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Life on the Road: A Letter to Those Who Judge

We’ve heard the whispers, the comments about people like us. We’ve seen the social media posts bashing those who choose adventure over employment, belittling those who move freely about the country living out of cars, vans and campers.

You believe we aren’t contributing to society. You believe we’re gaming the ‘system’. In some twisted way, you may even believe we are somehow threatening your way of life. Ok, that may be going a bit too far, but judging by sentiments shared online – you don’t like what we’re doing.

Need proof? Take a look at this post a friend tagged me in on Facebook a while back.

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What’s behind these hateful comments? Jealousy. Close-mindedness. I don’t know. What I do know is I’d like to help change this perception. 

Many have questioned why my husband and I would leave our jobs to travel. 

In 2013, I made an extremely difficult career decision – one that likely changed the course of my career. I did not renew my contract as a morning news anchor in New Orleans. My husband, upon giving notice that he would leave his job at Hewlett Packard, was granted a 9-month paid leave of absence.   

The plan? Travel around the world. It was a dream of ours and one we never thought would be fully realized. In what was truly a surprise to both of us, we took the leap.

We set forth with two one-way plane tickets out of the United States to New Zealand. We would figure it out from there. Friends and family, even acquaintances, thought the idea was a bit out there for us, but still, ya know, ‘cool’. 

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New Delhi, India

The reasons behind traveling the world were easier for us and others to see. It was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, a chance to see places we had only read about and an opportunity to meet people who lived lives so very different from our own. We would learn. We would grow. We would change. We did. 

We returned after 9 months, having spent time in 26 countries, with a different way of thinking, a different way of seeing the world around us.

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Bali, Indonesia

We both went back to work. My husband continued his career with Hewlett Packard, and I was lucky enough to secure a job as a reporter for the NBC operation in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Our world travels gave us tools we never imagined. Dan was able to better connect with and understand those on his global team, many of whom live in countries we visited, and what I had learned about other cultures, religions and lifestyles made me a better, more compassionate storyteller. 

We bought a house and planned for a family. 

Two years later, my husband’s thirst for experiencing something different was still not quenched. He wanted to travel the United States. It was something we talked of doing while we were overseas. At some point in our journey came the realization we were working to understand people and places a world away, yet we didn’t fully know the country we called home. 

In all honesty, it was like pulling teeth to get me to agree to leaving the life we were building. I was more than hesitant, I was defiant. Still, I eventually said yes. 

This time around something was different. The perception of what we were doing changed. It seemed many, if not most, questioned our decision. There was a sense of skepticism. We weren’t in pursuit of learning, growing, changing – not this time. 

“Maybe they just don’t want to work,” some thought.

“Maybe they’re lazy”, others mused.

I’d say most believed we were just plain crazy. 

Maybe. But, maybe not. 

While that over generalization could quite possibly apply to some of those who live full time on the road, it definitely does not apply to all. 

It is true that we aren’t working in the traditional sense. Still, we do work each and every day. We work to test our limits, expand our minds and to not only see, but also fully understand the small towns, big cities, mountains, desserts and everything in between that make the United States what it is today. We are seeking a greater understanding. We are still learning. 

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Rio Grande River, Mexico/United States Border

If you have made it this far and still see that reasoning as some B.S. excuse not rooted in reality, an excuse to forgo real responsibilities, the ones society has imposed, let me see if I can appeal the sensible side in you. 

There are other reasons, some possibly more concrete, that led to our drastic lifestyle change. 

  1. FAMILY – We want one. Sure, busy working moms and dads do it day in and day out. However, at the pace we were going, we didn’t see having a family in the cards. And, if we had one, we certainly wouldn’t be able to dedicate the time we would like to it. In addition, the family we already have wasn’t a priority. I think we all try to spend the most time possibly with family and friends, but often times we fall short. Holidays, yes. Birthdays, sometimes. Spontaneous visits and quality time, rarely. This has allowed us to spend more time with those we love. Travel to see them, travel with them, and build stronger relationships. Isn’t that what life should be about? When it’s all said and done your family is who you will have the biggest impact on. What do you want that impact to be?
  2. HEALTH – Finding time to put your health first is hard, but it shouldn’t be. It’s all about making it a priority. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done. Despite a few visits a week to the gym, I was struggling. A lot of it was stress that snowballed into a poor diet. So, I made a change that allowed me the time to dedicate to myself. Now, just the nature of what I am doing lends itself to an active lifestyle. I’m healthier and less stressed, something my body will thank me for in the future. I’m sure many neh-sayers will shake their heads and say I needed the self discipline to be healthy in my current lifestyle. You can say what you want, but I wasn’t able to make it happen. This activity and stress-level is much more sustainable. 
  3. F.O.M.O –  Fear Of Missing Out. You may not have it, but we do. I can’t tell you how it brings me joy to see retirees hitting the road in search of new experiences and adventure. And, I can’t tell you how much it breaks my heart when I see them stop at a road-side spot, snap a photo and proceed back to the car because, let’s face it, they are not as young as they used to be. I have talked with travelers the world over who praise Dan and me for what we are doing at the age we are doing it. We’re able to take on the tough trails, walk or run longer distances, put up with the cold and heat and really test our limits to see what we want to see. We know we won’t be able to do a lot of what we are doing right now when we’re older so we are opting to do it while we can. 

Does this mean we plan to do this forever. Absolutely not. I miss my work. Dan wants to settle in a place and find something he is passionate about where he can really make a difference. In that sense, we plan to do MORE when we return than when we left. If we don’t? We’ll at least know we tried.

Yes, we tried something different for a time, tried to expand our way of thinking, tried to meet new people, tried to explore new places, tried for a greater understanding of the world we live in and the country we call home.

Call us lazy. Call us worthless. But these experiences are worth more than you could ever imagine.