Meet Our New Home

6/26/2020 

The sun is shining down through the tall pine trees and rays of light are casting patterns on the floor. Music is playing quietly through our black speaker, and the bugs and birds are singing their mid-morning songs. I am sipping on what is now cool coffee out of a green mug I have grown to really like. I look above my computer screen and out the screen door. In front of me I see grass, a dirt road, and endless trees and palmettos. It’s just me here, alone in this open, but shaded field, surrounded by dense forest and so much greenery. There was a downpour last night, so things are slightly damp and the smell of sunshine on the leaves and grass is wafting in through all the open windows. I find myself stopping from time to time in various places throughout my new home as well as when i’m outside and just being still. Observing, feeling, being. It’s been a while since I have done that so often, and I feel refreshed. Every few minutes I find myself thinking “I can’t believe this is ours. I can’t believe this is our life.” And it fills my whole being with so much gratitude and joy. We worked so hard to get here, even though we had no idea this is where we were going. And it all paid off and it’s so incredible that I find myself bursting with happy emotions. And for some reason being here all alone makes everything more intense, and I love it. I feel so free and as though I am part of the nature that surrounds me. There is a small beetle crawling across the table made from recycled pallet wood. He’s black and curious about his surroundings. These little beetles seem to really like it in here, and for a while I was putting them back outside, but every once in a while I see one and just let him be. I like to think about what the world is like from his perspective. Everything must be so big. His life seems simpler- eat, drink.. I don’t know what else beetles think about? Or maybe they don’t think at all, and that’s why they seem so simple. Anyway, I say hi to him and watch as he heads to explore the flowers that are sitting in the window sill. The sun is shining on the flowers as well and I like to look at the intricate patterns within the leaves. Life is good. 

—– 

That is an exerpt from my journaling this morning. But I figured I should interject and get caught up to where it is I am 🙂 

So as I mentioned in my last post, we got stuck in Florida, and now it’s hurricane season so even when we do go back to the boat, we aren’t going to go sailing again until hurricane season is over. So when we go back to the boat we will just prepare it for being left for 6 months and put it in a “hurricane hole”. Which honestly is just a name for a place that might protect the boat if a hurricane comes through. We are fully prepared for what the reality of this hurricane hole is, and just have to hope for the best! So anyway, we were planning on heading up to Virginia to work on developing some family property, while both working remotely part-time, but weren’t quite sure what we would live in and where. That’s when we decided to buy a camper. Kyle was pretty set on an airstream, and I didn’t have much of an opinion, but knew that I didn’t want something too generic. But we also didn’t have a lot of money and airstreams are EXPENSIVE. So after hours of online searching and going to look at various airstreams, we found one in Orlando. We went and picked it up and that very night started work. This was May 9th and we worked for 6 weeks straight. Of course the airstream we purchased was 100% stripped, nothing in it at all. It had been painted but then half stripped so half of it was a greenish/silver and the other an ugly very old peeling paint job. We went to work and worked all day every day- towards the end we were working 16 hour days every day. 

Half-way through this airstream renovation, Kyle got a phone call and was offered what I call his “dream job.” He wasn’t at all looking for a job, and we had the next 6 months pretty planned out in terms of working remotely, finding some labor work up in Virginia, and working on the property. However, the job he was offered was something we instantly knew we couldn’t pass up. He was offered the job of Design and Prototype Specialist at Century Boats in Zephyrhills, Florida. This is exactly what he went to school for- he wants to work on boats and help design boats, without all the physical labor of grinding fiberglass everyday like he is used to. So we decided to say yes and within 12 hours all of our plans were changed! (That has been happening a lot this year- I think for a lot of people). The only downside of this new plan is that we now had a strict deadline to get the camper done- which we are pretty used to with projects like this, so on we went. During the couple days after he received his offer letter I spent a lot of time on the computer trying to figure out where to live. I was thrilled for Kyle with his job, but was also pretty bummed that we wouldn’t be living in the mountains of Virginia. I knew we didn’t want to rent an apartment, and I do not want to live at an RV/Motor Home Resort type place. So what we decided to do is just cruise around between campgrounds, free water management land, and state forests. In the 30 miles surrounding Zephyrhills there are thousands of acres of water management land that allows you to stay for free up to 7 days and then you have to leave for a day, but can come back the next day. So between paid campgrounds, free water management land, and state forests, we have the next 5-6 months pretty much booked out. We will move somewhere new about once a week all within a 20 minute drive from Kyle’s work. Our airstream is 100% solar powered, so we do not need to be plugged in, and we carry enough water to last over a week. 

