Question: Where did the name Ren come from?
Answer: Ren is my nickname. About five years ago I discovered online gaming. I still play. I’ve made a few friends in the games I play and have been fortunate to meet some of them in real life. They know me as Ren, which is short for Renaissance. I have, over my lifetime, enjoyed learning and doing many new things. There are a few things that I do pretty well. I love art and feel it is where my heart is. I also have loved my work in film making, database development, website creation, financial management, and a few other favorites. Leonardo da Vinci was known as the Renaissance man. I am nothing so amazing and accomplished as he was, but I work towards blending the best of what he was into the best of what I am. He is one of my heroes.
Question: Can you share with me what brought you to full time RV life?
Answer: When my mom died I suddenly felt very mortal and like life was far more precious than I’d been living it. I was procrastinating; figuring there was always tomorrow. If I were going to do anything with my life I needed to just DO IT! I’ve made many mistakes and haven’t done a very good job of using my gifts and abilities. I think I have to sculpt my life from the stuff I have, making the most of it and turning imperfections into character. I want to invent myself and make happy the days given me. I want to “live out loud”, follow my dreams, stop being a people-pleaser and putting what everyone else wants above what I want. I don’t want to be selfish and self-centered. I just want to live fully and live MY life. I think if I do that, I’ll be a better, kinder person.
Question: So living in an RV full time is part of that effort to live the life you were putting off til a rainy day?
Answer: Pretty much. Yeah. At first I thought I could make it happen back there in Maryland, at the cabin, but I really needed a bigger change than that. I think I needed to save myself…from what I had become. I needed time away from familiar things and pre-established expectations. I wasn’t looking to throw away the old me and come back a complete stranger. The essence of who I was had gotten buried underneath trying please others to the point that I never seemed to get around to me. I wasn’t fake. I just wanted everyone else to be happy. To make things worse, I seek approval. There is not much self confidence within me. Pretty much…I just don’t believe in myself. I really needed time alone. Period. It took a long time to figure out how to do that. I came across a video about a couple who live in a twenty-five foot Airstream. It was mind blowing and revolutionary to me. Live in a trailer? Wow! That video lead me to another and another, until I’d watched hundreds. A seed began to germinate. Now here I am living in this RV. I kept as many of my art supplies as could be stored in a couple of small overhead storage compartments. I kept only a fraction of my filming equipment (Canon 5D, Small handicam, and a good audio recorder).
Question: So do you want to keep on being an artist and is it more difficult in such a small space?
Answer: I do, but not the way I did. Its true that the limited space brings some restrictions to what I can do. I sold my work in galleries before. I did my own framing and had all the equipment to do that. I had prints made of my work and sold those. Now I want to work smaller. My favorite subjects are people. However, my art has always had more of an illustration feel to it. I’d like to try my hand at children’s book illustration. I’ve been working on it during this time of solitude and travel. I think a fun place to start would be to illustrate this blog. When I finally give up the day and go to bed, I lay there for a long time thinking of ideas for illustrations. It makes me feel so alive to have a goal, a purpose, something that’s part of the me I’m trying to rediscover. Its all I can do to make myself go to sleep. I’d rather get up and keep working. Its funny. If you stay up into the wee hours of the morning working, somehow it’s never tomorrow. It’s always today.
Question: Can you tell me a little bit about your experience living in a small space, with few possessions, and doing so much travel?
Answer: Hm. Well, I have to admit that there are lots of wasted days where I never seem to get around to doing the things I intended to do. There are days when I feel like giving up. I have times when I weep with the loss of all my possessions. I sold everything. I believe that “things” become way to important and we tend to spend an enormous amount of time trying to get them, take care of them, and keep them. Things are simpler without all that stuff and my priorities are far better. I just miss a few things sometimes. I took a lot of pleasure in making the cabin a place full of surprises. When someone came to visit or attend a class or stay in the bed and breakfast, there were always things to discover. A small tin rocket ship hanging from a nail, a funny hat tucked up on top of a beam, a tiny framed painting leaning against a window ledge. Those surprises are gone. I collected books. I would buy books before I would buy anything else. All gone. I found an old hutch with a fold out desk and little drawers and cubbies in an Amish carpenter’s barn. I saved up for it a couple months and when I went back it was still there. It was a big deal to me. That old piece of furniture had been someone else’s and they probably wrote letters to far away loved ones or paid bills or sketched or read…on that desk. All those memories came with it and I was adding some of my own. Its gone now. Sometimes that makes me sad. I don’t stay sad though. I start thinking about what I miss the most about that cabin. I miss the chickens and the Guinea Fowl I had there. I miss the way people seemed to congregate in my studio. Whether the bed and breakfast was rented out for a party or by overnight guests they somehow found their way to my studio and I’d invite them to come in and sit with me at the big tables. The room made them comfortable and soon they would be confiding hopes, dreams, troubles, worries, joys. While they did, I’d slide a piece of paper and some pencils and pens over their way. I’d tell them how to get started and pretty soon they’d be making art. One time, during a party, I ended up with twenty-one people sitting around the tables, talking, laughing, drawing, teaching each other what they’d just been taught. I miss that. I don’t think it has to be the end of it though. I’m going to find a way to make that happen again…maybe even here in my RV. Maybe in a small room in a campground social hall.
