Saying Goodbye to Life as I Know It

It was a typically warm and sunny spring day in the San Francisco East Bay when I hoisted myself into my rig with padlock key in hand and backed out of the grassy knoll I’d been calling home for the past two weeks. I’d been enjoying the safety of living in the backyard of the in-law apartment I’d rented for two years and slowly transitioning from my old  life to a new one – so full of unknown adventures and uncertainties.   My landlords, Larry and Gayle had graciously offered to let me stay in the backyard as long as I needed to. But I was getting restless; it was time to fly the coop.

capone
Capone, my faithful co-pilot

As I positioned my RV toward the locked gate at the other end of the yard,  I looked over at Capone who was trying to get settled into his new bed in the passenger seat and said, “here we go buddy…Are you ready for our new life?” He stopped trying to make sense of his new perch and role as co-pilot and looked over at me with that look dogs always give their people, who insist on having human conversations with them. A look that says, “you know I can’t understand a word you’re saying unless the words “treat” or “walk” are included, so why do you even bother?”

As I rolled to a stop near the back gate, padlock key still firmly pressed in hand, I stepped out of my rig and turned to look at Larry and Gayle’s house attached to my tiny  former abode one last time.  The two years flashed through my mind; from when I first moved in, loving the new city and the idea of being 15 miles closer to San Francisco, to the friends I’d made and lost, the two men I’d dated and broken up with and my solo trips to Greece and on the John Muir Trail.

snorkeling
Snorkeling in Hawaii

I reflected on how that chapter of my life  led me to this point; two years ago I was thrilled to be back in ‘civilization’ after living in a further suburb of San Francisco for thirteen years. I was filled with excitement at being back in a place where I could hear the subway trains running on a still night. Where I could get Vegan,  Indian, Thai, Vietnamese or Mexican food within a mile of home, and take the subway into the city to attend a lecture on Economic Policy at the Commonwealth Club or go to the Ballet.

Where I finally made friends who fit me (or so I thought, until I found out they didn’t fit me at all. A long story for another day perhaps.).  And where I met and dated what should have been my Prince Charming.  The wealthy attorney who loved me and offered me everything I could have ever wanted for the rest of my life. The man who bought me expensive gifts, took me on 5-star vacations, dinners at exclusive clubs and restaurants, and World Series Play-off games (we were in Hawaii for the actual World Series, so he sold those tickets for a ridiculous amount of money).  I finally found a man who wanted to take care of me and offer me every material comfort I never had – or had to work my ass off to earn.

I tried to make it work. Oh, how I wanted it to work. But I had to be honest with myself – and with him; I didn’t love him.  And in retrospect, I realized that life – his rich and (relatively) effortless life – wasn’t for me.

Me with Will Clark
Me with Baseball Legend Will Clark

Dating him made me realize that my life isn’t meant to be easy and cushy. I’m not built for decadence and excess.  I am of the earth. I am meant to immerse myself in nature, challenge myself, get dirty, sweat, and fall down (both literally and figuratively).  I am meant to live a life full of challenges and adventures and all kinds of experiences. Money takes that away. Money white-washes life’s experiences. No. My life, at least for now, is meant to be lived in a 23-year-old rig that could break down at any moment with just a few thousand dollars to my name…anything else would be far too boring!

me with rig in tahoe
My first ever trial boon-docking trip near Tahoe

So as I looked upon my landlord’s glass house on the hill – a perfect representation of the life I was leaving behind, I swelled with happiness and contentment. I practically skipped down the hill like a giddy schoolgirl,  peeled the padlock key out of my palm, unlocked the gate, heaved myself back into the driver seat of my home on wheels and slowly rolled out of the backyard, straining my ears to hear every hum, roar and squeak the old rig made as it hobbled onto the city street.  Please don’t’ break down right now. Please. Please Please. I pleaded with the universe to not let it die before I even had a chance to embark on my new life.

Once on the other side of the gate, I jumped out, ran to the house to store the key in a safe place  then slowly walked back down to the fence, wrapped the thick rusty chain around the gate and clicked the padlock in place; forever locking me out of my old life. As I drove away, my monstrous RV lumbered down the steep street toward I-80; my road to freedom.  I went through my mental checklist of everything I’d done to prepare for this day, worrying: do I have everything? Have I done everything that needs to be done? What am I forgetting?

