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Old 01-03-2015, 06:33 PM   #1
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Dreams of Full Timing Off/On the Grid

After finishing 1 year 9 months and 28 days of Military Service in 1970, I was free to pursue anything a 21 year old could imagine. I had no possessions other than what fit into a foot locker, shipped to a military base of my choice, three weeks later.

My pockets did not contain a pair of dimes to rub in my pocket. The bus ticket "home" was all I had left to spare and my brother's bus ticket home, as his car broke down while coming to pick me up and left as junk in a town long forgotten.

But... I had a dream. To camp "Off the Grid" and and earn a living while doing it. Nearly two years in the Army was a great education in that area... living with minimal possessions, income and able to live under any conditions. Any...

What an opportunity that was presented to me at the time and lasting memories that cannot be repeated today. Sometimes the worst of times open opportunities for the best of times. I was their poster child.

I worked to buy a 1957 Ford pickup truck, rebuilt the engine myself and could live longer on $1 than most could with $100. Bought some geological maps and headed out to the High Plains of the USA. Living for three months in my parents basement gave me a transition from military to civilian existence. Only those of you put in two to four years at this time will understand.

I found myself collecting fossils on Ranches, working for gasoline and meals rowing hay and checking fence. The fossil hunting was wide open and nobody considered wasting any time in these remote areas leaving all of the weathering from decades of rain and snow at my disposal. I collected fossil tortoise (turtles), saber toothed cats, horse, camel, rhinoceros, squirrel, rabbit, mouse and other fossil mammals, lizards and snakes from 38,000,000 years ago in Western Nebraska.

GI Bill gave me $366 a month to attend college and this was an opportunity to finish my Geology Degree and had decent living conditions 8 months of the year. My true love was being in the Field, camping and following the contours and geology on field maps to explore what was relatively unknown to the majority of people. Other than myself and the ranches that were so generous to me in those early days.

They are vague memories today and the ranches have changed hands three or four times and are corporate operated or extensions of western cattle operations. These "badlands" are now leased out to companies and groups who "pay to play" operations. What I did can not be repeated today. It is much like when barbed wire began to keep livestock off the private ranches and farms in the 1870's. It changed the western plains and access to private property.

You ask... what brought this on? I read with some interest of people selling their worldly goods and possessions to FULL TIME in their Airstream or RV. The dream is there, but the circumstances have changed. I could not even consider making this change as I made opportunity from what most would considerable an unbearable life, living among roaming livestock, hiking into barely accessible terrain to discover fossil treasures that were rapidly decomposing due to the weather and soft bedrock their remains were held... gently for my rock pick.

I was living 19th Century in a 20th Century world.

To Full Time On or Off the Grid is an expensive option, today. Selling the home is cutting the relief line to return to... a place. There is no turning back. Unless you invested wisely and have a comfortable return on these investments... things can sour quickly. I had a purpose and the effort was difficult but unknowingly, rewarding in many ways for an ambitious young man.

The thought of traveling full time today does not interest me at all. It eventually gets boring... very routine and eventually you have had your fill of living free from the encumbering one's self with home and possessions. Before you begin living "your dream"... live it for a year. Have a trusted friend rent your home from you, or relative. Try it. Not everyone who tries will continue. I have met many who have tried and failed miserably.

My experiences are unique from most. But it worked for me... until I had done it all and wanted change. Change to returning to the 20th century, getting a full time job, buying a home and never wanting to Full Time again!

Had I a reliable Airstream/Trailer at the time... I might have lasted this dream for a couple more years, but I still needed an address, a place to store my treasures. There were severe limitations with a rolling address and scenery. You will discover those quickly. I lived my dream as a reward from serving time in the US Army. This cleared my head of past regrets and living without wants other than what I could carry.

So, please. Have a purpose FIRST. Some dreams are just that... dreams. But, give it a try. After one year... you will know. As a youth, you will never get old, until you are. Make those plans on paper, test it out and if it works... You are living the dream I had for most of my life. I cannot say it was 100% pleasant... but I managed and survived.

Today my wife, myself and two Blue Heelers are living our shared dreams of going to places we never knew existed had we stayed at home, Off and On the Grid. I have met folk that live by a handshake and trust. Had I a way to do this all over again and could have one wish to make it so... could I have had just a few more years?

Thank you and I hope this inspires someone else to take that step to living the dream... but be prepared before you commit 100%.

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Old 01-03-2015, 06:41 PM   #2
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Another home can be bought.

Maybe a new town and the opportunities of new friends once off the road.

Fulltime can be a genuine break, lets remember. Clear out the old and make room for the new.

Certainly sounds better than the sterility of a 55+ retirement community. And then off to the assisted living wing.

Given the demographic coming up in age there is much to be said for selling out now. They won't have the money due to either debt or permanently depressed wages. House value is tenuous as hell. Anyone thinks otherwise is asleep at the wheel.

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Old 01-03-2015, 06:59 PM   #3
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Very well written...some can and some can't...
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Old 01-03-2015, 07:04 PM   #4
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We spent a couple of years discussing the idea of full-timing, the sort of coach we needed, what we wanted to do, etc. With our place now under contract we're about to be officially landless but not homeless. We have some money in the bank, but probably not enough to satisfy some people. We plan to work, volunteer, and play in roughly equal amounts. Both of us are in good health now, but only God knows how long that will last. If we waited until we could "afford" it we probably wouldn't ever have sold everything. We would have stayed on that acreage, puttering around and getting old.

