Shake it Up – Our Personal Earthquake

Drawing of a woman and swans

An Introduction –

We had both lived in Los Angeles for too many decades and desperately wanted to shake it up and go somewhere else. Living a simpler life, away from a big city and closer to nature was our goal. We also both wanted freedom from any ‘job.’ 

Jim had recently retired and received a modest check from Social Security each month. I was still working full-time and had some health issues which my teaching job exacerbated. I needed to stop working to give my body a rest. 

close up of small pine needle branches

We needed some nature

Was that even possible? If so, what would we do and how would it work? We had absolutely no idea, but we knew we had to make a significant change and soon! I had one opportunity each year to sign up or give notice, and the time was fast approaching. 

Our finances, living only on social security, would not support a ‘regular’ lifestyle (rent, utilities, etc.), so we had to think outside the box to pull it off.

A locked old metal double door

Locked tight

Why Shake it Up?

Not to get too personal, but the short answer is our circumstances didn’t seem sustainable, nor were any doors opening for us that we could see. Not that we hadn’t been looking. It’s also important to note where we lived – a senior community, 55 and over; Ah, the Golden Years.

In some ways, it was the nicest, newest place either of us had ever lived: new buildings, great appliances, attractive landscaping. It was all well cared for, quiet and secure, and answered the question, “Where are all the old folks around here?” They’re all stashed away in places like this: all shapes, sizes, conditions, and nationalities. Pleasant enough and all very nice.

painting of a house and green hills

By Charlotte Dukich

Younger drivers kept going up the hill past our complex to beautiful homes or condos. Older ones, like us, turned left, settled in and waited: lights out at 9:00. The lucky ones had routines interrupted by visiting grandchildren or looked forward to trips.

The others, well, things are pleasant, and card games in the clubhouse might be fun, puzzles too. Mostly we saw the expected and accepted: people slowly declining bit by bit, internally and externally. 

B&W drawing of a warrior with a sword

We aren’t revolutionaries, by far, but we wondered aloud many times whether we could continue living in this way. Not that we didn’t fit the demographic: we did. But we didn’t fit the expectations, the mold. Besides, things didn’t seem golden to us. We needed to do something, and we knew it wouldn’t be just a little different, only a significant break would do. It was time to truly shake it up!

close up of large tangled tree roots

We call them crazy logs!

The Lease is Up 

We also had a time constraint on our hands. Our lease would be up soon, and we either had to renew it or find another solution. We did investigate signing a six-month contract at a few places, but it didn’t work out. 

If we signed a new one-year lease, we would be stuck in Los Angeles. I would have to work another school year, but the new contract would only take us half way through it. We would always be six months off kilter on working and living arrangements.

Painting of a man and a dragon

Paying rent without working, not likely. Working without a home, that sounded crazy, but we wanted to leave Los Angeles at the end of the current school year. What to do?

We talked about all the pros and cons repeatedly and finally settled on the least sensible choice – No new lease! We gave notice and had six weeks to vacate and find somewhere to live that didn’t require a contract! It was terrifying but also quite exciting. If you don’t take steps towards the changes you want, things stay the same, right?

Class A Motorhome

Something like this?

How About Living in an RV?

During this time frame, we had many conversations about what lifestyle we wanted to have and how we would spend our time. Our first serious consideration was to travel the country in a motorhome.

We began reading online about people who had chosen that lifestyle and found several blogs written by ‘full-timers,’ individuals who live full-time in their motorhomes campers and vans. It sounded like just the life for us!

Why couldn’t we split our time between travel and as camp hosts in National Parks!

a camper shell

Or like this?

Researching RVs

Investigating big motor homes, small campers, and fifth-wheel trailers became our new job. However, we had no idea what we wanted, needed, or could afford. To learn what to look for, and what to avoid, we bought a few books about the various types of recreational vehicles.

We visited several RV dealerships as we thought that might help us decide what type would work best for us. We also drove to the biggest RV show in Los Angeles to see the choices all in one place.

hundreds of tree trunks all over a beach

That’s what we felt like afterward!

Oh, my goodness, did we see a lot of motorhomes! Mile upon mile of every type of recreational vehicle you could imagine, it was an eye-opener. They were incredible and had every amenity in the world. After about three hours, we couldn’t take in anymore and left more confused than ever and a bit depressed.

We certainly learned one thing – we would not be purchasing a good motorhome – insufficient funds! Many of those RV’s were nicer than our apartment and bigger. Besides, how would we maneuver around in one of those behemoths! We decided to continue looking for just the right used vehicle, one that we might be able to afford and would meet our needs. 

Brown House

“Stay at my house.”

We Found the Solution

Somewhere in all the online research and blog reading about those full-timers, we stumbled upon the idea of house sitting. What in the world was that? We found a handful of house sitting websites; who knew? (click here to read about using the websites.) The sites listed house sitting opportunities all over the world! We discovered that many people (house sitters) lived house sit to house sit and did not have a place of their own. That’s what we wanted to do! 

We immediately joined one of the websites and began searching for listings that fit our needs. We could live in a house while the owners vacationed, care for their pets, leave after a few weeks and go to the next house! It seemed like the solution to our dilemma! We had found a workable plan, at least, until we purchased a motorhome.

A small road to nowhere in the woods

Entering the unknown

We Go All In

If one website was good, more would be better, so during the next few months, we joined four others. I set about my new task, getting us house sits! I checked the sites regularly for new listings that would work for us. Since I had to work for the next six months, we could only apply for house sits within commuting distance. 

We thought this house-sitting thing might work, so we took another huge step. I notified my employer that I would complete the current school year, but would not return the following September. We opened a post office box, rented a storage unit, and started packing!

grass and trees with a path between

Microsoft Clip Art – but I love it!

It could be argued that having a fallback position would have been wise, or to try it for a while to see how it went, and if we liked it, but we decided to jump in with both feet.

One reads and hears so much about ‘Creating the space for what you want,’ ‘Go for it,’ ‘Just do it.’ They are clichés but in this situation, all true. Anxiety and fear did rear their ugly heads at times, but we stood firm and didn’t let them take over. For two responsible, mature adults this was crazy and so unlike us. We are a couple of serious homebodies, content to stay put and keep it simple. 

Watercolor painting, mostly purple of two mountains with a path across

By Charlotte Dukich

In quiet moments, we wondered what we were getting into, tossing all our comforts and routines out the window, not to mention a home. As Jim says, “Sometimes you just get a wild hair!”

PS – I found two fascinating and helpful blogs about living this nomadic, smaller footprint life.

The first is about a couple who live in a huge motor home who travel the country and stay in National Parks, RV parks, out in the desert or on public land for free.

The other was all about how to live in a van; it has tons of information about living the cheapest way possible while still being comfortable.

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  1. Congratulations on letting your hearts soar. Frank and I live full-time in our 23′ renovated handicap transport bus. The freedom is magnificent and heaven sent. Enjoy the journey. Our travel blog: and our house/pet sitting blog:

    With care, Susan and Frank Black (currently in Namao, Alberta, Canada)

    1. Thank you, Susan!

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