if you’re thinking of traveling full-time or even part time, do you know what you’re looking for? are you going back to places you’ve already been and loved? only interested in seeing new places? flying by the seat of your pants and whatever comes your way? are you going to places that are super well known and you know will be right up your alley like san francisco or yellowstone? or are you interested in seeing the less beaten path in hopes it will offer something unique?
it’s an important question to ask yourself. otherwise you get to where you’re going and you might have set yourself up for a fall. i went into our travels with an excitement to see pretty much everything and he felt basically the same way. we definitely wanted to see the tried & true such as sequoia national Park, moab, yellowstone, and too many others to list individually. more than that i had a keen interest in seeing the roads less taken, the small towns, rural america. less interstate, more local.
even with limited expectations and an eagerness to see “it all” i have found things to be much different than my minimally formed ideas had allowed for. in no way, shape, or form did i expect to see almost no middle class america. what I had in mind of small working towns, towns not glitzy or glamorous but thriving in their own small way, making lives work day in and day out.. isn’t out there. not the way i thought, sean thought, and we feel many people besides us assume is “out there.”
we’ve found vast poverty in every state we’ve visited. some states this encompasses almost all of what we’ve found. the small, working towns that i thought we would drive through and make you want to chuck it all and go small town, know everyone and everyone know you, wow.. they are almost non-existent. we found instead towns all dried up, or towns that leave you in awe that anyone is making a living and the how is undetermined. the state of the houses, yards, everything to be trashy, neglected, and given up on. or there is no individual business at all, instead the only commerce is fast food, truck stops, gas stations and not much else.
to the other extreme you have towns that are quaint “ish” on the surface, but once you peel back a layer we’ve found the town to be 100% commercialized and no local substance to speak of. or the town is fabulous and bustling because it has a lot to offer therefor everyone is there. if a lot of people are all gathered in one place, we’ve found there is good reason this is so. austin, portland, san diego, new york, seattle, all are bursting at the seams because of what is offered. if you think, no way, city life isn’t for me, i totally understand. it’s finding the town that will sustain you and you it that is hard. we would not have thought this but we’ve seen it first hand.
all communities, towns & states, have good, hard-working, amazing people with amazing stories. a place considered less desirable does not indicate no worth in it’s citizens. i know that every place is an opportunity to meet great individuals. but a hard scrabble life is what many are living and without a formed community, a community bonded and working together…it’s the picture of a hard life, and an isolated life.
we both thought we would end up with lists of the neatest little towns that we had never heard of but felt so enriched to have traveled through. it is sadly not what we have found. this is not meant to be a discouragement. it is what it is. It shouldn’t dictate if and where you travel, instead it is just our observations, our discoveries within our travels. i do not under any circumstance think we are alone in these observations. anyone who has traveled extensively will have witnessed this first hand. just because a name of a city is very familiar, does not mean it will be lively, prosperous or anything more than mcdonalds and a gas and go. cities I had heard of for years, we arrived and found them poor, dirty and basically drive-thru towns.
if you know ahead of time what you’re looking for, what you find will be that much sweeter. national and state parks are beautiful and could keep you traveling with no other stops for years. they are vast and plentiful and awe-inspiring. if you are down with nature and that’s your thing and that’s what you’re going for, you won’t be disappointed. if you want to go to major cities and see all you’ve seen in movies, i think you too will be satisfied and happy. there is room for all kinds of travelers.
we also expected to meet lots of people in every campground we stayed at, this hasn’t even come close to happening. we love to be outside. we sit outside every single day the weather is at least half way permitting. we never see anyone. everyone stays in their RV. no walking around the park, no sitting outside their rig, not even doors open on their RV.. most times. it has astounded us. now we haven’t been in state/national parks as much due to lack of gray tank, etc. (which we are still working fervently on!) and we assume people in these parks might be more friendly and more out and about, not locked up tight in the trailer, but assumptions are just that and who knows.. we’ll let you know when we get there.
the middle class is gone. or barely surviving and this is making a huge impact on the landscape and people of America. what you find on your travels might not be what you expect. think about why you want to travel and what you’d like to see and find on said travels so that you can go out and have it really be the dream you have dreamed. our travels have been invaluable in a million ways. what we have found and seen will affect us forever. it will make the future better, more settled and more focused. nothing you find is ever for naught. if we can help you, those of you waiting to go, or wishing it were you, maybe this will help you form your dream with a little more focus, a focus that makes breaking the penny bank to set sail all the more worthwhile.
