Howard & Linda in Alaska

Check Out Our Decision Process! It May Be Helpful To You

WARNING! This is a long, historical narrative covering the last six months of 2004. We think it is important that you get to know us and how we came to be full-timers. We hope it is helpful to you, but it is long (however, it does contain some helpful links to other pages on this website and to some of the research material we used). Consider yourself duly warned! Enjoy!

Who Are We?

My name is Howard Payne. I am forty-one years old and still wondering what to do with my life. Don't get me wrong. I have had a life most people would envy. Actually, it has been a wonderful life overall and I have been very lucky.

You see, I have a beautiful wife, Linda, who also happens to be my best friend. We have been together 23 years, married for eighteen, and we have no children by choice.

We have a gorgeous home that is about as close to a dream home as one could want. My drive to my main office takes about ninety seconds. I have a terrific education with a BS in Accounting with a minor in Information Systems and a Law Degree. I paid for this education myself, which is a big deal to me since my parents did not complete high school (due to the era in which they grew up more than anything), and though not poor, could not afford to send me to college.

I have a six-figure salary with a corner office and work for a Fortune 300 company that in 2003 purchased the little company I started back in 1998. My company pays for my golf and country club dues and I have an expense account.

With respect to the sale of my company, I had partners and did not get rich on the sale, but I have been able to overcome the many financial mistakes of my youth and become debt free except for the house.

We have managed to stash about $200,000 away for retirement. However, we cannot touch it without severe tax penalties for many years, and it is a long, long way from being able to quit completely. But, it is not bad considering how long it took us to pay off student loans and the various other consequences of being young and dumb.

If I stayed in my current position another fourteen years, our house would be paid off and we could retire at age fifty-five living comfortably for many years to come.

Why do I tell you these personal details? Because I feel it is important that you have a point of reference as you are considering a full-timing decision. You may be in a better or worse financial position overall, but I wanted to make it clear that we are going on the road with no income stream initially and you can too.

So What's The Problem?

The problem is that I am wired to give 110% to whatever I do, and I feel tremendous pressure to justify my lofty salary and position. I just don't enjoy the chase like I did when I was younger.

The pursuit of financial success used to be one of my passions. I had something to prove. But I don't have anything to prove anymore, and as I have gotten older (and maybe more mature) my desire for "financial success" and being able to retire early is just not as important as living life in the present and spending time with Linda.

While I am working tons of hours and my free time is consumed with thoughts of work, our marriage suffers because we disconnect from each other. We have managed to work through it by being able to travel and spend time in wonderful locations during vacation time.

It is during these vacations that we re-connect with each other. Also, our spirituality is most present when we are close to nature and we get out of our heads and live with our hearts. For years now we have worked very hard to have these wonderful three weeks and a few long weekends each year to revitalize us. But recently, we have realized that a month a year for real companionship, spirituality, and happiness costs us eleven months of stress and plain co-existence.

We want more, but not more stuff or perceived security. We want to feel like we are living every day and we want to touch other peoples' lives along the way.

What Has Brought Us To The Edge Of Giving Up Everything That We Have Worked So Hard For?

The Alaska Trip

In July 2004, we spent two weeks in the Alaskan wilderness hiking, fishing, rafting, bird watching, sightseeing, staying in rustic cabins and lodges, and spending time with a naturalist guide and thirteen other strangers that became friends. Our trip with the tour company Alaska Wildland Adventures on their 10 Day Grand Journey tour with a two day salmon fishing add-on was a vacation of a lifetime for us. If you ever decide to take an Alaskan vacation and don't want to do the cruise thing, I would highly recommend any tour with this company. We had no contact with the outside world - no cell phones, no television, and no newspapers. It was the most wonderful trip we have ever had and it is the one that we had the most opportunity to "feel" the natural surroundings without distraction.

The wildlife, the scenery, and the camaraderie really opened us up to thoughts of spending time traveling and meeting new people and experiencing our natural environment.

