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When we chose this lifestyle, we chose to simplify our lives. We purposely sold all of our “stuff” and took with us only the bare essentials – the things we couldn’t live without. So now that we don’t have room for lots of “stuff”, how do we handle Christmas? I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past few weeks myself. My teen, who travels with us, has requested a couple of very small items, which we will get for him. But what else can we do to make Christmas merry for each other, without gathering more “stuff”? Here are a few ideas that I have come up with:
Give The Gift Of Time: After all, that’s why we sold it all and went on this trip – so we could spend time together, instead of always working at our jobs and maintaining our “stuff”. Some ideas might include volunteering your time together to help those less fortunate (we LOVE Feed My Starving Children – they are based in the Chicago area, but do Mobile Packs all over the U.S.). Or, promise to give your gift of time to a friend or family member and help them with a cause that is dear to them. Or set aside some time to help them out with a home-improvement task that they may not be able to tackle alone. Or offer to babysit one night for some stressed out parents you know would really enjoy a night off. What better way to celebrate the Season of Giving than to give of yourself?
Host A Movie Night: Let the family pick the movie, invite some friends over, make some great snacks and snuggle up together and enjoy an evening in.
Take A Class Together: My hubby and I would LOVE this (and I may just do this one!) We love to cook together, so taking a cooking class at a local kitchen store would be a total blast!!
Host a Game Night: My (adult) kids and I love to play Cards Against Humanity
(funniest game ever!!), so planning a night in with snacks and drinks to play would be a perfect gift for them.
Give The Gift Of An Experience: Take your kids or grandkids to a favorite event or place, like the zoo, a sporting event, museum, park, stage play, or even on a camping trip! We have taken nieces and nephews on trips with us, and they still talk about it years later. There’s no better gift than making memories together!
Give Of Your Knowledge: Take the time to teach a friend or family member something that you know. I am a professional photographer, and I know of a couple of people who would love to pick my brain and learn how to take better photographs. You can also teach a child how to cook or bake – and the great bonus is you get to spend time together with a special person!
Give Your Creativity: Help a friend redecorate a room, or make a photo album (digital or paper) of their favorite photos, make a craft together that you’ve both always wanted to try. The list is endless in this category!
As you can see, there are so many ways to give gifts at Christmas that don’t involve purchasing more “stuff” at the mall. I personally think any one of these gifts is much more meaningful, and won’t soon be forgotten by the recipient. Keep it simple, and gift out of love, and you can’t go wrong!
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A lot of people are scared to death of electricity. Glad I’m not one. Our motorhome has a dozen 115v AC breakers in the main power center, 40 or 50 12 volt fuses in 2 different fuse panels, plus various other relays, switches, controls, etc. And maybe 2000 feet of wire.
And all this stuff has to work right.
We have one of those cute electric fireplaces, on the back wall below the TV. It looks pretty, and it actually has a 1500 watt heater in it, so it can go a long way toward keeping the motorhome warm on a chilly night.
Thrice before, I’ve had to work on it. This time was the worst. I turned it on one evening, and nothing happened. The lights kinda went on for a second, then nothing at all. We ran the furnace that night, and in the morning it was time to get to work and fix it.
“The last time,” it was one of the adjustment knobs (there are knobs for brightness of the “fire” and also a thermostat knob for the heat) So first thing was to pull the unit out of the wall (4 screws in thru the faceplate, pull it off. Take off the retainer and remove the glass. 4 screws out the side into the cabinet, then pull the unit out), and take the top off to check inside. I put my meter on the terminal board where the A/C power comes in, nothing there, zippo, nada, zilch.
The cord for this thing disappears back into the cabinetry. I knew from previous experience (one time I had to replace the plug on it’s power cord because it had gotten cooked) that there was a false bottom in the pantry lowest shelf, and under there were the receptacles for the television and the fireplace. 4 screws then pull the shelf bottom out, and there she was.
