What frightens me the most

Having been a solo woman traveler already, I realize that my fears for this second attempt are actually quite different that the first time around.

The first time I was getting on the road, I feared for my safety.

But… I learned that people in the world are predominantly friendly, safe, and helpful. I realized I had been brainwashed by all the violent and fear-filled entertainment coming from my TV and other media. That fear was an illness that I had to shake off. I was angry that I had been so duped!

The first time, I also feared for my comfort. I was afraid to be out of my quiet, separate, and climate controlled home.

But… I learned that being warm when it is warm and cool when it is cool connects me with the world in a way that energizes me.In my house, I slept with a box fan to obliterate any disturbing noises. In my RV, I woke up early to the sounds of bugs chirping in the darkness… only to slowly quiet down as I’d hear the beginnings of birds singing with the rising of the sun. (I miss those morning sounds the most!)

This time, I fear different things.

The first time, I was leaving the conventional world to live on the road, among other nomads.

This time, I am still going to eschew materialism and conventional housing, but remain embedded in the conventional world with my work, my school, and my social life.

I am not afraid for my safety. I am not afraid of being exposed to the vagaries of the natural world.

I am afraid of what people will think.

Kind of sad, huh?

I am afraid my potential employer will wonder about my strange van. I am afraid my family, with the half-million dollar houses, will be embarrassed by me. I am afraid people will question my competence as a mother.

I’ve made my decisions and know what I want and need to do. I need to opt out of this crazy, rat-race materialism.

But I am still afraid!

It surprised me when I realized that today.

getting rid of stuff

Living out of My Car – Step One

I think part of the appeal of getting back on the road is the desire to maintain the extreme simplicity of not owning a lot of STUFF.

So, that is where I am going to start with my new vandwelling plan.

Goal #1: Radically simplify so that everything Silas and I need can fit in my Toyota Camry. I want to see if we can live out of (not IN) my car.

living out of my car

I cleared out the trunk the other day. (Filled with books and baby stuff.) We have been very informally packing stuff back and forth, but I want to minimize all my things so that we are always completely self-contained as we go from house to house.

I have been researching “living out of a suitcase”, but think I have a pretty good sense from my time on the road.

What I think we need:

One big duffle bag: our clothes/shoes and hygiene items (our personal stuff)

One backpack: computer, books, files, etc (my mobile office for work and school)

One baby bag: all of Silas’ things – diapers, food, change of clothing, pajamas, books, toys, bottle, sippy cups. (What he needs that always needs to be on my person.)

Umbrella stroller: my boy doesn’t walk yet, and weighs 27 lbs!

We will still sleep, bathe, and cook in other people’s houses, so I don’t need to provide those items.

I know I am blogging like crazy all of a sudden, but I think I need to connect with my tribe – people who support the idea that we don’t need so much stuff!

I have a budget where I think I can live on $12,000 a year.

I want to see if I can get there… and this is part of that plan….

Mom, your ideas are going from bad to worse....

I need to accelerate my development for talking. Mom's ideas are going from bad to worse....

A Case for Vandwelling

I thought that I was settling down to have a baby, but the settling down part may be shorter lived than I expected.

In reality, I am still quite itinerant with my boy. Silas and I sleep in at least three different houses each week – our primary home (where we rent a room), my brother’s house (where I go to school), and David’s house (my beloved).

So, we basically DO live out of my car. Pulling clothes out of my trunk the other day, I had the thought, “I should just keep my clear plastic drawer bins in my trunk for our clothes.”

That is when it hit me, “Man, I wish we had a van!”

I actually DON’T want an RV like the one I had. It was too big.

van down by the river

When I first started dreaming of this lifestyle, I was shopping for a van. I moved up to the class C RV for comfort, but am back to my original thinking that I want to live in a van.

I’m thinking something like a used Roadtrek.

What I love about a van plan:

1) You really can stealth camp, which saves a ton of money.

