There is a great big world out there and I haven’t seen most of it! I intend to do my best to change that.
First Let’s Back Up
I’ve been to some pretty cool places in my life. Many I’ve visited multiple times and some I’ve been to once but could have spent much longer there than I did. I don’t have any regrets related to my world travels so far, however. On the contrary, I feel lucky to have been where I’ve been. We’ve been lucky to tag along with family often that took us to places we would not have normally known about (or even been able to go to on our own). With “life” happening every single day, travel has not really been a priority for us most of the time. We started our family at a young age, and I’ve had my hands full raising 4 kids and working to keep us all alive.
The last kid is a senior in high school which is going to leave us at home with a lot less responsibility and a lot more time. An empty nest shared with the love of my life coupled with an old man in his mid-40s (and likely in some weird mid-life crisis of sorts) had my mind working overtime.
Life Is Short
Somewhere in the past year or two, I wondered how long I had left on this rock. I know the answer to that is completely unknown like most things in life. That said a pretty decent guess can be derived using available statistics and information. I used a decent website and answered a bunch of information about my health, habits, social relationships, etc. and it spits out that I’ll live until 87. I could get wiped off the map this afternoon when a texting driver runs me over on my bike. This could happen, but statistically, I have a longer rope. Right now, I have a little less than half my life left. I have always gone about my days with the mentality that each day is traded for something. You wake up each day and go to sleep each night having traded those hours for something…I hope it was worth it! Life is a precious asset that depreciates a little each day and could go poof anytime. What did this little exercise do for me? It upped my sense of urgency related to making sure I am thinking about my plan…don’t waste the days, weeks, months and years that you are granted.
There Is A Lot To See
The world is a vast place especially given the relatively short time we all have available to explore it. I am not a wandering spirit at all. I am a “take care of business first” person. Once the work is done and everything is squared away then it is time to do other less necessary things. I’ve spent most of my early years (and many would argue the best years) taking care of my business. Again, I don’t regret a minute of any of it. I’ve raised my kids and had a great career and enjoyed all that. BUT…on the last few family vacations, I kept thinking “this place is great; I could use another few weeks here to see it all”. I’ve also noticed that I don’t like going to the same place over and over. Been there done that! With little time and a lot of the world left to see this must be the mindset, I think. I’ve always had this mindset in most things. For me part of the enjoyment in most things is just learning something that I’ve not been exposed to before. Once I’ve learned it time to move on. I’m a checklist kind of guy. I make my checklist to accomplish my goal and check things off until I reach my goal. Rinse/Repeat. I can see how this translates into a travel checklist.
Collecting Experiences Not Stuff
You can’t take it with you! My thoughts on what matters and what doesn’t matter have changed over the years. Life throws things at each of us which shape this for each of us. At the moment, I’m in the “it is just stuff” camp. I have very little use for much of anything that doesn’t directly support my current goal. The less stuff I own the less I must worry about (and pay for). I need coffee in the morning, food, clothes, a bike, a computer device with access to the internet, and a roof to live under that has water, sewer, and electricity (because I’m fancy like that). A few other things make life enjoyable but are not required for me to make it and remain happy. This has not always been the case. I’ve never been too terribly concerned with what anyone else thought of me and wouldn’t consider myself materialistic. That said I did believe I had to provide a certain level of “stuff” for the family and needed a certain “number” in accounts to be comfortable (or is it safe/secure). A significant sum of energy was devoted over the years to it. Again, I don’t regret it and I’m not sure much, if any, of that energy was a waste. But like so many other things…been there done that! When I was a young lad of high school age, I had a vision of what I thought a successful grown-up life would look like. I feel like I got there! I’m thankful for that and although I worked hard, I know I am fortunate to have what I have and to be where I am today. I also know that I don’t want the energy I currently devote to be devoted to the same things in the future that they’ve been devoted to in the past. Just like when I was in high school, as I sit now and think about what I think a successful life looks like a couple of decades into my future I have an idea of what it looks like. The difference in young Joey and old Joey is the amount of “stuff” I see. I hear people talk about collecting experiences and not stuff. Over my life the things I’ve cherished the most are experiences I’ve shared with friends and family. The things I’ve cherished the least are the stuff. In fact, many times the stuff has kept me from the former. That’s a double whammy! YUCK!
All these little thought seeds have culminated in where I sit today.
As I thought about how Emily and I might like to spend significant amounts of time in “other” locations. I began to kick around ideas. What if we just hop on a plane and go wherever we want to go whenever we want to go? That would work fine except that most of the places I want to go it won’t work (because planes don’t fly there). Also, you still must stay somewhere and be able to move around while there. What if we just moved to a new place every few years, see everything around there, then move again? That would work better but there are some major logistics to that equation. Back to the drawing board.
