We traveled the United States full time in an RV for over a year…needless to say we got a LOT of questions before, during and after our adventure wondering what life was like on the road. So, just in case you were curious how or why we did it…here are our most frequently asked questions!
How did you get your mail?
Funny enough, despite all our exciting plans, this might have been our number one question. (People really worry about the mail!) Okay, okay, we needed an address. So, we joined Escapees, an RV club, which also had a mail service for members traveling full time. (Believe it or not there are a LOT of people who live in their RV and travel full time!! Turns out we’re not that special, although we were definitely part of the minority in our age group, as many people wait until retirement, but there were still lots of people who are “digital nomads” traveling and working online like us.)
Anyhow, we had an address similar to a PO Box. Escapees received our mail, held it and whenever we wanted our mail we requested they ship it to wherever we were across the country. We also did as much as we could online with paperless statements and online bill payment to minimize the amount of mail we received. Easy peasy!
What did you eat/cook?
So many people asked me this question, and I always laughed because we ate and cooked essentially the same as we always had. But I think people imagined we must have eaten hot dogs and s’mores over an open fire every meal (in fact we had neither the entire trip!). We had a small fridge, freezer, microwave, two burner gas stove and even a crockpot. The only thing we didn’t have was an oven. Oatmeal, eggs, salads, soups, sandwiches, tacos, chicken…all pretty normal! We had lots of simple snacks (granola bars, fruit, sandwiches) for hiking and usually a cooler of food for long drives (you’d be surprised how quickly you can become HANGRY and say things you don’t mean…the best solution is to always have snacks on hand and get a granola bar into the mouth of anyone getting too snippy.)
We would go out to eat occasionally…mostly when there was a brewery we wanted to visit or to try the local cuisine…i.e. BBQ in Texas, Lobster in Maine, Creole in the South, Green and Red Chile in New Mexico, Pasties in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula! If your mouth is watering, join the club. I’m itching to go back to each place just to eat all the authentic, fresh, local food!!
Did you shower?
YES! Every day!! We didn’t have our huge master bathroom anymore, but our RV had a tiny bathroom with everything we needed including a sink, toilet and shower. We didn’t always have unlimited water or unlimited hot water, but daily hygiene was never a sacrifice. Here’s a little video tour of our humble abode, including kitchen, shower and workshop!
Were your dogs (Dobie & Lucy) good travelers?
Yes! They absolutely loved it. They love car rides, long hikes, and being with us, so it was basically their dream come true. Keeping our small little trailer clean with two people and two dogs took some extra effort though. We shaved their coats regularly to minimize shedding (and despite Matt’s eye rolling, I bought them little fleece vests from the kids department at Goodwill to keep them warm when it got chilly!!). Our trailer was a toy hauler, and we used the toy hauler section as our Destination Tree workshop AND our entry and exit “mud room” to wipe wet or muddy paws and kick off our hiking boots. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much time to clean such a tiny space! We did learn that most national parks are NOT dog friendly (Acadia National Park is a big exception!), however most state parks and national forests ARE. I’d say they got their fair share of hiking adventures.
How did you plan everything, or did you just go wherever you wanted?
We had several national parks and regions within the US we wanted to visit, however, it just wasn’t possible to plan every detail of our journey or to even plan very far in advance. We had to stay flexible (something I had to learn, and be reminded of frequently!) as weather was often our biggest variable affecting our travel plans. If there were severe storms or wind we might stay somewhere longer to wait out the weather, or leave early to beat a storm system coming through.
We planned being in certain areas of the country based on the seasons (Maine at the end of Summer, Montana in Fall, The Pacific Northwest during Destination Tree’s busy holiday season, and anywhere it didn’t freeze at night during the Winter…because if your pipes freeze, you don’t get a shower!).
We found it difficult to plan too far in advance, so we focused on the short term…determining our next destination (usually a national or state park and the surrounding region), planning our route, researching things to do and see, determining where we would camp and for approximately how long, paying close attention to the weather, and staying flexible because anything could change at any time!
One fantastic aspect of a road trip is you plan a destination, but of course, the journey is just as fun. We made lots of unplanned stops along the way and often extended our stay when we found a place we loved that needed more time for exploration.
And honestly, there were places that I NEVER would have visited other than a road trip…like Mount Rushmore in South Dakota or Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, or Big Bend National Park in Texas. Usually if a place is not super accessible or is in the middle of nowhere, its likelihood of being awesome increases exponentially. I loved each of these places (and many more) and Big Bend ended up being one of our (many) favorite national parks!
