Answered by Shae Pepper, blogger & photographer
I've known since I was 16 that I wanted to travel as much as I could when I got older. I had the opportunity to be on a service trip to the Caribbean and it gave me a taste of something amazing. I could never shake it.
My husband and I travelled a bit in the first twelve years of our marriage. It was during that time that we crossed the United States twice by car. We commented how amazing it would be one day to do a 50-state road trip. Stephen is English and hadn't seen much of the US before those trips. But it was always a dream. Something to do "in the future" because we both had careers. Mine included starting a nonprofit for young people in the community we were living in. I had taken a year off of paid employment to give me the time I needed to make a go of it.
That was almost two years ago in March 2016. The nonprofit didn't take off as I'd hoped and we were at a crossroads about what to do with it. It was during that time that Stephen and I went to drinks with my mom. She asked Stephen during that time "what's your dream?" I laughed because I'd been asking him that question for twelve years. And he said "well-." I was floored! Apparently he'd been giving a lot of thought (certainly more than I had) to this idea of a 50-state road trip.
As we talked more and more about it in the coming days, it came out that he'd like to take at least five years to do the trip so we could really see and experience each state. Looking at our options, a floundering baby nonprofit or full-time traveling and writing, not to mention helping Stephen achieve his dreams (after he'd spent twelve years helping me pursue mine!), it seemed like an easy choice. I was in. I was ready to leave right then.
Thankfully, Stephen is a little more practical than I am. He had a timeline all worked out. We already had a month-long trip to Australia and New Zealand planned for December 2017 so leaving after that was probably best. We decided that January 1, 2018 seemed like the best date to start a new venture and new life.
We had 18 months to plan and prepare. And even now, almost two months in, I'm not sure we were really that prepared! We started with our budget, we had enough passive income each year to allow us approximately a $100 per day budget. That's food, gas, accommodation (and we really aren't big campers, we can do it sometimes but our experiences have generally been laughable), things to do, pet care, other expenses- The lot.
We sold our house we owned and finished paying off our debt December 31, 2016. We socked away as much money in savings as we could in 2017, which meant at some points in the year between the two of us we were working five jobs. We also purchased discounted gift cards for food and accommodation to help offset costs down the road.
With that budget and trying to build up a years worth of savings buffer, we didn't have the money to purchase an RV or another vehicle. So that meant planning to take everything we wanted with us in our 2004 Toyota Corolla which was paid off and had low mileage. We did an extreme minimalism challenge where we got rid of almost all of our possessions. What we were left with is probably enough to fit in a walk in closet, which we're storing with my mom, and what fits in our car.
Those were our first steps. Now that we're on the road, as I alluded to above, we still aren't always prepared. We made our third major mistake of the trip just today- spoiler alert, we didn't check that the beach we'd planned to spend the day with Truffles didn't allow dogs! Such a rookie mistake! Thankfully, days like today make for some of the best stories when you're traveling full-time.
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