Golden State of Mind

One of the reasons we went to tiny living was the opportunity to travel eventually. We wanted to reduce our cost of living so significantly that we could pay off debt faster and faster, as well as raising money to travel after this debt purge.

Thankfully, we don’t have to wait until then to travel. We are extremely blessed and humbled that last week we got to use our Christmas gift from Jeremy’s parents. Because of their generosity, we could leave the Girl Next Door and Ruby at home. We were able to travel to Chino, California for a family reunion, as well as some touristy sight seeing. We are extremely grateful for the opportunity.

This kind of thing is a major motivational kick in the pants. Being able to see what we might be able to do and where we might be able to go once we get ourselves together is a catalyst for the desire of wanderlust. The whole trip had me thinking of lists of destinations in my head. The flight back had me planning my debt snowball strategy again and again, trying to find other places here and there that I could cut spending and increase the impact I can make on the mountain.

Jeremy even got the bug from the trip. Today, we spent 2 hours getting him caught up on the last 10 years of monetary management. We worked on figuring out what we can spend on what and where we can cut costs.

Here are some of the pictures we got while in Cali, just so you have some ideas why we are so jazzed to get moving:

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That’s all for this trip. We’ll see you on the road.

Surviving the Heat

The good Lord made us all out of iron.
Then he turns up the heat to forge some of us into steel. —Marie Osmond

Stress is always a strong force in our house. Not only are we business owners, we are spouses, parents, workers, caregivers, adult children, siblings, friends, competitors, athletes, and “home” owners. All of these titles bring with them a different set of expectations. As the oldest children, we both feel the need to meet ALL expectations.

This weekend, the gap between the expectations and the reality had a fall out. On Friday, we approached a weekend not knowing what the expectations were, but knowing that we weren’t meeting many of them.

  • We had expected that 5 years into our business, we would be able to start reducing our hands on work in the business; maybe have 3-4 other therapists and 1-2 other reception/bookkeepers.
  • We had expected that we would have the water, generator, and 12V electric hooked up and regularly being used; we are required to be plugged in and bring water in by the 5-gallon jug.
  • We had expected to be comfortable in our relationship and marriage, unconcerned with the stability of our household; those of you that are married know how tenuous this is.
  • We expected to be almost out of debt by now; we took Financial Peace University 7 years ago.
  • We expected to be at a race this weekend; the Spartan Sprint that I planned to do was yesterday. I decided not to because of some financial & family issues that have arisen lately.

All of these expectations falling short, along with a few critical or harsh words bring us to a halt in life. We snap at each other, we snark, we hold grudges, we fail to really show the love that God instructs us to. That leads to heat in the relationship.

It definitely doesn’t help that the heat outside was going to be super high this weekend. Friday, we got home and it was warm in the RV. 80 degrees F is uncomfortable and we knew it would be worse the next day. The forecast for Saturday was 95. We hadn’t tried out the air conditioning yet (another failed expectation: we thought we would know if any of our appliances didn’t work). The anxiety over the following day definitely played a part in our Friday breakdown.

Saturday came and neither of us had the energy to take a proactive look at the AC. We turned on the fans, rested most of the morning, and talked about how hot it was starting to get. Jeremy even watched some videos on YouTube that showed the maintenance necessary to keep an RV AC unit running well. And we remained hot and sweaty.

Toward the end of the day, I wanted to turn the fan on that’s attached to the AC. Jeremy told me to turn on the air “just to check”. I turned it on and it felt just like the fan at first. He told me that one of the videos he watched stated that it takes 15 minutes for cold air to work. And he was right. We were both so excited to shut down the vents and the windows to let ice cold AC air come in from the unit. Standing directly under the entry made it even a little icy.

The cold air helped us reconcile our hot-headed argument. By Sunday afternoon, we had a conversation about our finances for the first time in years and it ended well. We figured out an app to use to help us keep our spending down and we started the process of coming up with a budget. This time, we want to keep with the principals of Financial Peace, even though we won’t be using their app. Mint.com offers an app that allows us to link all of our accounts to have transactions automatically uploaded. The app from Financial Peace, EveryDollar, does not allow us to link our business account because of of a glitch in their syncing process. Both are good apps and if you like one over the other, please use it.

Now that we’re on the road to working together faithfully on our finances and the AC is working, the heat in The Girl Next Door has dropped considerably. It doesn’t hurt that a thunderstorm, complete with hail, blew through on Sunday. It was colorful and exciting; So exciting that our hosts asked us to come into their sticks & bricks house for safety! We all came out the other side of the storm, both literally and figuratively.

So, as we move toward our debt free life, join us in enjoying the small things:

  • The AC is working.
  • Our budget is started.
  • We made it through the hail.
  • We have each other to hold onto.
  • We still have things that we can expect… we just need to be a little gentler on ourselves when the expectations don’t get met in time.

