Well here it is the “big reveal” what has all this been leading up to? The relaunch of the blog? The story of driving south in a camper that by all accounts should never have made it out of NY? Higher powers, guardian angles, and flying eagles from left field taking the wheel? Yes! Yes, All of this. And so much more. There is so much to say in fact that I am going to have to break it up into multiple blog posts before we even get to “ Real Time”
Where do we begin… Well I suppose with the genesis of the idea “Next_Chapter”. It was a series of events that lead up to deciding to walk away from my house. My house which was really my Mothers house, but which I had grown up in from childhood and ultimately took over the mortgage payments. It wasn’t just a house. It was a rock. It was MY rock. I had lived in chaos and turmoil most of my childhood life (by my own doing mind you) up until that house came along. Even then even after my parents bought it, still I was bouncing around like a Jack Russell Terrier between running away and taking my $500 pos car on a one way voyage across the county to find a new life. Not once. Not even twice. I did that 4 times in my early years. Different cars. Then along the way I joined the Navy which at least taught me some self discipline and stability. But it never did cure me of my obsession with chasing after the next sunset and it never grounded me. The house was the only thing that ever grounded me. The one place I could always go back to. The one truth in my life was that Mom always had a light on and I could always go back home. So when she decided to sell it, I put my foot down and said absolutely not! Ill buy the house.. This was about the time I was learning to become an adult and be an actual father to my Child who then was 5-6 years old and I really needed to step up and become a part of her life. I needed to make her a part of mine. So we made a deal – I was going to buy the house and she was going to hold off selling it. This was the beginning of the most stable chapter of my life. I moved into the master bedroom of my childhood home and looked around for the first time. I had a lot of firsts that year. First time buying an appliance. First time doing drywall. First time giving an actual crap what the landscaping looks like. One first ill never forger – The first time being called Dad. This was a new chapter of my life and I needed my childhood rock in order to ground myself. I needed to focus on my career and focus on being a Dad to my little girl. I was a new steward of my childhood home and my shoulders were loaded down with responsibility – it was time to grow up and be an adult. The house was key to all of this because it was the one thing I had in my life that grounded me all them years and I FOUGHT for that house. I shed blood sweat and tears fighting for that damn house and not even really because of the house itself – it really wasn’t all that special – but because of what it represented. That house was my last stand. That chapter of my life was what I called “Survival Mode.” I put EVERYTHING else aside, and I stopped and looked around and I said this is the final stand. I do this or I die. I dug my heels in, and I coughed up thousands of dollars and I fixed my child support and got my kid back in my life and I sheltered in place in my rock. My house. With the life long intention of abandoning such silly childhood things as traveling the world and living free, it was time now to be an adult and a Dad. Maybe even a Home Owner. This was to be my new goal now – to buy the house from Mom and then give my kid a rock of her own – a place she can always depend on being there and a place she always has a bedroom exactly what it had meant to me all them years growing up. The year was 2010. Little did I know then that at exactly that same time the camper in which I now sit writing this story, had just been in a horrific car accident and was subsequently being parked after having been repaired exactly where it sits today. The stage was being set for the next_chapter before I even knew where I was supposed to be or what I was supposed to be doing. The only thing I knew then was that I had to hang onto my rock hell or high water this was all that mattered and it want against every fiber of my being because I hated NY (thats why I spent my entire childhood trying to escape it) I hated settling down and I REALLY hated the costs associated with owning – at least vicariously – a house. But I needed to do this for my kid and for future and I figured given time I would finally fall in love with the idea myself. That never happened, survival mode took another ten years from me… But I DID manage to fine tune my career, become an active participant in my kids life and I even made a significant dent on the rock itself making it my own from hot tubs to home automation to moving walls and remodels over the years…. The only thing that never changed was my passion to hit the road again. 10 years I lived under that roof and even though it was mandatory and un negotiable in my mind, it was never where I wanted to be. I lived under an umbrella of necessity and found myself constantly staring at the road: dreaming, desiring, longing to be free. I stayed single all those years and still am. I think the REAL reason is because I still haven’t found myself. How in the world can I be everything to someone else if I cant even figure out what I want myself? I spent ten long years curled up with a pellet stove surrounded by tropical plants pretending it was Florida in my living room in the middle of January. I even had a Hot Tub I could go outside and sit in. Although the one single winter I ran that thing yielded electric bills of $650 a month. I did a lot of things to be comfy but I was never comfortable. And in the end my ex wife (who is also a very good friend these days and did so completely with my blessing) decided to move and take my kid out of state for a new job opportunity. We agreed that I would have her for summers and alternating Christmas and spring breaks. Strictly calendar days per year speaking I made out ahead with this new plan over the old. “weekends only”, now I could have my kiddo full time for months on end every summer! And so now everything I had fought for all those years shattered before my eyes as soon as the first fall came. I had an empty home all winter, and no need for a rock anymore, not to mention this burning freaking desire to get the hell out of NY…. This was the Genesis of the Next_Chapter.
It took another year for the idea to fully matriculate but I got it in my head one day at nascar looking around at all the campers, Dad and I go every year, I was like THATS IT!!!! An ah-hah moment for me. I should go full time RV! The moment came to me mid race when sitting in the stands overlooking several thousand campers as far as the eye can see and I began to think you know I love this life. I save up all freaking year to go spend 5 days at the track in a camper, why cant I live it full time? If I moved into an RV full time I could be a more active part of my kids life too because I could simply go venture down to her neck of the woods for a few extra months a year and sort of have my cake and eat it too. You want to go to college on the west coast? Cool ill just mosey on out that way and find an RV park. You want to marry some one and settle down? Cool I’ll just travel through there too. This idea of a new life in an RV opens doors previously closed but it also fans the fire which has always burned deep within my soul to just go be FREE. What is RV Life? Its freedom. As if Freedom itself was this tangible thing you could reach out and touch, because it IS. You can touch it when your holding the steering wheel of your camper heading into a sunset with every single thing you own on board, nothing at all left behind, and nothing at all but the future before you. THAT is freedom. You can call home a Walmart parking lot one night and a glorious private white sand beach your home the next. Pick a direction on the map and drive to it. Its all about perspective. RV life was once articulated best to me by saying this: There are two kinds of full time campers. Those that do it because they have no choice, and those that do it BY choice. I would be the latter of those two. I choose this life.
