A full year on the road: So long, 2017!

What a year it’s been! We hit the road in October, and we’re so overjoyed that we’ve been able to make this crazy adventure work for another year. How amazing is it that we were full-time travels for all of 2017? And we’re cautiously optimistic that 2018 will be the year we see our income increase and our lives become more sustainable. (Believe me, we have some serious plans to make that happen.)
2017 was the year we:
Celebrated the New Year at the most amazing Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum aka the only way I’ve found to get the equivalent of my Disney fix outside of Disney. (It’s that great!)
Visited Austin and participated in the Women’s March.
Visited New Orleans and the one and only Eric Bolivar after WAY too many years of saying we’d get down there.
Stayed at a Walmart with views of the Gulf of Mexico.
Experienced wonderful museums & historical sites.
Visited Savannah and Charleston (we’ll be back) and got tastes of many other cities, including Brunswick, ME, for the first time.
Spent many months visiting Disney World, experiencing Flower & Garden Festival, Festival of the Arts, Festival of the Holidays and Food & Wine Festival. We also had a truly special Christmas dinner and some amazing treats and fun at Disney Springs. Plus Jellyrolls and Sanaa with Ross’ sister Emily and her husband Ryan.
Ate a ton of homemade ice cream, custard, gelato and frozen yogurt!
Spent an outstanding summer visiting all there is to see on the Outer Banks and making the best friends we’ve met on the road so far. Way too many moments to name, but a few include our first blue crabs, beaches, all the historical sites, lighthouses, a seafood buffet for our third anniversary plus wine, whiskey, a first martini and more with our friends.
We made friends with multiple cats.
We purchased a car, an adorable Chevy Sonic that we’ve nicknamed “Hedgie”.
Explored Delaware for a weekend, including John Dickinson’s plantation and Dogfish Head Brewery.
Played music in assisted living facilities, senior centers, preschools, bars, churches, theaters and open mics, including one with outstanding homemade ice cream.
We got a few enjoyable tastes of upstate New York, including Rochester, Albany and Binghamton.
Jamie played keyboard in a genuine praise band at a contemporary Methodist church service.
We led a ukulele workshop for seniors that was literally a dream come true – we were paid to teach music for free!
We visited with family and friends and despite the distance, had Christmas with a few family members too.
Jamie finally updated this blog to make it easier to search and follow our travels!
We held our first music recital in Bethlehem, NH!
We’ve continued to build our businesses, from teaching online music lessons to working as a virtual assistant (Jamie) and as a podcast editor (Ross). We even auditioned at Disney (Jamie, two times) and entered a competition to handle social media for Cancun.com (both of us). We’re thinking big and bold as we head into 2018.
Ross got a Nintendo Switch after patiently waiting until we had the money for it! Jamie got a Groot (from Guardians of the Galaxy) that she enjoys dancing with.
In addition, Jamie flew back to NH to lead the band for the musical The Drowsy Chaperone in Littleton and Ross held down the fort in Florida for almost a month without her. Jamie also had a birthday party while on the Outer Banks that included homemade ice cream cake and some of her favorite people – thank you Ross for the nudge to make that happen!
We are so lucky that we’ve been able to do this, and we’re so thankful to all of you who’ve supported us, whether in promoting our work, purchasing an EP, taking lessons or sharing gifts that have helped make all of this happen. What’s amazing about this lifestyle is that these things have almost exclusively happened as a part of our normal week. We rarely take “time off” for more than a day or two each week, and yet we’ve been able to have an incredibly fulfilling year with tons of adventures and even some relaxation (thank you, Outer Banks beach access!). We realize every day how incredibly fortunate we are.
As we look ahead to 2018, we’re setting goals, designing schedules and finding ways to make even more success in the upcoming year. We hope you’ll follow along and join us now and again.
With love,
Ross & Jamie
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Accidents Happen

And sometimes they’re caused by construction companies.

