This blog was created to document our preparation for and execution of our transition to living full time in our RV and traveling North America, which began on August 9th, 2013, lasted for 984 days, and ended April 17th, 2016. This blog also chronicles our Pre-LBYL RV Trips, which began with our first RV in 1998. We will also be blogging our future RV trips and adventures here. Our journeys are viewable in text form on this blog, or by interactive map at our Trip Map.
We are a family for four and, prior to leaving on our trip in the summer of 2013, were living about an hour north of New York City since late 2001. We moved here from Oregon, where before children came along we owned our first RV, a TrailManor 2619. We sold the RV when we moved, and assumed that our RVing days were over, since the Northeast didn’t seem to offer the same opportunities for weekend RVing as the Northwest. My parents decided to sell their Trailmanor 2720SD in 2008, so we purchased it from them and had it towed out here from Oregon. Owning an RV created a sense of urgency to use it, which was a great way to “force” our family to go for weekend trips and, once a year, set out on a 2-to-3 week RV vacation. I wanted our children to experience to natural beauty of the American West, so we would log 5000+ miles over the 20 or so days we were gone. We could only spend an hour or two at each location we visited, but it was better than nothing. I really wanted to get out to the west coast, to show the kids Yosemite, the Pacific Ocean, and all sorts of places I had experienced in Oregon, but our vacations were too short to drive that far.
In the fall of 2011, we sold that Trailmanor 2720SD pop-up and purchased a Wildwood 26BH travel trailer. The Trailmanor had a single bed and a dinette, so when the kids went to bed on the converted dinette, it was lights out for us too, since there wasn’t anywhere to sit. The Wildwood had a bona fide bedroom for us and a dinette, but also had bunks for the kids and a sofa. Having the extra space made a real difference, and towards the end of our 2012 vacation Trish all but insisted that we take a year off to travel starting in the summer of 2013. In the summer of 2013, we packed up our house and rented it out, and on August 9th, 2013, we hit the road.
We initially intended to travel for a year, but we quickly fell in love with fulltime RVing. Towards the end of the first year, we decided to continue traveling for a second year. Living full time in the Wildwood 26BH was cramped, so after 225 days on the road, we listed our RV for sale. We sold the Wildwood and the SUV we used to tow it, and on Day 232, we bought our new tow vehicle, a 2014 Ram 3500 Diesel pickup. On Day 243, we bought our new RV, a 36-foot fifth wheel with five slides, a 2014 Keystone Avalanche 360RB.
Towards the end of the second year, we decided to continue traveling for a third year. For nine-hundred and eighty-four days, we traveled this amazing, vast continent. We climbed sand dunes and glaciers, walked beneath the world’s tallest trees, and touched the Arctic Ocean. We strolled though a Mexican village, visited our nation’s capital, and panned for gold in the Yukon Territory beneath the midnight sun. Personally, I had the time to bicycle many of the toughest cycling climbs in the US, and I realized my dream, over thirty years in the making, of owning and flying a PPG. In the mean time, our children both grew up so much, in so many ways. And we became closer as a family.
It would have been great to keep traveling, but we really want M to have a “normal” high school experience. Our initial plan was to aggressively triage our belongings into a single 26-foot moving truck and then move to Phoenix, Arizona, but in the end we decided to stay put here in New York and move back into our house. Our plan is to somehow be able to travel during the summers and travel to places not yet visited. We hope to share those travels with you here.
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Back in 2013, we made a list of all the reasons we should embark on this amazing journey. Here’s what we came up with:
We have so much stuff! It’s amazing how much time goes into managing our stuff. Sorting stuff, filing stuff, putting stuff away. It’s not really clear how we got here, but every Sunday when instead of going on a family outing we’re cleaning out the garage or replacing the failed wiring on the kayak trailer or winterizing the speedboat engines, it’s clear we have too much stuff. Owning stuff is a waste of time, from the time spent earning money to buy stuff to the time spent maintaining, storing, and ultimately disposing of our stuff. We’re not hoarders in that creepy “stacks of old newspapers in the kitchen” kind of way, but we have enough storage space in our house and garage that there’s not much motivation to make hard choices about what we do and don’t keep. Making this trip happen means moving out of our house so it can be rented out while were gone, which we’re taking as an opportunity to stop repacking and moving our stuff, to look each artifact of our lives in the eye (so to speak) and decide if we really need it. Not “might I have a use for this someday?”, but “do I really need this?”. Doing this will take months and months of time, but getting rid of all the extra stuff that weighs us down is so worth it. Living within the confines of a 180 square foot space demands that every object have a justification for its presence. The fact that our “house” bounces down the road means that everything has to have a storage place. There’s a palpable sense of freedom in only having with you what you really need, or at least what you will actually regularly use. Adam Baker’s Ted Talk is a wonderful discussion of the problem.
I earn money to keep our house, keep us fed, and to pay for the education of our children. I drop off our son at carpool, drive to work, have dinner with Trish and the kids, read a quick bedtime story, and then start all over the next day. Why not insource our children’s education? Why not skip the work and pay-for-house part, and instead of paying someone else to occupy our children’s day, teach our kids ourselves? For this to work, we feel like now is the time to make this move. We’re pretty comfortable teaching our son through his 2013-14 seventh grade curriculum, but 10th grade? 12th grade? Trish and I are looking forward to teaching our children ourselves, to spend that time with them everyday and see those sparks of understanding and discovery that we’ve been missing.
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So that’s the story. When we drove away from New York, the overarching theme, we hoped, would be more thoughtful living, hence the title of our blog. It worked out the way we had hoped and then some. H. Jackson Brown quotes his mother as having written “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” We had hoped to have a year of together time, time to experience America’s natural wonders, time to teach and learn from our children, time to get to know each other better. And time to explore, dream, and discover. Looking back now at what was the most transformative chapter of our lives to date, I can say I’m so happy we decided to turn our backs on our comfortable suburban life and stable jobs to explore this amazing world together.
Thanks for being part of our continuing adventures!