Hints of spring are in the air in Greenville, South Carolina after what has been a rough winter for just about everyone in the country. Trees are budding and bright sunny days aren’t paired with frigid temperatures, making it possible to open up the windows and let fresh air into our humble abode. We are itching to explore, if not in our travel trailer, at least by car to discover more trails to hike, roads to bike, and outdoor venues to enjoy music, food and drink.
Since being on the road we have winterized the trailer, found a place to live, and gone back to work. To be honest, I have not been motivated to write for quite some time. However, this weekend marks six months since leaving our travel trailer and it seems an appropriate amount of time to reflect on how our lives have changed with this move. There are plenty of things we missed while we were on the road, and conversely things we have missed since being off the road.
The joys of stationary life
While traveling around the country has some amazing perks, there are just some things I could never get used to, and it made me thankful for a lot of the things I took for granted beforehand.
Space to move around (and privacy)
We knew adjusting to a roughly 200 square foot space from our 3 bed, 2 bath house would be challenging. Having cabinets over our bed and right next to the bed meant many smacked heads, bumped knee, and other awkward or painful situations. Sidling around the bed to get out or having to climb up in to the bed was also trying. However, knowing there was an end in sight made it more bearable during the rough times and it was a compromise worth making for the opportunity afforded us.
We are now in an apartment around 1200 square feet with 18-foot ceilings, which is a dramatic change. Having space above and around our bed is dreamy, and being on the 4th floor means we can also open our windows and still have some semblance of privacy. We are looking forward to having a house again to call our own, but are grateful to be where we are, with room to move around freely, and definitely do not take it for granted.
In the travel trailer, we frequently had little to no privacy without pulling all the blinds, which was sometimes a pain. I love letting in the light, but also love not feeling watched, so it was a tough balance. And I love to exercise, so having to do my HIT, yoga, and strength training outside in public was a humbling and sometimes humiliating experience that I never really got used to. I am so ecstatic to have a room to exercise in our apartment, have access to all my weights, and the luxury of not having to worry about the weather if I want to burn some calories.
One frequent question people asked during and after our travels was “are you working from the road?” The answer was no, and one of the biggest reasons why was because of internet access. Despite all of the gadgets, phone plans, and efforts to research internet reliability in the campgrounds we stayed before booking, internet was always spotty, at best. That made the idea of working from the road impossible for our professions, because we could never guarantee we could be online when it was necessary. In the end, this was fortunate for us, as we then fully immersed ourselves in our travels without the distraction and encumbrance of work. However, I am so, so happy to have reliable internet service now. 😃
More refrigerator space
Although I prided myself in my abilities to Tetris all of our groceries into our tiny refrigerator and pantry after each shopping trip, it is such a luxury to have both a full-sized refrigerator and freezer. Our tiny freezer forced us to change some of our eating habits (less frozen meals or snacks), but also was quite unreliable. It would frost and decrease the available space despite two defrosting sessions, and would curiously freeze in one section yet not the one right next to it. So, we never knew if our water would actually form ice cubes, or if what we intended to stay frozen (like ice cream) would stay that way. Ah the luxuries of modern living.
Having an expanded wardrobe
Being on the road with limited cabinet space meant cutting the wardrobe down A LOT! I did try to get rid of clothing before we left, and put the rest in vacuum packed bags, but was nervous how they would keep in storage and whether I would still be excited to see those clothes 14 months later. And yes, for the most part, I was pretty happy to see the rest of my wardrobe. 😂
Wearing the same things more frequently and sharing public washers that were often not in great shape meant our clothes were pretty shabby by the time our trip was done. I didn’t want to look at most of those clothes for a long time and did in fact throw quite a few clothes out, because they were rather disgusting and tattered. I don’t throw out clothes that much, but this felt like a necessary exception. However, I have not expanded my wardrobe much since our arrival, aside from two outfits for job interviews, so I have retained a more frugal lifestyle.