For those of you who haven’t been seeing us in the national news, the islands in the Outer Banks that we are living and working on have been without power since Thursday thanks to an unfortunate construction mistake. Our campground has been running on generators ever since, and the KOA next door had to close due to sewage issues when the outage happened. Meanwhile an evacuation order was issued, but those currently on the island (even short-term visitors) can stay if they’re self-sufficient like most campers are.

So we’ve been making due with a generator and the best staff and management we could ask for. There’s still a beautiful beach, which we took advantage of until the ocean ate Ross’ glasses. But we will be back there and taking it easy while working to stay cool at a much emptier than usual campground. 

Today’s plan was to handwash our clothes, but the limited power that came back yesterday is enough to power our washers and dryers, so I am thanking the powers that be for modern technology!

I’m sure when all of this is behind us, I will have more insight and tips for dealing with situations like this. But for now we’re just taking it one day at a time. (Photo is of the almost empty beach at 8 a.m.)

Note to future folks – in an emergency here, T-Mobile is apparently Talk and text only. Luckily Ross has Verizon and the campground has internet!

Do you have any power outage tips? 

The Big Reveal and the Beanie Baby Purge

Well, it’s done. I gave my notice at my full-time job. While I am not yet ready to announce my RV plans to the world yet – we need to wait until the summer so I can keep my church job – I am delighted to announce that after May 29, I set arts administration aside, at least for now, and can focus on other things.

Am I excited? Ridiculously so! I wouldn’t say a giant weight has been lifted yet – much of the weight was definitely caused by financial stress – but for whatever it’s worth, I am not as tired or quite as stressed. So yay for that.

I am also happy to report that last night, as I ran a purchase by my mom (fleece t-shirt quilt to use all my old tees) and talked about how much progress I am making with purging old clothes and my grandmother’s beanie babies, she sees genuinely happy for me. She encouraged me, congratulated me on my progress and asked thoughtful RV questions. I am so glad I got the telling her part out of the way to give her room to do her mom thing. She’s a good mom, even if she doesn’t always understand my way of thinking, and she’s usually right about things. 🙂

Handling Ross’ finances is proving to be exciting, in that we can try new things to pay down debt, but also disappointing in that there isn’t nearly as much room to trim our budgets as I’d like. So I need to get back to work for Judy and hustle some more lessons ASAP. My first north country voice student (minus a few vocal coaching sessions) is tomorrow, so I am looking forward to that.

It’s also hard to make frugal food purchases when you are trying to lose weight (both of us) and hoping your diet can help fix your body (me). I have been doing a great job so far – trying to keep my food budget to $30-40 per week – but Ross is buying a lot of his own food too…and it is just a lot of work to choose which fruits and veggies you can afford if you need a lot of dairy products, for instance. I know we will keep refining it though…lots of things will get easier when we are on the same schedule too.

The next step for Ross is promoting his solo album. Meanwhile, I need to not only make more money, but start getting on top of RV planning. Hoping we can set up an RV appointment this week for the spring.

That’s all I have for now. Thanks for reading!

The Money Machine

I’ve been thinking a lot about money. Mainly because my blog of the month reading has consisted of financial blogs – mostly Mr. Money Mustache, which I highly recommend if you are interested in getting serious about saving or even retiring early. 

For my entire adult life, I have considered myself to be succeeding if I was breaking even each month, with a little left for fun money. I have never made big bucks, but I  have always figured out a way to make things work…but likewise, even when I was making 45K or so a year, my expenses were so high (living solo, driving too many miles, etc.) that my savings rate was never great. 

When I went to graduate school, I really thought I could get a significant pay raise with my degree, so I thought 20K of debt was no problem and didn’t even bother trying to pay any of it off during school. After all, I didn’t have any undergraduate debt (thanks Mom and Dad!) so I was better off than many. 

Of course, I didn’t foresee struggling for over a year to find work in my field, settling for a boring desk job, and then taking a pay raise that was really a pay cut because it came with no health insurance or other benefits (besides vacation)…also, no opportunity for a raise…and very limited opportunities for my husband to find work nearby. 

