Chronic health conditions or a serious illness are a big reason why many aspiring full-timers don’t hit the road—and who can blame them? But while there’s no doubt that managing health care needs (and going full-time with an Illness on the road) can be challenging, Christina Harris is proof that full-timing with illness doesn’t have to end your dream.
Their full-timing adventure, interrupted
Christina was 38-years old when she and her partner Jena, 41, hit the road in their Lazy Daze motorhome in search of adventure. As a remote worker for an Internet-based company, Christina knew she could make a living anywhere.
Jena opted for short-term work in carpentry and state park volunteering. Together the possibilities were endless for these Floridians, but after two years of meandering around the U.S., their lives turned upside down when they were staying in Key West. That’s when an ear infection sent Christina to the doctor and put the ball in motion for a course of life-changing events.
“I decided that I’d go to the VA to have it looked at when we got back to Gainesville, FL,” says the former Navy personnel member. “Gainesville is our home base and we were headed there to volunteer at the Paynes Prairie State Park,” she says.
“I’d just turned 40 and thought it was a good idea to get all my checkups done at the same time. So when they treated my ear infection, they also set up all the annual exams—including my first mammogram. That’s when they found the cancer.”
At that point, most people would have ditched their RV for the comfort and security of a conventional life. However, Christina and Jena aren’t most people. Instead of fleeing full-timing, they chose to look for ways they could continue living the lifestyle they loved while coping with whatever was ahead.
The challenges (and bonuses) of full-timing with an illness
“I knew it would be a temporary break from traveling, but that it wouldn’t keep us from doing it,” Christina recalls. With less than two months between receiving the bad news and undergoing a double mastectomy, the duo scrambled to adjust.
Since their RV wouldn’t provide the required comfort after the major procedure, a program sponsored by the American Cancer Society allowed them to stay in an Extended Suites Hotel. She’s now healed, but her condition requires follow-up appointments every six months. The VA will allow her to receive care anywhere in the U.S. but she wants to stay near her original oncologist.
Full-timing with an illness has some surprising bonuses. The ability to move around to accommodate her doctor’s appointments and rehab therapy has been helpful for the couple. Currently, they’re renting a house so Christina can attend physical therapy in a convenient location. In the fall, they’ll move back into the RV and volunteer at some beach-side paradise in Florida.
“Once we hit the four or five-year mark with no issues, we’ll expand our travels again to the west or even internationally,” says Christina.
Now that time has gifted her with some perspective on all that she’s overcome, the popular RV blogger has thoughtful advice for anyone who wants to hit the road but fears full-timing with illness.
“If you want to get on the road, but you’re nervous with your medical condition, then look at your travels in shorter spurts,” says Christina. “Choose a radius from your home base and start exploring everything around that radius. This allows you to come back for checkups if you need to and it builds up your confidence to be on the road with your medical condition.”
The road ahead is as exciting as ever for Christina and Jena and it continues offering lessons about adjusting to life’s most challenging situations.
“The thing about being full-time RVers is more about a mindset shift,” says Christina. “We no longer think in terms of being in one place for the rest of our lives. We know that we’ll continue to travel and explore no matter what. It just might have some stationary points as well.”
Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.