A&A Reflections On A Summer Spent In Gualala, California
End of Week #69
Gualala River Redwood Park, Gualala CA
Miles traveled since last week's post = 0
Total miles traveled to date = 7,955 with trailer
Tomorrow is the big day! By this time tomorrow night we will be in a new place for the first time in 5 months - almost exactly to the day. We first arrived in Gualala on April 23rd and are departing on September 22nd. It feels like it's been a weird combination of a really long summer that also flew by quite quickly at the same time. The first 2 months we were here we were held in a waiting pattern - waiting to find out if the state of California would allow campgrounds to open, waiting to hear if Mendocino County would allow camping, waiting to find out if we would get to work. The last 3 months were a different speed, a whole different tune, with the campground open and covid protocols in place. And now here we are at the end - still filled with unknowns, but welcoming it all with arms wide open.
Some would say we are very lucky for the summer we have gotten to have, which I don't totally disagree with, I would just call it something else. We are blessed. We are on the right path. We took a chance, took a leap, and made the most of an incredible summer unlike any other summer we have had before. I will forever be grateful for the way the world aligned with our brave souls to bring us here to Gualala, California.
A&A Reflections On A Summer Spent In Gualala, California
Our first workamping experience
Workamping opportunities are very popular in the full-time RV world, as they offer you a way to live and work in one spot, with the chance for a free site (& amenities) and sometimes hourly pay on top of that as well. Here in Gualala, this was our very first workamping experience, and an absolutely incredible opportunity that we came across without even looking for it this past winter. Fun fact... I actually applied to this job without even telling Adam, just putting my feelers out first and then having to tell him that we had a surprise interview the next morning!
We set out to do this before covid - in fact we knew we would likely be doing workamping experiences well before we even moved into our RV. It wasn't really a question of when, but what - what would we choose. I'm extremely happy we choose this as our first experience, and I know we will encounter plenty of other experiences out there that will not compare to this even the slightest. I feel like this has been the perfect place, and even the perfect circumstances (silver lining) to get to know what it's like to work in a campground and hone in on our own unique skill sets we bring to the table. We have only ever been on the other end the stick before - the customer at a campground, and this has given us a lot of insight and understanding as to what goes into it. I know I will carry a new sense of appreciation and respect with me to each new place I travel to!
Workamping details at Gualala River Redwood Park: We received a free full hook-up site, free laundry, free firewood, free WiFi, & an address to have packages and mail delivered to, in exchange for roughly 20-30 hours per week for the each of us, and on top of that all of our hours worked were PAID an hourly wage.
5 months sitting still
I know I have said this several times already, but this is the longest time we have stayed put in one spot throughout our nomadic journey. The second longest timeframes we have sat still were for 7 weeks, and 9 weeks - thus making 5 months quite a big adjustment. In the beginning we had a lot of things to get used to, with the weather, the lack of sunlight, the humidity, and everything that comes with working again when you haven't worked an organized job in over a year. But in the end this place became something more than we could have ever imagined - it became home. We grew attached to the trees, the ferns, the Jurassic jungle feel of Gualala. We became accustomed to the darkness and the dampness and sweatshirts in the middle of July. We welcomed this place, this safe haven, amongst all the wild chaos going on in the world - at least we knew we were in a good place. We were in a safe place!
But then again, sitting still for so long can have some drawbacks too. It can make you really comfortable - too comfortable even, which makes it that much more difficult to get back on the road again. We get used to the hookups, the amenities, the lazy nights. We rely on the free laundry, the free spot, and leaving more things scattered throughout the trailer. We even get used to not cleaning as often and in having other people around at all times. However, I still think the hardest part about us sitting still for so long this summer is the fact that we weren't able to have any of our friends and family visit us here. In a "normal world" it would have been the perfect opportunity for ample visitors and reunions with loved ones, but this summer it just wasn't in the cards and it makes it hard to think about when the next chance will come to see anyone again.
Living & working within a community
There is a lot to be said about living and working amongst a community in the middle of rural northern California, in the Redwoods. We have definitely never experienced anything like this before, and in a lot of ways I've thought of this job as an adult summer camp. I've also referred to it as a version of "survivor" - RV/Redwoods style. The psychology background in me can't help but to analyze - what it's like being around the same people all the time, the social dynamics, the need for space and how people go about it. I can't help but to think about how this type of experience affects human behavior, what we think we know about someone else, and how we all come together as a team in the end.
I think I can easily say this has been one of the biggest opportunities for growth in my life. Learning how to unite with complete strangers - also on their own unique nomadic journey, and operate a business in the middle of the woods. We were warned from day one that your bubble here can feel small, quite quickly, and it can cave in on you even. You have to learn how to navigate your own personal space and independence, all while still figuring out ways to be there for your community. It has been a challenge, but it also has been a rewarding experience and I'm proud of the ways we learned to separate ourselves from work, the adventures we took outside of the park, and the ways we were able to connect with and get to know everyone in the process.