*please & thank you* link back to us if you re-post something you see here.
we finally had some neighbors to chat with a bit, in between child wrangling (3 boys do keep them busy!) mike & vesna are on the road full-time having sold the majority of their possessions back home (in canada) and are now cruising the united states for awhile. as of right now they too are sticking to warmer weather but are headed east versus west. not having children i wanted to get the lay of the land on what life is like with 3 boys and a pop up. you can read more about their adventures on their blog mudakiller. thanks mike & vesna for sharing and doing this Q & A for everyone!
1. First things first. You are traveling with three!! kiddos, were you apprehensive about this at all?
Not really. We sort of cocooned after our first big trip with our first born. We took him to visit family in Serbia when he was 18 months old. The toddler and I were both quite sick for the entire two week period. After that, all we did was our annual driving trip to Treasure Island in Florida. Last year (6 years later) we were finally able (financially) to visit my family in Serbia again, and since my family hadn’t met the other two kids, we just bit the bullet and went for three weeks. It was an amazing success and all we needed to know and believe that we *can* do this! I think the fact that we were no longer new to parenthood helped too.
We’re also very used to long road trips with the boys – 24 hour drives to Florida, weekend treks camping, visiting grandparents and family, etc.
The only thing we were a little apprehensive about was them leaving their neighbourhood, school friends, etc. We have that at the front of our minds at all times and are making as much effort as possible to keep them connected (via Skype, email, etc.) to existing friends/family, and meeting as many new ones as possible.
2. Ok, now that you have answered that…. how are you finding it works with three kids on the road?
It’s only been just under 6 weeks, but we (and they) seem to be adjusting well. Just as at home, there are awesome days, and some crazy days. We spend a lot of time assessing our innate reactions (good or bad), keeping our stress in check as pro-actively as we can. The traveling part has been great and has worked well so far. The kids are really taking to it. We love not being tied down to one particular location and being able to up and leave.
3. Can you summarize what made you want to go on the road full-time?
Our 2010 trip to Serbia proved a few things to us 1. We can indeed travel with the kids and 2. Our remote business can actually be more remote than we ever thought. We were able to service our clients whilst overseas. We spent three weeks on a continent that doesn’t do things to excess the way we do here in North America. They buy what they need and use everything they have. We came home to our mortgage (bank ball & chain), a large (for us) house that we used very little of, and a house full of junk that we never use. We realised that we never used the back yard, or a good percentage of the house itself. Ever. We were wasting our time on maintenance, and money on upkeep for a place we barely lived in. We’d also been going through some life changes/paradigm shifts and figuring out how much time we spend sleeping, watching tv (which we’d quit a while ago), and doing all those things that we didn’t find important. I did a big write up of the calculations in my blog recently, but the numbers are scary. Dropping our sleep time from 8 down to 6 hours gave us back 1 ½ months of *awake* time each year. One and a half MONTHS of awake time more every year!! Not watching tv for 2 hours a night gave us back ONE FULL month back – so just by doing those things, we got back 2 ½ months of awake time! Then we counted up house maintenance hours, etc. – another huge number. We’re not talking a few hours here or there….we are talking MONTHS of living. So we started looking at what is important to us. Stuff? Or experiences? No brainer! With the mortgage and house we had stuff and an opportunity to travel 2 to 4 weeks a year. This is not at all what we wanted. We just finally put our life into perspective and decided to make the absolute most of our days for us, for and with our kids. Originally we looked at purchasing condos in key spots, and then the trailer thing hit us. Then we found there are others doing it (and they weren’t all snowbirds either!), so it really nailed it.
4. You’re from Canada… did you camp much before heading into The States?
Yes – pre-kids we did quite a bit of hiking/portaging and ‘real’ camping. I was a skydiver for 5 years and spent that entire time camping on dropzones. When we hooked up, we bought a 1976 Westfalia and camped in style J When the kids came along, we went back to tent camping, but drive up camp sites – again only in Provincial Parks though. Never at rv campgrounds, etc. We wanted to be around nature.
5. Are there RV parks, and Canadian parks similar to the U.S.? Any tips for those of us who plan to travel Canada?
We never camped at RV parks in Canada, so we don’t have a clue. We’ll find out soon enough in the spring however J I’m not sure about tips – I suspect it’s all pretty much the same.
6. You are in a pop-up currently, what would you tell people thinking of traveling in one?
If you are in the least claustrophobic, beware of your limitations and get out into open space as much as you can. Especially on rainy days. If you plan on doing this full time, make sure you have a furnace and running water – especially if you have kids. The small space took a bit of getting used to. We were supposed to have our 5th wheel and were not prepared for this small space. Definitely get a potty for the middle of the night runs (again – especially with kids).
