Friday, July 23, 2010

Humanity where you least expect it

As this road trip comes to a close I want to reflect on some of our seemingly insignificant experiences, some realizations I've had from putting ourselves out there at the mercy of unknown places. I would like to talk about full timers...not the respectable full timers..not the ones traveling the country at a breakneck pace with luxury coaches...the ones nobody wants to talk about in rv culture. I've seen the reviews of rv parks. They say something like "okay park, but a lot of full time residents", as if this were some kind of deplorable thing.  They live in old trailers that look like they would never make it down the road another time.Well, I'm here to tell you that some of the most generous, laid back, and peaceful folks happen to be those full time residents. Now you may not know this if you don't stop long enough to stretch out your legs and enjoy your surroundings...or if every day is filled with sightseeing itineraries, but if you do stay for more than a couple of nights like we have, you may get to know some of these friendly people.

Many of them are retired naturally but many of them are not. I think these are the sort we as a society find particularly unrespectable. We have found that these people have either suffered some sort of family tragedy, are possibly disabled to some degree, or believe it or not, many of them do go to work. You can hear the cars leaving early in the morning from rv parks in the same way that you might hear traffic in your old neighborhood, just on a smaller scale.

Our very first experience in Florida after we left was being sandwiched between a couple of full time residents at a rustic rv park. I remember watching the couple next to us in the airstream and noting how content they seemed to be. They would get up every morning to sit outside at the bench over coffee for conversation, just very friendly people without a care in the world. They have an old tiny airstream trailer from the sixties but I remember thinking that if this was how carefree life could be outside of the city and rat race, sign me up.

On the other side of us was Roy, a retired vet in his fifth wheel. He gave us free food from his freezer before we left.

There was the woman next to us in Austin who played cards with Ellery and taught him Sudoku.

We have met the most interesting people however in New Mexico. How could we forget Steve and Jackie's family in Carlsbad? They were a riot. They had three daughters and an aunt all traveling in an old class C much shorter than ours. They invited us to their barbecue and helped out with Ellery when we had to take Willow to the ER. They had the craziest setup at the state park. They had a mattress on top of their rv which they set out under the shaded pavilion with their tv outside. They just lounged back outside on the mattress watching American's not my thing but they sure were happy with their modest living arrangements. They talked us into stopping through Ruidoso which we had never heard of on the way to Albuquerque and we're sure glad they did because there we met another nice full time resident...

We pulled in to Ruidoso next to a younger guy, probably close to my age in an old seventies trailer. He helped us pull in and stood outside talking to Riki for the longest time. He walked us through the back trails which led us straight to midtown. The next morning he got out his toolbox and offered to work on the transmission while we were gone for no reason other than just to be nice. He found out Ellery was into coin collecting so he gave him some coins and a couple of books from his trailer. We're sorry we only stayed a couple of nights there but we sure appreciated his generosity.

When we stayed in Tijeras for a month we got to talk to a good number of full timers.Of course there was the little boy's grandfather Ellery played with who gave Ellery some walking sticks and took him out to lunch with his grandson. There was another guy who worked for the park and also for an organization that helps Native Americans. He set up a scavenger hunt in the woods with little trinkets the kids could collect and then turn it to him for grab bag toys he had bought from the thrift store.

Since we've arrived at this park in Taos we have met many interesting characters and full timers. There is the man who hand carves the most beautiful wooden animals and sells them to the tourists down at the Gorge. Not long after we arrived he bestowed a couple of animals to the kids. The guy across from us gave Ellery some turquoise and told him how to find it in the campground. Heck, I know we are in New Mexico but I didn't even know you could still dig up turquoise.

And then there is the father of another girl Ellery had met here before she went back to stay with her mom. We have had some real good conversations with him about the state of the world. He actually owns a ranch and has dreams of starting an intentional community but not enough capital to do it. He is the one who graciously offered to let us borrow any of his furniture in storage here.

