Manifesting Bertha

Posted on

I have long been fascinated by the concept of manifesting what you want in your life through conscious intent. You know: You convey your heart’s desire to the Universe by visualizing it in great detail, and the Universe listens and responds by creating connections and presenting opportunities to help you achieve it.

I recently experienced the magic of this phenomenon firsthand.

After making the decision in April 2013 to work toward a full-time RV lifestyle, Dave and I debated the type of camper that would suit us best. Ultimately we settled on a fifth-wheel trailer.

In early July we began to research makes and models, fully expecting the process to take many months. We were in no rush. Having just blown most of our discretionary savings on a tour of Germany to celebrate a milestone birthday, we had little appetite for making a major purchase in the short run.

The Universe, as it turns out, had a different idea.

Window shopping

To get a feel for features and prices, I started to follow a number of used fifth wheels being auctioned on eBay. Over the course of a few days, I watched each one get bid up to $8,000, $12,000, $15,000 and higher before the auctions closed. All, except one.


2005 Coachmen “Spirit of America” Fifth Wheel 526

She was a 2005 Coachmen “Spirit of America,” 27 feet long. The bids had stalled at around $4,000, and hadn’t budged for days. She looked pristine in the photos. And she was less than 15 miles from home.

The night before the auction was scheduled to end, I mentioned this odd set of circumstances to my husband. He suggested we send an email to the seller asking to see it in the morning, if only to get a feel for the space and features a 27-footer would offer. The seller agreed.


View of rear lounge area. Entry door is to the left, beyond the refrigerator.

When you know, you know

We arrived for our tour at 9 a.m., four hours before the auction’s end. The seller spent a good 30 minutes proudly showing us every inch of the camper, pointing out a number of improvements he had made in recent months.

In a word, it was PERFECT. Perfect size. Perfect condition. And at a third of its value, perfectly priced, too.

As we drove away, we felt overwhelmed. We had been window shopping for less than two weeks. Our savings had been depleted by the vacation we had taken just weeks before. We were nowhere close to being ready to buy! And yet, here was the ideal starter camper, at a bargain-basement price. In our very backyard.

So we went for it.


Looking in from the entry door. Bertha has one slide-out, which holds both the couch and the dinette.

Bidding wars

We asked ourselves, “At what price is this camper simply too good a deal to pass up, regardless of our situation?” We agreed on a max of $5,000, still less than half its value. If that turned out to be enough to win it, then it was meant to be. If not, that would be okay, too.

We spent the next two hours at the beach, biding our time. At half past noon, we headed to a nearby restaurant, ordered lunch and set up our bid. At 12:55, with just five minutes to go, my husband submitted the bid and we held our breaths as the auto-bidding kicked in. It’s ours… it’s not… it’s ours… it’s not… it’s ours… OHMYGOD IT’S OURS!

Five minutes and $4,300 later, we were the proud owners of a gently-used fifth wheel. We named her Bertha.


Bertha’s kitchen is across from the couch. I love the window, which looks out at the picnic table/patio area at most campsites.

The Universe knows best

At the time, this whirlwind of events seemed entirely serendipitous. I realize now that it was not at all random: The Universe had heard our request, in support of our bigger dream, and was not about to let it languish. The risks were too great. Had we waited another year, we might have lost our momentum or doubted ourselves. “No, no,” said the Universe. “Let’s take care of this right here, right now.”

That is one smart Universe.

Have you ever manifested something simply by asking the Universe for it? What was it? Were you surprised that it worked? I’d love to hear!

It All Starts with a Dream

Posted on

From time to time, the Universe smacks us upside the head and says, “Hey, you! Stop right there! Are you sure you’re living the life you want?”

I felt the sting of that smack earlier this year, upon turning 50. (You can read more about that here.) So I did what I typically do when faced with a tough question: I sought answers through reading. And somewhere in that process, I came across this book:

A practical how-to guide for establishing and achieving big life goals.

A practical how-to guide for establishing and achieving big life goals.

Written by Betsy and Warren Talbot, the book offers a blueprint for how to establish big life goals — and actually achieve them.

I’ve read more than my share of books and articles on setting goals and leading a meaningful life, and this one resonated with me more than any other. Aside from the lovely writing style, I found the advice to be refreshingly specific and very do-able. Which makes perfect sense, since the book simply outlines the steps the couple took to achieve their own dream of being full-time world travelers.

