By Janet Groene, F47166
Seeing the world as a full-timer can be very rewarding, but don’t be misled into believing that it’s all one big vacation. This still is life, and those on the road have the same challenges and opportunities “” perhaps more “” as those living in stationary homes. The following suggestions, reminders, and tidbits of information can help full-timers enjoy a more fulfilling experience.
Health on trial
When full-timers have medical problems, they also have unique advantages and disadvantages. The downside is obvious; travel and illness don’t go well together. However, the upside is that you can take your home on wheels to any climate or any clinic where the best help is available for your ailment. Lately, I’m hearing more and more horror stories about simple, elective surgeries that went wrong when a patient went to the nearest doctor. The full-timer, on the other hand, can seek out the best surgeons for any operation and simply set up camp near that clinic or hospital.
If you can’t afford care for a specific condition not covered by your medical insurance, there may be another alternative. More than 9,000 government and private clinical trials are in progress throughout the United States. In some trials, participants are paid; in others, treatment is free and some or all expenses are paid. Of course, in trials the chance exists that you will receive a placebo; the treatment will be ineffective; and, in some cases, your condition will worsen. On the other hand, you have an equal chance to be part of an experimental protocol that may cure or control your affliction, even though it is not yet available to the general public at any price. For a list of such trials, ask your doctor or go online to www.clinicaltrials.gov.
Are you a retired scientist, engineer, or product developer with specialized skills that could be useful to a company looking for new ideas? Temporary jobs for retirees with such qualifications are available through YourEncore Inc. YourEncore matches retirees who have time-proven skills with companies such as Procter & Gamble and Eli Lilly. Full-timers who have these skills and also are able to bring their own housing with them should stand out above the competition. Visit www.yourencore.com for information and an application. Or, contact YourEncore Inc., 20 N. Meridian, Suite 802, Indianapolis, IN 46204; (317) 226-9301.
Working without wages
When full-timers want to volunteer their time and talents, opportunities abound in public lands and with groups such as Habitat for Humanity. A less well-known opportunity is Passport in Time, an archaeological arm of the U.S. Forest Service. Participants can spend five to 14 days helping to find, excavate, or preserve historic sites. Volunteers are responsible for their own food and lodging. Contact (800) 281-9176 or visit www.passportintime.com.
Caregiving on the go
If you’re a caregiver for someone who full-times with you, or you have caregiving responsibilities “back home,” you’re not alone. One FMCA member told me she manages very well while full-timing with her husband who has Alzheimer’s disease. But coping with someone who has this disease takes energy and knowledge, and that’s where Jacqueline Marcell can help. A busy executive, her life was turned upside-down when she went through the nightmare and financial hardship of caring for her parents, both of whom had Alzheimer’s disease. She has become an expert on elder-care issues and is a fervent advocate for caregivers, as well as for the people they are looking after. Her story is riveting and her advice is invaluable.
Ms. Marcell’s book, Elder Rage “” or “” Take My Father … Please!: How to Survive Caring for Aging Parents ($19.95, Impressive Press) is a bestseller and Book-of-the-Month Club selection. It can be ordered through any bookstore or from Ms. Marcell’s Web site, www.elderrage.com.
She also hosts an Internet radio program found at www.wsradio.com/copingwithcaregiving/. To listen to the show online, go to the Web site and download the free software (Windows Media Player, if you do not already have it) that lets you tap into the fast-growing world of Internet radio. On the show, Ms. Marcell gives caregiving news, provides information sources, and interviews experts about all facets of eldercare.
Home base, revisited
Where to establish a home base is a different puzzle for each full-timer, depending on their hometown loyalties, travel patterns, and other factors. However, if you are seeking a tax haven, these rankings from the Wall Street Journal may be of interest. Residents pay the highest state taxes in New York, followed by Maine, Ohio, Hawaii, and Rhode Island. The five states with the lowest taxes are Alaska, New Hampshire, Delaware, Tennessee, and Texas.
Rankings such as those mentioned above are, of course, subject to caveats. They apply only to state and local taxes as a percentage of income. For example, New York residents have a state and local tax burden of 12.9 percent of their total income; Ohioans 11.3 percent, and so on. Since some high-tax states don’t tax pensions, full-timers who live on retirement income may be better off there than in states with lower taxes. The total cost of living is, of course, another matter. To find out which states many FMCA full-timers are choosing to call their “home,” check out next month’s column for the results of the survey that appeared in the April 2004 issue of FMC.
A fellow writer who lives in Oregon drove deep into the outback to have lunch at a remote campground, only to be met by a sign saying, “Campground Closed Due to Repeated Vandalism.” Full-timers and their cell phones are often the first line of defense when public parks become the scene of a crime, a fire, vandalism, or poaching. As you travel, learn how these reports should be handled in each area, and keep phone numbers handy. Florida, for example, has a hotline solely for reporting poaching. Most public parks that are unstaffed at night provide campers with an emergency number.
I’m on a new soapbox on behalf of those full-timers who are not online, or whose Internet access is limited, unavailable in some areas, or very expensive on a per-minute basis. Even full-timers who have Internet access often prefer to use postal mailing addresses or toll-free numbers. Increasingly, the trend is to require Web access for everything from inquiries and complaints to contest entries and warranty fulfillment. When a company called me to ask that I publicize a contest that could be entered only online, my crusade took shape. “You’re shutting out some of my readers,” I told them, “So I can’t cover this contest at all.”
Am I right in thinking that many full-timers are not on the Internet at all, while others have limited Web access? Do you feel helpless when articles or instructions provide only a Web site for customer service or additional information? Please sound off!
The Last Frontier
For those who are drawn back to the state of Alaska time and again, Denali is a magical magnet. Dow Scoggins, who has been exploring Denali National Park and Preserve for 20 years, has published the most comprehensive book I’ve seen on visiting this national park. Discovering Denali, A Complete Reference Guide to Denali National Park and Mount McKinley, Alaska ($16.95) is invaluable in planning a safe and successful trip. It can be found at bookstores, through online booksellers, or from the publisher at www.iuniverse.com.
It isn’t too early to start planning your Alaska trek for the 2005 season. Only a handful of campsites in this national park can accommodate motorhomes; reservations can be made starting in December. Call (800) 622-7275, fax (907) 264-4684, or go to www.nps.gov/dena.