Today we headed over to Blowing Rocks Preserve, a section of beach on Jupiter Island with old limestone outcrops being slowly eroded by the ocean waves. Yesterday Kendra let her inner child loose in the water, today I got my chance to be a kid too, climbing on the rocks, peering into mysterious holes and playing chicken with the incoming tide. Unfortunately I did not find any ghost pirate ships full of treasure or a secret passage to a gangster hideout.
On paper it didn’t seem too bad, the house needed some work to get ready for sale, mostly just a fresh coat of paint in the bedrooms and bathrooms. We got a deal from Carpet Bonanza and had new carpet put in the bedrooms. The worst project was repainting the balcony which was a messy 2 month job. It was a lot of work but not unexpected and we got started in April with plenty of time to spare.
The other big task was downsizing our stuff, we were going from around 3,000 square feet of living space down to 298 and in the words of shady tv ad men, “Everything Must Go!”
The plan was simple: pack up everything we didn’t need anymore and move it all into the garage and then have a massive garage sale. Anything left over would be carted off to a donation place. The past few years we had been getting rid of things we no longer needed here and there and the occasional decluttering frenzy inspired by the Hoarders TV show so we thought we were in good shape. The problem with owning a good sized house however, was that there’s plenty of storage space to tuck away things you don’t really need anymore but are still useful so there’s no real incentive to get rid of them. So after the rooms were cleared and the garage was pretty full we tackled the closets and basement shelves. And the piles grew and grew and grew and we had no idea we had so much stuff or where it was coming from.
And then there was the garage sale. Seems like nobody wants to pay more than $10 for something decent but will happily snap up junk for fifty cents. Still, we sold a lot of stuff and with the help of Facebook sold a bunch of the electronics and furniture. And the garage somehow managed to fill itself up again. My advice to anyone considering full time RV living is start getting rid of stuff now, you have way more than you think.
Now the house was clean and a shiny new for sale sign posted in the yard and a week later everybody wanted to buy it. No, that wasn’t it, everybody just stopped buying houses. A house just down the street went up for sale with a higher asking price than ours. A house further down the road with a lower price and right across the street from a house that sold in 1 week earlier in the year also went on the market. And nobody wanted any of them.
So rather than trying to maintain a showing-ready appearance (I dare anybody with 3 elderly dogs try to keep their house clean 24-7) we made our move into our fifth wheel and got a spot in a local campground. Although it was cutting into our savings in hindsight it worked out well for us as we were able to figure things out with our new lifestyle while still having the backup of our house.
The summer flew by, people were looking at our house but not showing interest. September came and at the campground they drained the pool and slammed it shut immediately after Labor day. Finally we got an offer and had a closing date, October 26, the day before what was supposed to be my last day at work and 5 days before we were supposed to pack up and head to Gulf Shores. October was a difficult month, there was still a lot of unsold stuff in the house needing to be taken to donation places, the campground shut off the water in mid October, and worst of all there was the unexpected death of Kendra’s sister.
We kept pushing on and somehow got it all done. We closed on the house on Thursday morning, went to our last day of work on Friday and I don’t remember anything of Saturday or Sunday but on a dreary cold rainy Michigan Monday we pulled onto the highway for the start of our new adventure.
Maybe it was the result of spending too much time in our tiki bar during the winter of 2016, but we decided it was time to make a major life change. We frequently talked about moving over the past several years but could never decide on where to go. The 1 to 2 week vacations never seemed to give us enough time to get a feel for the places we went. Meanwhile Michigan was getting hit with brutal winters and colder summers and after spending a winter doing nothing but shoveling snow in the morning, going to work, shoveling more snow, and spending the weekends hacking ice off the roof I was exhausted and more than ready to call it quits.
At first we just started considering a small travel trailer, thinking it would make it easier for us to go on road trips without the hassle of finding dog friendly hotels. So off to the Grand Rapids RV show in January 2017 to check out the current state of RV’s. While we were focusing on small travel trailers, we couldn’t help but check out the big fifth wheels and often commenting “Yeah, I could live in this.”
We had decided on a Coachmen Freedom Express, it was small enough to tow behind our Pathfinder and park in our driveway but still large enough to be comfy for living in for a week or 2. Still, we wanted to check out other options that weren’t at the RV show and paid a visit to Midway RV in Grand Rapids for some more research. They had a Palomino Columbus fifth wheel in the showroom that we just had to step in for a quick look and of course it had the perfect layout and everything we were looking for. But it was way too big and expensive for a couple of road trips every year. So we went back to looking at travel trailers but everything paled in comparison to the fifth wheel. In addition the whole travel trailer plan still had 2 problems: limited vacation time and still having to live through most of Michigan winters. So we decided it just wasn’t worth the expense and effort to maintain another thing unless we could get a lot of use out of it.
Around that time we started reading blogs and listening to podcasts about other people who lived full time in RV’s. I’ve always had a desire to wander and often wondered what it would be like to live in an Airstream and meander around the country.
Of course I was weighed down by a house and too much stuff and a day job to make that realistic. Or so I thought. With reasonable internet access available almost everywhere now working remotely is feasible and more and more people were starting to do that, some for quite a number of years already. One no longer needs to be independently wealthy or have a collection of cardboard signs begging for money to live in an RV and travel.
Our opportunity came when the housing market in West Michigan recovered and houses started selling within days of being listed. The big Columbus was still on our mind and after much discussion in the previously mentioned tiki bar and late nights staring at spreadsheets I calculated that if we could sell our house for even 15 grand less that what we paid for it we could scrape up enough savings to buy the Columbus and get by without a source of income for at least 6 months. So we decided to take a chance, the worst case was if the house didn’t sell we could take a trip or two that summer and put it winter storage and try again next year. The housing market was starting to go crazy, houses were getting offers over the asking price days after listings. So by April we were owners of a Ford F-250 and a Columbus 298RL fifth wheel, plans were in place to get the house on the market in June. If it sold by August we would live in the RV at a local campground, I would be able to give around 3 months notice at work to make an easier transition, and we would be set to head out on the road for warmer latitudes in October. Of course, having a plan in place means everything is going to go smoothly, right? Well….