Red Delicious is retiring. That’s right: Beginning September 1, we will no longer be van-dwellers or full-time travelers. We’ll have been on the road for four years, with nearly three of them in our van.
For those of you considering van life, do not despair! We have loved adventuring and do not regret van-dwelling at all. But we always said we’d do it until we didn’t want to anymore or if it became unsustainable. We’re now at that point.
One of the things that has been so rewarding about our travels is hearing from all of you. It gives us a thrill every time someone learns from our experiences and gets the confidence to take a leap of their own. Since our goal is to help you do what we do—if that’s what you want—we also wanted to help you figure out how to know when it’s time to stop traveling.
Why we won’t be traveling full time anymore
- Travel fatigue: We are starting to take travel for granted, especially since we’re constantly on the move. We’ll of course travel in the future, but it’s mentally exhausting to be constantly plotting logistics.
- Community: One of our biggest struggles has been the lack of community while traveling. We meet a lot of incredible people, only to go our separate ways. Sometimes you just want to text a friend and say, “Want to meet up today?”
- Too fast: Our favorite kind of travel is slow travel where you’re somewhere for a week or more. But that can be challenging in a van, where campgrounds have maximum stays and you’re more susceptible to weather. During our time in Latin America, we were able to travel more slowly by renting apartments, for example.
- Reciprocity: Friends and complete strangers have shown us amazing hospitality during our travels, from housing us to taking us to little-known local spots to introducing us to their friends. But we haven’t been able to reciprocate—or pay it forward to other travelers.
- Growing businesses: Our self-employment has really taken off and we’re finding it really rewarding. But that also means it’s harder for us to be offline for long periods of time. We’ve maxed out what we can do while also van-dwelling.
- Activities: There are some things you just can’t do while you’re traveling full time, like join social clubs, home-brew beer or have a vegetable garden.
What we’ll be doing instead
During our travels, we realized that Santa Barbara, California has pretty much everything we love—if we’re sticking with the US of A. It’s a college town; it’s not too big, but not too small; it has outdoorsy activities; it’s close to an international airport (Los Angeles); it’s walkable and bikeable; most friends and family are less than a day away; and the weather is spectacular (we hate seasons).
Mountains AND beaches? Sign us up. (Photo: st33vo)
We are going to rent a small, two-bedroom house where we’ll live and host other travelers through our network of friends and Airbnb. We’re so excited to return the hospitality and show people a good time! We also plan to continue traveling, but more slowly, by exploring things like home exchanges or the occasional house sit or work exchange. We’ll keep running our businesses too; we don’t want to give up the flexibility we’ve gained by working for ourselves.
Will this be our plan forever? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe we’ll start traveling again one day, but more slowly than before. Maybe we’ll buy some land in the mountains and start a nanobrewery. Maybe we’ll start a (tiny house?) commune with friends. The possibilities are endless!
Signs you may be ready to stop traveling full time
If you’re traveling now, or thinking about traveling in the future, it’s good to know when it might be time to stop. A lot of it is based on you and your preferences, but there are some clear signs to look for.
- Are you present? If you’re staring at a beautiful, one-of-a-kind vista but all you can think of is getting to the next thing, that’s a sign. When travel fatigue sets in, you start losing appreciation and aren’t able to enjoy the moment.
- Are you having more bad days than good? In travel, as in life, there are good days and there are bad days. The question is, are most of the days good? If you’ve tried to make changes to your travels but still are having mostly bad days, it’s probably time to reassess.
- Do problems feel more like a disaster than an adventure? When minor inconveniences (seriously, this campground is full too?!) go from feeling fun to feeling like a miserable catastrophe, it’s pretty clear that travel is losing its novelty for you.
- Do you fantasize about the things you can’t do because you’re traveling? Yes, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, so really think about this one. If you are wistfully reminiscing about how much you love baking, for example, that’s one thing. If you are angry and feeling like you’ve made painful sacrifices, that’s another thing entirely.
- Did a break make things worse? Sometimes you need to stay in one place for a while to recharge and then you’re ready to hit the road again…unless you’re dreading it.
- Is full-time travel harming your life? Maybe you aren’t able to find safe places to be, or perhaps your relationships or finances are suffering. Everyone has different priorities in life, but, no matter what they are, you shouldn’t feel like you’re losing more than you’re gaining.
Coming up with an “exit strategy”
Once you’ve decided it’s time to stop traveling full time, you need to plan your next moves. While you can stop immediately by doing something in the interim like renting a short-term space or staying with a friend or family member, you probably want to think bigger than that. Here are some questions to consider.
- What do you want your life to look like now? Stopping your full-time travels doesn’t mean you have to revert back to your old life. You may decide to, but remember that you have options. Is there a place you enjoyed visiting? Have you discovered a new passion that you’d like to explore? Remember that, like travel, you don’t have to do it forever—just until you’re ready for whatever is next.
- How much financial runway do you need? Once you know what you want your new life to look like, figure out what that’ll take financially. Want to start your own business? Figure out how much startup money you’ll need. Want to move into a rental? Figure out how much you’ll need to save for a deposit. And so on.
- How will you share the news with others? Maybe this is the communications/PR professional in me, but you don’t make a big life change like this without thinking about how to tell people. At a minimum, you’ll be telling your friends and family and you don’t want people to find out they were the last to know. Or maybe you’re planning on applying for a traditional job; how will you talk about your travels?
- Do you get “senioritis?” We made the decision to stop traveling six months ago, giving ourselves until the fall to live it up. Guess what? Once we’d made the decision, we were super ready to stop. It’s like when you’re a senior in high school and about to graduate—you know you’ll miss it, but you’re also totally over it. Think about how long you want to draw out the transition.
- What do you still love about traveling? Unless full-time travel totally sucked for you, there are some things you’ll miss. Maybe it’s meeting new people all the time or having a minimal amount of possessions. Think deliberately about how to weave that into your new life, but in a different way.
- What’s the next trip you want to take? Some things are good to quit cold turkey, but travel doesn’t have to be one of them. Think about where you could travel next and make the necessary arrangements, even if it won’t be for several months after you stop traveling. Having travel to look forward to will help smooth the transition.
Don’t worry, it’s not good-bye yet! In the coming weeks, we’ll share:
- What we’d do differently, knowing what we know now, and
- What you gain from full-time travel and why, despite its challenges, it’s totally worth it.