Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Great RV Escape

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband wants to change his life. I think it's a mid-life crisis. He is only 49. He says he's burned out. He is talking about an RV and running away to travel for a year or so. That’s okay with me, but there is so much involved in making a decision like this. We have the money. We could actually retire early by changing our lifestyle a bit. He has worked hard his whole life. I hate to deny him this escape plan. How should we proceed? Just take the leap? I would appreciate some advice.
--The Great Escape in Inverness

Dear Escapee:
It all sounds familiar to me. I’ve done this more than once myself. Everyone has varied circumstances. You really need to make all these personal decisions on your own and carefully. That said, I would suggest you not be afraid to explore this move. If you have never experienced the RV lifestyle, I would advise baby steps. Some people are not cut out for it, although it might sound appealing. Take Sam Israel for example. He was the mini-Madoff hedge fund manager that lost 400 million bucks of other people’s money. Talk about a mid-life crisis. He faked a jump off a New York bridge, and scooted away in a new RV. He didn’t last a week before he turned himself in. My point is, don’t sell the farm without trying out this great escape first. Sometimes the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. Another example would be long-distance hikers. I see a lot of people who have spent months preparing to hike a long trail, such as the Appalachian Trail. They read an account in the paper and it sounded appealing. After quitting their job, buying equipment, and planning logistics for months of hiking, I find them on the side of the trail in deep thought. They have hiked about a 100 miles with all their worldly possessions on their back. They look at me and say, “What was I thinking?” The point is, go slow. Take a couple short trips. Most people find out this is a great lifestyle. Even getting away from a high pressure job for awhile can help you think clearer. A job can kill you. I know, I had one once. Life is full of adventures and you only go around one time, so don’t be afraid to try a few things.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

RV out to launch

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I have been planning my great escape for over 2 years. I will retire next month and plan to leave on my maiden voyage the first of the year. I bought a small Class B van which may prove too small. I am going to take baby steps and decide if buying a larger motor home and hauling a car would suit me better. I just want to get my feet wet before I jump completely in. They say reading and doing are completely different experiences. I am only a little nervous about traveling alone. I have been a widow for almost 5 years. I have done some traveling and camping on my own, but this will be an extended trip. Do single people fare alright in the full-time lifestyle or should I plan on always being the third wheel? I am very outgoing but think it might be hard building long lasting friendships with such a vagabond lifestyle. Thoughts please.
--Out to Launch in Littleton

Dear Launch:
You might be a Fifth Wheel if you go larger and decide on something other than a motor home, but you will never have to worry about being a third wheel. There are numerous ways to meet people with your same lifestyle, but actually you don’t even have to try. Friendships in campgrounds are like spontaneous combustion. We have met some of our best friends on ranger led hikes, birding in campgrounds, around campfires, even breaking down on the road. You will meet people with similar interests while pursuing things that interest you--hiking, paddling, photography, whatever. Another option would be to join a club. Not just a singles club, although there are several of those. Three that come to mind are RVing Women, Loners on Wheels, and Wandering Individuals. I think an important part of social success on the road is being a bit adventuresome, outgoing, friendly and courteous. Single or paired, these are qualities that will help you connect with like-minded people encountered along the way. Another possibility that comes to mind is a dog. Not just for companionship. Last year my wife and I met a wonderful friend while we were trying to catch our freaked out cat. Funny Face jumped out of the motor home and panicked. Janice happened along with her dog Baloo and helped us look for Funny Face. She and Baloo were from Canada and traveling all over North America in a small trailer. We became fast friends and traveled much of the winter together. Janice was very outgoing and I am sure she could make lots of friends without Baloo, but she said more than once that walking Baloo opened up many conversations and connected her with so many friends while traveling. The RV lifestyle will present many challenges to you, but making friends will not be one of them I guarantee.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

RV dog dilemma

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We travel full-time with our dog. It is often inconvenient, but the joy we get from the companionship offsets the limitations it causes. We met a couple who are campground hosts and they invited us to go out to lunch with them. They insisted on driving because they needed to bring their "service dog" along. When we questioned them about the need for a service dog, they admitted it wasn't actually true. It seems the dog suffers from separation anxiety so they were able to go online and get papers that officially designates the dog as a “certified service dog.” My husband thought it would be a good idea for us to do the same, but I feel it's dishonest. He says it is only a little white lie. What do you think?
--Barking up the wrong tree in Baton Rouge