Operation Scale Down! I knew that for a variety of reasons I no longer needed the old family house and most of the stuff that was in it. Some of the reasons had to do with the desire to travel and others where purely logistical and financially related. Regardless, for me, everything was pointing the same direction…downsize! Get rid of it and get rid of the stuff! This was harder for Emily than for me. She is all sentimental and stuff?!!? Ha! I could have taken a gas can and a match and dealt with most everything and been fine. I appreciated the past and cherished the memories our family had made there, and in other places, over 25ish years. I was more excited about the future and what it held. Life is lived looking forward and backward…but mostly forward. I think she knew it was the right thing for us, but she definitely had more doubts throughout the process. As we talk now (about a year later) we think it is weird how foreign that life seems to us now. My only requirement for where I lived was it had to be 1) a short bike ride to the Warner Parks and 2) had to be a condo. We achieved both when Emily found us a little condo near the park that was only a few doors down from where she lived growing up. A few renovations to bring it into the current decade and here we are. We also now own two Subaru cars (like her family did when she was living there before). She has come full circle!
Over the past year, I’ve done lots of “spreadsheeting” as Emily calls it. I was trying to figure out was important to us and not important to us related to travel/life. What are things we care about in our daily life, and when we travel? What are things we don’t give a hoot about? How do those things impact the costs and how do we solve that?
Things I Care About When Travelling/Living:
- My Bike/Hiking Access – Having my bike and places to ride/hike.
- Coffee – Having hot, high quality, coffee every morning. You might think silly…I think not!
- A Place To Sleep – Without bed bugs, please.
- A Place To Shower – Warm shower, please.
- A Place To Toilet – So fancy!?!
- Being Warm/Cool & Bug-Free – AC in the Summer, heat in the Winter and no bugs all the time.
- Being Safe/Secure – Protections from bad guys, animals, elements, acts of God.
- Location – Being able to spend enough time in places that I normally wouldn’t get to AND visiting places I normally wouldn’t get to.
- New Sights/Destinations – This matters way more to me more than going to the same place over and over.
- Internet Access – Communication with family, work access, entertainment access (books, shows, movies…oh and Clash of Clans?!?!).
- Dude Where’s My Car? – Having a mode of transportation with me once there.
- Family/Friends – Having the ability to have people join us on trips (if/when they want to and are available).
- Cost/ROI – If not traveling a lot then it doesn’t make sense to ‘invest’ in traveling (just fly/rent).
Things I Don’t Care About When Travelling/Living:
- Lodging – Where I stay (nice house/hotel room). We aren’t there anyway because we are going to be out exploring. We just need a place to sleep for a few hours. I think if you’ve seen one fancy house/hotel you’ve seen them all.
- Food – We eat out every day anyway, so we’ll just do the same while traveling. We will want to do this when travelling most likely anyway to experience the local fare.
- Social Circles – Hell, we might see more people, more often than we do now while traveling.
Things That Make Travel Hard/Cost Prohibitive (And Maybe Impossible):
- Air Travel – We have to get where you are going (if they even go there). I generally hate flying because it adds too many logistics and constraints that I’d rather not endure.
- Car Rental – We have to have a way to move around once there. This is easier these days than it used to be. That said I’m not sure of the availability of rideshares at the National Parks we’ll be visiting?!?!
- Lodging – We have to have a place to stay. We stayed in a hotel a few years ago that had bed bugs in it and Emily now goes into full hazmat mode anytime we hit a new lodging environment. This adds such flavor to our stays!
- Time – We must get everything crammed in while there (burning all of the above every day along the way).
- Disconnected – Regular life is back at home and we will not be able to get certain things done when not home (maybe).
- Work/Income – If our jobs require us to be somewhere specific to do them then we can’t be AWOL.
That There Is An RV… – Cousin Eddie
Cousin Eddie had a ‘really nice’ RV…why can’t DEANO?!?! I had always had a grand vision of packing all the kids up and going on a big RV trip. We never did it. I never could rally the troops. I guess we/they had watched the movie ‘RV’ a few too many times and they had little faith in their dear old Dad. More and more, however, Emily and I moving into an RV for a good part of our life started to look like a winning solution that would check a lot of boxes. From an ROI standpoint, it doesn’t make sense to dive into owning an RV (and living the RV lifestyle) until you are going to be on enough trips to break even. We are not to that point yet in our life, so this gives me plenty of time to research, plan, think, rethink, and best of all spreadsheet. That sounds like pure Deano nirvana!
