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It’s gonna be a bright sunshiny day

When does life become perfect?

It is part of human nature to strive for more. Once our basic needs are satisfied, we look for improvements. Few of us are permanently satisfied with what we have, a trait that is well exploited by marketers who offer bigger houses, quieter dishwashers, and tastier frozen pizzas.

I have long been one of those who is always looking around the next corner for something else, which motivates both travel and entrepreneurial business ventures. This has cost me quite a lot of money in mistakes and lost salary. I would probably be financially better off if I had stuck to my last nine-to-five job, but long ago I conceded that I am unable to sit still and leave “well enough” alone.

But now I sense an internal settling occurring, and having a house to live in (at least once it is finished) seems to be bringing those feelings to the surface for analysis. I am not sure if this is symptomatic of aging. Perhaps internal hormones that first manifested at age 13 are finally settling down; perhaps this is part of the fact that I am now into my mid-40s (I can’t believe I even typed that, it feels entirely like I am speaking of someone else). I am, as a teacher once said to me, on that “long slow slide” that begins sometime after the late 30s.

It is disheartening when viewed as a phenomenon of physical deterioration (knees weakening, brain not as sharp as it once was) and yet there are small benefits. As the joke goes, having Alzheimer’s means you can forget all your troubles. In my case, I am finding the prickly edges of my personality wearing down. I’m worrying less and looking at things differently. Being 40-something means you can sometimes get respect from the Gen X 30-somethings who work for you, and not be looked down on too badly by the “silver fox” capitalists who own everything. It’s a good middle position to work from, like being a Junior in high school.

There is no doubt that our travels have helped along my gradual transformation. Two years in an travel trailer ought to be required of all citizens of this country, like military service in other countries. Not only would it be good for the environment, since full-time RV’ers consume only a fraction of the resources of stationary folks, but it would give more people the opportunity to broaden their views and appreciate how much they don’t need. As a country our values might shift for the better.

I feel like I’m at a turning point. It’s the culmination of a long process that began sixteen years ago when Eleanor and I bought our first house together, a gigantic money pit Victorian house in Massachusetts. With a huge mortgage payment and an impossible list of essential repairs staring at me, I quit my day job two months later and started my own company, the same company that publishes Airstream Life magazine today. It was a huge, seemingly insane first step down the road that has led me here.

I remember sitting in my first home office, an 8×9 room furnished with a simple desk and a view to the street through two permanently fogged windows, and listening to a Holly Cole covering “I Can See Clearly Now”. On the Internet, I had found a simple A-frame house for sale, atop a hill near Austin TX in a place where you could see the stars through clear skies, and the views were panoramic from the front and rear decks. I used to look at the pictures of that house and listen to that song and think, “Someday…”

My internal clock is telling me that today is “someday”. We ended up in the desert rather than the hill country, and we have a daughter who wasn’t part of the program back in 1993, and I’m certainly not wealthy, but overall the process worked. Eleanor and I have gained experience, matured a little, won and lost a few battles. I feel like we’ve achieved a sense of who we are and what makes us feel right. Life is not perfect but after decades of tromping around looking for perfect it has become obvious that this may be as good as it gets.

Travel-wise the tables have been turned on me lately. I spoke to Bert Gildart today; he and Janie are in Needles CA heading for Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and they asked if we could join them.   In six hours we could be there in the Airstream, but we need to stay here for a while.   Not only do we have house stuff to do, but a round-trip to Anza-Borrego would cost about $200 in fuel.   As full-timers we didn’t look at trips that way since we rarely made round-trips, but now suddenly we are the house-bound folks with obligations on our time.   Ouch.

I shall comfort myself with the knowledge of travel yet to come.   In February I will be going to Las Vegas for a few days, and I hope to work up a trip to Sonora as well.   We have several visitors coming, which may inspire at least a weekend or two nearby, too.

5 Responses to “It’s gonna be a bright sunshiny day”

  1. Paul Hahn Says:


    I enjoyed the nostalgic and profound nature of this posting. I have the same emotions at my age, which is approaching 60.
    The great thing about getting older is the better perspective one has.
    Thank you for continuing your travel blog even when you’re not on the road. Honest writing like yours is appreciated; I look forward to reading it every day.

  2. predeta gartman Says:

    the first eleven years of our marriage we traveled, nine of them in a 24 foot fleetwing travel trailer. my husband worked for Western Union and I towed the trailer more than my husband. when he transferred to another job with the company our son was two and a half when we quit traveling. now we are retired- a beautiful word-and we travel in our Airstream. this is a wonderful country!!

  3. Jane Zweig Says:

    I remember you when — back in the early 1990s…So I guess I’m part of the “old story”…it’s nice to see how you have aged…i’d say almost to perfection. And some of your “independence” has rubbed of on me and the challenges/opportunities I am now facing.
    And I remember how scared you were when Emma was born (and how you hated changing diapers!)…but look at how integral Emma is to the maturing of you and Eleanor. There is a balance to life and it sounds like you are finding it…and aging ain’t so bad…now that i’m mid-50s (i can’t believe I just wrote that), you can really do what you want without worrying what others think or feel. That is a very freeing thing. Enjoy your life and your health while it is still yours to have…and go for the gold…a wise old’ sage who we both know headed me in that direction.

  4. terrie Says:

    you guys are doing it all right….

  5. Tom Bentley Says:

    Rich, nice mood in your last screed; hope you can work that feeling somewhere into your book(s) to come. You cracked me up with the allusion of being a junior in high school. I’m a senior in high school now, but there was still time to get a tattoo of Mark Twain on my bicep this year, so “maturity” offers equal servings of growth and silliness, in their proper proportions. Please finish with your house repairs so you can come and fix the sub-floor on our ’66 Globetrotter; when I pick up a hammer, I only hurt myself.

    Thanks for a continually good read, Tom