7. You are switching over to a 5th wheel in the fall, what made you decide on this versus a travel trailer, etc.?
We went back and forth for quite a while between 5th wheel and travel trailer. At first we were stuck on travel trailer because we wanted three rows of seating in the tow vehicle. Once we broke out of that paradigm and figured out we could get a truck and all three kids can fit in a large cab, we moved over to looking at 5th wheels. Mike is 6’ 2” and fell in love with the ceiling height and full height showers. He really does take up a lot of space in the tent trailer! The layouts in the 5th wheels with bunk houses and extra space for our office sealed the deal. We also eat raw, so space for a sprouter, dehydrator, and our Vitamix is important.
8. What has been harder than you expected? Easier?
Harder: The claustrophobia and keeping kewl under stress makes it more difficult than before. Sometimes you literally have to just stand in place until the other four people get situated. There literally is no place to move out of anyone’s way. You just have to stand there and wait for people to figure out where they’re going next.
Easier: The kids sleeping together has been easier than I expected. I really thought there would be craziness around that. We have three amazing sleepers, but they have all always had their own rooms, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. They’ve been amazing! We have a good 3 – 4 hours of alone time after they go to sleep and hang out at the hot tubs, etc. So, it’s been really nice J
9. Do you have a set game plan for your travels?
Not specific ones, or ones that can’t be changed on the fly. Right now we’re heading east from San Diego. We want to be in Florida for the final Shuttle launch on April 19th. We’ve been getting some awesome ideas from people we’ve met (thank you!) about places to see between here and there. We’ll check those out and write the others down for when we’re back in the fall. We’ll head up the east coast after the launch and back to Canada. We plan on taking off to Europe in June. We’ll spend one week in Germany with a cousin of mine, and spend until mid-August in Kragujevac in Serbija. Then a month in Greece before we head back to the Toronto area for the fall. At that point we’ll get our tow vehicle and 5th wheel and start the trek either south or west again and hit all the places we missed this first time. After that, we plan on repeating that until we’ve seen the things we want to see. At that point (5-ish years?) we’ll look at doing the same on two other continents. Rinse and repeat. For anyone that knows us though – our plans change constantly, so who knows!
10. What do you find to be the biggest differences between Canada and the United States?
Anything we have you wish Canada had and vice/versa?
Biggest differences? Better access to healthy food here for sure – especially in California. I do wish that Canada had California and Hawaii. It would be nice to have that as a choice to move to or live at for part of the year (without worrying about citizenship, etc.). Also – I wish Canada had better technological ‘things’. Hulu, cheaper cell rates, better packages. Canada is, as I understand it, the most expensive on the planet for voice and data packages. It’s pretty sad. The CRTC/Canadian Networks have also done quite a good job at stopping services like Hulu, previously Netflix, and other things that are available just south of the border. We’re forced to pay through the nose for content and internet access. Pretty backwards.
11. Final words of wisdom?
Facing your fears (and overcoming them) is the greatest thing you’ll ever do. Being raw, true and honest with what is truly important in your life. That is huge. Look in the mirror. Look deep in your eyes. Love yourself – like *really* love yourself. Stop running away and embrace who you are. Live your passion. It IS possible. Set your ‘buts’ and fears aside and imagine it being possible. What do you want to remember on your death bed? The big LCD tv? The color you picked for your living room? For us, it’s relationships and experiences. No more, no less. Everything else is just noise. ‘Love is the answer’ – Weezer
*please & thank you* link back to us if you re-post something you see here.
stephanie & taylor evaluated things in their lives, considered a year long journey on the open road and due to the economy… hesitated to make the leap. a visit with friends pondering life, love and everything in between…and they were ready to jump. and they did, for a whole year… in a tiny little scamp. they designed the renovation and taylor did all of the work himself. (see the massive list) and thank goodness after seeing these before photos (this is where you must evaluate your time and abilities). thanks for sharing you two!
Exterior: brand new axle, wheels and tires, new spare tire and rim, fiberglass shell made water tight, fiberglass shell re-enforced around frame door was re-fabricated and sealed, semi-primed and ready for paint job, new door locks all new exterior outlets and connection (city water, electrical, etc), new plug for exterior power chord, new trailer lighting harness, bumper re-painted, new reflectors on all sides… includes hitch with double bike rack, trailer tongue lock, ball lock and hitch lock with master key.