What are your small things? Make sure you tell us when you see us on the road.

Full-Time Happens

We now have an empty townhouse and a very very full RV. We went full-time this weekend!! Both of us are overjoyed to be embarking on this journey and learning what a great adventure life can be.

Beginning on Friday, Jeremy spent most of the time after work packing up things in the townhouse that weren’t already in the motorhome. The Girl Next Door was already parked at Jason & Ona’s place, so we had to take all of what was left by the car load. There was clothing, kitchen utensils, and bathroom products that all needed to be moved. Both cars were packed to the gills more than once to bring things over.

You can imagine that that much stuff did not fit easily into The Girl Next Door. We’re definitely finding that there’s a deficit of storage space, even with the extra cabinet above the bed. We determined that it might be best to find any space for everything and get it in the “right space” later.

We also will need to change our routines. I will need to set out my clothing the night before so that I’m not crawling over Jeremy at 4am when I’m getting ready for work. We will need to find a space in the living room or bathroom for hair and makeup space. Another thing I can’t really do in the dark. We will no longer have the space for our medicine to sit out on the counter all of the time. Reminders to take medicine will have to come in a different form. Before bed, we’ll need to put the door insulators on. Routines will need to be changed and learned.

That’s not the only thing that’s changing. I started my new job. A few weeks ago, I accepted a position with the QA Lab at Aveda Corporate. Now, my routine won’t revolve around Jeremy’s client schedule. I will have a steady wakeup time, a commute, coworkers, and rush hour. At 62 miles from our current parking spot, it’s quite a hike every morning. Luckily, I’ll be going right past our office, so Jeremy and I will still get to ride together sometimes. I can drop him on my way. I’ll miss controlling my own schedule, but this new adventure will afford us things like a retirement fund, health insurance, and paid vacation.

With me not in the office anymore, Jeremy needs a little more support. We were able to have a friend, who has been in the massage business for years, join our team starting this Friday. She’ll not only help with office/reception work, but she is a licensed massage therapist. Every massage therapist is different in their technique and Chris is no exception. We’re excited that she may be able to offer our clients another layer of services that are drastically different than what we’ve been doing. We will probably be taking on more office support staff as her days fill with massage as well.

Today being the first day of spring, I also decided that my hair needed updating for the new season of our life. Friday morning I got a hidden rainbow added to my hair. It’s been fun playing with how to wear it, how to hide it, and how it looks both up and down. It did my brain some good to be pampered.

By Saturday at noon, we had most of the stuff moved out of the townhouse and into the RV, so Jeremy and Jason spent the rest of the day working on wiring. There were lights that were starting to flicker because of degrading wires, some antennae that had broken off and were no longer used, and battery cables that needed a replacement. They’re not done yet, but they’ve gotten a good start on cleaning up the wiring where it needs it. And on Saturday night, we spent our first official night as full-timers.

Until we started this journey, we hadn’t realized what a movement this lifestyle has become. We began talking about tiny houses about 4 years ago. We had hoped that a smaller house would free up more of our finances to pay off bills, but still give us the space we needed to live. As we talked more and more, we realized that the typical tiny house just wasn’t for us. We want to move every few years, so it needs to be on wheels. Most parks and campgrounds to not allow a “tiny house” because it’s a house. On top of all of that, there are places in the US where tiny house owners are being penalized for having “domiciles” under the “required size” or for going “off the grid”. There are even places that tiny home owners are being forced to pay for electricity on the grid even though they’re not using it and sewer even though they have a self contained system. We didn’t want to deal with these kinds of regulations.

Then, one day, Jeremy said “You know who does get to park at campgrounds? RVs.” That started the conversation that has lasted until now. We found that there are many people, especially Gen Xers and Millenials like us, that are embracing this lifestyle of living on the road or in a tiny space. Can I tell you how many? Not really. Another blog addressed this question HERE with research and everything. I won’t rehash their work (Thanks for saving the me the work, George & Sandy.

Either way, we’re among the estimated 1 million fulltimers now and we are not looking back. So, follow your dreams and make sure they’re really your dream. See you on the road.

 

Little Red Riding Toad

Until about a month ago, we owned a beautiful, big, blue 2007 Chevy Tahoe LT. We had gotten it a few years ago when both boys were still at home. You see, our family is a big family. It’s not that we have tons of kids or animals. We are all just large people.

At the tallest, the oldest is 6’5″ tall. He’s no string bean either. This is a man who has worked on a farm since he was 14 and has hands big enough to hold a calf bottle in one hand. Size 15 feet needed some room in the back just to sit in the car.

When we bought this behemoth of a vehicle, Jeremy was the largest he’d ever been and the largest in the family. At 6′ tall and 290 pounds, he was a mountain of a man. The youngest took in his foot steps already at 12 years old. At that time, he was 5’8″ tall and 260 pounds and had size 12 feet. We knew that he’d keep growing taller and probably get stronger, thus maybe heavier. He has since gained some size 14 feet and is about 6′ tall. He’s still around 245 pounds, so he’s slimmed down, but still tall.

