Ideas and advice from full-timers and other motorhomers who have learned from their experiences.
By Janet Groene, F47166
November 2008 FMC magazine
The full-timer life is becoming more commonplace, and that’s good news. Today folks are more accepting and less suspicious of alternative lifestyles. More temp-type jobs are available, and more campgrounds have set aside sections for long-term residents. As you’ll see below, the population of full-timers also includes more experts in various topics. True to the tradition of full-timing, they are willing to share their advice with others.
Mellanie True Hills is a motorhome traveler as well as a women’s heart health expert, CEO of the American Foundation for Women’s Health, and author of A Woman’s Guide to Saving Her Own Life: The HEART Program for Health & Longevity ($24.95, Healthy Ideas Press). Her mission is to alert people, especially seniors, to atrial fibrillation. This disease “”an irregular heartbeat that is often silent “” affects 5 million Americans. Five years ago, Mellanie was a busy mom and career woman who almost died twice before realizing she had heart trouble.
Her book explains how women can identify health warning signs and offers tips for avoiding stress-related diseases. It is available in bookstores and through online booksellers. Also visit her at www.stopafib.org and http://www.atrialfibrillationblog.com/.
Doreen Orion, M.D., is a psychiatrist as well as a seasoned full-timer who wrote the hilarious book Queen of the Road ($13.95, Broadway Books), which chronicles her offbeat RV exploits with her husband, also a psychiatrist. I asked her, as an expert in mental health, to suggest tips full-timer couples can use for maintaining harmony while living in close quarters.
“For some partners, all this 24/7 togetherness merely amplifies problems previously disguised by outside, day-to-day stresses,” she observed. “You can’t expect your partner to do only things you want to do. It’s essential to do things you can enjoy together, and also to explore new ways to have fun with each other. Try to look at any activity as an opportunity to share in your partner’s pleasure, learn something different about him or her, as well as a chance to see your spouse in a new situation.”
Dr. Orion added, “Be flexible in the choices you make and try to find something positive, even when doing activities you might not have picked for yourself. Don’t be resentful, and above all, don’t be afraid to try new things together. That can create wonderful shared memories and help each of you see the other in a new light, injecting some spark into the relationship.” Her advice is serious, but her book is a hoot that all full-timers will identify with.
Do you wish you could communicate via e-mail but just don’t like dealing with computers? Look into Presto, an HP printer service that delivers hard copy e-mail and photos. If you have a Presto, your family and friends can send you e-mails and photos from their own computers, cameras, or cell phones. You don’t need a computer to print them out, but you must be hooked up to a phone line, as the device cannot receive via a cell phone.
And if you have a computer but family and friends don’t, Presto makes the perfect gift for them. They can learn to receive photos and e-mail from you. The printer costs approximately $150, and monthly service runs as low as $12.50. The only other costs are for printer cartridges and paper. Go to www.presto.com for more information.
Do you have to limit your exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays because you suffer from an illness such as lupus, or take a medication that makes you more sensitive to sunlight? First, check with the manufacturer of your motorhome to see which glass, if any, was treated with UVA and UVB filtering. The windshield, windshield and cockpit windows, or all windows may be treated. If you find you are not protected as much as you need, you can have film professionally applied to your coach’s glass to block UVA and UVB rays. Be aware, however, that state laws regulate the amount of window tinting permitted on vehicles, including how dark the tinting can be. Check with your state’s division of motor vehicles (DMV). Then, if you find you need more tinting than is allowed by law, ask the DMV officials whether the state recognizes medical documentation in the case of certain conditions. For more information, visit www.autowindowtinting.com.
The word “shed” took on new meaning when we rescued Gypsy, an all-black Border collie mix with long, long hair that soon plastered our coach’s light-colored upholstery. Then we discovered FURminator products. Gypsy loves being groomed with the shedding tool, which removes bushels of surplus hair. The company also makes de-shedding tools for cats; shampoos and other fur treatments for dogs and cats; a nutritional supplement that helps reduce excess shedding; and dog treats high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are said to reduce excess shedding. Look for the brand in pet supply stores.
