We will give you the tools to change your dream into reality, but the implementation is yours to enjoy.”
— Phil and Carol White, authors of “Live Your Road Trip Dream”
And enjoy we have. When we first entertained the thought of taking a sabbatical, my search on the topic came up with Phil and Carol White’s book, “Live Your Road Trip Dream: Travel for a Year for the Cost of Staying Home”
I bought the book because I wanted to figure out how we could take some time off without going broke, and Road Trip Dream succeeded in helping us do just that. With the release of its second edition, the Whites’ book is as vital as ever when it comes to considering every critical aspect of how to plan, execute and live your own road trip dream. Don’t even think of embarking on a journey without reading and following the advice laid out by these two seasoned road trippers.
How Can We Afford to Do This?
The book begins by helping you figure out the hard costs of extended travel. The Whites, realizing that not everyone has the same kind of travel budget, include two distinct budgets; a real “vacation of a lifetime” budget, and a more frugal one for thrifty people like me.
Based on our own spending habits over the last year, I can vouch for the fact that the book’s budgeting methodology is on the money. Their budget’s “memory joggers” will help you look at every aspect of road trip living that you’ll spend money on, from postage to Internet access. They also spotlight important things to consider, like realizing that you need to plan for fluctuating costs in different regions around the country (for example, campground fees in the east are much higher than in the west).
Making It Real: Deciding to Go
Carol says, the more people you tell about your journey, the more it will seem real. And if you have any dependents that won’t be traveling with you, this book has great advice for coping with their reactions to your announcement. It’s important to remember that not everyone will be supportive. Some might think you’re nuts. Others will think you’re abandoning them. More will express doubt that you’ll actually do it. The Whites have outlined many possible scenarios that you may encounter, and present realistic ideas for turning the negativity around to help your family feel included, loved and be supportive of your adventure.
For working age people like Jim and I, the Whites have included a section about sabbaticals, working from the road, and even “road schooling” for families. The information, suggestions and ideas provided in this section help get a reader’s mind around the fact that you don’t have to be retired to take time off to travel. With some creativity and flexibility, they illustrate how even working people and families can hit the road. In this edition of the book they’ve provided a number of resources and ways to research this further.
Choosing Your Traveling Home; Envision Your Adventure
Next to budgeting, this is one of the most important things for the potential road tripper to consider. The book asks you to consider: What will your trip be like?
- Do you want to go fewer places and stay for a while in each?
- Do you want to be on the move most every day?
- Will you explore the back roads of our country or stick mainly to the interstates?
- How much gear do you need for your adventures?
- How many personal items are essential for your comfort?
- What kinds of weather will your route cover? What does that mean for clothing requirements and vehicle comfort?
- Do you want to be able to sleep in your vehicle? How elaborate does it need to be?
To these questions, I would add:
- If you have pets or kids, how much space do they require?
- Are you comfortable with dirt, or is a Holiday Inn your idea of roughing it?
Your questions will determine your vehicle, which in turn impacts your budget, flexibility, comfort, driving, and more. Once you hold a picture of your trip in your mind, the Whites will take you on a walk-through of how they decided on their PleasureWay camper van. Their story will help you think about all of the important aspects of selecting your ideal vehicle.
This section was incredibly helpful to Jim and I. Because we love wilderness camping and wanted to explore small towns that we might want to live in, the obvious choice for us was some kind of RV. At that point we came up with our own RV Criteria Worksheet.
The Whites never advocate one type of vehicle over another, they simply point out some benefits and drawbacks to different vehicles, and then leave it up to you to do further research about ones that might interest you.
Planning the Route
Reality Check: You Can’t Do it All
Once we were on the road, Jim and I conveniently forgot one key bit of advice from this section.
“As much as you might think you will be able to see everything you want in the time frame that you choose, you won’t be able to.”
How true! It wasn’t until after three months flew by that his hard reality finally hit us. Jim and I realized that a year isn’t nearly enough to see this country. That was when we decided to start workamping so we could have more time to explore.
So remember, a year off will fly by, and you may never get the opportunity to do something like this again. The Whites’ book will help you make the most of it, by helping you choose a theme or area of interest to pursue. For them, one of their goals was to visit all 43 of our national parks. For Jim and I, our goal is to find a place we want to live and work, somewhere that’s compatible with the interests and wishes we determined in career and life brainstorming sessions we did last year.
Getting Ready to Go
At first it might seem like your departure day will never arrive. But once it gets closer, panic will set in if you aren’t prepared and keeping good checklists, like Carol did. She says that there are so many aspects of day to day living that you don’t even think about when you’re in a stick home, and there are even more things that need to get done for an easy life on the road (did you remember to join the Good Sam Club?). This section will help you break down the overwhelming aspects of prioritizing and executing every detail that must get taken care of before you leave; from figuring out what kind of insurance to have, to packing your vehicle and making personal/business cards to leave with all of those new friends you’ll make on the road.
