As I am sorting, throwing, giving away, packing, and just plain simplifying my life, my mind has wondered back to my childhood and my total fascination with The Little House on the Prairie and the other books in that series. My siblings and I would play Little House in the Big Woods or On the Banks of Plum Creek or some other type of pioneer living, and I thought it would be so much fun to be a pioneer and travel off to distant parts of the world on a ship or covered wagon or on foot.
I keep thinking that our retirement traveling is the same type of adventure off into the unknown, but when you really think about it you see the huge differences. When our brave ancestors left Norway and Germany to come to the New World, they often left knowing they would never see their loved ones again. They would never even be able to speak to them again. Letters were few and far between, and often never arrived at all. I, on the other hand, am leaving town with plans to return for a visit, God willing, in less than three months. I have my cell phone with programmed in phone numbers. I have my laptop with my list of email addresses. And I have this blog. I can talk to any of my family members or friends at any time in a variety of ways.
With the comforts of home left behind, my ancestors probably shared a small bunk on the ship, only to upgrade to a covered wagon when they arrived in America. Maybe they had a quilt to cover themselves as they went to sleep on the hard wooden wagon floor. Heat for cooking and warm water and warmth for their cold tired bodies was all provided by a campfire. A warm water bath was a very infrequent luxury and the whole outdoors was their restroom.
I, on the other hand, will be traveling in a 34 foot 5th wheel trailer. There is a nice soft queen sized bed with a warm down comforter. If I'm chilly I can turn on the electric fireplace fan in the living room, and if I'm really cold I can turn on the furnace. I need sit by the campfire only if I choose to do so, or if I want to make s'mores. Warm water will come from the kitchen faucet and from the shower head. I have indoor plumbing. And I will cook on a gas stove or in an electric microwave, and when we don't have electricity available, we'll turn on the generator and make some!
A wagon was pulled by horses or oxen; my traveling home will be pulled by a big Ford truck. The animals needed food and water to keep going; my truck will guzzle diesel fuel. We will follow a paved highway with lines painted on it to mark the middle and edge, while they may have followed game trails or faint wheel marks from previous wagons, or just made their way across the least rugged areas of the prairie. These brave folks often had no clue were they were or where they were heading. We have an atlas, a road map, a topographical map, a compass and a GPS.
Entertainment for the early travelers was practically nonexistant. There was no time for fun after the work was done, or they were too tired from their traveling either in the bumpy wagon or from walking along beside it. Maybe they owned a couple of books or they played a few home made games when they did have a rare moment for relaxing. We have a TV set with a satellite dish, an Xbox with fun games, several baskets full of well loved books, a bocce ball set, frisbees, board games and card games.
While the wagon trains and the life of the early pioneers does sound romantic, brave, courageous and free, I think we've decided to stick with the RV and truck for our travels. I envy the pioneers simplicity but I'm afraid I would miss my soft bed, warm shower, cell phone and laptop too much. I think I'm spoiled.