2) It’s a real ‘mom’ car, with rear passenger seats for car seats.

2) You really can use it to drive to work without getting strange looks.

3) You really do have to live simply!

4) You can live very, very cheaply!

I’m not sure I have it in me to be a homeschooling momma, so probably would have to be settled by the time he starts kindergarten.

That gives me, what, four more years?

what

You want us to live in a WHAT?!

Mom and Baby in a Van?

As I posted previously, I am lucky to get 99.9% of my baby stuff completely free. In fact, I have to sort of bar the door and let people know, “Thank you, so much, but we really have been given enough already!”Silas and the wipes

We live together in one bedroom, so everything we have has to fit in this one room.

Despite having been given so many nice things, I noticed the other day that the thing he wanted to play with was the empty container of diaper wipes! So much for all this stuff!

I spend $450 a month on rent and $360 a month on my car. I can’t help but wonder if he and I could live together in a van… We would spend a lot of our free time at parks and visiting all the family I have around here. When I’m not working, we could take trips to state and national parks.

Is that too crazy? I would still have to work and use daycare, so wouldn’t be traveling long distance as much. But I think I’d like living in a van with him….

Take care,

Jennifer

Living on $21K a year

I thought I was living simply before, but I am living far more simply now! Here is my updated budget as a single momma:

  • Rent: $450 (all bills paid; I rent a bedroom in a big house with another family – a great deal!)
  • Car payment: $360 (I have a 2011 Toyota Camry)
  • Groceries: $250
  • Child care: $250 ($50 a week for 25 hours a week of home care)
  • Auto Gas: $100 (I commute a long way to school)
  • Phone: $100
  • Medical Insurance: $105 (I get this cheaply through school)
  • Car Insurance: $80
  • Life insurance: $30 ($500k term life for my baby boy)

So, my basic expenses to live total about $1,725 a month, or net $20,700 a year. I should include about $200 a month for incidentals/unexpected stuff, so it is probably more like $1,925 a month or closer to $23k net a year.

Some lucky breaks I have:

I am very fortunate to have many siblings who have already had kids, so continue to get completely free hand-me-downs for all of my baby stuff. Also, my sister is CFO for a women’s clothing line, so was able to get nice work clothes for $12 an item!

I also learned I can qualify for food stamps on my income! Isn’t that crazy? I was told that I could get $370 in food stamps every month, but I haven’t applied.

An additional expense that I still have is subsidizing my rental home in Austin. I was able to get a 4% refinance, so my payment is $1,960. Currently leased for $1,650, they are going to re-let it for $1,800 in July. That is sort of my savings/investment plan at this point as it should be paying for itself in a few years.

I don’t think anyone is checking my blog anymore, but I feel like blogging!

If you are out there, I hope you are well!

Take care,

Jennifer

Silas Watters 8 months

What's an RV momma?

September 2012 Update (reposted)

I’m going to start blogging again, so am trying to reorganize old posts. This is an old one.

Thanks to all of you who have been checking up on me! I’ve received quite a few notes and inquiries, so wanted to provide an update.

Everything is going very well! I travelled solo to Africa last year, am now a single mother by choice to a sweet baby boy, am halfway through my graduate program (which I LOVE), am working with women who are trying to leave the sex industry, and reconciled with David. My life is super busy these days with school and single motherhood, but I love my busy, simple life a lot more than the leisurely materialistic life that I left behind.

Again, thanks for checking up on me! I don’t have the time to blog these days, but love hearing from you.

Take care,

Jennifer

My Sweet Silas

My Sweet Silas

Bye Bye Mini. It was fun!

She drove off with her new owners yesterday.

bye bye Mini

The End

Hi everyone,

I’m not sure if anyone is still checking my blog, but I decided that I wanted to bring it to a close with a final post.

Things have changed over the last few months that I’ve not been able to write about. Some I couldn’t write about because they were difficult and/or painful for me to process, but other big issues were kept off the blog because I needed to protect other people’s privacy.