So, a full sized SUV was not a frivolous buy for us. It was also WAY at the top of our price range. When we went in, I knew we could handle about $100 a month for insurance and about $300 a month for a payment comfortably. When we came out, we had signed a loan for $412 a month, plus the insurance was still $100 a month. On top of that, this large of a vehicle only got about 14 miles/gallon of gas. Less if you used the flex fuel option. So that we could have a comfortable vehicle, we tightened our belts, worked some extra hours, and paid a hefty sum.

The need for the Tahoe changed about 2 years later. The oldest was an adult and moved out of our house. With his own vehicle, he could get himself where ever he wanted to go without our monstrous motor. Jeremy’s ex moved to a town 20 miles away. That meant that the custody agreement for the youngest had to change. He started an every other weekend schedule of visiting us and we agreed that he would stay longer during the school breaks. We started paying some child support so that he had everything he needs when we couldn’t be there. So, we stopped having to drive him to work & school events.

We held onto the Tahoe for a while longer just because it was nice to have all that room. With a massage business, taking a portable massage table anywhere either means you give up your back seat or you need a big vehicle to haul it. Eventually, though, that payment “adjustment” caught up with us. We were no longer able to pay so much for such a large car.

At the same time, we decided that we would soon be changing our living situation. If you’re unfamiliar with RVing, you probably don’t realize how people with RVs get around. Our RV is a Class A motorhome. That means it has its own motor to pull the “house” part. Most people that have one of these also tow a smaller vehicle behind (a towed vehicle or toad). It gives them the flexibility to leave the motorhome where it’s parked and use the smaller car for errands. So, in short, the grocery-getter is really used for getting groceries and the RV sits parked. A large SUV like the Tahoe is not really conducive to tow behind a Class A.

We started the process to get rid of our luxury blimp. At first, we thought we’d downsize by just getting rid of the Tahoe and keeping our 1994 Chrysler Concord to tow behind our RV. We parked the sizable wheels right outside our office with a “For Sale” sign on it with our info. We waited… and waited… and no one called. We reduced the price each time that we made a payment so that maybe someone would bite. The Tahoe’s picture ended up on Carsoup.com, Craigslist, and even Facebook Garage Sale sites. No one was biting. Apparently, our unseasonably warm autumn made people far more comfortable with their tiny little gas-getters.

After 2 months of trying to sell it ourselves, we started looking into consignment, trade-ins, and dealerships that might buy it outright. Jeremy spent one Saturday visiting the local dealers. Eventually, he came back with some numbers. Most places would give us $2,000 less than we wanted as a private buyer and a few didn’t even feel the need to have us buy a different one from them. He finally did find one place that would trade-in the Tahoe for only $1,000 less than we wanted.

In the meantime, I took the Chrysler for its regularly scheduled maintenance. The mechanic did not have a good word for me when I picked it up. He told me that he wouldn’t put very much more money into this car. The body was rusting and he didn’t see it lasting too much longer. One of the bolts holding the engine on had already rusted through and the others weren’t far behind.

Back at the dealership, Jeremy did some test driving. After a few hours, he called and told me he’d found the one for only $6000. That means a total debt reduction of $6,000. I showed up to test drive a 2010 red Ford Focus, manual transmission. I was ecstatic that we were looking at a manual. She is gorgeous and drives very well. The number one plus: We can tow a manual transmission “4-down” very easily. That means that we will not need a tow dolly. Plus, we will not need to disengage the transmission when towing. I like the feeling of power I get when driving a manual transmission.

So Ruby became ours. She’s only $160 a month payment, $100 a month insurance, and gets 35 miles/gallon. Plus, she’s a cute little speedster once you get the handle on second gear. Now, we’re ready to hit the road with Ruby and The Girl Next Door. What do you think? Stay warm everyone and we’ll see you on the road.

New Year; New Life

I am the same person that I was yesterday; you are too. The only differences are that we’ve learned things that we didn’t know then. We may have learned good things: knowledge, love, efficiency, patience, kindness, wisdom, how to avoid cheesecake. We may also have learned bad things: pain, hurt, betrayal, anger, loneliness, and ignorance. In the end, we are still the same people; we have the same minds, the same bodies. We might have changed what we do on a daily basis or the way we wear our hair. All of these things aside, I am the same person today that I was a year ago with a lot of things I’ve learned.

I learned that my family was struggling so much more than they had let on. I learned that our kids were both struggling with drugs. I learned that my perception of what my husband and his children go through every day is not the whole story. I learned first hand what it is to have your brain attack you. It’s not a physical battle when someone is struggling inside their brain. Fighting with your own delusional thoughts is exhausting and hit my family this year. When you have cancer or diabetes, muscular dystrophy, or asthma, there are physical symptoms that show on your face, hands, and speech. You may slur, you may be unable to walk, you may throw up, you may have a hard time breathing. You may have to use a wheelchair or walker. Other people can see those symptoms.

