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Friday, August 20, 2010

Woman Wandering Solo: Sunny Jo Gardner

Women Wandering Solo is a series of guest posts that inform & encourage women who don't have travel partners to go ahead & take the trip anyway. There are so many amazing places to see in the world, & experiencing them solo could wind up being the best way to do it. To learn how you can share your own story with us, click here.

La Princesa Gitana

Sunny Jo Gardner is the author of the cookbook Table for One, & travels around in her RV with her dog Gomez.

My mother always said I had the gypsy blood of my Hungarian father and she was right. At the age of 19 I announced I was moving out of our family home in NY to go to Florida with a man I’d known only a month. Of course she freaked and asked me how I could do such a thing. I told her he asked the right question: “Wanna move to Florida?” Yep. I was packed and ready to go the next day.

Although I am no longer with that man from many moons ago, I firmly believe it was the start of my traveling life. Over the years, I’ve lived in many, many locations spanning several states. But it was not until recent years that I truly got a taste of what my destiny was all about.

Moving out

Never one to conform to the norm, I gave up my apartment three years ago and traded the settled life I was living for one of pure freedom! I put my prized possessions in a storage unit and purchased a Class A motor home. I have been living in it full time ever since, without any regrets of the lifestyle I have chosen. I jumped right behind the wheel of that thing and headed on down the road... to RV driving school. A full weekend of driving up and down mountains later and my fate was sealed. I was destined to be on the move, see new places, and meet all sorts of interesting people. I was going to live life, not just exist. How exciting!

Learning the ropes

Sadly, I did not travel initially. I was working a full time job and needed to stay put in one place for a little while. Fortunately, the first park I was ever “stationed” at (for 8 months) had a park manager who was willing to show me the ropes. He and his wife even went out on a few trips with me to dry camp and teach me all about surviving without a plug. What a great learning experience! Some of my park neighbors were also more than willing to teach me a thing or two, like how to get my awning down without killing myself. I was very lucky to start out with such a great support system.

Once my job contract ended, I started making plans to hit the road. But first, I learned everything I could about RV life so I would not become a burden to others or have to depend on anyone for help. I bought a tow dolly to drag my SUV around to see the sights. I also bought some do-it-yourself manuals to be able to fix simple things around “the house”, and then off I went.

When I felt properly armed and ready, I joined a few camping memberships and took off with my dog, Gomez. Gomez and I will be celebrating 16 years together this year on Christmas. He, like me, enjoys heading off to places unknown and has adapted to the RV lifestyle quite well. We’ve got this down to a science now!

Life on the road

The RV life is not without sacrifice, mainly closet space for the shoes and absolutely no room in the freezer for a tray of lasagna (which lead me to start writing a cookbook about single portion meals)! I’ve adapted. I think the hardest part about traveling is saying goodbye to the new friends I make at each park I visit.

One of the challenges I initally faced when deciding on this lifestyle was how to sustain a living. Currently, I am spending my summers at the beach. I spend my winters in the desert doing a little bartending and waitressing and sock away money for the future. I am also writing my first cook book, which is gaining some support from the writing community. I hope to publish it in the coming years. I am quite a capable person and don’t worry too often how to survive.

My circle of support

My friends keep my spirits alive and remind me daily that I have what it takes to make it on my own. Bless their little hearts! My friends and family are the most important aspect of my solo life. No matter where I am, they’re with me daily via email, Facebook, Skype, and Twitter. Most are just a cell phone call away. I am fortunate to have so many wonderful friends all over the world.

However, even with such a great circle of friends, I sometimes find that RV life can be a little lonesome. Most RVers are either families traveling on vacation or full-timers who are married couples. When embarking on a new park, I often try to engage with my fellow camping buddies while remaining a little cautious at the same time. Afterall, I am a single, white female traveling alone! Sometimes I get the cold shoulder from the campers, while other times I get an “atta girl”. The latter is the norm for me.

My single friends tend to envy my position while my married friends don’t understand this lifestyle at all. They are always asking when I will “settle down somewhere.” Well maybe someday I will do just that. Who’s to say? For now, I am having too much fun living life to the fullest every day. I don’t just exist in this world anymore, I live in it. I would not trade this life for anything!


scott said...

Another fun post! It is great to hear about people getting out there. And i had just learned the word 'gitana' recently so i was stoked to see it used, haha! :) Thanks for sharing Sunny. Nancy, how are you connecting with these solo wanderers? This blog?! Nice work!

Nancy Lewis said...

I'm lucky enough to know some pretty amazing people :)

Sunny said...

I was happy to share my story. I love my RV life and encourage anyone to follow their dreams and whims.

Nancy was the one who gave my RV the name "Princessa Gitana" (Gypsy Princess) and I thought it was quite fitting!

scott said...

Oh, cool! Sounds like something Nancy would say. :-) Nancy, where's my spanish call sign?

Nancy Lewis said...

Scott, how about "Speedy González" for your car? Or "El Japonés Blanco" if you get that job :)

scott said...

Hey, your reply went to spam for some reason, so just getting it! I think the first name is taken. The second.... if i don't get the job then what? How 'bout something on sailing? :)

Nancy Lewis said...

How about "el Marinero Loco"? :)