First I’d like to thank anyone who checked in, commented or just plain enjoyed any part of our adventure via this blog. We never considered having a big audience or following, only wanting to chronicle a little and maybe make a vicarious thrill available for family and friends. Next thing we knew, we realized we had to keep up. Writing regularly was the only way to avoid that overwhelming list of “things we should do”. It grew to be a true joy and an integral part of the Voyage!
Second, I invite pretty much any of you to borrow the Tramper for your own trip. REALLY! Through some nice, mutual agreement (not necessarily financial), I would love to see someone else’s dreams facilitated. A new pair of tires, a battery, or maybe some cool as yet unknown accessory could comprise a rental arrangement. Additional requirements would include a discussion of the “value” or replacement cost and the suggestion of insuring the camper. One final requirement would be a display of commitment or intent. “You” would have to demonstrate a beginner’s understanding of towing safety, RV boon docking, propane safety, and a willingness to learn about the Tramper in particular.
Its simple really, remember I knew nothing about any of this before locating the derelict camper in Delaware. The details of this learning adventure would likely include a nearby camping trip where I could explain things briefly and hand over the reigns. Out of this, I would get a return investment of vicarious thrills and a few weeks or months with “no Tramper in my yard”. Driveway access to my workshop is narrowed by the sleeping beauty.
I also want to begin talk of my internal voyage. We didn’t run away from a bad life to do this trip. To the contrary, we loved our home, family, jobs, friends and the routine of daily life. I LOVE TO WORK. We left to celebrate all that we love and can still do. We took the chance of “all that could go wrong”, Murphy’s law be damned, and did it. Now we return safely and are faced with our life. The rest of our life. Life after the Trampervoyage; whatever that is to become.
Honestly it feels at once overwhelming and underwhelming. During the journey we floated high in conversations. There we were, living the dream. People congratulated us. People seemed to envy us at times. Most encouraged and cheered us on. The accomplishment was in the moment and in “where to tomorrow?” Now, we have returned and there is no tangible evidence. No physical accomplishment. Maybe THAT is what drives me to make and fix so many things. In creating tangible projects, I create my own little trophy. I create my report card. After all, wasn’t school sometimes more rewarding than work? You got grades! Someone told you how you were doing!
Today I broke away from Jane to do something separate. We have had the incredible blessing of being together for nearly every task and joy for 190 days, 24 hours per day. We were rarely apart. Doubtful many couples could say that at any point in their marriage. We’ve continued that at home, working on unpacking, cleanup and other home tasks. But today Jane went to see her sister; I went to see the elephants!
In March of every year, Baltimore hosts the circus. Hopefully each of you has some fond memory of the youthful attraction enshrining the circus. Maybe you ran away and joined? (If so, tell us some of your stories) Anyway, one of the more colorful local traditions includes an Elephant Parade. Tenders march the big beautiful beasts through the city streets, up from the arena to the Lexington Market for a big lunch buffet. Then after a desert of watermelons, they parade back down to their cages, I presume, to await their other performances.
You can agree with the spectacle or argue the treatment of zoo and performance animals everywhere, but I thought it was WONDERFUL. Without these few “suffering” performing animals, most of humanity knows nothing of their immensity. Most of us could not fathom the emotional eyes of an elephant, nor the grandeur of the whole animal kingdom if it weren’t for our contact, albeit limited through showcases of zoos, circuses, and aquariums. The size, shimmering fur, smells and splashes of them all would all be reduced to photographs or TV shows someone else framed for us. I saw intimate views of a fox family on public TV last night, yet my memory of the litter berthed under my mom’s porch was more vivid. Those kits nipped and yipped playfully and beautifully, nursing until they were weaned before we “encouraged” them to move out of that urban den.
What then, does any of this have to do with the Voyage of the Tramper? A full circle is a difficult journey. Its hard to come back. I have found myself looking at all that makes up a person. I find myself lacking the same “value” I had as a productive, functioning and working member of society. I felt as though I had retired. I read a version of “retired” in Steinbeck’s East of Eden that I will avoid as I can with all my heart. Retired meant surrendered. Retired meant finished with all productive contribution. Samuel moved to the city in retirement, and eased uselessly to his death. He invited it. He accepted it. And he chose to cease contributing.
The happiest “retirees” I know now are volunteers. Giving some of themselves to causes they value. My sister, retired at one time, wrote the word “something” on her calendar a few days each week. When called upon by the limitless needs of one charity or another, she could honestly say: “Sorry, I’ve got something that day”. In this she protected bits of her time as needed. Hospitals, The Aquarium, Red Cross, soup kitchens, and more, there are any number of fulfilling ways to “retire” and be fulfilled by those around us. On our Voyage we met hosts at campgrounds and made breakfasts sandwiches with a local North Carolina church.
I have selfishly preserved a few extra weeks to work on our house and home before returning to work. I had the luxury of free time. Time sometimes takes on different dimensions. Everyone I know who is retired says they don’t know how they got things done while they worked full-time. Perspective changes.
When I have two hours available and two hours of “work to get done”, it gets done. When I have a week stretched out ahead, pressure is off, things can be delayed. Procrastination is a vine. Working raises the stakes. Work schedules create the skill of prioritization. Working is vital. I think working is a part of vitality. Being productive raises self-worth. Even exercise at a gym is a form of productivity. Even playful exercise is rewarding and productive; improving health, re-creating us, building muscle all the while.
I found walking, then running along to keep up with the elephants invigorating. It reminded me of my love of our city. We have been in the cocoon of our Voyage for 6 months. We truly felt disconnected from 2012-13. In rural and wild places, this was only natural. But the majority of our journey carried us also through rural, agrarian places. Through what felt like a different time. We often felt like we were living “in the fifties” right along with that old Tramper. Cities became shocking. The resort at Beaver Creek, overwhelming. A modern pace of life distasteful.
Being home too has been bewildering. 70 square feet of living space and just one basket of clothes each has us in a simple mindset. We see now we have “so many things” in our home. I’m longing for the simplicity. Too many clothes, too many dishes, pots and pans. I am, today, adapting better. I was part of the crowd who wanted to see the elephants. I saw the elephants themselves, line up, gladly clasping tails in trunk and parade back to the arena. In this too, I jump back into life, a life I love!
ENJOY THE PARADE!