I’m not sure the reality of my new freedom hit me right away, but I was fully aware that everything I owned (except my car which is in storage) was tucked away behind me. Holy shit, what have I done? This is crazy. Ludicrous. Who sells everything they own at 48 to live in a 23 year old RV with their 11 year old dog and limited cash in the bank? Where will I sleep tonight?  I’ve done some crazy shit, but have I really lost my mind this time???

I smiled. Yes, maybe I have lost my mind. But I’m sure I’ll find it somewhere along the way…

61 comments

  1. You inspire me! One of the many things I love about you is that you live in integrity with who you are and what you value. I’ll see you on the road in the near future!

    1. Gail – likewise, my friend. You inspire me too! I’m humbled by your kind words – they mean a lot to me.
      And I would love to see you on the road. That would be awesome! Keep working on that hubby of yours, and if I can help in any way, answer any questions, you know where to find me. Thank you Gail! – Carolyn

  2. Hi Carolyn,

    So glad to read your blog and see how you took this leap! Hope to be out there on the road as well very soon. I live in the East Bay, Antioch and can relate to a lot of what you said. Turning 45 this year, am I crazy?? But we only get this one life, so do what makes you happy.

    Wishing you all the best,

    Tina

    1. Hi Tina, Isn’t it funny how we think we’re crazy for following our dreams? Like you said, we only live once so why the heck should we spend it living someone else’s life? I hope you get to follow your dream soon and get to hit the road. Maybe our paths will cross. Thanks for the comment, I love hearing about you! Thank you! – Carolyn

  3. Carolyn I relate to you on sooo many levels.No your not crazy for doing what what makes you happy even if it’s not considered the norm. the norm is get a job make money buy stuff get in debt end up unhappy.Stuff does not make me happy. I try to live a simple live and spend as much time in nature as I can. that’s where I find peace and serenity. I also had a not so pleasent childhood and am a recovering alcoholic.I love readingBob’s website and all the others who post about this nomad lifestyle.Keep following your dreams. Hope we meet in person some day. todaloooo

    1. Vickie, Thank you for sharing a bit of yourself with me – I know there are lots of us out there who have been through hell and back and have managed to find our way. It sounds like Nature is also where you go for peace and serenity too. It certainly does heal.. I do hope we cross paths some day. I wish you all the best, thanks for writing.- Carolyn

  4. You’re not crazy or alone. I’m soon to be 47 and plan to hit the road in about two years when my last goes off to college. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy reading about your adventures.

  5. Hi Carolyn! I can feel the excitement in your blog entry. One part of life ends and a new one begins. I just signed to to start a part-time job (I have a full-time one) so that I can quickly pull together my RV money and emergency fund. I’m older than you (61) and I can feel the clock ticking. I don’t want to watch the arms travel around the face of the clock from an office desk. The press of knowing I have a finite number of days left to me but not knowing how many makes me so eager to get on the road and experience life. I look forward to learning from your experience.

    1. Lori, Good for you for planning and saving! SMART! I understand the feeling of sitting in an office watching the time just slip away.. life is just too darn short. I wish you all the best, stay in touch and let me know how the planning goes! – Carolyn

  6. Love your style, honest and funny. And yes my lab, Rocco gives me
    That Look.
    Looking forward to reading more. Soon, I hope.

  7. I’m looking forward to reading more about your adventures. One day I will be out there free on the road too. Thanks for the inspiration.

  8. Yep, I have the same feelings. I’ve had a pretty good life — yet it hasn’t quite fit me. “I am meant to immerse myself …, challenge myself, get dirty …. I am meant to live a life full of challenges and adventures and all kinds of experiences. Money takes that away.” Indeed!
    I recently bought my 21-year-old Class C; haven’t gone anywhere yet. I’m putting my stuff in it, learning how things work, and trying to imagine how I will fit/live in the space while I tie up loose ends and sell my belongings. And I’m wondering where I will go. I like being alone at times, yet I need to escape isolation too. I want my RV to be a home for one, and yet I want to be with other people.
    Bob Wells and Randy Vining have shared enough through their venues to show me that this might really be good. I’m mentally preparing to “leave” in December. What you have written expresses what I think and feel too. YOU though, awoke to your truth much quicker than I did. I’m 63. Looking forward to catching up with you, Bob, Randy and others in the future. 🙂 Keep writing Carolyn, you are a wonderful writer!

