Consumerism on the Road

This is an uninteresting but complex topic, made more so by the pandemic. I’ll explain but I won’t promise you’ll enjoy the read.

Gearing Up for Our New Life

Back in November when Tracy got word that he could retire earlier than planned, we changed our purchasing focus. The new plan:

  • No more buying anything for the house. The only purchases we’d make would be for the Airstream. (Whoops on that half-cord of firewood we’d just bought and still hadn’t retrieved.)
  • No more work clothes or supplies. Time to think about clothes and items we’d need on the road.
  • No more maintenance on my car, since we’d sell it soon (God I miss that car).

I, especially, struggled to imagine our new life, partly because we didn’t know when we’d leave (selling the house was a mystery, and still is), but also because we had so much to do before we left that we were frantic. I also wanted to work at the magazine until we left.

Our immediate priorities were what was needed to meet Tracy’s retirement deadline. Due to screw ups in bureaucracy, he had about two weeks to manage all the paperwork, which turned out to be complicated.

Oh yeah, and and as part of that paperwork, we needed to get married within that two weeks. Here we are during the bright spot amid that rush—our wedding day—at a brewery with just a few local friends and my son. I really want to describe this because it was a whirlwind of fun, with a friend officiating and surprise guests—it transformed from a quick trip to the courthouse into a memorable and significant day surrounded by friends, as it should have been. But that’s not the point of this post.

My point right now is that we had to finish all the paperwork and required actions in a couple of weeks, and then we decided to donate everything we could from the house in the following couple of weeks, by the end of December (tax deduction, ya know; this would be our final chance).

Then it was Christmas, and then time to pick a real estate agent and come up with a plan. Oh yeah, and we had to buy the Airstream (okay, we did that first), sell my car (we did that last), and spend time with some special friends and my son before we left. My head and heart were too full for me to be able to envision this nebulous new life ahead clearly.

Buying for a Mystery

Buying for the Airstream was especially hard because we had to keep her in storage 40 minutes away. She was right by my office, though, so I’d take loads of things some days before or after work, and then return them immediately because everything was too big (I complain about that the first night we slept in the Airstream, in the dealer parking lot!).

I gotta say, planning for my own possessions was hard to do as well. My main priority was emptying what was left in the house, so while I was selling on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, etc. and giving things away as fast as I could, I was keeping an eye out for what I should keep—what I would need on the road.

And I had no clue what I would need. I’d been following vlogs of people who live on the road and had an idea of our plans, but again, it’s so hard to imagine it concretely, and for me there’s nothing more concrete than picking just a few pieces of possessions and giving away the rest.

And because we’d thought that once we were on the road we’d have little access to a delivery location, we needed to buy everything before we left.

As we emptied the house, we still had to make space for paperwork and my work.

Top this off with the fact that both Tracy and I are not your average American consumer. Our favorite way to buy clothes and furnish apartments and houses throughout our adulthoods—and this is both of us—has always been Goodwill. My best kitchen table I picked up on the side of the road.

Now imagine that you’re planning to buy just the few basic things you’ll need for the rest of your life. We can fit only the barest necessities with us, so they should be high-quality so they’ll last a while, right?

Pan to: numerous trips to REI when there is no sale. Buy, return, buy, return at the Container Store. Hand-wringing over what tea set to take (no comment).

What kinds of clothes do you wear when camping is your everyday life? What about when you go out to breweries? Visit friends? Should I save something to wear to Finn’s graduation next year? Can I part with my sister’s gorgeous leather boots that surely I won’t have a reason to wear ever again?

Gah, it was full-time exasperation.

Tracy was very busy setting up appointments for a big solar install, researching water filtration systems, etc.

Tracy installs the new kayak racks once the slide and topper are finally in.

And he and I couldn’t start filling the truck bed with all our supplies because we were waiting to install the bed slider and topper after we’d hauled all the house big stuff away. So that made it even harder to plan: we needed to set aside gear and give the rest away, but we didn’t even know yet what would fit in the truck.

Not What We Expected

Of course, once we finally got on the road—or should I say drove about three hours and then parked for two months—life hasn’t been anything like we’d planned.