And meanwhile, Ross’ amazing success story of going back to school, working in radio, building his own teaching studio etc. is not nearly as amazing when you realize how much debt he picked up at school….and a decent portion of it in private loans. 

So while Ross has payed off his credit card debt (!!!) and I have paid off my cat medical bill debt and I’m almost finished paying off my own medical bills thanks to charitable care, we still have a huge amount of debt between us. 

So my new obsession has become getting really serious about finances. Saving more and paying off debt will be the focus for the foreseeable future. And I am posting it here, for accountability. Ross and I have big dreams, dreams of achieving a level of financial independence where we only need to make 15K or so a year to live – which would let us pursue our creative projects with abandon. 

We will have to work very, very hard to get there. But thanks to Mr. Money Mustache, I believe it is actually possible. And if you want to contribute to the cause, let me know. 🙂 We have lots of skills to share. 

Poverty sucks, but Disney is awesome

Yeah, I know. My poverty revelation isn’t exciting. But the more I read and research, the more I realize that if Ross and I had previously been in comfortably middle class jobs, it would be FAR easier to do what we’re attempting to do. Seems obvious, of course, but if you make more money, you can save more money.

But I said I was going to focus on practicing thankfulness, so that’s what this next post will be about. And I am researching more ways that we can do more with what we have, even if we can’t, say, retire at 40.

I’m thankful that my doctors are taking me seriously. The rheumatologist hasn’t said anything enlightening yet, but I’m still hopeful.

I’m thankful that I have a supportive family who will back us up.

I’m thankful that I was offered a job for the summer, if I want it. It may turn out that that particular opportunity goes away due to some crazy circumstances, but I’m hopeful.

I’m thankful that Judy Pancoast has asked me to musically direct her Carpenters tour this fall. I’m hopeful that between that and our own work,  we can get an exciting schedule together.

I’m thankful that my church so appreciates my work that they gave me a nice Christmas bonus as well as a raise, before I’d even been there a year.

I’m thankful that my arts job gives me the flexibility to attend appointments.

I’m thankful for my husband. He makes it all worth it.

I’m thankful for a loving and relatively sane family.

And final thought for this moment? I’m thankful that due to the generosity of Ross’ sister and husband, we just got back from a one week escape from reality aka Disney World. Since they covered our tickets and housing, we just had to save for the flight and our incidental expenses and food. We enjoyed a much needed break from real life and had a truly marvelous time. It was so good for our relationship – and it got us really excited for RVing because we LOVED being together 24/7.

Life is good. Thanks for reading. Keep at it and I’ll talk to you soon.

Resolving to Kick Ass

It’s January 2nd, which means we’re in the season of New Year’s resolutions. I don’t normally make resolutions – although the idea of them is appealing, I’m definitely of the school that feels like they’re hard to keep, so I prefer to set goals on my own terms – and often privately – to avoid disappointment.

But there is something to be said for accountability, and I have a ton of respect for those who can make, and keep, resolutions. And given that one of my clear resolutions is to make more frequent updates to this blog, it feels appropriate to make the time to talk about my resolutions, as ethereal as I may feel they are in some cases, today.

#1 Take the time to practice thankfulness.

This is something I used to be awesome at. First of all, I’d thank God or whatever power there is at least once every day, almost without fail. I never in a million years thought I’d get worse at that, but I have – I tend to get caught up in my own thoughts and worries and not necessarily take the step of pausing and giving thanks.

One of my friends posts five things he is thankful for on Facebook every single year. I believe he’s entering year three of this discipline, which was intended to last a year only. It is so lovely and inspiring to see his thoughts in my feed each day. I don’t need to copy him, necessarily, but I want to do more to call out my own thankfulness.

