We Are Doing it Now! That traveling thing…

My Summer Vacation. 

My New Life (so far) by Kate.

One of the many things I love about travel is how time seems to be manipulated.  On the road I feel like I am in another dimension where time stops or at least I have more ownership of my time.  Travel forces you out of old habits. I think that is a really good thing.  However, if you need to get actual work done while you are traveling, you must have some very strong work habits in place.

On June 1st, we uprooted ourselves from our cozy and comfortable RV Park in Austin TX, because we knew summer was coming… In Texas, that means EXTREME heat. We have done the heat many times before and we wanted out. In 2011 we had ninety days in a row with triple digit temperatures in Austin. That is when we first started plotting our summertime exit.

Fast forward to now. After living in our RV for a year and some change, we rationalized, our house is on wheels. This is why we live in a tiny travel trailer, so we can roll, so we can chase some good weather…

We did something that we knew how to do. We headed North.  Almost as far North as you can possibly go in the US.  We also played music.  Our band, Before Dawn, has always been a great reason to travel.

We had a great time playing shows at Steel Bridge Songfest in Sturgeon Bay, WI.  Then, we went even further North to my parents remote cabin in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, near Lake Superior and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We parked our tiny house on wheels in their yard and continued to live in it.  We were in the warm embrace of family and far from the scorching Texas heat.

One of the main reasons my parents got this cabin was to have fun, relaxing, “family times” together in the summer. We were going for it damn it!  All the way!  All family – all the time!!! What could possibly go wrong?  This was Clark Griswold and Chet Ripley’s biggest fantasy come true.  National Lampoons Vacation meets The Great Outdoors!

The Northwoods has a culture and lore that is all its own. Without getting too esoteric, it is something that cannot be explained, it has to be felt.  If you have been there, you know exactly what I mean. It is magical. It is densely populated with trees and wildlife, but not people. There are more stars than you know exist, and tons of lakes, both named and unnamed.  Sometimes the silence, peace and solitude are so intense that it feels almost violent. Eventually you get used to it and realize that it is exactly what your brain, your heart and your soul needed.  Your cellphone and internet are nearly useless. You are forced to be with yourself, with nature, and with your family. Without being distracted.  Perhaps it is disconcerting at first, but it is ultimately glorious.

I have to admit it took me about two and a half weeks to quit flipping out.  “What have we done???” I missed Whole Foods and Planet Fitness something fierce. City life in Austin was comfortable and familiar.  I had not spent this much time with my parents as an adult since I moved out when I was eighteen. How would this dynamic work? We are all living in the woods together! I felt very overwhelmed by this life change and feared the loss of my autonomy.

I fully expected my mother and I to possibly have some friction, after all when I was a young adult and a teenager, we fought. I was rebellious, she was strict. She is a Taurus and I am a Scorpio. Growing up, we pushed each others buttons, played devils advocate and often accidentally insulted each other in the name of love.  Now my husband and I were spending three months living in my parents yard!?!?  What was I thinking? Who came up with this insane plan? I did!

We got along the best we have since I was four years old. We had so much fun together.  We did crafts, we played games, cruised around the lake and took day trips to cute little nearby towns.We were totally on the same team. My mom even taught me how to hook. I went to weekly hooking parties with all of her hooker friends.  Trust me, this sounds far more scandalous and scintillating than it actually is.

My father and I have never really fought much. To my surprise we actually did have several spats this summer.  The thing is, in the woods, you really tend to want to work these things out quickly because 1.)there is fun to be had and 2.)slamming a door and leaving really isn’t that easy.

Our quarrels weren’t serious, but it caught me off guard.

I feel closer to my parents now than I ever have before.  We all took a risk immersing ourselves in each others lives and it really paid off in both fun and love!  Rob and I both think that this just may have been the best summer of our lives!

Despite being in the woods, we had goals this summer.  Some of them we attacked immediately, others took longer to get rolling. The first order of business was finding ways to make money. This was the perfect opportunity to tryout and hone our ability to have location independent income.

Rob got to work immediately by turning his ten year old computer repair business into something that can be done remotely.  As I mentioned before, decent internet access is not easy to come by in the Northwoods… Rob paid a premium to have the good stuff installed at the cabin which was still far from city internet speeds; but it was good enough to support his clients.  Rob also made sure he had a few associates in Austin that he could call on should a technician need to be physically present to assist a client.  This all worked out really well!  Survival income accomplished.

