Category Archives: RV Book Draft Pages

Florida First Friday: Best & Worst Night

This is continuing in a series of posts going over my past two years traveling around the United States in a RV

First Friday in Florida
August 2011

I’ve made it through five days in Florida. Despite my fitness training plans being on hold, I decide to stay in Florida and look for other ways to stay productive. This includes meeting new friends and doing a lot more group meditation.

Friday night, I dress up in my finest, green dress shirt, dark jeans, and black dress shoes. It’s a young professional style I inherited from two years living in Washington DC, but I later find this look does not work very well in the Orlando crowd.

When I enter my RV, I find that my charge controller is hanging from the wall. Somehow, three of the screws had popped out. While mounting the controller back to the wall, I strip down my boxers in the humid RV. After a hour, I finally succeed, but I’m sweating head to toe.

I wonder, should I still go out? Yes.

I find a parking spot a few blocks from the downtown bars. As soon as I turn off the engine though, I hear a loud pop like a gun shot…Was that me? I see a cloud of smoke coming out of the hood along with a hissing sound of air escaping from somewhere. This is not good. No, No, no, no. Everything’s going to shit.

I open the hood to discover there’s this one pipe with a valve end missing. Air is escaping with cold liquid flying everywhere. Eventually, all the air and liquid is fully exhausted.

Looking around the block, I spot the exploded remains of what was the pressure valve. On my phone, I google the part number (Ranco sp3-h1025) and discover it’s a trinary pressure switch for the A/C.

I suspect that the cause is that I had gotten the freon refilled before this trip, and the mechanics probably overfilled it despite my repeated warnings. At least, I’m confident that the engine is fine even if my A/C is blown again.

Now, it’s midnight. My hands are dirty. I’m beyond the point of frustration and stress. I decide, I don’t care, I’m going to have a good night. All these problems piling on me beyond logic actually help me reach a mindset of, “I deserve a good night, nothing can possibly faze me now.”

Walking towards the bar, I compliment this guy’s shirt that says, “It’s not a competition” on the back. Then, this couple including an older, Indian woman starts talking to me. We do the small talk game, and I mention I’m a Buddhist, and she says she’s from Buddha’s home village. She’s also very touchy. But they’re going one way and I’m going another. I’m in a good mood though.

Inside the bar, I sit by the bar and start talking to 3 guys drinking Yuenling asking if they’re from up north since Yuenling is a Northeast favorite. I befriend these guys and chat with anyone else that comes by the bar.

I say to one of the guys, Jeff, that there must be one fair maiden for me somewhere in this bar. He starts pointing to girls and looking at me.

Eventually, I move across the bar to talk to a pack of girls with a particularly cute, short brunette.

We make our introductions and are having a grand time when suddenly the girl I was talking to walks outside to the patio with her friends following. I’m left confused standing by myself next to the bar.

I’m partly angry because I thought things were going well. So, screw that. I go outside too with my back to the brunette just inches from me. But instead of addressing her, I immediately begin talking to this chick with a nose piercing and dyed red hair, “Hey! I had to say hello. Your hair is so crazy and awesome.” Her name is Bri. She’s hanging out with her sister and sister’s boyfriend.

As if this was a game, the brunette girl suddenly appears out of nowhere and starts talking to Bri. Later, she even gets Bri’s number. I’m still not sure what was going on here.

Unfazed, I move on to talk to the sister, Alexa, and boyfriend, Cedric. I find that all of them just moved to Orlando two weeks ago from Kansas. All of us get along really well. We swap numbers towards the end of the night with a promise to meetup again soon.

As it turns out, we end up hanging out a lot the next three months.

Despite the numerous setbacks from going out, I ended up meeting my closest friends in Orlando that first Friday night.

Going to Florida: My First Home

This is a series of posts following my two years on the road…although most of that time was not spent on the road at all.

August 2011
Moving to Orlando

I’ve always been a physically weak guy. I want to blame my genes, but my mother’s side of the family are practically giants by Korean standards. On the other hand, my father and his father were stick thin like myself. Because of my tall, lanky appearance, my parents nicknamed me beansprout as a kid whereas other kids teased me that I must be malnourished. But, no matter what I ate, I was always thin and felt insecure about my appearance.

By graduate school, I noticed for the first time that despite my thinness, I also looked kind of fat. My stomach giggled, I didn’t have an athletic build. So, I hired an undergrad student personal trainer. Towards the end of my first workout session with her (yes, it was a girl), my body was so exhausted that I fell to the ground in a daze. My vision was completely blurred to the point of being practically blind for several minutes and feeling nauseous. After a month, I stopped my sessions with her.

