Reflections on our First Year of Nomadic Living

A couple days ago, we reached our three-hundred-sixty-fifth day of “road life.” Naturally, this has us in a state of reflection over the past year. While looking back, we realized that there have been some meaningful insights that have revealed themselves along the journey, and the following seven observations are just a few of the many things we have learned.

1. Travel is one of the best ways to grow as a human.

In the past year, we have made countless memories. These experiences are much more than can be put into words, or conveyed through colorful blocks of pixels on a screen, or written down in blog posts. We’ve experienced the most breathtaking landscapes and locations we’ve ever seen. Some of the best of these, we had never even seen in photos before, I might add. We’ve experienced small tastes of so many different lifestyles in so many different locations around this country. We’ve witnessed a range of amazing ways of life. We’ve tasted a huge assortment of local fare in many regions. We’ve experienced new activities and sports that we had never before attempted. We’ve met so many incredible people and made many new friends in many places.

With each mile, our minds have been expanded and our perspectives changed. We’ve seen ourselves grow in exciting new ways as individuals from the vastly rich experiences that we’ve collected over the past year. We can say with certainty that the past three-hundred-and-sixty-five days have made us better humans.

Boardman Tree Farm, Boardman, Oregon

Boardman Tree Farm, Boardman, Oregon

2. Tiny living is incredible.

Tiny living was never our goal when we began scheming ways to make “RV life” possible for us. We saw the RV as a means to an end of sorts – through it, we would be able to travel the country, while also bringing along our pets and our belongings. From our RV, we would also be able to sleep, work, and cook, which would work to make this traveling lifestyle significantly more affordable and practical for us. Then something incredible happened – we fell in love with the tiny living aspect that goes along with full-time RVing.

We have always been minimalists of sorts – we had a four-bedroom home that was practically empty! However, for some reason, when moving from a house to our RV, we expected that the RV would feel cramped and small and that we would be “roughing it” all the time. This is so not the case. Our RV has all the creature comforts of a typical home, and it is very comfortable. With our two slides out, it’s a total of 300 square feet (304 to be exact), and it has never felt too tiny for us and our furry kids. Because RVs are laid out so well, we have SO much storage – more than we even need, in fact. In addition to lots of storage, we also have an oven, a three-burner stove, a microwave/convection oven combo, three sinks, two TVs, a bookshelf, a comfy couch, a queen bed, a toilet, a shower, a mid-sized refrigerator, a large dinette booth (which is great for both eating and working), two closets, and a combo washer/dryer. We are certainly not roughing it, and the ability to have everything we could possibly need in a portable space is simply incredible.

We love having enough space for everything we need and nothing more. We can deep-clean our home in a relatively short period of time, and have plenty of time left over for more important/fun things. Because we have limited floor and counter space, we almost always keep our home neat and tidy because one or two things left out makes it feel messy. In addition, because we live in a tiny space, we were able to arrange every area exactly as we wanted it. In our 1500-square-foot home, this was not possible for us, because there was just so much space, and it was fairly intimidating. In our tiny home, we were able to design and decorate every inch exactly as we wanted it, which certainly lends to the love we feel for our home. These are all added benefits that we never expected but that have allowed us to fall even more in love with this lifestyle.

Tiny living is incredible

We absolutely love our cozy, tiny home on wheels.

3. We will never see it all.

This was a realization that we had very early on. Our approach to travel this past year has been methodically based upon micro-movements. We do our best to see “everything” of interest in each area that we travel through. This works really well for us and allows us to really experience an area in a deeper way than one typically would on just a short visit. Of the past year, the first six months alone were spent in California, and there is still much that we were not able to see there. Everyone who lives nomadically will have a pace of travel that works best for them. We’ve realized that we will never be able to see it all, so we should move as far and as frequently as we are comfortable with at that current point in our journey.

Skylight Cave - Williamette National Forest, Oregon

Skylight Cave – Williamette National Forest, Oregon

4. Travel doesn’t have to be expensive.

Vacations are expensive. There are ways to vacation more affordably, but, at the end of the day, between airfare, lodging, transportation, food, and activities, it is hardly something the average working person can afford to do on a regular basis. However, traveling in an RV can be as inexpensive as you want it to be, while still maintaining the vacation-y aspect of always seeing something new and exciting. Because we are cheapskates, we have found many ways to cut our expenses and live this lifestyle as affordably as possible. Essentially, our only bills are car/RV insurance, our phone bills, internet, and health insurance. Alongside spending on food, gas, Jeep/RV maintenance, Netflix, and the occasional activity which costs money, we spend between $1,500 and $2,000 a month total. When we do occasionally spend money unnecessarily, it’s on a fun, inexpensive activity, such as a meal out at a local restaurant or low-cost sightseeing. Essentially, we have had the most incredible experiences of our lives, all on a shoestring budget. (Blog post coming soon on how we are able to keep our expenses so low)

When I think about my favorite experiences over the past year, one thing that really stands out is that the best moments were completely free. Our most common hobbies and activities now include hiking, watching sunsets, hammocking, biking, and relaxing beach/lake/riverside. These are all outdoor activities which cost nothing at all! This lifestyle has completely opened the door for the best free activities we could imagine, all of which are things that would have taken us a lifetime to do/see if we were maintaining a once or twice-yearly vacation.

