I get asked this question quite a bit. Usually, I answer, “I didn’t have any real expectations.”
But that is not the truth, is it. I had some expectations, especially after years of watching YouTube videos and seeing posts on Facebook, something had to rub off. We tend to set our expectations to match the glamorized life of RVing seen online, but then reality isn’t always glamorous. It can be beautiful, it can also be tough.
Here are a few expectations from when we started:
1. Fear and anxiety of towing and backing in, a realistic expectation for many newbies.
2. The opportunity to visit places we only dreamed of and to discover places we didn’t know existed.
3. Expected to have more free time.
What people should be asking is, “What didn’t you expect? What were the unanticipated surprises, things you didn’t know when you started.” It is quite astonishing the unforeseen that happens, things you had no idea would exist.
Read about what we didn't expect....
No matter the length of a relationship, communication ebbs and flow over the course of time.
At each stage of a relationship, communication changes, sometimes it is like you are of the same mind, other times you wonder, “What the hell are they saying?”
As RV (Airstream) newbies, we are learning a whole new way and new form of communication. We are negotiating on a sign language that we both understand. I am struggling with walkie-talkie etiquette, having never used one. Our biggest struggle has been “How” to give directions that make sense, sometimes you think it should be one way but it is actually the opposite. Yet, this form of communication is critical and necessary for safety and for our sanity.
Even after forty-five years of togetherness, we are not always on the same page. We are working hard to find a system and a form of communication that works for us. One without blame, without tears (me), without foul language (me, again,) and without getting mad. There is definitely frustration, sometimes with ourselves, other times with the other person, and most of the time with the truck and the Airstream. There are days, when we just nail it and learn from it and think we’ve got this. And days where we wonder why are we doing this?
We use respect (most of the time), we strive for patience, and we try to listen intently and recognize the other’s frustration.
As we move along in this journey, our communication is growing, it is evolving, and it’s defining itself. Most days, it is easier and more fluent.
Now, if only we could get Jack (the Ford F250) and Betty Jo (the Airstream) to once again COMMUNICATE!
When we first brought them together, it was beautiful. Like any new relationship they went out of their way to please the other, dancing along the roadway as if they were one. We installed a ProPride Hitch to make it more seamless and to make sure they stayed together and stayed safe. The first few times, hitching them together was a breeze, like they were meant to be together, and like we knew what we were doing. I was feeling quite proud of us and even a little cocky. After all, we've got this!
But just like that… the honeymoon ended.
They stopped working together. Hitching has become a huge frustration, a bitter fight each time. I have been tempted so many times to just rip the ProPride hitch off and send it back. All of the measurements we worked so hard to gather, no longer worked. We can no longer just line things up and seamlessly bring them together like before. And the weight distribution bars seem off and the ride seems rougher. The OCL (over center latches) use to just lock into place, but now the driver-side latch seems to have a hard time locking. And our frustration with the system, the hitch, sometimes spills over towards the other person.
What are we doing wrong?
It all started when we left Betty Jo alone for a night. Jack was getting a little update to the bed of the truck to help organize tools better. When we returned the next day, it was late in the day, and no matter what we did, we could not get them to connect. It was like Betty Jo was upset that we left her behind and decided she didn’t want anything to do with Jack. Frustrated, cold, tired, hungry, we decided to let them sit overnight and try again in the morning.
Since that time, Betty Jo has held a grudge and each time we struggle to hitch up. Jack can’t seem to find his way to connect, we spend up to a half hour or more trying to line them up. But eventually (and grudgingly) they will cooperate.
Yes, the honeymoon was definitely over.
As you watch the countless YouTube videos on backing up and hitching, I have yet to find one that really addresses how to be a really good Spotter, how to “learn” to give better directions. Our frustrations came from me not knowing, or understanding, what I was really supposed to be directing him (the driver) to do. Sure I can learn to say passenger side and driver side but there is actually more to giving good directions to the driver than words and sign language.
I realized I needed to better understand “how” the truck works to give better directions. As part of our learning curve, we have found that it works better if I back up the truck and Tony works with Betty Jo and the hitch, he understands it better and has more knowledge of what to do to fix it. He is also better at giving directions, at being a better Spotter, more so than I.
Somewhere down the road, we'll trade again and I will be the Spotter. I will have more experience and more understanding of "what" I am instructing the driver to do. Till then....
The reality is - the issue is really end-user inexperience, not the lack of communication between a truck and an Airstream.
Though I still believe Betty Jo and Jack are having some sort of squabble but they just need to get over it before we hit the road. LOL
Flexibility is Key… So I am learning.
I have never been one to shy away from change, but I am older now and change is a little more challenging than it used to be. Selling everything we own and planning a life on the road has been a BIG change, bringing an end to a long chapter with so much history. Now, we are starting the beginning of a new chapter, not yet written, yet with so many possibilities and unknowns.
