Saturday, May 10, 2008

Sleepless Night and Root Canal

*warning* this is a long, rambling post. I was going to write this just in my personal, private, paper journal - but then, I thought about how much I appreciate the personal feelings that other bloggers have shared (Dooce,Malia,LifeReboot, George, Ken. etc.) Most all of my blog is about how wonderful this life is, and it's true, but that's not the whole story. If all you ever read from other people is goodness and light, you'd think there was something wrong with you when your life doesn't match up. It's important to know that everyone, no matter how happy and lucky, has some dark times. It's not only normal, it's actually good. One of my favorite quotes is from Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet:
"The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. "

So, here goes ... A couple of nights ago I started feeling sick to my stomach, I had diarrhea, headache, couldn't sleep, couldn't eat. Had I caught some kind of flu? Or eaten something bad? Nope, it was simply fear. Fear of running out of money. What is so weird is that nothing had happened, nothing had changed from the day before that sleepless night when I was happy and productive. But I got out of bed two days ago, went for our walk with Odie, then just came back home and went back to bed. Not to sleep, because I couldn't, but I wasn't capable of doing anything else either. I'd sit at the computer and review my mile-long list of things to do. Within a few minutes I just couldn't take it, and I'd crawl back to bed. I did have to get up to go to a dentist appointment for a root canal. Believe it or not, that was the most pleasant part of my day. When it was over, and I got the $2,200 bill for all the dental work that needed to be done, I went home and went back to bed. Still couldn't sleep. This has only happened to me a few times during my life. When I'm in the middle of it, there seems no way out. I think of people who suffer from depression and wonder how they manage. People like Dooce who had debilitating depression after the birth of her daughter ... how do you take care of someone else when you can't get out of bed? What brought this on? It's like I have been living this beautiful dream for the last few years, and I just woke up! The dream was as comforting and happy as I feel when I'm in the ocean scuba diving. Waking up to the fact that money could run out, was like opening my eyes to realize that I'm 100 feet below the surface ... with no scuba equipment! When I get paralyzed like that, it's clear that I have to DO something. I have to reach out to friends and talk about it. Poor Jim, one morning he has a happy, laughing wife to go for a walk with - and the next morning a morose, whimpering fool telling him our happy life is over. What changed? Absolutely nothing except my state of mind.

I talked to my Mom. Told her she had been right. Something a mother should like to hear. She was right to tell me that these years are the years of a person's life when they need to be making money, building a career and retirement (I'm 55 and Jim is 54). She was worried for my future when Jim and I took off on the road spending the savings we had rather than making more for later. I'm sure she got a little satisfaction from hearing those words, 'you were right' but mostly she's still worried about me, she wants me to succeed. She gave me a hug. She paid my dental bill ... bless her! Another friend, Chris, happened to call to ask about going out to lunch. She started by asking the standard, 'how are you?' Wrong question! I launched into my anxiety-stricken tale, all the while feeling so guilty. How dare I think that I have problems? I have a fairy-tale life. I don't have kids to feed, or even a mortgage to pay. But, looking at our financial situation now, compared to 5 years ago, is a very sad tale indeed. We did it by choice - which, in my depressed state makes it even worse. Chris gave me some practical pointers; eat something ... give yourself permission to not think about our future right now, just pick one thing I need to do and sit down and do it. OK, Thanks. That worked. I got some work done ... some billable work! I was able to eat a little dinner, and I was able to sleep last night. For me, these anxiety attacks are wake-up calls to make some decisions. Luckily, the call comes in time to make some reasoned decisions. We won't run out of money for several months yet, and we have lots of opportunity for income at rallies this summer. 'Computer Education for RVers' is not a huge money-maker, but any venture takes time to develop. We only came up with the 'Geeks on Tour' business a year and a half ago. The first couple years on the road we were pursuing work in the WiFi field. And, yes, we have made money while we've been on the road - just not nearly enough.

I am about to convert our website with the video tutorials to a fee-based membership site. Right now all the video tutorials are free. It has always been my plan to make it a membership site, but I needed to develop enough content to make it worthwhile. That will make us money, but it will take time to grow.

Meanwhile, we have several good rallies this summer, and we've found that people buy our tutorials on DVD. We get lots of great feedback on how much they learn with the tutorials. That keeps me going. We're getting a disk duplicator so we can make a bunch of them. Jim also does lots of computer 'tuneups' when we're at rallies, and he's been doing computer service calls to customers while we're here in our old hometown. I have several website orders already on my plate. And, maybe we'll get a Datastorm order or two.

Our plans have us returning to Florida in October/November and, if we need to stop and get work, well, that's not so bad! Even knowing our situation now, I don't think I would have done anything different. In fact, I remember when we made the decision to sell the house and hit the road in 2003, a big part of the motivation was dwindling assets *then*, and the desire to do something wonderful while there was still enough extra money.

