Friday night was the first time that we were forced to make a split decision due to weather.
We had been in Asheville for the month of October. We have some fluid plans with two sets of friends in the Atlanta region but our next firm date isn’t until later in November with a giant mouse and some other questionable characters down in Orlando.
We’d been deliberating about staying longer in Asheville because we’d really been enjoying it and we’re considering it as a future home base. There’s so much more that we wanted to do there… so many more places I wanted to ride. You’d think that a month would be enough, but it wasn’t.
You could say that, after a month, we’d “settled in” a bit.
The forecast turned for the worst and Asheville was expecting several inches or more of snow.
What does that look like for a DPW in North Carolina? Not good we wagered and we’d heard that the city will shut down with a few inches of snow.
Where we’re from a few inches is just an appetizer but… did we really want to be driving a rear wheel drive 15 passenger van in a southern city shut down by snow? Or worse did we want to hunker down in our 240 square feet with the kids for several days?
Long story short, we had to get out of there.
We weren’t sure where we were going to go next and we didn’t have anything booked before Florida. We planned to go to Charleston, a little place called FATZ trail system north of Augusta, Bull Mountain in Chattahoochee and Atlanta are on our list for various reasons but other than that we’re flexible.
It took a few calls to find a place with an opening. There was nothing available in Augusta that we were amenable to and with a few more calls we had reservations in Charleston.
If you’re going to be on the road full-time you’ve got to be flexible… but shouldn’t you be regardless?
Our Ideas Are Evolving
If we can do this what else can we do?
What else should we do?
What else would we want to do?
I met a fellow cyclist at the Bent Creek parking lot named Andrew. Six months ago he quit his job.
He recently flew, by himself, to Calgary. He rode his bike from the Calgary airport to Banff in Alberta. Then he rode his bike down the continental divide to New Mexico over six weeks with two other guys he had just met on the ride his very first day.
Now he’s traveling full time.
He always wanted to do that ride… When was a boss going to give him 6 weeks off to do that?
The program we’re supposed to run goes… Get a safe job, earn, borrow, spend, invest a bit through a 401k, repeat…
Well until we can earn enough to borrow enough to get bigger better stuff of course.
Then one day when you’ve done 20 or 30 or 40 years of that and you didn’t eat shit in the stock market and real estate has done just what its supposed to then, oh yes then, you can do what you want.
Then you’ll be living.
I’m not advocating that everyone quit their jobs and drive around. Not at all. Its not what I’ve done.
I am however suggesting that the idea that if you follow that program and hope that someday all the stars are going to align and someday you’re going to finally do the things you want to do… it’s bullshit.
How many people do you know of who are at or near retirement age today who did that and have the money AND the health that they’d hoped for and now they’re finally going to live the dream?
They are few and far between.
The entire program is rubbish.
I’m not saying don’t work hard and I’m not saying don’t save. We do both.
I’m just saying that if you’ve been waiting to really live, stop it.
Oh snap… I ranted again… sorry.
We’re Planning to Live Smaller So We Can Live Bigger
The other day Becky took the 3 kids and drove an hour away from camp and hiked for an hour and a half on her own. You know how many times she did that when we were back in our very deep groove (er, rut)?
I think being “light” and to keep it moving is the key and we’re talking a lot about that.
We’re thinking about what we would need to do to stay nimble and still build a
What if we had a little place… or multiple little places in a couple of places… and we AirBnB’d them when we weren’t there?
I’m going to go ahead and proclaim that the traditional idea of success where you acquire ever larger places to store your stuff is bankrupt. I have no interest in it.
This isn’t to say that we don’t want money or security; we most definitely do. (If you’re a listener I know you know that’s true).
I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with setting roots or feathering your nest or even doing so in a big way… if that’s truly where you’re finding your joy and that’s something that bring you real satisfaction.
Our plan going forward is to be more intentional about our lives and to optimize for what’s most fulfilling and important.
A bigger house and more stuff aint it.
We’ve been on the road for just over 2 months and 3,870 miles. If it takes 21 days to form a habit… then we’re deep into the road trip habit.
For the month of October we’ve been stationed in Asheville, NC. Asheville is a small mountain town in Western North Carolina.
We first visited Asheville a few years ago (when we had just 2 kids) after I saw it listed as one of the “top mountain towns to live in”. At the time I was hot to get out of New England (sorry y’all) and we had visited Colorado and North Carolina to look at our options.
The last time we visited we were here for a total of 4 or 5 days I think.