When the war of mental illness is involved, it isn’t so visible. The vomit is an emotional vomit that often comes out sideways that has nothing to do with the person you’re spewing on. The slurring is in your inability to stay on one subject for long. The stumbling is in how you treat the people you love, even though you really want to show them love and respect. Your brain may tell you that it isn’t worth it to get out of bed today; that you are better off staying in the warm dark and letting your job fall away. Your illness tells you that your psychiatrist doesn’t know what he’s talking about and that the drugs do a better job than pharmaceuticals. There are no wheelchairs for someone who is so depressed that they are paralyzed. There are no walkers to help you find the thoughts that got lost somewhere in the racing conversation of your brain.

Thankfully, we have doctors that are beginning to know how to help my family. This year, we were able to find some stuff that is finally helping. I got some antidepressants that help me feel like a real person again; I can actually get out of bed daily, smile when something’s funny, and I am  not having random crying sessions for seemingly no reason at all. Jeremy’s doctor and he have decided to go back to the medicine that worked for so long even though he got a rash from it. Hopefully they can increase it slow enough that no rash happens this time. He also found a chiropractor and nutrition doctor that is helping him do better to fuel his athletic pursuits. The current doctor for our youngest took Jeremy’s past into account and found a medicine that seems to be helping him feel like himself for the first time in 2 years.

This year, Jeremy learned that he can do so much more than his brain tells him that he can. He ran his first marathon in June. He did multiple half marathons, tons of 5ks, and Ragnar Great River. Jeremy participated in 3 triathlons, one duathlon, and hundreds of group fitness classes. He ran his second marathon at the Twin Cities Marathon in October. This year, Jeremy continued his weightloss from last year; at his lightest, he was 215. He’s learned that Lithium is not a med that will work for him. He learned by gaining 25 lbs on it and experiencing some pretty severe depression symptoms during his trial-and-error phase of his med change. He learned millions of hours worth of information about RVing, motorhomes, fulltiming, and heaters. His phone  has been stuck on YouTube videos for about 6 months. By the time we move in, he’ll be an expert at all things RV.

We learned to coexist in work and home life. We learned a little harmony in our life; we learned a little struggle. We learned that 1200 sq. ft. is just too much space for the two of us. We learned that we have WAY TOO MUCH STUFF!! We learned a little bit of Spanish by using the Duolingo app. We learned to lighten up and to relax some. We learned that we want to have a life, not just be alive.

We are looking forward to 2017. Both of us have some physical goals, financial goals, and household goals. Resolutions aren’t our thing, but we do review our goals regularly and today is as good as any day to do that. We hope that everyone has a safe New Year’s Eve. Stay warm and we’ll see you on the road.

How to decide on a home

RV life is about excitement and travel for some. For others, it is about small living. Still other people go into RV living because they can’t afford the traditional way of life. None of these are the main reason that we decided we will be going full time in March.

From the time we met, Jeremy has been always looking to the next best thing. At first, it was the next car. Then, it was the next job. After a while, it became the next house and the cycle started over. Through this process, he really wants our family to have the best of everything. If this thing isn’t perfect, we can get a better one.

What this cycle ends up leading to is a WHOLE LOT of moving. In the 10 years that we have been together, we have lived in 6 different places. 2 of our abodes have been free-standing houses; the other 4 have been either apartments or townhouses. Only one home was one that we owned.

I’ve noticed that changing habitat and impulsive moving is something that does tend to go around when mental health is involved. Having a new space can increase the hormones in one’s system that tell you that exciting things are happening. Those are very happy chemicals for some people. One of the exciting things about mental illness is the adventure of never knowing what will happen next. Sometimes, that means deciding to move and doing it less than 60 days later. For us, changing scenery regularly seems to be what works.

There are some good reasons for less ownership. The main reason we prefer to rent is upkeep. Being business owners gives us very little time to do things like mow lawn, fix siding, clean gutters, and shop for new refrigerators when one goes out. It is very beneficial to us to have a landlord that will take care of those things. Another reason is that our credit is not great. We have quite a bit of debt that we are working to get rid of, but it doesn’t allow us a lot of room to buy. The last reason I’ll talk about now is our moving habit. Moving every year or two makes it unreasonable to own a property. We probably wouldn’t see turn around necessary to buy a house.

That doesn’t mean that we don’t want to build our life together. What’s so hard about renting is that we pay a huge sum of money with very little in return later. Basically, it’s a bad investment. Renting does not leave us much left over for real investing. At $900 a month, a 2 bedroom takes a lot of our income. Add on the cost to heat, cool, and electricity for that, you have a good chunk of your workday gone every single month.

