Why We Decided to Stop Traveling Full Time

925 days.

16,807 miles.

19 states.

96 different overnight site locations.

2 countries.

18 national parks.

 

Listing the stats of our full-time travel as above reminds us of how much we’ve experienced and how far we’ve traveled, though our last few months on the road have felt anything but adventurous.

When the seriousness of COVID was realized in March, we had just left Southern California where we had spent the winter. We were at a state park in Southern Nevada and had an amazing itinerary ahead of us: Some fantastic state parks in Southeastern Nevada; the Mighty 5 in Utah; Mesa Verde and Great Sand Dunes National Parks in Colorado; a brief stay in the Rapid City area for a doctor’s appointment; and then on to Minnesota and Wisconsin to spend time with family and celebrate holidays, a high school graduation, sporting events, and birthdays. We were then going to explore more of Wisconsin, the state we grew up in. We also had a large part of our winter mapped out, and we were finally going to hit the Southeast and East Coast: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, etc. We researched and planned and mapped and reserved sites the day they become available, anywhere from 6 to 13 months in advance. We woke up a handful of mornings before 5am in California to book sites that became available at 8am in Florida. We. Had. A. Plan.

And then it got blown up.

State parks started to close. Then national parks. Then counties and states started imposing non-resident travel restrictions and mandatory quarantine requirements. When a lot of our full-timing cohorts got off the road to shelter in place with family, we stayed out there. We didn’t really have anywhere to go, so we stayed as socially distant as possible and crossed our fingers that we wouldn’t receive a knock on the door, email, or phone call saying we needed to move on because our current location was closing. After three reservations in a row were cancelled, we finally found a private RV park in Torrey, Utah to settle in for a month while we regrouped and figured out our next move. The uncertainty was uncomfortable. We felt in our gut that COVID was sticking around for a while and questioned whether we wanted to continue traveling during a time when the best thing to do is stay home as much as possible.

And we decided we didn’t.

We didn’t want to keep traveling at this time for a handful of reasons, some of which became more apparent as the weeks and months went by:

  • Above all, we wanted to stay healthy. And we wanted those around us to stay healthy.
  • It just wasn’t that fun to be on the road during a pandemic. People always asked us how long we were going to live this lifestyle, and our reply was always we’d stop when we didn’t enjoy it anymore. We weren’t enjoying it much, mainly for the reasons listed below.
  • It’s too damn busy out there now. A number of people around the country have turned to RVing as their preferred way to travel this summer. It’s wonderful that families are finding new ways to vacation and spend time together, but the huge uptick in RV sales and rentals means there are a lot fewer places to stay. And crowds. Campgrounds that are usually nowhere near capacity are now booked with a line out the gate waiting to get a site. A lot of people are visiting national parks during their travels, many for their first time – and they’re trashing them. Vandalism, trash, avoidable run-ins with wildlife, and human excrement have now become common place.
  • In our experience, many people aren’t being as cautious as they should be. This makes us incredibly uncomfortable and reinforces the importance of finding a safe place where we can live comfortably and keep ourselves healthy. Wear a mask and distance yourself from others whenever possible!
  • We knew when we decided to live in an Airstream we were giving up space. However, we were perfectly fine with that knowing that in return, we’d be visiting beautiful places and having some pretty great experiences. Well, when there’s a pandemic and it’s best to stay home, that once quaint and cozy small space feels smaller.

So, friends, we bought a condo in Bozeman, Montana. We had spent time in Bozeman the last two summers and really enjoyed our visits. We’ve been fond of our travels through Montana in general, and in fact, Montana is the state we’ve spent the most time in outside of California (where we would spend the winter months).

Why Bozeman?

