Tips & Picks

Living the Mobile Lifestyle in Retirement Chapter 6 - Is the Turtle Life for You


Betty Fitterman - By Betty Fitterman

Mobile living isn’t for everyone.  I thought it wasn’t for me, but I was wrong.  I only agreed to it to keep the peace with my husband, who has wanted to do this his whole life.

The idea of moving from a 4800 square foot home into a bus was absurd.  The idea of living in such close confinement was terrifying.  The thought of cooking a lot of meals was disheartening.  We’d eaten out regularly and I liked not having to plan meals, much less cook them.  I couldn’t imagine myself without roots, a garden to tend, rooms to get lost in, endless shopping excursions, decorating and redecorating as my creative urges dictated.  I could not imagine giving up the business I’d worked so hard to build, even though some inner voice was telling me it was time.

And yet, when it came time to do all that I was resisting, the choice was the most liberating I’d ever experienced.   I used to hate my three-hour round trip commute to New York City in all that traffic.  Now I sit for hours at a stretch, relaxing in my lounge-style chair as the world presents itself to me in front of my picture window.   I drive my monster bus too!  Nobody can convince me that what a trucker can do, I can’t.  There’s a great feeling of accomplishment as I maneuver this 41-foot monster-plus-tow-car around turns and along country roads.  It was nerve-wracking at first, but as with any vehicle, driving it eventually becomes second nature.

To the nesters out there, I say, you are reading the thoughts of a true nester.  Everywhere I go, from luxury RV resorts, to kid-oriented campgrounds (Hello, campers!  Welcome to Jellystone Park!), to ugly parking-lot-looking stops, is a chance to nest.  And I do.  I set out the plants, the appropriate holiday decorations, the pretty tablecloth and nice (plastic!) dishware, and I vacuum the rug.  It all takes about ten minutes, and I’m settled in to my new temporary location.  Then I go out to meet the neighbors.  Who else gets a chance to make new friends every couple of days?  We invite people to go out to dinner on a whim.  We get together with complete strangers to play cards.  Some we don’t expect to see again.  Some we hope we will.  We always take e-mail addresses, and we’ve made up business cards that we hand out like candy.

We travel with our computers and an Internet phone card, so that we can Google the answers to questions that come up as we go along.  We went through Oglethorpe, GA, and Wikipedia informed us that Oglethorpe was the British General who founded the state.  When we got to Plains, we thought of Jimmy Carter and his peanut farm, then looked up George Washington Carver to see if he was also from Georgia.  (He was born in Missouri.)  And courtesy of his biography, we learned more than we ever knew about this great American former slave, all while driving along a back road strewn with cotton that had blown off a truck transporting it to the processing plant.  You can’t get an experience like that sitting in front of your TV.

I was wrong about eating out, too.  Of course we eat out.  We try to experience the cuisine of each place we go, but we are also grateful for our kitchen when our only choices are fast food places.  And believe me, there are millions of them.

You can’t garden in an RV park, but you can buy plants to tend at Super Walmart.  I left my ivy in South Carolina by mistake, but replaced it with a wreath and pumpkin when we got to North Carolina.  I bought an antique bean pot in Tennessee and filled it with wildflowers picked on a nature walk.  Now that the holidays are imminent, I fully intend to buy a small live tree and decorate it.  In the interim, my new cactus garden from Arizona looks great on my tiny coffee table.

I’ve written before about the financial advantages of this lifestyle.  We’ve gone from an unreasonable and unhealthy monthly nut of about $21,000 to somewhere around $5000.  Our accountant is ecstatic.

I don’t do much shopping these days.  The thrill of the hunt isn’t over for me, but I don’t need any more designer clothes right now, and there’s little to decorate in my new home.  Instead, I’m satisfying my lust for adventure with a more wholesome activity – visiting this country’s fabulous national parks and historic sites. 

I do miss my family and friends, but the truth is, except for my business partner, I didn’t see everybody every day, and my cell phone still has my old number, so even if I’m thousands of miles away, it doesn’t cost them any more money to call me.  I talk to one friend at least four times and week, and we play Scrabble on line at least that often.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way.   And when I learn how to use the camera on my computer, I’ll actually see everybody more often than I did when I was at home.

As to living in close confinement, it’s turned out to be better between us than ever.  We’re exploring together.  That’s just plain fun.  And nobody’s more surprised at this happy turn of events than I am.   Then again, every couple in these RV parks seems to be holding hands, from young marrieds to old-timers.  Must be the air.

When you live the mobile life, expect things to be different, but those things that are important to you will remain.  You will create ways to keep what you need in your life.  And meanwhile, you will be expanding your horizons in ways that will amaze, excite, enrich and transport you.  And you don’t have to be brave.  All you have to be is open.

Betty Fitterman
Bio Information:  Betty Fitterman was in advertising for over 30 years before her retirement in July of this year.  An award-winning writer, she was EVP/Creative Director and a member of the Board of Directors of Lintas Advertising until 1997, when she and her partner Frank DeVito formed DeVito Fitterman Advertising, which today is a successful agency serving blue chip clients like Johnson & Johnson, Ricola, ASCAP. Fujifilm and Arch Insurance, among others.    To read her humorous observances on mobile living, visit her blog at


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