September 3 – January 26.
So, yeah, it’s been a while. In July 2021 I quit the blog. We were house-sitting for friends in Massachusetts and I had meant to write a final post explaining my exit from the blogging world and had actually started one. But even though I had a nice desk to sit at, unlimited electricity and internet, and plenty of time I just couldn’t finish it. Sorting through pictures made me tired. The words weren’t coming to me. I felt drained and wrung out.
I had felt this way for a while. Besides plunging the world into a global pandemic, 2020 saw us on the road full time for the first time. There were lots and lots of wonderful things to see and do but constant traveling involves constant planning. Where to go next, where to shop, where to camp, where to store things in the van, what to cook, how to navigate new places in a world turned upside down. This stuff started to overwhelm me. And it wasn’t just the stuff I was doing that was stressing me out, it was also all the stuff I wasn’t doing. Cleaning, improvements to the van, keeping up with friends, social media, sharing with other bloggers. But my biggest stressor and the largest consumer of my time was the blog. My blog posts were becoming too vast. Too many photos, too much research, and too many weeks to put them together.
After I didn’t write that final blog and Greg and I left that house-sit in Massachusetts we continued to travel. Up the coast of Maine, eight days in Arcadia National Park, a quick jaunt through the White Mountains National Forest in New Hampshire, five days in Boston, a day strolling past mansions in Rhode Island, a few days in a campsite in Connecticut, up through Vermont visiting country stores for breakfast and friends, across Lake Champlain into upstate New York to visit more friends. All the while I was breaking down. The days were too full, I lost it when I couldn’t decide which way to turn in a park, planning in Boston made me feel anxious, a hike in the rain left me in tears. Tense days after my upsets were spent going nowhere, recovering in the van. I might blame a lot of this stress on our lifestyle. The small living space and constant movement are hard. But as I look back over the years, tears, anger, a feeling of desperation, and not being able to let go have always been a part of my life at one time or another. The travel, though, has certainly exasperated it.
As my well-being was eroding so was Greg’s and my relationship. I knew we had to stop, just take a time out, try to hit the reset button, but things kept compelling us forward, friends to meet up with, things to see, places to go. Until then it was finally all too obvious that we couldn’t go on.
We abruptly left upstate New York at the very end of August and headed for North Carolina. We stopped at Greg’s parent’s house for a few days and then I left in the van without him. It was a temporary break. I had medical stuff that I needed to take care of in our state of residence, Florida.
In Tallahassee Florida I found a vein specialist to take care of a bad vein in my leg and I started seeing a couples therapist. I found a good deal on a month’s worth of camping. I started walking for an hour and a half every day and working on some of those van projects that I had never had gotten a chance to get started on before. Greg and I talked almost every day on the phone.
Greg stayed with his parents for a while then moved to Cabbagetown to help a friend in distress. There he stayed with friends and did a few house-sits. He started painting a house with his old painting partner, Paul and drove from Cabbagetown to Tallahassee once a week for couples therapy. I started taking antidepressants. I was feeling OK on my own. I visited Cabbagetown and felt good. But still, there were days of tears, misunderstandings, hurt feelings. And then it was all over.
Couples therapy was a bust. But the one good thing the therapist did was recommend a book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Greg and I started using that book to repair our relationship. I read more books and found Mindful Relationship Habits. We started doing the Habits over the phone.
Greg got to a stopping point on the house he was painting with Paul. He bought a car. I bought him a smartphone. And then he headed out west to clear his head, camp, and house sit. I stayed in the east and we continued to work things out long-distance. I camped in Florida and stayed with friends waiting for body shop repairs to be done on Ballena Blanca who I banged up by running into a barrier at a gas station. All the while both Greg and I were healing.
In mid-January, I got the van back from the shop and headed west to catch up with Greg in Arizona. It had been 5 months since we lived together. The most surreal 5 months of my life. Five hard, frustrating, and heartbreaking months. But despite all the bad things that happened, there was lots of good.
We both got to connect again with our very best friends in Cabbagetown and South Carolina. Greg got to spend time with his family, parents, son and daughter-in-law, daughter and son-in-law, and grandson, Gabriel. I got to see and photograph a real live wild Flamingo. We both were able to help our friend in distress in Cabbagetown and I think that friend is doing much better now because of it. Greg joined Trusted House Sitters, which now gives the opportunity to house sit worldwide. I was able to do many upgrades to the van. Greg was able to pursue a new hobby, 3D printing. I lost weight due to my daily walks. But most importantly, Greg and I are a better couple now. We know we want to be together. We want to do whatever it takes to make it work. We love each other. And we want to continue to stretch our boundaries and travel the world.
I’m not sure where the blog is going to go after this. I love doing it but I have to find a way to make it easier to put together. I haven’t tracked our expenses for a while. Between doctor’s bills, buying a car, travel back and forth from Florida, etc. the money has been flowing out more than a wee bit higher than usual. I hope to turn the expense report into a monthly wrap-up about camping spots and likely expenses one might encounter on the road. Currently, we are traveling in Baja Mexico. It has been great and I hope to be able to share these adventures with you. The birds here have been incredible. Maybe someday I can go back and tell you about our summer last year. Despite my times of distress we saw and experienced lots of great things.
* All pics are click to enlarge. Once you have them enlarged you can view them in a slide show. Also you can hover over the pics to see captions.
** As always, there are an awful lot of pictures. If you are reading this in an email, it is probably pretty long. The photos are more artfully presented on the blog. Click here to see the post on the website.
In Florida, I stayed at a few Boondocker’s Welcome locations, a few free campgrounds, and a month at the Newport Campground south of Tallahassee. Every day I would get up and drive somewhere for my morning walk. Then in the afternoon, I would find a nice spot to open the back doors of the van and work on projects or do chores.
I did several projects during my travels that 5 months. One of the first priorities was to add a water port for our water tank. Previous to this upgrade it took two people to fill the water tank. Now it only takes one and is mostly hands-free. I also worked on replacing the cloth that covered the van’s lower cabinets with sliding doors. Meanwhile, Greg was working on building a lithium battery for the van. Luckily he had it ready when our old golf cart batteries died while I was in Florida. I made an emergency trip to North Carolina where we installed the new and improved battery. And I brightened up our traveling abode by painting the walls as well as doing lots of little projects to make things more convenient and better looking.
I spent about 5 days at Cobbtown Acres. The Acres in southeast Georgia is a spot where people could come and work on their rigs. There is a shop with just about any tool you would need and knowledgeable, generous people to help. Every night there was a campfire gathering. I only stayed about a week before the cold made me realize I had friends in Cabbagetown with nice cozy houses I could stay in. If you want to know more about Cobbtown Acres and the people you might encounter there check out this post by Holly and Joe of A Bus Named Sandy who I met during my stay.
Friends and Family
The best part of spending so much time in the southeast was connecting with family and friends.
It didn’t take long to outfit my 2003 Toyota Highlander. It’s big enough to allow me to sleep in the back. But my trip west was cold, so I slept in the driver’s seat and started the engine for heat during the nights.
I had four house-sits. I was generally happy with each of them, but the owners came back early three times. It was good to have the flexibility to camp between the sits. These were my pals.