We love its location. Three national parks – Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Glacier – are all within a 5-6 hour drive. Bozeman is a very outdoors-oriented town, catering to hiking, fishing, mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding, and various other outdoor activities. Montana’s busiest airport is in Bozeman, which is important for when business trips become a thing again. While the cost of living is higher here than in other parts of the country, we find it affordable after living in San Diego County for seven years. When considering a place to settle down, we always wanted to make sure it was somewhere where we wouldn’t have to sell the Airstream due to budget constraints. Bozeman also has some great restaurants and breweries, and is incredibly dog friendly, if we ever decide to get another pupper. Also, Bozeman residents seem to be very active and welcoming. Have I mentioned that Bozeman is beautiful? From the cute downtown to the endless trails and green spaces to the mountains in all directions, the landscape really sold us.

What does this mean?

Well, it means we will no longer be living in an Airstream full time. Instead, we’ll be spending part of the year in our spacious-to-us 1100ft2 two bed, two bath condo with doors that offer privacy, a large fridge, a washer & dryer, and a king-size bed. We will definitely still travel in the Airstream as much as we can. In spite of the reasons we chose to stop full timing, we still love it and can’t imagine not traveling. There are so many places we want to visit and revisit, we’ll just do it more sporadically. In fact, we have plans for a 3-week trip to northern Washington soon, but are waiting out the heat and crowds before we embark. I think we’ll really enjoy having the luxury to decide when we travel and when we don’t.

 

How Living in an Airstream Prepared Us for a Pandemic

Things people sheltering in place due to COVID-19 might be saying:

  • I’m on day three of not washing my hair.
  • I don’t know the last time I wore pants that don’t have an elastic waistband.
  • I’m proud of myself – I brushed my teeth before noon today.
  • My neighbor has seen me wearing the same thing ??? days in a row.
  • Feeling fancy – I shaved today.
  • Bra? Who wears a bra?
  • When’s the last time we talked to someone face-to-face that doesn’t live under this roof?
  • Did I shower today?
  • What day is it?

Just add, ‘I’m about four months past due for my biannual haircut’ and this is what full-time RVers are saying on the daily. Welcome to our world!

It’s been interesting watching friends and family, and society in general, adapt to life during COVID-19. About a week after stay-at-home orders were issued, we started seeing social media posts from friends and family that made us chuckle. People were already “losing their minds” after being home with their loved ones for seven days. Seven. Days. In 1800sqft homes. With a yard. And a finished basement. And multiple bathrooms with doors that actually give them privacy. And a full-size kitchen refrigerator and a garage refrigerator and a basement refrigerator. And a washer and dryer.  With grocery delivery available. And numerous nearby eating establishments offering takeout and delivery service.

We chuckled.

Here’s the thing: We are on day 820 of living in ~200sqft. Short of a combined handful of weeks of business trips, we have spent 24 hours a day together, every day, during those 820 days. When we say we live, work, and travel full time in an Airstream, what we are really saying is we are ALWAYS TOGETHER. This togetherness has REALLY prepared us for all of the sheltering in place, social distancing, and stay-at-home orders on the planet. Here’s what else has:

  • Isolation – While we aren’t usually in complete isolation from other humans, we ARE usually in complete isolation from other humans we know and love. We’ve had friends and family visit us sporadically since we’ve been on the road, but for the most part, it’s just the two of us.
  • Working from Home – This is a super new concept to a lot of people, but Travis has been doing it since 2011 and Missy has been doing it since 2009. Owning a business that allows us to work from home is actually the main reason we were able to become full-time RVers. However, we do understand that working for ourselves as opposed to working for an employer is a completely different ball game from what most people are experiencing now.
  • Stocking Up – Sometimes we’re going to be traveling through areas devoid of a real grocery store or a Walmart, so we have to stock up on items we’ll need in the upcoming weeks and months, including frozen foods, dry goods, hand soap, dish soap, shower soap, mouthwash, paper towels, paper plates, and yes, the ever-so-popular toilet paper, disinfectant spray/wipes, disposable gloves, and hand sanitizer. RV-safe toilet paper can be hard to come by on the road, so when we find it, we stock up. Disinfectant spray/wipes are used to clean areas commonly touched by others, such as in RV park laundry rooms, laundromats, and the water, electric, and sewer hookups at sites. Disposable gloves are used when dealing with the sewer hose (and now gas pumps). Hand sanitizer is used after doing all the things at the laundromat, hookups, sewer hose, gas pumps, etc.
  • Eating at Home – We eat at home a lot. Much more than we would like. While we often find ourselves in beautiful locales, we don’t often find a lot of amazing food options. But when we do, we fully take advantage of them. Right now, though, we’re able to pack enough food into our limited cabinet space and 7 cubic foot fridge and freezer to last about three weeks. And we’re eating all three meals a day at home, seven days a week, without the benefit of having a dishwasher. I would give multiple rolls of toilet paper for a California burrito or an açaí bowl right now.
  • Working Out – Pre-road life, we were gym people. While we’ve been able to join gyms for short periods of times or get multiday free trials, depending on having a gym just isn’t feasible. We travel with Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Dumbbells and the BodyBoss 2.0 Portable Gym. These two things have the weight training aspect of working out covered. Travis runs and we both hike in order to get a good cardio workout in. Hikes have become more difficult with all of the park and trail closures, but there are still quite a bit available to us in our current location. The constant wind and cold temps are not helping our activity level, though!
  • Entertainment – Movie theatres, sporting events, concerts, or drinks out with friends aren’t usually available to us, so we aren’t missing them like many probably are right now. To entertain ourselves, we do the things that many people are finding themselves turning to now: Binge TV shows, read, do puzzles, play video games, do crossword puzzles, play board games, have campfires, go for walks — and most importantly, FaceTiming or Zooming with friends and fam. (And sometimes we even clean and organize.)

So, as you can see, social distancing and its side effects are nothing new to us. For the most part, our daily lives haven’t been impacted too greatly. We’ve had to readjust travel routes and cancel some reservations, both willingly and unwillingly, but we’re doing what we need to do in order to keep ourselves and those around us safe. When you live in an RV, you automatically live a simpler life. At a time like this, we’re very grateful for this lifestyle, as we seem to be experiencing less disappointment and monotony than others.

We know that this time has been difficult for many people in many ways, and this post is in no way meant do discredit the feelings people are feeling or the difficulties people are experiencing. We miss our families too. We worry about the effect all of the closures will have on the people we love and the communities we love. We’ve cycled through fear, anger, disbelief, annoyance, disappointment, and many, many other emotions. We do not take the seriousness of our country’s current situation lightly. But we do believe that it’s okay – needed, even – to smile and laugh and make lighthearted jokes and get through these weird times with a bit of humor.

Social Distancing at Sand Hollow State Park

We arrived at Sand Hollow State Park in Hurricane, Utah on March 16, 2020 and spent 12 days there. Sand Hollow was never on our itinerary, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we altered our route from two state parks in Nevada so that we could stay somewhere familiar and with full hookups (so we didn’t need to use the public showers). We spent two weeks at Sand Hollow during almost exactly the same time last year. You can read about that stay along with our review here.

Due to last minute reservations and extending our stay to longer than we had originally planned, we stayed in three different sites during our stay. All of the sites are full hookups, and many of them are pull-thrus, though the back-in sites are large and easy to maneuver into. The campground is comprised of one-way roads, so the pull-thrus on the right side of the road have the hookups on the roadside of the trailer, with your door opening to your ‘front yard’. The pull-thrus on the left side of the road have the hookups on the front yard side of the trailer, with your door opening to the road. Those sites aren’t ideal, and two of our sites, 32 and 19, had that layout, though site 19 was still decent due to its size.

Our ‘front yard’ in Site 31
View of Site 31 from the road
A sunset from Site 19
The view from our door at Site 19 – as you can see, our door opened to the road at this site.

Even during a pandemic, the day-use area of the park was pretty busy on the weekend. There’s a reservoir where people fish and sand dunes where people ride OHVs. Also, the campground was full on the weekend, but fairly quiet during the week. Because we weren’t a fan of how many people were around on the weekend, we didn’t extend our stay to the 14-day limit allowed; instead checking out on a Friday to move to a nearby RV park. This ended up working out well for us, as the governor of Utah finally issued a ‘stay home, stay safe’ order for the state on the Friday evening that we left, which included all state parks being open only to residents of the county they are located in. So, it’s possible we may have gotten kicked out.

