2019 was a turning point for me. In the wake of some painful personal events, I found myself alone and aimless in a city with a decade worth of memories; many were good, but those were mostly overshadowed by the bad. I needed a fresh start, so I downsized my life until it fit in a 26’ travel trailer, then I hit the open road.
I have spent the last 9 months living in an RV that I’ve pulled almost 10,000 miles across the United States. I’m sure on the outside this appears to be some kind of personal crisis where I’m trying to run from something, and subconsciously that may have been partially true when I started. But you realize pretty quickly that hundreds of hours alone behind the wheel is not a good way to run from problems. It forces you to sit with them and reflect on them. So I set out, not running from my problems, but instead searching for something.
This nomadic, “#vanlife” lifestyle is very romanticized. You can see countless Instagram accounts and YouTube channels selling it as "the dream". While the benefits are difficult to overstate, you’d be naive to believe it is perfect. Fortunately, before I set out on this journey I understood this and actually saw it as one of the primary reasons I wanted to do it. I knew I wanted to travel and to see and experience new things, but I also knew this lifestyle would throw me a lot of challenges and obstacles, and I wanted to prove to myself that I could face and overcome them. It may sound odd, but I wanted to live a more difficult lifestyle, because I felt stagnant and unfulfilled in the daily grind of typical modern life. I didn’t feel as though I was growing. I wanted to learn useful skills and to become more self-reliant. I'm very fortunate in the fact that my career is one that can be done remotely, and now that I had recently become single, I felt like I had nothing to lose and everything to gain by going for it.
When I set out in April it was only the second time I had ever pulled a trailer (the first being when I brought it home from the dealer). I had obviously never owned an RV and didn’t know the first thing about it. I had never even changed a tire before setting out on this journey. However, I forced myself to get in the mindset that I was a competent person and was capable of dealing with whatever came my way. I accepted that I’m not always going to know how to do everything, and that unpredictable things will happen, but I have the capacity to figure out a solution. I suppose normal people call this confidence, but it was definitely a new revelation to me. Now I can back a trailer into a pinhole with my eyes closed, I’ve rewired my rig, replaced countless parts, changed tires… the list of things I’ve learned could go on and on. And as that list grows, so does my confidence.
People often ask me what the hardest part of full-timing is and my answer is always “dealing with the constant unknown.” Having that confidence to be able to handle new challenges is paramount to living this way when you don’t know where you’re going to be sleeping tomorrow night, if you’re going to be able to find water or cell service or propane, or if you’re going to wake up snowed in alone on the side of a mountain. And if you put yourself into this situation where you are in complete unknown almost every single day, it forces you to develop those skills and confidence. If you don’t, you’re going to be packing up and going back to your safe cubicle.
The other question that I often get asked is “doesn’t it get lonely?” This question is almost funny to me because it’s so opposite of my reality. The loneliest I’ve ever been was while I was in a relationship. It was at the end when my partner had checked out completely and no longer cared about me or our relationship. That was the loneliest I’ve ever felt. And the second loneliest time in my life was after she was gone and I found myself alone in a big house in the middle of a cornfield in Illinois doing online dating. I’ve never once felt loneliness since I left that place. On the contrary, this trip has given me the opportunity to go out and visit my friends all over the country. Almost every day I’m making new connections with people, some of which have become very close friends. I don’t sit around pining for something I don’t have, and instead keep myself in motion, doing things I love. If someone crosses my path I’m always open minded, but if not, that’s just fine too.
It’s clear to me that 2019 has given me the most personal growth of any year of my life. I’ve been able to develop new skills and the confidence to tackle new challenges. I’ve rekindled old friendships and made new ones. My relationship with my family is better than it's ever been, as they've been incredibly supportive of me, even coming out to visit me several times. Living “without regrets” is a common cliche that I’ve never been able to relate to, but I can honestly say that I don't have any regrets in 2019. And now I look forward to charging into the black unknown of 2020, with Booker in the passenger seat and our house behind us.