Living in The Girl Next Door is supposed to help with this a little. We bought her for just over 2 months’ rent. We expect to put a good $2000 into her before she’s really full-time ready. She needs a good resealing on the roof, the shower needs to be fixed as one of the walls was torn off to look for mold, and some general maintenance stuff needs to be attended to. All in all, it will cost us the equivalent of 5 months rent to have her in tip-top shape.

Yes, I realize that this doesn’t take care of everything. We will still pay for water (at least to fill and dump most of the time) and we will still often pay for electricity (that will mostly depend on where we stay and what that stay includes). We will need to find places to fill our propane for heat and places to pay for getting rid of our garbage. But, we will be able to take our home with us every time we move. That is a positive for me. I’m tired of making new homes in new houses. I just want to keep the same home and change the scenery.

Of course, there is also the question of where to park. Right now, she’s sitting at Jeremy’s parents’ place (Thank you Tom & Lisa for a winter storage spot). That spot is just a little too far away for us to commute daily. We took the task of finding a spot to park pretty seriously. We were also pretty realistic that we might end up paying way too much at a camping spot or at an RV park. We asked around to friends and family; we checked out some Craigslist ads; we even called the local mobile home parks to see what the cost is.

Finally, while I was in Mexico, Jeremy decided that he was going to find something. He started telling everyone what we’re planning. This turned out to be a great strategy. When he went to our favorite bar and was talking to the owner about our plans, she latched onto the idea. She even has some land that is only 5 miles from our office that she’s willing to have us park on. When I got back, we talked it over and we’re super excited to be able to park on this spot. Although we don’t have specifics of how much she’ll want from us to park there, we’re absolutely sure that she’s generally reasonable about these things. It’s good to have friends.

We will be able to plug in for electric. Unfortunately, we will not have access to sewer or water, but we can drive into town to dump when needed. We are thinking this will be less than once a week necessary. Especially because we often shower at the gym, it will save us a lot of back and forth. Another thing we will be doing to cut down on necessary dumping is getting a composting toilet. We’ll talk more about our water saving ideas and goals in another entry. Just know that we are ready and prepared to live full-time.

All we need now is warmer weather and the time to get The Girl Next Door into shape for a full-time adventure. We’re excited to know that we have somewhere to go. Have a great day and we will see you on the road.

A Mexican Nightmare… An education

I talked in Part 1 about all of the preparation I did getting ready for a working vacation on a client’s medical travel. This is a first time for me. I’ve done 14 years of personal care work, but never had a client pay for me to travel like this before.

So, we left Monday, Dec 12 with high hopes of a good trip. Our cab came just a tiny bit late, but still got us to the airport 2 hours early. Our check-in at MSP went without a hitch. Checking our bag in was 5 minutes. TSA spent a total of 8 minutes on testing the wheelchair. There were almost no lines and we were even able to get a snack on the way to the gate.

Here’s where we need to go over the difference between travelling with a wheelchair and without one. Here is my experience without a wheelchair: You get to the airport 1 hour before take-off. Check-in takes a maximum of 5 minutes, bag check another 5-10 minutes, TSA maybe 10-15. If you’re running over on those, you’re totally able to run down the stairs, up the escalator, and through crowds to get to the gate, where they will be loading by this time. You board just by handing your boarding pass to the gate attendant and you find your assigned seat. You have no need for anything extra beyond a seat and a spot for your carry-on. Total time from curb to boarded: 42 minutes.

Now, add a wheelchair: First off, the preparation is so much more. Before you buy your tickets, it is prudent to call ahead to the airline and see what size of aircraft is right for your needs. Wheelchairs, especially power wheelchairs, often take up more space and need extra support from staff to get the client on and off the plane. So, you spend an hour on the phone with the customer service of your chosen airline. If you “shop around”, you need to do this more than once. You also should find an assistant to come with you to help carry bags and direct the airport staff as to your needs. You’ll be tired, you don’t want to do this yourself. Then, you need to get to the airport at least 2 hours early. Here’s why- Check-in takes 5 minutes, as usual, with one extra click and double checking that there’s some special accomodations. Bag check takes 10 minutes easily because you have to explain to the check counter that you also have a power wheelchair and ask them to call ahead to make sure there’s an aisle wheelchair available. TSA usually takes between 20-40 minutes, depending on how your prep went. Sometimes, you can do TSA Pre check, so that helps cut down on time. If you have dry cell batteries (which many modern wheelchair companies are going to) or you have a manual chair, you cut down the time a little too. But, TSA needs to wipe every surface of the chair with a small tab that tells them if there’s explosive or drug residue on the chair. They also need to pat down the inhabitant because they’re unable to see any bulges that may exist. After TSA, let’s say you need the bathroom. You need to wait an extra 5 minutes for the special stall. Not only that, if there’s stairs, escalators, or crowds, you’re going to take double time to get to where you’re going. Elevators are notoriously slow; picking your way through a crowded terminal can be even worse when people’s eye level is above your head. By the time you get to the gate, you hope that it’s still before they start boarding. You have to pick your way right up to the gate attendant and warn them that you’ll need an aisle chair. Often, no one was informed of this, even though you’ve taken proper precautions. They call for customer service to send down an attendant and an aisle chair. You wait until the gate is opened and are the first person boarded. Hopefully, when you got your seats, you thought to put your assistant next to you. If not, you’ll have to discuss that with the gate agent also. First, you roll to the end of the gateway where the aisle chair and attendant are waiting. You are transferred into the aisle chair. Your assistant informs the baggage supervisor in attendance about how to move the chair. Your assistant also sets the chair up for travel, often having to lay the chair out flat, unhook controls, or remove pieces that may fall off or get damaged during transport. (Think doubling your carry-on) The baggage crew takes your chair while you pray that they were really listening and pass on the information. You are rolled into the plane by no less than 2 attendants, plus your assistant. The three of them coordinate moving you to a seat depending on where your seat is. We recommend an aisle seat; there’s less moving to get to that one. They take away the aisle chair. VERY OFTEN, your flight will be delayed because of maintenance. Do not be fooled; this is often because someone is trying to move your chair and have no idea what they’re doing. Ok, you finally leave and everyone’s boarded and ready to go. Time from curb to boarded: 156 minutes (2hours, 36 minutes).