With very few possessions and more time on my hands, I have become content for the most part. Life is simpler. Things I overlooked or took for granted before are very special to me now. I don’t know how it happened, but three little matted drawings that I’d just sort of put aside and out of sight…ended up here in the RV. I love them.
I spend time doing very different things than ever before. I walk the dogs. I couldn’t do that at the cabin, because of the insanely huge number of ticks. I am in a small space with the two dogs and can really observe them. I can tell when they’re restless, hungry, bored, sad, wanting to play. I’ve learned to read their expressions. I’ve learned things that I never knew before. When I go to bed at night, once I’m settled in, I hear Einstein jump off the couch and come and lay on the floor at the foot of the bed. Every night. Walking Emma in a crowded campground where there are many dogs causes her a lot of stress. She barks, whines, pulls, twists, and even seems a bit hysterical. When all that is going on, her fur is suddenly dusted with dandruff. Stress.
The dogs and I have come to have a bit of routine in our day. Dogs seem to like routine. In the morning when I wake and they know I’m for sure going to stay awake, they come and greet me, wagging tails and both trying to get petted. After that I get up and they go back to the doorway and stay there. I don’t like them in my space when I’m getting dressed and ready for the day. I always walk Einstein first. That way I can scope out what other dogs might be out and about. Emma is next. Once they’re taken care of and have had some food and exercise, I make my bed. I keep all the pillows (I love pillows on the bed…for naps) on the bed that is over the cab area. I have it slid down a couple of feet and that gives me some extra storage. I put the pillows back on the bed. I wash any dishes I left in the sink from the day before. I make a cup of tea. And so it goes. Most of the day is pretty open for whatever. I don’t sit outside very much when I’m at a campground…at least not at this campground. Its crowded, sites are small, with little room outside. When I was boondocking in the desert near Quartzsite, Arizona, I spent evenings out at a campfire with friends. We talked and talked about our adventures and our lessons learned about RVing.
Little moments are bigger. A campfire with friends is unforgettable. Sunsets. Cloud formations that amaze me. The smell of someone in some RV making pancakes. Walking the dogs at night and seeing the glow of a television in an RV. Warm evenings and people sitting outside roasting marshmallows with friends, while kids ride bikes and play. Having something in common with other RVers. The delight in finding ones that are full time and even better, solo. The other day, the woman from the RV next to me knocked on my door and asked me if I wanted to go to a movie. We only met a couple of weeks ago and yet I had no problem saying sure.
Life is just different now. Its not all great. Most of the time there isn’t much money and I have to find things to do right here. Sometimes things break and every now and then, it’s something important that is a show-stopper. I’ve had to make two trips to the Winnebago factory in Iowa in the past few months. The second time I went, the RV was still under warranty and I had them repair fifteen things. I expect things to break. On a day when nothing breaks, I feel so blessed and content. All is well with my world. It does get kind of lonely sometimes. When I have a friend to spend time with, its all the sweeter though. In fact, having so much time to myself is what makes me appreciate a friend more. I’ve come to think that perhaps I’m not good at being around anyone all the time. I cherish my privacy, the solitude. I love deciding things with no input or opinion other than my own. Being a people-pleaser usually means you let others make choices for you. There’s no one around to help out when something goes wrong, but that gives me a great opportunity to test my metal. I figure things out by myself and when I overcome it, I feel so amazingly great.
Being on my own makes my eyesight sharper. Well, maybe not, but I sure do notice things more. When I’m driving, I see one scene after another that takes my breath away. Those same scenes are there when I’m with someone, but they are dimmed by conversation, radio, emotions, etc.
Lastly I like making my own decisions. If I want to sit and play a game on my computer all day long, its okay. Today I sat here and worked on my website and filled out applications for Workamper jobs. Sometimes I’m not hungry until the middle of the afternoon, so that’s when I make lunch or go get a sandwich. I don’t have to consider what anyone else wants. I’m the boss.
So. Overall, I like full time RVing. When I started out, I had just planned on taking a journey much like the tour that John Steinbeck took in 1960 to “rediscover America”. When my trip was over, I struggled with NOT being in the RV or on the road. I feared that perhaps I’d never get to do it again. I never know what’s around the bend, so I just make this moment count. One at a time.