Staying In Touch with Technology
Technologies change so fast, that by the time a book mentioning technology is published, that technology is already outdated. When Live Your Road Trip Dream was published in 2004, things like mobile Internet and Garmins weren’t even on the radar for most neophytes. This revised section does a comprehensive job of generally explaining all of the technologies available at your disposal, without totally geeking out.
Now I admit, I had hoped for at least a mention of some technologies like mobile satellite Internet, or how couples with two laptops can use one air card. It also doesn’t address how critical it is to have a backup or network drive on board for your computer(s). But then I had to remember; I’m a geek, and married to one, so we do tend to be more obsessive about this than the general public. We also run a business from the road, which is not within the scope of the book.
So once I re-read it from the laypersons point of view, I could appreciate how the Whites do a good job of presenting a general overview of road technologies, without going over the heads of novice users. They did a fabulous job of explaining air cards for internet access, which is what most people end up using on the road. A comprehensive resource section at the end of the book includes lots of great websites to consult for those of you who do want to be nerdy nomads like Jim and I.
Internet, Websites and Blogs
Again, the Whites offer some good, practical advice here:
How it’s best to have an email program installed on our laptop, instead of only on your service provider’s website. That way, if you’re stuck on a pay-per-minute Internet connection somewhere, you can save money by downloading your email, disconnecting, replying to email while offline, then go back online and send everything.
Why you should have a backup camera available (I agree completely . . . see our post from a few days ago), and why you should promptly name and categorize all of your photos as you take them off the camera.
The chapter then discusses the practicalities involved in creating an online travel journal, which is the only place in this entire book that I feel it falls short. While it does suggest using a provider like MyTripJournal.com, it also suggests that readers consider creating a website because it’s easier and more flexible than creating a blog.
“A blog. . . . provides the journaling and pictures aspect of a travel journal, but falls short on the mapping and email aspects, among other things.”
I respectfully disagree here. And yes, I have a personal stake in mentioning this, but I also want people to know that writing a blog using services like RVBlogz.com, TypePad or Blogger, is far easier than creating a website. With a simple interface, you can publish your travel diaries and upload pictures.
And with a little more effort, you can install a variety of plugins available that will do everything from allowing your readers to email from within blog posts, to incorporating photo galleries and Google maps of your route, blogs are simply better for the novice user.
Opinions about technologies can be a divisive as the old “Tastes Great / Less Filling” argument, so I can respect the White’s opinion that websites are better, and will leave it at that. But if you do want to see how easy it is to create a blog, please visit RVBlogz.com for a tour!
Making Decisions, Handling Emergencies and Returning Home
Do you know how to get the best price on gas? Would you know the best thing to do if you drove into a scary neighborhood? How will travel change your outlook on life?
As my friend Ted likes to say, “it’s the journey, not the destination” that makes for a good trip. And every good adventure will have its share of misadventure too. How well you handle it will determine the success of your endeavor. The Whites have plenty of practical advice in these three chapters that will make the journey to your destination a little easier.
Get the Dish on Life on the Road
The second half of the book is a detailed, weekly account of the White’s journey, from their trial run in the “White House” to the time when Carol broke her ankle, to the feelings they encountered as they finally returned to the same time zone as their hometown. Readers can learn take a peek into what life on the road is really like, and how the Whites coped with unexpected surprises and challenges, and turned them into positive events that helped to make their trip an adventure of a lifetime.
Birds of A Feather RV Together
I haven’t taken a look at this book since we left, so I really enjoyed re-reading it and comparing notes with Carol and Phil’s journey, and ours. It was fun to compare the difference in our travels. When the Whites left, they were retired and thus, had a home and children to go back to. Their trip was always about simply taking a year off, and then returning to Oregon. Jim and I, on the other hand, sold everything, and left Eureka with the intent of figuring out what we wanted to be when we grow up. We still have no idea where we’ll end up or what we’ll do for a living when it’s over, but we know that like the Whites, we too are having the time of our lives and treasuring every minute.
Despite the differences between our journeys, there were also so many similarities between our trips that I couldn’t help but think that I subliminally memorized their route and had us follow it! The Whites obviously enjoy finding quirky offbeat places like we do, otherwise how was it possible that we both ended up going to Wall Drug, Kohler Wisconsin (Jim and I visited family near there) and Luckenbach Texas?
By reading and following the White’s advice in Live Your Road Trip Dream, we were able to pull off our journey in the kind of organized, budgeted and well-prepared manner that makes us both comfortable. If we had just taken off without doing our research first, this journey might have ended months ago.
There are so many things to consider and planning for something like this can seem overwhelming. Don’t let it. Buy Road Trip Dream, and you will receive the comfort and encouragement that it takes to believe in yourself, and know that you can get your way to living your own road trip adventure.