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The attached RV adventure travel article PDF for download first appeared in the March / April edition of Escapees Magazine.

Escapees is the world’s largest RVer club and provides resources and support for living the mobile lifestyle.

The article begins:

“Few people realize that the RVing lifestyle isn’t exclusively reserved for the rich or retired grown-ups. When we tell them that anyone can travel the country and live on the road at any age, they’re puzzled until we enlighten them about cost-saving measures like “work-camping.

Workamping is a terrific way to offset the expense of traveling while getting to know a region. It’s also one of the main ways we can afford to enjoy life on the road, decades before retirement.”

Download the entire work-camping tips article to read more about this unique live / work arrangement.

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As a full-time traveler and writer, publishing companies often send me books to review and publicize on our blog, LiveWorkDream, and other travel lifestyle communities we belong to, like NuRVers.com.

Queen of the Roadby Doreen Orion

The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus with a Will of Its Own

There are two kinds of fulltime RVer couples on the road. There are couples where both partners really love the lifestyle, and can’t think of living any other way. Then, there are couples where one partner loves it, and the other was dragged on the bus kicking and screaming. Some couples’ personalities fit perfectly into fulltime RVing, while others try it, then put their RV on the market before summer’s end.

If you happen to be the reluctant RVer, Doreen Orion’s book – Queen of the Road – is perfect for you.

“Barebones Camping”? In a Prevost?

Doreen’s book is a humorous, insightful look at how she, the reluctant fulltime RVing partner, handled living on the road for a year with her mellow, outdoorsy husband Tim, two cats, and a poodle in a 340 square foot custom Prevost bus. She writes:

“Bus? Well..I tried to convince myself (really I did) that my living on one was a natural fit. Although I love the idea of travel, in practice I don’t particularly like doing it; the closets are never big enough and there’s always the risk of ending up on a hotel’s first floor, which smacks way too much of camping for me. I loathe camping. In fact, my idea of “roughing it” is to stay at the Holiday Inn.”

For anyone who’s reluctant to go fulltiming, Doreen has some advice for you. In an email interview, she says:

“If I can do it, anyone can. I was a VERY reluctant road trip partner. In fact, when Tim first came home and announced he wanted to “chuck it all” and travel the country in a converted bus for a year, I gave this profound and potentially life-altering decision all the the thoughtful consideration it deserved.

‘Why can’t you be like a normal husband in a midlife crisis and have an affair or buy a Corvette?’ I demanded.”

Spoiled and Well Taken Care of

It’s hard to believe that someone like Doreen would even take a trip like this. The self-proclaimed spoiled Jewish “Princess from the Island of Long,” writes about her favorite hobbies; lounging at home in designer track suits, building up her shoe collection, and avoiding any kind of housework:

“I have always been smug in my position as role model for my friends. They marvel at how I get Tim to do:

1) all the cleaning (by existing the house in horribly wrinkled clothes)

2) all the laundry (by washing everything together, so his favorite baseball shirt turned pink);

3) all the dishes (by being incapable of stacking the dishwasher in an energy-efficient manner).”

Despite her aversion to leaving, a little voice in her head knew her husband was right about why they should go on the road; they weren’t getting any younger, and as two DINKs with established careers, nothing was holding them back from making a change like this. She agrees to go, but her social circle of like-minded women wasn’t exactly encouraging:

“Once we announced we were doing the “bus thing,” as we came to call it, my friends started viewing me with disgust. They insisted I’d let them down. As their husbands eyed mine with envy and tried to get him to divulge his secret recipe for spousal capitulation, the wives shunned me as if the decision to chuck everything and live in a glorified tin can was a symptom of some contagious insanity.”

“What Am I Afraid Of?”
As a professional psychiatrist, Doreen writes a book that is less a book about fulltime Rving, and more a memoir about adapting to life on the road. While her narrative covers their entire route, Queen Doreen makes reading about it more fun than the usual travelogue.

She paints vivid, funny pictures of her husband’s calm, rational demeanor, and writes humorous analyses of her own thoughts and fears about being on the road … especially as the fretful passenger during their first days on the bus:

“On the slightest downhill, I’d try to mind-meld with Tim, to get him to put on the engine brake, my foot stomping on air. At every turn, I’d clutch the seat, anticipating a rollover. At every dip in the road, I’d hold my breath, listening for the sound of bending steel, a portend of our imminent, albeit mercifully swift, midsectioning.”