As someone who is truly an optimist at heart, I have never struggled to acknowledge all that I’m grateful for. But being sick is really challenging me. If someone asks how I am doing, it is very hard for me to say yes and not feel like I’m lying – if I feel “good” today because I only had to lay down for a break once, does that mean that people will think I’m back to normal? And God forbid we find this is the new normal – I flirt with those ideas but I REALLY am not ready to accept that. So for all of these reasons, I need to be better about practicing thankfulness. I know that as our income drops and RV challenges begin, we will have some VERY challenging days. Better get in the habit now!

#2 Make the time for meditation and exercise.

When I had mono – which I have apparently officially kicked by the way, although a mystery chronic illness (involving fatigue) or two hasn’t been identified yet – I did as little activity as possible. Although I might stretch my legs or my arms, I chose to sit instead of stand, and to lie down instead of sit, as much as possible in order to get over the illness. But now that mono is behind me, exercise, at least gentle exercise, is probably good for me.

For instance, if I have endometreosis, exercise would be good – it actually can lessen the symptoms. And if I had chronic Lyme, for instance, gentle exercises like yoga would be good for me, although running or other more strenuous activities probably should be avoided.

What is crystal clear is that whatever I’m dealing with, my symptoms get infinitely worse when I’m dealing with high stress levels. And what’s my highest stressor currently? Work. Although I’m relatively stress-free playing the piano, just sitting at my desk to work I notice changes in my body. Since I’ve got at least another five months or so before I won’t be doing this job, I need to build in meditation, yoga and some gentle exercise so that I can get through all of this and be the better for it on the other side. This will be a good practice for the new stressors to come, of course.

Making the time to get outside is definitely a part of this – Ross and I took a nice walk yesterday and we both felt better afterwards. When we’re on the road it will be even easier to build the outdoors in. Can’t wait.

#3 Find the time and the energy to keep setting goals – and then make the time and space to work toward reaching them.

There are so many unknowns in our lives right now as we look forward. I’ve got a few possibilities on the horizon for this summer and fall, but so much is still a big ? as I plan. But despite the temptation to sit back and just wait for the time to pass, especially when I’m not feeling well, I know that that would be really foolish of me to do. Just a quick brainstorm tells me I have beanie babies to give away/sell (thanks Gram!), belongings to sort and give away, scores to scan, tour locations to scout, websites to write, set lists to create, and much more. So if I don’t keep setting goals, and perhaps even more importantly, working to reach them, June will arrive and we won’t be ready for it. (I bet a lot of you can relate in your own lives too!)

I’m sure I could make many more resolutions, but I think these are three great ones. And if anyone reading this wants voice or piano lessons, an accompanist, a baker or cook, or anything else that will help get us closer to our goals (resolution #3), please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Let’s all go kick some ass.

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Look Out World, Here We Come!

We did it! We totally are homeowners now. I was waiting to share the news until we had great inside photos, but that hasn’t happened yet so I will just go for it. (The photo below is of Ross and the RV – his dad took it.)

It is a 1986 model, and overall things went quite well. My mechanic had good feelings but couldn’t give it 100% without us getting a tuneup, but since those take weeks and Rainy didn’t want to wait that long, he offered us another $400 off which would probably cover a tuneup according to our mechanic. So for $4,600 we have an RV that is almost ready to pass an inspection. 🙂 And once the manifold leak is fixed, our mechanic will slap a sticker on it.

My dad and Karen loved it and were super-supportive, as have been our friends. (Thanks for letting us driveway sit, Nat, Anja and Mario!) Next up we register it – would have loved to wait, but the storage facility wants to see our registration – and then winterize it (Ross and dad gave it a shot but screwed something up…hopefully no damage was done, and the RV will be fine in the cold for a few more days) before we tuck it away for the winter. Wish we had more time to play with it, but we are allowed to visit it. 🙂

So if all goes according to plan – which it may not, of course – it goes into storage Saturday afternoon. It will be really nice to have all this complete and be able to move on. Planning what to pack will be so much easier knowing what our RV looks like!

Well, that is it for now. We have SO much to learn and because we did this as a low cost private sale, we will have to depend on RV repair places, friends and research to learn about our new purchase. But we are both so excited and I kind of feel like we could live in it without power if we had to. Just having something that is ours is so cool.