So then was the question about what I will do during this time. Since we were not planning on Kyle getting a full time job, we don’t have to worry quite as much about income, so it was decided that I will spend the next 5-6 months focusing on my book. I will work remotely about 10 hours a week, but otherwise will focus on writing. I have tried to write my memoir about our Mississippi River trip multiple times and have a good start, but things kept coming up and I feel like I need some serious uninterrupted time to get it finished. Plus I can’t really think of a better place to write a book, than in our tiny home that I LOVE surrounded by nature and sunshine. Everything about the camper is so cozy and homey that just being in it motivates me to write. I have always wanted to write a book, for as long as I can remember, and I feel the river trip is worthy of a book, so I made the decision to just sit down and do it. My goal is to have the first draft finished by December. On my white board above my desk I wrote “I will write a book and it will be a success”. I read it every day and I am starting to internalize it. I feel SO incredibly grateful for this opportunity and plan to utilize it fully. 

Speaking of feeling grateful, I had a bit of a hard time sitting down to do these blog updates. There is so much happening in the world right now, and a lot of it not very positive. I found myself feeling a bit of guilt for writing about how wonderful everything is for us. Because for a lot of people, it isn’t. But I decided that I am doing my part as best I can and educating myself, having conversations, and helping in anyway I can/know. I have an open mind and I don’t take lightly all the opportunites we have.  I take time every single day to say my thank you’s, check-in on people close to me, and do my best to spread light and positivity. Gratitude feels like an understatement, and I want to do more. Be more. I hope that by putting it out there in the universe, opportunites to help will arise. 

Well, that’s the general update. I plan to update this blog about the places we visit and live in the airstream, as well as when we make our trip to the boat, Virginia, etc. I am also working on a time-lapse of the airstream renovation, but that will take some time. In the meantime, here is a bit more about the renovation and the photos!   

As I mentioned above, this is a 1965 Airstream Camper. It is 55 years old and we purchased it from some people our age that had hoped to renovate it, but it didn’t work out. When we got it, many of the windows were broken, the interior had a strange step-up that made the ceiling height low, and there was a big back door cut out of the back. We really liked the idea of the door, but there was a poorly built frame and piece of very thin plexi glass in it’s place. We knew we would have to build a new door and replace the windows, but other than those things, the skeleton of the camper was in pretty good shape for its age. The night we got it we stayed up until 4am stripping all the old paint off. It looked pretty bad and we didn’t want it sitting in my parent’s driveway looking like that for long, so we got it all done in one go. It was a pretty fun night because we would put on the stripper, then would have to wait 15-30 minutes before we could go scrape, so we’d go inside the camper and drink a beer and discuss our plans for the interior. By 4am all the paint was removed and we had an interior plan! The next day we started taping for primer and within 48 hours of purchasing the camper it had its first coat of primer and that evening we did the blue paint. 

Next it was time to start on the interior. I sanded the entire interior, and the next day Kyle used the paint sprayer and gave it a fresh coat of white. The painting really wasn’t that bad, it’s all the taping and prep that is so tedious and I really don’t like that part. We then did all the plumbing and electrical because we knew we would want to run all the wires and plumbing pipes before we started building. This job was again, very tedious. I had never used a “fish” before, but let me tell you, I got very familiar with a fish! We used it for every wire and pipe. It was one of the most important tools in the build. The next 5 weeks were spent designing and building out the interior and purchasing supplies. There were a couple days where all we did was run errands. We tried to do this on quite the budget and we used a lot of recycled or used materials. Pallet wood, second-hand plywood, water tanks and random parts from a marine salvage place, hinges, hardware and other random parts from a boat Kyle worked on a while ago that were being thrown away. However, I will not try to pretend that we didn’t spend a LOT of time (and money!) at Home Depot and Lowes. Kyle designed parts of the interior on Solidworks on his computer, and then we would build it as he designed it. We work very well together and were able to get a lot done in a very short period of time. We built every little thing from the curtain rods to the cabinet faces to the light fixtures to the trim and the walls. My parents helped paint, stain, and take apart pallets. They were very involved with this project and provided endless help and also always provided food which was AMAZING because it was one less thing we had to worry about taking up time in our already tight schedule.  THANK YOU! 

In trying to write about it, it almost feels like a blur. We just worked so hard and then all the sudden it all came together. There were so many little details and on the very last day (literally finished 1 hour before we left) everything came together so perfectly. The colors, the feel, the fit, just the whole thing. I haven’t even really processed it all yet! But when I look around I see something and think “oh yeah, I remember working on that in the garage before I even knew where it went in the camper!” 

So anyway, it was hard, but it was so much fun and we all had such a good time putting it together. And now that it’s done, we have a tiny house on wheels and knowing that we did it all ourselves makes it so much more rewarding and I love every inch of it. Plus, it feels SO much bigger than the boat and we have a separate shower with hot water, and a separate bathroom with a bathroom sink!  It feels so fancy 🙂 Enjoy the photos and video tour. Stay tuned for a time-lapse and a more in depth tour later on. 

