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The Learning Curve (One Month In)

May 31, 2012

5/31/12  Clinton Park

Boondocking at Clinton Park, an easy walk to work in the morning!

We’re a little over one month in to the whole “living in an RV” thing.  Here’s my thoughts so far.

1.  It’s really, really awesome!  Much like we thought it would be – hoped it would be.  And that doesn’t always happen.  So we’re really grateful for that.
2.  We are definitely in the early stages of the learning curve.  There’s so much to wrap your mind around, and so much to wrap language around in order to understand what we’re experiencing ourselves, nevermind articulate it to anyone else.
3.  It is surprisingly really difficult to communicate our experience to our friends.  It is surprisingly important for us to do so.
4.  I think living in an RV will become exponentially more difficult in the winter.

Now let me try to unpack those a bit.

AWESOME:  I’m still trying to tap into something that I can’t quite articulate yet.  But it has to do with knowing that everything I’m responsible for on the domestic front is contained in a 21 foot vehicle.  It’s like my wife is here, my kids are here, my stuff is here, and my car is here.  Check.  I got it all right here, I can see it’s all good, and I can relax.  Occasionally we feel a bit cramped for space, like when we’re trying to cook and the kids want to run around or play a game and there’s hot things on the stove and no “other room” to go to.  But mostly, we have this somewhat inexplicable sense of indulgence.  I almost feel guilty for having so much, and I can’t quite explain that.  It’s like I feel I don’t deserve to have running water when I live in a van.  I shouldn’t have a toilet.  I shouldn’t have a table, and that table shouldn’t fold away so easily.  The seat I’m sitting on shouldn’t turn into a bed in 4 seconds.  And that bed shouldn’t sleep so comfortably.  I ought to be suffering, but I’m not.  If I get hot I turn on my MAXX Fan and it sucks air through the vehicle from the windows and out the top, creating a gentle breeze that approximates air conditioning.  If I need to sit down and work on something or read I have several options, including the cockpit chairs which turn all the way around to create recliners for my “living room”.  And if I get tired of being inside here, I just step outside and my yard is a professionally maintained, beautifully landscaped, lush green park with things for my kids to play on, an extra toilet and sink, beautiful green trees all around, and a carpet of lush grass to lay on.  None of which I lift a finger to accomplish, and all of which transforms to a similar yet unique “yard” just by driving to a different park.  So yeah, I know there will be times when it’s not all rosy, but for right now, I feel a leeeetle bit spoiled, and for right now I’m enjoying that.

LEARNING CURVE:  There’s always stuff to figure out, and we’re no exception.  We’re still working on a rhythm for doing dishes (seems like you never have the half hour required to do them and you have to run out the door to get the kids to school or what have you) and emptying our tanks (the black water one actually got so full this week that it backed up into the toilet and that was a mite smelly).  But we’re figuring these things out.  Last night we set up our monthly template which we’ve been planning on since before the move, but is now imminently important.  The idea is that we create our schedule for an entire month and take charge of what is happening when, instead of letting it happen TO us.  Good example is time with friends.  When you get invited over to someone’s house for dinner and a laundry opportunity, let’s say, that sounds great.  But a few nights of that with different folks and suddenly you realize you are in desperate need of some time with your family.  If there’s some rift brewing between me and Carissa we don’t have a chance to talk through it for several days because we’re always with people so it just turns in to festering frustration.  Then our kids get to feeling like they are owed a party every day complete with friends-playtime, special food, extended bedtimes, and minimal responsibility.  That starts things sliding down a no-good slope in a hurry.  Then those little things like paying the bills don’t happen because I was too busy hanging out with my buddies on their deck.  But creating the template fixes all that.  Now we work in some time with friends here and there, but make sure we have plenty of days where it’s just us.  We also ensure that we have a place planned out for every night, which keeps us from driving around looking for a good “spot” while the children roam around in the back looking for their jammies.  This is probably for another post, but we don’t want to park in the same spot more than once a month.  This keeps the neighbors from thinking we’ve moved in and they better do something about it.  So even when we find a perfect spot (and we’ve found some great ones!) we don’t want to wear out our welcome.  The template helps plan this.  We also include our menu in the template, which helps avoid the pitfall of just grabbing something from a restaurant every day and from stockpiling a bunch of food that fills our tiny fridge and goes bad.  By careful menu planning we can choose to have two meals in a row that use some of the same ingredients, thereby using all those items up before purchasing items for the next meals.  I could go on, but you get the idea.  We’re learning stuff, and that’s part of the fun of it.

COMMUNICATING to FRIENDS:  This is really an interesting one to me.  We’re figuring things out ourselves, but are at the same time responsible to communicate with our friends what’s going on.  They ALL are super gracious in extending their resources to us for benefit community-style.  But each of the families we relate to are unique.  They have different options for parking the RV.  They have different ideas about what does and does not look OK to their neighbors.  We have to figure out what WE think about those things (such as whether we park in their driveway which blocks up the sidewalk a bit or park on their street which is technically illegal), and then we have to figure out what THEY are OK with, sometimes educating them as to the legality or surfacing issues they may not have thought about would be quite disappointed if they discovered them the hard way (like once we angered an elderly neighbor by parking our RV in our friends’ driveway, but our car on the street, which made it difficult for her to get out of her own driveway).  Then add to that that different folks have different communication styles, so one person says “stay as many days as you like” but actually only said that to be nice and is really only comfortable with our presence for one night.  The next guy says “park wherever you want, our neighbors are fine with it” and actually means that he has discussed it with them and they love the idea of having a nice family move on to their street for a few days and will be disappointed if we leave too soon.  And the most interesting thing, I think, is how our friends frequently try to “rescue” us from our chosen place of dwelling.  They very generously offer things such as the use of their kitchen or their spare bedroom, not realizing that we actually LIKE our little kitchen and kind of get a kick out of using it and that we are sleeping better on our extra-firm mattresses than we did on our king size pillow top and that we absolutely LOVE waking up to the soft pitter patter of rain on the plexiglass skylight I installed when I took out the Air Conditioner.  So we want our friends to know how deeply grateful we are for their hospitality, which is often very helpful, but that we don’t really need rescuing.  We love it in that RV!

WINTER:  Right now we are experiencing the glory of Portland summers.  Lush greenery everywhere.  60-70 degrees most days.  An open window and a fan approximates air conditioning.  Parks are our personal mansion-yards.  Clothing requirements are minimal.  Daylight starts early and lasts forever.  May in Portland is a little bit of paradise.  But all that goes away sometime this Fall.  I’m not sure how that one’s gonna shake out.  Stay tuned I guess…

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2 Comments
  1. I’m in my husband’s account but this is Melissa (Dehart) Connally. Let me just say that I LOVE, LOVE your RV idea. It just sounds so cool…I liked what you said about having everything under one little roof. Enjoy!

    • Hi Melissa! So great to hear from you, and thanks for your comments. I don’t know if you remember sending me that scroll, it was a wall hanging in Chinese (Mandarin?). Anyway, it was one of the things I held in my hands and really struggled with getting rid of when we were getting rid of everything. I’ve hauled that thing around for 15 years or so, usually with it hanging in my house someplace. I did get rid of it along with just about everything else in the name of absolute minimalism, but I wanted you to know it had a fond place in my heart. Many blessings to you and thanks again for the note!

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