In case you missed it….I also had a blog about our Top 10 Apps on the road…I can honestly say these apps made our road trip possible! And many of them are awesome apps even if you’re not planning a big road trip.
How many states and national parks did you visit?
We visited 34 states and over FORTY national park sites. We also drove over 40,000 miles, in addition to creating and shipping HUNDREDS of custom orders all over the world. We dipped our toes in the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico, the Great Lakes, the Rio Grande, and the Mississippi. We hiked deserts, rain forests, ancient forests, coastlines, glaciers, hills, valleys, mountains and plains.
I look back at our 13 months on the road and think about how FAST it went by, and how we only visited a fraction of the amazing destinations all across our country. But then I’m overwhelmed when I really take a moment and think back at all the memories and all the moments. And when I scroll through our blog or our THOUSANDS of pictures or our daily journal, I think, HOLY CRAP, we did so MUCH! I have an enormous amount of gratitude and appreciation for how many amazing places we did visit.
To put it in perspective, it would have taken more than 50 years of “one week vacations” from our corporate jobs to experience what we did in one year. I couldn’t possibly be more satisfied that we took the leap, left our jobs, left our house, left our stuff, and pursued adventure and entrepreneurship.
Our goal wasn’t to visit EVERY state or EVERY national park. Although, anyone who knows me, knows that it’s in my nature to set very aggressive and measurable goals, so it’s a bit surprising I didn’t make it our year’s ambition to hit EVERYTHING. But fortunately, we knew we wanted this endeavor to be challenging AND enjoyable. We wanted to be PRESENT…to enjoy the journey and the moments in between all the destinations. Easier said than done of course, especially since I’d be anxious about where we were going next, how were we going to get there, what would be the weather, what were the best hiking trails and scenery, where was the nearest post office for shipping orders and were we ever going to find strong WIFI?! Yeesh, calm down, right?! And so, I often reminded myself to enjoy THIS moment. And THIS day.
We set out wanting to travel full time for at least a year to explore and appreciate the diversity and landscape of our country. I’d say we did exactly that.
What did you DO? Did you get bored?
This always makes me laugh. We were NEVER bored. We did a LOT, as you can probably tell from the places we visited, the planning it requires, and the fact that we were also creating hundreds of custom orders at the same time! No matter what lifestyle you have, you are “busy”, it’s just important to be “busy” doing things you actually want to do. So, I guess you could break down what we “did” into a couple categories:
Fun/Adventure: We tried to spend as much time as possible outdoors in national and state parks…hiking, sightseeing, kayaking, biking and sightseeing and also fit in museums, local history sites and local food/beer/wine…and so you can probably understand we never ran out of new adventures.
Planning: Planning and researching (campgrounds, routes, destinations, parks, weather, etc, etc) was necessary, but could also be overwhelming or all-encompassing. Keeping a sane balance took some effort to be sure.
Working: Although we didn’t consider Destination Tree work, because we love it so much, we were technically working. Customer service, follow up, creating orders, packaging orders, shipping orders, finding quality driftwood, acquiring packaging supplies in the middle of nowhere, blogging, advertising, budgeting, etc, etc. Even though travel and adventure were huge components of our new lifestyle, growing our business was also equally important.
Normal Crap: Yup, believe it or not, no matter where you live or work, there’s always normal crap. Cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, meal prep/cleanup! (Unless you have a maid or chef I suppose).
Did you watch TV? Or have internet? Or read?
Our trailer had a TV and built-in DVD player, so we did occasionally watch movies (but didn’t have or want cable or satellite for TV). SOME campgrounds have WIFI, although the most reliable thing about it is that it’s almost always crappy. So, we used our phones for social media and as a hotspot for our laptop so we could email, blog and manage our Etsy shop. Despite needing to have a somewhat regular connection to maintain our Etsy shop, we made a really strong effort to disconnect from technology whenever we could (Matt was better at this than I was). And we did LOTS of reading. A lot of campgrounds have small book collections (take one, leave one), and we also used the app OverDrive to borrow and download audio and kindle books from our library.
Did you meet a lot of cool people on the road?