Better to watch your money dwindle while paddling the Columbia river, or hiking in Yosemite, or giving seminars to crowds of people at RV rallies, than to be sitting in your depreciating house! Yeah - I have no regrets - and we can do whatever we have to come fall. Meanwhile we have a wonderful summer planned with 6 rallies that's all about Geeks on Tour - we have to give it a go - even though it may be the end for a while.

What do you think? Use the shoutbox in the right sidebar, or click on 'Comments' below for longer messages.

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katbyte said...

When we were in our 40s we did the very same thing and ended up going back to work, but that was just a fluke. We full-timed for 10 years before that. We are retired again and doing fine. Sure not rich, but mortgage free and still own an RV.

It will all work out, trust me.

Look at the memories, priceless!!!

Camille Carnell Pronovost said...

You are not alone! My husband & I are both 50 years old and we've been fulltiming for 6 years. It has been wonderful. But, we have not added anything for our retirement and we have realized that things have to change. We may return to full time work and a "real" house. And if that happens, we will try not to "be sad that it's over but be glad that it happened." Not many people are so blessed as we have been to experience the freedom and the ability to travel as we have done since we sold our house. It is still worth it, to us, no matter what we have to do going forward. All the best to you both!

TiogaRV said...

Hi Chris,

I believe that whenever doubts like this creep into your mind, you have to beat those doubts to death with loads of confidence!

I am now 70 years old. I've had tons of things to worry about during my life. And do you know what? Every single one of those worries had a resolution. Isn't that something? Hmmmmm?

So now I don't give a second thought to worrying anymore. Because I know that things work out. All I need to do is believe in myself.


Marcia said...

It is scary, but I look at it that if you had that much gumption to do it in the first place, you will have what it takes to take the next step, whichever direction it leads, you will make it work for you.

I wish we had taken the step. We are trying to take it now, but it hasn't fallen into place. And reading what is happening for you makes it scarier than before -- but at the same time reading all the good that has come of your decision still outweighs the negative. My dream is still alive like yours.

Claudia said...

I have followed your site for a long time and certainly wish you the best with whatever happens.

We tried fulltiming a few different ways and came to the conclusion that it just was not going to be possible on the terms we initially dreamed of. I think, truly, unless one has a retirement or investment source of income, it is very hard to make a living on the road and now with today's high prices for fuel, campgrounds, and groceries, is getting even harder.

We gave up hopes of living our dream but we did make our situation work for us, just not as we envisioned. We still fulltime, but my husband is a traveling construction superintendent so we go to different locations for at least a year at a time. On the postive side, the company pays all our expenses and we still get to fully explore different parts of the U.S. I suspect that two such talented people as yourselves could look for permanent positions with a major corporation that maybe could involve some travel and ability to still enjoy the lifestyle--just not at your leisure. What about an in-house training position whereby you would go to all company locations/offices? Granted, you are going to have to work for a large firm for this to be feasible but it might give you ideas for a direction in which to head.

The advantages are huge. You maintain career level wages, can build for retirement and usually will also have company provided medical care/expenses.

Do I wish I could hitch up the RV and travel where I want? You betcha! Do I now wish to be filling our 250 gallon tank at $4.50/gal diesel out of our own funds? No way. Let our employer pay--that's then more money that goes directly to our savings account. It took awhile, but I am now at peace with the way we fulltime--and we're not going broke doing it.
Best of luck,

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris said...

Katbyte, I like your story! I also think that, if we stop, it won't be the end, just a stage.

Camille, yes, whatever happens it's worth it. I wouldn't change a thing! Well, except maybe that lottery ticket I didn't buy!

George, you always inspire me! I drank a big gulp of confidence today and got a lot of work done.

Claudia, Wonderful thoughts, thanks! I have been starting to get back in touch with some folks from my corporate training days. I hadn't thought exactly of your idea ... hmmm. Sounds kinda like the best of both worlds, making the money we're *supposed* to be making at this age and still living on the road! But then we couldn't do the seminars at rallies, and we sure love that.
It looks like we'll settle in to Florida for the winter and find work here. My hope is to find work that can be continued remotely. So much of what I do *can* be done remotely, but it takes a foundation of personal contact to get started.

Anonymous said...

Just want to let you know how much your enthusiasm for life inspires the people you have meet on the road. You two have a gift of sharing and teaching. In all my professional years I have never been to a training seminar that was as clear and concise as the ones you and Jim give. You guys are naturals. You belong on the road teaching and sharing.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the financial dilemma. You would be very surprised how many of us RV’ers have the same thoughts. My sleepless nights have grown since the price of gas and everything else has escalated. There is a way and we shall both find it. Hang in there and don’t ever think of depriving the RV world of your services.

YOU GO GIRL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Patti E. said...

Hi Chris,
I just read your blog about worrying about money. I can totally relate to the feelings and emotions you described. We sold our house in spring of 2006 and started fulltiming in brand new equipment that summer. My husband gets a pension of $1000 and social security and I was able to draw a percentage (higher than is recommended) from my IRAs without penalty even though I was only 56 at the time. I had written up a budget that seemed to work but as it turns out we have averaged an overrun of $400/mo. since we started. That would explain what happened to the once fat savings account. I handle all the finances in our family so I get to do all of the worrying. We did workamp for $8/hr for a few weeks over Christmas and it was great getting paychecks.