Now, you guessed it, you’re only on the plane. Most people just debark and you’re done once you land; 5 minutes. Nope, not when travelling with a power wheelchair. You have to wait until every other person has gotten their stuff and gotten off of the plain. The flight crew has to call ahead and warn the destination that you need an aisle chair and an attendant for help. You wait for them. They get there and you reverse the process. If you have a connecting flight, it is my opinion that you should leave at least 4 hours between flights. Yes, you may be sitting for 3 hours if EVERYTHING goes correctly. But, you are much much less likely to miss that connection. Less than an hour for connecting with a wheelchair is just tempting fate. Hell, 2 hours even tempts it a little. Get ready to tempt fate over and over again if you’re travelling with a wheelchair.

This last week, we dealt with all of these and more issues with our travel. Next, I’ll tell you all about these great adventures in purgatory.

A Mexican Nightmare… Part 1

I warned everyone that I was travelling last week. Considering the week I had, I think all of my previous travels have been too easy. I’ve traveled with wheelchairs before, young children, and very very old people. All had some SNAFU, but nothing prepared me for this trip.

I was offered a few months ago by a client that they needed a caregiver for a medical travel trip to Mexico. When I said “Yes!”, I didn’t know where we’d be going, what kind of treatment is was, or what kinds of support this client would need. All I knew is that they were planning to pay flight, hotel, and basic food, as well as paying me some kind of salary while we were there. I was expected to cover any extra snacks, souvenirs, and entertainment I might use. And that’s all I knew.

I ordered my first passport, started preparing Jeremy, and started researching dos & don’ts. Don’t drink the water, check; don’t go out in the country alone at night, check; check the travel advisory for your itinerary, um…. where are we going??  A few weeks before, I got some answers to the unspoken things in this agreement. None of the conditions sounded adverse to me. I found out we were going to San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, MX (most commonly known as San Miguel). I learned it is a colonial town with a rich history, strong tourist business, and almost everyone knows some English. Win!! It sounded from the information I could gather that it was to Mexico City basically what the Hamptons to New York City; a quaint, well-cared-for town where wealthy people go to “weekend” or “summer”. I got excited.

I learned that my client needs full care for transfer and hygiene. No big deal, I’ve done this job for 14 years. For those that don’t know, I started my official life as a caregiver when I was 19. I inadvertently took a job with a personal care/group home company. All I  knew was that I wanted a job and they were hiring for better pay than most places. Since then, I have worked for 7 different companies, with over 100 different clients, and in 4 different states (I guess you can say 2 different countries now). I would consider myself an expert in the care and support of people with disabilities, especially those who deal daily with a power wheelchair or mental illness. So, the requests of transferring a large client, washing their body including genitals, & assisting with daily meds were all agreeable to me.

As I found out more about what my new client needed, I also learned about why we would be travelling. My client was going to Mexico to obtain a stem cell treatment. This was extremely interesting to me. My spirituality and academic degree allow me multiple perspectives on this subject. Having experience in DNA Analysis, chemistry, and a little biology, the concept of using basically “blank” cells to improve the health of a person is fascinating. The controversy over harvesting techniques and “acceptable” types of cells is also a motivating topic. The treatment would be administered by either intravenous infusion or intramuscular injection. I found that my client wanted the intramuscular treatment. The whole process was a geek heaven for me.