A house on wheels has some drawbacks
One of the biggest drawbacks to traveling in a house on wheels is that you never have a solid foundation. This is fine in most situations, except when there is bad weather. Having dealt with tornado watches and high winds, the precarious nature of our housing situation caused many sleepless nights when the trailer was rocking and I wasn’t sure how bad it was going to get. If not that, other weather events like snow weighting down our rooftop, cold snaps that could potentially freeze our plumbing, excess heat maxing out the capacity of our AC or thunderstorms accompanied by lightning and massive rainfall (and thus some water leaks) brought their own set of challenges.
Furthermore, because we rented out our house back in Portland, we didn’t have a back up plan if something were to happen to our rig. So, every moving day was stressful for us. Would this be the day we get into a bad accident? Would something break on the journey that could strand us or cause other catastrophic damage? I think if we had a place to come back to, moving days would not have been such nail biters. Lesson learned!
Now that we have a solid foundation, weather events are more fun to observe from our living room, or to hear pattering down on our rooftop. It can even be relaxing listening to a big storm roll through, lulling me to sleep at night. What a difference! Plus, now that we have permanent plumbing again, we no longer have the onerous tasks of dumping tanks and worrying about our water supply. Having run out of water in the middle of a shower, or having the gray tank overflow in the middle of a shower is NO FUN! I’m so glad I don’t have to deal with that anymore. 😃
Longing for the road
While there are some sacrifices you have to make in comfort when traveling, going back to “normal life” can leave one thinking that those sacrifices aren’t so bad after all. There is so much to see and do, and people to meet, that at times I long for those experiences again.
Discovering the natural world
Almost immediately after we moved into the travel trailer near Mt. Hood, I was enamored by the trail systems nearby, and concurrently Matt introduced me to my new favorite app: seek, which identifies just about every kind of natural life you can find. It slowed me down a bit in my hiking excursions, but opened up a whole new way of learning about my surroundings. I looked at plants, fungi, insects and other wildlife like I never had before. It was a fascinating experience for me and made every move around the country an exciting endeavor to discover more species.
Getting out in nature has always been important to Matt and I, so being able to hike, walk, and bike around so many different geographical areas was such a treat. I came to appreciate both how similar these environments were while also cherishing the unique features each place had to offer. Not getting to regularly explore such a broad spectrum of places is definitely something we miss, but I hope I never get over my awe and wonder of the the natural spaces nearby.
New, and yet the same
In addition to our love of nature, seeing the melange of architecture, cuisine, personal style, and listening to variations in music, accents and expressions made life interesting. Matt and I share a curiosity and admiration for the creativity, history, and cultural influences that make our country so unique from place to place. We are so different in our experiences, yet similar in our human nature to socialize, help each other, and want to share with others what makes us happy. The exchange of culture, cuisine, and history is often joyful and enriching.
One aspect of travel that surprised us the most was how similar many of the places were, lending a sense of familiarity. For better or for worse, chains or franchises have homogenized our nation, which has its positives (grocery store chains with our favorite products), but also takes away some of the character. By and large, we found that people were friendly and inviting wherever we went, smaller communities especially. There was a pride in regional history and traditions carried through the ages, and an enthusiasm for sharing with us “out of towners.”
We did love the differences that make each part of the country special in its own right. The Pacific Northwest has awe-inspiring mountain ranges, and endless variety in flora and fauna that caters to its farm-to-table restaurant scene, and weather suitable for world-class wine and beer. California is generally a sunnier version of the Pacific Northwest, with a laid back nature the farther north and east you went, and a frenzied lifestyle as you neared any large, coastal cities. The Southwest is expansive (I include West Texas here), with gorgeous open landscapes, including incredibly diverse and curious desert life that thrives despite the harsh conditions.
The midwest reflects changes from the west, with less public land, despite more wide open, windswept plains, and a generally quieter setting compared to the coasts. The South has friendly, welcoming folks, plenty of BBQ, and other decadent foods to enjoy. And the northeast is more compact, with more seafood offerings, and slightly more aloof folks, though there were certainly exceptions. As you travel around the Great Lakes, we found plenty of sleepy little towns with charm and stunning sunsets on what looked like seemingly endless waters. If you have an open mind when you travel, you can find the beauty and joy each region has to offer.
Chasing the sun
When the weather is bad, you can always move…well, within reason. You’re not always going to have great weather, but you can change plans, or head toward the sunnier regions of the country like so many snowbirds do in the wintertime. We loved following the spring up the eastern seaboard and enjoyed great weather for most of our trip. It is an amazing perk to traveling around the country.
