As part of preparing for our year-long RV trip, Kim and I have been talking to as many people as possible about what life is like on the road. It’s fun to hear everyone’s ideas and advice. Each person has a different perspective on what to do and how to do it.

In mid-February, for instance, I had lunch with Dakota and Chelsea from Traipsing About. These two Portlanders spent three months customizing a Mercedes Sprinter van before hitting the road on 01 November 2013. They traveled around the western United States for eight months before parking the van near Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, after which they biked 4000 miles across the country to Portland, Maine. Their adventures continued in New York City, Maine, and Mexico before they eventually returned to Portland in January of this year.

Dakota and Chelsea had FUN on their trip.
As you can see, Dakota and Chelsea had FUN on their trip…

Kim and I will spend a lot of time together in close quarters during the next year. While I think this will work well for the most part, I’m still concerned that we both get the space and time we need for personal rejuvenation. Dakota and Chelsea spent even more time together (and in closer quarters) during their trip, so I asked for their advice.

“Usually, one person will be more reluctant than the other,” Dakota said. “That’s not to say they don’t want to be there, but that it’s tougher for them to make the trip. In our case, Chelsea was the reluctant partner.”

Chelsea smiled. “I was never a reluctant partner,” she said, “but I am a much more sensitive traveler. I’m often the weakest link in the chain. When I get uncomfortable, we both get uncomfortable, if you know what I mean. So, I think the key to long-term travel together is to keep in mind the needs of the most sensitive partner.”

“For instance, we didn’t drive more than four hours per day,” Dakota said. “We tried to limit our time on the road. Otherwise, we’d just get miserable.”

Chelsea nodded. “Similarly, we tried not to change locations very often. Every time you move, there’s overhead in taking down and setting up camp. Usually it’s best to park it. Find a place you like and stay put for days or weeks.”

“We also came up with our ‘sick rule’,” Chelsea said. “If one of us got sick, they had the option to get a hotel room. No questions asked. Being sick is bad enough, but being sick on the road can really be rough.”

“Be sure to give each other space,” Dakota said. “This actually isn’t as difficult as you might think. Sure, you’re together all the time, but when you’re that close to nature, it’s easy to spend time apart. One person goes for a hike while the other stays in camp. Or maybe one of you walks down to sit by a stream. Just be sure to build in alone time.”

“We also made it a rule to always accept invitations from people,” Chelsea said. “Friends or strangers, it didn’t matter. Building community as you go helps with what Stevie from Sprinter Life calls ‘vertigo of the spirit’, that feeling of disorientation you get when you constantly move from place to place. Even if you’re an introvert, connecting with other people is important. And it helped me and Dakota with our own relationship too!”

“That reminds me: Tune up the romance,” Dakota said. “Don’t let that go. Be romantic. Surprise each other with special treats, like favorite meals or nights in hotels.”

Chelsea thought for a moment. “I guess the bottom line is to be easy-going and adaptable,” she said. “When you’re nomadic, you’re open to serendipity. It permeates your whole life. You find yourself saying ‘yes’ a lot more. It’s a very ‘yes’ experience.”

“Part of being easy-going and adaptable is trying not to overplan,” Dakota said. “When we booked stuff ahead, it was definitely a stressor — especially when we stacked things up one after the other.”

“At the same time, you need balance,” Chelsea said. “If you’re seeing family and friends, you need to give them as much notice as possible. At least two weeks, if you can, and more is better. So, you need to find a balance between not overplanning yet still having some sort of schedule so you can see people.”

“It’s important to note that these weren’t hard and fast rules,” Dakota said. “Sometimes we had to drive more than four hours a day. Sometimes we had to change locations more often than we would have liked. These are guidelines. These are standards. There will always be exceptions.”

“Here’s one last thing,” Chelsea said. “Listen. Really listen to your partner’s concerns. If you know there’s an issue, keep coming back to it to make sure it’s being addressed or resolved.”

