Three years of full-time travel in an RV – and living in four different RVs during that time – sure has taught us a lot, as you might expect!
We’ve driven our various homes-on-wheels to 44 states and two Canadian provinces so far. There are some great destinations within easy driving distance that we still haven’t hit, but they required seasonal timing that just hasn’t aligned for us yet. They’re on our list for the coming years, however. 🙂
Thanks to such a dramatic simplification of our lives the last few years – trimming away most of the excess stuff weighing us down, and adapting to living in a tiny space – we learned what really matters most to us. Our version of happiness is quality time spent together: loving on our dogs, being with our friends and family, soaking in the beauty of the world around us, and collecting new experiences instead of things.
We love wandering. We learn so much about ourselves as individuals when we travel, which in turn strengthens us as a couple. All the things that went wrong along the way had a purpose too: they made us stronger, individually and collectively – even if they really sucked at the time. 😉
However, there’s a time (maybe in every part-time or full-time traveler’s life?) that it dawns on us that we may be happier and healthier by taking some time off from traveling, to regroup and rest. For a variety of reasons, even the most hardcore nomads may need to put down some roots – roots that can be as shallow or as deep as you choose. We’re learning to accept that we’re not “failures at travel” for feeling that pull too.
It’s okay to be a wanderer but want a non-public place to call your own sometimes. To yearn for some privacy. To fine-tune your personal balance between downtime and adventure as your situation calls for it. You can still build travel into your life as much or as little as you want it, but “how much travel?” is something only your own instinct can tell you.
Full-time travel, for us at least, was never about how long we could stay on the move at a stretch, how many places we’d go in a fixed amount of time, or proving anything to anyone. It was – and is – an open-ended, purely personal adventure. We know we’ll continue to do extended periods of travel (in some form) for the rest of our lives, or as long as it continues to make us happy. With wanderlust being such a driving force in our hearts and minds, we can’t imagine traveling only a handful of weeks a year, unless circumstances beyond our control require it.
Now that we’ve seen most of our own country and gained a lot of valuable perspective and experiences along the way, we’ve been talking about how we can do this short- or long-term travel thing better. Our lives may look perfect on social media, and it is great fun mostly, but many of us who travel for longer stretches at a time struggle with certain aspects of the experience, even after years of doing it.
Our personal tipping point was having some rather serious medical issues arise recently, during which time we were disheartened by many doctors not accepting new patients – especially those who weren’t from the area – without a referral from a local general practitioner. We waited 4-6 weeks for appointments as new patients at a GP, then a few more weeks for the specialists to see us.
That was a scary, stressful, and physically painful time for us, and one we hope not to have to go through again. With some minor issues still lingering, though, it’s likely we’ll require more doctor visits, at least in the near future. Having been through that experience now, it feels safer to spend some time in one place for a bit, establishing a relationship with doctors we know and trust, instead of just taking a chance on whoever is willing to see us the quickest in a stop along our route.
A small RV in a crowded campground near the city also wasn’t the most comfortable or stress-free place to rest and recuperate from being ill, as you can probably imagine. That discomfort weighed very heavily on our decision to look not just at slowing down, but at adding an alternative place to live sometimes.
When we first started RVing, and again when we downsized to our van, we planned to occasionally rent a house or apartment for a month or longer in a desirable area, take a travel break, and stretch out. We’ve wished for a bit more living space sometimes, but don’t want to maintain and drive a much bigger RV all the time just to have it. Renting a place now and then seemed like a good middle-ground.
In reality, it didn’t work so well for us. It’s hard to find pet-friendly accommodations and not pay huge cleaning fees and deposits. Rentals typically don’t have very nice furniture, a comfortable bed, or a kitchen equipped for the kind of cooking we love to do. In addition, the pricing has usually been far more than we want to pay for something we aren’t fully comfortable in. Coupled with weird rules, the inconsistent quality of the properties, and owners/managers sometimes being really difficult to work with, we decided that wasn’t going to cut it.