Most gyms and personal trainers as I would learn aren’t really worth their salt. Like most items in our consumer culture, they’re created to sell you a dream, an idea of who you are rather than any real, end results. It’s not just their fault. A lot of people don’t have the patience or dedication to really get the real results too. Fortunately, my apartment complex had a great gym that was always empty, and I slowly overcame my fear of the gym until I finally felt at home in one.

I mention my interest in fitness because it was the reason that drew me to Florida.

One of my dreams of the RV had been the ability to travel to experts and masters to learn from whether it was a Zen monastery in northern NY or a hacker school in San Francisco.

I spotted a blog post by Drew Baye, a well known personal trainer and former body builder. He was looking for case study subjects for his upcoming book. He would train people for three months in exchange for being put on public display. Immediately, I emailed him and asked to be signed up. He agreed as long as I could get my butt to Orlando by the time the program started. My friends all joked that I would return unrecognizable as a meat head.

Yet, I had zero friends in Orlando. I didn’t know much about Orlando apart from Disney World. It was definitely the biggest life change up to that point. I would learn a few lessons from Orlando including the confidence that I could make friends anywhere and survive anywhere.

In addition, my friends at the time were moving all over the place. Some of them were on a long term Europe tour. Another was teaching English abroad. Others were starting graduate school. With everyone moving and progressing to new stages of their life, I felt an itch to also be doing something, anything.

So, a week later, I drove my RV from Delaware to Orlando. Along the way, I said goodbye to my old friends in Washington DC, couchsurfed in Richmond, danced in Raleigh, and toured Savannah. I never really fell in love with the south apart from the charming beauty of Savannah.

Unbeknownst to me, my trainer had emailed me the day I had left Delaware to warn me that the program had been cancelled. I didn’t see the email. A few days later, I’m sitting in my new home in Florida reading this email in dumb amazement. My sole and only reason for moving to Orlando had been cut short before it ever began. This was freaking nuts I thought.

While driving down, I found a house through craigslist to rent month to month just three miles from downtown Orlando. The summer heat would of made living n the RV a complete hell even in the night.

When I arrived in town, I was shocked to find my new home was hiding on the “wrong side of the tracks”. Every other house on the street had a metal, high fence. The main street was dotted with strip clubs, gun stores, liquor shops, and prostitutes on the road. My new roommates were a high school student, his older, gay companion, and a young girl working at Disney Land. Later, an older man working as a linecook at a fast food joint would join our motley crew. He rented what was basically the size of a large closet. It was definitely a large change from my college and graduate school days of artists, scientists, yuppies, hipsters, and geeks.

To keep things exciting, my room lacked an air conditioner, the kitchen lacked a stove, and three of my roommates (the gay couple and the girl) shared a single bedroom. Although I got along with everyone at the house, I, immediately, knew I wanted to leave.

One day, I returned home late to see dozens of police cars and firetrucks at the gas station across the street from my house. My roommates told me that a drunk women had driven her minivan directly into a gas pump causing a gas explosion. I left a few days later.

Ironically, my next home in the beautiful, historic Lake Eola area would turn out to be the more dangerous place.

One Year Later: The Lowest, Depressing Point

Post #4 in a Series of Posts on my Travels and Life, more information here: Writing a Short book on my Two Years with RV

Running low on time today due to moving and got a cold. Going to post a quick one. It screws up the chronology somewhat since I’m skipping ahead 7 months. But, those were an uneventful 7 months.

Days Before My First RV Trip
July 2011

A year after leaving Washington DC, I reflected on my life and saw myself rather lacking. I had come back home with grand expectations of everything I would accomplish in the next year. But, looking back over my successes, I found the only thing noteworthy I had accomplished was buying a RV which could equally be seen as a huge mistake.

I sent out a rather depressing email to my close friends. I was suffering that mental disease of twenty something angst of not knowing who I am and not knowing what to do. The perceived pressure that I could be doing so much more was crushing me.

Excepts from my email below. It’s a bit meta in that it references a previous email that had occurred a year before this one. The previous email evaluated that previous year which in turn referenced another previous email from the beginning of that year.

One year. One year ago, I moved back to Delaware after my two years in DC.