As the title clearly lays out, step one in reinventing your life is to discover your dream.

For many of us, that is the most intimidating step of all, but the book lays out a series of exercises designed to encourage your dream to reveal itself organically. (One of my favorite exercises is to imagine your perfect day — how you feel when you wake up, what you eat for breakfast, where you are, how you spend your time and who is there with you — as a way of exploring what really matters to you.) By clearly identifying what you want less of and what you want more of in your life, and why, you can more easily hone in on a meaningful vision for your future, and begin to take small but concrete steps toward that vision.

As I read through the exercises, it didn’t take long for my scattered thoughts to crystalize into the dream of shucking my worldly belongings and hitting the road in an RV for an extended period (a dream I had suppressed for decades, as it turns out)… and doing it sooner rather than later.

I knew it was the ‘right’ dream because as the thought formulated in my head, I felt instantly lighter. And happier. And motivated to take some kind of action.

First, though, I brought it up gently to my husband, expecting some resistance. He was two years into launching his own business, not to mention nine years younger than me and not quite as world-weary. I should not have been surprised by his answer: Without reservation, he said, “That sounds great! Let’s do it.” Oh, how I love that man.

And just like that, our dream was born.

That was five months ago and the wheels have been turning ever since. As recommended in the Talbots’ book, we have calculated what our dream will cost, set up a separate savings account (or ‘vault’ as they call it), and are actively working on cutting our expenses to fund it. We even created some ‘dream porn’ to motivate us by keeping our goal visibly front-and-center.

Most recently, we took the bold step of setting a date to begin our trip, because as Betsy and Warren so eloquently point out, “a dream without a deadline is dead.” While we’re not quite ready to announce it to the world (soon, we promise!), working toward a specific date has changed the way we think about our priorities and make day-to-day decisions. It’s not just a dream anymore, it’s a plan, and we’re making it happen!

My mind now swims with ideas on what our ‘perfect days’ will look like once we hit the road: Where we’ll go, how we’ll make a living, the types of people we will meet, the challenges we will face, and most of all, the sense of freedom and anticipation we will feel as we set off on our grand adventure, determined to forge a path toward a more fulfilling life together.

Can you envision your perfect day? What does it include? And what does it say about what’s important to you, and what’s not? Leave a comment — I’d love to hear!

My Love Affair with Road Trips

Posted on

I love road trips. I’ve loved them since I was a kid, when my family would drive from New Jersey to Florida each summer in our trusty station wagon, all four kids plus the dog in tow.

My dad liked to leave really, really early in the morning (or really, really late at night, depending on your perspective). He would come home from work and go straight to bed, and then around three or four in the morning, he and my mom would carry us out, still asleep, and we would hit the road in the pitch darkness.

As glamorous as they seemed at the time, these pre-dawn departures were entirely practical: When you’re driving 1,300 miles with four kids and a dog, you want to minimize the hours that everyone is awake at the same time. My parents simply wanted to enjoy the first five or six hours on the road in peace.

Dad would drive with his window open, left elbow propped on the windowsill, air conditioner on full blast. (We kids were quite a sight at gas stations, spilling out of the car all bundled up in sweatshirts and winter socks, soaking up the heat to thaw before getting back in the icebox that was our station wagon.) By the time we reached Florida, my dad’s left arm was as dark as the rest of us would be two weeks later.

Along the way, we ate pre-made sandwiches, poked at each other, napped on and off, fought over the rear-facing seat in the back, and asked, “How much longer?” By 4 p.m. on day one, we were in the pool at a roadside motel somewhere in the Carolinas.

Day two brought more of the same fun: on the road by 4, snoozing and poking and freezing and fighting, until that moment when we spotted the Coppertone billboard from the highway. That iconic image of a dog pulling on the swimsuit of a pig-tailed toddler could mean only one thing: we had finally reached Miami, our ultimate destination.

The iconic Coppertone billboard let us know we had reached our final destination.

The iconic Coppertone billboard let us know we had reached our final destination.

Maybe it’s the nostalgia, but even as a grown-up, my favorite vacations have been road trips: 10 days driving around New Zealand with a girlfriend… venturing across the Colorado Rockies in a convertible Mustang with my cousin, Thelma and Louise-style (minus the crime spree, Brad Pitt encounter or tragic ending)… navigating the often treacherous roads of Costa Rica with my husband on our honeymoon… and most recently, striking out on the autobahn to tour Germany with my husband and step-daughter to celebrate our milestone birthdays.

