Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The "Vacation" Question

Someone recently asked us, "So what's it like to be on vacation for a year and a half?"

We tried to explain that we aren't really on vacation, because there is a fair amount of work that goes into living aboard and actively cruising, but I don't think we explained it well enough, so here's a better analogy:

Imagine that you want to go driving around the US in your trailer or motor home for a year or so. You make all kinds of lists, pack up the rig with food, supplies, spares, and everything else you think you might need, and off you go. Travel about 100 miles the first day, stop a park you've never been to, set up the rig, enjoy a beautiful evening and go to bed happy with the knowledge that you are on a permanent vacation.

The next morning you find a way to visit the local natural attraction, have lunch in a strange restaurant, chat with your neighbors, run to the grocery store for something you forgot, and have another nice night. The only bugaboo is showering in your tiny little bathroom and having to wipe the whole room down when you are done.

Then you decide to move on, so you pack everything up, drive 50 miles, set up again, and prepare to enjoy another nice day, but you realize you've crossed into different "jurisdiction" so you have to find the Customs and Immigration Office, check in, pay a fee, estimate how long you'll be there, guess at your next town you'll visit, and, by the way, show them your vehicle registration, insurance papers, and engine serial number.

You spend a few days there playing on the beach, meeting new people, collecting shells, visiting the local attractions, then decide to move on. You need to buy more food so you walk to a strange grocery store and try to buy what you need, but they don't have much, so you end up with potatoes, carrots, onions, some strange cut of meat, and a case of beer. It's going to be a strange dinner tonight.

Early the next morning, you try to pack up the rig, but the neighbor's rig has moved in the night and is now right in front of your trailer tongue. Crud. You wait a while hoping his rig will move away by itself, but it doesn't so you holler over to them and ask nicely if they could please move so you can hook up. Thankfully, they are nice about it and don't mind being woken up at 6:00am.

You only drive about 20 miles this day because it's really windy, the road is horrible and you are getting bounced all over the place. The park isn't all that great and you are tired and grouchy from the rough ride. To add to your misery, the rig keeps rolling and bouncing all night long. You can't even leave a coffee cup on the table or it will slide off. Sleeping is difficult because your body keeps rolling back and forth, but you finally manage to fall asleep from exhaustion.

Up early the next morning, you decide to bug out, but the rough road yesterday increased your fuel consumption, so you need gas. Unfortunately you need to carry jerry jugs to a gas station and lug them back because the tiny station doesn't allow trailer rigs. You are still tired from the rough ride and lack of sleep, but you don't want to spend another night here, so you schlep the jugs back and forth until you have enough fuel.

You have a pleasant day traveling through lovely green hills full of flowers to the next beautiful park. The park is pleasant and clean, but has no hookups. In fact, none of the parks you've used has hookups, but that doesn't matter because you have solar panels on your roof to keep the batteries charged. You set up your rig, unfold your chairs and watch a glorious sunset with a cold drink in hand. If every day was like this, you think, the whole world would be living in trailers traveling around enjoying nature like this.

It's so nice here that you stay a whole week, but you are running out of clean clothes. You ask around and discover there is a laundromat about 2 miles away, so you bag up your clothes and drag them to your vehicle, but you can't drive the vehicle all the way to the laundry; you must carry your bags the last 4 blocks. You finally arrive at the "laundry" and discover that there is only one machine and no hot water. Luckily you brought a book to read and you spend a few hours doing laundry, reading, and swatting at the hungry no-see-ums which congregate around the machines. Did I forget to mention the machines are outdoors under a little roof at the RV repair facility? Kind of weird, but you are thankful you don't have to wash laundry in your kitchen sink.

Every day is filled with the usual daily tasks, cooking, cleaning, shopping for groceries, little repairs or maintenance. Once in a while you go out for lunch, but rarely dinner because you are uncomfortable arriving back at your rig in a strange park in the dark. However, you get together with the ever changing group of neighbors now and then and share drinks and snacks in the evenings. You become friendly with another couple and enjoy some really fun times with them, but unfortunately they are headed north and you are headed south, so you sadly say "Goodbye" one morning and head your separate ways.