“That’s a great point,” I said. “Kim has trouble with sleep. She’s a cave sleeper. She needs silence and darkness and undisturbed rest. At home, it’s easy to create a ‘cave’ so she sleeps well. That’ll be more difficult on the road. I’ll need to check in often to be sure she’s getting the sleep she needs.”

“Exactly,” Chelsea said.

Dakota and Chelsea gave me tons more advice, info on how to take care of mail, how to eat well while on the road, how to maintain a minimalist wardrobe without getting bored of the same old clothes. In all, we spent nearly two hours talking about travel. It was great.

With each conversation like this, I feel one step closer to leaving. Every piece of information helps. And so does every moment we spend in the RV. This week, our motorhome has been parked at my ex-wife’s house so that we have it nearby. We’ve been stocking it to get ready for our second test run this weekend. It’s going to be a beautiful weekend on the Oregon Coast! We’ll be back next week with photos and stories of the outing. Until then, be well.

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Things just got real!

Now that Kim and I have decided that we really can (and will) do this year-long cross-country adventure, we’ve started making big moves. Last week, Kim told her boss she’ll be leaving at the end of March. We found a couple to stay in our condo while we’re gone, and we’ve begun to pack up all of the things we won’t be taking with us. Meanwhile, there are dozens of little chores to occupy our time.

Our to-do list
Our to-do list seems never-ending…

Ideally, we’d rent out our condo while we’re away; it would be nice to have the extra income. The problem with this idea? Our HOA limits the number of units that can be rented, and we’re second on the waiting list to be able to have tenants. Instead, my friend Tyler Tervooren and his wife will act as live-in caretakers while we’re on the road.

To prep for Jess and Tyler’s arrival, Kim and I have begun packing up all of the things we’re not taking with us. We’re cramming dozens of boxes into my tiny 120-square-foot office:

My office will be a storage unit for a year
Some of these stacks are precarious…

Right now, it’s a little tough to know what to pack and what to take, especially with clothing. My solution? I’ve gone through my wardrobe and toiletries and picked out the things I think I’ll want on the road. For the next few weeks, I intend to use and wear only these items, to pretend that we’re already living in the RV and I’m limited to what I have with me. Then, just before we leave, I’ll make some final decisions about what to carry for a year.

Prepping the RV for the trip is a continual process. As we find new issues that need to be addressed, we address them. We had the roof leak repaired right away, of course, and we’ve fixed the loose pipe fittings. But why did the truck battery die during our first trial run? How do we repair the screen door? Why won’t the radio work? How will we store the RV cover while we’re on the road? And so on…

We have to cancel some bills and subscriptions, prepay some, and automate others. We need to figure out how to handle our mail. We need to write instructions for Tyler and Jess. We need to draft cleaning and maintenance schedules for the RV, and draw up checklists so that we don’t forget anything when we arrive (and depart) from camping spots. We need to take care of our taxes. We need to prep our motorcycles for storage. We need to tune up our bicycles. The to-do list seems endless, and it’s all I’ve been focusing on for the past two weeks.

I spent all of last Saturday, for example, hanging out at Camping World in Wilsonville, waiting to have a tow bar and hitch receiver installed so that our Bigfoot can tow my Mini Cooper.

We have hitchage!
Now the challenge is learning to hitch and unhitch quickly…

Things went fine (albeit slowly) until it came time for me to test everything.

  • On my first lap around the Camping World parking lot, I realized I was dragging the Mini Cooper through corners. I hadn’t put the key in its ignition, so the steering was locked. Oops.
  • I put the key in the ignition and switched it on, which prevented the steering from locking — but introduced a second problem. You see, the doors lock automatically when the car is in motion. So, on my second lap around the parking lot, I managed to lock myself out of the car. Oops.

I towed the Mini Cooper to Canby, where I paid a locksmith to open the car and to cut a second backup key. Now, in theory, the RV and Mini are set to go. (I may want a supplemental braking system on the car. We’ll test the whole towing setup on our next test-run in early March.)

We’ve also spent a lot of time planning our route. Well, maybe the word “plan” is a bit strong. We’re brainstorming, I guess.