The short version is that my new desire for connection and intimacy caused some problems when I returned home to my marriage with new expectations. We’d had a long relationship built upon mutual independence, so my changes (and desire for changes in our relationship) caused a lot of disruption. Ultimately, it was decided that he needed and wanted to continue on that path of autonomy and independence. This was extremely painful to me, as I wanted for him to ‘change’ with me, but I’m trying to remind myself that we each get to choose which path is right for us.

I also decided that I desperately do want to have children, and, at age 40, have little time to waste. I’ve decided to move toward that goal without a partner.

With regard to helping women transition out of sex work, I’ve enrolled in a graduate program in social work and was recently invited to be on a task force that is working to combat human trafficking. I feel like everything is falling into place and have a deep sense of ‘being on the right path’

So, that is where I am now. I hope it makes sense that I had to go quiet as I processed some of these changes. I am now divorced. I think we all get to learn to take the journey as it comes, and I am still getting lots of practice in learning how to do that.

I hope you all are doing well.

Take care,

Jennifer

***

UPDATE: SEPTEMBER 2012

Thanks to all of you who have been checking up on me! I’ve received quite a few notes and inquiries, so wanted to provide an update.

Everything is going very well! I travelled solo to Africa last year, am now a single mother by choice to a sweet baby boy, am halfway through my graduate program (which I LOVE), am working with women who are trying to leave the sex industry, and reconciled with David. My life is super busy these days with school and single motherhood, but I love my busy, simple life a lot more than the leisurely materialistic life that I left behind.

Again, thanks for checking up on me! I don’t have the time to blog these days, but love hearing from you.

Take care,

Jennifer

my boyMy sweet boy

Back in my Mini

All is going really well with me, but a lot has changed.

I moved back into my Mini last month. I decided to move to a smaller town and so am living in an RV park for now. (Not as fun as a National Park and it is hot!) The owner came by today to collect rent. I was having trouble with my AC, so was red-faced and barefoot, in an old denim skirt and a sleeveless ribbed undershirt. I had to stop and look at myself, and my life, and thought, “Wow! This is quite a bit different from a couple of years ago!”

It is a hell of a lot better, by the way!

I love Austin, but after my time on the road, Austin started to feel a bit too busy and expensive.

I’ve also decided that I am not going to work in the business I have with David anymore. We organized a buy out, so I will get a tiny stipend over the next five years as I make this transition into a different career — one that is more meaningful to me.

I am still in the early “what do I do?” stage of the sex worker stuff. For now, I’ve decided to volunteer at a domestic and sexual violence shelter to learn more about working with women in crisis as well as all the organizational logistics of running a nonprofit. I think transitional housing is something that is key to being able to quit. (It was always the rent payment that brought me back to the club!)

I’d like to create a place where a woman who wants to get away can just take three or six months off from everything and focus on herself. I’d like to create a space that feels healing and nurturing and allows a woman to get off that crazy treadmill and breathe.

But, I have a lot to learn. I just got the application completed, so have to wait 2-4 weeks for all the background checks before I can get started at the shelter.

I am excited! I feel like I am on the right path.

I hope you all are doing well.

Now that we’re alone….

Thanks to all of you who are still checking in on me. I appreciate the notes and comments throughout my blog!

I’m not sure why I’ve taken a break. Some of you who’ve been reading for a while have pointed out to me that it is something I’ve done at least a couple of times.

It feels like a time of great transition, but in a good way. I realized that ‘working through’ the stripper stuff on my blog was a bit overwhelming for me. I ended up having a lot of nightmares, but paying attention to my dreams did help me to make sense of some of it. I was such a confused young girl in an extremely confusing environment. I ended up emotionally right back in that space of vulnerability, fear, rage, and extreme confusion.