Could we give up our security and high lifestyle? Could we make enough money to travel and eat by picking up work along the way? Would the need to make a living overshadow the intent of the journey? Could we afford to live life on the road? More importantly, could we afford not to?

For the first time, Linda cried as we got on the plane and flew over the great Alaskan wilderness that had just touched us so much. She always goes into a sort of "mini-depression" when we return from vacations, but it was different this time. It was more than "back to work" doldrums. The depression was there for her, but the desire to escape the rat race became stronger and led to more serious "what if" thoughts.

Back Home

For me, when we got back home, I started dealing once again with the pressures of the job. The thought "If you have to make a living, do something that you love, that you are passionate about" kept scrolling through my head. It is that thought that has stuck in my mind over the past few years. But my practical side has always reeled the passionate side back in. "What? Are you crazy? Look how good you have it?" But the dreamer in me did not roll over this time.

The two of us casually chatted about what we could do to make a living while traveling around enjoying nature and each other. For years Linda has talked about running a bed and breakfast, so she started looking into the possibilities of us assisting B&B owners and innkeepers across the country.

She discovered that there are actually courses and certifications for taking over B&Bs and inns for short periods while owner operators take vacations or just need a few weeks to get away from their live-in businesses. This would give us wonderful experience and allow us to meet new people. But, could we find enough work to allow us to quit our jobs? And if we did find enough work, could we afford the travel to the widespread locations?

As for me, I started thinking about the things I enjoy - golf, photography, writing, training, making people laugh. Could I make a living quickly at any of these? I picked up my laptop and started writing the first chapter of a book I had been threatening to write for ten years.

It's Getting Serious

Then I started picking up books to read while traveling on business. Books about people who were seeking something other than the drone of life passing them by as they worked paycheck to paycheck.

I read Po Bronson's What Should I Do with My Life? : The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question. The title was perfect. The book included the stories of many people in many different situations. Some were success stories of people changing careers, some were disasters, and some were still in process. I have highlighted several passages in the book that were significant to me, but one in particular stood out in Chapter 40 "Uncomfortable Is Good: Rehearsing For Life's Improvisation":

At home, at work, at school, there are always a ton of external inputs coaxing you in the direction you are already going. Deadlines, parents chirping in your ear, friends wanting you to go out. Your life has a momentum. Traveling can take you away from all those influences, quiet their din, and allow you a kind of silence to consider who you are as an independent entity. It can be uncomfortable if you're not used to it. You might come face to face with the fact that there's not much brainwave activity upstairs without all those influences to react to. "And when you start to think that you haven't been the pilot of your life for a long, long time, you have no other choice but to hear what your soul is saying."

Wow! Sounds like what happened to us in Alaska. Although I was looking more for some kind of actual guidance on what I should do with MY life (which I did not get), the book still was inspiring.

Next I read Rich Karlgaard's Life 2.0 : How People Across America Are Transforming Their Lives by Finding the Where of Their Happiness. This book included stories of top business people across the country that had left their fast-paced, pressure-packed, over the top lifestyles, and moved to smaller, more life-enriching communities.

This book illustrates that people everywhere are starting to re-think what is important in their lives. Chapter 13 "America's Renewed Search For Meaning" attempts to provide an explanation for this phenomenon. There are some very good insights in this book.

My only disappointment was that Mr. Karlgaard (who is the Forbes Magazine Publisher) focused solely on East and West coast population centers and his subjects were all very affluent. Even after they "dropped out" they were still in lead status positions in their new communities.

I emailed Mr. Karlgaard an unsolicited book review with my opinion that the less affluent and middle America are also undergoing these same transformations. As you can see, I was starting to really contemplate my own search for meaning, happiness and fulfillment.

Ironically, My Company Helped Our Decision

At this point, in October, I attended a week-long leadership training that my company required. It was the best training that I had ever been through in my years in business. The training, oddly, had a couple of effects on me.

First, the training forced us as managers/leaders to prepare our own personal/professional legacies. The "how do I want to be remembered" exercise was quite enlightening. The theory was that employees need to know whom they are following, and they can't know that until we as leaders know ourselves.

