Perspectives from the RV'ing PT
“The straw that breaks the camels back.” This is an oft-used saying, but what does it really mean? Wikipedia reveals that it is an old Arabic proverb about loading a camel beyond its capacity, a single extra straw being the eventual breaking point. The phrase is shortened nowadays to “the last straw”. Suddenly, the light switches on in your head; you reach the “tipping point”.
For me, it was waking up one morning in 2005 and coming to the realization that even though I was a successful businessperson running a successful seven-figure a year technology company, I had traded too much for it, including my marriage. My mother had just died, and my teenage son was, to put it mildly, “doing what teenagers do”.
So I did what any self-respecting English bloke does: I took a sabbatical and moved away from the UK to another country with my 15-year-old in tow.
I never returned to work. I became a silent partner and today remain behind the scenes but never directly involved.
My old life started to fade away, and my new life slowly began.
Full Time RVing
When my son eventually left home a few years later, all I wanted to do was escape and travel. Not just for adventure, but also to find out for myself if the grass really is greener on the other side. So I hit the road again, this time with more style and comfort, in a motorhome, of all things. Forget old notions of gypsies or new age travelers; living on the road in a truck is an extremely comfortable and cost-effective way of exploring a continent.
I ended up touring all over Europe and into northern Africa, including more exotic locations like the Western Sahara. In essence, I became an “International Man”. As I traveled, I have always made the effort to explore the local culture and economy, and not just be a tourist.
Having freed myself from my own self-imposed prison back home seven years ago, I now have a unique vantage point from which to watch others try to do the same, much of my perspective inspired by the incredible variety of people I have met along the way.
Thoughts on the Matter
Some people do it because they get to the middle of their life and yearn for something more than just “being comfortable.” They want an adventure, to recapture their excitement and zest for life. Lucky enough to have the resources and opportunity, they realize their dreams, and just go. Sometimes they come home with stories to tell, but for many others, it's a one-way ticket.
Others – baby boomers like me – realize that all the promises from big government about endless health care, lavish pensions etc., are not likely to be fulfilled. The quest for this group, almost universally, is the search for a better lifestyle for less money. A $500 pension is poverty in London, but just about pleasurable in Morocco. All over the western economies, baby boomers are waking up to the fact that nobody is going to help them, except themselves, and internationalization isn't just an option – it can be a saviour.
I was surprised and happy to come across many young people on my travels. Some are looking to escape from a prison of in-opportunity in their homeland. They want to make money and build their fortune, and have realized it just won't happen at home. I can't help but think of the folly of Western governments who have commoditized education to the point where young people turn their backs on home, for a better deal abroad.
Then there are those people who want to escape so-called free governments that have become hostile to the very idea of civil liberties. They don't want to be part of an increasingly oppressive system.
I felt this myself in the years before my UK departure, an ever-increasing flow of petty nonsensensical intrusions into everyday life – minor traffic violations, surveillance cameras and stealth taxes. I was even forced to pay $50 for putting the wrong type of garbage in the wrong color of trashcan.
Mainstream Europe wasn't much better, but it was a pleasure to be stopped by the police in Morocco, who just wanted to nosey my truck and smoke a cigarette! And the one time I crossed the line on an empty road to overtake a camel, the fine was an apologetic and respectful $5.
That said, civil liberties, freedoms and cultures are wildly different all over the world, and it's important to do your homework before you step out. Only a fool expects to be able to apply their home values in a foreign country.
This is why the internet is your biggest friend. It may feel like you are a pioneer but in reality, many have gone before you and want nothing more than to pass on their experiences, and to help others.
Following are some resources I found of excellent value during my journey:
- Expat websites and forums – start at www.expat-blog.com. Blogs and forums are easily the best resource.
- TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet – not just for tourists!
- Foreign government websites – they want you! (Use Google Translate)
- Shameless plug! – www.internationalman.com
Of course, study can only take you so far. The key is to act on that knowledge.
And hey, a motorhome isn't the worst way to do it!