For one thing, it’s cold and wet here so far, so the two pairs of jeans and three pairs of thick socks I brought are getting muddy way too quickly. What I thought I’d be using, my t-shirts and kayak gear, are all still in the bed of the truck, waiting for the climate to suit my clothes. We thought we’d be in Texas by now.

Kayaks and bikes “stored” behind the trailer.

On the positive side, as I’ve mentioned several times and am so grateful for, we have family nearby who generously have received our packages on their front porch, so we’ve been able to buy the things we’re learning we need. Gear for the truck, for the Airstream, for the hook-ups, for the bikes, on and on.

But should we even be buying, what with the stress on the associated labor force? I hate to put an Amazon worker and a UPS driver in jeopardy just so I can have enough pants to last me between longer-than-expected trips to a washer. Or a new board game so we don’t wear out the carpet pacing in this tiny place.

So once again we’re buying with caution. Which is as buying should be, if you’re lucky to be able to spend money at all.

The Big Purchase

Okay, this has all been a long preamble up to my personal big news (that is exciting only to me)—I ordered a new iPhone. Me, who carries around a refurbished version of the used model I bought years ago to replace the one new iPhone I ever bought in 2016: the SE model.

I know that’s only four years ago, but since then I’ve dropped it twice while kayaking, once while just walking at the edge of the ocean, and once on concrete while struggling with my office keys. Each time I replaced that beloved model with a used version because I love how small it is and how the battery lasts forever (probably because of how small it is).

Then last week Apple announced a new SE model, not as small and not as great a battery, but as close as they’re going to get. Thanks to my family being near and allowing me to ship to them and to me seeing how terrible my photos are compared to Tracy’s, I went for it.

Arg, consumerism. Even “on the road” and in a tiny space, it plagues me. But look, a shiny new phone! Next week the photos in this blog should be much better. 🙂

You guys continue to take care, please.

PS: Last night I realized that no one was getting a notification when I responded to their comments, so I installed a basic plugin that lets you check off an option to receive an email when someone comments to this post. It’s not as sophisticated as I’d like; I’d like you to be able to receive emails about comments only under your thread, but this is what I could swing right now.

9 thoughts to “Consumerism on the Road”

  1. Oooooh! You finally got a new phone! I’m sure the camera on it is fantastic and now you can Bitmoji!

  2. Hi Shelly, from at last, a warm spring Stockholm. One thing I wonder about; you say “on the road we’d have little access to a delivery location”. Don’t you have stors anymore where you go in and buy things and bring the items with you as you leave? Have things shopping changed that much?
    Love -Li

    1. We will still have stores (I hope), but we plan to be far away from civilization when we can manage that. Plus a lot of things y need for an RV can be found only at specialty places with online ordering.

  3. Reminds me a little of when I went out touring for weeks with my bicycle. EVERYTHING had to be considered…especially when one weighed it all and tried to shave off a few grams here and there. Only a matter of time before we start reading posts from the actual road and Small Country will be a distant memory…

    1. When we first picked what we were bringing with, it felt like what I’d heard from people who hiked the AT (like you on your bicycle). We left so much behind, but now that we’re just sitting here we’re accumulating like crazy. Things are laying around all over the place that I’m not going to be able to pack up. Looking forward to hearing about your weeks on your bicycle when we get out to CA.

  4. Hey…I love that I get an email when you approve a post! I think it may take some time to adjust to being nomadic. One assumes as you move forward that you’ll start a new “non-collection” and pare down to less and less. Like Cheryl in “Wild” you;re still clanking around with pots and pans on the outside of your backpack…er…Airstream. CA awaits…

  5. IA new Iphone…why would you need that? I have a flip phone and a lap top and I get along just fine. You youngsters…always innovating! Maybe next year I too will enter the 21st century. Maybe not. I love reading your posts. I am good at living vicariously. But sad to know that there is a Walmart at Zion’s Crossroads. Progress…bah humbug!

    1. Marie, you pride yourself in getting by with a flip phone as much as I’m excited about my new phone! I miss our lunches together very much.