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A home base?

We’re back in Tucson for a while, back to work and once again looking at houses. While we were on vacation last week I had a chance to think about what we are doing and where we are headed. Here are a few thoughts I compiled while parked in Mexico:

Full-timing is not very much like camping most of the time. Most people who buy camping trailers look forward anxiously to the weekends and holidays when they can break away to a favorite quiet spot in the greenery of a forest, or in the blazing sunshine near a beach or in the desert. For them, the trailer represents the dream, and they can often get a thrill just to see it waiting in the driveway ““ a symbol of their freedom to come.

For us, living in the Airstream, every day is a day in the trailer, and although I still like to look at it, we have to make a special effort to separate the working days from the vacation days. In the past year I’ve been working a lot, six or seven days a week, and limiting my time off to a few hours each day in between sessions at the computer. My friend Dr. C pointed out that I have learned to be a supreme juggler, keeping work, parenting, wife, trailer maintenance, travel, blog, and various other projects all going at once, but the good doctor also pointed out that this may not be a healthy long-term strategy.

So part of the idea behind taking a full week to completely disconnect in Mexico was to regain perspective on the life we’ve been leading and to really enjoy some “camping” instead of just “living.” For us, camping means no obligations, no schedule, no email or cell phone. We just get up in the morning and do whatever feels right. Some days, that’s a walk on the beach, and other days like today, it’s writing down the reminisces or even defrosting the freezer.

That’s what Eleanor was inspired to do this morning, and I won’t ask why because an unspoken rule of our vacation time is to not question the why but simply go with the impulse. She doesn’t ask why some days I head straight to my computer to write down fresh ideas, and other days I go for a walk. Having to explain yourself is work, and we’re avoiding work, whereas if you really feel like defrosting the freezer in Mexico it may be your idea of fun at that particular moment.

Having had a few days to reflect without the barrage of emails that I normally respond to each day, I’m starting to see that some minor lifestyle changes are needed. That’s no problem, since our program and itinerary has been undergoing constant change since we started traveling full-time. Eleanor and I have been discussing the nature of our future life together for several months now, recognizing that we want to give Emma the option of “regular” school for a while at a fixed home base.

But it’s not easy to make the decisions. Emma may do better homeschooling than in public school. And back in December, Eleanor felt she was done with full-timing and would be happy to get into a house again. When we started looking at houses in earnest, the realities of house ownership struck hard (expense, obligation, worries, possible boredom). Suddenly these factors made another year in the Airstream look better and better.

I was wondering if this phenomenon was unique to us, so I talked to a few other full-timing couples who were getting “off the road” or had recently done so. They all reported the same thing: the prospect of sitting still was unappealing and one couple had even left their new house and gone back on the road for three months. In short, full-timing can ruin you. Home ownership no longer has the appeal that it once had, and can even feel like an unnecessary burden.

Still, a home base would be nice for practical reasons. Our compromise will probably be a very lightweight piece of real estate, either a condominium, small low-maintenance house, or even an “RV port” which is a sort of garage apartment that would store the Airstream and add extra living space.

One decision is certain: After we have the home base established we will continue to travel extensively. My job requires it, but also we love it. The Airstream gives us a second home, one with a huge advantage over the vacation timeshares and condos we’ve seen. The Airstream has wheels, and that means we have a second home anywhere we care to pull it. So most likely we’ll spend summers in the northeast, enjoying the fine weather there and avoiding the scorching heat of the southwest.

Speaking of scorching heat, blog reader Rita asked a question about how our fridge and other electronics fared in the hot weather we occasionally encountered in the past week. The short answer is that things like computers, cameras, etc., were fine. The refrigerator warmed up a bit, but running the new dual cooling fans we had installed at Roger Williams Airstream last January seemed to help. With the fans running and ambient air temperature around 100 degrees, the refrigerator stayed around 44 degrees, which is fine. As the weather warms up here in southern Arizona, we should have a few other chances to test the fans again.

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