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John and Mandi

us --> van --> overland
7 yrs and 6 days - end of the road

Evolution of the plan

The great idea for our life break was hatched in 2008 after we took a trip to Seattle. I was being sent there for work and Mandi was not going to miss out on an opportunity to see the Pacific Northwest. Having both lived on the East coast for our entire lives, we didn't expect to instantly fall in love with the PNW. Everything about it made our bones yearn to be there. Once home it was all we could talk about, it was the catalyst for our life discussion.

We immediately began a plan to leave Tallahassee and move to Seattle, Portland, anywhere in that region. We knew it would be a long process as we were just falling into our career grooves and reining in our unnecessary habits of consumption. We had debt, and decided we'd need to move debt free. Thus, iteration one of our plan was born, move to the PNW.

Mt Rainier - nuff said

Mt Rainier - nuff said

As the months passed and we ticked things off our to-do list, we began discussing the what ifs. What if we like a place even more, what if living there is nothing like what we expect, what if we can't find jobs, what if, what if, what if? We had no answers so all we could do was keep plugging along with the original plan.

One day while researching, I came across several blogs by those who quit normal life and moved into RVs full time. Not rich or retired, but living and working out of their RVs. This was intriguing as we have always talked about touring the US in an RV when we retire. Why not do that now? Maybe not work full time but at least enough to help us tour around the US and find where we want to live. I pitched this crazy idea to Mandi, wondering if I'd get slapped, and she was in.

Back to the plan to figure out how to make this change. We were making decent progress but the housing market still had us upside down. The budget needed to be altered to allow for the purchase and maintenance of a rig we'd enjoy living in. Research, emails, more research, spreadsheets, Rolaids, alcohol, more alcohol and then "ah ha!" Like pointing at a newly discovered species, proud and accomplished, iteration two. We were going to wander around the US for a couple of years or until we found the epic answer to all our questions - and the picture perfect place to live.

2006 Bigfoot 25RQ

2006 Bigfoot 25RQ

By this time months had become years and so we thought in years instead of months. We had stumbled into long term goals versus the immediately satiating lifestyle we once had. Sacrifices were adding up and our options were expanding. Excited and with spreadsheets in hand, we charged on. It was here we realized that our slowly trickling pace would take a lifetime to achieve our goal. A lucky break came in a side job I was offered. It was a remote contracting position that paid fairly well but was also very demanding. Knowing the old rule of thumb of a penny saved is a penny earned, I lunged at this opportunity to earn twice as many pennies to save.

Stress levels soared. Working two full time jobs is one of the hardest things I have ever done. While it rewarded us financially, its cost in time was almost too much, most importantly our time together. Mandi and I are inseparable. We do almost everything together. Even grocery shopping is a household affair, so me working over 90+ hours a week was beyond brutal. Our goal of touring the US in an RV seemed ridiculous compared to what it was taking to get there.

The side contract eventually came to a close so life started to return to normal. I was beat up and burned out and Mandi was one click passed wits' end. We regrouped and started to calculate an actual end date. The end was near and we were ready. Not a chance. Family illnesses and tragedies have a way of sobering up even the most avid Kool-Aid drinker. We sat down and just decided that we need to remain in Tallahassee. We loosened the purse strings a little and planned for one day getting to take our big trip. Our grand idea started to unravel.

Within nine months both of our dogs passed. We are still mourning today, as we will forever. At the end of 2013 Mandi's father passed. Tragic events were happening all around us and we just seemed to be shell shocked. One morning we just knew. We needed a break. The last 6 years of planning was just the distraction to get us to where we were that day. We owned a really nice Bigfoot 25RQ Travel Trailer and a 2012 Ram 3500 to pull it with, but we lacked the desire to launch. Maybe it was because that combination was just as much for the dogs as it was for us, maybe it just didn't feel right. It didn't matter, it was no longer what we wanted to do.

Jolie & Corbin in NC - 2008

Jolie & Corbin in NC - 2008

One evening while I was taking a bath, part of the raw milk cure, I found a movie about the Camino de Santiago on Netflix, The Way. We have never been to Europe and we knew traveling was the core of our life break, cultural experiences the epicenter, so we started talking about backpacking part of Europe then crashing on a Caribbean island for a year to decompress. Iteration three. It was half cocked and never fully thought out so it was destined to fail, our rebound romance.

The idea of touring the country in a van had been discussed after our second dog passed but it never took hold. While researching gear and getting into the planning of our big Europe to Caribbean adventure, vans were starting to become a theme. Climbing for a year while living in a van, 4x4 van, home-built Sprinter vans. Blog links to other blog links and boom... the Pan-American highway. Who knows why this one seemed more right than all of the other ideas but it did. Two weeks after we sold the truck we were picking up a van. Full steam ahead with iteration four, launch or death, no exceptions.

The JaMvan awaiting its transformation to glamper.

The JaMvan awaiting its transformation to glamper.

Did we think we mould make it all the way south? At that time, maybe not, but we knew driving across the Americas would broaden us in so many more ways than we could ever imagine. We needed a break but we also needed to reconnect with humanity. We needed to be without jockeying for window offices, protocols, policies, procedures, agreements, action items, methodologies, standards, reports, reports of reports, measurable evaluation criteria, executive summaries, creatively declared uncreative ideas, uninterested questions about our weekend, all the mindless drivel that erodes even the most stoic of personalities. Our original lust that began in 2008 had culminated there. Life had forced us to deeply ask ourselves what it was we really wanted. Reality, we sought raw reality, as not seen on TV and definitely in no relation to being or being outside of an effing box, not pasteurized, purified or homogenized... something that would sting so good.

So, why the Pan-Am?

Well, it was close (and supposedly easier than other continents). We had first heard about driving the Pan-American highway in 2011 while having coffee at one of our favorite places in Apalachicola. At that time we were still planning our two year US trip and we were told about Luis and Lacey (Lost World Expedition) who were overlanding South America. We checked out their website and thought they were nuts then pushed it out of our minds. In 2014, during our research into traveling in a van I started looking into the XP camper. A few links later I came across Sam and Erica's Blog, Song of the Road. After binge reading, including all the others that they had linked to, I showed Mandi. In that moment we had learned that it was possible to drive through other countries all while living out of a camper and that it was the perfect thing for us to do.

Before driving the Pan-American Highway, we had never travelled before. Sure, we took many cruises but we had never flown into another country. Our passports didn't even have one stamp. Starting with our neighbors, both north and south, seemed to be the perfect way for us to wade into the travel thing. If at any time we realized it wasn't for us we could just head back to the US. While we, as do many who have also completed driving the Americas, recommend shipping south and driving north...we understand the ease and comfort it gives to start closer to home.

Now that you're back, was it worth it?

Definitely! If the lifestyle fits, it becomes much more than just travel. It lies somewhere between an addiction and an obsession. We would not say it is for everyone, or even for most, but for those that it suits there are no words to fully describe it. We would have never thought how comforting it is to be constantly wandering into the unknown, which is also very taxing. It isn't all rainbows and it isn't all epic breakdowns either. Unfortunately, the only way to know if it's right for you is to do it. Don't worry about changing your mind or reaching an end point. The journey is much more within, regardless of completion, that'll be the one you're on. We have friends that turned around and others that only made it half-way, none of that matters. We are all better people and we accept each other as we are, not by what we have accomplished. For those that long term vehicle dependent travel grabs ahold of, be warned, the road never stops calling...forever - the dog with a bone.

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