A few years ago, every company reviewed their mission statement to answer the question – “What was their Why?” This came from business expert, Simon Sinek’s very popular Ted Talk. Suddenly, we were all asking our own personal why question. Now in addition to knowing my purpose and what I wanted to be when I grew up, I needed to know my why. At the time, I was in a job that had made me more tired than energized. Our youngest son would soon go to college leaving us in a house that we loved and a town that we were ready to leave.
We decided to become full-time RVers and sell our house and possessions. My mother didn’t say much until the last day in our house. I was lying exhausted on the floor of our empty house after a frantic weekend of cleaning it. We had bought this house in our fourth year of marriage before we even knew if we wanted children. Twenty-five years later, we leaving as empty-nesters. My mom sat in the only chair in the house and asked, “Why are you doing this?”
My first reaction was to be clever and say, “so the house is clean for the new owners;’ but, I knew she meant something bigger. I looked at her and answered, “Why not?”
Honestly, that was my real reason. Barry had come up with this idea after I took the opportunity to retire early from my corporate job. Our sons were both in college and I was struggling to decide what I wanted for my next chapter. He had been studying this lifestyle and saw it as a great opportunity to travel the amazing places of America. As a photographer, his why was to get to those beautiful places to take his bucket list of photographs. He proposed that we try RVing now while we were still young and healthy enough to explore. As he proposed it, we could sell the house and have an adventure, or stay here and die. Those were my two options.
So, not having a better alternative, I agreed. We sold our house, almost everything we owned, and looked for a RV. The whole time we were planning, I was secretly hoping it would take longer, someone would call our bluff, or one of our sons would beg us not to sell their childhood home. However, everyone was excited for us or even jealous (with the obvious exception of my mom!). From the decision to go full-time to the living in an RV took less than six months. (By the way, I don’t recommend taking only six weeks to clear out your house. It is doable but very exhausting!).
Back to my mother’s question – Why was I doing this? At first, it was simply to support Barry and his dream. He had always supported me and this was something that he was really excited to do. We would travel around for a year or so, photograph some cool sights then settle back into a normal life somewhere in a stationary structure. I’d get to see parts of the US that I had not and maybe find a place where we wanted to settle. When we married, we had every expectation of leaving Texas to move somewhere cooler. But our first nephew arrived and he was too cute to leave yet. Then we had kids and needed those built in babysitters! So as a good personal why, I was on the hunt for my next place to live.
After a while though, I enjoyed the flexibility and freedom of living in a RV. I liked how we could decide to go somewhere new if a place wasn’t our style or stay longer if we felt we had not seen enough. My fears of being too cramped in a 36 foot home or feeling lonely away from friends and family vanished as I learned I liked living so minimally and we made new friends on the road. After six months, I had not killed Barry and was not going stir crazy. We had learned to extend our living space outdoors or coffee shops and how to manage a small space with two people.
We moved quickly that first year. Barry was afraid I would pull the plug at any minute and demand we return to “normal” life. However, we soon learned it was going to take longer than the original two year estimate to see all we wanted. This allowed us to slow down and enjoy it more. Now we stay in an area for around a month to get to know the area and the community. We seek out independent stores, when possible, to get more of a feel for the place and ask for recommendations from locals. And we love to find the small gems, not just those found on the yelp list of what to do in new destinations.
This lifestyle has also taught us a lot about ourselves. Ironically after living in the Dallas area for most of our married life, we realize that we enjoy smaller towns more and cannot imagine living in a big city again. We have become outdoorsy and most of our favorite memories have to do with being in beautiful natural settings. Our favorite spots usually include mountains and lakes. And we have become huge advocates for the National and State Park systems which we feel so blessed that someone took time to conserve these spaces. I have learned to listen more and judge less as we meet people from lots of backgrounds.
We have grown as a couple as well. You almost have to when you live so closely and constantly together. We have never spent this much time together. It has also helped us be more patient and understanding as a couple. Well, it has helped me, Barry was already incredibly patient and understanding. I have learned a lot more about Barry’s job and stresses since I hear most of his conversations and Zoom meetings.
We have also learned how very little we really NEED to live a good life. We still enjoy browsing shops, but the need to buy is so much less when you have limited space to store things. It really makes you think need versus want. Instead of souvenir type things, we tend to purchase more perishable items to try local flavors or buy things that have a use. When I know use my purse or carved wooden spoon, it has a story or special memory of a place.
It isn’t always easy and I do sometimes miss my house. Not the actual sticks and bricks or belongings (though I do pine for my dishwasher frequently), more of the grounded home base. As a nomad, I sometimes miss knowing where to find a bookstore without Google maps or where to find a certain brand in the local grocery store. But then, I look out the window at the view and know that I can change it at any moment. And that variety, as well as constant googling, is what is appealing about this lifestyle. My view, my day, my life is ever-changing and th. There is no routine and few expectations. And that allows me to change into the best version of myself. It is hard to get complacent or to get into a rut when your house has wheels.
So to answer my mom, I am doing this to become my true self and discover what makes me happy, to live the best life I know how. Because after all, why not?
Share your why in the comments below. I would love to hear what motivates you.