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We Bought An RV! Our Decision Making Process in Hershey

I had just returned from leading a retreat in Utah when I walked into the house that Sunday,  most of our furniture and belongings either in storage or having been donated to Goodwill or Habitat for Humanity. There was an eerie echo as I called for the cats, and I imagined the soul of the house had been emptied too, the life she had lived before extricated while I had been gone. As I opened the French doors into what had been my office. the part of my heart that still didn’t want to let go cracked into a million tiny pieces, and the tears that had been packed away like my china and air fryer began to fall uncontrollably. Unable to deal with my grief, I twisted away from the scene of the empty room, shifting my gaze to Jeremy who stood behind me, and launched into a full-frontal attack. Jeremy had been sending me videos all weekend of the proceedings to which I had responded favorably.  He had been so excited to show me the result of his hard work.  The house had been emptied. The painting had begun.  This was the plan.  

“I’m so pissed,” I said as the tears began to separate my words into broken bits and bobs, sounding more like a bleating kind of goat noise than an adult woman. “ Why did you make me do this,” I continued. “ My office. I finally had a place where it felt safe.”  After nearly thirteen years together  I could tell my husband was flipping through the ‘ ‘how to manage Marni” manual in his brain hoping to quickly find a way to make the tears and anger subside.  Colors of confusion and hurt darkened his face yet I couldn’t stop, and so I raged on issuing unfettered accusations and criticisms.  

Thirty minutes later, my heart still racing, I got into the bath Jeremy had run and as I felt the hot water rush over me I knew all the meditation in the world was not going to prevent me from grieving.  I needed to be willing to lean into the fear and sadness that comes from making a really difficult and big decision.  I have lived in LA for twenty-six years.  I sunk deeper into the hot water and let the sadness fill me as I wept.  When Jeremy sat on the side of the tub to see when it might be safe to approach, he lifted his lips into a hesitant half-smile and I began to laugh through my tears, marveling at the wild range of emotions and my husband’s courage to approach.  His smile widened as he reached for my hand and I remembered who we were and what we were doing, and that it wasn’t my office that was the source of my tears.

 Less than twelve hours later Jeremy and I  were hopping into an Uber to LAX to go to Hershey, Pennsylvania, the location for ‘America’s Largest RV Show.”   I couldn’t help but reflect on  the fact that we had been guided to Hershey seamlessly. Not only had we met Mark weeks ago in Oregon who suggested we attend the show, but the timing of it fit perfectly into the schedule we had set to put the house on the market by September 27th.  On the plane, we plotted out the vendors we wanted to see, and when we arrived at the famed “Hershey Lodge” and discovered it was in disrepair, we used the newly formed flexibility muscles we had developed during the five-week Experiment and quickly booked a new hotel for the remainder of our trip. 

Early the next morning we dropped our luggage at the Fairfield Inn and by 9:00 a.m. we walked into Hershey Park mouths agape, in awe of the nearly 1 Million acres of RVs that filled the outdoor space around us.  For two people who had been mostly learning about RVs through watching hundreds of hours of Youtube videos,  two quick visits to RV sales centers in California, and five weeks on the road, we were kids at the proverbial candy store.  Travel trailers, camper vans, what they call Class A’s and B’s and C’s, the entire RV alphabet was spread out before us and we giggled at the fact that we were so very delighted, giddy that we had decided to join this wacky little lifestyle. 

Our intention for the trip was to:

  1. Further investigate the brand and type of RV we wanted to purchase.  We believed we wanted to purchase one made by the same brand as Baby, however possibly bigger.

  2. Learn how to buy an RV and what traps and pitfalls to avoid. We were not planning to buy an RV at the show.  We merely wanted to look at other brands and measure them against our list of “must haves” and “would-like-to have’s” for our future home on wheels. This was a  list we had made when we had done our reflective post Experiment meeting asking ourselves which of  Baby’s features we loved most, and what things we wanted or needed that Baby didn’t have which we felt would be necessary to live full time in an RV.  

  3. Do further research with vendors who help nomads establish a new domicile (e.g, a legal mailing address) as well as a handful of other products and services we wanted to learn more about.

We had read online that the event would be less crowded during the weekday and as it was the first day, a Wednesday, we headed inside first hoping to handle the things we wanted to do inside before the onslaught of people arrived.  The main floor of the stadium featured four rows of vendor booths and as we perused the tables set up on the entry-level we made an unplanned first stop, drawn to a man in his early fifties standing in front of a prominent RV financing sign.  Within minutes of telling him our story, he alerted us to the fact that in order to obtain the lowest interest rate possible when purchasing a motorhome we would need to own a primary residence.  He explained to us that banking institutions prefer to lend to those who do not RV full time.  We nodded our heads, eyebrows raised, as we connected the dots at the same time, quickly realizing that within the first fifteen minutes of our arrival this trip to Hershey had been worth the investment of time and money.  This information was not something we had found online, and if we had not come to the show we would have made a costly mistake as our original plan had been to sell the house first, then buy the RV.   We grabbed his business card and headed immediately to look at the RVs with a brand new, and completely terrifying intent to purchase.

Our heads buzzing, we headed into the swarm of vehicles set underneath the blazing sun. Within seconds we saw a famous RV YouTuber we had been watching for months, Matt, in the middle of a meet and greet. And then, to our right, we saw a grand entrance to a somewhat shaded area where  RVs manufactured by Newmar, a brand we had been researching on YouTube, were set up. I remembered  giggling watching those videos sitting side by side inside of Baby, calling the sleek highly produced videos the best of  ‘RV Porn.’  We had decided at that time  Newmar would never be something we could afford, yet when confronted with the possibility of seeing rows and rows of Newmars together in the flesh, we couldn’t refuse.  We had to go inside, just to look.   We traipsed in and out of the various models and floorplans enthralled by the quality and the plethora of light and modern interiors, something on our must have list. Sitting inside of Baby with her brown furniture and interior finishings it had felt dark, heavy, and often in the five weeks I had longed for the bright white kitchen in Tabor Street.  