We traveled to Arizona and saw you guys at the Gypsy Jounal Rally. I really enjoyed your seminars by the way. You and Jim do a good job. We went to the workamper jobfair in Mesa and secured a jobs at Lake Powell for the summer. I didn't like the idea of 5 months in one spot but we needed to fund the savings account and hoped to make enough to at least do the inside passage of Alaska next summer.

While we were in our home base of San Diego prior to going to Lake Powell I was called by the company I retired from to see if I was available for a high paying contract job that would last a couple of months maybe longer. I used to be a mechanical designer and the money was amazing. I could make in 10 weeks what it was going to take all summer for us both to make and we could be in San Diego with friends in family which seemed much more attractive. I agonized over the decision because there were some flaky aspects to it but when it was confirmed and I had a contract I canceled the Lake Powell job. I had also managed to secure a workamping job here for my husband for 5 months that involves cleaning 5 parks restrooms for 20 hours a week in exchange for a free site.

I went off to work in early April and was enjoying being back in my field with some old friends. I had also gone out and spent some of the big bucks before I made them (a bad habit of mine). Would you believe that the government funded program was suddenly put on hold after less than 3 weeks. I was plunged back into depression, worry, regret, second thoughts etc. about my decision. I now clean bathrooms with my husband because we are committed to work here till Labor Day.

I have had to develop a new philosophy about this situation. I can't change anything about what happened and it was completely unanticipated by everyone. I am still learning about frugality but I love spending money (gotta get over that). I have been told that the job will probably start up again in early July. There is no guarantee about that and they may just use the people that already work there instead of us expensive contractors (there were 3 of us retirees called back). Cleaning restrooms isn't as bad as I imagined. We probably won't be going to Alaska next year but hope to travel up the west coast using our free thousand trails membership parks. And, yes I think "Better to watch your money dwindle while paddling the Columbia river, or hiking in Yosemite..." is a good way to look at it. We are still very lucky to be doing this, we sold our house before the slump and if I can just manage to keep us within our budget we'll be fine. George is right. I have seen many things work out after much worrying.

I hope you are feeling better,

Anonymous said...

It is not just full-timers who worry. We retired early at 57 and both have pensions, IRAs and savings to supplement until social security in two years at 62.

We still have our house and last year had several large one-time expenses on our 23-year-old house. It just seems that some times I get panicky and don't think it will work. Then the next day I am fine. I don't know what causes the worry, nothing specific.

In 2006, we travelled quite a bit, then my parent's health worsened and we are bound close to home for now. So enjoy the freedom you have and even if you have to work for a while, you can always retire again. I enjoy your blog and we hope to follow you on the road someday.

Shaun said...

I absolutely sympathize with you when you talk about how paralyzing fear can be. Whether it's fear about money, fear about the future, or just fear of uncertainty, it can overwhelm you to the point where you're afraid to do anything at all.

The suggestions in the above comments point towards a simple solution: Do something. Ignore the mile-long to-do list and concentrate on what can be done today. I like to ask myself "What's the next step?" or "What's reasonable?"

In other words, it's all about perspective. Don't stress yourself out with many overwhelming tasks at once, because they can intimidate you to the point of inaction.

Instead, ask yourself what can be done today, and take it from there. Like you've already demonstrated, the feeling of accomplishment will help you sleep better.

Thanks for the great read.

Debby Diver said...

I can relate to all that you wrote....on the other hand, life is so short and I really admire that you and Jim took the plunge and followed your dreams!!!

You two are HIGHLY employable and will have no problems if you decide to sit out some touring for a while to regroup.

People think I'm crazy because my house needs so much work, my ancient sofa is held together with packing tape, I drive 10-year-old cars and wear inexpensive clothing...but take adventure trips as often as they fit into the budget, and have wonderful toys like my kayak and bicycles and SCUBA gear. It's all a matter of values. While I'm young and healthy enough to enjoy those things, I am. When I'm old and sick (if I make it!) I can get the house painted and buy furniture.

You followed your many people can say that? You will be FINE, but then, you know that!!!

Thanks for being my role model...I hope to jump out onto the open road in the future myself! :)

Anonymous said...

Listen, you can do this. I too get anxious about money and worry about where in the world it's coming from. We fulltimed until 10/07, now we're parttime summer RVers. We both retired in our mid-50s, now almost 10 years ago. We have decided that both of us are going to get parttime jobs when we return to home base in the fall - something we have not done since retiring. Traveling, meeting people, seeing this great country of ours - that's what it's all about - creating dreams, doing things of interest, staying challenged. For us, this is a healthy lifestyle and full of wealth on its own. Our minds doget the best of us sometimes don't they. I guess it's supposed to keep us in check although I'm not so sure when my nights are restless or sleepless. Then my common sense kicks in and I remember my goals, and I'm off to the races again!