Interior: brand new faux hardwood floors, new vintage color green upholstery, new curtains, new paint everywhere, custom cabinets and new hardware, new table top, customized temper-pedic bed topper, installed window ac unit, plug-in space heater, camper toilet (stows in built-in cabinet), electrical wiring completely redone, new GFCI outlets (4 outlets total), new plumbing including faucet, sink drains to grey water tank, city water connects to faucet, new electrical fridge, 18″ flat screen HDTV with AV connections for laptop or DVDs, track lighting with dimmer and frosted glass shades over kitchen, coat hooks, closet refitted with drawers for storage, new bungees for securing doors while driving
new Coleman propane stove, for use indoors or outdoors
1. What made you decide on a Scamp?
We discovered travel trailers on Craigslist while searching for an RV. These egg campers were so cute and affordable, we began searching for Casitas and Burros, but never found a used one in good enough condition. So we began thinking about how to go about renovating one. When we found our Scamp on Craigslist, it was totally trashed, used first as a hunting trailer (it had camo EVERYTHING inside) and then as a band’s gear-hauling trailer. We knew we’d found our trailer, ripe for the renovating and cheap to boot! It took us 6 weeks to renovate that thing, but we love it now!
2. Were you worried about being in such a small camper for both of you for a year?
YES! Everyone who hears about our year in that tiny space marvels at how we didn’t kill each other! Ha ha! But it actually forced us to learn to work together as a team better. Our very first night Scamping, we quickly realized that only one person at a time could stand up in that thing! That really changes how we do things- we had to take turns!
3. What are your top loves about your Scamp and what would you change if you could have?
Oh my gosh, I love our Scamp- it’s like our baby. I don’t ever want to get rid of it! I really love the colors and patterns we picked for the interiors. The bed is remarkably comfy! I think Taylor would say he loves the flat screen TV on an adjustable arm. We watched a lot of late night movies in bed while we camped!
4. Did you follow any sort of daily routine?
Well, it depended on where we were (mountains skiiing, redwoods camping, or in a city sight-seeing). Generally, we’d wake up, get ready and start cooking breakfast. We’d leave the Scamp at the campground and drive to whatever we wanted to see or do that day. By the time we came back for the evening, usually with some dinner groceries in tow, it was time to start making dinner and snuggle back into our Scamp for the night.
5. Did you stay mostly at state parks, private, or both? And do you have a preference? If so, what & why?
Well, we thought the Walmart idea would be a cool/free way to camp- but it was creepy. We only did that twice. We stayed at a couple private RV parks, but preferred state parks. Especially Oregon state parks- they were incredible! Great amenities and beautiful scenery!
6. Was the switch to using campground bathrooms a hard adjustment? Any tips to make the transition easier for those not on the road yet?
Some are better/cleaner/nicer than others. If you can choose your campground based on the bathroom, do it. Have a bathroom kit (kinda like a college dorm bathroom kit)- toiletries, shower flip-flops (A MUST!), scrubbies, etc… we learned to shower without touching anything but the water in those public bathrooms. Eeew. You just have to do your best.
7. For your year long journey you stayed primarily on the western side of the United States, was that intentional?
NO! ha ha, we wanted to do most of the U.S and then leave the Scamp in Texas and backpack Europe, but we ran out of time! Besides enjoying the West so much, my dad was in a pretty terrible car accident, so we spent 2 months during the summer back in Texas with my family. He’s ok now, but it was a pretty horrific scare! Family crisis aside, there’s so much to see and do- we decided to enjoy ourselves and not follow a strict schedule but just travel where we want and stay as long as we want. It made everything so much more easy going.
8. How did you spend your time when you were caught in inclement weather?
Um, we kept traveling. SCARY! And maybe not the brightest idea. We actually pulled the Scamp through a blizzard near Wolf Creek in Colorado. Taylor will tell you it was the scariest time of his life driving that. Oh, that and driving the treacherous mountain roads near Durango CO. Colorado has scary roads, when it’s cold!
9. What comforts of home did you miss the most? the least?
Did NOT miss TV, oddly enough. I mean, we watched movies some nights, but we didn’t have cable and we didn’t miss it. I missed having a bathtub- I love bubble baths! And of course, I super missed my mom.
10. Can you share your top tips for future and wannabe travelers?
If traveling with a husband/friend/other, learn to cooperate early! Traveling can be stressful when you have to share a vehicle, camp spot, schedule, etc. So work towards always pursuing peace rather than getting what you want.
Sight-seeing is great, but don’t forget to visit places where you have friends. Some of our favorite places that year weren’t because of the place but because of the people we met up with, like old friends we hadn’t seen, etc. That makes a great visit!
Be friendly wherever you go- you never know if you’re going to make a friend!
Financially, we didn’t have enough money to last the whole year, but felt like God would take care of us- and He did! But it was scary. If I had to do it again, I would have trusted so much more.
Trust. A good lesson for all of us. Thanks Stephanie & Taylor!
*please & thank you* link back to us if you re-post something you see here.