By Janet Groene, F47166
Part of the fun of full-timing is sharing travels with loved ones back home. You can snap a picture one minute and have it on your sister’s desktop a minute later. You can make up a family newsletter and mass e-mail it to two dozen cousins and your old Rotary buddies with one click of the mouse. Or you can desktop-publish your own memoirs or travel diary. How can you use today’s electronics and high-tech communications to take friends and family along for the ride?
The passive approach is to put up a blog or Web site and hope they’ll tune in as often as you’d like. However, if you really want people to take notice, you’ll probably have to take your news to each person in a form that will work for them. That means some individual e-mails, some group e-mails, and a lot of snail mail. Although mail sent through the U.S. Postal Service costs more, hard copy is often taken more seriously. It can be passed around, read at each person’s leisure, and saved for years. It’s also a thoughtful way to include Aunt Maude or Gramps, who never see a computer screen.
Here are some ideas for creating your own blog or newsletter:
- Use color, links, clip art, and photos, but not too much. Overly large files can clog recipients’ mailboxes. Keep it short. If you make hard copies of your newsletter to send in the mail, use colored paper or stationery with interesting borders.
- Get your travel companions involved, perhaps with “Kids’ Korner” or “From the Left Seat” sections. Everyone can write a message or paragraph, contribute a sketch or cartoon, or tell an anecdote. Use quotes and funny stories.
- Use photographs as much as possible. If you carry one of the convenient photo printers, such as the Canon SELPHY, you can print directly from an SD card onto photo paper that is preprinted for use as postcards. Send them as snail mail to loved ones back home.
- Think before you ink. If, for example, you’re going through a very tough time, wait until you’re able to keep it brief and tell what happened in one-two-three order. Avoid health details, especially in discussing your partner’s condition.
- Finish the newsletter; sleep on it overnight; then edit it mercilessly, boiling it down to a punchy, readable version.
- Don’t overdo it with what’s going on in the lives of others. Do your friends, who have never met your children, care that your son-in-law got promoted or your granddaughter graduated from kindergarten?
- Put yourself in the picture. If people want a description of the Grand Canyon, they can find it online or in a book. Tell what you saw, did, and experienced there.
- Convey your enthusiasm with good writing, not punctuation fireworks.
- Keep it light and airy with generous margins and crisp, large type.
- Flesh out the newsletter with things people love: pictures, jokes, trivia, funny anecdotes, riddles, or quotes. Throw in a recipe, a poem, a puzzle, or a family trivia quiz.
- The hardest part of writing is getting started, so brainstorm with your traveling companion about ideas. Jot down the highlights of the story, and then flesh it out.
- Personalize your blog or newsletter by adding a family calendar to each issue. You might list upcoming family birthdays, anniversaries, and significant dates such as “Granny would have been 90 today.”
- Start the next issue right after sending the last. Add to it until you’ve reached a goal of a certain number of words or pages, then send the next one.
- Come up with a catchy name for your blog or newsletter, such as “Johnson Journeys” or “The Rutledges on the Road,” and keep a consistent format each time to tie everything together.
- Include your contact information in each issue. Stay-at-homes need constant reminders that your mail goes to Cincinnati, Ohio, even though you’ve just told them you’re in southeast Alaska. There may be only a few people you want to have your cell phone number, temporary mail address, or e-mail. It’s easy to crank out bulk mailings, but make sure you want everyone to know everything you put in the newsletter.
From Our Full-Timers’ Panel
Keeping in touch
Ken and Bonnie Martin, F186388, keep in touch mostly with friends and family by e-mail and cell phone, staying at least once a week at a campground that has Wi-Fi or dial-up Internet service. “We write e-mails through the week and send them whenever we can,” Bonnie reported. “Our address book is set up in groups so we can send the same e-mail to several people at once.” The Martins have a number of friends who pal together in Arizona in the winter, then scatter in the summer and keep in touch by phone and e-mail.
“We call our parents on the cell phone every weekend to let them know where we are and to exchange news,” Bonnie said. “Ken’s parents aren’t full-timers, but they also spend a lot of time on the road in their motor coach. Several times through the year we manage to meet somewhere to spend several days together.”
Peter and Connie Bradish, F203498, whom you might have met at one of the FMCA conventions where they’ve given seminars on communication on the go, use T-Mobile for their phone service. “It’s been upgraded to broadband,” Peter said. For it to work, a new PCMCIA card or data-capable cell phone is needed. As existing customers, the Bradishes were “grandfathered in” at $30 a month, but new subscribers pay $50 a month for unlimited service. “Coverage has been excellent so far,” Peter noted.
“We have started using an Internet photo site for communicating with others about our travels,” Peter added. “This is similar to a blog, but photo-oriented. It focuses on images in albums with little emphasis on text. Take a look at www.bradishes.shutterfly.com for perspective. It covers our trip to Alaska.”
Keeping in touch is a profession for Kay Kennedy, author of Portable Writing: The Secret to Living Your Dreams with 25 Projects to Fund Your Freedom ($16.95, Booklocker.com). As a specialist in writing on the go as a business, she also wrote Make Room for Success: A Guide for Planning and Setting up a Successful Office in Your Home or on the Road. She maintains a Web site “” www.kennedyk.com or www.portablewriting.com “” for business and a blog for her books.
“We also send lots of e-mails back and forth,” Kay said. “As for family communications, some of our relatives don’t use computers so we keep in touch with them with regular phone calls. We have a generous cell phone plan.”
She pointed out that software and servers are available free for those who want to do Web sites, but said she opts for a site that costs $6.95 a month, because it’s more reliable than the free services.
Sharon and Jon Hubbell, F308524, use a service called www.MyTripJournal.com, which gives a running commentary on their travels at www.MyTripJournal.com/travel_with_the_Hubbells. “We recommend it highly,” Sharon said. “It provides for journal entries, pictures [clickable thumbnails on the entry page, which can be viewed as a slide show], and maps with markers showing where the entry references. Each map point is connected with a line to the one before and after.”
The service provides a free, basic Web site; more elaborate Web site categories start at $59 a year. “Jon always uses instant messaging to keep in touch with his family and friends,” Sharon noted.
If you have e-mail and would like to participate in the Full-Timers’ Panel, send an e-mail message to email@example.com. Each month you’ll be asked for input on one facet of the full-timing life.
More on hospital hookups
Thanks to her motorhome, Carol Poiset, F265352, was able to be with her daughter during many weeks of hospital care and rehabilitation. Carol stayed for six weeks at the KOA at the Hilton, five minutes from the hospital in Reno, Nevada, and then spent four weeks in the parking lot at the San Jose Valley Medical Rehabilitation Center where she had a water hookup and 15-amp power. “It was enough to get by with,” she reported. “This can be set up with your social worker [at the hospital]. There isn’t a sewer setup, but they will arrange for you to have showers at the hospital. Also there is a dump site at a trailer rental place about five miles away. My daughter is now back home in California with her husband and is continuing therapy from there.”