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How Toastmasters Saved RV Life During COVID

How Toastmasters Saved RV Life During COVID

Hawthorne NV
33° / 57° Cloudy ☁
TODAY’S RV PARK: Whiskey Flats RV Park
OUR RATING: 4 Stars – a clean rv park along a busy highway, wifi is ok for email only
PRICE: $144/week FHU

A very long work day today. Very monotonous end of quarter administrative tasks choked out most of the day. Highlighted by a Toastmaster Zoom meeting and a client onboarding session.

Let me introduce you to my Toastmaster group and the integral role it plays in our RV life.

Toastmasters Hybrid Meeting circa 2020

Toastmasters Hybrid Meeting circa 2020

I joined Toastmasters 5 years ago to improve my public speaking skills.   At the time I was speaking on behalf of clients in various PR settings and felt they deserved a polished voice.  I certainly achieved that goal and after 5 years of continuous work, I feel confident behind a mic, on a stage, or 1-on-1 with anyone.  Toastmasters has a terrific curriculum, evaluation process and even speech contests.  No matter where your speaking confidence is on the spectrum, there is an opportunity for you to grow.  I certainly have.

About 6 months into Toastmasters, Parveen joined the club too.  We quickly hit it off through our mutual love affair for life long learning.  We both share high pursuits at work and play, and discovered that we enjoy how we critique each other toward improvement.

The first 3 years of Toastmasters stretched my comfort zone as I learned how to master the lectern in various settings.  With Parveen in tow evaluating my professional presentations, I got better.  I was in her tow too, evaluating her medical presentations.  A true win-win and we were expanding our speaker platforms.

Then COVID hit.

COVID began the slow, and eventual death of social organizations and the sudden death of social gatherings.  Speaking gigs stopped.

Toastmasters, like every organization on the planet, immediately moved to Zoom.  Gone were the sideways glances and snickers to people in the room – and in came chat feeds.  Or, for more personal chats, smartphone texting with others in the Zoom room.

The Brady Bunch square became our new stage.  We began evaluating each other on our use of the Zoom screen as a substitute for the obligatory Stage Presence evaluation.  This weekly, constant sharpening of the saw, made most of us phenomenal speakers in Zoom.

At work, I had started getting compliments on how I showed up in client Zoom meetings.  Most people sit on their hands and don’t move.  How boring!  Get your point across more effectively by raising those hands to your face and into your Zoom screen.

The most important aspect, especially of late, was having our social club meet weekly.  If for no other reason than a wellness check and to socialize.  During COVID, those meetings fed the soul.  During RV life, they keep me grounded and connected.  I love you guys!


Camping and Trapped Inside

Camping and Trapped Inside

Hawthorne NV
27° / 50° Sunny ☀
TODAY’S RV PARK: Whiskey Flats RV Park
OUR RATING: 4 Stars – a clean rv park along a busy highway, wifi is ok for email only
PRICE: $144/week FHU

It just dawned on me, that I can go days without stepping outside. Not exactly highly unusual since I’ve always lived and worked under the same roof, even before it was COVID-cool.

Before COVID, I deliberately put events on the calendar to force myself to go outside and socialize.  Puppy obedience school, doggy daycare, take human daughter to human school (aka college), get groceries, attend various networking events and once a week, date night with Steve and a day with Parveen.

COVID killed most of that, actually the entire list except groceries.

Now that we are on the road and Steve is taking a well-deserved hiatus from laborious work, he’s in charge of all the household errands including the laundry.  Which leaves me virtually no reason to go outside – especially when its 40° out there!  Brrrrrrr

no-smokingSteve is a smoker.  Always has been.

He’s somewhere between a habitual smoker and a chain smoker.  For those of you who count this in packs, he’s a pack every other day.   Since I don’t allow him to smoke inside our fancy new RV, he has to face whatever weather we are in if he wants to puff on his cancer sticks.  As long as he’s out there for 4-6 minutes, say 8 times a day, I think its only fair that he lets one of the dogs tag along too.  That just seems to be the frequency one of them needs to pee.  Don’t you think?

But that now leaves me without any single good reason to go outside except my own personal need to smell the fresh air and stretch my legs.

