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"Jim, you've got to do something more than just play when you retire. If all you do is play, then your play will become like work and you'll dread it." Those were the words of advice my retired friend, JP gave me when I asked him about his retirement. It was good advice and I often reflect back on it as I undertake my travels. These day's I'm spending a lot of my time in retirement traveling the country in my RV. Being able to travel was my dream for when I retired and it has become one of the main ways of how I spend my time. Some might label it as "playing", but I try to add purpose to my travels, to enhance the overall experience. Doing road trips and just sight seeing across the country can be lots of fun. I've done a few cross country trips just to see the sights. But I found after a few weeks on the road, I would get bored and things would start to blur. After several days of new and different scenery, I would loose track of time and tended to forget where I had been and what I had seen just a few days prior. I decided that I needed to add more purpose to my travel to make it more enjoyable and meaningful. So, in this post, I'll share some of the things I do to add purpose to my RV travels. Share the Experience with Others I've always liked to write and have kept journals about interesting things I did so I'd have a record to reflect back on. I kept them private, but a few years ago I started this blog so I could share my experiences with my family and friends. I became my own traveling reporter. It gave me an activity to do while on the road and a new skill to enhance. I try to become a better writer and story teller with each entry and I try to broaden my audience. I don't do it for money and think of it as a way of giving something back. There's a lot of people writing blogs about their travels and I enjoy reading others experiences and learning about new places. Web sites like Blogger and Word Press make it easy to start a blog. Social media sites like Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest make it easy to share your travel experiences with others. Develop or Enhance a Skill to Use on the Road I took up photography back in the day when 35 ml film was popular and even had my own dark room. Digital photography has made things so much easier and faster. The past couple of years I've focused on becoming a better photographer so I could better record my travels. I've read books about photo composition, techniques, and landscape photography. I travel with three cameras for different type of photography (close ups, telephoto, and video). I've even got into film ending and some post production. Its a fun and challenging skill to learn and its helped add more purpose to what I do while on the road - telling my story thru better photographs. J. Dawg on the Shelter Island Ferry Use Your RV to Travel to an Event I love music and use my RV to attend a few music festivals each year. A lot of music festivals have camping and allow RV's. It's a great way to go experience and immerse yourself in different types of music. I'm also a Nascar fan and take my RV down to Daytona each year. There's Nascar races all over the country and I'm going to try visiting some different tacks. Next year, I'm planning to spend part of the summer in Colorado attending local rodeos. Rodeos are great local entertainment. I have yet to attend an RV rally but I'm sure it will happen one of these years. And then there's football tailgating. If you've got a hobby or a passion, I'm sure there's an event dealing with it somewhere. Traveling to an event is a great way to enhance your hobby and RV experience. J. Dawg at the Daytona 500 Explore History and Culture This past spring, I did a trip through the south and southwest experiencing different cultural areas. I went to the Cajun country in Louisiana, some Spanish areas of Texas and New Mexico, and some Native American areas in the southwest. In addition to seeing the sights, I visited historical sites, ate the local food, danced to the music, and talked with some of the people. It was a great experience. Also, this summer I went out to Kansas and took the back roads shadowing the Santa Fe Trail. It was very educational and inspiring to see the trail and country side that our ancestors traveled. I'm also a Civil War buff and have traveled to many of the battlefields. There's a lot of this that can be done in our country. All you need to do is just pick an area or historical period and go. J. Dawg in Mexico Travel to and Experience a Different Part of the Country When I retired, I started spending part of the winter in Florida. I started out renting condo's but now I stay in my RV for 2-3 months. I love getting out of winter and sitting on the beach in January. It's also fun to become familiar with and "soak up" another area, to meet new people, and see how others live. I want to do more of this in other areas like the southwest and in some of the mountain states. J. Dawg on St. Augustine Beach in January All of what I describe above has helped me add more purpose to my RV travel. Its helped make it much more enjoyable and avoid the pitfall that my friend JP warned me about. And, it may be old news or obvious to some but perhaps it might light a spark in someone else about what they can do to enhance their RV travels. Follow more of my travels at: http://jdawgjourneys.blogspot.com/