The good, the bad, & the ugly
I'm not going to lie, there have been a lot of tough things to go through this summer - mostly from the standpoint of our managers, but also amongst us workampers and society in general. There has been so many new things to deal with, that none of us have ever dealt with before. Navigating safety, what's best for the business and the customers, changes in 'normal' duties, ever changing county rules all summer - the whole works. Our managers say this has been some of the most trying times they have ever had in operation, and I believe it. On top of that people have also been really tense. The customer service world has really taken a beating this summer, at least we sure have here in the campground. People checking in have been rude, angry, ruthless with us, and they have been dirty, messy, and naive while they are camping. We have had more first time RVers than this park has probably ever seen, most of them that have no clue how to go about operating their RV or what the proper rules and protocols are for camping during covid, or even wildfires for that matter. I think this will easily go down in history as one of the strangest years GRRP will ever have - and you know what? We were apart of it. We helped make this season happen. We all came together to get the job done and keep everyone safe in the process.
Now sure, there were also bits of drama here and there amongst the workampers too - disagreements would happen, drunken nights, misunderstandings, confrontations, not pulling equal weight - you name it. But through it all we have come together, as a team. As Stewards of the Forest. We adjusted to covid, to being short staffed, to losing staff, to wildfires, and at the end of the day we all did it with the help from each other. We found opportunities all summer to celebrate and uplift one another with potlucks, dice games, campfires, and anniversary and birthday celebrations. We held each other accountable, shared stories from each of our journeys and confided in one another for the things we were going through. At the end of the day everything came full circle and the good outweighed the bad, even the ugly. We got through it, and we learned how to thrive!
Lessons learned, growth accepted
Like I mentioned above, this summer has been one of the biggest opportunities for growth I've had thus far. Not just within myself, or with those around me, but also in my relationship with Adam. Never before have be worked together, or spent this much time apart (working) while living in the RV. Never before have we had to navigate so much problem solving, management, teamwork, and trust in one another when it comes to getting an actual job done. Over the course of our 10 years together our career lives have always been completely separate from one another and I never really knew what to expect it to be like if that were to change. I feel so proud of us both - who we are, who we have become, and how we have let our individual skills shine this summer. In so many ways we have up-leveled, we have evolved. This nomadic journey already brings us together in ways I could literally never have imagined, and this is just another layer of lessons and another level of growth for us both.
And it's not just us that have grown, we have seen each and every person we spent the summer with grow in their own ways. There are so many memories that will always ties us together in this one special time and place. From day one, my manager has always said that GRRP forever changes you, and I can see that now. I feel it. I can't speak on what it will be like to pull away from this place just yet, but I know it will feel like I left a part of my heart and soul here. But I know it will also feel like I took a part of this place with me too.
The magic of the Redwood forest
I mean what more can you really ask for?! We just spent 5 months in the Redwood forest, on the Gualala River, one mile from the Pacific Ocean coast of northern California. Does it get any better than that?? #AskingForAFriend. I can't even begin to express how fortunate and lucky we feel to have had this once in a lifetime opportunity come our way - for the stars to align allowing us to be here, under these conditions, with these specific people. It was all meant to be the way it was supposed to play out. And for that I am forever grateful, as I will cherish these memories for years and years to come. This will always be a very big moment in our hearts and in our journey as nomads.
There is so much magic amongst the Redwood trees and the whole forest. Neither one of us had ever encountered a Redwood tree before and really didn't have any idea what we were in for. I remember how big of a transition it was - upon first arriving I had dreams about feeling ironically suffocated under the canopy of the trees. And now at the end of it all, I feel like once we leave here we are going to feel so vulnerable and exposed as we won't be under their protection any longer.
I will miss the Redwoods with all my being, they have formed their way into my heart with their ancient wisdom and resilience to everything thrown their way. From floods to fires, to people chopping them down for personal gain, they have still stood on. They are my teachers, the tallest and most magical trees in the world. And I know in my heart that we will come to see them again, someday.
A New Season Awaits
The next chapter of 2020
It is time to welcome a new season, as Autumn springs tomorrow - also ushering in a new season of our lives. This is the start of a new chapter in our nomadic journey, as we venture out into the open road again, planning to travel for the next few months. We have spent a majority of this year, 2020, sitting still - stationary in one place, both in the forest and in the desert. It is now time for us to open our wings again and trust the magic of new beginnings and to trust the process before us.
This is the final quarter of 2020 and one that will be so much different than the previous few before it. It is time for us to embrace the uncomfortable, all of the feelings that come along with that, and what it means for ourselves. They say that new cities, new people, new places, and the open road will forever le