The idea of having a “vacation home” (which we know sounds silly when we travel full-time) started to sound more and more appealing. We’d rather own a place of our own that we’re paying less for monthly than a rental, and are happier in. So we decided to look at buying an affordable little “sometimes” home, centrally located in the US. We wanted a place with very little maintenance while we’re away traveling, whether that’s for a few weeks or months at a time.
We weren’t planning to do anything right away, and didn’t even have a location in mind, until an online search turned up the perfect industrial loft condo for sale in one of our favorite little towns from our travels – Springfield, Missouri – which we fell in love with on our Route 66 trip a couple years back.
We drove from Delaware to Missouri that weekend to check it out (1,100 miles in two days, because we’re insane). It was no surprise to us that we totally fell in love with it upon first sight. It’s just so us.
The loft is 1,080-square-feet, in a 100-year-old commercial building – a totally open-concept living/cooking/eating/sleeping space, other than the separate bath and laundry rooms. With the more affordable cost of living here in the Midwest, we got it at a great price, and it will cost us less per month than most of the RV parks we’ve stayed at, not to mention being half to one-third the monthly price of any of the rental homes or hotels we’ve used.
Beyond the cook’s kitchen, wine fridge, and private rooftop deck that really sold us on it, we’re a quick walk from most of our favorite things: several microbreweries, a distillery, bars, coffee shops, great restaurants serving locally grown/raised food, art galleries, live music, city parks, a minor-league baseball stadium, college sports, and farmers markets. All that, and only an hour from the lakes and Ozark mountains around Branson, for excellent camping and water activities.
Growing up in rural areas, we both always dreamed of having a loft in a city, and the option to walk or bike instead of driving everywhere. We love being able step outside our door and be near lots of things to do when we want them, but also able to retreat back to our sanctuary easily, if we feel like being homebodies (which happens a lot of the time). On average, we’ll need to drive only about once a week here, to run errands outside of downtown.
We’re keeping our Travato camper van as our rest-of-the-year home, and plan to be here in Missouri for a few weeks to a couple months at a time, in between road trips. Since it’s located almost mid-country, Springfield will be perfect as a central rest stop in our travels. We need to fly for work at least a couple times a year too, so one of our parents or a pet sitter can come to a well-equipped place to doggy-sit, instead of us having to get them a hotel room or worry about their comfort staying in the RV. We’ll also have several major cities within a few hours’ drive (St. Louis, Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Memphis).
We’re definitely not giving up RV travel – far from it – and still plan to be on the road a good bit of the year. We probably won’t even call this place “home” when we’re away, and instead call it that only when we’re staying in it. Travel has taught us that “home” is wherever we are, together. It’s a state of mind, rather than a place.
So after about 100,000 miles of towing our house behind us or driving it, we’ve learned that we need to be happy and healthy, first and foremost, to fully enjoy the journey. We added our new “rest area” to take better care of ourselves, make RV repairs, and plan our next big adventures. We also hope to enjoy the moment more fully while traveling as a result of these breaks, instead of always planning what’s next before we ever leave the previous place.
I plan to get back to doing more blogging and posting of our huge backlog of travel photos, then write about our future travels more consistently. While I always prefer to take some time to process the experience before we’re ready to edit photos and tell the story, taking care of ourselves had to take priority over blogging for a lot longer than I’d planned. To our patient followers who didn’t give up on us and checked in on what the heck we were up to during our silence, thank you for your love and support! Taking time to reflect on our experiences before writing about them can be good for establishing perspective, but I’m still a lazy blogger, even by those standards! 😉
Whenever we’re here in Springfield, we’d love to meet up with anyone who’s passing through, whether on Route 66, heading to or from Branson, or can take a detour from a nearby interstate. Springfield is an awesome city that we’d be happy to show off! Our map here will be updated with our current and future locations.
Here’s a little gallery of our new “sometimes-home”, which is still being furnished and set up just the way we want it, but feels like a nearly perfect home-away-from-the-road already:
(Click on an image to open a slideshow view)