What was I afraid of? I kept asking myself. The answer was always the same: careening off the road amidst the sound of our belongings crashing.”

Doreen gradually comes to grips with her fears, and her attitudes about “the bus thing” start changing too. Despite all of the things she felt she gave up to do this trip, sees unexpected positive changes in her life, and her relationship with Tim:

“After the sun set, we’d cook . . . er, thaw dinner. Then sit inside our home and talk. It didn’t matter what we talked about . . . feeling close and laughing with one another. Spending time this way, without any of the distractions I used to consider essential (TV, going out to fancy restaurants, wearing high-end clothes) made me start questioning just how essential they were.”

As their year goes on, Doreen isn’t the only one who’s benefiting from fulltiming. Her cats, Morty and Shula, used to fight constantly, but on the road, they called a truce and learned to coexist. And Miles the poodle, in true dog fashion, embraces the quality time while showing his humans what’s really important in life. In our interview, Doreen said:

“I joke that everyone on the bus changed – except Miles, our standard poodle, since of course, he was perfect to begin with. Our cats, Morty and Shula, hated each other and fought every day of their lives prior to our trip. But, on the bus, living in 340 square feet, they seem to have adopted a “do or die” attitude, and while there were certainly never any adorable cat snuggle moments, they did manage to come to a sort of truce. Really, if they could get along, anyone can.

As for Miles, it just became even more apparent on the road that he was all about simple pleasures: It was enough in life to have a bowl of food and a small, quiet place to himself, surrounded by people who loved him. Why ask for anything more?”

Do It Now
Most younger fulltimers are on the road because they understand why it’s so important to go on adventures like this while they are younger and more able to do so. Many have watched too many older friends fall into the trap of working for retirement, instead of living life in the now. Doreen’s husband, Tim, understood this, but it took her a few months on the road to concur.

“I didn’t want to do the trip because my life was comfortable, yet on the road, I learned that “comfort” isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be.

When we’re younger and just starting out, we’re constantly stimulated and challenged, whether by school or a new career. Then, at some point, after we’re settled into our lives and careers and we’re where we want to be, we have a chance to breathe, and many of us wonder, “Is this all there is? Is this what I worked so hard for?

She added, “Tim and I were certainly guilty of . . . spending more time supporting a lifestyle than with each other.

All the adventures on the road (and misadventures – fire, armed robbery and finding ourselves in a nudist RV park to name a few), put a certain spark back in my life I didn’t even realize was missing.”

For the reluctant road trippers out there, Doreen says “Go for it! Don’t wait: There is never a “good” time to do it. Just do it, keep an open mind and heart (yes, I know I’m one to talk), and see what happens.”

Funny, and Practical Too!
Queen of the Road is always funny, insightful, and gives some good information about great places to see around North America. Plus, Doreen’s inventive martini recipes at the beginning of every chapter are sure to get you in the mood to sit in a comfy chair and keep on reading.

“Every chapter of the book starts with a martini recipe which commemorates whatever disaster we had on the road,” she says. “One of my favorites includes Midori, which is a very versatile – and tasty – liqueur:

Hurlatini

  • 1 part rum
  • 2 parts Midori
  • 1 splash pineapple juice
  • 1 splash sweet ‘n’ sour
  • 1 white-knuckled squeeze of lime

Pound martini shaker against emergency exit until window breaks or ingredients sufficiently mixed for tasty self-medication.

For more cocktail recipes, listen to Doreen’s Podcast #6, on the podcast page of her website.

Queen of the Road: The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus with a Will of Its Own
Other books by Doreen Orion

To read the entire first chapter of Queen of the Road, check out fabulous reviews the book has been getting, to see pictures and videos of the trip or to contact Doreen to call in to book clubs, visit her at QueenoftheRoadTheBook.com

Workamping job duties Vickers Ranch CO

I wrote the following article and pitched it to various simple living-style publications, after our workamping experiences during our road trip sabbatical.

Workamping is great; work a few hours a week in exchange for no rent and other perks like free laundry. Sometimes you even get a small salary too. But if you’re a fulltimer who’s thinking about applying for workamping jobs in order to save money, there are some important things to consider before sending out your resume.

What kind of work environment are you most comfortable in?

Are you someone who craves structure? Do you work best when you act as one integral cog in a large corporate machine? Are you more comfortable when working within a well-defined job description? If the answer to all of these is “Yes”, then perhaps you should focus your search on large organizations, like State and National Parks.