P.S. We are still trying to name it.. we are having a hard time coming up with a name we both like that we feel fits. If you have any ideas please let us know! 

An Update

So much has happened and changed over the last 6 months that I didn’t know where to start with this blog update. So I finally decided to just start where we left off, and take my time getting caught up to the current time- which, by the way, I would have never believed someone if they told me where i’d be sitting right now. Life is full of twists and turns and I am thankful that I have just been able to sit back and enjoy the journey. Kyle left you guys off with his last post of amazing scuba diving. During all his posts, I was living at an Ashram in the Bahamas doing an intensive yoga teacher training. So I guess i’ll start there. That experience is a difficult thing to put into words and honestly, I am still processing everything I learned there. But i’ll give it a go. 

There were 36 of us in this particular 200hr TTC (teacher training course). There were only a few of us from the United States, everyone else was from various countries around the world. We quickly became very close as we spent from 6am-10pm 6 days a week together. The schedule of the training was very strict and very demanding. It went something like this: 

Wake up Bell: 5:30am 

Satsang: Silent Meditation and chanting: 6am-7:30am

Yoga Class: 8am-10am

Brunch 10am-11:30am

Philosophy/Lecture: 12-1:30pm

Bhagavad Gita/Chanting Class: 2:30-3:30pm

How to Teach Yoga Class: 4pm-6pm 

Dinner: 6pm-6:45pm

Karma Yoga: 6:45pm-7:45pm

Satsang: Silent Meditation and Chanting/Lecture: 8pm-10pm

We had Thursdays off, but still had to attend Satsangs and had to study and do homework as there was SO much homework and studying. The housing varied for each person depending on what they chose. I, of course, chose to camp. So my tent was set up in a nice shaded area and I lived out of my tent for 30 days. This particular Ashram is also a yoga vacation center, so there are many more people than just the teachers and TTC students. Sometimes there were over 300 people at the Ashram, other times half that. But basically it was a busy place filled with people from around the world all taking time to go inward and focus on themselves and disconnect from the outside world. This experience was by far the most difficult thing I have ever done. I thought that hiking the Appalachian Trail or rowing down the Mississippi River would be more difficult, but I was wrong. This course challenged me so incredibly much both mentally and physically that it broke me down many times. There were days that I would find myself in tears all day. I was unable to understand why this was happening and it wasn’t just happening to me. It would happen to people randomly throughout the course. Through all this yoga and chanting and intense breathing exercises we were cleansing ourselves physically and emotionally, and with that, a lot of emotions and feelings that I didn’t even know existed were surfaced. We were forced to go within and find silence. Finding silence within is so incredibly difficult and a bit scary. The mind does not want to be silent, it just wants to keep going and going, but my teachers taught me how to silence the inner voice. How to sit and be completely present. I learned how to gain control of my mind and my thoughts and realized that I am separate from my thoughts. I can control my thoughts, they do not control me. All of this was very profound and has been impacting my life greatly the last 6 months. I left the Ashram after 30 days with the title of a Yoga Teacher, but really I left with some of the most amazing friends and a much deeper understanding of myself and the universe. And most of all, an extreme urge and need to delve deeper into the teachings and practice of yoga as a whole. Here are some photos from my time at the Ashram. I’ll leave it at that, but if anyone has any particular questions, please feel free to reach out.

Kyle was able to join me at the Ashram for about a week. He slept on the boat which was anchored right off the Ashram’s dock (you can only get to the ashram by boat) but otherwise spent his days at the Ashram partcipating in a meditation course and joining all the meals and yoga courses. I didn’t get to see him a lot during the day, but it was nice to share meals and I was so grateful he was able to meet all the friends I had made. The day after I graduated Kyle came and picked me up in the dinghy. It was a Sunday and we went to the grocery store in Nassau because we were leaving the following morning for the Exumas. I hadn’t left the little world of the Ashram for over a month, and going to the grocery store in Nassau was quite the shock. Cars, noises, colorful signs, bright lights, etc. It took me a minute to adjust, but we enjoyed the rest of our evening gathering supplies for our crossing the next morning. 

On Monday morning we motored out of the incredibly busy Nassau Harbor and turned South towards the Exuma Island Chain. Kyle had been stuck in the busy harbor on and off for a month, and was SO excited to be leaving. I was just excited to be back on the boat and continuing on with our journey. We had a perfect passage with the wind in our favor and calm seas. I had forgotten just how clear the water was, and found myself transfixed on watching as Sirocco surged through the subtle waves. That night we arrived at Highborne Cay just as the sun had set. The next day we went swimming and snorkeling and explored the area a bit. We had some friends from St. Petersburg who also had sailed to the Bahamas, and we finally met up. So when they arrived that night we all met at an inhabited little island and had a bonfire. We shared drinks and stories and experiences of our similar but also very different journeys from Florida to the Bahamas. It was awesome to spend time with some friends our age and we made plans to meet up later on in Georgetown, farther down the Exumas. 