I was not prepared for this type of soul-searching in a business training, but it reinforced many of the things I had already been thinking about. Second, the training was so good that it really made me want to be a terrific leader for my teams.

So I attacked my job with a renewed enthusiasm, even though these thoughts of what I really want to do with the rest of my life kept lingering. I couldn't wait to bring the training I learned to my management team. (I am responsible for six offices and eight managers)

We set up three days of intense training and I felt like I was making a difference in their personal and professional lives. They finally had some training they had never had before and a road map of steps to accomplish to help their individual offices.

Unfortunately, before we could get all of our new plans implemented, I was required to lay off several employees before Thanksgiving 2004. This dampened my enthusiasm and once again brought to the forefront serious consideration of leaving my position for a better life.

Discussions Intensify

That brings us to December 2004. Throughout December, Linda and my discussions became more serious about hitting the road. The conversations turned to the adventure and fun of living full-time on the road in an RV.

Keep in mind that we have never even ridden in an RV, much less driven or actually camped in one. We have done our share of tent camping, but had always made fun of the RVers for "camping" in such luxury. Now we were considering joining the realm of campers sleeping on real mattresses with refrigerators and full functioning showers and bathrooms.

The Research Begins

The first thing that I did was hop on the internet to see what I could find out about RVing. I found that there is a lot of information! Since I presumed we would start our new lifestyle in a motorhome, I started there.

Before long I knew the difference between a Class A, B, and C motorhome, and I learned that there is a whole special RV language out there. When I get something like this in my head, Linda says I get tunnel vision and she is right. I can't stop gathering information.

We headed to the bookstore, but unfortunately could only find one book on full-timing. Apparently, the mainstream book stores are not big on educating wannabe RVers. We picked up Living Aboard Your RV by Janet and Gordon Groene - our first RV book!

The First RV Dealer Visit

But, before we headed home to read our book, I convinced Linda to stop by the largest RV dealer in our area to look around. She was reluctant, fearing that we were just going to waste some poor salesman's time.

After some convincing, we were in the showroom and had an unfortunate gentleman, Lenny, cornered in his office. After explaining that we had no idea what we were doing and were not even sure we would go through with this crazy plan, he started showing us around.

We first checked out a well-appointed Class B. I had read about a couple of Class B manufacturers on the 'net and had thought how nice it would be to just drive this little van all over the place. Linda took one look and said "No way." That was the end of the Class B shopping.

Being price conscious, we then looked at some very large Class Cs. Again, Linda used her veto power exclaiming "This is going to be our home, and this will not do." That was the end of the Class Cs. If only I had read my book first - we would have saved Lenny and ourselves some time.

Now we were touring some of the Class A coaches. Things were looking up, but Linda was still under whelmed by storage space, counter space in the kitchen, and bathroom set-ups. It's a good thing all the coaches in the showroom had their slides out, or this little lifestyle change could have ended very quickly.

Lenny still had some units to show us. He showed us into one of those gooseneck trailer things - "Is this what they call a fifth wheel, Lenny?" Lenny was amused, but he knew what he was doing. Personally, I never even considered a trailer. However, Linda's eyes finally lit up. She saw some living space she could deal with and a couple of floorplans that met with her approval.

One hour in a showroom, and it looked like our future would be in a fifth wheel - I hadn't even had a chance to read my book yet. Now this turn of events was fine with me since the price was much more attractive than those Class A deals.

Then ole Lenny reminded me that we would need to tow a fifth wheel with something. Ouch. "The pick-up truck to tow one of these will cost more than the RV? Really?" So now I have to research two things rather than one. Okay, thanks Lenny - it was quite an education.

Back To Reading Up

In Living Aboard Your RV I was most interested in estimating the cost of living full-time in an RV. As with everything else I have read, this book gave some basic information, but it seems that no one can give any real definitive answers on costs.