Knowing what I know now the idea that we’d be able to fully evaluate a place in just 4 or 5 days is just plain silly. We’ve been here nearly a month and we still have a million questions.
Asheville has a lot of what we’re looking for.
I love the mountains. I’m a big mountain biker. Its been my main thing going on 25 years. The Asheville area is renowned for superior trails.
The weather, despite what the southerners we’ve met think, is mild. Each morning starts off a bit cool and by the afternoon the weather is gorgeous. Everyone we’ve spoken with who lives here seems to say the same thing – “its not too cold in the winter, not too hot in the summer”.
The food is fantastic. We’re amazed at the volume and quality of the restaurants… we could be accused of being foodies. There’s also definitely a “food consciousness” if you know what I mean… local, organic, etc. These things are important to us.
Downtown is basically franchise free. Its fairly unique in this way. The result is that there’s a real thriving independent business community. There’s a big “local” focus and we love that.
Its easy to get around. We can get about anywhere in 5 or 10 minutes any time of the day. We’ve parked downtown within just a few minutes for just a few dollars even during the busiest times. Its a treat and a big change from what we’re used to.
There are a million things to do… all the time.
Its a bit touristy. I get that. Oh well, they come here and spend money.
If you ask our kids what their favorite place is so far they’ll tell you Charlottesville. I can’t blame them. I left there thinking “what else would we be looking for”?
What Asheville doesn’t have is a core of close friends an family. MA/NH has this. Austin has this.
It doesn’t have a thriving tech startup scene. I feel like if I was around one “the sky’s the limit” business wise.
Priorities I guess… Well, we’ve got a lot of miles ahead of us to process it all.
Reflections On Full Time Glamping After 2 Months on the Road
When its warm out the outside is your living area.
The fact that we’re in 230ish square feet isn’t that a big deal in warmer weather. We put the kids down for bed and head outside for a fire, a bottle of wine, some local cheese, pistachios for sure and whatever else we found on our adventures and we discuss the day the kids and what we’ll do the next day.
When its warm I’ll wake up and head outside with the dog and let him take care of business while I setup the coffee, bacon, etc on the outside burners, get everything going and then out come Becky and the kids.
It doesn’t work this way when its cold out and its definitely a bit chilly in the mountains first thing in the morning and at night.
Being shut in adds stress. In the morning it means we’re on top of each other trying to get ready. When you’re with all 3 kids all day every day you need some time to decompress at night. Its harder to do that when you’re shut in.
Disciplining children is more difficult. Where do you send them when they’re behavior is horrendous? What do you take away?
This is a whole other topic and we’ve come up with some solutions that we’ll write about in the future. Some have worked but we’re far from perfecting this.
The close quarters kiddie management is more than a post. Its a book. I don’t think we’re qualified to write it yet.
You can’t really know what you need until you’re actually doing it.
There are a number of things that we brought that we simply don’t need. We’ve let go of some of these things, in fact we made a pretty large salvation army donation all the way back in Pennsylvania.
The other challenge is with the things that we didn’t bring.
Its difficult because we only have so much space so we need to be careful about what we buy. Some of the things we’d like to have we know we stored or sold or gave away. So that’s a drag.
The challenge is that we don’t know what we’re going to need next as we head south (and west)… and so what we end up doing is simply going without.
I think we’re permanently changed.
Regardless of where we decide to set up a more permanent camp I can’t see not traveling regularly and I’m certain that we’ll be spending more time in Asheville.
Now that we’re light and mobile we want to stay that way. And, yes, I can speak for the both of us on this. The fact is that now that we have the equipment and we don’t have all that stuff… as long as I continue with the business like it is there’s no reason not to.
Time will tell.. my hope is that after we establish the next beachhead we feel the same way.
We’ve really settled into life on the road. It’s starting to feel pretty normal to us.
Driving days are still chaotic. I used to feel crazed getting the 3 kids dressed, fed, backpacks packed and stuffing them into the car to be on time for school. Now imagine having to secure all of your belongings (plant into the bathroom sink, bungey cords on the cabinet handles, all bikes into the van, grill broken down and put into it’s bag in the van etc etc) AND get the kids dressed, fed and into the van.
It’s like herding cats. We are getting better at it. Brecht and I start doing some of it the day before, but still it’s unavoidably chaotic.