So ok this is now my new plan. Well we have ALOT to do. For starters I probably owned 19 tons of crap in that tiny little house. You know I loathed the fact that it never had a basement for 19 years up until the day that I made this decision. Its an uncanny experience when you suddenly realize that everything you have worked so damn hard for your entire life is all of a sudden dead weight. I am an IT professional so I had MOUNTAINS of computer crap. Like probably 30 laptops for starters. Riding lawn mower snow blower just an entire plethora of crap which moments ago were things I was proud of and now suddenly they are merely crap that I gotta rid of. All of a sudden I had a new complex.
The Great Purge:
What happened next in my life is probably one of the most peculiar things I have ever experienced and can ONLY be understood fully by my fellow full timers. Those of you out there debating full time take warning because this is your future should you choose to follow through. Suddenly, and without warning, EVERYTHING in the house the yard the shed the porch the deck, its all suddenly JUNK. Its all lost its value. In a fraction of a second because of a decision just made, everything I have ever owned and fought for my entire freaking life is reduced to not only being worthless, but now its a problem because I gotta get rid of it! You know I watch these Hoarder shows on Discovery Channel, you wanna know how you cure that crap? Tell them to squeeze their entire life into a camper. Problem freaking solved. 🙂 So here I am giving stuff away left and right, my friends and family at this point literally think I am absolutely crazy. My best friend Jon stops coming over for a while because I sent him home with ten boxes of junk every time he showed up. I took like 39,000 trips to the salvation army car load after car load, and then gave away the car, and the most amazing thing began to happen! This is something I never expected. I started feeling FREE. The more crap I got rid of the more freedom I experienced, and in fact I began completely understanding the previously foreign concept of tiny home living. I began to GET IT. So you take an object in your house right? Could be anything. Lets say its a large Pot. Good for boiling 8 ears of corn at once. Well thats nice. But how many times do I find a need to boil 8 ears of corn.. Toss it in the donate pile… BUT alas. Ten items later…. Wait a minute…. That pot can also be used as a step stool to reach upper cabinets in the camper. It can serve as a wash basin when you are running on potable water and don’t want to waste water down the sink drain. It can also hold multiple items inside of it – other pots and pans, lids, what ever – minimizing the space it takes to store it. So all of a sudden I am running around the house analyzing things all over again. “ ok how useful are you, how much do you weigh, how much space do you take, and most importantly how many uses do you have…“? And then my piles shifted yet again. This I think was one of the coolest revalations I have ever experienced in my life. Taking every single thing I own and analyzing its usefulness AND its footprint. All of a sudden new piles of crap began to form and I began to not only shed myself of useless things but I began to learn that many things I owned and indeed some of them hardly noticed before, would become essential things in an RV life on the road. If you plan to move into a camper you essentially have to fit your entire wardrobe into a suitcase. You have to squeeze your whole shed full of tools into a few small tool boxes in the corner of a compartment. You have to find the best 2-3 sets of sheets and you have to loose the 50” plasma TV and entertainment system. This was an interesting phase of my life to say the least. By the end of it, days before closing on the house, I had a giant dumpster in the driveway and literally EVERY FREAKING THING not nailed screwed or part of the house went into it. And we filled it. Heaping full. I threw my entire life into a dumpster and the strangest part about it all was how rewarding that felt. I wasn’t just tossing junk into that dumpster. I left a lot more behind in that dumpster than junk. I was shedding tyranny. NO LONGER would this crap hold power over my life. NO LONGER would I be forced to maintain a brick and mortar home with ridiculous taxes and NO LONGER would I be held down by an inanimate object so incredibly hell bent on keeping me in a place I didn’t want to be. Everything I threw in that dumpster for the two weeks I had it, made my sole feel lighter. This is something I never expected.
So what about the first camper? You know the one that was parked in the driveway all winter as this was all going on? Yeah I broke my freaking back on that thing too. I redid the entire interior if you look at the FB history hundreds of pictures I stripped it down to the studs and busted my BUTT because this was going to be my new rock. I had decided by now ok the house is being sold and so my new rock is Nancy. Nancy got her name incidentally after a friends Grandmother. I wish I had a cool story behind it like Rosie but I don’t and Ill get to Rosie later. So as the house was emptying and the dumpster filling – so was Nancy. Nancy was taking on way more than she could handle frankly because in spite of my exhaustive efforts to shed un-needed crap, I was still captivated by the desire to hold on to way more than I should back then. Alot of it was sprinkled between dumpsters and salvation army stores along the road between then and now. I hadn’t yet quite learned how to let go of it all. I still haven’t but as time goes on I get better and better. Incidentally I also have an amazon addiction so its sort of a balancing act to justify a new thing by ditching an old thing… I digress. So Nancy and I get all loaded up ready to go and we are ready to close on the house now. She is completely empty. I locked the door for the last time in my life, and I walked down the driveway the dog the cat and my kid are in the camper. Its time to go. Ill never set foot in that house again. It might as well have been a mile I walked in that moment, but I got through it. And we hit the road. Officially full time RV summer of 2019!