- in Your Story
We Did as Seniors and Ended up Loving it
by Richard & Laura Pawlowski
Are you considering test living in a tiny home — before you buy or build one? Or, are you having trouble paying your mortgage or paying rent and need a new place to live? Perhaps you are considering buying an RV for full or part-time travel? Do you wish to rid yourself of bad habits or distance yourself from the negative people around you? Maybe you’re seriously considering becoming a true minimalist and want to shed all the useless items in your life. If you’re anyone of those Americans, then perhaps you should learn from our senior experience and read our book, 2 Years in a Tent first. We’ve got some real answers and a unique new travel adventure for you.
You see, 10 years ago and during the “Great Recession,” my wife and I were in our early 70s and had some serious financial difficulties (to say the least). We were forced to leave our home town and comfortable home of 35 years, after confronting a new and unplanned economic reality. Yet another financial recession, and one that definitely didn’t favor us. That was for sure.
However, once we made the decision to use what we already knew about camping, we decided to travel and explore, rather than get a new apartment or depend on anyone for support. The fact was, we just started camping. Full-time! 24 x 7 x 30, in many new and different places, but always with a scary unknown, swirling in our senior minds. The fact was, we had no idea how long we or this new situation would last — or where we would end up.
We ended up living in a tent for full two years and traveled to 15 National Parks and hundreds of campgrounds, in the 10 Western States of the USA. We nightly occupied the very best of America’s real estate. We also got healthier (I lost 30 pounds), rebuilt our credit and spiritual lives, took solar showers, met significant new people, ate great food, and we experienced something that very few people ever will — unless they shed their comfort zone and current situation. For us, the ultimate solution was the cheap but incredibly wonderful tent. Our little 10’x 10’ foot, domed tent, became our bridge to a totally new way of everyday living and exploring more of the USA.
We are also certain, right now, for millions of Americans, having the knowledge and option to live, learn, and travel, full-time, in a tent, can be an incredibly important strategy. An expensive RV simply isn’t needed and you won’t be living on the street either. The money you save from not paying rent for an extended period can make a real financial difference. However, you do need to relearn somethings about yourself and all the extra “stuff” you now have in your life.
“Many wealthy people are mere janitors for their possessions.” ~ Frank Lloyd Wright
But why right now you ask? Simply because many of the financial and/or medical after-effects of the global pandemic and the “Great Economic Paralysis” of 2020 are just beginning to be felt and, in our senior opinion, there is much more to come. The esoteric knowledge and experience we gained from traveling and living in a tent, for those two, very different and challenging years, can also be an important part of your own personal growth, education, financial planning, retirement, and/or emergency survival plan too. We’re sure of it (continues).
Here’s why. Many people typically consider a tent just a temporary vacation item or perhaps a kid thing. But the amazing thing about knowing what to do with a sturdy well designed cloth-walled tiny home, which fits in a bag and can go just about anywhere, can be much more than weekend or for emergency survival. With specific destinations in mind and a size-friendly tent, with cots, and the right kind of tenting insights, your home-in-a-sack, and a half-way decent car or van, can take you to places where an RV simply cannot go. Faster and cheap too.
Some of the most important things we learned were how to go to stay-longer in a good, inexpensive campground and then use that camp as a “fallback” campground if we needed it later — for medical or income reasons, between our Social Security checks. For example, we camped in three different locations in the Grand Tetons National Park and stayed for over a month. We did the same with Zion and Grand Canyon National Parks. We also had to fall back in Southern California, Oregon, and Arizona for those very reasons. Our fallback campground strategy became critically important in many cities and towns.
What to avoid in some campgrounds also became all-important for us. How to pack our gear and load the car/van, how to shower outdoors (with hot water), what works best to sleep on (and not on the ground), and what to cook/eat for fresh, inexpensive, longer-lasting meals. Staying healthy, while traveling, every day, was a very important part of our relearning curve (continues).
And, while this may be hard to believe for some, for us, learning how to do everything we needed to do every day — but with much less — became great fun.
However, the financial reality of our unexpected two years in a tent adventure didn’t start off with a specific plan in mind and the first year was anything but easy. But looking back now on those
unsettling and unusual times, they were absolutely the best things we could have done — given all the strangeness and financial trauma of the Great Recession. Those two incredible years in a tent, have since become the most important and enriching experiences of our long lives.
And, you know what, we can hardly wait to go camping again. Our tiny-home-in-a-bag and a new outdoor adventure patiently await us, wherever and whenever we decide to go.
About the Authors
We also hope to personally meet our readers online via our 2yearsinatent.com website or perhaps somewhere out there in a campground — but now of course, with a mask. 🙂
Laura Pawlowski is a retired dietary supervisor from an acute hospital in Los Angeles and Richard Pawlowski is a retired architect. They are now living in Depoe Bay, Oregon.