At this point it was the beginning of February, we had to be in Georgetown by February 20th in order to catch a plane back to St. Petersburg. Right around Christmas time we received news that my dad had been diagnosed with late stage throat cancer. Obviously it was very difficult and scary news, and we knew that we would be flying back when his treatment started. So during my time at the Ashram I purchased plane tickets for Kyle and I to fly out of Georgetown on February 21st. Being that we were on a bit of a time crunch, we decided to choose places we were most interested in seeing, and island hop to those places. The Exumas consist of over 365 islands (most of which are uninhabited) and span over a hundred miles. Within the Exumas is the Exuma Land and Sea Park, which is 176 square miles and was the first land and sea park in the world. Many of the islands within the park have moorings that you can rent for a few nights, which Kyle and I did at a place called Waderick Wells. We enjoyed a 4-5 mile hike across the entire island that took the entire day. It was unreal. Cliffs (well the Bahamas version of cliffs) overlooking the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean and half a mile in the other direction crystal clear calm water of the Exuma Sound. It was by far my most favorite place in the Bahamas, and we enjoyed every moment of our time there. From there we continued South and stopped at various islands along the way. We found awesome snorkeling, ruins to explore, and lots of really great sailing and anchorages. I didn’t write much during our time in the Exumas, so will allow the pictures to speak for the rest of our journey there. 

Once we arrived in Georgetown we enjoyed a few days of going to the bar, checking out the town, and hanging with our friends who were also there. It was hot, so we spent a lot of time swimming. Georgetown is a huge meeting ground for sailors, and while we were there, there were over 300 cruising boats from around the world. 

So, then February 21st came along and it was time to fly out for what was supposed to be 2 weeks for Kyle and 4 weeks for me. So we secured the boat at anchor, battoned down the hatches, and had our friends keep an eye on it. We didn’t feel that 2 weeks was a very long time to leave the boat, so while we finished off all the perishable food, we didn’t empty our water tanks or pantries, we didn’t take down the sails, we didn’t do A LOT of things we would have done, had we known Covid19 was going to come and change everything. We had planned to sail for 3 more months this season and end in the Dominican Replublic. So anyway, we made our way to Florida to help my dad through his 7 week cancer treatment. When we arrived he was already in week 3. There is so much to say about his treatment and what it was like. But I am not sure if I want to share that yet, so I might save that for another day. I will say though, that he is a fighter, and I could have never imagined how awful it would be, but also how much learning and growing would be involved. (He is now 3 months post treatment and healing- slowly but surely! And we found out yesterday that his treatment WORKED!!) 

So while we were at my parents house for the treatment, the virus hit. It all seems a bit like a blur, between my dad’s treatment and Covid19 and lockdown and quarantine and finding out that the Bahamas had shut their borders. But basically what happened is in March the Bahamas shut their borders and our flights were cancelled and we have been stuck in Florida ever since. And Sirocco is still just sitting at anchor 4 months later. We had friends to look after her for the first couple months, but now all the boats have left and she’s one of the few left. It’s hurricane season and she isn’t in a safe spot. It’s been rough because it is so completley out of our control and there is nothing we can do except be patient. We didn’t pack very many clothes or personal belongings and as I mentioned above, did not prepare the boat for such a long separation. But after a few days of the reality of the situation setting in, we decided to just be grateful. Grateful that we even have a boat in the Bahamas to worry about. Grateful that we were able to stay with my parents through the entirety of the treatment all the way into the healing stage, grateful to have a house, food, and a garage to work on projects. Kyle and I try to plan and prepare for every situation we can think of to keep ourselves and our boat safe, but there was just no way to plan for a global pandemic- so instead of being hard on ourselves about being “unprepared”, we let it go and moved on. Sirocco is our home and we miss her greatly, but we just keep praying that she’ll be there waiting for us when we get to her. We currently have flights for July 17th for the weekend and plan to move her to a safer spot for hurricane season. Crossing our fingers this second wave of Covid doesn’t change that. 

And so being that Kyle and I seem to be incapable of sitting still.. we took on another, totally unexpected project. We felt a bit displaced when we were separated from the boat. We had my parent’s house which was awesome, but we didn’t like that we didn’t have a place of our own in the US if something ever did happen to the boat. We aren’t interested in buying a house (nor do we have the money to do so) or renting an apartment.. so instead we bought a 1965 airstream camper! And as is our style, it was completely gutted and had to be completely renovated. It took us 6 weeks of working 12-15 hours a day. It was a major project, but so much fun and turned out AMAZING. Stay tuned for my next post to see photos of the camper and a final update of what we are up to next (Kyle gets his dream job!) Cheers!