I also need to investigate insurance. I think it will be okay in storage empty but I should talk to the storage facility just in case.

Unfortunately my health is full of unknowns at the moment, but at least we have something to be excited about.

Until next time!

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Gearing Up for the Long Haul

Well, the long-shot job was just that, a long-shot, and it didn’t happen. Bad news for the part of me that was nervous about the craziness ahead, but great news for the part of me that is anxious to get on the road and do something different, and figure out what is next for us in this crazy life.

So I’ve been busy in the past few days now that I have a clear goal in sight again. I’ve created lots of spreadsheets, including touring locations, budgets (current and when we’re touring), charts comparing the advantages of a Class C vs. Class B vs. a glorified van, tips for traveling, a packing list (including both must haves and wants, to help us discern just how simply we can do this) and perhaps most importantly for right now, an outline of the money we’re making and how we can save over the next year and four months, if we want to stick to the plan. Which is the goal, of course. I have another job interview on Monday – this is for a local, part-time church gig. It pays well, I’m incredibly qualified for it, and they seem really nice – and perhaps most amazingly, it is practically always a one-day-a-week gig.

I figure if I can get this job, keep up my part-time freelancing for as long as that pays and help Ross get some steady employment for at least a year before we leave (enough that he can sock a little money away and help a little with expenses would be perfect), we can save a LOT of money. If some of those things don’t happen, it will be harder – and in particular, if something doesn’t change quickly, we’re in trouble, as we’re currently losing $300-$500/month.

But I absolutely know we can do this, and boy, it sure seems easier to motivate myself to work (and give up some of the fun stuff) when there is clear goal and start date for the new adventure on the other side! I hope we can both keep each other motivated and be willing to make the tough choices. Ross is almost done his EP (whoo-hoo!) which will give him some extra time to devote to making money in the arts, getting the business side of things up and running and whatever else needs doing to make this thing happen.

So far I think the toughest part is keeping all of this to myself for the most part. I’m seeing big changes in store for the theater (in all likelihood, we’ll stop everything but the tours and special events, like wine dinners, after 2015) so that Ross and I can do awesome things like write shows and record CDs together. Worth it? I definitely think so!

Feeling really thankful for all of the amazing blogs and articles out in the world to help us with the planning. Will have lots of resources to share here in the coming months.

Oh, and did I mention we’re going to Disney in January for our wedding present from Ross’ sister and husband? Cannot wait. One more thing to save for, of course, but we can do this.

Thanks for reading!

Feeling Groovy

Okay, maybe not Groovy, exactly. But certainly healthier than I was a couple of weeks ago. Today I have a “preliminary” interview for that long shot job opportunity. Still a long shot? Absolutely. But it will be good for me to have a conversation that looks ahead.

The minuses if I were to get this job are obvious – no motorhome tour, at least right away, we’d have to move to a city that at least on the surface wouldn’t be our favorite thing, and I’d have all the typical challenges of becoming a teacher.

The pluses? A built in simplified life that combines my theater work and my need for income (at least for as long as I can keep it that simple) and maybe even a summer vacation, which would make returning to Canada for regular visits more feasible. Not to mention good benefits and a clear next step.

In any case, it’s got me thinking more about teaching and how much I like it. Whatever the ending is, I’m sure teaching will be a part of my work moving forward. Wish I had weeks to devote to cleaning and organizing my life – so much to do, so little time!

My groovy feeling usually involves rainbows -I love them – and my closet is oddly becoming less of a rainbow than it used to be. Why? Well, I’m realizing that my favorite ways to dress now involve a color palette that lets me interchange clothes and dress easily. So I think when I’m done decluttering, my goal is to have two palettes, with only an occasional dress or shirt to mess with the vibe. The colors? Probably blacks (for theater and music, of course) and brown/pink/purple/tans, which has become my go-to and I absolutely love it with my complexion and my vibe. We shall see if this holds, but I think the writing is on the wall.

Have a groovy day!