Every journey has a beginning, but it’s actually rather hard to pinpoint exactly where ours started. I could give the date we moved into our not-quite-finished camper, or the date we purchased it from a very nice man named Joe, memorialized in the picture above. I could say right about when we started seriously considering the crazy idea of leaving the life in Virginia we’d spent almost a decade building to live on wheels and explore the country. I could tell you the month I found out my job could potentially come to an end, and I started seriously considering whether or not I wanted to continue on the path I was on. I could describe the endless conversations we had about all the places we wanted to see, and the depressing realization that 2 or 3 weeks of vacation a year wasn’t going to get us very far down that list very quickly.
The most truthful answer, however, is that the birthplace of this adventure of ours really started decades before that. Rebecca was raised in an Air Force family that moved regularly — and not just up and down the East Coast. Born in southern California, she grew in up California, Florida, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and even overseas in Turkey. When her dad was away, her mom would bundle the kids in the car and take off on road trips. Rebecca simply has travelling and exploring in her blood. When I met her, she wanted to be an intrepid international journalist, embedded in exotic locations and seeing the world.
I grew up with the opposite scenario. While I had an awesome childhood, and endless adventures mostly in and around New Jersey, we really didn’t do too much travelling. The places I remember visiting are the Outer Banks (which 20 years later became one of mine and Rebecca’s favorite getaways), Plymouth, Massachusetts (where, I would find out years later, we were only miles from Rebecca’s grandmother’s Cape Cod house), Niagara Falls, and Louisiana to visit my grandparents. In high school, I got to spread my wings a bit, going on missions trips to Kentucky, and then later to Mexico on two occasions, and with the Boy Scouts I explored the back woods of northern Maine, canoeing a total of about 100 miles over the course of 2 weeks. Those trips to this day are some of the best weeks of my life.
But then: Enter college …a time of working nearly full-time while going to school part or full-time, plus a year (in Rebecca’s case, two) of leaving school, moving home, and working to save money to go back to school. One top of that, we met and began dating my freshman year, meaning we maintained a long-distance relationship for two and a half years, which I can promise you is no small time drain. All that to say — we didn’t really do much travelling at all in those 6 years. I managed to go to Europe for a week with a nonprofit I worked with in college, largely because they paid for my airfare, and some very generous family members sponsored me to go. That trip really sparked a desire for more international travel in me — it was my first time overseas, and I had a tremendous 8 days bouncing around Copenhagen and Berlin.
We finally graduated, but like most kids our age, graduated with a ton of school debt into a tough economy. We had planned to take off 4 weeks after graduation and go on an extended road trip (the trip we finally took this year), but the loans came due as soon as we graduated — and we went straight to work the Monday after commencement.
We got out of town as often as possible, driving up to see Rebecca’s family in New Hampshire, or down to see mine in Louisiana. We visited my friends in New Jersey here and there, and began visiting the Outer Banks in the summers. We even managed to go on an eight-day Caribbean cruise one year, which was awesome!
However, we were constantly running into two obstacles to expanding our travels — time and money. As employees, we had limited time off, which largely ended up being used at the holidays to see family.
The bigger issue was that we had decided soon after graduation that we didn’t want to be paying off college till we retired, so we spent the next few years living on one income, and using the other to pay down our debts as soon as possible. This was a great decision, and we’re glad we made it, but it also meant our travel budget was pretty lean, and we definitely didn’t have the option of taking unpaid leave to travel.
SO … fast forward a few years. We both have careers that are doing well; Rebecca is working for herself from home, I have a job that includes some travel, and we’d finally retired our debt and were now banking that second income instead! Much less bleak, to be sure. We were able to get out more, see more, take weekend trips, and get away when we felt like it. Last summer, I took Rebecca to Maine for a week-long camping trip in Bar Harbor, and in December, we spent 5 absolutely magical days in Quebec City right before Christmas.
However, we were surprised to find that we still felt stifled in our travels — stuck mostly travelling up and down the East Coast, as we had been for years. Which got us to a point where we started thinking about new life plans! But you’ll have to come back for that story!