April 10, 2017 (by Angela)
Last week, I was having dinner with friends in Clarksville, Tennessee, and one of my friends asked (in a sincerely interested way) what do I do all day? Since Jim and I made the RV lifestyle choice, I’ve not worked for compensation (except on a couple of short term projects) outside of our RV home. I assured my friend that I stay busy. I’ve thought about her question since, and I think I’ll discuss the question, or perhaps more accurately the answer, here today.
The entire time since moving into the camper, I’ve been Jim’s pro bono administrative assistant. (He says it’s not free; I live and eat here. *smile*) Initially, while he got set up as a sole proprietor/self-employed contractor and began looking for clients, I took care of the background work, doing things such as getting quotes on business insurance required for his type work, making applications, choosing a provider, and getting it set up for him. I also assisted with any other “leg” work or “paper work” he needed as I was able. I still do this. Whatever he needs, if I can do it for him, I do. He works hard and puts in more hours than that for which he bills, so I like to help out in any way I can.
Once Jim gets a new contract (job), I become his travel consultant in those instances where a flight, hotel, and rental car may be required. This was true of his first two (short) contracts after getting into the RV; it was required of his Alaskan contract, and it is required currently until we can get the RV to Pennsylvania. If the job allows us to move the RV near the job site, which is most common and the preferred situation, then I plan our route, make campground reservations for stops along the way, and normally book our campground stay near the job. This job is the exception to the norm for the last item because it is the first time Jim has been able to be on the job site before the camper and I actually arrive when moving the RV there. Usually, we all arrive together.
For those times when I’m not assisting Jim with work-related paper work or travel, there is our own personal business and travel to be addressed. I take care of paying the day-to-day, month-to-month bills. He and I sit down for monthly and yearly financial health checks and planning sessions. Of course, there are annual taxes, which we just completed this past weekend, that we do together. Vehicles must be serviced and registration renewed, and mail must often be forwarded to us. Medical, dental, and vision appointments must be scheduled, and medicines have to be refilled. Chewie needs vetting, meds, and grooming. I take care of all of these things, also. For family visits and vacation trips, though discussed and planned in general together, the details are almost always planned by me: I make reservations for flights, hotels, rental cars, etc. I try to get the best deal possible, and looking for those savings takes time. In addition, I keep up with family birthdays, anniversaries, etc., purchase cards and purchase and ship gifts, if shipping is needed, etc.
Regular household activities like weekly laundry, shopping for clothes or groceries, cooking, and dishes are almost always done by me. While an RV may not have the square footage of the vast majority of sticks and bricks houses, it still requires cleaning and maintenance. There are not as many things to clean, but due to tracking and limited space inside, it needs more regular attention. A little clutter (like what I’m looking at now) seems huge in an RV. Tracking in and out is an ongoing struggle to keep the floor clean (or clean enough). Many campgrounds are mostly gravel (or far south, sand), so dust is a constant issue. In addition, we have a big dog that sheds a great deal. Need I say more? RVs, like vehicles, also have to be washed and maintained on the outside more frequently than stationary homes. When it comes to maintenance, I actually know the camper better than Jim; I spend more time in it. I’m the first line of defense when it comes to maintaining the RV. Many things I can’t do without Jim’s help, and often a professional is required. If that is the case, I normally schedule maintenance that I can’t do, and Jim doesn’t have time to do because of his work schedule or can’t do himself.
There are times when I am needed to help or care for family. My brother and I help care for our mother. For many years, I have been the one to help by taking her to medical appointments or doing odd jobs for her. David helps, too, but some things are just more comfortable for a daughter to help her with, and once I was not “working,” it was logical for me to do what I could since he like Jim has a demanding job. Over the last year, Mom’s need for help has grown. While at Texas T late last summer, I added to my responsibility for her care. In addition to taking Mom to medical appointments, I also began taking care of Mom’s business affairs. Mom needed more assistance weekly, so I lined up some part-time caregivers to come into the home periodically for particular tasks. I’ll not be surprised to see Mom’s need for assistance grow over the next few months and years; however, to honor her wishes, David and I are striving to keep her in her home for as long as possible. In the meantime, I spend on average half an hour per day almost every day talking with Mom by phone when I’m not able to go there in person.
Then there are the times when short-term help is needed by family members rather than ongoing help. Here are a few of examples. In December of 2015, our daughter Amanda, whose husband was stationed in Korea, pregnant and with a toddler at home, developed blood clots in her lungs. We are blessed that we did not lose her and the baby! Because we had transitioned to this lifestyle, I was able to drop everything and be with her for almost three solid months (I was there 7 weeks, came home for 10 days, and then went back for another month). I’m happy to say that she, Sammy (toddler), and Abby (the baby) are all doing well and are with Brett in his current duty station. In June of 2016, our daughter-in-law Rachel had her baby two weeks early. She and our son Nathaniel lived about 45 minutes to an hour from where we were camped. I was able to drive down each day for over a week to help her adjust to being a new Mom (and enjoy the new baby) until her Mom could come to help for a time herself. Sometimes one of our six children will ask for help in planning their own travel, or another may ask me to help with things that need to be done during business hours that he or she cannot do and work during business hours. Of course, getting to babysit a grand is a bonus. I think you get the idea. The next big “kid help” is helping Clarissa, our youngest, plan and prepare for her upcoming wedding in December and the honeymoon! I do what a Mom/Grandma does, and I love that the “kids” feel comfortable and secure in asking me to help.
Whenever I’m not busy doing the things mentioned above, then I have volunteered when an opportunity is available. While in Savannah, Tennessee, I volunteered at Horse Creek Wildlife Sanctuary with dogs pulled from the shelter waiting to be adopted. If a friend asks for help, if there is anyway I can, I do that, too. Once, a friend asked that I come back to Clarksville to help set up for a big yard sale to benefit a service group. I enjoyed helping, and getting to visit was the bonus. When possible, I take time to simply visit with friends and family when close enough to them to do so. Planning fun local outings for all three of us (or two if not dog friendly) to do on weekends when Jim is off work is another activity I enjoy. Oh, yeah – and I help maintain and write the blog. Sometimes, I simply build a fire (I was the scout, not Jim), and we get to sit outside and enjoy camping.
When Jim works the hours he does each week and travels a long distance, he has little down time. When working, traveling to work, and moving the RV on weekends, he has almost no down time. Anything I can do in such situations that may allow him an hour’s nap or the chance to hike a trail with us like he did on Saturday, I will do it.
Truly, I stay busy all of the time. I don’t know how I would do all of this and work anything more than either a really part-time job or a very short, seasonal job. Even though I don’t bring money into the family, I save us quite a bit by being frugal. I feel that Jim and I compliment each other, and that I do my fair share in allowing us to live the way we have chosen. My life is full and satisfying just as it is.