I kept teaching Yoga.  Prior to going “Up North”, a friend of a friend of my mom was interested in having Semi-Private Yoga Therapy sessions with her friend and her daughter twice weekly.  We set a weekly schedule as soon as I arrived.

Sometimes multiple family members of my Yoga clients would be visiting and I would teach “Family Yoga” to three different generations! It was beautiful to develop these different Yoga practices and through word of mouth I picked up several more clients.  This was not just survival income but something that I looked forward to and enjoyed thoroughly.  Helping others toward greater health and wellbeing has become my hearts work.

Our passion project is our band, Before Dawn. We love writing, recording and performing music together.  We had a mission to do all of theses things this summer. We were in a different environment, in the woods, far from Austin. We played at tiny Northwoods bars and open mic nights, and made recordings in our little travel trailer. A change in environment is always good for creativity.

This change of scenery was a wonderful adventure that created many unexpected outcomes, opportunities and new relationships.  Every time we played in front of people we were offered more opportunities to play. We seemed to play live shows minimally once a week in the various small towns up north like Minocqua, Land O’ Lakes and Iron River.

Sticking to a regimented writing and recording schedule was difficult, especially if the sun was out and the lake was calling. We were able to record our next single, “Light The Way“. It was a crowd favorite from our most recent tour.

We even got the chance to do a radio interview on WXPR.  The DJ, Jeremy Starz, played four of our songs and debuted our new single, before its official release on September 30th.  This was a first for us. The single is now available on Itunes.

Rob also made some summertime fun videos in the Northwoods. He also composed all of the music!

Amphibious Airplane from Rob Houle on Vimeo.

Whisker Cam from Rob Houle on Vimeo.

This is what we did this summer. This is what we did “Up North” with family, in our tiny house on wheels.  It was all possible because we live tiny.

Stay tuned! More blogs, more music and more videos soon!  By the way we are in Los Angeles now.  How did we get here?  Well, that is an interesting story.  Sign up for blog updates and find out soon!

Taking A Leap

We are excited! We are actually doing what we set out to do. We have been living full time in our travel trailer for the past two years and we have been working towards making the dream of full-time travel a reality.  For many, and admittedly us too, this is a scary but exciting prospect.  We are not retired, we still have bills, debts and obligations that most definitely make this endeavor more complicated.  But, what is life if not one giant experiment?  We have a tremendous amount of gratitude for the lives and gifts we have been given, it is time to trust, and boldly move forward.

Since we have been living in our RV for almost two years now, getting ready to “move” wasn’t really a big deal, and the idea of traveling in our RV is normal, we have done it many times for both work and pleasure. The main difference now is that we gave up our permanent spot at Oak Forest RV Park in Austin and plan to wander somewhat indefinitely.  We were ready and it was time to move on…  

Change of any kind can be stressful and takes some planning. We used this awesome app called Wunderlist to assign each other tasks and make lists of things that needed to get done prior to our departure from Austin.  It was really helpful.  Our lists were full of things you would do before going on a road trip, like vehicle, RV and tire maintenance.  We also had to make sure Sunny’s shots were up to date etc.  The item on the list that caused Rob the most stress was setting up our mail forwarding service.  It turned out to be relatively simple and now we can receive our mail anywhere in the world and keep our Texas residency.  Most full timers have some kind of mail forwarding service.

Before we moved into our camper in the fall of 2012 we eliminated the majority of our extraneous belongings. We have continued to purge our possessions every three months or so.  Everything we own is either with us or in the small 5×10 storage space we keep in Austin. We keep this space because we do plan to eventually buy land and build a tiny house…. But where? We must travel first!  For this “move”, we did not need to pack or unpack any boxes and that was refreshing.

“Where are you going?” I have heard this question a lot recently, and I have found it really difficult to give people satisfactory answers.  “When will you be back?”  Well, I’m not sure… Some people seem almost offended by this… “Are you coming back to Austin?”  Probably, but most likely not permanently. Again, “Where are you going?”  Hopefully, everywhere.  You know how people always say that, “life is about the journey, not the destination”, well we are taking that quite literally.  Exploring and being on the road makes us feel good, and it speaks to our souls, so we are listening.

