Monday, November 29, 2010

Traveling With Sonja

Last night I finished reading "American Nomad" by Richard Grant. It was the most compelling nonfiction book I've read in a long time. I usually like the idea behind nonfiction--the story of a person's life or the development of a scientific concept or whatever--but I usually can't get as excited about the details as the author does. But this time, I just wanted to be along for the ride, as the author traveled, met interesting contemporary nomads, and researched historic ones.

I could identify with the author's dilemmas. Do I stay in my rental house when I could be someplace else in my truck? Where can I work better, where there is electricity or where there is silence? Do I really have to have a reason, purpose or goal, or is just being enough?

What I learned from this book is that I have the same yearnings as the people Grant wrote about. I even have a new name for the type of wanderer I am becoming: a "technomad." I'll be making my living on eBay while traveling the country, finding great inventory.

I wish I had acclimated my cat, Princess Sonja Begonia, to travel as soon as I got her several years ago. However, teaching her to ride in a car seemed unimportant at the time, and, besides, she had enough adjusting to do, living in a house with other cats and dogs. Sonja had been dumped in a park along with her mom and the rest of the litter, and she was probably about 7 or 8 months old when the whole kit and caboodle was rounded up by Animal Control and offered for adoption.

Sonja has been a fabulous pet, especially considering her feral youth. She's not much of a lap cat, but she sleeps on my bed every night. She loves boxes and seems to genuinely like the pet stroller I recently bought in anticipation of our travels together. I'm figuring that when we're staying someplace just a night or two, I won't let Sonja outside where she might get lost. But I can take her out in the stroller. We'll see how that works out.

I hope the stroller works out better than my last attempt to exercise control over Sonja in the great outdoors. When I moved to Eugene in January, I kept the cat indoors for several months. When the weather got nicer, she wanted to go outside, but I was concerned about her safety. She may have survived in a park for some time, but I knew she didn't have street smarts. So I got a cute pink harness and leash and tried to train Sonja to walk on a lead. Unfortunately the only thing I trained her to do was to run and hide when she saw me coming with the horrible pink contraption. Eventually I gave up and let Sonja wander freely outdoors. She loves to chase squirrels and climb trees. Clearly the leash idea was doomed to fail from the beginning.

I think it's going to be a challenge to confine Sonja in a moho, especially because she hates traveling in cars. Her experience with car travel is limited, but memorable. She traveled five hours with me from Seattle to Eugene, sedated--yet she managed to caterwaul most of the way. She gets so worked up on the short trip to the vet that it takes several staff people to administer shots or whatever, with the cat sometimes airborne and the staff looking like receivers all reaching to catch the football.

But everyone who has done extensive vehicular travel with a cat tells me Sonja will eventually get used to full-time RV life. At this point, that seems pretty impossible...but many years ago I did have a cat, Punkin, who eventually got used to our twice yearly commutes between home in Alaska and grad school in Oregon. So maybe there's hope for Sonja (and me!), too.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Provisions for the Journey

I had a good time with my best friend this past weekend, and one of the things that came up in our conversation was how much fun the old computer game "Oregon Trail" was. I played it occasionally when my kids were growing up. Often, the key to survival in the pre-Walmart West was how well you chose to stock up before you left. I got pretty good at figuring out what needed to be acquired ahead of time and what could be found along the way, so most of my party usually made it to Oregon.

Of course, since it's the 21st rather than the 19th Century, I'll have the option of buying just about anything I need along the way. But, as I'm getting rid of things, I'm also acquiring a few replacements that I hope will fit my new lifestyle as a full-time RVer/eBayer. I've been avidly reading postings on several Yahoo groups as well as books on living on the road.

As a result, I'm "trading in" my big crockpot for a much smaller one and my full-size board games for travel-size replacements. I bought a smaller vintage Wagner cast iron skillet at a flea market recently and will give my larger one to my kid. I've given away many bags of clothing (including many cotton shirts that I normally used to iron), but I've also purchased a few items to replace them--warm, easy to launder items such as fleece.

My best friend gave me a great idea for dealing with the many photos I've acquired over a lifetime of sedentary living. I have at least a banker's box full of photographs. I was thinking of becoming a scrapbooker, something that's never appealed to me. But Helen suggested that I scan the photos and then have SnapFish or a similar company make a few books of the pictures I love the most. My experience has been that, once I get signed up for one of these online photo companies, they give me lots of coupons and special deals. So I could make multiple photobooks on different topics. I find this a lot more appealing than dealing with the hardcopy photos, glue, etc.

Scanning photos reminds me of another "trade" I need to make before I go. I currently use a huge laser printer that also faxes, scans and copies. There won't be room for it in my moho, so I'm beginning to look for a portable printer. So getting the photos scanned before I leave town seems like a good idea, and perhaps I can delegate portions of this task to my kid.