Laundry on the road
Laundry is actually easier on the road. Campgrounds have multiple washers and dryers. On a day when we will be home for a few hours I throw all the laundry into the red wagon (side note: if you ever decide to travel with kids… bring the wagon. I could write a whole post about how useful it’s been).
Enzo usually rides with the laundry. We head down throw it all in and it’s all over and done with in about an hour and a half.
How we get mail
I know people wonder. We have a service for this. First, we changed as many things as we could to paperless statements back in August. We have an address that the rest gets forwarded to and it’s held until we request to have it sent to us. Campgrounds let you receive mail. We just request it when we are staying somewhere long enough to wait for it.
Toys we brought
We (I) purged a ton of stuff before we left. I did use craigslist a bit, but mostly I sold stuff through Facebook. Both a local mothers group I belonged to and a local tag sale group I joined where actually way more useful. I had SO much to get rid of when I started looking around. Baby stuff, stuff no one ever played with, stuff we had 2 (or even 3 or 4 of).
I knew what I could get rid of without the kids caring and the other stuff I talked to them about and made deals. For example, I bought them tons of books on the Kindle etc in exchange for letting things go.
For stuff that wasn’t worth much I just told people it would be on the porch and they could leave the money under the mat. I wasn’t ever ripped off. I found people from the fb groups were way less likely to stand me up but I still wasn’t going to rearrange my schedule for $5 or $10 items. It worked out well. From May-August (I wish I had an actual total) I definitely sold over $1500 worth of stuff from the porch. Even with all the purging we did store bins and bins (and bins) of toys.
Got sidetracked…sorry, back to toys on the road. I didn’t believe other people who said you need very few toys while traveling full time. In addition to all the electronic entertainment, we brought a big bin of legos, puzzles/games/art supplies, a bin of outside toys (foam rocket launcher, buckets, shovels etc), stuffed animals/dolls they have in their beds, Vince brought his tools and each of the kids was allowed to fill one small rubbermaid bin with toys.
As I’m writing that it sounds like a lot. At the time we packed it, I was worried that it wasn’t enough.
The kids seriously never play with any of it except the electronics. Okay not never, but hardly. We are either out and about or the kids play with rocks, sticks, rope and dirt. Even the legos which were played with non stop before we left have only been opened up 2 times in a month and a half. I’m glad we keep the bins of toys in the van because they ARE useful to me when I’m trying to entertain Enzo (21 months) on longer car rides.
Food on the road
The fridge is actually bigger than I imagined it would be. We do smaller trips to the store and we eat out a lot. We’re foodies. Local food is really important to us so getting to restaurants is a big part of checking out a town or city for us. We seek out the farm to table restaurants. I know Brecht already wrote about the local organic fried chicken. Amazing.
Eating out is most often stressful (yeah, stressful we’ll go with that word) with the 3 kids. Between picky eating and kids not wanting to sit still, Brecht and I often exchange glances over restaurant meals that silently scream, “what the hell are we doing here?”.
Sometimes we get really lucky and it works out. In Charlottesville, VA we accidentally timed Enzo’s nap just right. We were headed to a Albemarle cider brewery for live music and he fell asleep and transferred into his stroller! We sat outside on a beautiful day. The 2 big kids found friends to play with and Brecht and I sipped a flight of local ciders while enjoying a cheese plate and local music. We have lots of stories of days when it worked.
We’ve also stocked up on local pasture raised meat a couple of time. Once from a farm store in Copake NY and once from the Charlottesville (biggest one I’ve ever been to) VA farmers market. We’ve made some great meals both inside the Airstream and outside using the outside set up we bought.
I’m a bit crazy about what we eat. I literally loose sleep when one of the boys eats a hot dog that isn’t Applegate, or better. I must admit there have been days when we have eaten things I would seriously never have fed the kids at home. We’re doing our best with food on the road. Most days it works out fine.
We’re working out the kinks in some areas. Constantly changing locations is teaching all of us to be more flexible for sure. More on stuff like bedtime, school work and the places we’ve been another night.
Traveling full-time isn’t like you’re on vacation. You’re still living. At least we are. We’re not retired. We’re raising kids. Becky’s edumacatin’em. I’m making money. We haven’t set off into the sunset for piña coladas on a beach….in a thong.
Actually I’m totally wearing a thong most days. I’m wearing one right now.
A typical day starts with me exploding out of bed and into a thong. After that I prance with 3 poodles around the campground and then head off for some biscuits and gravy like I’m having a damn parade.
Most days we’ve got tasks we need to take care of.