“How are you going to make money and live?”  This is something that will continue to develop.  Here is what we are doing right now, in a nutshell… We both have multiple jobs. Rob repairs computers remotely and in person.  I teach Yoga and write both as a freelancer and for my own blogs.  Together we do commercial low voltage wire and hardware component installation.  Together we also play music in our band, Before Dawn. This is a labor of love and we are passionate about bringing our music to people everywhere we go.  We would love to make music our full time job… This is just a very general overview of what we do, I will write more about the things we do in another post.

This is what our past ten days consisted of, since leaving Austin:

Day 1. – Austin TX to Mesquite TX.

Day 2. – Work in Mesquite, installing low voltage wiring for internet, phones and sound system in a gym franchise.  Band rehearsal in camper in the evening.

Day 3. – Drive to Tulsa & visit with great friends!

Day 4. – Rob did remote computer work for some Austin clients from the RV park in Tulsa as we dodged some “severe weather”  before taking off for Kansas City.  We parked our house in a friend’s driveway.

Day 5. – Rob had more remote clients in the morning… We went on a walk, got some groceries and rehearsed in the afternoon. We played a show on the rooftop of Phosphor Studioin downtown KCMO with some really talented bands in the evening.  Shout out to The Dynamite Defense and Kodascope!

Day 6.- Did some laundry, rehearsed more and helped our hosts move some furniture in their house… Played a show at Coda in KCMO. It was a great time with great people and more fantastic music.  Check out Ren.

Day 7. – We got a late start because we had a late night.  We drove to Iowa City and stayed the night in an RV park along I80.  We watched Game Of Thrones on HBO Go with a really crappy internet connection and then fell asleep.  We were exhausted! 

Day 8. – Rob sent out a trusty friend/contractor/tech guy in Austin to do some computer work on his behalf. We drove to Illinois Beach State Park where we met up with family!  A big family dinner and campfire ensued.

Day 9. – It was overcast, cold and rainy. Rob had more remote computer clients and I had time to write.  In the afternoon we took a trip with my sister and parents into Kenosha, WI to Chester Electronics where Rob was able to find some parts for several projects and then to a huge and super authentic Italian Market called Tenuta’s.

Day 10 – We are headed to Sturgeon Bay, WI where we are playing a music festival called,Steel Bridge Songfest.  We are very much looking forward to this festival which runs June 12th to June 15th.  We are playing both on the 13th and 14th.  If you like my writing and love discovering new music, I will be blogging about the festival on our music site, for our band, Before Dawn.

Currently we are planning our lives in approximately three month chunks…Maybe?  That is what seems to be happening right now anyway… But this way of life is made for spontaneity, so nothing is written in stone.  For the summer we plan to be in and around Wisconsin playing music as much as possible, writing and recording new songs.  We may or may not head back to Texas before making our way out to California for a wedding in September/October.

This is an amazing and beautiful country, we want to see as much of it as possible; we love America, it would be a shame not to explore all of her nooks and crannies!  Every time we see more of this gorgeous country, we love her more.  Travel is an ideal vehicle for both personal and creative growth. If we can successfully navigate this lifestyle, then why wouldn’t we?

A non-traditional life most definitely takes a lot of work and preparation, but we think it is worth it. Every journey starts with a single step. This is a huge step but we are doing our best to do our due diligence and we are finding the bravery to trust the Universe!

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!

The Corner Pieces – Part III – Living in Malibu

When Rob and I were asked to sing in our longtime friends wedding in Malibu, CA, we jumped at the chance to take our RV on a trip out West and park it in Malibu for a week.

Staying there for a full week really gave us the sense of living there and if I had the cash, I would move there in a heartbeat. You know what is expensive in Malibu?  Pretty much everything. Except, liquor.  For some reason, liquor is ridiculously cheap there.

The RV park we stayed at overlooked the Pacific and we could hear the waves crashing on the shore as we drifted off to sleep at night. You could also hear all of the action down on the PCH, it didn’t bother us though.  Looking out at the view, our morning coffee never tasted so good!  Sunny loved Malibu too.

 

We hiked at Leo Carillo State Park. We took surfing lessons and strolled along the beach in Santa Monica.  We hung out with some of the greatest people and friends a person could ever have or even hope to have and laughed until our faces were in pain.  It was glorious!  We also saw David Duchovny in the parking lot of CVS in Malibu, though I think he was probably coming from the Sushi restaurant next door.  I even got a chance to take a mixed aerial class atHollywood Aerial Arts with a dear friend,Sarah, from high school. All of this awesomeness and excitement and the wedding was still yet to come!