In our research, we are leaning heavily toward an RV Trailer (and to pull it with a truck). My Subaru WRX won’t really pull a trailer?!? So, we’ll need to get rid of it and get a truck. We’ll also need an RV Trailer…duh. We’ve put together a plan that will get us on the road and seeing things that we’ve never seen before without all that, however. This will also begin to immerse us into getting out of the house and on the road. I’m excited about the plan and the stages in it. We can adjust things to progress faster or slower as things play out…but time is ticking!
|STAGE 1 – Car Trips||Crosstrek/No RV||Plan car trips and stay in hotels (if needed). This option is cheaper until > 4 weeks per year are spent on driving trips or > 1 week per year flying. At that point, the RV travel trailer is the next best option available.|
|STAGE 2 – RV Test Run||Truck/Rental RV Trailer||Rent a few options and stay in them to see what we like/don’t like. Make 2 or 3 smaller trips to make sure the RV Trailer is the best option for us.|
|STAGE 3 – RV Trips Local||Truck/RV Trailer||Pick an option (maybe not full tilt expense wise) and travel locally (in/around TN) several times per year. Starts making sense to buy trailer if > 4 weeks per year (driving) or > 1 week per year flying.|
|STAGE 4 – RV Full Time||Truck/RV Trailer||Once we have all the equipment and have some experience, we’ll extend the geographic range, length of stays, and time commitment (and maybe go full tilt).|
What Are Our Goals?
My priorities are to see ‘outdoor’ things (to hike and bike). I’m much less inclined to go to cities and ‘man-made’ attractions. I feel like most of that is ‘seen one / seen them all’. This isn’t true but I figure we’ll hit many of those anyway while en route to the outdoor things that we are setting out to see. I’m sure there are all kinds of people who would say if you’ve seen one hill/waterfall/forest you’ve seen them all. But this is my plan, so I don’t care what they say! Ha!
To start seeing these types of things while also following our staged plan we will start in Nashville and expand our geographic range outward as time goes on. To do this we’ll set out to:
See All The City Parks (Nashville) – Emily and I have hit all/most of these over the years. Our favorites are Percy Warner, Edwin Warner, Radnor, and Beaman. If I had to pick an absolute favorite, I’d say Percy Warner is my all-time favorite city park. It has everything this man needs; mountain biking, road biking, hiking, road running, trail running, tons of hills and owls!!! It is amazing to have such large outdoor space literally a short bike ride away from our front door.
See All The Tennessee State Parks – Tennessee has 57 state parks. I’ve been to several but haven’t been to all of them. I also have not fully explored the ones I’ve been to. The whole point of all this is to see things and do things I’ve never done before so we will hit all 57 of them. We’ll explore until our heart is content and then move on to the next one. Some will be quick (measured in hours) and others might take several trips or multiple days to take everything in. There are 20 or so that should be simple day trips from Nashville (or overnight trips) that will fit easily into Stage 1. Some of the parks that are farther East and West might fit into later Stages. I figure this will take us a few years to accomplish. This goal lets us test everything out and get our legs underneath us to see if the RV life is really for us before we hit the open road.
See Top State Parks Across US – While we are traveling the country (to see all the National Parks, Monuments and Memorials) we’ll hit all the state parks that interest us along the way.
See All The National Parks (and Monuments and Memorials) – The United States has 61 national parks. I’ve been to only a couple of these so far. This is THE goal. It will take many years to accomplish this goal but if fully accomplished I believe it will be very satisfying and quite an accomplishment. There are also many more National Monuments along the way (and National Memorials). We’ll hit those too!
See All The States (and a TON of Cities) – As we explore the US we will surely visit every state at some point (and many, many cities). We’ll keep track of them and force rank our favorite ones along the way!
See Canada – We’ve hit a few spots in Canada already and will likely hit a few others before we get to this goal. But once we see the entire US we’ll go north and see that big old country. It looks like my kind of place!
RV The World – Pick a spot on the globe and do the same thing. We can rent/buy an RV once we get there and do the same thing on other continents. This is obviously a large commitment and an extreme end of the full-time RV endeavor.
How Does One “Collect” Experiences?
So, what is all this yamin’ and yawin’ about?!?! Why have I just spent a couple of hours of my life writing all this down?!?! Who in the heck cares and is going to read this?!?! The short answer is I don’t know. I’m positive no one will give a hoot about any of this except me. BUT…
I have always collected “things” and kept a list of things as a hobby. It is easy for me to come up with a system for collecting “things” but how does one “collect experiences”? Now that I have decided to divest of most of the “things” and start focusing on “collecting experiences” this is a problem I need a solution to. I am going to need a system that will allow me to keep track of it all. When I’m old and unable to do much else I’ll be able to look back on my life and relive/reminisce about what is hopefully a life well-lived.
I’ve always done a pretty decent job of maintaining the Dean Family Archives. We have many, many GBs of video (and thousands of pictures) of all our family adventures over the 25+ years. I have a lot of experience with video and video editing. It is a fun hobby, but it takes a lot of time. But if you wind up with a video that encapsulates a point in time or experience well it is a great way to remember a moment.
I am going to create a website (the cool kids call it a blog/vlog) where I’ll keep track of all this. This will allow me to catalog/organize/obsess every little detail of all the adventures of this man! Thus, today I launch www.DeanoRolls.com
I fully expect I will be the only regular visitor to this site and that is fine. I will share when I post to it and if you want to read something or watch a video please do. I’d love to hear your related experiences as well.