When Dad’s shirt collars got frayed, Grandmother pulled out stitches and reattached the collars the other way around, making the shirt good for another year. When she had to let down a skirt for a growing girl, Granny hid the old, faded hemline with rickrack, and the dress looked like new. Hard times came and went, but now people of all income levels are concerned about recycling. Here’s where Nan Ides’s new book may provide some inspiration. Hand Mending Made Easy ($14.95, Palmer/Pletsch Publishing) is mending education in a compact book you can take with you wherever you may go.
Her tips on how to patch, stitch, and mend make use of modern materials as well as age-old ways. The best part of the book is her suggestions on how to add a fashion touch to make an old garment look better than ever before. Don’t throw away another garment until you’ve seen this book.
Robert and Barbara Dougherty responded to the August “Full-Timer’s Primer” column, in which readers were asked to send in their suggestions for saving money and to explain whether they have a savings fund for a special purpose. “We have been full-timers for eight years,” Robert reported. “My wife cuts my hair, and I change my own oil whenever I can get into an Auto Hobby Shop or a military base. Being retired military and shopping at their commissaries helps, too.
“We do have a “˜piggy bank’ (actually a pint jar) where we put away the price of dining out when we decide to stay home and eat.” These are occasions when either Robert or Barbara suggests going out and the other doesn’t want to, so they “bank” the money they would have spent on the meal and decide in the future on something to do that they’ll both enjoy.
Also responding was a couple who identified themselves only as Paul and Jean. They wrote, “Our primary checking account is an interest-bearing account in a savings bank. We keep project accounts, each labeled with its own name (and the code PJ for Project), within that account. On the first of the month I make ‘payments’ from the Quicken register to PJ Campgrounds, PJ Fuel, PJ Repairs, and so on. As expenditures are needed for those items during the month, I can easily make a ‘deposit’ back to the main account from whichever PJ item is involved. Anytime I want to know the totals in all categories, I click on Quicken’s Report function, click on the predesigned PJ report, and I see a listing of all special project funds in each category. This helps us be sure money is set aside for known coming expenses, and there is always money available in case of unseen emergencies.”
Jon Hubbell reported, “We long ago established an (interest-bearing) savings account for (reserves such as) insurance and taxes. We now also have (interest-bearing reserve) accounts for maintenance, repairs, and replacement (of the coach), and another for vacations such as cruises and other trips away from the coach.”
Phil and Carol Scott, who have been full-timing since 1989, chimed in on the budget question, too. One way Phil saves is by doing as much work on the coach as he can. He figures the total savings at $150 per oil change (he recommends looking for the Fleetguard truck at rallies); $300 by replacing his fuel fill hose; $250 by doing his own generator tune-up (the main problem was the air cleaner, he found); $900 by doing his own exhaust rebuild; $400 performing a Pacbrake repair; $125 for each generator oil change; and $150 for changing a large oil filter.
He said he likes doing his own work because “you are in control of how things are done.” For one big job that would have cost hundreds of dollars, he had a welder do a better-than-new replacement for $20. Here’s an example of a person who never took courses in mechanics but can figure things out and save a bundle.
After too many hit-and-miss haircuts on the road, Mary Gay Hucherson loves the Flowbee vacuum do-it-yourself haircutting device. She said it’s never failed her, unlike a similar product that she admitted wasn’t very reliable. The Flowbee can be purchased at www.flowbee.com.
On another topic, Mary Gay wrote that after staying all summer in family campgrounds “absolutely crawling with kids,” she was ready for something quieter. The Huchersons recommend The Bluffs RV Resort, a New Hampshire campground that offers extended-stay and seasonal sites for people 50 and over. It is part of the Danforth Bay Camping and RV Resort, which is a family campground. Many residents of The Bluffs winter in Florida and summer on Danforth Bay, Mary said.
Ray and Nikki Nicholson, who live near Flat Rock, North Carolina, came to the end of the road after seven full-timing years, and Nikki now shares her story with others whose health concerns will end their full-timing. Ray had a detached retina, which led to more eye surgeries, and the Nicholsons began to take them as a sign. It was time, they realized, to start winding down and finding a home closer to their son and daughter-in-law. “Full-timing was the most rewarding life,” Nikki said, without any regrets. “We felt privileged. In all, we traveled 16 years and visited every state except Alaska and Hawaii.
“We both have strong faith and always sensed we would know when the time came. This is just another of life’s stages.”
Do you have a story about your full-timing life nearing its end? Advice for others? Share it in Full-Timer’s Forum by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure to put “FMCA” in the subject line.