So What Next?

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been asked “so, what’s next?” in the past week or so that I have been stuck at home waiting for my car to be fixed. So many times that I’ve started to feel impatient. Everyone thinks you have to be DOING something, and working a 40+ hour week, and they just don’t get it.

See, I left and started these travels because I realized deep in my soul that there is no way we were created to just earn money, working jobs that don’t fulfill us, so that by the time we retire and can MAYBE enjoy that money, we are too old and too tired to do anything about it. I also started this because I have absolutely no clue what’s next. I stayed in a job that was definitely not what I was called to do for 6.5 years so that I could help care for my parents. I would do it again a thousand times over. But now it’s my time.

I have been calling 2019 my selfish year. I was listening to a podcast before I started traveling and they said something that really struck me. They said “whatever your gift is, your first customer is you.”. They quoted Frederick Beuchner “find that place where your deepest gladness and the worlds hunger meets.”. And I am not sure what my gift is. I’m not sure where my deepest gladness lies. But I do know that I need to be my customer right now. Selfish. I can always make more money. But I can’t make more time.

So, instead of continuing to sit with people who ask the question that assumes we all have to work and not enjoy life, and instead of moping about because my car is broken and I can’t pull my camper, I found an AirBNB at the beach that’s pet friendly. (Super huge score that it even has a fenced in yard!) And I threw a pair of flip flops, some shorts and my paddle board in the trunk of the rental car, loaded up the dogs, and headed to the sun and sand and salt again. Because I do know one thing, when I’m on the water and I’m out in nature, I can think and breathe. And maybe figure out what next.

But until I do, I’m going to continue to immerse myself in nature, stay active and live my life. The dogs don’t seem to mind where we are or what we do. As long as they are with me. Honestly, people should take lessons from them.

#sowhatnext #selfishyear #beyourowncustomer #travel #adventure #wanderlust #hippiegirl #sup #threedogsandablog #lessonsfromadog #makingmemoriesallovertheworld

You’re Never as Far From Home as You Think

Saturday was my last day in Florida before I had to head back towards home to get my car repaired. I had already packed up my paddle board, but I had several hours before I had to check-out of my camp site, so I decided to rent a kayak to get just a little more time out on the water. (Also, my paddle board had dumped me the day before and I had seen 3 alligators, so there’s that too.)

I have kayaked before and I have to admit, I’ve never really understood the draw of it. I don’t love it. I have never found it enjoyable and could never really get the rhythm down, but I thought I’d try again. But as I was paddling, I found myself just absolutely fighting the wind and the water to make any headway. I was getting so frustrated and I was thinking I just don’t understand why anyone does this. So after about 40 minutes of frustrated paddling, I stopped. I sat there and was still and quiet. The song Peace Be Still started running through my head. “The winds and the waves shall obey His will”…

This isn’t a religious post, but a lot of the point of the journey I’m on is for me to find myself again. To learn to breathe and just be still. As I sat there, not fighting, just being still and breathing, the winds started slowly and gently turning me back in the direction I had started, back towards “home”. I let this happen, and when I finally started paddling again it was amazing how easy it was to go in that direction. I got in to a good rhythm. And I was truly surprised to see that I hadn’t even made it that far away with all my stubborn fighting. It was easy to make it back.

I guess my point is, you are never as far away from home, or your true self, as you think you are. If you stop fighting and being so bloody stubborn and in control all the time, and just sit still and breathe, you’ll find the journey is much easier. You’ll get pointed in the right direction. You are never too far away to make it back to where you really need to be.

#bestill #breathe #travel #journey #wanderlust #hippiegirl #threedogsandablog #makingmemoriesallovertheworld

Off the Grid

During this last week, I found myself off the grid. The day I was supposed to be leaving the Florida Keys, my debit card was compromised. Praise the Lord that I check my account daily (OCD) and that I bank with a Credit Union that gets that handled super fast. I decided to extend my stay in the Keys, and ended up at a site that was still rebuilding after the hurricane and had no WiFi. They basically had no cell coverage to speak of, and to stay in contact with the world, I had to leave my little island. Turns out I didn’t miss it much and didn’t want to leave my island, so I was off the grid.

During these few days I was able to spend time out on the water with new friends who had a pontoon boat and it was so calm and perfect. But I also lost my voice. Pretty funny if you think about it. Go incommunicado and end up losing your ability to speak. Kind of makes me think I was put off the grid on purpose.

The day I did end up leaving the Keys, I really didn’t want to go. I wanted to extend my time even longer, but I thought I really needed to head in the direction of home. I planned to go as far as Tampa, but what should have been a 4-5 hour trip took 7 hours because of road work and other road delays. I was seriously considering going back off the grid (thinking I should have just stayed) but I was only 15 miles from my destination and I felt like I was home free. Then a driver blew through an intersection and t-boned my car and swiped the camper too. (I’m fine and the dogs are fine, so don’t worry over that.) But that accident extended the drive another 2 hours and left me stuck with a limping vehicle and trying to get it driveable so I can make it back to Birmingham.

