March 28th, the day after Easter, we pulled away from our little rental house in the mountains of Evergreen, Colorado for the last time. Behind our Wrangler we pulled a homemade teardrop camper, it’s wooden body freshly painted “Barn Door Red,” packed to near bursting with everything we owned; our life pared down to the absolute minimum we thought we’d need for a year on the road. Freya, our pittbull, had just enough room to lay down in the back of our Jeep, crammed as it was full of camp chairs, collapsible tables, water jugs and our Yeti cooler – our biggest single investment in equipment for a new life as nomads.
After being together for 20 years, and married for 15, we both needed some drastic changes. The weight of time, over-familiarity and frustrated ambitions were taking a toll on us, as a couple and individuals. Jesse, an emergency veterinarian for six years, was feeling frayed from the long, stressful hours of working at 24/7 vet clinics. Jason never had anything that could charitably called a “career.” We were treading water, financially and emotionally, and both wanted more.
We needed to do something drastic.
The impetus for our year-long trip came with a Subaru we bought off a Craig’s List ad. Included with the WRX was the homemade wooden “Barn Door Red” tear drop camper. Built by a guy in Georgia, the state of Colorado thought it was “a little fishy” when presented for inspection, but granted a title and registration anyway.
For 6 months we squirreled away what money we could. We sold off or gave away anything we couldn’t fit in the camper. We excitedly poured over road atlases and travel guides, mapping out our life for the next year. We haunted our nearby thrift shop and outdoor gear consignment shop for everything we imagined we’d need for a year of adventures: durable, weather-(and most importantly stink)-resistant clothes, climbing and rappelling ropes, fishing gear (bait and fly,) solar panels and battery. Everything to be as self-sufficient and as adventure-ready as we could foresee, including a couple of inflatable inner tubes for floating the picturesque rivers we planned on exploring, since the price of kayaks was well outside of our budget.
Aside from what we had saved or made from selling decades worth of accumulated stuff, we’d need some income if we were to succeed with our year-long road trip. Jason, who’d sketched as a hobby since childhood, began selling his artwork and soliciting commissions. Jesse bought a Nikon D3300 and resumed her passion for photography, which had waxed and waned for years.
March 28th, the day after Easter, we pulled away from our little rental house in the mountains of Evergreen, Colorado for the last time. We made it six miles to the town of Conifer before we noticed the taillights weren’t working, and, as we pulled into the parking lot of a nearby O’Reilly Auto Parts to correct that problem, then realized that the hitch we had installed at U-Haul for the Jeep dipped far too low, sending sparks flying any time there was the slightest bump or dip.
This was the first time we’d actually used the camper, which had sat buried under a couple feet of Rocky Mountain snow in the driveway for a year.
Four months later, we’re camped in a small gravel lot on the bank of the Smith River in Northern California. We did solve our hitch and taillight problems, and have made some headway against the camper’s perpetual leaking. We’ve learned that we don’t really have the tools to change a tire on the camper, but can improvise. We’ve learned not to leave a pavilion tent up in the Utah desert, no matter the weather forecast. We’ve learned that a camper is more likely to be attacked by a bear when it’s parked in a driveway in a suburb of Pasadena than in the Colorado wilderness. We’ve learned how to solve a few problems (usually of our own creation), and how to live with most others. We’ve cultivated a modest following in our respective artistic endeavors, and made a few bucks at art shows, flea markets and coastal campgrounds selling our wares.
We’ve learned we love this way of life and would like to share our experiences, past and present, with you. We understand that not everyone can sell all of their possessions, quit their jobs and head off to travel the world but everyone can relate to the feelings that drive this sort of change. And even small changes can make big impacts when they send you in the right direction. So follow along and maybe hearing about our successes and failures can inspire you to step outside your comfort zone and try something new. Or at the very least, we can provide you with some free entertainment.