5 ways full-time travel changed us

Four years ago today, we left our home in San Francisco with two backpacks and our best friend Holly. And just a few weeks ago, we unceremoniously returned our minivan camper Red Delicious back into a regular ol’ minivan and moved to Santa Barbara.



We transitioned hard and fast into “normal” life: we have a “real” bed and “real” kitchen now. A lot of people have been curious to know, how are we handling it?

I’ll tell you in a moment. But first, I wanted to make something super clear: hitting the road is the best decision we’ve ever made! (We may even do it again one day.) Here are five reasons why…

1. We’ve learned new things 

The old adage is true: if you keep learning, you’ll always feel young. Traveling has given us the space and opportunity to learn things we never thought we could. For example, we learned how to:

  • Speak Spanish
  • Play ukulele (Tamara)
  • Whittle (Chris)
  • Maintain a garden
  • Drive a tractor
  • Operate a chainsaw
  • Self-publish a book (Tamara)
  • Milk goats
  • Care for chickens
  • Build revenue-generating websites (Chris)
  • Pull a proper pint of Guinness
  • Find a campsite anywhere
  • Start our own businesses

We also learned how to get work done anywhere. A colleague of mine jokingly suggested that my next book should be titled: 10 Client Tasks You Can Totally Do From a Campsite Bathroom.



2. We’ve become more adaptable and embraced uncertainty

Where do we go when the place we planned to camp is closed? Will there be a coffee shop where I can have a video conference tomorrow? What if we show up for a work exchange and its not a good fit?

Full-time travel has taught us how to adapt in all kinds of situations. It has made us worry less about the things we can’t control and figure out new situations, logistical hurdles and new cultures calmly. It’s like we got our 10,000 hours of being in over our heads. Now, it doesn’t bother us.

Stationary life gives the illusion of control. But stationary life and nomadic life have just as much uncertainty — just fewer day-to-day logistics, e.g. where to sleep or where to buy groceries.



3. We’ve experienced life outside our bubble

It is shocking to us how sheltered we used to be. To be clear, there is still a lot we don’t know and haven’t seen. But when you’ve had a chance to see how lots of different people live, it’s humbling.

We’ve met people who don’t “call somebody” — they fix things themselves. We’ve met people who have guns — because they live out in the country and consider them tools…and entertainment. We’ve met people who treat strangers like family — and people who would rather pretend they’re alone even when surrounded by a sea of people. And we’ve met people who don’t have much at all — but are still happy.

We always knew there was more than one way to live and many perspectives out there. But it’s a whole other thing to venture outside our bubble and live there, even if it’s just for a few days.



4. We’ve seen the good in people

It’s easy to think the worst of this world. But I cannot think of a single time during our four years when we didn’t feel welcome. In Chile, many strangers made us feel like we were part of their family — we cooked together and hung out with their kids and coworkers. We were welcomed into existing groups of friends, like a service sorority in Texas, a 4th of July celebration in Idaho, and a Friday-evening get together in Virginia.

When we get depressed about the staggering proliferation of assholes, we remember the goodness we’ve experienced.



5. We’ve turned what we thought was impossible into reality

I remember exactly where we were when traveling was just an idea for us: walking on a trail in San Francisco’s Presidio — complaining that there’s no way we could travel full time like the other people we’d read about. We thought it was impossible.

But then we asked ourselves, what if it’s not impossible? Let’s say it’s possible; how would we do it? We researched. We made plans. We set savings goals. We made checklists. We broke it down and figured it out. And we actually followed through and did it.

How many people say, “Oh, I wish I could do that someday…” and never do it? We actually did it. We fought inertia and expectations and lived how we wanted to.



As for how we’re handling the transition back into “normal” life, the funny thing is we don’t miss the van at all. Not because we were sick of it, but because it was never really about the van: it’s about being deliberate about how we’re living our lives.

Now we’re doing all the things we weren’t able to do while traveling: taking a woodworking class, planting a garden, homebrewing beer. We’re still self-employed, so our schedules are flexible, and we’re giving back to the travel community by hosting other travelers on Airbnb. And we’re excited for whatever comes next.

We plan to leave our blog up for other aspiring van-dwellers, but this will be our last post. Thanks to everyone who has followed along on this journey; we hope we’ve given you the information and the courage you needed to take a leap in life.

Be bold, friends! You only live once.

Keep on traveling,

Tamara & Chris



  9 comments for “5 ways full-time travel changed us

  1. 2017-10-01 at 9:01 pm

    Jen and I have enjoyed reading about your adventures for a couple of years now, and you Guys inspired phase two of our early retirement plans: living in a van down by the river. Or in the mountains. Or wherever. To be honest we liked the aesthetics of your blog so much we used the same theme. Sorry about that 😄 .

    Thanks for writing and sharing the things you learned. Best of luck and I hope you blog again some day. We will look you up next fall when we ride through SoCal.

    Ron and Jen

    • Tamara & Chris
      2017-10-01 at 9:40 pm

      Thanks, Grumbys! We’re excited to keep following your adventures and we hope you will get in touch when you’re coming through So Cal. Best of luck to you! 🙂

  2. 2017-10-02 at 4:13 am

    A fabulous last post. I hope others take inspiration from your lessons learned, and move from saying “what if?” to “I did it. What now?” Best of luck to the two of you on the next adventure, and please keep us posted!

    • Tamara & Chris
      2017-10-02 at 7:01 am

      Thanks, Kerry! From someone who can say, “I did it. What now?” too it means a lot. 🙂 Hope PA is treating you well. Hugs, T

  3. Mike & Pat
    2017-10-02 at 4:32 pm

    Love it! Sounds like you really did enjoy more than a few adventures and have created memories that will last a lifetime. Good Luck on your new situation and I hope you continue to have great adventures in the future. Thank you for all you have shared!

    • Tamara & Chris
      2017-10-02 at 9:44 pm

      Thanks for following along and for the good wishes. Keep on vannin’! 🙂

    • Tamara & Chris
      2017-10-02 at 9:57 pm

      Thank you for following along and for the good wishes. Keep on vannin’!

  4. Tina
    2018-01-03 at 11:37 am


    Just wanted to thank you both for documenting your travels and thoughts. This is very helpful to all us dreamers out there. Wishing you all the best in 2018!


    • Tamara & Chris
      2018-01-03 at 11:47 am

      Thanks, Tina, and hope you have a lovely 2018 too! Happy travels 😀

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