That’s Not a RV, That’s a House!

Just for fun, we went to a RV show on Saturday. It was a gloomy day anyway and the event was being held indoors, so we thought it might be a nice way to pass the morning. In 2015, we casually strolled through a similar show in Florida and had a great time looking at all of the unique camping vehicles on display, from tiny Teardrops to respectable size motorhomes, and everything in between. The Middle Tennessee RV Show was not at all like that. Instead, I thought we landed in the RV version of Nashville’s Parade of Homes (and paid $10 apiece to get there!).

It took a minute for us to switch gears upon entering the show. We had halfway expected the Universe to answer our recurring question of “should we give full-time RVing a try again” by presenting us with the perfect vehicle – solar powered, decent storage, queen-sized bed, modest bathroom, and plenty of space for the cat; all compacted into something the size of a cargo van. Instead, the Universe smacked us in the face with reality. These weren’t your average recreational vehicles or even wannabe tiny houses. These were penthouse apartments on wheels!

I can honestly say, I’ve never seen such luxury in a recreational vehicle in all my life. There were travel trailers with media rooms to seat 8 people comfortable in leather recliners. There were 5th wheels with slide-out kitchens the size of our bedroom. One even had a 6’ x 8’ granite kitchen island and an oversize side-by-side refrigerator freezer (stainless steel, in case you were wondering). More than one trailer had 4 televisions. Several had fireplaces. And one even had a garage. Yes, a garage beneath the master bedroom that would hold a golf cart or quite possibly our Chevy Spark.

After adjusting our expectations, we had a great time pretending we were rich. We sat in the media rooms. We sprawled across the beds. We opened the refrigerators and imagined them filled with food. We flicked on fireplaces. We walked into the walk-in closets. We turned on the TV in the outdoor kitchen and grabbed a pretend soda from the mini-fridge.

How cute is this??

On the way out, just on the outskirts of the show, we saw something that really didn’t fit with the rest of the offerings. It was so small, we thought it might actually be a pet camper. Nope, it was a travel trailer called the E-Pro 12RK. It was so cute! Totally impractical for full-time living but absolutely adorable nonetheless. It’s basically a bed and a kitchen. We wanted to get a better look at it without attracting a salesman but that’s didn’t happen. Mr. Salesman gave us his standard pitch – how it only weighs 1,200 pounds and can be towed by anything and is the perfect entry-level camper for folks who are new to camping.

We both spontaneous burst into laughter. We’ve slept in a 2-man tent with a dog and a cat while crossing the country from Denver to Tampa. We’ve held down a dome tent, from the inside, in a Florida windstorm. We’ve gone to sleep with it 70 degrees outside, only to wake up with icicles inside our tent the next morning. We’ve shared accommodations with lizards, ants, flies, and mosquitoes in a vintage travel trailer named Scotty. We’ve gotten locked in a KOA Kamping Kabin. And once we even spent the night curled up in our Spark. And those are just the fun times. I think we could teach Intro to Camping.

When we left the RV show, we went to the nearest park for a picnic lunch. We sat alone in our little tiny car contemplating the future and again pondering the question of road-tripping in a RV. Maybe someday, we concluded, just not right now and that’s okay. There are plenty of other adventures we have yet to try before returning to something we have. As we sat there dreaming aloud and passing a bowl of grapes back and forth, I couldn’t help but think about the simpler things in life – the grapes, the picnic, the fun we had playing make-believe at the RV show, and I realized, how very little it takes to be truly happy.

Food Waste Update

This was a huge week for food rescue. We happened by the store when they were tossing out spiral sliced hams and oranges by the bag full. We took home 3 hams to distribute to families in need and 69 oranges. 

  • Wasted Food this week: 0 ounces
  • Total Wasted Food in 2018: 38 ounces
  • Rescued Food this week:  85.22 US pounds
  • Total Food Rescued this year:  184.39 US pounds

Keep up with our food finds in real time by viewing our Food Find Gallery.

Lessons from our 2017 Happiness Project

2017 was the year of the “Happiness Project”. When we conceived this idea more than a year ago, we were at a place in our lives where we were struggling to stay true to our own wants and needs. We were surrounded by new people, in a new place, and it seemed that everywhere we turned someone wanted something from us. All. The. Time. It was more than a little bit overwhelming.