Because workamping job descriptions can sound identical from place to place, but how those jobs are managed from the top down can make all the difference in the world when it comes to your happiness, and that of your co-workers’.

Is Workamping for Mom and Pop for You?

Workaming construction job Vickers Ranch

When we first saw the Vickers Ranch workamping ad, the job descriptions were a little vague. It went something like “Help out with ranch duties and have fun.” We knew that Jim would do maintenance and ranch hand stuff, and I would be cleaning rental cabins. But we were told there would be other unforeseen duties too, so flexibility was a must. Things could change daily. Some days we would work 8 hours, others maybe 4. We might get 2 days off a week, or none.

Call us crazy, but it sounded like the perfect job. We love working in small businesses. Jim’s always worked for companies with less than 50 people, and I’ve found that I thrive in those with fewer than 20. I love the challenge of wearing many hats, and never really knowing what to expect from day to day.

If you haven’t worked in a small business before, or disliked working at one, here’s why you should stay away from small, family owned RV parks and resorts when you apply for workamping jobs, even though they sound like fun.

In a Mom and Pop business, there is no set routine.

Owners often fly by the seat of their pants and make things up on the go to keep things running. Situations can change radically from the minute you start your day, to the second you clock out. As an employee, you’ll often be asked to do things outside of your job description. And even if you aren’t asked to do something, you should have the wherewithal to know when it’s time to look around for projects that need to get done, and successfully execute them without needing much direction.

In a Mom and Pop business, “the business” and “the home” are the same.

Entrepreneurs have little time for anything but the business, and if they have paid staff, they’ll often ask them to do things to help make their home lives a little easier. I can’t count the times I’ve ordered gifts for bosses partners, or made personal travel arrangements, and I never gave it a second thought.

Paullette Vickers requests cabin maintenance from workamper JimAt the ranch, if things were slow, I would help Paulette out in her yard. She, like me, loves to dig in the dirt, but gardening season coincides with tourism season, so during the summer months she rarely gets to garden. I love any change in routine, so getting outside was fun for me. On other occasions when it was quiet around the ranch, I gave Paulette some computer lessons.

The Vickers also had some renovation projects around their house that needed to get done before fall, and the guys were always there to swing hammers, when they weren’t maintaining cabins or working with the horses. We often worked on spontaneous projects that weren’t in our job descriptions, and nobody seemed to mind. Well, almost nobody.

How Not to Win Friends While Workamping

Poor fit workamper coupleThere was a third workamping couple who started the season with us, but it didn’t take long to see that they weren’t having a good time.

When they were hired, they swore that they were flexible and real go-getters, but as time went on, their true work attitudes were revealed.

They were two retired, lifetime government employees, and both seemed to find it difficult coping with the improvisational nature of working in a small business. If something wasn’t in their job description, they didn’t do it. The husband only wanted to work on his special projects, never offered to help another ranch hand in need, and refused help when it was offered. The wife worked hard while cleaning cabins, but if we were done early, she would ask to go home instead of pitching in somewhere else on the ranch or at the Vickers’ home. It was later revealed that she felt that the owners were using their employees, by asking them to work on their house.

Their lack of familiarity and comfort level with Mom and Pop businesses resulted in clashes with other workers, and working with them was difficult at best, for everyone. Then, one day in mid-July, the couple had a blow up with Paulette, after the wife was asked to re-schedule one of her days off, because it fell on an unusually busy day. A shouting match ensued, and the next day, they left the ranch.

Everyone was stunned, but their departure was a welcome relief. Once they left, a great big ball of invisible stress left with them. Everyone suddenly worked better together, things got done, and we all started having fun again.

Think Before Applying

Happy workampers at Vickers RachThe workamper job ads can sound easy and laid back, especially if you’re coming from a stressful career. And maybe some are, like sitting behind a cash register. But if you’re not the right fit for a national park gift shop, life can easily be miserable for you, and your co-workers.

So do yourself a favor, and conduct an honest assessment of your workplace background and attitudes, before you apply for any workamping job. And just remember, if you don’t like it, you can always leave, and you don’t have to make a scene on your way out.

When canine pet guardians are faced with the difficult decision of amputation for their beloved dog, they are often unaware that dogs can live happy, fulfilling lives on three legs. This article was written to promote the website Tripawds.com, an online community for three legged dogs and their humans. It resulted in publication in numerous print and web-based publications, including  K9 Perspective Magazine.