This has been an amazing trip and experience so far. This last week has just conspired against me quite a bit. And I know that’s how life works. I won’t let it stop me. And I won’t let it stop this journey. But it does make me want to stay off the grid. It’s quiet and peaceful there.

#offthegrid #travel #wanderlust #threedogsandablog #hippiegirl #florida #makingmemoriesallovertheworld

Quicksand

A friend suggested I should blog more about the humorous aspects of my journey and the growing pains I’ve experienced. And since I started my day by losing my shoes in something similar to marshy quicksand while trying to get to the bay to watch the sunrise, inspiration hit. And since in true Stephanie fashion I didn’t beat a hasty retreat when my first foot sunk, and I decided to keep trying to walk, I’m now short a pair of flip flops. But you can buy those anywhere down here in the Keys, so life is good.

There’s been no shortness of klutziness. A small, one room space with 3 good sized dogs is hard enough, but throw me in the mix and…let’s just say there should be an award for klutz of the year and I would win it. Things like this…get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and don’t turn on a light because those are on the ceiling and it’s hard. Raise the toilet lid (and the seat comes up too), sit completely in the toilet bowl, jump back up and slam forehead into the door frame in front of you because the space is so small.

I’ve banged my head on the outdoor awning twice because I forget it’s there. (Friend who suggested this blog, and my sister have both said I need a helmet, so you can hold your jokes.) I have a scrape under my chin from smacking myself trying to collapse my foldable bicycle. Add an injured big toe on my left foot from tripping over a curb walking my dogs to the kennel area in the dark at 5:30am, a bruise on my right knee from the fancy new hitch on my car, bruise and burn on my left shin from when Sassy pulled on (and escaped from) the lead that was attached to the picnic table where I was sitting, and a bruise of an unknown origin on my left bicep.

I learned the hard way to bungee the cabinets shut during towing because when we parked at one location I had 100 K-cups and about as many plastic forks and other food stuffs all over the camper. I nearly got blown off the bridge riding my bike across it get to the beach (because I thought that would be easier), and worked harder than I’ve ever had to work to keep the wake from pulling me and my SUP through the drawbridge waterway. When I got to my latest destination I had a water connection problem and had water all in the camper floor to clean up, and a connection to fix. (I’m becoming quite the handyman. Could probably hire myself out.) I sleep on the twin sized convertible banquet because the dogs have taken over the queen sized bed.

And I am super content and am learning to breathe. And I still got to see my sunrise over the RV park.

#quicksand #roadtrip #growingpains #travel #wanderlust #threedogsandablog #hippiegirl #klutz #rvlife #makingmemoriesallovertheworld

Adapt and Overcome

We’ve been on the road for a week and the best way to describe it so far is “you live and learn”. We pulled in to Dothan, AL the first evening, 2 hours behind schedule. I got away from home later than intended and then Lola took a poop in the back of the Explorer about 80 miles down the road. Poor girls nerves were shot. So when I got to Dothan it was dark and I had never fully “set up camp” before. It was cool enough, and there was a really nice bathroom on site so I thought I would just hook up to power and then deal with water in the morning, since it was also raining . Well, the lights worked but the microwave and the outlets wouldn’t. I could do without the microwave but not without my coffee. I just knew the RV service department had done something when they had it this past week and I was going to have to call them the next morning. I’ll be honest and say I sat on the floor and had a minor meltdown and considered just turning around and heading home. There’s coffee there. But about 2 hours later I decided to try again and started checking things out. The breakers in the power box where we plug in were turned off. Something as simple as that nearly sent me packing. Now, that’s the first thing I check at each site.

The next morning started super early with the dogs needing to go out. In the rain. Again. I went ankle deep in a puddle of water that I couldn’t see at 5:40 AM. I went through 3 pair of socks in the first 12 hours of this experience. Second lesson learned, pack A LOT of socks when you’re living the RV life. I also didn’t turn the heat on before I went to bed and it was 42 outside when we woke up. Another lesson, always check the weather. And Lola has never gone to the bathroom on a leash, and I had 7100 steps by 8:00 AM just trying to get her to go. I learned super quick to search out dog parks in the areas near where we set up. Dog parks have been a life saver. The dogs get worn out quickly and you meet people who are always willing to talk to you and help you out. One person told me about an app called #BringFido. I immediately downloaded it and now I can easily find dog friendly places nearby. Also, notice the first photo. Leroy and Lola are total divas and have decided they will only eat while LAYING on the bed. Lola even goes so far as to have me put piles on the bed and not in the bowl. Not sure what it says about me that I put up with it, but until she gets more used to gypsy life, you do what you gotta do.