Ugly! Both the (replaced by me 2 years ago) fireplace plug and the receptacle were seriously cooked. Visibly burnt. The manufacturer has used a standard RV outlet, all plastic, Romex with wires sliding into v grooves that cut the insulation to make a connection. 15 amp stuff. Not very secure, but these outlets are standard in RV’s. And this circuit was fused at 20 amps! Not a good thing. I’ve generally been impressed with the quality way monaco gets things done, but not in this case.
So off to the hardware store goes I. On the list is a real 20 amp plug for the fireplace power cord. The kind where one terminal is twisted so it will only go into a 20 amp receptacle. And of course a good 20 amp receptacle, the kind where one terminal makes a “T”. And a metal box, metal cover, and BX connector to securely connect everything.
Step one in the actual work was to go back to the main panel, flip the “fireplace” breaker to OFF, and then use my meter to ensure there was no power. From there, attach the BX connector to the box, feed the BX cable through, strip the wires, attach the green, white, and black wires to the outlets screw terminals. Make sure you observe the correct polarity. White is neutral, black is hot. It should all be marked, generally the copper screw is the hot side, silver one is neutral. Screw the outlet into the box, attach the cover, and fasten it to the cabinet. Done.
Once all the wiring was secured, I flipped the breaker and tested it to make sure everything worked as it should. always best to do this before reassembling the whole works. Yay! It worked great. Reverse the steps to put it all back together. And we’re back to a nice cozy fire!
This is a GREAT topic for me to write about today! Yup, I’m late getting this post out! I have been running The Location Independent Lifestyle Series blog posts every Monday, and here it is Monday at 5:22 PM and I don’t have my blog post for the day!!! Why? Because I’m feeling unmotivated – that’s why!
This is the part where I make some excuses: yes, its been a VERY busy week – what with driving over 2000 miles to get Brian back to Illinois for his final Eagle Scout Board of Review (YAYYYYYY he’s an Eagle Scout now!!). Then when I got back to the RV – which by now hubby had driven from Gulf Shores, Alabama to Dallas, Texas, we needed to do laundry and grocery shop and get back into the homeschooling swing and visit friends and relatives in this area – yadda yadda yadda. You get the idea!
Anyways, here I am! And today we are going to talk about ways to stay motivated while working at home. After all, you have NO BOSS (booyah!!!) and no co-workers to be accountable to. The only one you need to impress is YOU! Now, if you’re anything like me, you like you just fine just the way you are, whether you are hanging out in your jammies or dressed for success. Which brings us to our first tip:
- Get Dressed!: Every single morning, without fail. Dress for success. Most days to me that might mean a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, although some days I really feel like going all out and putting on an actual shirt with buttons, just because I need to feel good that day. Whatever works best for you – just remember, NO JAMMIES ALLOWED!
- Wake Up At The Same Time Each Day: Just like when you went into the office, set an alarm and wake up at the same time each day. Think of all the extra work you can get done because you don’t have to waste time driving to the office!
- Begin Your Day Early: No sleeping in until noon. I know I know, who’s gonna know, right? Set that coffee pot to start brewing at 6 AM and get your butt outta bed!! Of course, I’m a morning person anyways, so this one is easy for me! (Except today. It’s 5:36 PM and I’m just now working. Oops! 🙂
- Carve Out A Dedicated Working Area: If, like me, you are working from your RV, this might not be the easiest thing to do. My work area has become the dining room table (I’m begging Hubby to rearrange furniture in here so I can have a desk – so far no luck!). So for now I put my pillow under my butt because the table is too high, and I get to work.
- Be Organized: Planning your work week is a great way to stay motivated, whether it be using a calendar or a planner. One thing that works great for me is lists. There’s something psychological for me when I finish an item on my list and get to make a big fat check mark next to it to indicate that it’s finished. I don’t know why, but this make me very giddy, and then motivates me to continue on down the list. Yea, I’m weird.
- Don’t Forget Downtime: After all, we went on this journey to see America, not to be stuck working all day long in our RV! Hubby and I just had this discussion today – we left at about 3:00 to go drive around and see the lake that’s nearby us that our local friends love to go fishing at. It was good to get out for a couple of hours, take a walk around the lake and breathe in some fresh air!
