I think we learned some things from this January trip:
The biggest one – this would have been a very different trip, perhaps a longer one, were we in a motorhome.
A Bit of Background
Last November we rented a motorhome, a 34 footer, for a short trip. We took it to an RV park right by Joshua Tree National Park and probably would have taken it into the park had we the confidence to boondock. But as it was our first time, we felt it was important to have full hookups and a dump station. Partly to see how it was just being in a motorhome and partly to test out our abilities to drive the beast, do the hookups and dump our tanks.
It was a great learning trip – we cooked, we cleaned; we relaxed, read books (well, I did) and watched movies; took long walks around and watched the sunsets over the desert, and generally had a lovely time. I did a lot of writing while there and we had time to be both together and companionably apart. Privacy is important to me, probably a holdover from being an only child.
But renting was not cheap – we knew that going in and would not have chosen to rent for a much longer trip. We also had one mechanical issue with the coach – the levelers never worked properly even with the rental guys trying to fix this before we left. Their last minute fixing held us up in leaving the area and we ended up arriving at the RV park at night. We never were able to lower the levelers properly and, although it didn’t ruin anything, it was a bit odd to be listing to one side for a few days.
So before we took our road trip in January we had the experience of a trip in a motorhome with which to compare, albeit a short trip.
A Matter of Cost
In the past, I have teased Bob a bit by saying, “every time we go on vacation, no matter where we go or how we go, we spend about a grand a week”. Yes, that’s a lot of money, although maybe not outrageous to some. I mean, some people can easily spend a grand a DAY and others, just a grand a month. But over the ten years we’ve been together and vacationed, we have regressed to the mean of a grand a week. Which, to remind you, is over and above our normal expenses of mortgage, utilities, etc. (Note: When we went overseas early in our time together it was more, but I wasn’t keeping track of the money as well in those days.)
Most of the costs are obvious – we need to get where we’re going and when we get there, we have to pay for some sort of lodging. Then there are costs for tickets, souvenirs, and so on.
On this trip, with the exception of the time at my dad’s house in central Florida, we paid for a relatively modest motel each night, and we ate out at least one meal a day, opting to utilize the free breakfast at the motels we stayed at. For our lunches, we ate Clif Bars, packets of nuts, and apples or bananas.
We had expenses for the dog, too – most of the Best Westerns charged an additional fee for her (very understandable), although the La Quinta Inns did not (I’m voting for a La Quinta Inn in most cases for this reason alone).
But food costs are a bit tricky. When we’re home, we eat rather simply and we tend to eat the same stuff over and over. I remember reading something about how people actually eat and that’s pretty typical. But when we’re on vacation, we spend more because we’re eating out, and we eat more because restaurant food has that novelty factor and that deliciousness factor and that “what the hell, I’m on vacation” factor working for it. (See my comments below on the “on vacation” mode of being.)
And then there’s liquor.
We keep a fairly well-stocked liquor cabinet at home because we do like our cocktails. We also keep a fair amount of good beer around as Bob likes his IPAs.
When I buy a bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin (yes, for martinis), I buy a big 1.75 liter bottle from Total Wine or Costco, so I get a bargain. But when I buy a drink at a bar or restaurant when we’re on vacation, I pay a huge premium. Now, we didn’t drink everyday when we were gone (nor do we drink every day when we’re home, either . . . just sayin), but when we did it was expensive.
So it’s obvious that in terms of cost, the cost of motorhome park fees would be less than even modest motels (and way less than the nice hotels that we have occasionally been to), fuel would be necessarily more, though, and eating in the motorhome most days would lower the food and liquor cost quite a bit and still allow for nights out on occasion.
But, I hear you saying . . . but there’s the COST of the motorhome to begin with. That’s true. They aren’t cheap and they don’t generally appreciate in value.
So why even consider one?
What Price Lifestyle?
I’ve been pondering this for awhile now. And I think there are a couple of aspects to the lifestyle issue.
First, there’s the pace of life as both a journeyer and a sojourner (a sojourner is one who rests in one spot for awhile) that appeals to both of us. We have always had that wanderlust and we found ourselves always curious about both the places and people as we traveled through an area.
In the car, the pace felt rushed, even on the trip back home which took about twice as long as the eastward trip. It was mostly about moving through, or journeying. In a motorhome, there is this, but often you stop for a few nights or more in one place before moving on. So there is that sense of the sojourn as well as the journey.
But there is another issue though that seems a bit, I don’t know . . . strange or unexpected to even me. And that is the cozy factor of living in a motorhome. None of them are huge, no matter how large the camera angles make them seem – certainly not as large as the home we currently live in which is about 1900 square feet. Living sanely and with enough personal privacy in a space of 300-400 square feet (or less) seems counter intuitive, but when we did it, it quickly felt warm, cozy and homey to both Bob and I. I was surprised and didn’t expect that experience, but it was true.
Lastly, To Be a Journeyer and Sojourner
I mentioned above that the “on vacation” mode was probably one factor in our eating out both more food and not as good food due to the novelty, the deliciousness and the “what the hell, I’m on vacation” mode of being. I’m not sure that’s how it would be in a motorhome, though.
I posed this on an RV forum and got responses which mostly were in the vein of, “Well, we quickly realized that no matter where we are, we’re home” which I realized I felt when we were renting, too. Even though we didn’t own that motorhome, I was making dinner in it, and washed dishes and then settled in to read a book or went outside to just enjoy the place we were in. Yes, I was on vacation but I felt, intensely, like I was also at home.
I don’t know yet how it will be to be in our own motorhome, moving about the country for months at a time. I think that having our own bed to sleep in nightly, not having to pack up our bags and unpack them over and over, and not having to worry much about check in and check out times will all contribute to this feeling of being home, rather than on vacation. And having normal routines and rituals will help as well.
Ultimately, what we learned is that this new life in retirement is full of things we have yet to experience and we won’t be able to do all that we want to do or go to all the places we want to go to. Being together and finding spaces to be apart is important, and finding meaning in our lives will be a challenge always.
I think, for us, life will be in the journeying and the sojourning wherever we are. And in this, we will always be at home.