Rob and I even had the chance to entertain guests at our campsite twice! My filmmaker cousins April and Jordan came over one night for dinner and film project swapping entertainment.  A few nights later, we grilled fresh fish from the Pacific that we bought at the fish market that was just down the hill from the RV Park while taking in the scenery of the expansive Pacific Coast horizon with a great girlhood friend of mine from summer campSharon, and her husband, Brian.

One day I made the drive through Topanga Canyon to Burbank to have lunch with girlfriends from college, Mandi and Jen.  Jen is a very talented costume designer and stylist who took me to L.A.’s fashion district. Bolts of fabric as far as the eye can see!  

 

Rob stayed back at the camper.  He did everyday stuff like take pictures of a few items he had brought along to sell on Ebay and a load of laundry at the RV laundry facilities. He relaxed and made like The Dude, hanging out in Malibu.  That night we walked down the hill to the fish market next to our RV park. The fresh fish sandwiches were delicious and satiating!  The experience was most definitely a version of perfection.

                                                ^^^^^ Malibu Seafood^^^^^

At the end of our weeklong stay in Malibu, on our way out of town, we even met up with more friends for dinner, got a tour of Glendale and had a music related business meeting!

Now that I have actually typed out everything that we did on this trip I realize that we did a lot.  Interestingly, the one argument we had while on the trip was because I freaked out and panicked that we weren’t “doing enough” and “seeing enough people”.  It is true, I would have had to spend at least a month out there to have quality time with everyone that I wanted to see, hug and have a laugh with.  After all, they were working and we were on vacation. I did my very best to cram it all into a week.  I was saddest to miss out on invitation to go Rock Climbing atMalibu Creek State Park with my friend Sarah and her husband, Brandon.

Did I even mention the wedding???  We went to the best wedding rehearsal and dinner I have ever been to followed the next day by a beautiful wedding in Temescal Gateway Park. Rob and I sang, “Grow Old With Me” by John Lennon, in the ceremony, requested by the Bride and Groom, and made everyone weep. Then we partied and danced the night away with some of our dearest college buds.  The next morning we all went out for brunch in Santa Monica.  It felt like a dream that I didn’t want to wake up from.

Getting into a daily groove while far away from “home”, this was a turning point.  We realized that we were not missing any of the comforts of the 1800 sqft house that was back in Austin. We became aware that we were spending more time outside and that we were both happy and comfortable, this really made us realize that indeed, “we can totally live in this thing!!!”  “Also, moving into it will drastically reduce our monthly bills which will give us more opportunities do amazing trips like this one!”

AND a view of the water is really good for the mind, body and soul!

One of the reasons we moved to Austin is because it has a fine mixture of art, culture, music and outdoor pursuits readily available in addition to being a vibrant yet laid-back and friendly city.  You know what?  When we made that decision, we had never been to any cities in California, ever!  They have all of that, plus beaches with great surfing, plus mountains and snow skiing and multiple National Parks!  This pretty much describes paradise to me.

I know L.A. isn’t laid-back and many people don’t consider it friendly… But Malibu, in my experience, is.  And since the time I have spent in L.A. has been with friends, it seems very friendly.  Also, I am a grounded person without distortions surrounding fame and fortune, I see no reason that I can’t find a sense of peace in any city.  Fame and wealth don’t impress me.  A generous and kind heart does.  Those who make helping others a priority, those who know who they are and “work for their luck” impress me.  All of the people I am close to in L.A. have those qualities.

 We have wanted to spend more time on the West Coast for some time now.  We have played shows out there with our band, Before Dawn, spent time with our friends and family and always had nothing short of an honest to goodness amazing time.  I can truly, honestly, and completely free from sarcasm say that, I LOVE L.A.!  A big piece of my heart is there.  No joke. Rob reminds me that I feel this way because of all of the loving, artistically supportive, fans and side splittingly hilarious people we call friends out there.  He cautions, “trust me, the city is not what you love.”