I will also be bringing along an inventory of things to sell on eBay. Fortunately, several years ago, I realized that I was spending too much time and energy figuring out how to safely ship antiques and collectibles. So I limited my eBay sales mostly to textiles, such as ladies' designer vintage silk scarves, antique table linens, and those goofy Midcentury sewing fabrics. (The photo above is a quilt I'm making from vintage fabrics...I'll be sewing and selling these along the way as I travel, too.) All of these things can be stored compactly and shipped easily.

Looking for wonderful eBay inventory along the road will be part of the fun...but I'm also stocking up right now on silk scarves so I'll have plenty of inventory to keep my eBay business thriving once I leave. In fact, I made a major purchase yesterday, buying a Hollywood scarf collector's stash, that cost me almost as much as my Toyota Dolphin. It's the biggest investment I've ever made in eBay fodder, but it will keep my business afloat for months to come, so I think it's the right thing to do.

I'd love input from my friends on the road who are reading this. Play an updated version of "Oregon Trail," and tell me what I need to bring and what I should leave behind. I know some of this is a very personal decision...I'll probably bring more books than I really need, but I've done that my whole life and I'd be surprised if that changes now :-)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Back from Seattle

I had a very successful and fulfilling trip to the Seattle area these past few days. I saw some friends and took care of some business. Today I drove back to Eugene in snow and slushy rain, and, boy, am I ready to head south! Well, ready in parts of my head, anyway. There still remains a lot to be done, but I am ready to do it.

I've been reading a really great book the past few days: American Nomads by Richard Grant. I'd heard of Grant before. He's an Englishman who travels all over America, writing stories and books, sometimes on specific assignments, sometimes not. In this book, he writes about people like himself...folks with wanderlust. Some live as nomads because it's the lifestyle that fits the land where they were born, such as a desert. Others choose a nomadic life because they don't like or don't fit into society; others choose it because they want to live close to the land. Grant is a great storyteller, and he brings long-dead Conquistadors and Natives to life on the page, as much as he does the modern day nomads he meets in his travels...truckers, hitchhikers, RVers, etc.

A few times while reading, I've been reminded that my own deep desire to travel has been with me my whole life. My parents used to take us on long trips, usually camping along the way, sometimes staying in motels, and occasionally traveling by train instead of car. I've been told that when I was a year old, my parents camped with four kids from Minneapolis to Seattle and back, and I was teething the whole trip. Mom and Dad took turns rocking me in my baby buggy in the tent throughout the night. While we traveled during the day, the station wagon was piled high, with the upside-down buggy on top and the dishpan held firmly between the wheels. I guess more than one other traveler observed that my parents had brought everything, "including the kitchen sink!"

We took equally extensive trips just about every year while I was young, and I think it planted a seed or awoke my inner Viking or something. Then when I was about 10 years old, my folks bought a lake cabin in Wisconsin, and our vacations then consisted mostly of "going up to the lake," as they say in Minnesota. It was lots of fun, and we got out of town much more frequently--sometimes nearly every weekend throughout the summer, with several week-long stays mixed in. But going the same place all the time didn't satisfy my wanderlust. While I was a junior in high school, I asked my parents if we could go on one more camping trip before I headed off to college. They obliged and took me to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Throughout most of my adult life, I've been too busy with school, work, and other responsibilities to travel as extensively as I need to. I'm not sure which of the quirky categories of nomads discussed in Grant's book I belong to. I just know that right now, at this point in my life, the urge to travel is very strong and I'm very fortunate that I'll soon be able to get on the road.

I'm beginning to fill in the outlines of places I'd like to go. In general, I'm looking at heading south for whatever remains of the winter once I can get going, and generally just soaking up the sun while learning how to live and work on the road. Then next spring, I'd like to take a trip up the mighty Mississippi and end up in Minnesota, where I was born and where most of my family still lives. I'd like to spend the summer in the Midwest and then head back to the Pacific Northwest next fall to check in with all of my family and friends here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Steps Towards My Goal

Although I don't know when I'll be able to hit the road, I'm working on a lot of aspects of being able to leave...

*Twelve bags of clothing and kitchen stuff went to the thrift store last week.

*I'm accumulating boxes of books in my car that are going to the used bookstore first, then whatever is left over can be given away.

*I'm getting my bulk foods put into unbreakable storage containers, such as tins, Tupperware, etc.

*I'm getting ready to sell the car. I'll get it an oil change before we go to Seattle this week, and then when we get back, I'll put it on Craigslist.

*I'll be closing up my antique store space in Seattle while I'm up there.

*After doing a lot of research and finding a great bargain, I purchased a campground membership that allows me to use all of the campgrounds in the Coast to Coast and Resort Parks International networks for $10 per night. This will give me some places to clean up, catch up on laundry, etc., all over the country, at less than the usual $40 or so that these resort-style campgrounds usually charge per night.

*I've signed up for a table at the flea market near my home for a weekend in December, to get rid of lots of household stuff, furniture, etc.