- Do What You Love: After all, if you do what you truly love, you’ll never “work” a day in your life!
- Remember How Lucky You Are: Be grateful that you have been given this opportunity to have a location independent lifestyle. Not many people are as lucky as you! I can’t tell you how many friends and relatives have said to me, “I’m totally jealous of you guys. I wish I could do what you’re doing.” Yup, we’re pretty blessed…
I will do my best…
It wasn’t long before his first advancement, where he graduated to Tenderfoot scout. And as the years went by, he kept going to scouts, every meeting, every activity. It was one of his favorite things. and he always kept saying “When I get big, I’m going to be an Eagle Scout”
One highlight was the “manly cake bake” at our annual Cub Scout Banquet. Here is Brian and I with our award winning “Hamburger cake”
To do my duty to God and my country…
He kept working, and learning, and advancing through the ranks of Cub Scouts, until he had earned his Arrow of Light, crossed over, and joined Boy Scout Troop 40. He loved Boy Scouts. Unlike Cub Scouts, where Dad was always there, in Boy Scouts he’s on his own. He advanced very quickly, working hard to earn merit badges and ranks.
and to obey the Scout Law;
Twice a year, Troop 40 had a Court of Honor, a very solemn ceremony where the boys were presented with their achievements. He stuck with it all through high school. While Troop 40 is very active, has great leaders, and very high retention, still, in high school many boys interests turn to other things. Brian still loved scouting. All the meetings, all the activities, all the campouts. Always, he said “I’m going to be an Eagle Scout”
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.
Just to give an idea of the size of this…
15% of american boys join Cub Scouts, and half earn their Arrow of Light and join Boy Scouts.
6% of Boy Scouts earn their Eagle.
My math skills are lacking, but Eagle Scouts are a very exclusive club. The military gives 2 rank advancements out of boot camp to Eagle Scouts. An Eagle Badge is helpful on a resume, a college application, and many other things. It’s recognized everywhere that Eagles are special.
A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly,
courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty,
brave, clean, and reverent.
As we were getting ready to go full time, we took a long hard look at our inside storage. We had lots of raw room, we just needed to configure it to work for us.
The first thing was files. Try as we did to eliminate paper, we still had some. We needed someplace where we could put hanging file folders.
We had a storage “hole” under the bed that was 22″ wide by 38″ long, roughly 18″ deep. We had always put our laundry basket there, full of dirty clothes. When the bed started to bounce, it was time to do the laundry.
After some measuring, I saw I could put rails in for hanging files, and our laundry basket would still fit.
I got a length of 1×3, and screwed it in the end of the bed wall 15″ off the floor, same as the other side all ready was. I put the screws from the inside out, predrilled the holes, and made sure the screws were short enough so they wouldn’t stick thru and show from the outside.
From the hardware store, I picked up some alluminum channel. Stuff is 3 sided, so very strong, 1/2″ across the base, 3/8″ sides. Easy to cut with a hacksaw. Screwed them in from my 2×3 to the shelf, 12″ apart. Walla! 22″ hanging file drawer!
Now the closet. We’re lucky enough to have a huge closet, Full width and height. Just had to make it make sense. We didn’t need to hang long dresses, we needed to hang T shirts and Jeans, and have someplace to put shoes and hats and stuff.
I went to home depot, and got some of that closet organizer stuff. I got the ones that were 16″ deep, along with some of the hardware to hold em up. I like the “capture” brackets with 2 screw holes, and 45 degree brackets where they are not on a wall. The wallboard in our RV is plenty strong enough to hold a screw, I just used some #8 x 1″ self taps, and didn’t bother to try to find the studs.
That big box on the left side holds our water heater, main A/C breaker panel, and the DC house fuse panel. I kept my main shelf short enough so I could still access the fuse panel and the water heater bypass valves, and was rewarded by a hole where the vacuum would fit!
The closet rod continues above that box, but at 26″ tall, the space isn’t actually tall enough to hang anything!
