and family, it is no secret that Rob and I are in love with camping.   It floats our respective boats! In fact, it goes beyond love, it is a deep passion.  It is a lifestyle that we seek out!  We are aware that there are a lot of different definitions of camping and that it means something different to different people.  We are not snobbish about it, and really, we love all of it!  Backpacking, car camping, RVing, overnights, extended trips, State Parks, National Parks and private campgrounds, they are all wonderful and serve their purpose.  In my opinion camping is the best way to travel and see the country.

My exposure to camping came at a young age.  In fact there is a distinct possibility that I may have been conceived while my parents were camping.  When I was a baby, my parents took me tent camping, according to my mom, camping is a great activity to do with babies.

When I was a kid, from the time I was 7 until I was about 14, I went to summer-camp in the Northwoods of Wisconsin at Camp Nicolet for Girls in Eagle River. I spent the whole summer in the National Nicolet Forest. We stayed in cabins but went on hikes, cookouts and overnights, this served to enhance my love of camping as well as sharpen my skills in the realm of packing a backpack, making a fire and general outdoor survival.

When Rob and I met in college, I shared my love of camping with him.  My sister gave us a tent for Christmas. Planning and going on camping trips quickly became one of our favorite pastimes.  We got to see and experience places that we never would have gone to or even thought of going to otherwise.

Our first camping trip was a three day trip to Ocala, National Forest in FL.  We went to Lake Eaton and Juniper Springs.  They were both amazing.  At Lake Eaton we heard something big in the woods at night and it scared us, branches were snapping under the feet of whatever creature was lurking.  We imagined that it was some sort of large wildcat, it was probably just a raccoon…?  We hiked the Lake Eaton Sinkhole Trail, which was magnificent.  It is about 80 feet deep and 450 feet wide. The flora and vegetation completely changed as you hiked deeper into it.  It is similar to an Oak Hammock, featuring magnolias, live oak, dogwood, lobolly pine and sabal palm.  The temperature and humidity even changed…It got a little cooler, but more humid.  It was fascinating!

At Juniper Springs the water was so impossibly clear that it was almost invisible.  We swam, we hiked and explored, we cooked our meals and ate outdoors. The scenery and the sense of relaxation that came from spending time outdoors was beautiful. Our love of camping as a couple grew.  We knew this would be something that we continued to do together always…