"Live a good life, and in the end, it's not the years in the life, it's the life in the years."

Looking at life from a different angle now

By on February 22, 2021 in Travel with 0 Comments
Setting off on an adventure for Brenda Pickering and Rich Barrington meant letting go of the old and embracing the new.

Bout with cancer, plus pandemic made couple wonder: Why wait to really live?

By Yvette Davis

Work. Save. Plan for retirement. That’s what most of us do. But retirement can seem so far away it becomes more of a dream than a reality. 

The temptation to buck the system is great. Meet one couple who did just that.

Brenda Pickering and Rich Barrington started their planning over five years ago. Their dream? To travel the United States and live in the great outdoors. Both are camping and hunting enthusiasts, and enjoy being in nature more than in a cubicle.

“We spent all our weekends and off-work time camping and knew it had to be part of our retirement plan,” said Brenda. 

Their scheme allowed for Rich to retire at 60 and Brenda at 55. They might have stayed on that timeline if it hadn’t been for two unforeseen setbacks: cancer and coronavirus.

Five years ago, a breast cancer diagnosis threw their schedule off track. “When I was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago, that shock and the following surgeries and trauma both physical and mental really made us reassess what was most important to us,” said Brenda.    “It was during this time that we really started penciling out what it would take to retire early in terms of money and time,” she said. 

Rich and Brenda fully enjoy nature’s beauty.

They took the next steps of preparing to sell their 2,850 square foot home with a 1,200 square foot garage, and downsizing their possessions to fit in a 25-foot travel trailer, a Toyota Tundra and a 10-foot by 20-foot storage unit. 

Brenda can attest to the work involved.

“Downsizing, what a job! The good thing is that we are not really ‘stuff’ people. I have always looked at something and if we haven’t used it in the last year or two I would get rid of it. I went room to room several times and reevaluated.”

The couple held a large yard sale and listed the remainder of their goods on Facebook marketplace. Their plan had been to sell their home and live in an RV/trailer for a couple more years entirely debt-free to stockpile their income. They went ahead and listed the house for sale. Then, Brenda was laid off from her full time job in March of 2020 due to COVID-19. 

The home sold three months later and they became full-time RVers on June 1, 2020. 

Brenda and Rich most often boondock in their RV — also called dry camping, or off-grid camping, meaning without the amenities usually found in a campground — which allows them to live very inexpensively. With Rich still working at that time, the pair settled into their new lifestyle easily, ready to coast for two more years.

Perhaps it was being out there in the woods, seeing their freedom so close they could smell it and touch it every day that made the couple again reexamine their goals. 

They started discussing moving up the timeline last summer. Their reasoning again stood the “normal” retirement plan on its head.

Brenda said, “We were both so tired of living the life that we are supposed to live because this is what society tells us we should be doing. I finally just said, what is two more years really going to do for us? Let’s do what we want to do and stop planning and talking about it! Let’s just do it!”

Rich agreed. He left his job in August 2020 at age 55 to join Brenda, then age 50. As Rich explains it, “We can always make more money but we can never make more time!” 

Brenda said there’s a chance she may be rehired at her employer if the economy improves. Rich plans to work as a camp host, and both jobs would help rebuild their savings each year. But their plans of working nine to five until 65 or 67 are definitely over. They call themselves semi-retired and are loving it.

Readers can learn more about their nomadic lifestyle and its pros and cons at their RB Outdoors NW YouTube page. They currently have 513 subscribers and the site is growing. 

On it, they shared details about their “home” — a Blackstone Titanium series trailer outfitted with solar panels, lithium batteries, two 40-gallon grey water tanks, one 60-gallon black tank and one 80-gallon fresh water tank — in the video, “Amazing First Two Weeks Off Grid” published in June, 2020. 

The main focus of the channel is to share their knowledge, but subscribers are currently getting treated to some wonderful travelogue footage from Death Valley and Arizona. The couple set out on a three month tour of the southwest in their 6-by-10 travel trailer they’ve dubbed the “Enola B,” leaving the heavier and more gas guzzling Blackstone parked for the winter.  

While we are all shoveling our driveways, they are checking out desert bars.

With the world changed after COVID-19, the tiny home type living may become a new trend for more and more of us. Brenda said it’s definitely doable, with the right strategy.

“People are realizing that they can work remotely or not at all, and selling everything to go out and enjoy all that our beautiful world has to offer. You just need to have the right mindset and ability to do without a bunch of possessions. This is a sacrifice with big rewards!”

The best part of it all she sums up in one word. “Freedom!”

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