In any case our most recent trip to L.A., the one where we lived in Malibu for a week in our RV overlooking the Pacific was a significant catalyst in our realization that it would be both possible and fulfilling to transition to full-time RV living.  I mean, what if we could even figure out a way to travel and work at the same time???  Fast-forward three months and we happily, though not without tremendous trials and tribulations, moved into our travel trailer.  We are getting closer everyday to cutting this tether of single location living.  You see, L.A. is already making our dreams come true!  Viva Malibu!

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

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!!!

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!

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 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…

RV Shopping

Despite our decision in the fall of 2009, it would still be two years before we actually bought a camper… But we were officially looking, the purchase was eminent. We were now in the process realistically trying to determine what kind of camper would be ideal for us.  This task is both fun and overwhelming.  There is a lot to choose from out there!

Here is what we had: A Toyota 4Runner with four wheel drive, six cylinders and a nice tow package.  We decided that we would look for a travel trailer that we could tow with the vehicle we already had.  This was our cheapest and most efficient option.

1. We were newbies and thought that it is best to start small.
2. Motorhomes by nature are more expensive than travel trailers because they have an engine.
3. We did not want another vehicle with an engine to maintain.

Our 4Runner has a maximum towing capacity of 5000 lbs.  This was our jumping off point.  We were looking for a travel trailer that was under 4000 lbs. DRY.  Meaning under 4000 lbs. without water in the tanks, without propane, and without all of our belongings inside.  (We will get to more of the technical side of RVing and some of the jargon in another post…)  To be honest I felt that we should be looking for a travel trailer that was under 3500 lbs.  I wanted to error on the side of being conservative.  Rob, my husband, and most RV dealers assured me that 4000 lbs. would still be appropriate.  Oh, also we wanted to stay under $12,000.

Features that were important to us:
1. Bed that was separate from the dinette, meaning that our bed could stay a bed and would not be a surface that would be turned into our dinner table. (This can be a tall order for some of your smaller RVs)
2. Toilet and shower (Some small campers have toilets, but not showers)
3. Refrigerator. – I need a place to keep my insulin.
4. Decent storage for clothes and gear / good use of space.
5. Double axle wheels for safety

Bonus Points:
1. A big back window (sometimes you are parked/backed in to scenic places in campgrounds and it is nice to be able to enjoy the view from inside the camper.)
2. A centered bed, not against a wall, so that we would each have our own side of the bed and would not have to crawl over each other to go to the bathroom.
3. Good insulation in the event we wanted to take the camper to a cold climate and do something fun like go snow skiing…
4. A slide-out (a wall that literally slides out to make the area inside your rv bigger when you are parked.)
5. Flat screen TV.
6. Retractable awning.
7. Couch AND Dinette (In small RV’s you typically get one or the other, but not both though there are some exceptions).

When you are shopping for an RV, it is just as important to know what you don’t want as much as what you do want.

Don’t want, Don’t need:
1. Bunks.
2. Other built-in’s for families with children.
3. Shoddy materials or workmanship.
4. Overly “decorative” interior fabrics and appointments. -There are some pretty hideous interiors out there…
5. Any kind of canvas pop-outs.
6. New or used didn’t matter to us…

At some point in this process you start to think that you should be able to design your own custom RV.  “Why for the love of god and all things holy can’t I have a nice closet where those bunks are???”  “It would be so much better of a use of space if the bed was a loft bed with a dinette, or storage underneath!!!!”  What you eventually realize is that you will not find the “perfect” RV!  It does not exist.

Find an RV that you like and that suits your most important criteria, be happy, and go camping.  Understand that if RVing is something that you really enjoy, you have not just purchased your “forever home”, but rather your very first trade in.  The more time you spend in your rig, the more you will figure out what things about it you absolutely love and which things you want to be different when you get your next one.