I've learned a lot about RV travel from others - people I met on the road and from reading other people's travel blogs. Most of the info is about places to see, places to stay, places to eat, roads to travel. But, I've found little out there about living on the road. I'm sure there are books and blogs about being a full time RVer, but I'm in between. I guess you'd call me a "sometimer." I'm still tethered to a home, a hometown, and local family, but I spend about 4-6 months of the year traveling on the road. Living on the road is different from taking a long vacation. When you take a vacation, its a temporary break from your normal life. Its easy to put things on hold and deal with the bills, mail, appointments, routines, and conveniences when you get home. When you're on an extended road trip, you're away from your home, friends, conveniences, familiar places, and routines for an extended time and its not possible to put everything on hold. Living on the road is not like living at home and its not like taking a long vacation. Over the past three years, I've slowly developed some practices and routines to help me cope and make it easier to be away for an extended time. I thought I'd share them here so that others may benefit from them. Everyone is different and what works for me may not work for others and vice versa. Stay Connected with Family - I communicate almost daily with my family. Technology makes it really easy. Text messages, emails, and Skype calls make it easier to stay in touch with family and friends. It also helps them keep track of me. I also blog about my travels to share with them. This is a priority for me. Go Mobile and Paperless - I've gone paperless on most bills and use electronic banking to pay bills. I can check balances, pay bills, and move money right from my smart phone. There's very little paper mail that I need and can go a few weeks without getting any paper mail. Have a Bank Account from a Big Country Wide Bank - I do most of my banking with a local community bank, but I maintain an account with a big countrywide bank that has branches all over the country. I can move money to this bank and I can get cash all over the country. Have a Full Power of Attorney - I have a Power of Attorney that gives my son (who is back home) full ability to sign my name and act on my behalf. My wife sometimes travels with me so I needed someone else back home who could do this. This has come in real handy when I've been traveling and needed someone to sign a document for me or act on my behalf. Carry Copies of Key Documents - I have a Health Care Proxy that allows my son to make medical decisions for me if I become incapacitated or unable to make decisions. I carry a copy in my RV. I also have photo copy of all credit cards and my ID's. I have two wallets while traveling - one on me and one that stays in the RV in case I loose the one I'm carrying. I split up my credit cards between the two and keep about $200 in the spare wallet. I also keep a photo ID in the spare wallet. I also carry a copy of my RV Title and RV insurance declaration page with me. Have a Doctor that Communicates Electronically - Stuff happens on the road and I let my doctors know when I'm traveling. I can communicate with all my doctors with email and all my medical records are on-line. If somethings happens, its easy to contact them and they can send prescriptions electronically to most pharmacies. Don't Drive Everyday - I plan a route and itinerary for every trip. Then I choose destinations to visit and have found that its best for me to stay 2-4 days at a destination. I can't be going every day. I need downtime. Time to do the things I would do at home like read, play my mandolin, read the news, watch some TV. I also need to get out and move. And need time to soak up the local flavors. I don't like to hurry. To get to a destination, I usually limit it to a two day drive. Build in Extra Days - When I plan a trip, I add in an extra day every couple of weeks with no itinerary. This comes in handy when I want to stay longer, do chores, or go off route. Only Make the Most Important Reservations - I only make advance reservations at places where it may be tough get a spot. Places like popular national or state park during busy periods. For everything else, I take it day by day. I don't want to have to juggle a collection of reservations and have to be someplace at a certain time just because of a reservation. So far this has worked out for me. Limit Driving Miles / Day - Back in the day when I was working and only had a few weeks vacation, I could drive 600 to 800 miles per day. Now, being retired, why hurry? I try to limit my daily driving to a max of 400 miles. My preference is to do around 200 to 250 miles. It gives you time to take breaks, smell the roses, take some pictures, and arrive at a place before sunset. Eat Like You Would at Home - On a vacation it is so easy to go off your diet and eat convenience foods or to eat out more than often. Because of my colitis, I need to stick to a special diet or else the "s--t will hit the fan." Whenever I can, I try