So, where to begin?! What started the idea for this crazy expedition, you might ask? If I had to define an answer to this question, it would look something like this…
There are multiple factors which led to the idea for this journey and multiple factors which led to the execution of the idea for this journey. To summarize this, we could say there were four main “loves” that pushed us to the decision to travel via RV:
- Our love of travel and adventure.
- Our love of business and entrepreneurship.
- Our love for our pets.
- Our love of “home.”
These will all be explained at greater depth throughout the duration of this account of our journey’s beginnings.
The initial origin for this journey can be explained by our incessant and endless love of travel. Brendan traveled to Europe for three weeks in 2006 (when he was only 12!) and visited France, England, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands (to say I’m a bit jealous would be an understatement). He traces his love of travel back to this very trip. In 2012, I traveled to Bolivia on a two-week missions (humanitarian) trip, and I too fell in love with travel. I especially enjoyed meeting and interacting with the beautiful Bolivian people and experiencing their culture and way of life firsthand.
Then, in 2013, we went on a week-long trip to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, just seven days after we married. Once again, we fell deeper in love with travel and greatly desired to see more of the world. In 2014, we took a one-week trip to a resort in the Dominican Republic to celebrate our one-year anniversary, and again, this furthered our yearning to travel. Over the next few years, we took many different trips to places such as Rehoboth Beach, DE; Alleghany, PA; Bushkill, PA; Buffalo, NY; New York, NY; Miami, FL; Orlando, FL; Jacksonville, NC; Parris Island, SC; Columbia, SC; Washington, D.C.; Massanutten, VA; Claytor Lake, VA; and Niagara Falls, CA. After every trip, we were both left with an even greater thirst for adventure. We could easily say that travel is one of our favorite things in life, and this is the fundamental foundation for the story of how we began our life of fulltime RVing.
The idea for our RV trip all started in December 2015, when I was smack dab in the middle of finals for my next-to-last semester of college. I had four exams to study for, three papers to write, and various online quizzes to complete. I was hunkered down in our little home office, all set up for a long night of study, when I decided to allow myself a short Facebook break. It was then that I stumbled upon the Facebook page for the “Hasta Alaska” crew. If you are not familiar with them, their group consists of a couple named Leah and Ben, along with their dog Alaska, who began a journey to travel the entirety of the Pan-American highway, from the southern-most tip of Chile to the northern-most tip of Alaska, via Volkswagen bus. They’ve been travelling for over four years now, and they’ve had some really incredible adventures. I was immediately enthralled with their story, their travels, and the idea of the freedom that van-living and a nomadic lifestyle would bring. I began watching their YouTube videos and viewing their Facebook pictures and posts almost obsessively, wondering if I too could live such a lifestyle.
However, I soon came to the realization that I had lost close to three hours of precious study time, and I had to do put my travel research on pause in order to ensure a solid finish to my semester. All throughout the completion of my exams and essays, I would sneak little peaks of photos under the hashtag “vanlife” on Instagram, but I decided to save the bulk of my research allowance for when I had completely finished the semester. In a way, I used this new-found lifestyle as motivation to finish my semester strong.
To continue the story, I need to backtrack a bit to early July 2015. Brendan and I were sitting in Barnes and Noble, a common date/work spot for us (seriously, who doesn’t love good coffee, free Wi-Fi, and reading books you don’t have to buy?), when I went to check out the business/marketing section, in search of a good book for Brendan. A certain book captured my attention, and I brought it back with me to our little table in the Starbucks café and read the title aloud to Brendan: “The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich.” I immediately tore into it and easily cleared the first few chapters that night in the Barnes and Noble café. Just a few short weeks later, Brendan bought me this book for my birthday. However, due to the craziness of purchasing our first house (7/15/15), unpacking, and then beginning the fall 2015 semester while working full time, it wasn’t until the end of finals and winter break that I was able to begin reading “The 4-Hour Workweek” (4HWW) again.
Once I really dove into it, I couldn’t put it down. It was easily one of the best books I had ever read, with tangible takeaways on every page. Having never owned a business or thought of myself as much of a businesswoman, my lazy self was mostly intrigued by the part about working only four hours a week. However, I soon realized that this book is about much more than an unusually short workweek, but rather is the handbook for leveraging modern technology to achieve both personal and financial liberation. Tim Ferriss’s writing style is humorous, engaging, and extremely profound, and I read through 4HWW in a just few short days. There is entirely too much information in this book to properly summarize it in just a short blog post, but the bulk of its content lies in the idea that people can and should use digital entrepreneurship and automation as the key to gaining freedom of time and mobility, which he believes are the ultimate measures of wealth. To put it simply, he writes:
“People don’t want to be millionaires–they want to experience what they believe only millions can buy…$1,000,000 in the bank isn’t the fantasy. The fantasy is the lifestyle of complete freedom it supposedly allows.” (4HWW: Ferriss, 8)
Upon completion, I gave the book to Brendan to read, who enjoyed it as thoroughly as I had. Should you ever get the chance to read this book, it comes highly recommended.