*I've begun to turn over various volunteer jobs to new people.

*I got a pet stroller for my cat so, theoretically, I can take her outside of the motorhome without losing her...but we'll see about that! I tried making her into a cat that can go outside on a leash, and that was a dismal failure.

Overall, my approach these days is to think things through as I do them and visualize what it will be like to be doing them in the motorhome. This is guiding me in what I should keep, get rid of, replace, etc.

There are some experienced full-timers amongst my blog followers...I'll welcome whatever comments you have that will help me with this process! Thanks!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Revised Expectations

About a week ago, when my 18-year-old kid expressed interest in going to the local community college, I got really excited about the prospect of getting on the road as soon as I can get the kid situated in an maybe around the end of December.

This week, it occurred to me that that's less than two months away, and I have a lot to get accomplished before I can take off. The main thing is, of course, getting rid of stuff. I've already decluttered twice in the past year--first when I left my husband and moved from a 3400 sf suburban house to a 700 sf rental house, then again several months later when my kid moved in with me.

Thank goodness I don't have heavy sentimental attachment to things. I will be sad to let go of a few things, but really my most precious items are journal, a few books, musical instruments, the cat, etc. The biggest things I'll be bringing with me are the things I need to make a living--a laptop, portable printer, an inventory of vintage linens, some art supplies, and a sewing machine.

Even so, there's still lots of stuff to part with! And I'm also not sure that having my kid get into school and an apartment are going to be a slam-dunk. So, I've decided for my own peace of mind that leaving to live on the road full-time by the end of December would be optimal, but it's okay if it takes me longer.

I'm glad I decided to cut myself some slack on the date I'll plan to get going, because I was driving myself nuts! Now I can relax and not feel like I need to spend every minute getting myself on the way. As a result, I've decided to take a little trip up to Seattle to visit friends next weekend. I'm glad I have a chance to get up there, because once I hit the road, I'll be going SOUTH!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Getting Ready to Hit the Road

Less than a month ago, as I began to recover from a long illness that had kept me homebound a lot, I realized that what I really want to do more than anything is to travel. I love to travel, and I can't get enough of it. In the past, my traveling has pretty much been limited to vacations and/or obligatory trips for business or to visit my elderly parents. Spending a few weeks out of the year on the road just isn't enough for me--especially when a lot of my recent travels have been by plane rather than the meandering sort of roadtripping that I really enjoy most.

As it turned out, about the same time I realized my deep need to travel more, other circumstances in my life suddenly made the prospect of traveling full-time more realistic. For one thing, I am in the process of getting a divorce, and I had some money from a property settlement to buy myself a small used RV.

Also, my 18-year-old kid, Sly, is just about ready to leave home. In fact, we are looking for an apartment for Sly right now, and I'll be able to schedule my own departure once that happens.

Originally I thought I'd spend the rest of the winter here and hope to be on the road by springtime. But with Sly's imminent departure, I hope to be on the road sooner. If I can be out of here on New Year's Eve, I'll be delighted! I'd love to be heading south to spend the rest of the winter somewhere other than the Pacific NorthWET. My goal is to spend New Year's Eve playing bingo for really big stakes at Seven Feathers Casino in Canyonville, Oregon, on my way to California.

Fortunately for me, I've been successfully selling stuff on eBay for many years. I used to sell all sorts of antiques and collectibles, glassware, pottery, housewares, etc. But a few years ago, I decided to limit my auctions mostly to textiles, because scarves, linens, fabric and such can be stored flat in a small space and they won't break in the mail. Since I started specializing in vintage ladies' designer silk scarves a few years ago, my eBay business has been better than ever.

Right now, I'm starting to practice doing my eBay business out of a small space so it won't be any big shock when I am working from the RV or from various coffee shops with free wifi along the way. I've got all of my packing supplies in one large tote and all of my inventory in another.

I'm planning to remodel the RV interior so there will be places for these two totes, plus the two I'll need for the sewing and other crafts that I'll be doing along the road. The current configuration of my Toyota Dolphin's interior is very cute and great for casual weekend camping. But I'm going to have a big work table built in with storage space beneath it, plus I'll be replacing the dining area chairs and table with a restaurant-style booth with storage under the seats. The table will drop down onto the seats to convert into an extra bed for when Sly or one of my friends comes to spend time with me.

I've been spending lots of time investigating free and cheap places to stay. I hope to break up some of my camping out with occasional housesitting gigs. I'm also hoping to meet up with some more experienced RVers in the south, maybe at Quartzite or Slab City, to get some help with such things as solar panels. Depending on how things shape up over the next seven weeks, I may just see about getting my interior remodeling done down there, since I understand that's where you can find some really good experienced RV folks to help you out at reasonable prices.

So that's the basic plan, as it stands right now. I'm sure it will be tweaked about a bajillion times. That's okay. Getting ready to go is part of the journey.