Dear Barking:
I find it more than dishonest. I find it disgusting. These fake Internet documents erode the credibility of actual service dogs. Many people that truly need a service animal are already suspect. To have a wave of pet owners falsifying the need for an animal will only help destroy an important program that many authentic handicapped people rely on. Life is full of choices. If you travel with an animal it will often mean sacrificing some activities. We have more than once offered to babysit dogs for fellow campers that wanted to take a day hike on trails that did not allow dogs. In fact, dog sitting could be a very lucrative work camper business if someone wanted to pursue it. People leaving barking dogs all day in a rig while they go off is a common complaint. The service dog program is for people, not animals. Don’t let your husband confuse the two. That said, I am going to take another crack at humor. The last time I attempted to attach a bit of humor to a serious subject I got a lot of flack. But this story is just too appropriate to pass up. These two guys were out walking their dogs when one of them suggests they go in a bar and have a drink. The other guy says, “They won’t let us in with our dogs.” His buddy responds, “Oh, no problem, I do this all the time. Just follow my lead.” At that he puts on his sun glasses and heads into the bar. The bartender says, “Hey buddy, you can’t come in here with that dog.” The guy says, “But this is my seeing eye dog.” The bartender says, “A dachshund is your seeing eye dog?” The guy says, “Oh sure. It’s a popular breed now. When you come into an establishment they fit right under your arm out of the way” The bartender says, “Okay, come on in.” After watching all this the other guy walks in. The bartender says, “Hey buddy, you can’t come in here with that dog.” The guy says, “But this is my seeing eye dog.” The bartender says, “A Chihuahua is your seeing eye dog?” The guy musters up as much theatrical shock as he can and says, “THEY GAVE ME A CHIHUAHUA!!!!”
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Camping site Comfort Level

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband is tighter than a wax doll's eardrum. He will pull off on a wide spot in the road for the night before he will pay a campground fee that exceeds fifteen dollars. I am not comfortable with his questionable campsites and it causes constant arguing. We have been asked to leave these sites several times in the middle of the night. It’s scary, to say the least, dealing with people in the dark. I am always sleeping with one eye open. He tells me I read too many headlines and that we are perfectly safe. Safe or not I feel like we are playing “Russian Roulette” every night we spend in a questionable spot. I am all for boon-docking, but he is obsessed with camping as cheaply as possible no matter the risk I feel, perceived or real. Do you think I am overly cautious? I don’t want to be a “Nervous Nelly” but I don’t want to be reckless to the point of ending up in an uncomfortable situation while trying to save a couple bucks.
--Ole One Eye in Ely

Dear One Eye:
Everyone has their own comfort level and budgetary restraints when it comes to camping in various parts of North America. It sounds like you and your husband are polar opposites when it comes to the boundaries of those levels. The secret of a successful relationship is compromise. Meeting in the middle should be no problem in your circumstance. You should sit down and decide what type of overnight sites are off the table. Perhaps it will be rest areas, undersigned wide spots, closed businesses with large parking lots, or any number of questionable spots that might look inviting but come with no invitation. Secondly, you should accumulate as much information as you can, keep copious notes, invest in reference material, talk with other RVers and become an expert at locating places where you will enjoy camping, feel safe and not break the bank. I am assuming you are talking about staying in questionable sites while traveling from one destination to another. That should not be a problem if you spend some time doing your homework. Your husband should have no problem staying somewhere you feel comfortable if there are enough alternatives. Many companies besides Walmart now offer overnight parking as part of their customer service. There are several computer Apps that easily show numerous camping opportunities. With a wi-fi connection you can find directions, rates, images of the facilities and reviews from other RVers. You can buy campground guide books that specialize in low cost camping that are updated constantly. Keep a calendar or journal of where you have been, places you have heard about from other travelers, places you have read about in travel articles or brochures you have picked up at Welcome Centers. In the SW portion of the US we use these guidebooks

Click here to visit Frugal Shunpikers Guides to RV Boondocking.

Each one of these guides pay for themselves in a one or two night stay. You may find you enjoy this type of research. It can be like collecting coins or stamps but make you a lot more money in savings, safety and piece of mind.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink