In my last few posts I have hinted or flat out complained about the issues it has taken to get to the point I am at now of living on the road. Please don't take it as complaining, other than just complaining things aren't going my way. But as a friend reminded me, "who would have guessed that a brand new, completely different lifestyle with entirely new, complex mechanical gizmos would be so complicated."
He was very insightful in that comment. And I suppose things will continue to go wrong although I hope I get better prepared to deal with them as I get more experienced at this.
So here is a little insight into what it took to get this gig on the road.
First, sell the house. In the whole process, that now looks like the easiest. I made a nice profit on the house thanks to a great market in Denver. I am thankful those funds were there because I have blown my budget - bad - with things I didn't anticipate (keep reading).
The biggest hurdle to overcome with regards to selling the house was that I had a cat who decided she liked hiding in the house and didn't want to come out. The new owner was thankfully very accommodating in letting her work out her issues. He found her late last week hiding under the floor board in the ceiling of the basement. He and a very good friend of mine who has gone above and beyond friendship and sisterhood is now watching her until I get back into town.
Second, buy an RV. For more than a year I have contemplated this decision of selling the house and traveling on the road full time. I didn't take the decision lightly or quickly, but even with the research I did do, looking back I feel I was very unprepared.
I contemplated all the options for vehicles. Just an RV? Tow a camper? Tow a car? Get a conversion-type van like a VW EuroVan or Sprinter? If I bought an RV, what kind? How big? How old? If I towed something, does a truck make sense with a fifth wheel? Maybe a small camper? Could I tow something on my Escape?
There was a lot to consider. I needed something I could work out of on the road, that could comfortably fit me and at least three dogs (when I started the plans, I wasn't sure what the situation would be with the cats and Jasmine was still alive). I wanted something that wouldn't be too expensive and didn't require a lot of maintenance. I was selling my house to pay for this adventure so I didn't think I would have time in between to get something ready.
Ultimately I decided going with an RV and towing another vehicle would be the best option. Although the maintenance of two vehicles might cost more, it would give me the flexibility of having a place to keep the pets on hot days while having a convenient vehicle to use to go out and photograph each location. It also gave me the option of having something to still drive when in those situations where one vehicle needed to be in for maintenance or repair. And I would only have to buy one vehicle as I was under the impression my Ford Escape could be flat towed.
So far I haven't regretted the decision to travel with two vehicles, but that decision has been a big part of why the adventure has cost a bit more to get going. When I made the decision to get the RV, I had been incorrectly told that my Ford Escape could be flat towed. Many full-time RVers go with an option of a truck pulling a fifth wheel camper. I see now why they like that option. But at the time I didn't want to buy a truck and a fifth-wheel. I wound up buying two vehicles anyway. Lesson learned - do your own thorough research and don't rely on the advice of a car salesman.
So not only did I have to buy a different vehicle to pull behind the RV but I had to do it quickly. I only found out about the lack of towing ability on the Escape about two weeks before I went to settlement on my house.
That being said, I am loving the Jeep. I can only say, of all the vehicles I have had, I have truly only loved two of them - my two convertible Mustangs. They were just plain fun to drive. The other vehicles were great, functional and got me a lot of places but this Jeep is along the same infatuation as the Mustangs. I took the Jeep out for its first off-road drive today - fun!
But now I needed to figure out how to move two vehicles to each location when I would be the only driver.
Although a straightforward solution, a hitch becomes a little more complicated than just getting it installed and hitting the road. In Colorado, a braking system is also required in the towed vehicle. This emergency system will actually stop the car if it somehow becomes detached from the RV. This was yet another unexpected expense that cost almost as much as the hitch and its installation.
Third, working on the road. How will I work from an RV? How will I access the Internet? How will I continue to market myself? How will I have power to run my computer equipment? How do I back up photo files while maintaining a safe storage location?