Satisfied, we excitedly went to go look at Tiffin, the manufacturer who produced Baby, the RV we had lived in during our five week experiment. The minute we walked into the type of vehicle we had come to the show wanting to purchase, our hearts sank.  Compared to the Newmar, the Tiffin’s had the dark interiors and featured carpet in some places inside the RV.  During The Experiment, we hated that carpet in Baby, understandably covered by the type of plastic my grandmother used to put on her furniture when I was a kid.  Feeling confused we headed over to the tent where the YouTuber we had watched, Matt, stood talking with attendees.  We were determined to get his opinion of the two brands and to ask for a possible alternative we had not yet researched.  We wanted to stay open.  Over the next two hours we investigated the new brand Matt had recommended and noticed that we now understood a few more technical aspects of the vehicles, excited we now knew more than we had earlier that morning.  We had been listening and talking to the other RVers we had met meandering through the show. We were becoming educated buyers, and combined with insight from our new YouTube friend, Matt, it seemed we might be able to skip the “How to Buy an RV” seminar after all. 

I won’t bore you with the details of how we came to the decision to buy the Newmar later that afternoon.  But what I can tell you is that Jeremy and I were determined to let the events of the Show, coupled with what we had learned in our Experiment and the research we did guide us. Ultimately though  it was intuition that led to our final decision.  Having made an appointment to do paperwork the next  morning we decided to continue our research. Laying in bed propped against the pillows we landed on just the right video. It had been published  just a week before detailing the customization options a couple had made to their Newmar. The video laid out exactly the information we needed to get more of our ‘musts’ into the vehicle we wanted to buy.  And while we don’t have many things in common with the “Texas Ya’ll” couple that produced the video, nor many of the new friends we made who helped guide us in our decision making, the common desire to live a certain lifestyle outside the norm created a sense of community that we were relying on to support us in the decision.  This wasn’t a decision we could make with the help of friends or family.  We had learned that prices in the used RV market had risen substantially.  We learned this brand of vehicle depreciated less.  We learned that the discounts available at the Hershey show were, given the lack of supply and the current high demand for RVs, excellent.  We had to depend  on what we knew, what we had learned, and our deep desire, above all, to do things the way we wanted to, without settling.  It had to feel easy.  Aligned.

Ultimately, Jeremy and I custom ordered a 40-foot Newmar Dutchstar.  We chose quartz-like countertops and white cabinetry. We loved the floor plan because it had plenty of counter space in the kitchen as well as a pull out cabinet that could extend into a peninsula which I could use when I needed extra space.  We ordered tiled-flooring that looked like birch hardwood. We opted for a bath-and-a-half so Jeremy and I could each have our own space, a washer and dryer because while we didn’t mind using the campsite laundry facilities, we knew we wanted to be able to use our time more efficiently.  And while a dishwasher might seem like an odd must for just the two of us, we noticed in Baby that we often left our clean dishes on the countertop to dry which made the space cluttered.  We also loved that the floor plan featured two removable recliners in the ‘living room’ so we could replace one with my Peloton bike.  We also added extra pull-out cabinets in the kitchen to overcome the challenge we had in Baby accessing things that lived in the back of the cabinets, and automatic lighting in the wardrobe closets to prevent Jeremy from  having to turn the bedroom lights on and off if one of us (usually me!) is still sleeping when he wants to get dressed in the morning. And after reviewing our finances in-depth we decided to finance the RV ecstatic that our new ‘mortgage’ payment would be half the payment we had in LA, making it entirely possible for us to  purchase the top of the line vehicle we wanted.  We also decided that because we are designing the life we LOVE, it does not matter to us that it will depreciate instantly. The RV is not an investment to us.  We decided we were willing to value experience and lifestyle over any possible financial loss. 

I leaned my head back against the seat in the airplane as we headed back to Los Angeles after the three days in Hershey. I felt energized rather than depleted.  I felt more alignment with my heart and with my soul, in awe of how everything I was being and doing was somehow falling into place. Jeremy and I reflecting on all we had accomplished. It was mid-September. In less than two weeks we had:

·  Held a gathering on Tabor Street to celebrate and complete with the house

·  packed and moved most of our belongings out of the house, separating the things we would use in the RV from those we would put in storage.

·  completed minor repairs and painted

·  traveled to Hershey and purchased our new home

And in the midst of it all I had led a three-day retreat in Utah with clients, the time flying as I created connections with my clients and team while Jeremy soldiered on at home tending tothe details of the move.  I had cried, yes, and in making huge decisions Jeremy and I had argued as much as we had laughed to be sure. But it felt different because we were making a conscious choice to take on a challenge, together. To live radically, to put ourselves outside the space of comfort and routine daily. 

 And while it might have looked like we were pushing ourselves to meet the self-imposed deadline we had created, the truth was we were mostly in flow.  Each of us had moved in harmony with the other as we navigated through each piece of the complex puzzle of change. I had extended my daily meditation and stillness practices to better listen to my essential self, spent extra time in gratitude and prayer, asked for help when I needed it, and maintained self-care exercising at odd times of the day, and in hotels, choosing healthy foods when possible. Made time for play and fun and binge-watching with Jeremy unabashedly.  And through it all, I have tried to have self-compassion when I have turned into a raging bitch, when fears of lack and change have tried to take root, or when tears have fallen unexpectedly. I keep imagining myself as the jellyfish, connected to my soul. I close my eyes, imagine millions of tentacles floating, movement aided by the movement of water, fluid and ever-changing, unattached.