Happy New Year to all of our friends, family and followers! 2014 has been a big year for us. We have faced some incredible ups and some heartbreaking downs, but we both agree 2014 is a year we will never forget.
Before I dive into the details of this year, I should preface with this: I was never sure that a life on the road was in the cards for me. Brandon is a wanderer at heart. He moved to Utah without ever visiting before, all for the love of the great outdoors and in the name of adventure. He’s lived all over the East Coast for work, and gets stir crazy staying in one spot for too long. I, on the other hand, adore being a homebody. I was born and raised in Salt Lake City, and while I have always loved to travel, I also love coming home. I loved to see new places but didn’t think much about leaving Utah behind. When Brandon presented me with the idea to leave my family, friends and comforts of home behind for a life of on the road, I didn’t take it very well. How would I ever call a tiny box with wheels my home? My sense of identity was very much wrapped up in Utah, and I wasn’t sure I even wanted to try living elsewhere.
Brandon encouraged me to look up the blogs of other “resident travelers” and read about their lives. I did just that, and the tides began to turn. Soon I found myself intrigued by the idea. It didn’t take too much longer for me to cave and agree to try it out, but with a caveat. I told Brandon that we would travel for one year, then reevaluate how we were liking it and whether or not we should continue. I recall telling my friend Amy that there was no way we would last longer than a year on the road. “He just needs to get this out of his system,” I told her. Regardless, I committed to the plan. We set a date to get out of our house, told our families about our crazy plan, and forged on.
May, June and July were possibly the busiest months we’ve ever had. We had a sister get married, a serious accident and shoulder replacement for mom, a nephew born and a grandfather pass away, all in less than two months. On top of that, we were preparing for our big move, all while balancing work, relationships, and the aforementioned events. I remained hesitant about the entire situation; some days I would tell Brandon that I just didn’t think the timing was right to move to a nomadic life. There was so much going on with our families, and I felt like we were abandoning them. He assured me that we were doing the right thing, and despite my hesitation, we continued on a path towards our projected “takeoff” date.
At the end of August, my family packed up a minivan and a Penske truck and moved my brother and his family from Utah to Virginia, where my brother would attend graduate school. We spent five days driving there, a few days helping them set up in their new home, and a few days touring Washington D.C.. From D.C., I flew to Los Angeles and met back up with Brandon. We saw the Eminem and Rihanna concert (a dream of Brandon’s), stopped in Vegas for a few days to celebrate his birthday, and then finally got back to Salt Lake. Once we were in Utah, we had only 17 days to move everything out of our house and in to our RV.
August was….nuts. We parked the RV at the local KOA so we could have everything plugged in and tested before we left. My best friend helped us organize and orchestrate a massive garage sale, which allowed us to sell more than 75% of our belongings. We divvied up the rest of what was left in our house between the trailer, our storage unit and the local donation drop-off center. We worked from sun up ’til sun down, every day. On top of everything, both of us ended up sick for a time. To say we were exhausted wouldn’t quite cover it.
Somehow, we finally pulled everything together, and on August 28th, 2014, we began the trip of a lifetime!
- Visited: Jackson Hole, Sacramento, Eureka and Crater Lake
- Megan’s Favorite Moment: Walking amongst the giants in Humboldt Redwood State Park in Northern California
- Brandon’s Favorite Moment: Seeing my first black bear in Jackson Hole; he ran right in front of us!
- Honorable Mention: Visiting Crater Lake
- Travel Fail of the Month: Driving 1,000 miles to a failed pig adoption (see below)
Our first stop was Jackson Hole. Brandon and I both love the Tetons and September is stunning in Jackson, so it was a no brainer. My parents met us up in Jackson for Labor Day weekend. We would sometimes stop and look at each other and say, “Can you believe this is real?” It felt like we were on an extended vacation. Saying ‘goodbye for now’ to my parents and younger brother was one of the toughest things I have ever done. Once I got past that blow, we had a lot of fun with some of our ‘firsts’: first time doing laundry at the laundromat, first time having to conserve energy to save battery power, etc. We loved it when anyone asked where we lived — both of us were jumping at the chance to tell them that we traveled full time.
Our original plan was to be in Jackson for a week or two and then head up to the Pacific Northwest while the weather was still nice. The problem was that by day one, we both knew that we weren’t going to be able to make traveling with our sweet mini pig work. Winston was used to his regular routine, and was not interested in changing it up. He needed a yard to graze in and more than a tiny corner of the RV to call home. We began searching tirelessly for a perfect home for our baby. We finally found what we thought was going to be a great home for him in Sacramento, CA. This was not even close to our original travel plan but we agreed it was important to place him somewhere good, so by mid-September, we were on our way to California.
Well, our Winston saga didn’t stop there. Turns out the family that we drove over 1,000 miles to deliver Winston to was completely insane and backed out after two days. Caught off guard, we spent two weeks in the blistering heat of Sacramento figuring out “plan B,” and finally found an ideal home 6 hours away in Eureka, CA. It was a tough few weeks and there were a lot of tears shed but we were so relieved to have found his new pig mama and pig brother.
We left Eureka the last part of September and headed north towards Bend, Oregon. Along the way, we stopped at beautiful Crater Lake for an afternoon. Crater Lake is one of the most stunning places we have both ever seen. If you haven’t yet been, add it to the bucket list!
- Visited: “Tour de Oregon,” San Francisco, Virginia (Megan only)
- Megan’s Favorite Moment: Kite flying and walking on the beach during a windy day in Seaside, Oregon
- Brandon’s Favorite Moment: A wild night out for Halloween in San Francisco with traveling friends
- Honorable Mention: Learning how to play pickle-ball in Bend, Oregon, or visiting my brother and his family in Virginia
- Travel Fail of the Month: Water heater failure, which led to sponge baths for several days (even that wasn’t so bad; October was a perfect month!)