Our goal for 2017 was to reconnect with the things that made us happy and find balance in how we dealt with our new responsibilities to family. The first thing that I did to kickstart the project was to cut my work schedule by one day a week. This allowed for some much-needed space in my schedule to focus on what really mattered.

Our second step was to make a list of all the things that made us happy. That list looked something like this:

  • Travel
  • Enjoying quiet time together reading, writing, coloring, or watching TV
  • Being outdoors
  • Letterboxing
  • Being resourceful – figuring out how to do things for ourselves
  • Saving money and finding bargains/freebies
  • Cooking and/or trying new foods

Around this list, we crafted goals and set about the mission of finding our happiness again. For the most part, it worked. We spent a lot of time outdoors this year – camping, hiking, letterboxing, swimming, gardening, and hanging out in our hammocks. We traveled. We read (64 books between the two of us). We watched a lot of documentaries, learning new and fascinating ideas around the things we were already interested in (like plant-based eating, food waste, and living with less). We even began entertaining the idea of sticking around Tennessee for a while, perhaps reconsidering the notion of a tiny house. And don’t even get me started on freebies! I swear, our list of found foods has grown to the point that I may have to take a full day off just to categorize and tally it all. Who would have thought that we’d find so much food?? Then again, who would have thought at the beginning of 2017 that scouring the dumpster of the grocery store next door would be something that would make both of us really happy.

But happiness is like that. It comes in the most unexpected forms. When you chase it, you are likely not to find it at all. When you just do your own thing without regard to where it is, well…that’s when happiness likes to sneak up on you most.

Though we did not accomplish everything on our Happiness Project Bucket List, we certainly learned a lot along the way, including:

1) Happiness is…minding your own business.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in other people’s problems, especially when those people are your family. It’s natural to want to protect them from hurt and heartbreak and share your “sage advice” about the way out of the bad situation they are in. Don’t do it! We learned very quickly this year that trying to solve other people’s problems doesn’t help. Staying out of it, on the other hand, works perfectly every time. They get to practice independence and resourcefulness and you get to remain stress free.

2) Happiness has very little to do with money.

We cut our household income by nearly $8,000 this year to buy back 416 hours of our time. We never missed a single cent of that income. During the whole year, we never felt like we had less than anyone else. In fact, I always felt that we had more – more time, more freedom, and more options. And though it may sound cliché, the best things in life really are free.

3) Being present is the greatest gift you can give someone…including yourself.

You will never truly know someone if you don’t take the time to listen to them – the good, the bad, and yes, sometimes the completely inane things that they may want to share with you. Trust me, I understand how very easy it is to get distracted, especially when the subject is the latest episode of some obscure reality TV show (like 90 Day Fiancé). But…for me, giving my family members my full attention has made for stronger relationships and a deeper understanding of both them and myself. If we listen attentively to the small stuff in each other’s lives, we build trust in the fact that we’ll also be there to hear the big things.

4) It’s not possible to maintain happiness when your mind and body are scattered in all directions. 

There were times during the year when I needed to be at work but instead we were dealing with a family problem. There were times when we both wanted to be in the garden but instead I was catching up on work or tied up on the phone. The stress of not being where we needed (or wanted) to be when we needed (or wanted) to be there was rough. I wish I could say that we came up with a solution, but this remains a struggle. We try to tackle one thing at a time and say no more often to things that don’t align with our priority. Speaking of which…

5) There’s only one priority.

By definition, a priority is the single most important thing in the group. We can’t have multiple priorities. We can have multiple ideas, multiple things to do, or multiple choices…but only one can be the priority. When we try to make everything a priority, we live our lives as if we are on fire – constantly trying to accomplish some arbitrary something. When we establish our one priority – that one area of our life that brings us the most joy – then we no longer feel scattered and stressed. For some folks, the priority is family. For others, it’s a career. For us, the priority is simplicity. Pursing greater happiness this year served to highlight that for us. We are most happy when we can live each day in the simplest of ways.

A few final thoughts:

Within our happiness project, we tried multiple ways to improve our wellbeing. We tried eating better. We tried reading more and learning more new things. We tried new hobbies. We tried going places. We tried decluttering (again). Our attention was scattered in a lot of different directions and sometimes it seemed as if we were working on absolutely nothing because of it. I think the project would have been better if we had focused on one aspect of happiness instead. Perhaps our focus should have been improving happiness by saying no more often or reconnecting with one another through 52 weekly dates. With that in mind, our project for 2018 will be much more defined.

Wondering what that project will be? Stay tuned to find out.