I am still moving forward with a plan to do something to be helpful to women who want to leave sex work and adult entertainment, but feel humbled by my sense of inadequacy and ignorance with regard to what that would even look like.  I’m trying to remember that ‘courage’ thing that often eludes me. Doing this very sincerely FEELS like the right path to follow right now. Even if I am walking forward into something that I don’t understand at all.

I’ll need teachers to help me, so that is where I am going to start. What I’ve learned so far is that I don’t have the skills to be helpful. (I tried and failed already.) Other people do, so hopefully I will be able to learn!

I’m probably going to start taking classes this fall.

Take care,

Jennifer

courage

A Few Stripper Stuff Clarifications….

I feel like I would rather write about this stuff after it is all ‘processed’, but maybe I will be doing that work on my blog. Anyway, I can’t resist the urge to clarify a few quick points.

I am not making a statement with regard to whether or not adult entertainment is an inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’ thing. It seems to be just something that IS. I trend toward thinking it should be safe, legal, and regulated.

naughty(Being a stripper in a club could sometimes suck, but being recognized as a stripper in any other social situation was the real soul crushing humiliation. So, I’m left to wonder…. was it the stripping that hurt so much? Or the societal view that I was a piece of trash that hurt? I still tend to think the latter was the worst of it. As well as the aspect of it that made it so hard to transition into another job or anything else.)

Many well meaning people speak emphatically against this type of work on behalf of women working in it. My experience was that they may have been meaning to save my ‘body’ from being exploited, but their appropriation of my VOICE often felt far more psychologically obliterating.

The only truth that I emphatically hold to is that no one person can tell the story of another person. (And women in my position can be the most self righteously dangerous with regard to delusions of being able to speak FOR everyone else.)

What I want to do is to offer help to the women who don’t want to strip anymore, but feel stuck. When I put out a few flyers offering help with that a couple of years ago, women started calling me. I wasn’t able to be helpful to them, so I want to learn from people who are more expert about how I can be.

I think one of my knee-jerk angry unprocessed things is with regard to my frequent encounters with people who have a savior complex! It is intolerable for me to see myself as that self righteous woman, so I may just obessively post this same sort of stuff over and over again in reaction to that visceral fear. Ha ha.

Whew! RV blogs gone bad? ; )

Take care,

Jennifer

p.s. I am having to study math to prepare for the GRE test and math makes me cry.

Stripper Stuff

I rented a short term (6 month) condo for David and me. It is a comfortable place that we can share. I love that I don’t have much stuff, as I am especially aware of it in this space.

barfbagWhen I moved into my Mini, I still had about a half of a single garage’s worth of storage that I’d not sorted through. I had those things moved here in hopes finishing my purging.

This week I, unexpectedly, found a trash bag full of my old stripper stuff. I guess I’ve dragged that trash bag from place to place, but finally got the guts to open it up. Seeing and touching those things made me physically ill. They feel like confusing artifacts from an unreal dream. The memories of ME being THAT feel so far away that they truly seem impossible.

As I think about moving toward this plan for trying to be helpful (how exactly? I don’t really know) to women who are stuck in the position I was in, I realize I probably will want to make sure I’ve really processed my own story of stripping. I think part of my failure in trying to help women before was because I was overwhelmed by their stories. I don’t feel like my stuff is too huge to deal with, but it is stuff that I pushed aside pretty radically once I had the luxury of getting away from it.

So, like the trash bag of stripper gear, unexpected memories and feelings about that time are showing up. I tried to write about them this week, but my writing comes out very juvenile, defensive, angry, knee-jerk, immature etc. I think it is not just that the memories are difficult, but that my having to experience myself as that chaotic and confused girl makes the experience of remembering it even more sickening.

I prefer to sound like a woman who is finding some sanity! I think that I am. In fact, I think the fact that I feel so much more centered is what is allowing this stuff to come up. It doesn’t frighten me, too much. It just makes me feel kind of sick.

***

p.s. I haven’t sent out the RV Web site link yet. I need to finish it first!