I cannot believe it has been a year. I have so little to show for it. Reading over the email I sent a year, I’m struck by these lines:

Lately, I keep seeing myself quitting my job and just traveling around, living life on the razor’s edge.
……
While in Newark, I want to continue training and developing. Yoga classes, martial arts classes, dance classes, acting/improv, toastmasters, etc. I don’t know, I could list off dozens. I enjoy learning and expanding as a human being. I also don’t get any sense of growth or meaning from my job so I seek it outside….
This next year is THE YEAR. I don’t expect to necessarily accomplish everything. In fact, subconsciously, I expect some epic, huge failures to occur that will challenge my sanity. But I will run off to the mountain monasteries if I’m still living this same type of life next year.

I’m not sure why I’m filled with such grief lately. Especially as I’m on the verge of finally starting my RV dream. But I’m unhappy. Most of all I’m disappointed with myself. Despite the passing of a year, the same thoughts are in my head. Although I tried with great, initial interest and inspiration, I’ve succeeded in so very little. Or, if anything, I’ve gone backwards. The same questions, the same anxieties, the same yearnings.

I’m not running off to the mountains, but I am running away on the road. I’m not sure I experienced any huge failures. But a slow series of setbacks and disappointments perhaps. Exercise, cash savings, yoga, meditation, family, food, internet business, RV. None of them shaped up as I hoped.

With the exception of my job, I’ve detached myself from all allegiances. It feels like I stand alone now. And perhaps that explains my inability to advance. As Jesus wandered the desert, and Buddha sat under his bodhi tree, I thought I would come out of this stronger and better. But I knowingly willed this upon myself. I thought isolation would bring focus and determination instead of apathy and loneliness.

My plans? In the short term, I will visit old friends across the East Coast. Make sure this RV is livable and capable of doing my job on the road. At least having the excuse that I’m spending time with friends and therefore have reliable internet…

I can’t stay around here during the winter or summer. And I would love to see the natural beauties in the West.

*I take a break to eat dinner with my parents, and I realize the source of all my grief.*

It’s a hopelessness. Hopelessness, the precursor to depression. Victor Frankl said that man can suffer anything as long as there’s a reason, a hope, a meaning. But I have traveled my different paths and constantly found only an ending whether self-afflicted or external or both. I’ve reached the end of my tenure of my time in Delaware and feel I’m leaving worse than I started.

My dreams are dying. My hopes are fleeting. Back in college, I used to think that hope was a thing for weak individuals. Frankl’s belief in hope I thought was something only for a man in such desperate circumstances. I would instead cherish something more tangible like strength. But now that I’m weathered down, perhaps hope is one of the foundational layers upon which all else falls upon. Hope as in faith. Faith that my life matters. Faith that my actions carry meaning and purpose. Maybe, I’ve lost faith in myself. I have freedom without meaning. What is freedom without actual consequences? No freedom at all.

Not a happy email. In hindsight, my expectations were unrealistic. But, at the beginning, I really did believe. I think that’s true for most people at the start of any grand journey though. You need some extraordinary, unrealistic faith and optimism initially to even dream big.

But, just a few days after writing that email, I have a great weekend seeing old friends and map out my plan to depart south for Orlando, Florida. My first RV trip.

Why Did I Really Want to Get a RV?

Why? Why would you want to buy a used RV? Why would you want to live in the RV? How did you get this motorhome idea?

Growing up, I never saw a RV. I didn’t know anyone that owned one. I imagined trailer trash or retired folks in Florida. All of that changed when I discovered Tynan.com.

Tynan is a very interesting character. Among his credentials include being a former professional gambler, being featured in the best selling book The Game, and most pertinent, he’s lived full time inside his Rialta RV for the past 4+ years.

I discovered his site back in early 2010 as I was just finishing graduate school. I really didn’t like my apartment located a few miles outside of Washington DC. Rent seemed like an absurdly high expense considering that I would be content with just a small bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom. I rarely entertained guests or ever used the living room or dining room. And I wanted to be in the downtown area itself.

So there were a few reasons I believed living in a RV was a great change including saving money, opportunity for great growth, new beginnings, and it would just be cool.

First, there were the financials. I suspected the RV I had in mind would cost around $15,000 with an additional $3,000 for repairs and upgrades. At the time, I was paying $600/month for an apartment in a bad location. Depreciation for a used RV would largely be gone after ten years. So, I could still sell the RV a few years later and only lose a few grand (I ended up selling it for almost the same amount I purchased. Repair expenses ruined it though.) But, if a quality downtown studio costs $1,000/month then living inside the RV after a year or two would pay for itself. Not to mention the freedom that I could live downtown in pretty much any city, no lease tying me down.

Second, I was at a crossroads in my life. I had graduated with my Masters having decided that I would not pursue academia anymore. But I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next. I was wandering around looking for a new mission. I also wasn’t sure where to live. My friends were scattered around the globe, and my job allowed me freedom to work from anywhere with wifi with the right timezones.

