Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife Ruth and I are both retired and started living half the year in our travel trailer in the warmer climates of the U.S. My wife has always been very active and loves our travels, but she found herself bored after a couple of years of sight-seeing. We are not commercial park types. We like natural settings in the varied parklands of America. Ruth started volunteering during the winter and now wants to start a new career with the Interior Department. She found a backcountry ranger position and wants to pursue it this summer. I am arguing against it. We still have a home to maintain, we have plenty of income and now I see myself spending my summers waiting for her to get off work. She volleys back that we will be living in a National Park. Am I wrong in not wanting to get tied down to one location for several months a year while Ruth pursues her new occupation and I stay home alone?
--Ranger Ruth’s Spouse in Ruidoso
Dear Lone Ranger:
Let me begin with the fact that you are not the Lone Ranger. Many people who retire and begin a traveling lifestyle as you did, find a new passion along the way. Many times that takes the form of a job. It is often not a financial necessity. Your question does not surprise me. The National Park System, and now many state and local parks, cannot survive without the ever growing army of volunteers. These volunteer jobs often network into full-time paying positions. The flexibility of retired and semiretired RVer’s is a perfect match for the park service. It sounds like you two have different ideas on how to divide your time between home and travel, work and play. This is something you will have to work out in your own personal relationship. After a good healthy debate, one of you must yield to the other’s wishes. I would suggest you give it a shot for a year. If you enjoy the natural areas, perhaps you will find plenty to do once you settle into a given park and have ample time to explore it. Your wife may find a big difference between a flexible volunteer job and a time-consuming, often stressful, full-time ranger position. If you don’t let her give it a try she will always wonder. Life is an adventure. You may discover this new arrangement suits you and expands your retirement horizon. You might compromise with agreeing to try it for a season or two and then reevaluating the decision. Don’t be ruthless or you’ll be Ruth-less.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink