How many times have you heard someone say, “If I had it to do over, I sure would do things differently.” Yes, hindsight is always 20/20, but we make our choices and live with them. If they turn out not to be the best choices, hopefully we learn from them.
My father used to always say that he never made a bad decision in his life, based upon the information he had at the time. I recall him saying more than once, “I never thought about making a choice and saying Gee, this ought to really screw things up for me and my family. The decision I made to go through an intersection on the green light was the right decision. I didn’t know that a drunk was going to come the other way, run the red light, and T-bone me. Looking back at that decision, knowing what I know now, is a different story.”
I remember Dad’s words when I think about our 17+ years of fulltime RVing. Starting out, I thought I had done my homework, but as it turned out, we made just about every mistake in the book. So, knowing what I know now, what would I do over?
First of all, I wouldn’t have purchased the first motorhome we looked at. Yes, we really did that. It was a few years newer, but the same brand and model of motorhome that Terry’s parents had, and they were fulltimers. If it worked for them, it should work for us, right? Wrong! Their idea of fulltiming was to spend winters on their lot in Mesa, Arizona and then drive to Idaho to spend summers on their lot there, and then back to Arizona, with seldom a side trip along the way. That worked fine for them. But we were on the move all the time, covering thousands of miles more a year than they ever did.
My buddy John Huggins from Living the RV Dream always advises people to buy their third RV first. By the time you have been through a couple of these rolling palaces you know more about what your personal RV lifestyle is like, what works for you and what doesn’t, what options are useful and which are just frosting to make the cake look better. A lot of the things you thought you needed because some RV salesman told you did, are a waste of money, while there are other options that might suit you much better. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the RV lifestyle.
Our second mistake was to let a smooth talking salesman convince us we should buy a very expensive campground membership during our first month on the road. Most of the campgrounds in that chain were on the West Coast, and there’s a whole big country out here to explore, so we never got back to use them before the outfit went belly up.
Our third mistake is one that just about every new fulltime RVer makes. We thought we had to see it all in the first six months we were on the road. Here’s a tip for you folks, you will never live long enough to see it all, because there’s just so darned much of it out there to see! Slow down. Sloooow down. Sloooooooooow way down! Many newbies wind up bouncing around in three directions at once like pinballs, running the wheels off their rig, wearing themselves out, and spending way too much money driving 500 miles from point A to point B to see something, never realizing there are a thousand wonderful things along the way that they are driving past.
Take the time to smell the roses along the way. Pull over at those scenic viewpoints and check them out. Find yourself a small town park to park your rig and spend an afternoon walking around downtown, poking your head into the little shops and having lunch in the diner. That’s where you’re going to find the real America, not in some fancy theme park or a chain campground two blocks off the interstate.
Keep a journal, write a blog, type a few notes along the way. I can’t tell you how many times people say “We were someplace, I can’t remember where it was now, but we had dinner in this great little restaurant, but the name escapes me. But you really need to go try it out sometime.” You don’t have to write 500 to 1,000 words like I do every night for this blog, but if nothing else, get a spiral notebook and spend five minutes after dinner noting the highlights of your day. Trust me, someday you will be glad you did.
Step out of your comfort zone. We have met RVers who seem to travel a circuit, always staying in such and such campground in such and such place, then moving on down the road to the next RV park they stayed before, and from there to a third-place they always visit. For quite a while, following the RV rally circuit as vendors and presenting seminars, and teaching at Life on Wheels, we were those RVers! We spent so many years missing so much. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to go back and see familiar surroundings, but again, there’s a great big country out there.
If you’ve never been to Kansas, or Nebraska, go there! You won’t believe how friendly the small towns in the Midwest are. Many of them even have public parks with RV hookups, and quite often they are free! Go explore Cajun country. Don’t just drive through, go have a burger at a dive bar and listen to real music played by people who never expect to make a nickel at it, who wouldn’t be caught dead in a sequined suit, but who get together two or three times a week to make music just for the love of what they are doing. If you’ve been shy all of your life, remake yourself! Don’t sit under your awning alone, go over to the campground activity center and play cards with the folks there. Join in a game of horseshoes. Volunteer to help out an at RV rally. I’m pretty sure you’re going to like the new friends you meet.
One final mistake we made (well, that’s not entirely true, it would take a book to tell you about all of them) was to think that planning carefully in advance was all it took to live happily ever after. We had a nice little nest egg when we started out, we had health insurance, we were prepared! We weren’t retired, but we knew our little business publishing the Gypsy Journal would support us. And then that motorhome we bought turned out to be a lemon that was falling apart going down the highway, and 18 months into our new adventure, Miss Terry was diagnosed with stage 4 cervical cancer. The first doctor who examined her told her to go home and start putting her affairs in order because she wasn’t going to make it. Then, as if we didn’t have enough to deal with, within 24 hours our insurance company decided it was some kind of pre-existing condition and wouldn’t pay for her care.
So she fired her doctor, found a new one who was dedicated to saving her life, went through hell and came out the other side, and we rebuilt our lives. Today Terry is healthy and cancer free, and life is good. My point in telling you this, and I know a lot of you already know our story, is that you can never afford to be entirely complacent. Bad things do happen to good people. Sometimes people get sick. Motorhome engines blow up. Transmissions fail. Bad weather screws up our travel itinerary. That’s the real world. Be prepared as best you can, roll with the punches, and don’t give up. Just because you will never live to see it all doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep trying!
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Thought For The Day – You bring the alcohol, I’ll bring the bad decisions.