As we get older, flexibility isn’t what it used to be – mentally or physically. Things are tighter, slower, more stubborn.
As an RV newbie, one of my first exposures to flexibility was the constant need to change our schedule, what sometimes felt like daily. For the past several years, our life had been complacent – get up, go to work, eat dinner, watch some television, go to bed – REPEAT! It was comfortable, consistent, and cautious.
Now our world changes constantly and requires long range planning, not what-should-we-do-for-the-weekend type planning.
We chose an RV park close to home while we finalized jobs and the rental we lived in for eleven years. I made the assumption that we would just stay at that RV Park for about ten days, change location, stay a week, change location, and so on. The goal was to get some experience in locally before hitting the full-time road, but life dictated otherwise and here it is almost two months later and we’re still here.
I found myself having to keep asking (and apologizing) “can we please stay a little longer?” The RV park is managed by the Swinomish Casino and Lodge in Anacortes, WA, and their understanding and ability to work with us as been nothing short of generous and amazing. In return we had to be flexible and move into different spaces to accommodate people who, unlike me, made reservations ahead of time. The Lodge staff was great and did what they could to minimize our moves.
In about two weeks, come hell or high water, we hit the road. Life isn’t quite done with us though, we head south to the Oregon Coast, then back to Bellingham, WA, then back to Oregon, then back to Bellingham, then finally back to Oregon. This was not part of the original plan when we planned to do the coast, but then life isn’t always as planned, so it’s best to stay – Flexible.
After all, you don’t always know where life… or the road is going to take you.
Living in an RV full time, traveling the country, sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
Everyone encourages you, they say, “Do it, you will enjoy it.”
The YouTube videos make it sound glamorous and exciting. You see photos on Facebook and Instagram and think, “I so want to be there.”
So why not sell off everything we own and do just that.
Leave behind family and friends, travel the country, downsize to very little, create new memories, write a new chapter in our life, enjoy the adventure.
But, what they don’t tell you in the videos, on Facebook or Instagram is about the emotional side of doing just that.
We made the decision to do this right around Christmas, and January and February has been an emotional roller coast ride, chunks of it downhill. The issue – we took on too much, too fast, too soon – quitting jobs, preparing to sell everything, finding the right Airstream, learning how to RV, finding places for us to stay in the Airstream, it was an endless list of things to do. I was completely overwhelmed, anxiety took over, fear replaced excitement, and worry took a strong hold.
It was also hard to not go down the remember-when-rabbit-hole. Reminiscing about this or that kept sucking us in, especially, when we found letters we wrote to each other when Tony was in the Air Force, or school year books, photos of our children, so many photos, so many memories. It was joyful, sad, entertaining, and time consuming.
Add to this mix all the things you need to learn about RVing, like towing and backing up.Then there are the things we take for granted in our homes, like water, sewer, and lights. Suddenly you have to learn more about them and about conservation. Not to mention living in a small space with your spouse.
Communication in the relationship takes on a new meaning, especially as newbies. “No, I said driver side.” LOL Hand signals need to be agreed upon. Working together as a team is critical. For us, after years of being self-employed and working together, it has been somewhat of a natural transition, not to say that it wasn’t hard sometimes or frustrating, but easier than it could be for some couples.
They say, “Timing is everything.” But I have to say, timing sometimes just does not make sense. At least, until later.
For over two years, we had been dreaming and talking and dreaming some more of traveling the country. We knew, almost from the start, that it had to be in an Airstream.
So, here we are – it’s 2021!
A year into a ravaging pandemic, a country broiling in uncertainty, and the highest RV sales in history with more RVers hitting the road and making it challenging. Yet, timing decides this is the year for us to follow our dream. What was timing thinking?
We are getting a crash course in time right now. It started with the financial means to put our dream into action and make it a reality, thanks to a special friend. As soon as the decision was made, time sped up, as if on a racetrack. Within a month, we suddenly had the tow vehicle, the Airstream, I quit my job, prepared to sell everything we owned, and gave notice to our landlord.
I have learned throughout the years “not” to argue with time, just listen and go with it. I just wished it would slow down long enough to catch a breath. But, as you get older, time just flies by and there is always this underlying sense of urgency that time is slipping away too fast, after all we won’t live forever.
Timing is also sometimes about coming full circle or repeating history in some form. In the 60’s and 70’s, Betty and her husband Jim tootled around in their various Airstreams. Here we are, some 50+ years later, starting our journey in our 2018 Flying Cloud, aptly named, Betty Jo. We are dedicating our adventures to Betty, it was her wish and inspiration that we enjoy life, which we hope to do when venture off to live our dream of traveling.
I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason. Betty became a part of our life in 2008. The relationship grew and we became like family. We were there when she needed someone most and she was there when we needed someone most. In honor of our memories with her, we dedicate our next chapter of life to her and I can only hope that we do her justice.
As we roam the roads and highways, looking for that next fantastic stop, keep track of our travels in our Airstream - Betty Jo