Make your full-timing dream come true with the blessing of your loved ones by planning ahead and understanding their concerns.
By Janet Groene, F47166
If you’re lucky, you have a loving family who cares about your well-being. If your family opposes your full-timing dreams, whether or not their arguments are valid, their concerns may weigh on your conscience and could even keep you from living your dream.
When my husband, Gordon, and I began full-timing, our families were puzzled but supportive. On the plus side, we were established as a travel writer (me) and photographer (him) team with high hopes of creating a new career. On the minus side, we were many decades away from retirement. To some, it seemed insane that Gordon would give up his hard-earned career as a professional pilot. Still today, most of the mail I receive from would-be full-timers begins with, “Our friends and family think we’re crazy.”
Hal Higdon, a contributing writer for Runner’s World magazine and author of Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide ($17.99, Rodale Books), compares making an extreme lifestyle change to training for a marathon.
“A friend of mine heard about a colleague whose child had a serious illness,” Mr. Higdon wrote.”A lightning bolt struck and she decided to run a marathon to raise money for the charity involved with that illness. She had run before, a few miles a day, but never before had run a marathon. Motivated now, she made the changes that go with intense training. Her bucket list became her reality.” Yours can, too.
Whether you aspire to run a marathon or to navigate the financial, physical, and social considerations that are involved with full-timing, Mr. Higdon’s advice can help prepare you to handle pressures from without as well as within.
“I think you’re crazy” was a family member’s charge against Tim and Jen Rubel. They are full-timers who live in southeastern Georgia with children ages 10, 12, and 16 after they decided to downsize from their brick-and-mortar home and live a simpler life. They started out in a 32-foot RV and then moved up to a larger model. Their lifestyle, chronicled in their blog at www.therubelfamilyadventure.com, involves staying in campgrounds within commuting distance of Tim’s job and their former neighbors.
Even though they don’t travel as much as some full-timers, they find themselves spending much more time fishing, exploring nearby beaches, and enjoying other family activities than when they lived a more conventional life.
But What About Your Children?
Of all the guilt trips laid on aspiring full-timers, the heaviest is the question, “What about the kids?” This is where you have plenty of ammunition to support your decision. Web sites created by successful full-timers who are raising children on the go include www.familiesontheroad.com, www.littlehouseliving.com, and www.fulltimefamilies.com. Obtain invaluable information and moral support from homeschool sites such as www.home-school.com.
The Rubels’ story is just one of the hundreds of success stories from parents who are raising children while full-timing. A paralegal by profession, Jen homeschools her youngest children, Sam, 12, and Kirsten, 10, for now. They still have a “home” church and participate in activities such as soccer and gymnastics.
If You Have Caregiver Responsibilities
If you’re on the full-timing fence because you have family members who assume you’ll take care of them when the time comes, author Carol-Ann Hamilton can help you through the rough spots with the advice in her book Coping With Un-Cope-Able Parents: Loving Action for Eldercare ($15, Balboa Press).
First, she provides questions that you need to ask yourself. Understand how your buttons are being pushed. Then she describes ways to deal with “un-cope-able” parents using love and action. Although she touches lightly on the financial side of things, this book is mostly about the emotional and psychological stresses of caregiving.
Chris Orestis of Life Care Funding, on the other hand, is an insurance expert whose primary focus is on financial solutions in eldercare. He said, “Many people who need long-term care can’t afford it, so they drop the life insurance policies they’ve been paying on for years in order to qualify for Medicaid.” Others cash in an insurance policy and spend the money so they’ll be eligible for Medicaid.
However, Mr. Orestis warned that once a person is in the Medicaid system, patients and their families have little control over their care. To learn more about lesser-known insurance options offered by Mr. Orestis, visit www.lifecarefunding.com. No endorsement by this writer or FMC is implied.
When you share caregiving responsibilities with other family members, things can get complicated. You’re on the go, free as the wind, while one or more siblings toil in the trenches day in and day out. According to AARP, caregivers spend 30 or more hours per week looking after the family member and pay out more than $8,000 a year of their own money in expenses such as mileage, food, and supplies. It isn’t unusual for everyone back home, caregivers and cared-for alike, to resent you for not being there for them.
Find articles at www.agingcare.com about how you can share the care in a different way. You might agree, for example, to pay a higher share of the bills in exchange for being there less, or agree to spend a certain number of weeks a year with your parents while your siblings get a break. For help finding a relief caregiver, try www.caremanager.org.
Some nursing homes allow short-time admission for respite care, which you could pay for while your siblings take a break. Home help for some veterans is available from the Veterans Administration. If you’re currently employed, your human resources office may offer information. Even from a distance, you can show you’re part of the caregiving team.
The same negotiating skills come into play if you are expected to help care for any other family members, such as a disabled brother or a maiden aunt. If you are taking heat about your plans to become a full-time motorhomer, now is the time to come to an understanding with your travel partner(s) and with family that will be left behind. Get a handle on what you must do and what it will cost in time, travel, and money.
“You’re Throwing Away Your Career”
The usual argument goes like this: “We put you through 4/6/8 years of college to become a doctor/lawyer/engineer and now you’re throwing it all away.” Sound familiar?
Consult with someone in your company’s human resources department or use an Internet search engine to find information about sabbaticals. Sabbatical opportunities are offered by many companies and may be paid, partially paid, or unpaid, but benefits and seniority are preserved.
Available from www.amazon.com are books including Six Months Off ($14, Henry Holt & Co.) by Hope Dlugozima, James Scott, and David Sharp, which is billed as “a complete guide to planning and taking the break you’ve been dreaming of, without losing your job or your nest egg, or alienating your family and friends.” Another book along the same line is Time Off from Work: Using Sabbaticals To Enhance Your Life While Keeping Your Career On Track ($17.95, John Wiley & Sons Inc.) by Lisa Rogak.
Unlike a complete break, a sabbatical allows you time to determine whether full-timing will work for you. If your family and friends are correct and you’ve had enough after six months, your job will be waiting for you.
There are also ways to use your training and experience to create a new career while full-timing. I was a journalist, so freelance writing fit perfectly into our full-timing life. Thanks to the Internet, full-timers with credentials in almost any field can make a living in countless specialties, including tutoring, consulting, sales, crafts, and the arts. Doctors can travel while filling temporary positions known as locum tenens (go to www.gmedical.com). Web sites such as www.travelnursesource.com can help nurses find jobs.
Earnings opportunities for travelers also include temporary help agencies, starting your own business, or telecommuting. By staying in the workforce, you keep your skills and resume current in case you want to — or have to — go back to the old life.
People who live full-time in motorhomes have an extended family created by membership in FMCA and all the wonderful people we meet while traveling. All this can be yours without losing your “original” family.