Home Is Where the RV Is

Ken & Bonnie Lewis. Photo by Scott Holstein.
Home Is Where the RV IsTrading Domesticity for the Open Road
By Bonnie Haldane Lewis

Ken and I are reasonable, responsible people. During our 27 years of marriage, we’ve bought houses and cars, adopted a dog, a horse and way too many cats. We’ve experienced hurricanes, recessions, chinch bugs, chicken pox and the vagaries of raising a daughter through her teen years. With the usual ups and downs, our life has been simple and predictable.

That’s why our decision to sell our home of 15 years and essentially all of our belongings to live in a recreational vehicle has raised some eyebrows. Travel is our passion, and we plan to do a lot of it.

My husband has been researching the “full-timing” lifestyle for over 10 years. He’s been voracious in his quest for information about all aspects of RV living. I can’t tell you how many “world’s largest!” RV shows we’ve been to. He could hardly contain himself on hearing of the 2009 Florida RV Supershow in Tampa. There were more than 1,300 models on display, and I’m pretty sure we climbed into every one of them.

While Ken planned for our new lifestyle, I’ve focused on eliminating most of our possessions. Space in an RV is limited, so nonessentials must be stored, sold or discarded. One might think it would be difficult to part with things collected over a lifetime, but for me, this has not been the case.

I started with my bedroom closet, which was packed tight with clothing, most of which I never wear. Like the big heavy moss-green sweater with two raised diamond shapes woven into the front. I wore it several times until one day, upon seeing myself in a mirror at the mall, I realized it made me look like I had headlights. Immediately it went to the back of the closet. 

I easily tossed three-quarters of my wardrobe. My only hesitation came with my all-time favorite outfit, a skirt and jacket set my husband gave me for Christmas about 20 years ago. It was a size five, and I looked fabulous in it. Though I knew there was no chance I’d wear it again, it was hard to let go of. Later, I found a picture of myself wearing it and had to laugh. I looked like Dynasty’s Krystle Carrington. Big hair, shoulder pads, and a very tight, very short skirt. Turns out, we seldom look as good (or as bad) as we remember.

Next in my quest to downsize came two giant boxes of photos. I’ve always ordered two copies of each print so I could keep one and send the other to family. It appears however, I rarely actually sent them, because I’ve still got two of everything. All those holidays, birthdays, backyard barbecues and vacations. It was easy to toss out duplicates, blurry Thankgiving dinner-table shots and photos that made me look fat. Whoo-hoo! I’m down to a shoebox of priceless family photos.

Until now, shopping has been a sport for me and my sister Alice. On weekends, we’d hightail it to Havanna or Thomasville or wherever there was a dusty little antique shop, in search of one-of-a-kind, can’t-live-without-it knickknacks. Though the thrill of the hunt was intoxicating, each priceless little doodad, each sweet little geegaw has now ended up in my garage sale with a hot-pink sticker marked $4.

Letting go of possessions, many that hold fond memories, sounds sad, but I don’t feel sad. I feel lighter, freer, less bogged down.   I am enjoying this new phase of our lives. A new home, unconventional as it may be, new experiences, lots of adjustments and hopefully very little new “stuff.”

It has occurred to me that we could have skipped the process of making a home and all that goes with it, and spent our money and youth traveling the country like we’ve always dreamed. But I’ve enjoyed this traditional life. I would hate to have missed the fun of creating a stable, warm, loving home for our daughter. And we could continue as we are now, in our “close-to-retirement phase,” dressing up our house, collecting things, dusting and gardening and living in our sweet little home. But we have chosen instead to hike the trails of the Shenandoah Valley through the riot of autumn leaves, eat freshly caught lobster in the tiny harbor towns of Maine and watch the breaching Orcas from the rocky cliffs of Newfoundland. We’ll explore the depths of Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, hunt for trilobite fossils in Utah and quartz in Arizona. We want to go to every small-town festival that strikes our fancy. A Wild Mushroom Festival in Colorado, a Garlic Festival in New York, the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in Washington and the Potterville Gizzard Festival in Michigan. Well, that last one might be a hard-sell for my husband, but the point is, there is so much to see and do, I would rather spend this phase of our lives exploring the world than remain safe and secure in our cocoon.