Apparently, the range of cost of living among RVers is just too wide. Some can live on $1,000 per month or less, while others spend $6,000 a month. Also, I guess most full-timers are retired with at least some fixed income, so it appears that our situation is just a little out of the norm.

While we still had not decided one hundred percent that we were going to sell our house, it did become apparent rather quickly that we were going to have to sell it or finance a portion of the RV purchase. Since I hate debt, it looked more and more like we would need to sell, and the discussion in the book on selling or not selling made it fairly clear that we needed to sell our home and use the proceeds to purchase our RV set up.

Still, we love our home so much that we wanted to explore the possibility of renting it. It did not take too many inquiries to realize that the market for renters for our home is very small, and I really do not want to be an absentee landlord.

I finished Living Aboard Your RV the same day we got it. Admittedly, though I skipped a few chapters. We don't have kids, so I skipped the chapter on roaming with children. Our only current pet is a cockatiel, so the Pet chapter did not apply too much either since he would not be much trouble on the road if we decide to take him.

Also, the one thing I dread about this possible move is all the handyman work that seems to be necessary. A handyman I am not - but I will learn what I need before we get on the road. So I skipped, that night anyway, the chapters on tools, engines, and system maintenance. I just wanted to concentrate on the lifestyle, the types of RVs, working on the road, and staying in touch. All in all, this first book came through with most of what I hoped to learn.

Still Need To Know How Much This Lifestyle Costs

So, I was still concerned about how much money it would take to live on the road. Linda and I are both pretty resourceful, outgoing, and confident folks. We believe that we can earn enough money as we go, but hitting the road without any fixed income is a little daunting.

We have been a paycheck-to-paycheck couple before, but it has been a little while and this is a whole new ballgame. Again, one of our big concerns is that we might spend so much time earning a living, that our true reason for being on the road in the first place might be overshadowed.

My Research Turns To Producing Income On The Road

Researching ways to make a living without forty-hour minimum wage jobs was the next step for me.

Discovering Workamper News online provided me with a little more comfort. This is a website and magazine dedicated to matching full-time RVers with employers seeking to employee the reliable, dedicated type of workers full-timers seem to be in positions compatible with the full-timing lifestyle. Based on the sample ads and the recently filled positions, I am pretty confident that we could get numerous offers. NOTE: We are now an official Workamper Concierge and assist others with Workamper News Memberships.

The next step in my research was to determine my options for earning some cash via the internet and/or the things I enjoy. It seems there are a select few out there that are making a living or at least supplementing their income writing RV related articles or books or publishing newsletters.

I have also noticed several websites that have links to advertisers and I have followed the links to discussions about "affiliates." I need to spend a lot more time researching, but it appears that one with a solid website that can generate traffic can also earn additional fees through affiliates and advertisers. I still need to siphon out the get-rich-quick advice that gets only the advisers rich from the legitimate money generating website information.

My goal is to develop an RV-related website that would provide solid information, allow me to express my thoughts, advertise whatever services we can provide, and help pay for itself and maybe a little extra. I still need to brush up on website construction, domains, search engines submission, and driving traffic which is the ultimate key. Hopefully, it won't cost me too much to get educated.

I believe a fantastic website and strong internet capabilities are a must to be able to do the things I love to earn enough money to stay on the road. I do not want to resort to doing legal work or even accounting work if I can avoid it. Some minor bookkeeping is kind of fun and I do like working with spreadsheets, but I want to try other things.

Dream Jobs To Go

Through my internet research, I stumbled upon a website called DreamJobsToGo (now defunct) by clicking on an RV ebook by Colleen Sykora called "Live & Work Full-Time in an RV". I spent a lot of time on that website. It professed to have downloadable how-to ebooks on numerous "dream jobs" written by authors who have jobs in the particular dream job field.

The website is (was) a little cheesy, but very functional and the idea is a good one. I poured over the information with skepticism trying to look for catches and such. Not finding anything glaring, I decided to take a chance and download several of the books that might be of interest.

All the books are 30 - 35 pages and are all written in the same style, but by several different authors. I don't know if they are (were) worth the $12.95 price tag, but they are better than I expected and I don't feel like I got ripped off.