    1. Paula,
      Ha, putting stuff in it was the first thing I did too! Then I took it out for a weekend to test everything out. I am still learning how things work – there is A LOT to learn!

      The alone thing is something I will write about. I had it in my mind that I would do this alone – I’ve spent the last 6 years since my divorce learning to be alone again, and I was happy. I really enjoy being alone. For me, finding someone I can travel with who values his alone time as much as I do is key (and even then, I struggle with it a bit, feeling like I “should” be doing this alone for some reason..). What I found at the summer RTR is that full-timers get it. They enjoy their solitude and privacy too and are very respectful. I have no doubt you will find people who share that, who you will enjoy traveling with.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to share your plans with me. I can’t wait to hear how it goes as the December gets closer!

      Oh – and thank you for the kind words and encouragement! I really appreciate that very much!
      All the best, Carolyn

  9. Can’t wait to read how your life proceeds. Hoping to find a vehicle/camper soon. So I can hit the road by January 1st. It feels like it’s taking forever to find a camper or van, etc. Hopefully any tips you share might be a big help in getting me on my way…Thanks

    1. Kat, Yay! Congrats to you, your day is right around the corner. I hope the things I share help you in some small way get ready for your adventure. Thanks for the comment! – Carolyn

  10. Oh lordy… if you’re crazy, what does that make us? Hubby and I are waiting for our last doctors appointments, then we’re taking off in our 1990 Fleetwood Bounder with our 11 year old service dog, antique cat, cockatoo and Amazon parrot. Hopefully everything will be sold by the time we leave because (much to our kids’ dismay) we do NOT plan on coming back to live here. Let the next adventure begin!!!!!

    1. Debbi,
      Oh my, your comment has me grinning ear to ear! You have a zoo!!! It sounds like you’re ready to hit the road. How exciting! I wish you all the best and many happy and safe travels. – Carolyn

      1. Patrise, Since I travel with a dog, I can’t answer that, but I’ve seen tons of blogs and Youtube videos about people traveling with cats. YOu can start there! – Carolyn

  11. Carolyn, I love your writing style. After reading your post I feel like I’ve have known you for years.

    I have been living solo full time in my motorhome for over three years and I love the lifestyle. I’m sure you will love it too.

    1. Jerry, Thank you very much! I’m expecting to love it as much 3 years from now as I do today! Good to know you’re still having fun! – Carolyn

  12. So appreciate your writing Carolyn. Raw, real, living life out loud… are first words that come to mind. Funny, came across a George Carlin quote just last week, along lines of ‘Trying to be happy by gathering more stuff is akin to being hungry and taping sandwiches to your body’.

    Am fortunate to have found Bob’s and James’ sites, and others like Technomadia, etc. Never known an RVer but now expect to be one soon. And thank you so for your article on ‘buying a used rv’ as well. So helpful. Happy trails.

    1. David,
      That George Carlin line made me literally laugh out loud! A very good one. Thank you for sharing that.
      I appreciate your comment and your kind words.
      I wish you much success on your road to full time RV Living!
      All the best, Carolyn

  13. I’m SURE YOU ARE LOVING YOUR NEW LIFE STYLE Can’t get much better than total freedom to go where u want at youre own pace,
    my daughter plans the same life within weeks, leaving cali. for parts unknown. maes me proud to see strong women with get up and go. Much success on your ventures

  14. Carolyn,
    LOVE finding your new blog. Congrats! I went through a divorce 5 years ago in Marin. When it was all said and done I left with 40 boxes out of 200. Took no furniture…..nothin. Decided this time around I was going to travel lighter. Less is More they say 🙂
    Mixed it all up and went to LA for a spell, then back up to Marin (one more time) then onto Wyoming, Montana and now Arizona. Along my travels met a wonderful guy and now at 54 Im wandering around the Southwest. Im just in my car and nomadically traveling about. But did find a bit of a home base for now. We both are working towards the RV dream too.
    Im in the Bay for a month right now and well………its a mad house!
    Cant wait to read your adventures and any tips you offer. Especially on how your meal planning/cooking will be going. Thank you for your personal insights as well, their really appreciated. Travel safe, your new community is excited for you!

