By Janet Groene, F47166
When you decided to become a full-timer, you probably realized that you’d be giving up some of the time-honored traditions that your family cherished for years. In many ways, that’s good. In others, it leaves gaps that need to be filled in for your own sake, for the sake of your spouse or travel companion(s), and for the loved ones you left behind.
There’s no better time than now to establish new traditions that are compatible with your full-timing life, and actually enrich it.
Here are some ideas you might want to consider.
Traditions for you alone
Whether in full view of others or done by yourself, these traditions are for you alone. You might, for example, start every day with a prayer or meditation in the cockpit with a view of the beautiful world outside. Or perform yoga or tai chi at sunrise. Perhaps you vowed to drink more green tea. Set aside a special time each day for a hot, soothing cup. Start a quilt, designing a new square for every state you visit, or get in the habit of learning one new Spanish phrase each day, or a sonnet, or a Psalm.
You’ll bless the day you began keeping a travel diary — not a log about changing the oil or buying new tires, but a real journal detailing the deeply personal journey that is full-timing. Use whatever style works for you, from pencil sketches to jotted notes to letters to an imagined friend.
For full-timers who are ham radio operators, “skeds” maintained with others are an important tradition. Join “nets” on any topic and then tune in daily at the appointed time. Like e-mail and computer chat rooms, ham radio lets you interact with others no matter how alone or isolated you are. It’s a source of enduring contacts all over the world. You might obtain a ham license and equipment, or start an e-mail correspondence with a shut-in. You also could create a mailing list of shut-ins and send them postcards from each place you visit. Treat yourself to a visit to the beauty shop every Thursday, or read Shakespeare for 20 minutes every day no matter where you are.
Traditions for your motorhome
Some people might call them habits while others consider them ruts, but most of us are comforted by familiar, everyday traditions that bring sameness and sanity to life on the road. Find special ways to nurture your partner, especially as you first begin full-timing and it’s easy to feel disoriented. You might, for example, establish the tradition of serving your spouse breakfast in bed every Sunday morning, or sharing a plate of hot cinnamon rolls at 5:00 a.m. before a fishing excursion. Buy a new book every year that features a joke or an inspirational thought for the day, and read it aloud at breakfast in the morning or after dessert at night.
Food traditions are always comforting. Bean soup and cornbread every Saturday night will make you feel right at home in your coach. Schedule a lunch date every Wednesday at the nearest restaurant. Have a TGIF (thank goodness it’s Friday) celebration the first Friday night of the month by enjoying dinner and a movie. Set aside every other Tuesday for everyone to pitch in with housecleaning and maintenance, followed by a Chinese take-out dinner.
Some traditions are best when the coach is at rest; others are specifically for when you’re traveling. One very practical habit is to walk completely around the motorhome before every startup, even if you’ve stopped for only a few minutes to refuel the coach. From a safety standpoint, it gives you a chance to make sure everything is in order and that you left nothing behind. It’s also a good time to put your mind into highway mode, thinking ahead to the serious business of driving.
Birthdays and holidays call for new traditions when full-timing. Choose single-serve cupcakes instead of a big layer cake for birthdays, and Cornish game hens instead of a big Thanksgiving turkey. Buy new additions from time to time to be used for special occasions. Items such as a pair of toasting flutes, a folding Christmas tree, or a heart-shaped cake pan for birthdays, anniversaries, and Valentine’s Day will become more special each time you use them.
Old traditions can be observed, too. Keep the toll-free telephone number or Web site address of a national floral delivery service on hand so you can order yellow roses and have them brought to your campsite on your anniversary. Break out your famous recipe for Christmas pudding or the lemon meringue pie he loves so much.
Attach photos and souvenirs to corkboard and keep the collection neat by noting a tiny expiration date on each piece. Start a “Fun Fund” jar where loose change goes at the end of each day. When the pot is filled, splurge on a special outing.
Designate times when you will take stock of your full-timing life, plan for the future, and set goals. These confabs can be monthly, quarterly, or yearly, as long as you stick to the schedule. Instead of carping over everyday annoyances, save up your wants and gripes for dates when you sit down together, re-evaluate, and decide whether you want to continue full-timing and how to make it better. One family I know decides on New Year’s Day what new hobby to pursue together that year. So far they have sampled bird-watching, stargazing, and rockhounding.
Traditions for the campground
Among our happiest memories of the campgrounds we’ve stayed in are the characters who stand out from the crowd. Could you adopt a tradition that will be cherished by others along the way? You might find a place to mount a flag on your coach and raise the Stars and Stripes each morning (observing proper flag etiquette), and retire it each evening. Chances are that you’ll draw a crowd. Or, become known as the folks who have tea time at 3:00 p.m. or coffee klatch at 10:00 a.m. Others can bring their cups and join if they choose.
We remember a fellow camper who played taps at sunset every day. His tradition became ours, too. Another full-timer, a single fellow traveling alone, always brought the same contribution to potlucks. He had a pretty bowl that he filled with prunes and covered with a bottle of Cherry Heering liqueur, letting them steep overnight. He joked, “I’m not much of a cook, but you’ll love my gravy.” Everyone did.
Traditions for those left behind
When my mother’s telephone rings at a certain time very early in the morning, she knows it’s my call. This is “our” time, even though we also may talk at other times. Thousands of small things can remind friends and family that they are still a part of your life even though you’re miles away.
Remember a widowed aunt with flowers and a “Thinking of You” card on the day that would have been her wedding anniversary. Send the grandchildren only a card on their birthdays, when they receive lots of other gifts, but surprise them with “just because” gifts at odd times in between.
Traditions — sometimes they serve as the knots in the slippery rope of our lives, places to grab onto and hold tight.
Books for trips
Day Tripping by Teri Brown ($13.95, Champion Press Ltd.) is not a where-to-go book but a practical guide to help you make the most of each day’s sight-seeing adventure. Learn how to put together a group field trip for yourself and your campground neighbors. Get the most out of touring a military fort or a county courthouse. Visit an herb center or take a bird walk. This book will inspire each day’s travels no matter where you are.
Day tripping to Manhattan? The $5 Lunch: New York City, Times Square Area ($12.95, Sugarshu Books) is a slender book that’s well worth tucking into a pocket or purse, because it suggests one great place to eat after another. At this price, most listings are street carts and hole-in-the-wall eateries, but the variety among the 50 suggested dining spots is amazing.
A tea tour
Take a 45-minute tour of the Celestial Seasonings factory and herb garden on State Route 119 northeast of the Boulder, Colorado, airport. Daily tours start on the hour, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. While there, you can try new flavors at the Tea Sampling Bar; buy teas at a discount; shop for gifts and collectibles; and have breakfast or lunch in the café, where those 65 and older receive a 10 percent discount. The tour and samples are free. For more information, call (303) 581-1202 or visit www.celestialseasonings.com.
Do you have cherished habits or traditions that enrich your full-timing life? E-mail them to [email protected] or mail to Janet Groene, Family Motor Coaching, 8291 Clough Pike, Cincinnati, OH 45244.