More learning experiences the second day. I broke a plastic piece that locks the water valve cover on the outside of the camper. There was a RV store right next to the RV site (very smart of them to build there) and they had the part I needed. Granted they tried to talk me in to trading my camper in and just buying a new camper from them, but I was able to fix it myself and I also fixed the clothes rod in the front closet that had broken because I put too many jackets on it. Watch out DIY channel, I’m coming for ya. (I also brought way too many clothes, but that’s another story. )

We left Dothan and headed to Ocala, FL. Most of you know that I inadvertently booked a 55+ RV park for my nights there but the people were amazing. And I’m glad I did because it was right behind an auto mechanic place and the AC compressor went out in my car. Thank goodness for extended warranties and for my folding bicycle. I used the bike to get around while the car was being fixed, and the warranty saved my $600. Since I’ve had 3 problems with this car in less than 6 months, I’m going to be looking for something else when I’m back in Birmingham. Y’all keep your eyes open for something for me. Maybe a diesel because gas mileage sucks when towing a camper.

My third stop was St. Augustine. I backtracked a little, but I really wanted to visit. The RV park was amazing with a lot of longterm people there. And thank goodness everyone at these sites is super helpful because this was my first back-in parking spot. And they pack these lots together like sardines. A man from New York walked over and offered to be my eyes. And thank goodness for that or I might still be trying to park. Helpful people. Friendly people. People with dogs. The old person with dog thing came in super handy when Sassy broke out of her collar and ran after one of them. But instead of playing her usual game of catch me if you can, she just ran right up to an old man with a cane and leaned against his leg for some loving. caught her quickly. Getting my heart rate back down to normal took longer. There are so many dogs in RV parks. It’s good for them because it gets them exercise and companionship, and it also gets them out being social. It’s serving to further my belief that I need to do something with animals and older people. I’m going to think on that one. This particular park also had a “fitness center”. So while I was doing my laundry I went old school and got in a little workout on some machines.

Before I left St. Augustine I met Erica. She has a Retro camper like mine, and is also traveling solo with 1 dog and 2 cats. She initially set out to travel for 2 months after she lost her job, and has now been doing it for 8. She’s also headed to the Keys and we exchanged contact information. People overall are super nice and good, if you only approach them with the thought that they are. Everyone will help if you just ask, and people will always have a conversation with you if you are willing to slow down and take the time.

Some final lessons learned in the first week: – you don’t have to lock your camper door every single time you step foot outside of it. People are good. – When living this life, you can’t keep your floors clean. No matter how hard you try. Or get your bed made up good and proper. Get over yourself Martha Stewart. It’s just dirt. – Coffee just tastes better when made in a percolator. Thanks Dad for that one. – And finally, every single pair of pants or shorts you own need to have pockets in them. Trust me on this one.

Help Me Rhonda

Seems that I haven’t posted in a while. In a long while. I think maybe I was ashamed. Ashamed that I felt I had bitten off more than I could chew with Myrtle. Ashamed that I realized I was in over my head trying to refurbish her. Ashamed to say that I ended up selling her to someone who had the time and talent to give her the loving care she deserved.

I read a book by Brene Brown titled Daring Greatly. It is an amazing book about vulnerability, and shame. And how shame keeps us from being vulnerable and growing outside our comfort zones. So here I am. Unashamed. Speaking my vulnerability. I sold Myrtle. I bought a brand spanking new camper. One that will be safe and reliable while I’m on the road.

And oh yes. I’m still going out on the road. That was another thing that was a long time coming. Truth was I began to wonder if I was ever going to make it out there. But here we are, 2 days away from a week long vacation. And about 10 days away from hitting the road. I am scared to death. And I am so excited. I know no great things come from comfort zones. And it’s time to find that next great thing.

So buckle up. Sassy, Leroy, Lola and I are finally about to start this adventure. And the new camper? Well, I think I’m going to call her Rhonda. My parents loved music, and Help Me Rhonda just popped in my head the other morning when I was doing some work on her. And I know she’s going to help me.

#midlifecrisis #adventure #findyourself #helpmerhonda #makingmemoriesallovertheworld #comfortzones #wanderlust #daringgreatly #hippiesoul

Comfort Food

I was on my way home from Dothan tonight, and I stopped at a gas station. I made a quick drive down to pay respects and give support to my best college girlfriend. She lost her husband over the weekend. He was 48. Way, way too young.

While I was in the gas station I saw a can of Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup. I nearly spent $2.67 on a can I could buy at a regular grocery store for about half that. I wanted comfort food. I wanted to walk in my house when I got back home and make some red soup and a cooked up cheese sandwich. That’s what our Mom called it when we were growing up. Not tomato soup and grilled cheese. But red soup and cooked up cheese. And it stuck.

And I wanted it. But what I really wanted was comfort. There’s been too much loss lately. And no can of soup was going to give me that comfort. So I put it back on the shelf and headed on my way.

But thanks to that little diversion, I was able to witness this gorgeous sunset over an equally gorgeous pasture full of grazing cows. (You’ll have to take my word on that last part. I basically stopped in the middle of a 4 lane highway to take this picture. It was the best I could do.) But I got my comfort. I got some beauty. I got a huge smile on my face. And it didn’t cost me anything but just a little time.

#comfortfood #redsoup #cookedupcheesesandwiches #campbells #sunsets #midlifecrisis