I downloaded seventeen ebooks and read twelve of them between Christmas and New Years. Many are about ways to earn money from writing, photography, teaching, speaking, and even stand-up comedy. A couple are about generally earning a living as an RVer, and there are a couple more about wilderness guide and national park jobs.

These little books all have solid advice; some are better than others; and some are not quite targeted to what I was expecting. But I have learned a lot and I can see potential down the road to supplement income in several different fun ways. It will take discipline and effort, but if I can make any money in these areas I enjoy, it beats the heck out of me attempting to do some kind of maintenance job where I will just injure someone.

Final Days Of 2004 - The Decision Has Been Made

We are now getting close to the starting point of our on-line journal. But before we get there, I have done a couple more things.

The Second RV Dealer Visit

First, on my way home from an out of town business day trip, I stopped by my second RV dealership. This one had almost all Class A motorhomes, but a few fifth wheels and travel trailers. I just wanted to see a little more variety.

The fifth wheels on the lot were not impressive, but a couple of motorhomes in my price range had some potential. One of the neat things about this stop was that few of the RVs had the slides out. It was my first opportunity to see how much difference slides make. Boy, do they make a difference. I am guessing Linda won't stand for anything less than three slides.

On a funny side note, Linda called my cell phone just as I had left the dealership. She knew my route that day and knew this particular dealership was on my way. She just called to give me grief about my tunnel vision and predictability, since I did not tell her I was going to make the stop. Funny girl.

Continuing The Research

Before I got home that day, I stopped at a Camping World just to see if they had any more helpful books. I have really been looking for a book on selecting a home base. This seems to be a really important thing for several reasons, and I would just like to have some reference material on comparing states. There is only one such book that I am aware of, and Camping World didn't have it.

However, all was not lost. I did pick up three other books. One was Complete Guide to Full-Time Rving: Life on the Open Road by Bill and Jan Moeller. Another was Fulltiming: An Introduction to Full-Time Rving by Gaylord Maxwell. And, the last one was The Complete Idiot's Guide to RVing by Brent Peterson.

Fulltiming: An Introduction to Full-Time Rving is a great summary and an easy read. It took only a couple of hours to get through. I liked the fact the Mr. Maxwell is actually the founder of the Life on Wheels program that is taught annually at five universities. One of these universities happens to be my alma mater, Western Kentucky, so we hope to be able to attend one of these conferences sometime.

Complete Guide to Full-Time Rving: Life on the Open Road is over 500 pages of detailed information. I got through most of it, but got lost in the technical details on the electrical system. Therefore, I didn't finish that chapter and skipped the other chapters on water and propane.

I turned to the The Complete Idiot's Guide to RVing for the system discussions and it made understanding the crucial systems and even RV weight issues much easier.

A couple of things I liked about the Complete Guide to Full-Time Rving: Life on the Open Road were that the authors have been full-timing for nineteen years, they are still on the road, and they full-time in a fifth wheel. This made for a nice contrast to Living Aboard Your RV which was written by motorhome full-timers. However, both of these books have outdated photos, and what appears to this newbie to be outdated information in some cases. Also, both books are light on the most recent technology improvements that could really benefit full-timers.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to RVing is a very solid, easy to read reference book. It is not written solely for full-timers, so there is little discussion on that topic, but everything in the book is relevant and well organized.

Final Thoughts

Well, that brings us up to January 1, 2005. That is where I start our journal, web log, blog - whatever you want to call it.

I know, I know. How much credibility can I possibly have on RV life when I hadn't even been out on the road once in an RV, do not own one, and have no idea where our path will lead?

To me, that is the beauty of this website. Things change so quickly, and we can give you a completely up to date account of what things to look for. We can guide you through what it is like actually going through the lifestyle change, and we can tell you what not to do as we make our mistakes. Let's go! The journal starts January 1, 2005. Click the link below to follow along.

Click Here To Go To Our RV-Dreams Journal