We arrived in Bend, OR the first part of October. October in Bend was perfect; warm days, chilly night and abundant sunshine. It was there we both agreed our real journey could actually begin, now that we didn’t have the stress of finding Winston a home. We met tons of full time travelers, including a couple whom we are now very good friends with. We learned how to play pickle ball, had campfires with friends, attended Bend’s Fall Festival and more. As our time there came to a close, our new good friends Troy and Deanna invited us to Seaside, Oregon with them for another week of fun and exploring. We didn’t have definitive plans at that point so we happily agreed and took off towards the Oregon coast.
Though entirely different than central Oregon, the coast was serene. The days were foggy and damp but we didn’t let that slow us down. We spent as much time as possible on the beach, hunting for sand dollars and perusing the boardwalk. It was fantastic sweater, soup and apple crisp weather. Once we waved goodbye to our new friends, we began our trek down the coast and stopped for in Florence, OR for a time. The weather was beginning to turn at this point, and the misty cool days turned in to long rainy ones. We were ready to see the sun again and finally packed up and made the three day trek from Florence to San Francisco.
San Francisco was great, but it was not at all what either of us expected. We spent most of our time around the ‘house’ and in the campground instead of in the city. A group of traveling families—some of which we knew, and some we hadn’t yet met—were staying in the Bay the same time as us, so it was very fun getting to know a whole new group of travelers and hear their stories. I took a few days during our time there to fly to Virginia to visit my brother, sis-in-law and baby nephew. It was so great to see them and witness the changing leaves and autumn colors along the Blue Ridge Parkway, as they were completely absent along the California coast. Brandon stayed behind and spent time with some of our traveling friends. On Halloween, they ventured in to the Castro district and had a wild time partying together, which he claims was one of the most fun Halloween’s he has ever had.
- Visited: Santa Barbara, Palm Springs, Salt Lake City for Megan’s moms surgery
- Megan’s Favorite Moment: Wine tasting in Los Olivos, CA
- Brandon’s Favorite Moment: I second the wine tasting!
- Honorable Mention: Feeding the giraffes at the Living Desert Zoo, and surprising my family (Megan)
- Travel Fail of the Month: Missing Alcatraz due to a check-out date mix up or our RV flood
By November, we had wised up and realized that moving 4-5 times a month was exhausting. We decided to only book two campgrounds for the month: one in Santa Barbara, the other in Palm Springs. Both cities ended up being such a good time. From wine tasting to a mini rodeo to the monarch butterfly preserve, Santa Barbara really won us over. Brandon got to see the gates to Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch as well, so that was an added bonus. The night before we were scheduled to travel from Santa Barbara to Palm Springs, our shower pipe burst and the RV flooded. That was a bit of a nightmare; you can read about it here.
Despite the setback, we moved on and spent the next few weeks in Palm Springs. It was in Palm Springs that we finally found a home for our kitties. We tried everything we could to acclimate them to a life of travel but they just weren’t having it. The couple we found was wonderful, and had recently lost their two cats to old age. The cats settled in to their new home effortlessly. It was another tough blow to take, but it was the right thing to do. We also celebrated Thanksgiving in Palm Springs; our first Thanksgiving without our families. We had Bob, a fellow traveler and neighbor, over for an turkey-less (and still delicious) feast.
After giving it a test run, the decision was made to no longer keep the Smart Car with us. We thought we would store it in the toy hauler when we moved from point A to point B, but it was too lengthy of a process, so I always ended up driving behind Brandon. We thought it best to kill two birds with one stone, so I drove the Smart Car solo back to Utah and surprised my mom the night before her shoulder surgery. I had an awesome weekend helping her recuperate, left the car in storage and flew back to Palm Springs.
The month was packed, but we also made time for plenty of fun. Brandon, an avid quad-copter enthusiast, met up with another quad ‘pilot’ who lives in Palm Springs and enjoyed flying with him several times during our stay. We also got to feed giraffes at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, which may go down as one of my favorite travel moments ever.
- Visited: Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Houston (Brandon only)
- Megan’s Favorite Moment: Finally reuniting with my entire family in mid-December
- Brandon’s Favorite Moment: Going home to Texas and being with family for the first time in six months
- Honorable Mention: Exploring the Vegas strip and Fremont Street
- Travel Fail of the Month: Major technical difficulty getting our RV fixed in the shop and put in storage
December was an interesting month. We had to bring our RV in to the shop for the aforementioned flooding damages, so we were without a home in Vegas for a week and a half. Homeless or not, we tried to make the best of it and enjoyed discovering some parts of Vegas that we hadn’t seen before. Following an insane day of trying to get our RV put in to storage and winterized for our Christmas vacation, we were finally home-bound.
Being reunited with family and friends after months away is one of the best feelings in the world. Brandon spent a few days in Salt Lake with my family before flying to Houston to spend Christmas with his own. It was strange going back to Utah as a visitor instead of a resident, but it made me appreciate it just that much more. We filled our days with holiday parties, food, snow runs and lounging around.
After over two weeks of fun with the family, we drove back to Las Vegas with Brandon’s family to say farewell to 2014 and ring in 2015. We watched Maroon 5 perform and then celebrated with 300,000 of our closest friends!
Phew! That’s it! If you’ve read this entire novella, or even bits and pieces of it, thank you! We are both so grateful for 2014; what a journey it has been. We will forever remember it as a major turning point in our lives. 2015 is going to be unforgettable, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store.