Having said that… DO A TON OF RESEARCH!!!  
1. Search online and learn about what you need – get very familiar with lengths, weights,  materials, brands, manufacturers etc.
2. Find product reviews and forums for the campers that interest you.
3. Go to as many dealerships in your area as possible.  Look, listen and learn. The features you think are important to you will change.  In general RV sales people are not pushy like car sales people.  They tend to enjoy their job and are RVrs themselves.  Also they are aware that (a.) An RV is not a “necessary” purchase.  (b.) This is a big decision that may take some time… (c.) They truly want to put you in an RV that you are going to be excited and happy about.  This is not to say that they don’t try to wheel and deal.  They do.  Just be prepared and don’t buy until you are ready.
4. Go to RV shows.  THEY ARE A TON OF FUN!  You can see nearly every kind of RV available all in one place.  It is a great place to compare, contrast and take notes.  By the time you leave, your feet will be sore from walking and your head will be spinning from the shear magnitude of these events.
5. Your very best resource is people you meet who already own an RV.  They have experience under their belt. They know what they like and don’t like about their own rig(s). They will be very honest.  They are excited to talk about their camper.  Best Method: The Campground Camper Walk. – Go tent camping at a State Park or other campground. In the early evening, just after the dinner hour, while campers are still enjoying the outdoors at their campsites, take a walk.  When you see a rig that you like, if the owner is outside (do not knock on any doors!!!), approach him or her and tell them that you are in the market for an RV and start asking questions about their rig.  What do they specifically like or not like etc?  They will tell you!  Also nine times out of ten, they will even give you a tour of the inside, outside and all of the systems.  They love it!  You will learn a lot!  And if you are anything like Rob and I, you will fall in love with the RV lifestyle and culture a little more.
6. As a general rule, don’t buy your RV from a salesperson who does not or who has not owned an RV themselves.

These are the basics.  In my next post I will finally tell you about our RV, why we bought the one we bought, what we love about it and what kinds of compromises we made.

If you are an RV enthusiast yourself, please feel free to add more helpful tips in the comments section.  Also, if you have any questions, feel free to email me at info@MassiveTinyDreams.com

*Additionally I hope to have some guest bloggers in the future contribute stories and insight about what they love and don’t love about their campers and motorhomes…

On Our Radar

Because of my parents RV, the concept of RVing was now on our radar, though it would be at least ten years before we would entertain the idea of getting one ourselves.  Rob and I started to take notice of them everywhere we went.  We started to realize that the different kinds of RV’s that exist is vast!  We noticed them on the road, we noticed dealerships on the side of the road that for some reason had been completely invisible in the past, and we noticed them in campgrounds, now with some curiosity rather than scorn.

We went on a few overnight trips and did various fund raising events with my parents in their RV for their dearest cause, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. We had a ton of fun!  We met other RVrs.  They are some of the most friendly and warm people you will ever encounter.  They are also extremely enthusiastic about their rigs and will gladly answer any questions you might have.  We started to amass a bit of experience and jargon to go with it…. Despite being somewhat fascinated, it still seemed like something other people did, not us.

The thought that we could be a part of this interesting little club had not occurred to us yet; though my mom every once in a while would subtly suggest it and point out small campers that might be appropriate for us… We just thought, “it is nice for you, but no, that’s not us.”  I am certain that this block existed because we are absolutely NOT the typical demographic that the RV market appeals to and we never once saw people like ourselves with an RV.  It is no secret that the largest population of RVrs is retired folks; we actually partied with a lot of retired people during this process…  The second largest population is families with children.  We are a very long way from being retired and we have no plans to have children.

We are artists, we are theater people, we are a fucking rock band!  AND then, that is where this all started to make sense for us.  Touring.  Between 2005 and 2011, we had been doing a lot of it.  There were certainly mornings that we woke up not knowing where we were geographically or whose house we had crashed at, not because of being intoxicated, but rather because we were working hard and constantly on the go.  We thought, wouldn’t it be nice to sleep in the same bed every night?

We are not famous or on a record label, our tours are completely self-funded.  We were crashing at the houses of generous friends and family, staying in really crappy hotels and every once in a while even tent camping while on the road and performing in clubs.  We were often exhausted, getting very little quality sleep and eating poorly (especially bad for someone with Type 1 Diabetes).

The idea of getting an RV started to become a big fantasy.  We would talk about it and imagine ourselves with our own mobile bed, kitchen and bathroom. Even though this fantasy was starting to bloom, it still seemed like it stopped there.  We thought, one day, maybe we will be able to afford such a luxury.  We also thought that it was important to buy a house before we bought something seemingly frivolous and of our fantasies like a Recreational Vehicle, even if it was for work………………………………….

Too be continued!

Update: 2/3/16 – We no longer perform as Before Dawn, from Austin, TX.  We have an L.A. based rock band called JagLyonz, if you want to know more about us go to www.JagLyonz.com.  Here are a few photos from the old Before Dawn days!

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