In the past two months, I’ve told anyone who has asked about my RV life that I am going to write a post called 101 Things I Did Wrong. And, I’m not kidding, in the midst of all of it, it truly felt like 101 things. There was a point where I said to my sister, through hiccup-tears, that every single decision I made was wrong.
And even in the whirlwind of all that emotion, my logical brain was working in the background wondering how the heck I got to that point. Really, how was it possible to make every wrong decision when I had so meticulously and methodically researched and planned for more than three years?
I have needed a little distance to come to the answer. First, and obviously, not every decision I made was the wrong one. But, you know, there is no admitting or believing that when you are in the middle of what feels like the world falling in around you. Second, the stuff that I was wailing over, for the most part, was all the stuff that wasn’t in my control.
Not addressing things out of my control (like the house appraisal that came in $5,000 less than the buyer agreed to pay), there are ways I could’ve made my life less stressful if I had only known. What is fascinating to me is how many of the items on this list have to do with waiting until the last minute. Again. Me. The planner. How did it happen?
On the one hand, I have no idea. On the other, it is simply a LOT of stuff that has to be done in preparing for such a huge life transition. And, a few items, I admit putting off simply because I didn’t want to do them.
- Working to the end. In my mind, it was good for me and good for my employer that I was willing to work up until I left. For me, it gave me insurance paid by someone else and income. My workplace was super flexible in that last month so I took days and hours off as needed. Despite this, working up to the end was a bad idea. It was just too much. Not the work itself, but rather the eight hours a day where I could’ve been doing the seemingly endless list of things that needed done before I headed out. I can safely say, that my joke might have been reduced to 50 Things I Did Wrong, instead of 101 Things, had I stopped working a month prior to leaving.
- I spent way too much time downsizing for cash. Six garage sales plus three years of posting on eBay, Craig’s List and Facebook Marketplace (a resource I didn’t discover until right before I left but one that is so much better than Craig’s List) and I only increased the dream pot by $6,000.
- Downsizing for cash took hundreds of hours. Reducing my downsizing for cash by 75% plus a couple garage sales would have allowed me so many more hours to work on things that ended up either not getting done or getting done in a rush at the end. And, really, the tax write-off for donating things would probably be comparable to the amount I got in cash.
- The ironic thing about this Thing I Did Wrong, is that even in the midst of downsizing for cash, I knew it wasn’t a good use of my time. And yet I kept doing it. Preparing for another garage sale or posting to eBay came easily to me. I understood it. It made sense. With so many unknowns and future unknowns, I could feel like I was progressing toward my goal when I was downsizing. It almost became a touchstone for me. So I don’t fault myself too much, but at the same time I know if I had it to do over again I would use those hours more effectively.
- One negative effect that focusing so much on building the dream pot was that I became averse to spending. And it’s weird because I had a long list of things I knew I needed to purchase for the RV life. I budgeted for the items. But I continued to not purchase them. Spending money felt like a conflict with my goal. It’s dumb. And I paid for it. In the end, I needed certain items. In a flurry, I purchased some of the things I needed (and there remain items I still need to get). Worse yet, it was done in such a flurry, I denied myself the enjoyment of making those purchases.
- One of the reasons I loved purchasing my trailer directly from the manufacturer is I didn’t have to go through the negotiation process. Because I loathe that process, I kept putting off buying a tow vehicle. Had I done it earlier, I wouldn’t have had to put $5,500 into repairs on my car in the 12 months prior to leaving. And more importantly, it would’ve given me time to get comfortable driving the van before adding another 23 feet to the back of it.
- I have a grocery sack full of receipts I accumulated since I left Alaska, including all those last minute purchases, so I can’t say to what degree this is true, but I know it is. I didn’t budget nearly enough for the “transition” or “extra” stuff.
- Making this life change motivated me to take care of medical things I would have continued to put off due to my irrational White Coat Syndrome. The last medical appointment I made was for the dermatologist to have a complete skin check. I wasn’t most afraid of that one, it just happened to be the last health item I addressed.
I loved the woman I saw. She was fabulous in addressing the true health issues plus my vanity issues (sun damage). She stocked me up on prescriptions for healthy skin and made recommendations for products. She spent more than two hours talking to me. In fairness, I think this is probably unusual. I’m guessing she didn’t have a patient after me which allowed her the luxury of chatting with me about life and skin.
What I did wrong was making my appointment too close to my departure. It left me without time to do follow-up appointments for further treatment on the sun damaged skin. I did myself a real disservice by allowing fear and procrastination to decide when I made my medical appointments.
- This “wrong” was entirely impractical to have done right. Even so, I have spent a lot of time thinking about it, thinking about how my experience might have been different. I didn’t ease into the full-time life. Ideally, I would have parked Quill (my travel trailer) at my house and had the opportunity to see what items worked best for the space. Ideally, I would’ve taken weekend and week-long test trips to learn the rig.
- Living in Alaska and having a trailer made in Tennessee made the ideal transition impractical. It wouldn’t have worked in terms of money, time off work and wear/tear on the van and rig to haul it all the way to Alaska just to leave a few months later. But it sure would’ve been nice. And maybe lessened the impact of number 8 on this list.
- Finally, and this is a biggie, I didn’t realize—didn’t have an inkling—of how hard it was going to be at the end of my old life and the beginning of this new life. I’m still working through some of this and I’ll have a future post dedicated solely to this topic. But for now, let me just say: IT WAS HARD.
The result of this struggle? I radically changed my agenda from what I had previously planned. After being in Quill for only a couple of days, I decided I desperately needed one thing that was familiar to me. Friends who went full-time a month before I did are in Walla Walla, Washington, for a short-term work assignment. I decided to join them. Today, I am parked only seven trailer slots away from them. And feeling so much better. I’ll be here for the next two months. Getting settled. Getting to know the workings and maintenance of the rig. And enjoying company of people who know me.
- It is so very different from the vision I had for my first months on the road. But I’m 100% certain it is the right decision for me right now. I’ll work on that vision in February.
The comfort I take from doing 101 Things Wrong is, at least, I did it. And that was the goal. Yes, I wish I could’ve done it more elegantly, with more style, definitely with more grace and less tears. I wish I could’ve done it more in sync with the way I operate best—organized, methodical, checking things off a list. But it just didn’t happen. Some of it might be inevitable at the time of a radical life change and walking into the unknown. But a lot of it was not. It was simply failure on my part.
Each day this life gets better and easier. Each day I am a bit more forgiving of “every wrong decision” I made. And each day, this life is feeling a little closer to the Supersize vision I had when I started.
In next month’s Listicle, I’ll share the list of things I intended to have done before I started on the road to full-time living that had to wait. Maybe are still waiting.