    1. Jenny – Wow! What a life you’ve led! I can relate to deciding to travel lighter. After the divorce and the house and moving a couple of times, I started realizing it was all just crap that weighed me down. It’s quite liberating to realize that and shed it all!
      I’ve loved the Bay Area for the 27 years I’ve lived there, but the more time I spent in nature, the more the chaos and the traffic and the crowds got to be too much. In June when I left the state to travel to AZ through Nevada, I got to the desolate wide open spaces and felt lighter. I thought, “I’m never going back to CA” and I never thought I’d say that. The freedom of the open road is something that grabs you and takes hold!
      Thank you for sharing a bit of yourself, I wish you happy and safe travels and hope our paths will cross some day! – Carolyn

  15. I know those feelings of trepidation so very well! But they eventually go away, as the days and nights roll by and you see new places and meet new people and LEARN……you learn that you can do a lot more than you thought possible, you learn that the naysayers are in reality just jealous that they can’t do what you are doing, you learn that 1 pound LP cylinders get expensive very fast, you learn to conserve water for the precious commodity it is when camped in a national forest or a barren desert…..you learn that you don’t need half the stuff you brought with you!! And you learn that the furry 4 legged friend next to you will listen to you moan and groan and cry and laugh and rejoice with you when things go right! This full time RV life is a constant, ongoing LEARNING experience, whether you are in a 23 year old Class C or a 6 x 12 converted cargo trailer or a million dollar Prevost!! Embrace the learning opportunities!

    1. John – you are absolutely right! And these are the reasons I chose to do this. I’ve lived out of a backpack for 26 days and loved the simplicity of it; this is the next generation of that experience. And yes, I already realized I have too much stuff. Looking forward to my next rig – a smaller one! Thank you very much for the encouragement. – Carolyn

  16. Hi Carolyn,
    Thank you for sharing all your inspirational insights and adventures with us newbies who are just starting out in this new phase of life and freedom. Eddie(the dog) and I hope to meet you and Bob this Winter at the next RTR.
    – Robert

    1. Robert, Thank you for reading and taking the time to share your thoughts with me! I wish you and Eddie the best and look forward to crossing paths and hearing how your first few months on the road go! Safe travels… – carolyn

  17. You go girl, leaving the mind numbing craziness of the city and the ‘JOB’ that life can turn into, for the individual interactions with nature and the countless new and colorful personalities that await you is a gift that everyone should at least consider giving themselves.
    I am now on the countdown clock to retirement and full-time RVing just a few more dollars in the cookie jar and I will be on my way.
    Good luck and safe travels

    1. Kevin, “Mind-numbing” is the perfect way to describe it.. coming “out here” and living life my way has been waking up my mind and rejuvenating me! Congrats on your own countdown and pending escape! I wish you all the best. – Carolyn

  18. Love hearing the details of your story, Carolyn! Loozing forward to the “how to” posts as well. September 4th I leave on another 2 week trip, this time tof Southern Utah. Let me know if you will be in the area and want to meet up!

    1. Hi Jeannie, Good to hear from you! Thanks for checking out my site and reading the posts. I would love to meet up with you, but have plans to be in Oregon and Washington for the next few months. 🙁 I’d love to hear how your trip goes though and hope to catch up some other time. Happy trails! – Carolyn

  19. Carolyn,

    Love your honest, real world approach to your writing. You have a gift for showing others your true self, complete transparency through your words!! Looking forward to next post.