And Now For Something Completely Different

I know this blog is probably considered an RV blog, since that is mostly what I have been focused on over the last year or more. But, for me, it has really been a blog about my psychological and spiritual healing resulting from my three years of intensive psychoanalysis.

That journey (which started about two years before this blog did) took me from suicidal depression, compulsive shopping, and dangerous drinking habits to a more contented life of simplicity and sobriety. It has also been a long journey from isolation toward connection; that is where things are taking a turn in my RV lifestyle.

I’ve been quiet off and on since late last year because I’ve had a few things on my mind that I didn’t want to write about.

I’ve realized that I don’t want to be away from my husband anymore. I am able to spend extended time around the person I love most without feeling a desperate need to run away for days at a time. We’ve decided to find some place where we can more comfortably live under the same roof.

I am also revisiting my desire to have children. Genetic reproduction is off the table for me, but I’ve realized that (however I build it), I do want a family.

Finally, I feel a more desperate need to make a contribution and to do work that I feel connected to. I’ve decided to apply to a graduate program in social work. My goal is to eventually organize a nonprofit to help women trying to get out of adult entertainment and sex work. I actually made an attempt to do this at one point, but was quickly overwhelmed and had to quit. Several women reached out to me for help, so I feel a strong pull to strengthen my skills and make a second effort.

So, I’m not sure where the blog is going to go. I will, of course, keep my Mini, but as I slow down my travel and focus more on social work and family, I am not sure how “RV Adventure” this blog is going to be.

The last thing I want to say is how grateful I am to you for reading my blog! I’m sure it was more inconsequential to you, but for me to have this opportunity to write about myself, to be honest about myself, to integrate the things I am proud of with the things I am most ashamed of into one coherent sense of self has been such a gift. You may have just been reading because you are into RVs, but your attentiveness to me has been a profoundly healing experience.

Thank you!

Jennifer

regretnothing

P.S. As part of my own record of this journey, I may continue to blog on these new topics. I just know that most readers are RV readers, so wanted to thank you before you tuned out!

P.P.S. I have almost completely built out a Web site on RV stuff that I’ve learned, but I need some editors to check my work. If you are willing to check my work on RV mechanical and electrical stuff, please post your email address in a comment and I’ll send you the link. Thanks in advance!

All is well

Just a note to say that all is well. I haven’t repaired the circuit yet, but have just left it shut down.

I had my 40th birthday, today is my sister’s birthday, and my father had hip replacement surgery yesterday, so things are just very busy.

Hope all is well in the blogosphere!

Take care,

Jennifer

p.s. I am WAY behind on emails!

Fire Shooting Out of Outlets = I don’t need that coffee.

Yesterday I was just sitting around, heard a light pop, then smelled slight burning. I went to my galley and noticed one of my bulbs was out, so assumed that was what I heard and smelled.

This morning, my coffee finishes brewing and I hear a loud pop, rush over to my galley, see smoke coming out of the outlet and then another pop and FIRE is shooting out of my outlet.

It starts burning the wood galley, so I grab my fire extinguisher, pull the pin and squeeze it, nothing comes out.

The fire quickly burns out. I disconnect power.

Now what.

outlet fire

The fire was burning up over that wooden ledge, so I thought the galley was going to catch fire.
(That thing plugged in is my polarity tester., which I always have plugged in there.)
.
***
  • The plug that caught fire is the one the coffee pot was plugged into.
  • Nothing else was plugged into any other outlet in my RV except bathroom night light and polarity tester.
  • This outlet is on the same series of outlets that ‘mysteriously’ threw the breaker when I was out of town.
  • I didn’t have any heat or heaters on.

************

Update:

I’m disconnected from power and pulled the outlet out. This is a huge picture file so if you click on it  (a few times) you’ll see in much more detail. I don’t know how to determine how big the wire gauge is.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to try to fix this myself! I am just trying hard to learn what goes wrong so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming….

I’m completely disconnected from all power and will call the RV tech who replaced my transfer relay.

is it broken