I decided back in Vegas to take both a morning and evening walk with Puddin.  That was working out great when it was 70° in the am.  Today’s thermometer showed 40° while the coffee was brewing.

The new exercise goal can wait.

Scary Confessions

Scary Confessions

Beaumont, CA
46° / 72° Sunny

TODAY’S RV PARK: Cherry Valley RV Park
OUR RATING: 4 Stars because it was convenient off the highway, super cell signals, full hookups, nice friendly staff, and great county park within a 5 minute drive
PRICE: $13/day with RPI membership

It has been 102 days since we hit the open road.  And it has been over 15 years since I’ve kept any kind of journal.  Routine daily tasks haven’t been my biggest strength, but since we hit the road – the need for some kind of normal routine has been carrying me through.

My first confession about this new lifestyle is that it is SCARY AS SHIT!  It’s not the road life, or the downsizing, or even being so far from family and friends that has me up at nights practicing my old meditation and breathing exercises.  Nope, it’s something far more primitive.  Money.

Getting us started in this new lifestyle ate up all of our savings.  That and an old tax bill that came due at $2k/month.  We are out here on the open road with no savings at all to fall back on (for the moment).  No safety net – and no forseeable way to rebuild it – at least not this year anyway.  The best I can do is keep the purse strings tight.  Fortunately, I have the kind of job that I can do from anywhere and it does pay the bills and staff.  It also allows me the freedom to have a very flexible schedule – except for Mondays.  Life stops on Mondays.

There have been alot of Mondays where we had to get creative with my work situation.  On one cruise vacation, we experienced terrible internet.  We skipped an excursion day and found the first bar ashore.  We sat there for 4 hours – me pounding the keyboard and Steve making friends with the barkeep.  On my next cruise, I got smarter, and did my Monday work at 3am when the rest of the passengers were asleep.  That’s when the ship’s WIFI was blazing fast!

On another trip, we were training through Europe.  I had the foresight to upgrade our tickets to the first class coach, just for the better WIFI.  I took my time that day with my Monday work, distracted by the rolling French countryside in the large windows.

My Monday work last week may be the most unforgettable adventure yet – as for Steve it was an Adventure!

marin-headlandsSteve is terrified of heights.  Not just a small fear but a huge terrify.  The first time I experienced this, we were exploring San Francisco ahead of my 20th High School reunion  (Go Hornets!)  We happened to be exploring the old army forts in the Marin Headlands.  My #1 favorite place on EARTY!  We were climbing up a bombed out staircase in the old army bunkers when he suddenly stopped moving.  He was visibly shaking and starting to fall to the ground – apparently to hold on to something stable.

As I looked over his shoulder, it became apparent that the rest of the staircase too, had been bombed out and all that was left was the handrail going up and and empty craven going down in to a canyon.  Hundreds of feet straight down.

So, when our RV park was at the top of a mountain – Steve was predictably not a fan of driving those steep, winding roads.  It would have been a blast for me to drive them as I’m a thrill seeker, recovered adrenaline junkie.  Except Steve absolutely Refuses (capital R emphasized) to allow, err, permit me to drive the truck – much less tow our rig.  Not even to practice.

Driving this mountain became his chore and opportunity to expand his comfort zone.  Again, an area of life we disagree on.  He loves to live nice and cozy in his Comfort Zone, and I enjoy grasping opportunities to move the walls on mine out.  He got us up that mountain with a heavy dose of swearing and sweating.  Only to discover that once we got to our site at the top – there were no cell phone signals – at least not on AT&T.  Which under most circumstances, is a nice reprieve from modern  life, except for Mondays.

After much soul searching, Steve approached me early Monday morning, over coffee, and offered to drive me down the hill so I could work.  I was beaming with pride and excitement.  One, for whatever resolutions he had to come to on his own to face his own fear.  And the latter so I can keep my clients happy!

He packed us up and dropped me off at the closest library, where once again I sat quietly eagerly pounding at my keyboard.

Later that week, he practiced up and down that mountain a couple more times.  That by the time we came down with the rig, there was minimal swerving and far less sweating.  Dare I say, I think his Comfort Zone has been budged out just a little!?!