When a tourist at the Jackson, Wyoming, Visitor Center asked what we did there as volunteers, we replied that we were naturalists for the National Elk Refuge. “So, where do you live?” he asked.
We pointed across the mile and a third expanse of the Refuge flatland that lay before us. “We live in one of those trailers you can barely see from here.”
The man squinted in that direction and nodded his head. “Okay. But where is your home?”
“We sold our home.”
The man appeared perplexed. “So………….” he said, digesting this information for a few extra minutes, “……….where do you live?”
Before going on the road, we were told of the many people who question your sanity, those who refuse to believe you can live in a box, and others who dream of the day they can drop everything and take off. For some time, we discussed the possibility of one day joining those who had pitched most of their belongings and hit the road. Now that we’re on the other side of the fence, we field questions and comments similar to those we asked before making the plunge.
“If you volunteer and live in places like this,” joked another Jackson Hole visitor, “where do you go for vacation?”
“That’s the tough part,” we answered, sparring with this gentleman who didn’t try to hide his longing to change the course of his life. “We don’t get a vacation!”
We put our home up for sale while we were on the road and didn’t look back after we received a message from our real estate agent declaring, “Congratulations! You’re homeless!” But we are often amazed at the number of people who don’t understand or who yearn to hear more about our decision.
Another day on the deck of the Jackson Visitor Center, after learning of our lifestyle, one woman widened her eyes in fascination. Her questions came in rapid fire, ignoring her two children who were impatient to leave. “You mean you live in your trailer and volunteer in places like this around the country?” she asked.
Her children were uninterested. “Mom! Let’s go!”
“And you don’t have a house to take care of or lots of stuff or………” she glanced at her children “………anything?”
“Mom! When are we going to go?”
“And you get along fine without all that, uh, responsibility?”
“Sure do. In fact, we prefer it.”
“Don’t you miss your friends?”
“We see them occasionally and keep track by phone and e-mail,” we told her. “And they visit us. Besides, we’ve made lots of solid friendships on the road in this lifestyle.”
The children tugged at their mother’s arm. She paid little attention as her eyes glazed over. “I’d like to do that someday!”
Living and Choosing
The RV lifestyle has made it easy to volunteer in beautiful areas and to continue learning, surrounded by people who share our interests and who have in many cases become good friends. We live where we choose and relish our work.
The next visitor who asked where we live after we explained our volunteer life at the National Elk Refuge seemed to understand. “My wife and I talk a lot about doing what you’re doing,” he said.
He looked to be in his early 50s, so we assumed he could be on the verge of flying the coop. “Good luck,” we said. “Hope you get to try it soon.”
“Well, we’ve got a daughter starting college……..”
“That’ll delay you a few years.”
“……….and a son in preschool.”
What is a merely dream for some has become a reality for us. So we were prepared the next time someone asked, “So, where do you live?”
“We live in our trailer and travel from one wildlife refuge to another volunteering as naturalists.”
The man pondered a moment before asking, “Should I be jealous?”
We didn’t hesitate with our answer. “Absolutely!”
A similar version of this article was published in the January/February 2008 issue of Escapees Magazine.