- The kids need to learn some stuff
- I have some support issues, some marketing, some administrivia to deal with in the business
- Becky has to keep everybody fed and clothed and not unbearably dirty
And that all take a couple of hours. Sometimes my work takes more. After that we’re all about filling up the day with the best of what’s available in the place that we’re in. But we’re not on vacation. We’re living on the road.
So here are a couple of questions we get on a regular basis.
Aren’t You Cramped in That Small Space All the Time?
The truth is we’re rarely in here. We’re out most of the day. I mean how much time do you spend actually in your home and awake each day. For most of the people I know the answer is “not much”.
You have breakfast. You go to work. You come home. Eat. Watch a little TV or do something on the computer or iPad. Go to sleep. Repeat. Weekend.
Your week looks like something along these lines at least after you have kids. Throw in some sports, the ballet class, your yoga, maybe an afterwork cocktail every now and again and Bob’s your uncle.
Its no different we’re out all the time. The truth is that when we’re “home” we don’t have a mountain of shit to take care of. There’s not much cleaning. There’s nothing to mow. Its pretty simple.
We devote a lot of time to getting the most out of each location that we’re in. I think we’re able to do this because we’re not doing all that other crap you need to do when you’re building a huge nest (mowing, maintaining, painting, repairing, endless shopping).
Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely days when I would love to head to the sunroom and get into my leather recliner take out a book or the iPad and read something in my pajamas while I ignore my parental responsibilities and let Becky bear the brunt of it but the truth is I didn’t get too many of those before and it wasn’t all that productive when I did.
So yes, at times it is tight, but for the most part we’re out doing stuff.
How are you cooking and eating on the road full-time in that tiny kitchen?
Well, for one thing it is so much less expensive (yes less expensive!) traveling that we eat out quite a bit more. We’re picky we’re not eating at Popeye’s or Subway or anything like it. We’re seeking out the best places and yes it is still less money than living where we were.
For example: We landed in Charlottesville (LOVE it) and immediately googled “Charlottesvile VA best fried chicken“. We found the Whiskey Jar. We were in Charlottesville for 10 days, that place was so good we went back twice for dinner and I snuck off once for a cocktail (or 2).
We googled “best cheap eats Charlottesville” and found Ace Biscuit and BBQ, the place is friggin fantastic… “best pizza”, “charlottesville food trucks”, “best burger”…. all that.
Frankly, because we’re not saddled with a lot of the stuff and expenses that you are when you’re stationary and accumulating its pretty doable.
We do cook.
I’ll go in depth at some point with how that works. We invested in a pretty serious outdoor setup with 2 burners and a grillbox and griddle etc. We make coffee in a french press every morning (I drink a fraction of what I used to). We brought a crockpot. We’ll make chili or carnitas that we eat for days.
So that’s how we do it.
We also make a lot simpler meals at home. I could probably write quite a bit about this, even after only a little more than a month, but I’m going to reserve it for it’s own post.
What do you do at night?
Well… after the kids go to bed Becky is a huge fan of naked crits… and we will circle that damn camp sometimes for hours just hooting and hollering, drinking beer and raising hell.
If there’s frogs, we’ll gig’em. I aint proud.
I mean…. the kids go to bed as close to 8 as we can muster. We might have a few things we need to take care of to clean up after the day and then its like being at “home”… but we light WAY more fires.
We’ll sit by the fire and talk and drink some fine cider from a local orchard that we visited or wine from a local vineyard that we found at some cool place and we’ll ‘plan’ maybe 10-20% of the nights. The other nights if we’ve got a decent Internet connection we’ll try to write or do a little work.
Almost all the campgrounds have cable television which I haven’t had in more than….14 years? So we’ll gut sucked into some kind of weather channel reality TV show like “Naked and Afraid” which they seem to show bits and pieces of between ads for drug side effects and we’ll do that for an hour or so and then that’s it.
Mostly we fill our days and then plan or do other normal shit at night.
We get asked a bunch of questions
Here are some things I’m hearing more than once that I hope to cover in future posts.
- How are you working on the road?
- How are you handling the roadschooling?
- How’s the mileage and what’s the gas cost?
- What gear did you get?
- Why an Airstream and not a winnebago/something else?
- How do you deal with the poop?
- How are you handling the Internet?
- How long will you do this for?
- What did you do with all your stuff?
If you’ve got a question or you’re wondering something go ahead and ask. We’re an open book.
Here are some random photos from the last couple of weeks.