We wrote about this couple last year when they were starting out on a yearlong Odyssey with the goal of finding a place to settle down and pursue new occupations. What makes them unusual is that Jim, 41, and René, 38, didn’t wait for retirement to quit the rat race.
Having had their fill of 12-hour workdays, they sold their marketing communications and graphics business and bought a diesel pickup truck and 24-foot Arctic Fox fifth wheel. They started out last June from Eureka, traveled south to Arizona, north to Mount Rushmore, east to Maine, down to Florida and back west through the South.
We caught up with them at a hot springs resort in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, where they were working in exchange for a campsite. We wanted to know what they had learned so far on their trip
They have discovered that RVing is fun and the country is big. “We planned to see the U.S., and we found out you can’t do it in a year,” said Jim. They have learned how convenient it is to tour the country in a travel trailer and how relieved it feels to be without the burden of a mortgage and the upkeep of a house. “We cleaned the rig today in 15 minutes,” said René.
So the couple plans to keep traveling at least until the summer of 2009.
They haven’t yet achieved their goal of finding a place to live permanently, but they’ve found some places they like, such as Burlington, Vermont, and the hill country of Texas. They are going to be in Colorado this summer, working on a dude ranch. Based on earlier visits, Jim said, “We know we’re going to love Colorado.” René thinks they will probably wind up somewhere in the West, which is where she feels most at home, but she can’t narrow it down any further.
They haven’t found new occupations yet either. They worked at an organic farm in Florida and an animal rescue shelter in North Carolina. René learned that farming requires more of a commitment than she is willing to make, and both found that they aren’t the “special kind of people” it takes to do animal rescue work. A dog lover, Jim wound up helping to take care of 60 cats, an experience he has no interest in repeating.
The couple found jobs through Workamper News, an invaluable resource for RVers looking for part-time and temporary jobs.
Jim and René said one of the questions they are often asked is, “How can you afford to travel for a year? “ Rene said the answer is: “It’s a lot more affordable than people realize.”
The couple hasn’t spent as much as they budgeted, even though diesel gasoline has risen well above the $3.75 a gallon they allotted for it. Filling up their gas tank now can cost as much as $130. They have mostly avoided big cities and they haven’t had a desire to spend much on sightseeing attractions or entertainment. Jim has been able to do some graphic design consulting work while traveling and they have a couple of Web sites that generate a small amount of income.
One of their regrets when they set out on their journey was leaving friends behind. But they have filled some of that void by making new friends online. Jim and René have been documenting their experience at www.liveworkdream.com, and through their Web site have met a dozen other couples who are about their age and are also taking an extended break from ordinary life to travel in an RV.
Apparently this is be-coming more common than you might think. There is even a new Web site, www.nurvers.com, directed at younger RVers who want to share information and experiences.
When Jim and René started planning their extended trip, one of their inspirations was a book we have written about previously called Live Your Road Trip Dream, by Phil and Carol White.
The Whites, who live in Wilsonville, Oregon, were in their 50s when they retired, and decided to spend a year traveling across the country in a camper van. They were completely unfamiliar with RVing before they undertook their cross-country adventure, but they learned so much during their trip that they decided to write a book that is part journal and part how-to guide. Since its publication in 2004, the book has gone through three printings and was recently issued in an expanded and updated second edition.
Carol White said technology has changed so much in the past four years that they needed to update the book on things like Internet connections, and she also wanted to add a list of online resources. In addition, she said, so many people are taking “mid-life sabbaticals” that they thought they should include information on matters such as “road schooling” for children.
The Whites have become road trips gurus. They became spokespersons for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association and represented it at the mammoth AARP convention in Boston last year. The Whites also have developed a Web site with RV travel information, and are regularly sought out for their advice.
One of the nice things about RVing is the willingness of RVers to share expertise, whether it involves repairs to a motorhome or finding a good campground. And with the Internet, it is now very easy to tap into that knowledge. If you are thinking of taking a long break from everyday life to travel in an RV, you can find lots of useful information by checking out the Web sites of Phil and Carol White at www.roadtripdream.com and Jim Nelson and René Agredano at www.liveworkdream.com.
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