Jerry: Adjusting to Life on Three Legs

Jerry loves to play in Lake Ontario
Jerry is just one example of what a tripawd dog can achieve and is at his happiest playing in the lake and sniffing out interesting smells on the lake shores.

If your vet has just suggested amputation for your best friend, you’re probably scared and wondering if your dog will still be able to lead a happy and fulfilled life. The answer is a definite “Yes!” Three-legged canines can do just about everything their quadruped counterparts can do. Plus, their gracefulness in how they do it serves as a constant reminder to we humans that no matter what kind of challenges we face in our daily lives, if we behave more like dogs and live in the moment, we can overcome anything!

If you decide to proceed with amputation, there are some simple things that you can do to help your furry friend’s transition into the tripawd lifestyle.

Emotional support: be a pack leader
Before, during and after surgery, you must be a strong pack leader and put aside any feelings of sadness or pity towards your dog. Your dog picks up on every emotion you have, so being positive will help him make the transition faster. While it’s difficult to watch your dog’s first steps on three legs, remember that soon he will re-learn how to run, go to the bathroom, and play on three legs.

Keep in mind that dogs don’t feel sorry for themselves when they lose a leg, they’re just glad to be out of pain and want to get on with the business of playing. It’s we humans that have a harder time with amputation. Our dogs live in the moment, so be sure to take their lead! Keep in mind that with any invasive procedure, there are pre-surgery and post-surgery risks, and things may go wrong. But most will come through it with flying colors.

All dogs have a different recovery timeline, but generally we’ve seen Tripawd dogs who’ve visited our Jerry’s site take anywhere from three to six weeks for a healthy recovery. Be patient. Jerry’s experience was that he did not completely recover overnight. He was slow getting around and it was a couple of months before he really got going again. Even today, one year later, he is slower and his walks are much shorter, but he’s healthy, and that’s all that matters.

Physical support: simple changes for safety
Three-legged dogs can keep up with their quadruped counterparts! Sure, there are things that he might find too challenging, like going on 12 mile hikes, but much of what you and your dog used to enjoy together will remain the same. It can take time, but your lives together will be just as fulfilling and fun if you’re patient and creative.

Try a harness. If you’re able to get one before surgery, a harness is a great way to help your dog maneuver when he or she comes home from the hospital. Later on it will come in handy when she needs to navigate stairs, get into cars and leap over obstacles while hiking. The best one we’ve found for Tripawds is the RuffWear Web Master harness. It has a handle on top, which makes it easy to pull your dog up from a down position. The material is non-binding, breathable and durable. Front leg amputees may find that the harness moves around a little, but an occasional adjustment is a small inconvenience compared to the help that it provides. For dogs with additional ailments like hip dysplasia or arthritis, we have found that the AST Pet Support Suit is the best option.

Easy changes around the home
If possible, slip proof your home before your dog returns from surgery. Gather up all of the throw rugs, carpet runners or floor mats that you can, and place them on slippery floor areas where your dog likes to spend time. If you didn’t have time to do this before surgery, keep your dog in a confined area until you can.

Block access to any stairs, until your dog becomes more confident on three legs. Amputee dogs tend to forget that they only have three legs, and navigating downstairs is tricky for most. Once Jerry did a face plant going down our hardwood stairs, we decided that he would no longer descend them without assistance.

Put your dog’s food and water bowls up on risers. Even a milkcrate will do. Tripawd dogs find it tricky to stoop all the way down to the floor.

Exercise and fitness
And speaking of food … the key to making it easier for your dog to get around on three legs, is to keep his weight down, especially if your dog is a front-leg amputee; that’s where 60percent of a dog’s weight is carried. Once your tripawd recovers from surgery, don’t hesitate to get back into the routine of daily walks. Just consider the following to make the most of your time together:

  • Take shorter more frequest walks. Start with just a few minutes at first, one block at a time.
  • It’s easier for tripawds to hop along at a quicker pace than it is to walk slowly.
  • Watch for signs of exertion and stop to rest as needed.
  • Always carry water and a portable bowl with you
  • Remember: dogs carry 60 percent of their weight on the front leg, so don’t throw balls and frisbees up high. This is especially important to consider when exercising front-legged tripawds.

These are just a few changes that we’ve found to be helpful with Jerry’s transition into a three legged world. For more tips, resources, videos and success stories of other three-legged wonders, please visit Jerry’s Tripawds website at: Tripawds.com. Good luck with your new three-legged wonder dog!

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