It’s easy to see why this place is so popular!
Beautiful views throughout the campground!

We did our part to social distance during our stay. We walked a lot, taking in the beautiful views, and saying a polite hello as we passed others that were out getting fresh air. We worked out a bit with the equipment that we carry with us, and Travis also ran. We skipped hitting the laundromat in town and instead washed some laundry in the kitchen sink and hung it to dry from the awning.

Never thought we’d have to do this, but here we are.

The nights at Sand Hollow SP are very quiet and very dark, lending to a perfect atmosphere for stargazing and sitting by the fire. Firewood can be purchased at the entry kiosk. There’s a Maverick gas station and Walmart close by for necessities.

Big Bend of the Colorado SRA – Laughlin, NV

Big Bend of the Colorado State Recreation Area is part of Nevada’s state park system and is located on the Colorado River in Laughlin, Nevada. As with all of the state parks in Nevada, it’s a first come, first serve park. The sites are huge and well spread out, with a shade structure, picnic table, grill, and fire pit at each. The public restrooms have individual restrooms and showers that seem clean enough. The campground sits back a bit from the river, so there are no sites with river views.

Big Bend of the Colorado State Recreation Area

4220 Needles Hwy, Laughlin, NV 89209

www.parks.nv.gov

  • 24 Large, Well Spaced Sites
  • Full Hookups
  • Pull Throughs
  • Dump Station
  • Fire Pit
  • Picnic Table
  • Shade Structure
  • Grill
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • First Come, First Serve
  • Access to the Colorado River

The sites are large and spread out, but could use some love. There was a wildfire here last August that burned all of the vegetation throughout the campground. It appears that the now burned out vegetation provided a lot of privacy between sites. There are still blackened, dead bushes remaining, but it seems a lot of what burned was pulled up, chopped up, and sent through a wood chipper, with the wood chips being spread throughout the campground. I’m sure it’ll take a few years, but hopefully the plant life will grow back and the campground will be a little bit more visually appealing.

We stayed here during the middle of March, so the day use area of the park was not very active. However, during the summer months, it seems to be a popular spot for boating, jet skis, fishing, and hanging out at the beach. The water is very blue, clean, and clear here, so I can see why it’s a destination during the summer.

As for the city of Laughlin — there’s not much there. Before our stay here, I didn’t realize that only about 7,500 people call Laughlin home. There are a half dozen casinos along the river, but really, not much else. There’s a post office, some gas stations, and an In-N-Out, but for almost anything else, you need to cross the river into Bullhead City, Arizona. Bullhead City is a city of about 40,000 people, so you’ll find more services there, like grocery stores, Walmart and a laundromat.

When we first pulled into Big Bend of the Colorado SRA, we weren’t sure how long we would stay. It wasn’t the most attractive place, but as COVID-19 started spreading throughout the U.S. and it became clear how destructive this virus could potentially be, we decided staying put was the best option. We stayed nine days before moving on to a state park in Southern Utah, skipping our next two destinations of Valley of Fire State Park in Overton, Nevada and Cathedral Gorge State Park in Panaca, Nevada. While we are disappointed that we didn’t get to visit some beautiful areas of Nevada, it ended up being beneficial for a few reasons: 1) The weather in Cathedral Gorge took a turn and called for snow and below-freezing temps while we were supposed to be there; 2) Nevada State Parks ended up closing their campgrounds on March 18th due to COVID-19, so we would have had to scramble to find somewhere else to go; 3) We ended up making a last minute reservation at a state park in Utah that we stayed at last year, so we were able to hunker down in a familiar place in a more populated area than Valley of Fire and Cathedral Gorge — we didn’t want to be putting more pressure on the few services these small towns offer.