Just finished reading The 4-hour Work Week by @timferriss. I cannot recommend it enough. If you have any interest in digital entrepreneurship or the digital nomad lifestyle, this is a must read. Also very relevant for anyone interested in simply working more efficiently, regardless of your field. There are tangible takeaways on every page, and I'm not exaggerating.
I was now toying with the idea of starting my own business, but I had no clue where to begin nor any idea what kind of company I would even start. While Brendan had already owned a successful consulting business for years, the idea of starting a business of my own was both eye-opening and extremely exciting for me. This, coupled with my newfound “van life” idea began swirling around in my head, as new thoughts and ideas formed. All I could think or talk about was living a nomadic, traveling lifestyle, and it dominated so much of my conversation that Brendan began to become annoyed with me over it. He was intrigued by the idea of fulltime travel as well, as we had talked about it many times before, but more as like a wandering, backpacking adventure. However, he wasn’t completely sold on the idea that we could make it work, and there was also the question of our pets…. What would we do with them while we traveled?
Ah, the pets. I haven’t mentioned them yet, but we have five to be exact. Three dogs and two cats: a one-year-old white German shepherd, a two-year old border collie mix, a three-year old “teddy bear” (Shih Tzu x Bichon Frise cross), and two three-year-old cats (one calico and one gray/white). I will eventually write the story on how/why we ended up with so many pets, but the fact was, we had them all, and they were all members of the family. Neither of us believes in giving pets away once they are obtained, and this isn’t something we would have even been interested in doing. We also didn’t want to leave them behind for long periods of time, while we traveled and explored without them. Furthermore, who did we know who would want to babysit five animals anyway, and would they take as good care of them as I do? After all, I am basically the crazy pet lady, and they are like my five little furry kids. The idea of taking five pets on a road trip in a little van-house seemed a bit too intense, although I did consider it for awhile (did I mention I’m kinda crazy?). However, Brendan was firmly against the van idea (rightfully so), deciding it wasn’t enough space for us and all the pets…So, we were back to the drawing board.
At this point, it was around February/March 2016, and I was knee-deep in the middle of my last semester of college. Eighteen credits of senior-level classes while working fulltime had me really stressed, and I began to worry about what I was going to do after graduation. While never having completely decided on a job direction or career path (I went through so many majors and ideas), the one thing I was sure of was that I wanted to travel. Brendan suggested taking a three-to-four-week road trip following my graduation, and I fell in love with this idea. Initially, we thought about renting a camper-van (there’s that van idea again), but after seeing the price at most rental companies at $500+ per night (!!!), we began to look at a cross-country trip via train instead.
Amtrak has this really great deal where you can take any eight train trips over the course of two weeks, which only costs about $350 per person, and we began to plan this trip to celebrate my finishing college. However, this idea was also tossed out when Brendan found out that he could only get ten consecutive days off of work. While ten days is certainly long enough for a vacation, it isn’t long enough to go clear across the US and back, especially in a train, which, with all the stops and the roundabout routes, tends to travel much slower than a car. We so badly wanted to see the West Coast, and I especially wanted to travel to California, as I was born there, but hadn’t been back since I was thirteen months old. After planning and cancelling this road trip twice, I suddenly had an epiphany. What if we put the idea of fulltime US travel back on the table, but this time in an RV that’s large enough to comfortably accommodate us all our pets?
With the fulltime travelling idea back in play, I began rigorously researching “fulltime RV travel.” This was when I came across Jason and Nikki Wynn, and their very informative brand “Gone with the Wynns.” I read many of their blog posts and watched many of their YouTube videos. I was completely amazed by their way of life and the fact that they were able to bring all the comforts of home with them everywhere they went. Since Brendan and I consider ourselves major “homebodies” (lovers of home), we especially loved the idea of being able to still have a house of sorts, even while fulltime travelling. I also admired the Wynns’ carefree spirits and that they had the freedom to, seemingly, wake up and do whatever they wanted to do with their day, be it hiking, visiting a national park, or exploring a new city. Brendan and I saw them as an inspiration on our road to fulltime RV travel, but we still weren’t sure exactly how we could make everything work financially.