If God allows us to get old, fine. We are going to see as much of this country as we can. We know we won't see everything, but we also know we'll see much more of it than if we just vegetated back home. Some day we may have to settle down somewhere. That's fine. We'll figure out what we have to do then.

I've read too many stories about people who dreamed about full-timing but wanted to wait until they had enough money and then lost their health before being able to hit the road. No one ever has enough money - not even Bill Gates or Warren Buffett. Figure out your own needs and go for it, if that's what you want.
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Old 01-03-2015, 07:36 PM   #5
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I have probably already said more than enough. Just one more thought, thinking of the Wizard of Oz that we watch every Christmas season.

"There is no place like home."

... and that is where YOU decide where home is! Be prepared. Being 21 years old or 75... home is not where, but with WHOM you share a space.

I have done both and it has taken me an entire lifetime to resist the temptation of becoming... a normal human being.
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Old 01-04-2015, 10:25 AM   #6
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Totally agree Ray! I was a full-timer for 3 years in my late 40s (could afford to be), and although I'm happiest being an adventuresome nomad and wanderer without too many responsibilities and commitments, I too yearned for a "base camp" somewhere. I bought a cheap little cottage in the country and now that I'm over 60 and officially retired (pension plus benefits), there's no way I'd give up my base camp even if I'm on the road 10 months each year. A little cottage can be extremely low maintenance, so it's not an added burden in a nomadic lifestyle, it's actually very pleasant to have the best of both worlds. Best to choose a base camp within 100 miles of an international airport and an Amtrak station, and good recreational facilities.
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Old 01-04-2015, 10:32 AM   #7
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Well said, Ray, and closely echoes my sentiments on the subject!!
Bob and Nancy
Cheer Up, Slow Down, Chill Out!
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Old 01-04-2015, 11:06 AM   #8
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awesome posts.
- Scott.
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Old 01-04-2015, 01:09 PM   #9
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My question is where you park the RV and how much that costs out there.

It's not like Lucy and Desi when you could just pull off the road wherever you liked and stay for a few days or weeks.

And we all know you can't just park and live on Malibu Beach like Jim Rockford or that beatnik in Gidget.

So that leaves BLM land out in the Arizona desert or pay to stay RV parks and campgrounds.

So where do you really stay and what is the cost?

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Old 01-04-2015, 01:24 PM   #10
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Smile Dreams of Full-Timing....

Very well-written piece, Ray. Your essay hit the highlights and hinted at the lowlights. We have had the conversations, have traveled and visited many places, but know we must have a "home-base" as well.

Best wishes to you and yours...hope your dreams come true.
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Old 01-04-2015, 05:52 PM   #11
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Nice articles that make you think. Makes me think of what my daughter taught me, "YOLO" - You only live once; enjoy!!
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Old 01-04-2015, 09:50 PM   #12
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I've been full-time in an Airstream for 4 years now. It's easier in RV parks, so that's what I do. I don't mind paying the rent, as it's cheaper than any other "on grid" living scenario. and easier than off-grid, since I also work from the AS as a home office, so I need high-speed internet and no time-consuming maintenance routines like fetching water or handling my own wastewater. My condo is rented out. I was able to pay off the mortgage faster by renting it out. I sold all my furniture 4 years ago, and stored a small room-full of other stuff. Now, with the experience gleaned from 4 years in the AS, I'm designing a Tiny House that I hope to commission soon. I know what I need much better now, compared to merely daydreaming about it and reading blogs as I was doing 5 years ago.
Traveling and working at the same time was very hard for me. Picking a nice location and staying longer-term is much easier if you are not retired. And it's cheaper since the gasoline really adds up.
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Old 01-05-2015, 05:06 AM   #13
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Things must…….and always do……change

My dream was to live out in the country. I have always lived in Suburbia, where there is plenty of work. I bought and old farmhouse on 10+ acres and worked hard on the land for 10 years, keeping my " city " home, bouncing back and forth, getting tired of the 2 1/2 hour drive. I have found that I don't really like driving. Now that I am single, the country life is very lonely. I am, and will always be an outsider, and I feel like I don't want to be a slave to a piece of land, no matter how much I love it. The taxes in suburbia are $10,000 a year, so people who aren't working, leave. I don't really have enough money to fund a woman's retirement….again.

I just don't know what I want to do.
Live in a campground for $600 a month?
Live in suburbia where taxes are $900 a month?
Live in the country alone, chopping wood, doing hard labor?
Live on the road, driving, running from the weather, no close friends?
Rent a place and live by a condo associations rules for $1000 a month?

Now I know how my father felt when he retired…what do I do with myself? He had money and me to take care of his house.
My guess now is that I will try to find a compromise. a small base camp, that will let me travel a bit, enough land for some privacy, near people.
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Old 01-05-2015, 06:02 AM   #14
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Well thought out and written post Ray. And some great followups from others.

For me, I have found that six or seven months a year on the road, and the remaining time back here in the sticks and bricks works for me.
One thing that spending time on the road in the trailer taught me is that I don't need nearly as many possessions here at home. To that end, I am slowly cleaning out things and only replacing what I need with fewer, better quality, carefully chosen things.

A loose goal, or target is to only keep things that when I die, my kids can go through all of it and say, "I want to keep this" or, "this has some value". It's been mildly shocking how much "junk" I have accumulated that really has needed to just be thrown away.
When on the road, I mostly stay in campgrounds with full hookups. I like the convenience and comfort of these places. As to costs of campgrounds, for me, it seems around $30/night is typical when staying less then a week. Most places offer weekly discounts, and monthly rates may get even cheaper on a per night basis.

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