Third, I expected somehow the RV would push me to a level of growth in many areas. I had traditionally always been a risk-adverse person especially when it came to money. I had an obsession with being able to predict and control things. I had an ingrained distrust of surprises and beliefs that the world is a vicious place for those like myself without a lot of resources. I thought I would be forced to meet girls, be forced to learn how to make friends anywhere/everywhere, and maybe even find my future graduate school, meditation mentor, or even next job.

I also originally thought that I could travel to where the masters in the fields I’m interested in are. I could live next door to a meditation center. I could train with some of the best athletes. I would do pickup in Vegas and find a startup co-founder in SF.

Finally, the cool factor. Yeah, let’s just admit facts. I thought it would be cool. I liked Tynan’s lifestyle and wanted the same for myself. Like so many dreams, I thought somehow that once I had a RV, my life would be somehow imbued with awesomeness. I could travel to mountains, beaches, and national parks staying indefinitely. I would be absolutely free.

As I realized on my journeys though, being cool or more accurately, being perceived as cool isn’t really all that great. Actually, it is great. But, precisely, because you realize the futility of trying to be cool. It’s just a mirage. Ultimately, I think this insecure comparison with others is just a normal symptom of a not fully developed identity. A byproduct of a 20 year old something who is still figuring out their values, goals, and so on. At a certain point, you realize you can’t do everything. And that the average person is…really average. Just being slightly confident, honest, and genuine makes you above average. And so, as it happens, by the end of my RV journeys, the three supporting reasons for having a RV were gone. It ended up not being a financial smart move, I discovered I really enjoy Boston and Boulder, and I no longer cared about being cool to everyone.

Man, this RV has to be a scam

Post #2 in a Series of Posts on my Travels and Life, more information here: Writing a Short book on my Two Years with RV

November – December 2010
Newark, Delaware

My post-graduate plan was simple. Generate passive income websites over a year with a focus in search engine optimization (SEO). Once, I had a stable source of side income then I could quit my job, buy my RV, and go off adventuring in the world. Instead, I ended up buying the RV first.

It was the perfect RV. A 1996 Winnebago Rialta with under 100,000 miles. The extra seats had been removed making room for a possible desk. The hideous carpet had been replaced with hardwood floors. I had been tracking Ebay for months and had expected to pay at least $15,000 for such a RV, and this price was far below. But, I still didn’t have any passive income. Even worse, it was nearly winter.

However, I thought why not place a bid? No one had yet hit the reserve price. So, even if I was the highest bidder as long as I didn’t hit the reserve then I wouldn’t be obligated to buy the RV.

A few days later, the auction ended. It was a Friday night. I had been frantically clicking refresh as the auction ended while sitting at Central Perk Cafe with two of my friends.

I was the highest bidder without passing the reserve. My bid? $14,000. Immediately, I called the owner, Jessica, to see if she would accept my $14k offer. She was receptive but needed to talk to her bank to see if they would accept my offer. I nervously waited over the weekend.

On a side note, I was surprised to hear she was also a Tynan reader. I actually found some of her RV question posts on the forums. Small world.

By Monday, I heard back that my offer was approved. But, I became paranoid that I was getting scammed. Her bank wanted me to pay first to a payment collection agency with a different name than the bank. And I would only get the title afterwards. Not to mention the fact, I still hadn’t actually seen the RV beyond photos. In addition, it turned out that Jessica had moved to Hawaii, and the RV was sitting in a lot in Myrtle Beach. At this point, I didn’t even know if a RV really exists.

A month passes as I tried to figure out what to do. In the meantime, I was collecting signed letters from all parties involved. I also hired a national car inspection agency to do a report on the RV which comes back positive. On the plus side, I negotiated with her bank to lower the buying price to $11,000. I might of been able to get away with even less, but I didn’t want to lose the RV either.

The stress and uncertainty of parting with money that took me years to save for a used motorhome I’ve never seen was killing me. More than once, I talked to my housemate, Andrew about it. Each time, like everyone else, he pushed me to continue with the sale. Everyone’s vicariously living through me, sharing the thrill of my dangers and adventures without any of the actual risk. But, those talks were necessary emotional outlets to get pass my fears and anxieties.

In the end, I gave them my credit card information and part with my life savings on faith that there would be a working, good quality RV waiting for me in South Carolina. A week before Christmas, I flew down to Myrtle Beach to pickup my RV having never even seen any RVs in real life. But, as I learned over the next few years, faith is a necessity in the thrilling, difficult, and painful process of growth.