Another little tidbit of information I got before our trip was the weather: San Miguel is pretty much comfortable all year round. In May, they tend to have high temperatures that are just barely warm for some of us (80-90 degrees Fahrenheit). In “winter” (which is now), the temperatures are mid-70s F during the day and mid-40s F in the overnight. I think I may have fallen in love with this place. We went on our trip from December 12-18. This year, this week turned out to be -40 F with the windchill. Ummmm…. No. Very glad to be gone in Mexico during that time.
All in all, the trip turned out to look very very good from the front side. I loved the idea of doing some work, then some touristing. It gave me a purpose to travel. I liked that idea. Before we left, I felt significantly prepared for my trip.

Travel is something that changes your life. I have done very little travel in my life compared to what I’d like to do. Every single time has brought me home with a new part of my world view adjusted.

The first time I remember traveling anywhere outside of my own state, I was 11 years old. I stowed away in my dad’s covered pickup truck bed when he was on his way to pick up some calves. It’s not a comfortable ride, nor is it a cool ride. I remember that it was late spring, so the truck got pretty warm. About half way there, my dad realized he had a tag along. He called my mom to let her know where I was and we continued on our journey with me in the front of the truck. We went to a farm in Iowa that had a little blue heeler dog and a beautiful peacock. I remember getting scolded because I was supposed to be watching my sisters, but I hadn’t wanted to stay in boring Wisconsin. It was only a 3 hour drive from our place, but I felt like I was traveling the globe.

My first time really traveling was a trip to visit my mother’s sister in Kansas. We drove through the night in a Chevy conversion van and stayed in her basement grandma’s apartment. Fairly uneventful, this trip was too fun for me to sleep while we drove.

We later went on family camping trips to upstate New York through Canada, rural Montana by way of the Dakotas and Wyoming, and a few short camping trips within the great state of Wisconsin. We visited family in Illinois as well.

With school groups, I got to visit more places. The band went to Chicago when I was in 8th grade, New Orleans when I was in 10th grade, and Colorado when I was a senior. The Traveler’s club was a club that (at the time) went every other year to Washington DC by way of coach bus. We stopped along the way at Notre Dame and Gettysburg. Because we were all juniors and seniors, they gave us a bit of freedom and it seems everyone tried to get outside of their normal cliques on this trip. I went from a goodie-two-shoes to getting in trouble at least a few times during our trip. Oops. Sorry, Sarnowskis. I never meant to give you mini-heart attacks.

Then, it seems my traveling stopped. When I went to college, I got comfortable on campus and did very little traveling after that.

Jeremy traveled a lot as a kid. He had parents who made it a point to take the family on vacations regularly. They also traveled a lot for his brother’s basketball and track teams. They went all over the country to play, so the whole family got a bit of travel from that. As an adult, Jeremy has traveled a lot. He’s been to Mexico with his buddy Dave; they also went to the Smokey Mountains; Jeremy loves Colorado and has family in California.

One of the reasons we want to go full time in The Girl Next Door is for travel. There is a sense of freedom that comes with travel, much like being debt free. Once our debt is paid off, we both want to travel. Living a simplified, smaller life at home will help us do that. If we are paying less for lodging, we can go more places. Plus, The Girl Next Door can get us there and will make us slow down to enjoy our surroundings. We want to live smaller now to pay off our debt so that later, we can live to travel. The list of places we’d like to visit grows daily. We don’t want to just RV everywhere; we want to see the world.

We will always have our roots that tie us to our family and friends at home. We will always be loved somewhere in the world. A this point, we both feel it’s time for us to fly.

To start it off, tomorrow I leave for Mexico. I am going to do some personal care work for a client going there for treatment. Jeremy and I are both nervous for me, but it should be an interesting and exciting trip. It’s important that he pushes his anxiety a bit and that I remember my meds to take them while I’m there. We wouldn’t want this to hurt our mental health more. I may not have access to a computer or internet while I’m there. Just know that I’ll be taking pictures and fill you all in when I return. Enjoy your week and your Christmas preparations. Have a great day and I’ll see you on the road.

First blog post

This is our very first post. Yay!! Most of the “me” and “I” discussion will be by Candy. If Jeremy takes over for an entry, we’ll make sure to make that clear.

We have been talking about doing a tiny house for about 3 years. Early in 2016, we decided we needed to get really serious about paying off our debt. The main thing taking income from us is our rent. Right now, we’re paying $850/month just for the place we stay. It’s beautiful and the perfect size if we still had a family life. The problem is that we don’t.

We never really have had a regular family life. Jeremy was married and divorced before I came along. In that first marriage, he was blessed with 2 boys. Those boys have now grown into young men. When I came along, they were 10 and 5. So, I’ve gotten to be a part of their life for half of it so far. Because of the blended family, our “regular family life” consisted for years of the boys going back and forth every other week. They’d stay with us one week, the next week with their mom. Thankfully, she lived in the same town for most of it, so they didn’t have to be driven for school or miss their friends. But we’ve always had an ever changing schedule of kids/no kids, sports/no sports, triple laundry/no laundry.