We have had other encounters but these are the ones that stick out in my mind. It's funny because I had a preconceived idea in my head of the sort of people we would be hanging out with on this trip. You know, they would be our age and very progressive free thinking types. Funny thing is that some of these people that we did meet were not all that friendly or down to earth as we had imagined. It always seemed to be the older folks, especially the full time residents who were/are the most easy going. Just yesterday Riki had a long conversation with the maintenance guy here.

I wanted to bring it up because it kind of reminds me of Sun magazine.We used to have a subscription and enjoyed the articles about regular people with regular problems. In our world of overachieving and being successful it is a shame that good old fashioned humanity from people who don't or can't meld in with mainstream society doesn't get highlighted more often. In fact, after this trip I tend to believe that these people are as agreeable as they are because they live lives with less stress. They don't have much in terms of material wealth but that is what seems to set them free from the chains that bring so many others down. It is a counter culture I think I'm going to miss and could even see going back to.

I was surprised to not find more fellowship among our peers but I think our generation is still kind of stuck in the middle between consumer driven and free thinking. We are still needing our Starbucks, our yoga classes, and our expensive organic clothing. We are still keeping up with the Joneses but they are a different kind of Joneses....the kind who never shops at Walmart, buys only fair trade coffee, and claims to be tolerant of all types of people despite actually living in predominantly white mid to upper class cities. If anybody thinks I'm poking fun at them I'm not because I'm guilty of many of the above myself...and they aren't all such terrible things. I'm just thinking that it may be harder to connect with similar people our age on the road because they are still so caught up in all of these things/rules...even if they may seem to be contributing to the betterment of society. We could all take some lessons from these old timer full timers and just let go a little bit..not be so uptight about our parenting and place in society. In the end none of it really matters anyway.


Jenna Gayle said...

This reminds me of the post on "crunchy people" one of you did a while back. I find myself chasing the Joneses at times, too, and have to step back and look at it from another view to figure out what it really is that I'm trying to do. Remind myself to say f*@# the Joneses!!

I love talking to the full timers and employees, too!! It's so nice to take those early morning walks being greeted by people drinking their coffee and eating life up :)

Little House On Wheels said...

Yeah, I guess that earlier post was inspired by some of those experiences. I too get caught up in the trap myself;)

Boyink said...

Hey - just wanted to leave a comment. We're prepping for a year on the road as a family and I've subscribed to a bunch of blogs from others doing the same or similar.

Most of the posts I've been reading are really just travel-logs (we went here, saw that, and ate this...) -- not that those are bad but we are hoping for so much more out of our trip than sight-seeing.

This post really captured more of what we are hoping for - real connections with real people from all spots in life.

I had the rest of the family read it as well - just so they knew what I'm after on the trip.

Little House On Wheels said...

Hey, thanks for your comment and good luck to you and your family! I feel the same way. I do like the sightseeing posts but that can get boring after awhile. My husband and I have disagreed about this because he would rather have the "this is what we did on such and such day" posts. He isn't big on all the personal info, lol. I think a lot of other bloggers are uncomfortable with putting themselves out there like that too.

American Daze said...

Hey...Great post!...Just what I needed to hear. We just returned from a 2 day trip to a lake just to get away from the empty house and boredom. Met some good folks that brought over some cooked fish. I found myself wondering if this would be a norm for us.

We'll soon be full timing on our shoe string budget, with fingers crossed and leaving all the materialistic lifestyle behind to enjoy the freedoms......I think I have missed a couple of your last post...I'll try to catch up...Thanks for sharing and giving some encouragement to your readers...


Milburns' said...

Loved this post. We also are preparing for Full time RV life for quiet a while though. We have 5 kids and can't wait. And everything you described is EXACTLY what I have been craving from that lifestyle!!! AWESOME post!!! Thanks for sharing!!!

jackbnimble said...

This was a good description of life at a slower pace. We've been on the road for 10 weeks and staying longer and longer at places we like. Did you find places you'd like to stay for a month or more?