Last Friday marked one whole year since we loaded up my tiny car with as much as humanly possible to roadtrip around the US. Maybe that’s why it’s been on my mind more than usual and why Max and I have been playing, “do you remember that Airbnb? that one short hike? the name of that lunch place in Santa Fe?” the past few days.
Mostly this trip made me appreciate some things I hadn’t really thought of before, but we learned a heck of a lot too. Did I mention neither of us had been camping before deciding to camp for months?? Here are a few things I wish I had known before setting off!
The Sun is Your new BFF.
Literally everything is so much easier if you have good weather. Cooking outdoors? Rather difficult on a rainy or windy day. Making coffee? Goes a lot faster when its not actually freezing outside. Trying to dry towels before you have to pack them up? The sun is pretty cool, guys. I really didn’t appreciate this for a while – we got so lucky with gorgeous weather for the first month – but it makes such a difference. Also, don’t set your tent up at the bottom of a slope if it’s going to rain. All I’m saying is if you have a good day take advantage of it – fill the itinerary, take all the hikes.
Let’s talk about all those things you think you need.
We sent our first moving box back to our parents 2 weeks into the trip. I was so focused on having everything we could possibly need, I wasn’t being super realistic when I was packing. Why did I bring the Costco box of toothpaste?? We’re not a family of five. I also kept reading on blogs about how it’s such a great idea to bring your own laundry supplies because places will charge you through the nose for those items. So I basically brought a 3-year supply. Being prepared is one thing, but actually think about your needs. You’re probably not going to be doing laundry every day. It can be a hassle to get things packed up, so if it’s not something you really need you’ll never reach for it. Don’t forget, you know yourself best.
Let’s talk about the things you actually need.
I said this in my One month on the Road post, but don’t skimp on the things you really, truly need. Our sleeping pads didn’t really work for the first two months of the trip. Once I returned them and we shelled out a bit more cash for an upgrade, our days were so much better because we weren’t just sleeping on the ground. Neither of us even owned clothes to keep warm enough to sleep outside when it was under 40 (learned that real quick)! You may not realize what you need beforehand, so be cautious not to spend a bunch of money on things you “think” might be worth it.
Life, Nature, and Bears don’t care about your plans.
Two days before getting to a campground, it was closed to tent campers because of an excess of bears in the area. The fires that had been raging in the area the month before had driven them out of their home and into the campground. We didn’t end up doing a whole lot in Olympic National Park because it rained harder and longer than anywhere I’ve ever been in my life. And OH YEAH the tent flooded too. I had a spreadsheet of everywhere we were supposed to be and when we were supposed to be there, but more than once things didn’t really go that way. I DO still think a plan is a good idea (some popular national park campgrounds fill up months in advance!), but just be ready to roll with the punches. There were several “unplanned” stops that ended up being favorites.
This kind of goes hand in hand with the lesson above – it’s good to start with a budget, but life happens. My car windshield cracked and had to be replaced in North Dakota. We had to scramble to get an Airbnb when we weren’t able to camp. We wanted to extend our stay in Portland a day because we were loving the city so much. Good or bad, changes are going to happen and you need to be prepared.
I also had it in my head that I could pretty much start working again and saving up the second I got back with some fabulous job that just fell into place. Shocking – but that just isn’t really realistic. I didn’t want to settle for a job that didn’t fit me, so it took me about a month and a half to find what I was looking for once we got settled. Since then I’ve been working as much as possible to get my savings back up. To me, having this experience has been completely invaluable and absolutely worth the extra work.
Two Can Be as Bad as One.
Maybe you’re thinking about traveling solo, or with a friend, or significant other. If you’re traveling with someone else, you’re relationship is going to be changed. Have you ever heard someone say, you never really know someone until you live with them? Yeah, I used to believe that too, but now I know it’s a total scam. The saying should be that you never really know someone until you’ve lived on the road with them and only them for months on end.
Let me say that I am so thankful I got to share this experience with my partner and best friend. However, for awhile it was TOUGH y’all. There was definitely a point in one of the Dakotas that turning the car around sounded quite tempting. We got used to it though and found our groove, but we had kinda the same experience once we got back. It was so weird to go from sharing almost every interaction, listening to the same things, meeting the same people – to spending maybe a few hours together between shifts.
You’re still going to have bad days.
I feel like everyone will be annoyed by this lesson (including myself)! The truth is you’re still going to have those not so great days. Yes, even though you’re doing this totallyawesomesuperexciting thing you’ve been dreaming about. Personally, I felt guilty on days when I wasn’t in the best mood or didn’t want to do much. Try to allow yourself time. Listen to yourself. It’s okay, give yourself permission to miss one hike if you just aren’t feeling it.
Boring Becomes Exciting.
Let me be the first to say, I DID NOT SEE THIS COMING. Turns out sleeping in your own bed – pretty exciting. Having a clean shower – super cool. Decorating for the holidays – I cannot freaking wait. By living on the road, any idea of a routine is gone. The days of the week mean less and holiday traditions are non-existent. I tried to plan for us to see a scary movie around Halloween in LA, but even that didn’t happen (you can read about that massive failure here)! If you’re looking to find joy in the minor details of your life, traveling full-time is a gift.
Get Outside Your Comfort Zone.
For two pretty introverted people who had never camped before – this whole idea was outside of our comfort zones. By the end of the trip we could pack and unpack at a campground without even talking if we wanted. We got so much better at talking with people and acting like tourists. We’re both in customer-service oriented jobs now and this experience has made it worlds easier to talk with strangers. Maybe you’re someone who just has that ability naturally, but for me it’s never come easy. Whether it was asking our bartender for local recommendations or asking for help when we couldn’t get our tent up in heavy winds, we met a lot of unique and kind individuals. It’s cheesy, but like anything else, practice makes perfect!
You got this.
This is the one thing I truly believed in from the beginning. It’s why I didn’t let anyone talk me out of it and probably how I talked Max into it. It was just the perfect time in our lives to take this trip. I’m so happy we were brave enough to go for it and had the ability to make it happen. You may have to remind yourself along the way, but don’t forget – you got this!