Staying free in Overton, Nevada outside of Las Vegas

Staying free in Overton, Nevada outside of Las Vegas

5. We have grown creatively.

I’ve said before that this lifestyle is a perfect fit for the creative, entrepreneur type, and I really believe that to be true. Bren and I have always been business-minded, constantly maintaining some sort of “side hustle,” even while working full-time. This lifestyle has really fostered and developed our creative sides, even more so than we ever thought it could have. Constantly moving has a way of growing you as an individual, and individual growth leads way to concepts for new and exciting things. Our love for full-time RVing pushes us to evolve and create new ways to make money to ensure that we can continue this lifestyle for as long as we want. Because we no longer have a set paycheck, we always have our eyes and ears open for new business opportunities and investments, even if we cannot immediately execute on some of these ideas. In the last year alone, we’ve both put in many hours of work on our main businesses, Quarry Design Group and Mugsy Supply House, but we are also working on several new concepts, which could be some of our greatest yet.

In addition, we’ve both grown as photographers and writers. Photography is something we were both practicing when we lived stationary, but we never had enough shooting opportunities to progress and grow in the ways that we wanted. Since we now visit beautiful new landscapes on a regular basis, we always have a subject to shoot, and this has allowed us to improve as photographers immensely. Writing for our blog, and even just writing about our lifestyle on Instagram, has also allowed us to develop our craft as writers, both in pace and content. We have always enjoyed writing, but having such great, personal topics to write about has been an awesome way to grow in this aspect.

Sahalie Falls - Williamette National Forest, Oregon

Sahalie Falls – Williamette National Forest, Oregon

6. Full-time travel teaches resourcefulness.

As we mentioned earlier, we are incredibly cheap individuals, and an important part of keeping this lifestyle low-budget is learning to do things ourselves, whether that is fixing things that break (A LOT of things break), making our own home decor, planning efficient travel to save on gas, or squeezing the most use out of everything we have.

When we hit the road last year I (Brendan) could change oil, and that was about the extent of my mechanical abilities. In the past year, I have grown into a fairly proficient mechanic, mostly out of necessity. I’ve made countless repairs and improvements to both our Jeep and the RV on my own, from small, simple repairs, to big jobs like changing the brakes on both axles of our RV.

We’ve picked up many new skills along the journey. This includes things like sewing, to mend clothing when needed; macrame, to make lovely hangers for our plants; electrical, to make sure our solar and wiring situations are on point; and towing, to bring Wendy (our Cherokee) along with us. We’ve also developed our ability to “hack” the efficiency of our resources when boondocking, which is how we live 98% of the time. We’ve learned a number of ways to stretch our water as far as possible and make sure that our solar power never runs out, even in limited sun. Finally, we’ve improved our cooking game. We loved to cook before traveling, but, in the last year, we have taught ourselves how to cook many new meals, based on new, incredible foods we’ve tried during our travels. Whenever we sample something that we love for the first time, we immediately go home and learn to recreate it ourselves.

Morning Coffee beside the Kern River in Kernville, California

Morning Coffee beside the Kern River in Kernville, California

7. We’ve become more open to new opportunities.

Sam and I are both quite introverted. We tend to be quiet and shy, but at the same time, we really enjoy time spent with good company. However, like many, we aren’t always thrilled about the act of meeting new people. That being said, every time that we’ve gotten out of our comfort zones and met up with fellow travelers, it has been a total blast.

I remember one particular situation when we were staying in Yosemite National Park. We were enjoying a long day of hiking on the Valley Loop Trail, and late in the day some fellow travelers, who were also staying in the Valley, messaged us about meeting up that night. We said sure and ended up inviting them over to our place for dinner and drinks. As soon as we got back from hiking, we had to quickly clean up and get dinner made in time for our guests. Obviously, we were somewhat tired from our 22-mile hike, and, in this situation, it would have been easier to pass on that meet-up opportunity. But we had them over anyway, and we are so glad we did, because we had a ton of fun, and they have now become some of the best friends that we’ve made during our travels.

Over the past year, we’ve had the privilege of meeting some of the most amazing, friendly, and vibrant individuals imaginable. We’ve forged a number of new friendships with like-minded individuals from all walks of life. With all of these folks, we share at least one thing in common – the love of travel – and that’s amazing to us. None of this would have been possible had we let our introversion get in the way.

Jen and Deas Nealy, the couple that we met in Yosemite and have since become great friends with.

Jen and Deas Nealy, the couple that we met in Yosemite and have since become great friends. (Eureka, California)

It has been a truly unforgettable year for us, in every possible sense. We feel so grateful for the amazing experiences that we’ve had and the memories that we’ve made. We feel humbled by the immense support and love that we’ve been shown from amazing people all over the world. We are so appreciative to be welcomed into this amazing, generous, supportive community of fellow full-time travelers. We look back with nothing but feelings of warmth and gratitude while looking ahead with excitement at what the next year holds.

