When we conjured up the idea of living in a vintage trailer for a year while we traveled the continental United States, we admittedly weren’t thinking—we were dreaming. We were imagining mountains and beaches and switchbacks and lawn chairs and hot dogs roasting on an open fire. Reality has a way of catching up with you.
Life on the open road is a lot more driving than we ever imagined. America looks good behind a dashboard, but for all the roadside attractions and oddities — like an old Olympic ski jump in the middle of New Hampshire — it never replaces the feeling of wanting to take in everything the old-fashioned way: on foot.
Instead, we spend too much time on the internet, sleuthing for the next potential camp site. Long hours spent putting up the awning, taking down the awning, hooking up the holding tank, lighting the pilot light on the hot water heater and finding a coffee shop to work in for the afternoon. It’s often much more mundane than we’d prefer to admit.
Neither Carson, my fiancee of just five months, nor myself thought of this when we labored over what color to paint the cabinets or which hiking boots to buy. We focused instead on all we’d gain while wandering in the great outdoors. We are now 8 months into our yearlong road trip, and what I can say is that while this lifestyle isn’t anything quite like I imagined, it’s taught me a lot about us.
We’re not morning people. As much as we love to say we’ve caught every sunrise off the Santa Rita Mountains or Gulf Coast (yes, on the Southern shores of Alabama, you watch both the sunrise and sunset off the water), we’ve been more apt to gawk at the sunsets on Lake Umbagog.
We were always runners. Our boundlessly energetic goldendoodle cruising through the neighborhood with me in the morning, and again with Carson at night. Since we’ve been on the road, we’ve traded our running shoes for hiking boots, opting instead to hit the trails rather than pound the pavement.
We’re in awe of just how much nature there is left to explore in every forest, beach, valley, precipice, notch, lake, canyon, scenic overlook and mountaintop we climb. For all the talk in America about needing to preserve our country’s wild and wonderful regions — and there is still a great need, make no mistake — we often forget just how many opportunities we truly have to touch and feel and interact with nature in every corner of the country. We just have to push ourselves to do it.
We still hate hitching up to leave. The last few hours at a campsite, when we’re slowly packing away the coffee maker and stuffing the camp chairs back into their too-small containers, are the worst. A week in each state is definitely not enough time to feel you know enough about a place to give it a five star review on Trip Advisor. But it is just enough time to feel like you were home. Until that home moves 250 miles in the opposite direction, starting all over again.