I mentioned that Brendan had worked for several years as a freelance graphic designer, web designer, and marketing consultant, but the bulk of our income, at that point, came from our fulltime, 9-5 jobs, Brendan’s as a marketing director and mine as a substitute teacher. Being the entrepreneur of the family, Brendan had always planned to eventually go fulltime with his own company, but this idea was still very new to me. Yet, my still-new knowledge from reading the 4HWW, left me with a great desire to start my own company, and this is how MugsySupplyHouse was born. I will delve deeper into MugsySupplyHouse in a later blog post, but, basically, Mugsy is a drinkware company that offers custom mugs printed with cute cartoon versions of various dog and cat breeds. Right now, we are on Etsy solely, but we are always working to expand and grow our brand. Between March 2016, when Mugsy began, and now, we have seen great success, and this has been a big push on our journey towards fulltime travel. In conjunction with my launch of MugsySupplyHouse, Brendan also founded a web design agency, Quarry Design Group, in May 2016. While, at that time, neither of our businesses was fully self-sustaining, we now knew we had laid the foundation we needed to travel and work at the same time, and we were ready to purchase our RV and commit to this life of fulltime travel.
But why now? Why not travel after we retire, like everyone else? Why not put in our 40 years of hard work, and then enjoy ourselves? Furthermore, why not wait until our businesses were more established, rather than adding the risk of growing them on the road? Why not wait until we had a larger savings account? Didn’t we want kids? A house and a yard? To even begin to try to answer all of these questions in their entirety would constitute several blog posts on its own. However, a simpler answer would be that one of our fundamental core values is that life is today.
So many people miss this very simple truth. Today is day X of the 28470 in your life. (on average) That's a finite number. Just because we go to sleep each night and wake up in a new day doesn't mean that's guaranteed. Every day is a new opportunity to create the life that you want. Don't put off your happiness until X happens. Don't put off your dreams until you reach X. Start working towards the life that you want today, even if it is in the smallest possible capacity. Regardless of your situation or circumstances, choose to live the life that you want. The reality is that our circumstances will likely never reach that "perfect" place. Everytime that we overcome one obstacle in the path to happiness, we'll find another to quickly take it's place. Ernest Hemingway said: "It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end." Life happens in the journey, not the destination. Stop putting things off. Do the research for that product idea that you've always had today. Take the first steps for that invention that you've always wanted to create today. Book a flight to that country that you've always wanted to see today. Call that friend or family member that you haven't spoken to in years today. Start training for that marathon that you've always wanted to run today. Take the first step towards launching that business that you've always wanted to pursue today. Go register for that class that you've always wanted to take today. Do it now, not later. Whatever the ideal life looks like to you, choose to begin living it right now. Put your phone down and START. Today is passing you by and you will never get it back.
We believe, very strongly, that it is better to deliberately structure your life to achieve your desires and goals, rather than waiting for the “right time.” This is best summed up in one of my favorite Tim Ferriss quotes:
“For all the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align, and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn’t conspire against you, but it doesn’t go out of its way to line up all the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. “Some day” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it’s important to you, and you want to do it “eventually,” just do it, and correct course along the way.” (4HWW: Ferriss, 33)
This quote captures our belief that life is what you make it, and we could easily spend our entire lives waiting for the “perfect moment” that may never fully arrive. A friend of ours summed this up best for us about a month before we left when she said, “It’s so cool that you guys are actually doing this. So many people only talk about their plans, but you guys are actually following through.” Yes, we do plan to buy another house in the future (maybe somewhere warmer?) and have kids, but we believe that traveling while still young is, for us, the best way to go.
Continuing the story from when we decided to purchase an RV, we thoroughly researched the right type of RV for our needs throughout the rest of May and June, while expanding our businesses. We looked into getting a fifth wheel, as we loved their spacious and homey feel, but ultimately decided on a Class A motorhome because of the added comforts while driving, such as the bathroom, the kitchen, and the bed (hehe – sometimes I nap while Brendan is driving). Finally, on July 1, 2016, we purchased Phileas, our trusty 2007 Fleetwood Bounder 35E. This was a huge decision for us, and, prior to purchasing Phileas, we had hardly told any of our friends or family about our plan (we’re kind of like that). Now came the part where we had to tell everyone that we were leaving our home that we had purchased only a year prior to travel for an indefinite period of time. The news was generally well-received, and we set our initial departure date as November 1st.
I wish I could say it was all smooth sailing from there, but there were still many more months of hard work to come before our journey would officially begin. During this time period, we fully renovated and updated Phileas’s interior, while also adding many modification and upgrades that would help us while boondocking and travelling in general (there will be several blog posts about this to come). We also purchased a 1992 Jeep Cherokee XJ Briarwood (Wendy), which Brendan completely restored with his dad.
But there you have it, the full story of the how and the why we decided to begin our journey. It was almost exactly a year in total from December 2015, when I first stumbled upon the idea, until December 2016 when we actually left for our trip. Currently, we have been on the road for one full month and are greatly enjoying our stay in the lovely state of California (we officially made it here on 12/24/16!). We are very excited to see where our journey takes us, and we are thrilled to be able to take you with us.