to eat the same foods I would eat at home. I shop at local grocery and health food stores whenever I can and cook simple meals. I keep my favorite recipes on Evernote. But I do like to sample local foods at each destination. I just don't over do it. Have an RV You Can Make into a Home - I started out with a Class B van. It was great and I loved it for solo traveling, but for me, it was a tough place for 2 people to live for and extended time (2-3 months). It felt like a van vs a home and I found it was tough to sit parked in it for days when the weather was lousy. I recently traded up for a small Class C with a slide out and I love it. It feels like a home. It has a separate bathroom with a full shower, a separate bedroom that you don't have to make up each day, and a separate living/dining/kitchen area. I think this is key decision question when selecting an RV for extended traveling - can you live in it for an extended time? Take the Road Less Traveled - Interstates are great for getting from place to place, but I like to get off and log some miles on local roads so I can see the country side. That's were the best stuff to see is. I usually plan to do this on each destination drive. That's my list of the stuff so far. Next week, next month, next year they'll be some more stuff I learn. Follow more of my travels at http://jdawgjourneys.blogspot.com
Where to start: I guess an introduction would be appropriate. Hi, I'm Marianne Edwards. After twelve years of RV travel and welcoming fellow RVers to come and spend a night or two on our property if they ever find themselves in Ontario, Canada, it occurred to me that establishing a network of like-minded RVers would be a great idea. With the help of my daughter, Anna Maste, who had the know-how and technical skills I lacked, the idea came to fruition in 2012. Through www.boondockerswelcome.com we are now facilitating lasting friendships and driveway-parking invitations between RVers across North America (and all over the world) - giving you an easy way to meet and connect with fellow RVers along any route you travel. The idea for Boondockers Welcome came about in 2010, when I decided to take off on my own on a month-long RV trip. My husband and I had done a lot of boondocking together so I figured I knew the ropes and would be able to find free places to park most nights; thereby, stretching my budget so I could see and do more things. With no one else's interests and opinions to consider, I wanted to visit every attraction that appealed to me. Everything was going smoothly until I arrived in a popular tourist area on the first long weekend of the summer without a campground reservation. I found myself driving on a country road, where, with evening approaching, frustrated and unable to find a suitable, safe, and affordable overnight location, I noticed a farm laneway with an RV parked in the yard. I thought to myself: If they're RVers, they'll understand. I drove in, introduced myself, and asked this middle-aged couple if they could allow me a small corner to park just for the night. They could not have been more welcoming and, in fact, offered that I make this my home base for the weekend. It occurred to me that there must be thousands of RVers like them, willing to share their driveway for a night or two in exchange for the same privilege down the road. Wouldn't it be great if they had a sign hanging from their mailbox that read: "Boondockers Welcome"? What if we could arrange free, safe, legal, overnight parking like this along any route we travel? We might even begin amazing new friendships. Who better than locals to hand us maps and tourist brochures and point out the hidden gems, favorite hikes, best restaurants, or cheapest fuel price? We don't necessarily need to become best friends - just be willing to offer and accept a convenient place to park for a night. It took two years, but with my daughter's help, the idea for this network materialized in the form of a membership website and, I'm pleased to say, it has been very-well received. We now have more than 750 host locations across the country (and growing). You don't have to join as a member to browse the site and see all the details of each host location. You can scan listings by area, zero in on those along your route, check for availability, and read comments and references from fellow members. You can even narrow your search to include only results that suit the size of your RV, whether generators are allowed, or pets are welcome, etc. Although, the minimum requirement we ask from hosts is a free parking spot, many generously offer electric and water hookups as well. Of course, not everyone has an extra parking spot to offer. A separate membership category exists those who can't reciprocate. Over the coming weeks and months, I'll tell you more about some of our experiences (both as guests and hosts) as well as feature the stories of other Boondockers Welcome members. I hope you'll enjoy the trip, check out the website, and add your comments or questions below. Finally, I hope we'll meet - not just on this blog but face to face. Whenever we're not traveling ourselves, Randy and I welcome you to spend a night or two on our property while you explore Elora, one of Southern Ontario's prettiest towns.