I put another shelf up there, and I use it for my hats and stuff.
The room under it is perfect for Brian’s bedding. Since he sleeps up front on the jackknife couch, all his stuff needs a home every morning.
So there’s a few of the things we’ve done to improve inside storage in our RV, hope you find it helpful.
Well on Thursday, December 3, we closed out our month in Gulf Shores, AL (see previous post.)
Carol and Brian took the Jeep and headed north. Brian has his final Eagle Scout Board of Review next Wednesday, and Carol wants to see Jake and Dann, and visit with other family.
As all RV Parks in the frozen north closed November 1, the motorhome, the dogs, and me are on our own. Scheduled to be 8 days.
My first stop after a short day driving was the Cajun RV Park, in Biloxi, Mississippi. I was there for 2 nights. Similar but different than Gulf Shores. Biloxi was hit hard by Katrina. Even now, a full decade later, there are an awful lot of “bare foundations”. Places where people used to live and play, but the storm and the cleanup wiped them bare, nothing left but the concrete.
Cajun RV Resort is really nice. They have grass! They are right across Hwy 90 from the beach, and they have a fenced off-leash dog run. Our furry boys loved that. After the first trip, everytime we left the RV, they headed straight for the gate. “Let me loose DADDY, I want to RUN!!!”
Unlike the Alabama coast, in Mississppi, the highway runs along the beach. There is nothing (with a few exceptions) between the highway and the gulf but sugar white sand, the length of the state. Seems it has always been this way, mostly. There are a few buildings on the gulf side, and also a few foundations, where the building washed away in the storm and was never rebuilt.
The town is awesome. It’s old. Historic. Tiny narrow streets that haven’t changed much since the 1700’s. Cool old buildings. Cool new building modeled after the old ones. I drove around here a bit, but didn’t stop.
One place I did stop is the Hardrock Casino. Behind the parking garage is a shrimp boat harbor!!! Forrest Gump, and Jenny 1 and Jenny2 and Jenny 3 and… well you get it. There were lots of fishermen selling fresh shrimp right off the deck of their boats. Very Very Cool.
The Hardrock was cool too. It’s a real casino, Vegas Style, not one of those prefab steel building indian casinos we’re used to seeing in Wisconsin. I walked through, but didn’t gamble. However, I thought about it.
Inside, there is a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. I thought about this hard. Best food EVER… for $200 a plate, it better be. Again, I passed.
But this time of year, even on the Gulf Coast, it cools off quick as the sun goes down (at a lousy 5 pm, NOT A FAN!) and my only transportation is a 40 year old Honda motorcycle…
So I cooked my own steak. Tried to cook it on the grille, but the wind kept blowing the fire out. So I ended up doing it in the cast iron skillet on the stove, bubbling in garlic, olive oil, and butter. Delicious! Take that, Ruth’s Chris!!
I was there for 2 nights, December 3 + 4. Saturday morning we rolled out heading for Marksville, LA. Darrin and Penny, friends we met in Gulf Shores, highly recommended the Paragon Casino RV Resort in Marksville, and after so many people telling me to stay away from the Big Easy (and I alone on a motorcycle…) I decided to go there. I’ll tell you all about it, tomorrow-ish.
Jim, Riley, Nikko, and Kobi.
Thursday, 12-3-2015, we rolled out of Gulf Shores, Alabama.
We’d stayed here for an entire month, which is the longest we’ve sat still since we moved into the bus in July. We had mail and other stuff shipped to us there. We made friends. We established favorite restaurants. It was almost like a home!
We stayed at Luxury RV Resort in site 23. It’s a nice place. The people who run it are great. More grass, less gravel and sand would be nice, but our pad was concrete and level and the plumbing and power always worked.
If you go here, I’d recommend a site facing toward the Gulf, on the backside of the campground. Prevailing winds come in from the east. This will put your rig between your patio and the wind. Our site 23 put the wind roaring down the side of the motorhome, rendering our patio nearly useless.
This campground is an easy 4 block walk to the beach.
