We’ve been talking for a long time about slowing down our travels. In a couple of months, we’ll have been on the road fulltime for three years. Since we pulled out of our hometown of Ashland, Oregon in June of 2013, we’ve put 52,000 miles on our truck. At least half of that has been towing our home-on-wheels behind us.
We love our traveling life, but we’ve also realized that we want and need to make some changes if we’re going to be happy long-term in this lifestyle. (And yes, we want to continue.) But it’s a bit of a challenge, for a variety of reasons.
Here’s what we can’t change: We have family in Florida, but we also have family on the West Coast, as well as our home and many dear friends in the Pacific Northwest. That means cross-country trips, both directions, every year, boomeranging between Florida and the West Coast. Flying isn’t really a viable option because of the length of time we want and need to spend with family. Plus, we want to have our home with us—it’s really hard to go back to any other kind of travel after RVing. We also love our summer camp host gig on Lopez Island, and we’re not yet ready to give it up.
Here’s what we can change: The pace at which we travel, and the rhythm of our daily lives. Each time we’ve journeyed cross-country, we’ve extended the amount of time we’ve taken to get from the Pacific Northwest to Florida. First it was a month, then five weeks, then six—last fall, we took seven weeks. This time, as we make our way back to Lopez Island for our camp hosting gig mid-June, we’ve given ourselves just over two months. My crystal ball predicts we’ll be slowing the pace even more.
We’re also staying places longer—we’ve agreed that we’re not going to stay anywhere for less than two nights, unless there’s really nothing of interest and it’s an easy overnight stop. Most places, we’ll stay a minimum of three nights—many places, we’re planning to stay five to seven nights. We’ve always kept our travels to about 200 miles for each move—but now we’re keeping at least half of our travel days to under 150 miles.
Perhaps most importantly, we’re doing our best to stop behaving as though we’re on a two-week vacation. It might sound strange, but one of the primary drawbacks to full-time RVing is that it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of wanting to see and do everything. At least, that’s been true for us. Eric and I both love hiking, biking, kayaking, birding, exploring new places, museums, music, art, architecture, festivals of all types, hanging out with long-time friends, meeting new friends, cooking, discovering new restaurants, farmer’s markets, and photographing everything.
New places—and familiar favorite places—offer a never-ending array of things to do. But constantly being on the go is wearing on us—apparently too much of a good thing really can be too much. Unlike our pre-full-time-traveling life, we don’t have time to naturally integrate our travels with “normal life” by returning to a stationary home. Therefore, we need to rein ourselves in.
We need some down time—time to hang out at our site in the morning with a cup of coffee, enjoying an easy start to the day. We’re both avid readers, and would like leisurely time to read a good book (not just a couple of pages at night before falling asleep, book in hand). I want time to practice my guitar and learn new songs; Eric wants time to update his birding photos and bird lists. We want time to enjoy sunset with a leisurely happy hour, instead of skidding into our site just in time to make dinner after a long day of adventures. (I’m not even talking about work/blogging/trip planning/daily life stuff—all of which adds to the hours that are spoken for in a day.)
We’re off to a promising new beginning. We spent the first week of April on Dauphin Island, a narrow barrier island just off the coast of Alabama. It’s a good place for not doing much of anything. With easy biking, lots of trails for hiking, and a good portion of the island devoted to bird sanctuaries (it’s one of the top locations in the U.S. for spring bird migration), it’s a paradise for slowing down. We first visited the island a couple of years ago on an all-day birding extravaganza with our friend Mona Liza (Lowe’s Travels) and had such a good time that we vowed to return.
We spent the entire week doing nothing other than biking the island, visiting various bird sanctuaries, walking miles of trails, and leisurely looking for birds. Other than a ferocious rain and windstorm that lasted most of an entire day and night, we enjoyed a peaceful stay. We even met new friends on the trails—Diana, Ed, and their sweet kitty Eze—who decided on the spur of the moment to meet up with us at our next stop, New Orleans.
If you’re looking for a place to get away from it all, Dauphin Island is a lovely choice. Bring everything you need, especially food. There is no viable grocery store on the island, and Mobile is 30 miles away. However, there is a fantastic fresh seafood market with local offerings (they’ll even steam your shrimp/crab/fish for you) and a surprisingly good lending library located in the nice little Visitor Center.
About the campground:
Dauphin Island Campground is a unique and wonderful place, located directly adjacent to the Audubon Bird Sanctuary, with miles of walking trails through beautiful forests, marshlands, and access to miles of beaches (with unfortunate views of offshore drilling platforms). The bathrooms are beyond funky and the washers in the laundry are rusted—the whole bath complex is scheduled for a major overhaul this summer. We stayed in a partial hook-up site for $28 per night; the seventh night is free. (The campground also has full-hookup sites, both 50 amp and 30 amp.) Verizon coverage is good.
Choose your site carefully. The considerable rainstorm we had left much of the campground with enormous pools of standing water for several days. Our site (and the other sites at the east end of the campground) was fine after 24 hours, but others weren’t so lucky. We loved our time there, and will happily return.
Next Up: A Fabulous Few Days In New Orleans