Now that we are tied to a single place, we have to settle into the weather patterns, and that means “surviving” the darker, colder days of winter and the hotter, more humid summers. Winter has always been tough on morale, but having a consistent place to exercise helps see me through it. The excitement of knowing there are warm, sunny days ahead motivates me to keep going despite the cold, dreary days remaining until spring is here in earnest.
Meeting amazing people across the country (to visit again later)
I was surprised at how many wonderful people we met on our journey, and so quickly! Our first longer stay outside of Oregon was up near Glacier National Park in Montana, where we met an amazing family, and have continued to stay in touch with to this day. Our next longer stay in Wyoming meant another friendship with a couple from Colorado dealing with their own unexpected adventure. Later in our journey we met a group of folks in North Carolina on our last night in town that kept us laughing at their antics and were absolutely delightful. And finally, we had a chance encounter with another couple in Savannah on three different occasions, that led to a reunion when we traveled near Portland, Maine.
If it wasn’t making new friends, we had time to visit with old friends and family along the way, which punctuated our journey with happy gatherings, hugs, laughs, and smiles, usually over a drink or a nice meal. And if we weren’t able to see folks along the way, we were able to share our story with others and in turn reconnect virtually with the exchange of stories. Finally, friends of friends were connected, and shared with us their experiences living in the places we were visiting. I am thankful both to those people that shared contacts with us, and to those folks that were willing to meet us based on a brief introduction from mutual friends.
We have made long-term connections in North and South Carolina through these encounters as well, and are glad to have met so many open-minded people, willing to invite us in and feel welcome. This is not to say we haven’t met great people since moving to Greenville. We have! One great aspect to living in a large complex is there have been many social events, and we have made several new friends. Overall, I am grateful to have wonderful people in my life spread across the US that I can visit and vice versa.
Finally, one of the obvious perks we enjoyed on the road was not working. We knew this could only be temporary as we would eventually need to make money again; but boy was it nice to take a break. We really enjoyed our surroundings, getting to know the areas we were visiting and not being bogged down with a 9-5 with unpredictable internet access that created more stress and more obstacles to reaching our goal: finding a new place to live.
Now that we are both fully ensconced in the day-to-day grind of our jobs, it does make me long for the road, our more carefree explorations, and not having to worry about deadlines. Yes, it’s nice to have an income again and not worry as much about money, but there are certainly plusses to taking a break as well. Ah, if only we could afford not to work. 😉 In the end, we feel so fortunate to have had this time to take a break and really enjoy our travels while we were young and able enough to handle the rigors of this kind of lifestyle. It truly was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and we have no regrets.
6 thoughts on “Six Months in Reflection”
Was thinking of you this as we were booking a trip back to Swannanoa. Glad you guys adapting well to “n
I hope you all have a fun time! We hope to get the trailer back out in June this year. No more big travels plans for a while, but some local travels should be just as fun.
Ken and I were wondering during where you were and or.landed! I’m happy to see the update.
heard Greenville is nice I have had a few friends move ro the Carolinas in the last year. so tell me more where did you all land for jobs and do you love them? our house in colorado is up for sale yes not the best time however ready to rid if the house that neither one of us love.
Ken is still driving truck and I ha e picked up a few jobs here and there but can’t do the corporate bs long anymore.
qe finally sold the dodge truck after two engines and bought a 2018 from a friend that is going to to camp for the next few years in Europe. they finished the travels in the US and ready for the next thing so sold their trucks and camper.
love and miss you too ao glad you connected to us again.
congratulations on your decsion
hugs Tracey and ken your colorado parents lol!
Matt is working remotely again and I’m working for a big corporation, but I hear you on the corporate bs…we shall see how long I can last. LOL. Best of luck with the sale of your house and your future travels. I hope your travels create great moments to remember. I loved sitting around the campfire with you two, looking up at the stars out over the badlands in Wyoming and enjoying the solitude.
We’re so happy to have met you as well! We’re making plans to head your direction next fall. We should try to camp together again!
That sounds like fun. Let me know what time frame so we can try to book something. 🙂