We have nothing to do, nowhere to go. The empty afternoon offers unlimited possibilities. The day beckons to us, inviting us to explore. Hopping in the car, we set off to find an adventure.
A slight breeze offers relief against the powerful Florida sun, making the afternoon pleasantly comfortable. Munching on our packed lunch beneath a picnic shelter, we’ve decided to spend today at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in Homosassa, Florida. The park promises to fill our empty afternoon with beautiful scenery and amazing wildlife.
Taking advantage of the complimentary boat ride, we glide along Pepper Creek in a pontoon boat. Listening to the Park Ranger’s informative introduction, I take in the beauty of the park. It is breathtaking.
Purchased in 1940, this fifty acre park has actually been a popular attraction since the early 1900s, when trains would stop allowing passengers to enjoy the view of Homosassa Spring. Over the years this beautiful natural park was used to house trained exotic animals that were used on television shows and in movies. However, animal education, understanding, and compassion have since changed how the park manages captive wildlife. A participant in Manatee rescue and rehabilitation, the park has helped rescue and rehabilitate more than forty injured manatees in the span of thirty years.
Exploring the park, we saw manatees swimming, stunning wildlife at the zoo, met an artist, rode a pontoon boat, and learned little something about animal rescue and rehabilitation.
What started out as an empty afternoon ended in a beautiful adventure.
I’ve been on the road for a year, but people still don’t understand. I’m often questioned by people in my old life. Why? How? Their looks of confusion and sometimes derision are both amusing and annoying. They can’t seem to understand why or how I could give up my old life to live this way, but that is okay. They don’t need to. My journey is not theirs. However, for those of you who share my interest in living this way, I’d like to share with you a few things, I’ve learned along the way.
- This is a life not a vacation.
- Before deciding to take this step, I read everything I could on the subject of full time travel. Like a sponge, I absorbed information and advice from all directions. It was one of these articles, in particular, that resonated with me. It was about a powerful executive married couple who gave up their stationary lives to travel the world. However, in less than a year, they were broke and working ‘menial’ jobs, so they could eat and have a place to sleep at night. Instead of living within their means, they blew through their money on extravagant activities, four star hotels, and elaborate meals. Bemoaning their new lives, they warned people in the article not to do what they did. No, they weren’t warning people not to blow through their money as if there’s no tomorrow, they were warning people not to become full time travelers. This couple’s irresponsibility served me well. I continuously remind myself this is my life, not a vacation. It is important to budget accordingly. It also made me question myself on my dedication to do what was necessary to live this life. Would I be willing to stop traveling if needed to re enter the workforce, and take on ‘menial’ jobs (as they put it) to build up my travel fund if needed? The answer came only too easily. Unequivocally “YES.” There is no shame in a hard honest day’s work. I’ve done it before, and I’d gladly do it again to be able to be a full time traveler.
- Cutting costs from the very beginning, we did everything we could to eliminate extravagant monthly bills that would prevent us from traveling.
- Shopping around, we found a second-hand RV within our means. Paying cash for it up front, we bought it outright. Working together, we invested hard work and sweat equity into it to making it a comfortable, accommodating home that is distinctly ours. By doing this, we were able to increase the value of our RV while saving ourselves from having costly monthly payments.
- Debt can be destructive to freedom. We avoid credit cards. If we can’t afford to pay cash for what we need, we simply do without.
- We rarely eat out. Cooking at home is economical, healthier, and simply tastes better.
- We avoid buying snacks or drinks from convenience stores when filling up our vehicle with diesel. It is an expensive convenience, we do without.
- We are a family of five which can become expensive very quickly when traveling and sightseeing.
- Fortunately, the United States has a wealth of free and low cost fun, entertaining, and educational attractions and activities. Doing my homework ahead of time, I google each state we travel in, and notate what is available.
- I keep my eyes peeled for discounts, coupons, and offers that may make sightseeing more affordable and accessible.
- The America the Beautiful: National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass is one such amazing deal. For a low yearly cost, this pass provides entrance or access to more than two thousand Federal Recreation Parks and Sites through out the United States. It is definitely a great deal, and has saved my family a ton of money. Find a Federal Park
- Get off the beaten path. I love big cities, but small towns have their own distinct charm. Explore what is out there.
- For those attractions that may be more expensive, we simply do as other families do. We save until we have the money to go. Disneyworld may be the happiest place on Earth, but it is definitely not the most affordable.
- Campgrounds and RV parks are often spendy. Boondocking is a great way to combat this expense.
- Wal-Mart’s, Home Depot, and Lowes are usually pretty accommodating if you park at the far end of their parking lots. However, I always call and speak with a manager to receive permission beforehand. There are some cities whose ordinances forbid boondocking.
- Free Campsite Interactive Map is another wonderful tool, I frequently use. This interactive map is a great way to locate various free and low cost campsites in any area you happen to be in. Providing reviews and coordinates, this map is easy to use.
- Always be safe.
- Trust your instincts.
- Do NOT catalog where you’ve been on a map you adhere to the side of your RV. This is a dangerous practice. By doing this you are notifying everyone that you are a full time traveler who has everything you own in your RV (electronics, jewelry, and personal documents). While it is fun to document and record your adventures, just keep it to the inside of your RV.
- Invest in a weather radio. These radios will alert you to storms along the way that you may not be aware of. There is nothing worse than driving into something you could easily have avoided.
- Joining AAA is a travel service that is well worth the money. If you have a breakdown on the road, help is only a phone call away.
- Be friendly and meet the locals. They often know about the best places to go, to shop, and to eat (when you decide to splurge).
I’ve only been on the road for a year, but I can’t imagine going back to my old life. Why would I? This is the life, literally. I may have had a large home with four bedrooms, two and a half bath, but I was never there to enjoy any of it. 70, 80, 100 hour work weeks were the norm. I saw my family in passing on my way to work or my way to bed. Now, I live simply but the rewards are far greater.