Our “regular family life” ended a few years ago. Jeremy’s oldest was out of school and getting ready to go on his own. The youngest was still at home and his mom wanted to move 20 miles away into her fiance’s house. Youngest had been having trouble with bullies and his grades. Everyone agreed that it might be good for him to move to a different school district. This also meant that the week-on/week-off schedule wasn’t going to work anymore. We switched the schedule to every other week and some extra in school breaks. Recently, his illness has created some turmoil in our lives that made it so he won’t be coming to our house at all for a while. We hope he’ll get to visit us in The Girl Next Door at some point, but probably will not be living with us in the motorhome.

That all being said, we no longer have a need for a second bedroom. We also don’t really need the living room or dining room. We own a massage business. To accommodate for our 1000 clients, we need to be at our office a LOT. So, during the week, we pretty much use the refrigerator, the toilet, and the bed. We even shower at the gym most of the time, so we don’t really need that much. Out of our 1400 sq. ft. townhouse, we probably only use a good 500 sq. ft. on a day to day basis and half of that is only because of the hall way and the empty space between our kitchen and bedroom. On top of rarely using it on weekdays, our weekends are crazy!! We are part of so many different social groups that we rarely stay at home on weekends. We visit my parents in Southwestern Wisconsin, we visit friends in the Greater Minneapolis Area, and we travel all over for races. We are almost never home on weekends.  So, the tiny house seemed FAR more within our reach.

To remedy that rent situation I discussed earlier, we decided to start looking into the tiny house a lot sooner than we had planned. Once we started looking, we realized that we might have the same exact problem on our hands. There were lots of draw backs. The cheapest tiny house we could find that we liked was $25,000!! And most banks won’t finance them as a home because they’re often built on wheels. Therefore, at a 5 year loan with a 5% interest rate, we’d be paying about $600 a month just for our “mortgage”. That didn’t find us a place to park it, which was another problem. Most RV parks and trailer parks don’t take tiny homes because they’re built as a house. Most residential areas have a specific type of house that needs to be on a property, which tiny houses usually don’t fall into the requirements. If we buy our own land, we pay another $300/month. We are then right back to where we don’t want to be with the payment.

In April, Jeremy came up with a solution: Isn’t an RV just a tiny house that’s already been built? It would take care of where to stay for races sometimes too! We started looking through some ads. Of course, we saw that many RVs run at a quarter of a million dollars or more and got a tad discouraged. It wasn’t long before we found out that the vintage models tend to go MUCH MUCH  cheaper. After a small inheritance from his grandma, we decided to start getting serious about an RV. So many to choose from. Class A, B, C, Travel trailer, 5th wheel, camper van, truck topper, converted busses, and other custom models…. and within those different classifications, there are thousands of floor plan layouts.

Oh my, we had our hands full looking, but we knew that it was what we wanted. This way, we don’t need to worry about building a custom model. We don’t need to find a plot if we don’t want to. We can really use it to travel when we desire. So, we picked a few floor plans and classifications that we liked and got busy. We checked out CrankyApe.com to see if an auction would have “the one”; we scoured Craigslist and Facebook sales sites; we even checked the paper. We knew that we had time, so we wanted to find the exact right place for us. My grandpa was even selling his 1999 Winnebago Grand Tour and we looked it over. It was slightly out of our price range and didn’t have quite the right layout for us, but it felt comfortable to sit and hang out in. In the end, it wasn’t for us. We knew we had time and wanted to get the one that fit in our budget AND in our hearts.

Then, one day, Jeremy found the perfect one on Craigslist. It was $2200, class A, no slide outs, and a floor plan we liked. She’s a 1990 Tiffin Allegro 30′ motorhome. We looked at it and instantly fell in love. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite ready to drive away. The fuel pump had recently gone out on it while it sat without the previous owners’ knowledge. He was very gracious and replaced it for us before we could take it away. While we waited, we came up with names, got our cash in order, and prepared Jeremy’s parents for her to be parked in their yard for the winter.

3 weeks later, we went and picked up The Girl Next Door. She was a little rough around the edges when we picked her up. Little things here and there that need some fixing. But, she’s pretty, she’s homey, and she gets the job done. She’s not right for everyone, but The Girl Next Door is just right for us.

We are done with our lease on April 1 of this year. Before then, we will be going full time in the RV. We will stick around Wisconsin for now. We like our business and we want to be close to our friends and family. This little town has treated us really well so far. While we are around here, we have some little things to fix up on The Girl Next Door. We need to redo the caulking and trim; they’ve been weathered while she sat. She has a bump in her back bumper; we’ll probably try to fix that. Her exhaust pipe is rusting through. Her windshield is cracked and there’s a dent in her side. Little things here and there just need a fix and a straightening. However, she’s road worthy and she is livable. Starting sometime in March, home is where she goes.