I’ve created a custom Google map for the trip. The map has several layers, such as:

  • National Parks
  • Thousand Trails campgrounds (membership RV parks around the country)
  • Potential events (such as the Montreal Jazz Festival)
  • Suggested sites (recommendations from friends and family)
  • Planed stops (dates and places we’re fairly certain to meet)
  • Invites from friends (folks who’ve asked us to swing by)

We can show or hide map layers, as we wish, which allows us to get a feel for what’s ahead of us and where we might want to go:

So many places to see!
There are so many people and places to see!

Note: We’d love to visit you too, when we’re in your area. If you’d like to have us stop in and say hello, please let us know.

Finally, we’ve been working on this website. We’ve been posting articles for the past several weeks, of course, but this blog is still in rough shape. We’ve now told a few folks about it (which is why you’re reading this, right?), but haven’t made any big announcements. Before that happens, we want to tweak the layout, set up the ability to subscribe, and make the place feel more like home.

As you can see, we have a lot of work to do before we leave. In fact, there’s so much to do that it’s sometimes tough to know where to start. Right now, it feels like we’re playing “whack-a-mole”, smacking down whatever task seems most pressing: tow bar! “start here” web page! stuff out of storage! And so on.

There are just over four weeks until we launch on this big adventure!

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The Maiden Voyage of Bigfoot: Our Trip to Stevenson, Washington

February 19, 2015

Hi, everyone. Kim here with my first-ever post at Far Away Places! Last weekend, J.D. and I made our maiden voyage in the RV. We went into it like we’d go into any other trip. We had a general plan but left lots of wiggle room for whatever opportunities and experiences might arise. We both […]

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One Month with Bigfoot

February 12, 2015

Kim and I have owned our motorhome for a full month now, and we’ve had a chance to form some impressions. It’s important to note that we haven’t actually done anything in the RV yet but clean and stock it. (We’ll make our first trip this weekend.) That said, we’re pleased with the purchase so […]

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Meet Bigfoot

February 5, 2015

After driving home our new motorhome, Kim and I were sad (but unsurprised) to see that the leak in the roof was worse than we’d feared. After a quick weekend getting to know our Bigfoot 30MH29SL, we took the rig to Robert at Rose City RV. Although he initially said he’d need a couple of […]

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Bringing Home Bigfoot: A Crash Course in RV Ownership

January 29, 2015

After months of searching, Kim and I finally purchased a motorhome that seemed almost ideal for our needs: a 29-foot 2005 Bigfoot 30MH29SL. On a rainy Saturday morning in mid-January, we drove to the previous owner’s house to take delivery. “I guess I didn’t fix that leak as well as I’d thought,” Mike said, pointing […]

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Buying an RV: Finding Bigfoot

January 22, 2015

After a month of RV shopping, Kim and I took a breather for the holidays. We continued to chat about the subject with friends and family, fishing for feedback on our our plans, but we only casually browsed Craigslist. We didn’t venture out to the used RV lots. After the new year, though, we got […]

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Buying an RV: Finding Focus

January 15, 2015

As Kim and I continued on our quest for a quality Class C RV under $40,000, we resorted to research. As with anything, the world of RVs can be overwhelming. There’s a lot of vocabulary and terminology to learn. There are a multitude of models and features. There are plenty of things to look at […]

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Buying an RV: Starting the Search

January 8, 2015

Last summer, Kim and I hatched a plan to leave our lives here in Portland to traverse the U.S. and Canada by RV. After several months of research and contemplation, we’d reached a few conclusions: We’d spend six months to a year traveling backroads, visiting friends and family, exploring National Parks, and documenting our journey […]

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Buying an RV: Choosing a Style and Setting a Budget

January 1, 2015

“I think we should buy an RV,” Kim announced one morning late last spring. “We spend a lot of money traveling around the world. If we had an RV, we’d spend less and we could explore our own country for once. I think it’d be fun to take six months or a year to see […]

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