By Sherri Coner
Intending to casually hit the road every now and then, Larry and Daina Chamness of Center Grove bought a 26-foot trailer five years ago, hitched it to their vehicle and drove Southwest for the winter.
“This is where our story began,” Daina said of their temporary address in Quartzsite, Ariz.
Spending eight weeks together in a much more cramped living space than the home they shared for more than 30 years was an experiment to answer a couple of burning questions.
How homesick would they be, so far away from their seven adult children and three grandkids?
“And also, could we stand each other for eight weeks in a trailer,” Daina said with a laugh.
A nomadic adventure
What this happy-go-lucky couple didn’t expect was the simple fun of pedaling their bikes in the desert, enroute for shopping in the small nearby town. They didn’t expect the peacefulness and so many new friendships.
“There are lots of artists, writers and musicians here,” Daina said. “There are all kinds of people here, from big motorhomes to tents. It’s very interesting.”
Because electricity is unavailable in this RV park for boondock fans, sundown brings out flashlights or generators if your rig isn’t equipped with solar panels.
These retirees began to ponder the possibility of creating a lifestyle on the road.
A couple of new questions required answers, “What will we do with all of our stuff?” and “Can we really do this?”
Before they chickened out of exchanging everything predictable for nomadic adventures, the Chamnesses returned to Indiana and invited their family to stop by and take whatever they wanted from the family home.
Soon after, they hosted more garage sales than anyone would ever want to have.
Larry made several trips to area donation centers.
They rented their home to a friend.
And suddenly, 33 years of belongings disappeared.
The Simple Life
“It felt very freeing,” Daina said of choosing a much more minimalist lifestyle. “We didn’t own all of that stuff, it owned us.”
They traded the trailer for a 40-foot fifth wheel, adopted a feisty Yorkie named Finnegan, and took a deep breath in a much lighter existence.
No more overcrowded cabinets and overstuffed drawers.
Never-worn clothing was also gone, right along with utility bills and property taxes.
After renting their home for two years, the Chamnesses let go of their last anchor.
They sold their home.
Nearly every material possession was successfully traded for experiences.
These days, not necessarily making a plan at all is often the plan for Larry, who retired from a 40-year career with Workforce Development and Daina, who still authors books, available on Amazon.
Exploring new cultures
Curiosity has taken them to the Alamo and the riverwalk in San Antonio.
After a swamp boat ride in Louisiana, they dined on local food, immersed in Cajun culture.
They have explored Calsbad Caverns in New Mexico and patted gray whales in the lagoon of Guerrero Negro in Baja.
“We’ve also been to the Grand Canyon a couple of times,” Daina said.
This life is also sprinkled with an occasional stroll through flea markets and farmers markets.
Having nothing but time, they can follow signs to enjoy an impromptu music festival, a county fair or a state park.
“RVing is a subculture, really,” Daina said. “I never thought this was something I would ever do.”
Since several of their children now reside and work in different states and the grandchildren are teenagers finding their way toward adulthood, living this mobile life is more important than having a permanent address.
After an early spring romp through Alabama and back to Louisiana to see friends, they will spend the summer in the Center Grove area.
“We just got a notion,” Daina said of their gypsy-flavored decision.
“Yes, whimsy,” Larry added.