Things go along like this for months; some days are really good, some days are pretty rough, and some days you wish you could click your heels and be back in Kansas in your tidy little home with your washer, dryer, and huge bathroom. Then one day, way out in the desert, far from any kind of store, your starter stops working and you don't have the part to repair it. Now every time you need to start your vehicle, someone has to open the hood and tap on it with a hammer. Consequently you leave the engine running when you stop for short periods of time and you ask at every auto parts store for the part you need. You endure weeks of this until you finally find the part.

Finally you arrive in Florida, the Sunshine State, but no one tells you it's also the Lightning State. After a blissful day playing on the beach and collecting shells you have a beautiful seafood dinner, and retire to bed. At 2:00am a loud boom wakes you up and you realize a thunderstorm is rolling through the park. You get up, look outside, and start counting the seconds between flash and boom, trying to determine how close the lightning is. When you get down to "One thousand one, One thous..." you get really scared, and then in a few more seconds the whole rig lights up and you feel like a bomb went off inside. Smoke pours out of the walls, and you just know the whole thing is going up in flames. Panic stricken, you run around opening cupboards, trying to find the fire, but eventually discover that some little electronic thing has melted and nothing is really on fire. Opening all the windows clears out the smoke, the storm moves off, and eventually you go back to bed, but find it nearly impossible to sleep.

The next morning, you start checking all your systems to determine the damage. You start on the roof and discover that your antennas are all melted so you have no communications. You also discover that the lightning fried the electronic brain in your cruise control and your inverter. Then you crawl under your rig and inspect all the plumbing because the bolt had to go to ground somewhere and you just hope it didn't blow off any fittings. Thankfully it didn't. Making a list of the damaged items, you tally up losses of over $5000 and your insurance won't cover them because you were above 12 degrees North latitude during hurricane season. Contemplating the expense and lack of replacement equipment, you decide to push on with no communications and no cruise control.

You sometimes wish you could just go home where everything is neat, clean, and easy.  Where you know which stores carry what and how to get things done. You just want to take a week off, do your laundry, clean your rig, restock the cupboards, and regroup. You want to repair the damage from the lightning strike and fix all the little maintenance issues, but you are so far from home that it would take weeks to get there, so you make do, jury rig things, and just keep moving on enjoying your never ending vacation.

I guess you could say we have been on vacation for over a year; but we never go home to regroup, do our laundry, restock our rig, or repair things. We never have any room service, we don't eat at restaurants very often, and we spend a lot of time in the bowels of the "cruise ship" fixing things. Even though it is a fabulous lifestyle with one crazy adventure after another, I'll let you decide if it's really like being on vacation.

Added later:
Maybe it's my own fault that folks think we are on a constant vacation, because I try to highlight the fun days and gloss over the tough days. But as I said in this post, it's only human nature to look forward to, revel in, and celebrate the good days. We all have to do laundry, clean the house, deal with bills, and fix the car; who wants to hear about that?

I had a homestyle blog with a good following for many years and I rarely posted about unpleasantness. I concentrated on traveling, decorating, gardening, cooking, and entertaining. Similar to what I post about now on this blog. No one ever accused me of being a Pollyanna for that, but I have been accused of being a Pollyanna in the cruising blog world.

On my old blog no one ever asked me about being on a constant vacation either, because they knew I cooked, cleaned, unclogged toilets, mowed the lawn. They all lived in houses and knew what it was like to live in a house, yet few people know what it's like to live aboard a boat. The ones that don't, think it's a constant vacation. The ones who do and can't get out here cruising must be jealous.

Since what others think of me doesn't motivate me, I intend to keep right on doing what I've been doing on this blog: enjoying this cruising lifestyle as much as possible, posting beautiful photos of things we see along the way, showing you our boat in gorgeous anchorages, and inviting you to slip away for a few minutes now and then to share our unusual lifestyle. And I sincerely thank you for joining us.

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