We did this almost daily with our dogs. They were not allowed on the beach however. The town has a nice fenced off-leash dog run, easy driving (but not walking) distance. We were there almost every day.
The Hangout was a favorite restaurant. We went there twice. Great Seafood. It was a little pricey, as seafood always is – right around $100 for the 3 of us.We also went to the world famous LuLu’s, which is owned by Jimmy Buffet’s sister. The “thing” there is fried crab claws. They somehow get the outside of the claw off, leaving the meat and a “fin” down the middle. You bite down lightly, and take off the breading and meat, leaving the fin behind. They are small, and a normal adult can eat hundreds. Did I mention they are DELICIOUS!!!
Gulf Shores is just a few miles down the coast from Pensacola Navel Air Station. This is where the best and the brightest go when they “Get Jets”. There is a great Navel Air Museum, a cool old light house, and Pensacola NAS is home to the Blue Angels! We went into Pensacola for the Angels Welcome Home air show, it was AMAZING. If you’ve seen them perform you know how cool they are, well, go see them perform over their HOME FIELD! Best Air Show EVER!
Not only that, but we were treated to near daily air shows right from our campsite! They come screaming down the coast around mid-morning, zoom around a bit, do a vertical, and vanish. This would happen several times a day, almost every day.
They tell me this area becomes “snowbird heaven” after the new year, and is booked solid thru March. November/December is the town’s slow season. No college kids, no snowbirds, just us and the Blue Angles. I’m fine with that.
All in all it was a very nice area, and a very nice campground. The weather was great! (we’re from Chicago so we don’t have very high expectations for November/December) – it was low 70’s and sunny most days. We had a lot of fun hanging on the beach for a month.
Disclaimer: This is what we did on or before December 1, 2015. What we believe will work for us, and how it went down on this day, this time, and this place. Your experience and choices may differ.
So why did we choose Florida? We looked at a bunch of states when deciding “where to reside.” Illinois (our former state) was not on that list, mostly due to our experiences and our simply wanting to leave it behind.
We are “pre-Medicare” and have been small business owners for a long time. The availability of some sort of major medical health insurance with nationwide coverage was tops on our list in making our choice. With South Dakota never having a nationwide ACA insurer, and BCBS-Texas out of nationwide as of 2016, that left Florida. Another big reason we chose Florida is because they have no state income tax, and because they allow you to renew your driver license’s online. They also do not require special licensing for heavy RV’s, and no vehicle inspections.
So, as of today, we are residents of Florida. The Sunshine State. Land of snowbirds, orange trees, white sand beaches. And easy residency requirements, really nice public servants, and what actually appears to be a desire to “Home the Homeless”.
Last week, we signed up with Americas Home Base. This is a mail-forwarding service that will handle all of our personal mail from here forward. They are located in Pensacola, 30 miles from our Gulf Shores campsite. $10/month + postage. Done.
The next thing on Florida’s list – we had to prove our vehicles were insured in Florida. This required a simple phone call to Geico (our existing insurer) and Done. (worth noting: moving from Illinois to Florida gave us a healthy increase in insurance costs. Something about hurricanes apparently. Don’t care. Done). We had Geico email us a binder statement that named everyone on our insurance, and included our (Americas Home Base) Florida address.
So… As of 12-1-2015, Florida’s website said to title a vehicle, we had to present another state’s title or paperwork from a lienholder, and proof of Florida insurance. Done.
For our Drivers License, we needed 2 proofs of identity (another state’s unexpired driver’s license and our passports), 2 proof’s of residency (the above mentioned Geico statement, and our vehicle registration) and proof of our social security number.
So we gathered up our vehicle titles, insurance paperwork, Illinois Driver’s licences, passports, Social Security cards, hooked the Honda motorcycle on the back of the bus, hooked the Jeep to the towbar, and headed down 292 toward Florida, to the office that says “Tax Collector” on the sign outside.