In preparation for each of those trips, I studied maps, researched destinations and attractions, created detailed itineraries, mapped out routes, and calculated drive times. I invested hours and hours up front to ensure that not a minute would be wasted along the way. This intense planning process also served to build my excitement and anticipation as each departure date neared.

And then there was the road trip that never was: the post-college cross-country trek with my high school bestie. I don’t remember when the idea first sprouted, but I do remember researching camper vans, creating a budget, and mapping the hometowns of college friends who might host us along the way. I had just started to plan our itinerary in a notebook I bought just for the trip when I got the call: she was engaged. And just like that, the trip was quashed.

Twenty-eight years later, we both know he wasn’t worth it. But everything happens for a reason, right? And my dream of driving cross-country at a leisurely pace, to explore this huge and fascinating country with my best friend, is far from dead. I’m pretty sure I still have that notebook stashed away somewhere… time to dig it out, I think.

Do you love road trips? What do you love about them? And where will you go on your next one? Please share!

The Future Is Here, Dammit!

Posted on

I was a child of the ’60s. And by that I don’t mean my parents were hippies who raised me in a commune and took me to Grateful Dead concerts. (We’ll talk about Grateful Dead concerts another day.) Far from it.

My parents were Cuban immigrants who fled the Castro regime in 1960. They were young, newly married, ambitious, and apparently, quite eager to raise a family. By 1966, I was three years old and had three siblings.

Being a child of the early ’60s meant I was a teenager of the ’70s. And a college student of the early ’80s. As a late-season baby-boomer and the over-achieving daughter of first-generation immigrants, I saw just one path before me: get a business degree, get a job, get promoted and get rich. Or at least, really, really comfortable.

Truth is, all of that excited me. I loved college, loved the career I ultimately chose (marketing) and loved the business world. I was successful at it (by my standards, anyway), earning those promotions on a regular basis and reaching the executive level, albeit at a small company.

It’s been a fabulous, close-enough-to-30-year run. But do the math and you’ll quickly figure out that I have reached the ‘youth of old age,’ as Victor Hugo put it. Fifty hit me like a ton of bricks. Or more accurately, like a brick wall.


Upon turning 50, I suddenly realized it’s time to stop running so fast to secure my future. The future is here, dammit! It’s time to start living it.

It’s not about the number. I was never one to fret about the number that was my age, whether it be 30 or 40 or 50. My motto has always been, “You’re only as old as you act.” My eternal advice to those who do fret: “If you’re going to lie about your age, add, don’t subtract — everyone will tell you how great you look.”

No, the brick wall isn’t about the number itself. It’s about a confluence of circumstances making me realize that it’s time to stop running so fast to secure my future. The future is here, dammit! It’s time to slow down and start living in it.

For starters, I hit a wall at work. For three decades, I was driven to advance. Take on more responsibility. Tackle bigger challenges. And ultimately, earn more money to save up for that far-off “future.” The year before I hit 50 was the most productive year of my career. I knocked out big goals, and inspired and coached others to do the same. When the year ended, I thought… what now? Advancing to the next level would mean running a company or leaving my comfortable job of 10 years to work even harder, and prove myself one more time, at a bigger company. No, thanks.

Then there are the lifestyle-induced maladies seemingly arriving by the busload. I am ‘high’ and getting ‘higher’ all the time. (Once again, not the hippie kind.) High blood pressure. High cholesterol. High blood sugar. High BMI. High stress. The cure for all is more exercise, a healthier diet, and taking better care of myself. There always seemed to be plenty of time to self-correct before things got too risky… until now.

And so, with the unwavering support of my husband and best friend (one and the same person), I’ve decided it’s time to begin planning my exit from the so-called rat race. To start slowing down, focusing less on work and more on life, and reaping the rewards of all that hard work while I’m still young (for an old person). Preferably in a camper of some sort, vamped to my liking, with my best friend at my side.

Curious about where this will head? Me, too. Feel free to come along for the ride… the more, the merrier!

Have you hit a wall that made you rethink your goals and priorities? What are you doing about it? Do you have any advice for me? Leave a comment!