    Randy

    1. Hi Larry, I look forward to meeting you and the rest of the tribe at Quartzite! I can’t wait, it sounds like an amazing time. Thank you very much for reading and for your kind comment. All the best, Carolyn

  20. Carolyn, I’m sure you had not only happy feelings in your heart and mind about leaving the life you knew and stepping into the unknown, but also butterflies in the stomach because of an uncertainty of the future.
    Hi, I am 66 years old (part-time semi professional photographer) and just found your videos on youtube. Wow is all I have to say. The places you have been and seen just makes me want to get out today and experience those myself. I have always been a nature lover and through my whole adult life I have gotten out into national and state parks as often as I can. I have been searching for something I can live in (Van or small RV) so I can experience what I am missing daily. I already paid an old house off and own my truck outright but I would gladly give that up if I could only experience what my heart yearns.
    So in the meantime I will watch the videos and read your blog to live through what you are experiencing now. Thanks for posting these.
    Bob

    1. Bob, thank you for watching and taking the time to write to me. I wish you all the best in your search and many happy and carefree miles once you hit the road! In the meantime, thank you for joining me! – C

  21. Hi Carolyn,
    I have been following you (and Bob) for several months now and I love you both. You are real people that express feelings and caring, and that is way more important than theories and quotes.
    I am 70 years old and spent the first 45 years of my life reading 3 or 4 books at a time and believing that was living and experiencing. Then I discover I was wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I have an amazing wife of 47 years, and 2 grown sons who have become good men and married women we love. We built a successful business from which we have retired. And my wife now has a successful antique business (she really is not retired, but please don’t tell her.) I have gone back to playing music, which I gave up to help support our family, but something has been missing…
    I get bored very easily, I love travel, not only for the sights, textures, tastes, and feelings, but for the people I meet. I also love my alone time. We have lived in a cabin years ago, and I have spent alone time there, but I have never camped.
    We rented an RV once to see what it was like and had a great time except for being too close to other RVs. But we were talking about it for retirement. But then life happened, first my parents needed help (lived with us for 10 years), then 6 months after they pasted on, my wife’s folks needed help and another 6 years passed. 17 years later here we are. And my health has become an issue. In the last 18 months my life was saved 3 times. Now that I am getting as healthy as I’m going to get. I talked with my wife and said, remember when we used to say “someday I’d like to…” well now is someday. So in the next couple of weeks I am going to try car camping in or explorer and see how it goes. I picked a campground with electric (I have to carry some med stuff.), good cell reception, and only 19 miles from home. We live in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, so it’s all beautiful. This way my family will worry less about this test, and if it works I can become a part-timer taking my music with me, and maybe eventually lure my wife along.
    I’m using the SUV because it will take the least setting and breaking down, and I only need to buy a few things. So if I don’t like it (highly unlikely) and can’t physically handle it, I haven’t wasted much. If I like it I will look for a used van to convert simply (actually I’ve already been looking, but need to sell our little car first).
    So thank you for all the encouragement you didn’t know you were giving me. Hopefully, I will be living proof that you’re never too old to still have adventures, and as long as you’re breathing you can still experience life.
    Peace,
    Lou

  22. Hello Carolyn. You are such an inspiration to me. I have watched your videos now for a while now on YouTube. You and Bob from Cheap RV Living are my favorites and I hope to have the opportunity to meet you both someday. I have to tell you, as I was reading through your one post that listed things such as: watching countless YouTube videos about fulltime RV’ing, looking at RV’s that are for sale online (haven’t had the opportunity to actually go anyplace to see any yet), to the constant daydreaming about fulltime RV’ing and all the places I want to see and things I would like to experience…”You might be ready.”; YOU had me grinning the whole read like a turd eating monkey. 🙂
    It was like you have been here the whole time and seen how animated I have become (I have been in a real bad funk for a while now) or heard the lengthy conversations I have had with one of my son’s about doing this. The idea of escaping my mundane, unfulfillimg life and hitting the road in a “home”… that I can FINALLY say I own… with my two fur-kids Sunny & Stormy (brother cats) as my traveling companions, has me excited about life again. You have me smiling again and wanting to live and enjoy my “empty nest” time. All four of my son’s are grown and living their lives. I am still trying to figure out some things for my particular situation. 19 months ago I was assaulted by a patient. I have been off work all but 46 days of this time. (I tried to go back to work 2 months after the assault, lite-duty) I am still suffering from the injuries I sustained during that assault. Watching your videos and seeing how successful you have been at solo RV’ing; how much you have enjoyed and learned from your experiences; and that you have been willing to share both the good and bad times, have given me (and I am sure countless other women) hope. The fact that you are so down to earth, real and tell it like it is, is refreshing. Thank you for all that you do. Thank you for your willingness to share your view of the world. Please be safe out there…. Katt aka Buckeye Kitty >^..^<

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