Seems we picked a great day to do this, the Warrington office was almost empty. We met up with a very nice lady there named Lynne, and she took us through the whole thing start to finish. In about 3 hours we left with our titles, license plates, Florida driver’s licenses, and voter registrations.
It was still early enough that we had time to go to downtown Pensacola to the Bank of America, and opened 2 personal checking accounts (using our fresh off the press Florida D/L’s as ID) and a business checking account. We chose Bank of America because they have locations pretty much throughout the United States, in case we would ever have to actually visit a bank branch for any reason (everything is done online, but you never know!).
So it’s done. All of this was actually very simple. We’d planned Thursday and Friday for all this, and it’s done, complete, finito, on Tuesday. Kudos to the ladies at the Tax Collector office and at Bank of America for a job well done! We were very impressed with their knowledge and helpfulness!
Sit on it Illinois.
So you want to hit the road in your RV, but need income along the way? Perhaps a workamping job is the thing for you! In this week’s Location Independent Lifestyle Series, we will discuss workamping.
Workamping is defined as a form of RV camping where singles or couples do part-time or full-time work in exchange for a free RV site (including utilities) and/or wages. These positions can be located in private RV resorts, campgrounds, state or national parks, Christmas tree lots, amusement parks, retail stores, food service, and many more locations.
This time of year, a very popular place for workampers is with Amazon’s CamperForce. Amazon hires nomads to pick/pack Christmas orders for their Christmas rush this time of year. The pay is good and they will even give you a completion bonus after the season is over on December 23rd. The season starts in early Fall, so it’s a little too late for this year, but something to keep in mind for next year. From what I understand, the work is not easy but the pay is great. Many Amazon CamperForce workers go back year after year. You can find more information at the Amazon Camperforce webpage.
Another yearly workamping job that is very popular is the sugar beet harvest. The sugar beet harvest begins October 1 and generally runs for about 3 weeks, depending on the weather. You work in 12-hour shifts, collecting beets or operating the machinery. The pay is $12/hour for the first 8 hours, then time and a half for the other 4 hours each day, with Saturdays all day at time and a half, and Sundays at either time and a half or double time. Your campsite of course is provided for free. Many people boast making upwards of $2000 or more in the 3 weeks they are there. More information can be found at www.sugarbeetharvest.com.
Another popular career choice for nomads is to work on the pipeline. You are required to follow the pipeline as it is being built. Jobs range from laborers to engineers, and every job in between. The jobs seem to be located in many different states. There are many job listings at www.rigzone.com.
Many workampers choose to work for private campgrounds, either as hosts, groundskeepers, office workers or any other jobs that the owners of the campgrounds need. There are several websites that list workamping jobs for campgrounds such as www.workamper.com (they actually trademarked the term “workamping”), www.workampingjobs.com, or www.camphost.org. Many of these are paid positions, as well as providing your campsite free of charge. Depending upon the amount of hours worked, some campgrounds do not pay an hourly wage, but rather just provide your site. Most of these positions require that you send them a simple resume detailing your past experience, and including a photo of you and your RV. Many of these jobs are seasonal, depending on their location, so many workampers move around to the northern states in the summer and the southern states in the winter.
As you can see, there are many ways to make money as a workamper while you travel. I have met people who work construction jobs, as well as sales, while they travel in their RV. The possibilities are pretty much limitless! I hope that I have been able to give you a few good ideas for workamping positions and where to find them. For a look at our other articles in the work from anywhere series, follow these links to our other 2 articles on Freelancing and Avoiding Scams when looking for jobs. And remember to tune in next Monday as we continue our series on The Location Independent Lifestyle – Working From Anywhere.
We’re from Chicago. We’ve both lived there all of our lives – still not sure why!! Between the housing prices, taxes, politicians, and the HORRIBLE weather in winter, I seriously think we were nuts for staying there all these years. Last week they got a foot of snow back home in Chicago, while we were all warm and toasty down here in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Truth be told, it was kind of fun to laugh at them back home.
Today I found this video on YouTube that pretty much sums it up, called “Snow Is A Four Letter Word”. Its pretty funny! Enjoy!