About two weeks before I went to settlement on my house I had a virus infect my desktop PC. That was kind of the last straw for me in regards to using a PC. I have had quite a few issues with that particular computer ever since I bought it a couple of years ago. I wouldn't be able to use a desktop on the road, and my current laptop computer, a Mac Book Air, although fantastic for the purpose I bought it (purely for a lightweight computer for checking email and backing up photos while traveling), was not going to work as a full-time computer on the road.
Off to the Apple store I went to purchase a new laptop. Thankfully the model I specked out online wasn't in stock in the store so I had to go with something a little slower (I haven't noticed any difference after coming off of the Air) thus saving me a little bit of money. But switching completely to a Mac system meant new software and a few other miscellaneous items to outfit the equipment I would need.
Again, I have been very happy with the setup but it was an unexpected cost.
Next was to figure out how to back up my files while traveling. I maintain a large quantity of external hard drives at my office to store all of the tens of thousands of photo files I keep saying I will someday go through. I couldn't bring those along in the RV. It wouldn't be wise to travel with my complete library of photo files, even if they are backed up in another location. And each one of the drives requires its own power supply. There are only two outlets in the RV.
After quite a bit of research and some great information from a few friends, I wound up going with a NAS cloud storage system. This will give me a much larger back-up system while being able to access the content on the drive through the Internet, thus eliminating the need for multiple hard drives in the RV. (I do still carry one with me just in case.)
Unfortunately I have yet to set up the system as I ran out of time before settling on my house. Plans are to get it going on my next trip back to Fort Collins.
And finally, how would I access the Internet during my travels?
There are more than 12,000 full-time RVers registered on the Facebook group of that name. I would imagine that just about all of them have some sort of Internet connection while traveling - ranging in options from using free WiFi in various locations, a satellite receiver, or a personal hotspot through a mobile device.
I researched all of the options I heard about. Since I needed something reliable because of running a business, free WiFi hotspots were out of the question. The satellite option was certainly feasible but expensive. So I researched different options for a personal hotspot. I wound up going with one through my iPad data service. So far I have been very happy with it, although on occasion it gets a little choked up on sending data. The only limitation has been that I need a data signal, which isn't always available in more remote locations.
My backup option of finding a nearby Starbucks has so far been a great fallback plan. (It is amazing how many Starbucks there are out there all willing to sell you a $6 drink for some free WiFi.)
There are still a few miscellaneous items that seem to keep coming up. My original option for carting the kayak around on top of the Jeep failed me on its first trip when I noticed one of the straps was flapping around in the wind, meaning only one strap was holding the kayak to the roof. My car charger for my cell phone died the first day on the road. Thankfully it was only the charger and not the phone that needed replacing. A sensor on one of my Jeep tires said it was low on air. Thankfully it was the sensor that went bad and it was covered under the warranty rather than a need for a new tire. Two of my lenses need repair - both are fluttering when focusing - so I need to make a decision about replacement or repair. I constantly discover things I should have saved but sold or gave away in the moving sale or need a smaller version of for the RV, like a cordless vacuum to keep up with the dog fur and a small printer to continue to market my business. A pin fell out of the hitch on one of the longest drives so far of my adventure. I thankfully had stopped for another reason and noticed it before the dog bone fell out of the hitch arms. It took an overnight delivery and a ridiculous handling fee with UPS to get a new one after I learned that many RV Parks sell them since others have had similar situations. I now have three backup pins, including the one a neighbor at the RV park gave to me. And yesterday I lost my prescription sunglasses while photographing some vineyards.
So to my friend's point that I mentioned earlier, things will go wrong now that I am dealing with a new lifestyle and a new set of mechanical gizmos. I definitely feel in over my head but each day I climb back out a little further as I learn more about life on the road. I have an amazing support system of friends who provide information, call once in a while to make sure I am okay and to ask where I am today, and take care of things back at home for me.
Ultimately life is about learning and growing so here's to new opportunities to learn and grow.
And of course see some amazing places, wildlife and scenery along the way.