Fellow travelers: what lessons have you learned or insights have you gained along your journey?
We would love to hear your perspective. Please feel free to share in the comments below!

Below is a small collection of some of our favorite moments and scenes from the past year. We hope you enjoy, and thanks for reading!

Service Creek, Oregon

Service Creek – John Day Territory, Oregon

 

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

 

John Day National Monument - Painted Hills Unit, Oregon

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument – Painted Hills Unit, Oregon

 

Mt. Rainer National Park, Washington

Mount Rainer National Park, Washington

 

Liberty, Washington

Liberty, Washington

 

Crescent Lake - Olympic National Park, Washington

Crescent Lake – Olympic National Park, Washington

 

Gifford-Pincho National Forest, Washington

Gifford-Pinchot National Forest, Washington

 

Oneonta Gorge - Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Oneonta Gorge – Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

 

Hurricane Ridge - Olympic National Park, Washington

Hurricane Ridge – Olympic National Park, Washington

 

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

 

Baker Lake - Mt. Baker National Forest, Washington

Baker Lake – Mt. Baker National Forest, Washington

 

Sol Duc Falls - Olympic National Park, Washington

Sol Duc Falls – Olympic National Park, Washington

 

Ruby Beach - Olympic National Park, Washington

Ruby Beach – Olympic National Park, Washington

 

Grizzly Falls - King's Canyon National Park, California

Grizzly Falls – King’s Canyon National Park, California

 

Toketee Falls - Umpqua National Forest, Oregon

Toketee Falls – Umpqua National Forest, Oregon

 

Ocean Shores, Washington

Ocean Shores, Washington

 

Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

 

King's Canyon National Park, California

King’s Canyon National Park, California

 

King's Canyon National Park, California

King’s Canyon National Park, California

 

Wenatchee National Forest, Washington

Wenatchee National Forest, Washington

 

Our complete rig on day one of our travels, as we were leaving Blackwood, New Jersey.

 

Seven Magic Mountains - Las Vegas, Nevada

Seven Magic Mountains – Las Vegas, Nevada

 

Steens Mountain - Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon

Steens Mountain – Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon

 

Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite National Park, California

 

Seattle, Washington

Seattle, Washington

 

Montavon's Berries - Hood River, Oregon

Mount Hood – Hood River, Oregon

 

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree National Park, California

 

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

 

Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

 

North Cascades National Park, Washington

North Cascades National Park, Washington

 

Alabama Hills National Recreation Area, California

Alabama Hills National Recreation Area – Lone Pine, California

 

Blair Valley - Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California

Blair Valley – Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California

 

Umpqua National Forest, Oregon

Umpqua National Forest, Oregon

 

Glacier Point - Yosemite National Park, California

Glacier Point – Yosemite National Park, California

 

Multnomah Falls - Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Multnomah Falls – Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Oregon

 

Death Valley National Park, California

Death Valley National Park, California

 

Mojave National Preserve, California

Mojave National Preserve, California

 

Fern Canyon - Redwoods National & State Parks, California

Fern Canyon – Redwoods National & State Parks, California

 

Newbury Caldera National Volcanic Monument, Oregon

Newbury Caldera National Volcanic Monument – Bend, Oregon

 

Redwood National & State Parks, California

Redwood National & State Parks, California

 

Point Reyes National Seashore, California

Point Reyes National Seashore, California

 

Kern River - Sequoia National Forest, California

Kern River – Sequoia National Forest, California

 

Redwood National & State Parks, California

Redwood National & State Parks, California

 

Crescent City, California

Crescent City, California

 

Sequoia National Park, California

Sequoia National Park, California

 

Lake Isabella - Sequoia National Forest, California

Lake Isabella – Sequoia National Forest, California

 

Umpqua Hot Springs - Umpqua National Forest, Oregon

Umpqua Hot Springs – Umpqua National Forest, Oregon

 

White Horse Falls, Umpqua National Forest, Oregon

White Horse Falls, Umpqua National Forest, Oregon

 

Fort Bragg, California

Fort Bragg, California

 

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

 

King's Canyon National Park, California

King’s Canyon National Park, California

 

Glacier Point - Yosemite National Park, California

Glacier Point – Yosemite National Park, California

 

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Oregon

 

Oneonta Gorge Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Oneonta Gorge – Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Oregon

 

Alabama Hills National Recreation Area, California

Alabama Hills National Recreation Area – Lone Pine, California

 

Montovan's Berries - Hood River, Oregon

Montovan’s Berries – Hood River, Oregon

 

Lake Isabella - Sequoia National Forest, California

Lake Isabella – Sequoia National Forest, California

 

Redwoods National & State Parks, California

Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California

 

Castello di Amorosa - Napa, California

Castello di Amorosa – Napa, California

 

Cape Arago State Park, Oregon

Cape Arago State Park, Oregon

 

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

 

Ocean Shores, Washington

Ocean Shores, Washington

 

The 2017 Solar Eclipse, which we witnessed from Lincoln City, Oregon

The 2017 Solar Eclipse, which we witnessed from Lincoln City, Oregon

 

Sandy Valley Road - Red Rock National Conservation Area, Nevada

Sandy Valley Road – Red Rock National Conservation Area, Nevada