Yes! We met friendly, interesting people all across the country. Many times people would approach us, curious about what Destination Tree was (since they saw the decals on our truck and trailer) or asking what we were doing when they saw us outside creating or packaging orders. Even so, campers are generally very friendly and eager to share their own story, and recommendations for national parks, hiking trails and restaurants.
While there were many couples and families who were camping for a weekend or an extended vacation, we also met LOTS of people who were also traveling full time in their RV. If you’re ever thinking of doing the same thing, there are LOTS of resources available (like our Escapees RV club, and others) and lots of bloggers who share their journey and recommendations of how to do it. And while many full timers are retirees, there are also lots of people who work and live on the road (like we did) and have digital jobs/businesses or temporary jobs as they move around.
WHY did you do this?
(Specifically, WHY did you sell your house, sell your stuff, leave your careers, start your own business and travel the country full time in an RV?) I could probably do a whole blog series on our “WHY”, but I did write an initial blog post here explaining our huge life change, and why we were doing this.
Ultimately, something I’ve learned is to make intentional choices. Living a life with intention is not an easy thing…it means answering WHY you are directing your life in a certain direction and if that is actually what you WANT. Because let’s be real, it’s easy to follow an expected path, or to choose a path and never consciously decide to change or adjust it. But at least from my limited experience, when you physically stop and THINK, when you QUESTION what it is you want, you uncover your WHAT, WHY and HOW. (PS…sorry about all the caps, I know it’s awfully shouty, but I’m just trying to enunciate here!).
If anything, it is inaction or fear that prevents us from asking the tough questions and making intentional, conscious choices. Trust me, our life was good! Excellent careers, great incomes, beautiful home, healthy bodies, wonderful vacations. It seems pretty damn selfish to not be satisfied and happy with all of that, right?! Why would we even think about throwing it all away and doing something different? But we stopped. We thought. We questioned. We had always talked about traveling the country, and how one or two weeks a year wasn’t enough. We had always talked about having our own business – the freedom, challenge and satisfaction. We realized that we were in a different place than we once were and we wanted to chart a new path. And so we did. And we continue to. I guess that’s the best way to describe our WHY.
Do you have any regrets?
None. However, that doesn’t mean everything was perfect. We made mistakes. We got frustrated. We missed family and friends. We were living on a smaller budget in a tiny space. Let me tell you, living in an RV isn’t all campfires and s’mores. Remember in the movie Christmas Vacation when Cousin Eddie proclaims, “Shitter was full”? Turns out that’s a real thing and something you have to do when you live in an RV…seriously!! But despite any of these challenges, the reality is we had the opportunity of a lifetime to take a dream and make it a reality. The memories we made and adventures we had will be something we’ll hold close to our hearts for the rest of our lives, and far outweigh any obstacle we faced. We took something we love and turned it into a successful business. And ultimately, even failure wouldn’t have generated any regret. If we had hated living in an RV, or traveling full time, or leaving our house, or fell flat on our face trying to run a small business on the road, we still would have learned from it. Failure is just an opportunity to pick yourself up and make new choices and new plans. But we would never have known if we didn’t try.
Where was your favorite destination?
As you’ve probably guessed, this is an impossible question to answer! There are so many stunning places all across the country, and each of our national parks are so diverse and beautiful, neither of us could ever choose one favorite place. If I even started to list some of my “favorites” I could go on and on. Glacier, Olympic, Redwood, Yosemite, King’s Canyon, Sequoia, Big Bend, Joshua Tree and Grand Teton National Park are all INCREDIBLE…but these are just a few that pop in my head…I’ve got dozens more MUST SEE places and parks! I did do my best to share some of our favorite highlights via Instagram, and realize I have so many photos I need to continue sharing them!
However, something we discovered on the road was the value of personal recommendations… you can research endlessly online, and read all kinds of travel books, but we ALWAYS got extra insight from locals we met or other travelers we encountered. So, if we’ve been somewhere you’re interested in going, please reach out and we’ll share all the insight and recommendations we can based on our own experience on the road!
We briefly outlined our short term, post-road-trip plans in a recent blog post and will continue blogging as our adventures continue! We’re already on the cusp of an enormously busy holiday season for Destination Tree and are planning new world travels and adventures throughout 2017.
Hope that helps answer any questions you may have had about our year long journey (if not, just ask!)…we can’t help but have a grateful heart that we had this incredible adventure. And the best part is there’s more to come. As our “novel” continues, from one chapter to the next you can be sure it will be a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure every step of the way.