Flexibility and going with the flow are always important when it comes to travel. Matt and Chelsea had been planning and saving for an international trip for 6 months. Unfortunately, COVID restrictions put a stop to their original plans. They changed course and have made the most of it as they explore the United States in a camper. I recently caught up with them to ask about their adventures.
Tell us about your travel crew
We are Matt and Chelsea with our two dogs Brody and Red. For the first 6 months, the dogs accompanied us everywhere. After a short trip home to Florida for a wedding, we made the decision to leave the dogs with Chelsea’s mom for 2-3 months to allow us the ability to do more. It was hard having 2 extra bodies in a tiny 20-foot camper. Matt has been working from home, which has given us the opportunity to work on the road. Chelsea quit her job as a dental hygienist to be able to travel full time. We had been saving for a 6-month international trip, but due to COVID, we had to adjust our plans and decided to use some of the money to travel our beautiful country for the time being. We both have always had a love for travel, so the decision to do this came pretty easily.
Where is home? And where are you right now?
Home is Jacksonville, FL. We are currently outside of Las Vegas in a boondocking (free) campsite near Valley of Fire State Park.
What would you do differently if you were starting now?
We considered how nice it would’ve been to have our own camper. We have been borrowing Chelsea’s sister’s camper so we couldn’t be too picky with the layout. Also, it has created a bit of a deadline so we can have it back to her by a certain time. We thought we would only be doing this for a few months, but we are going on 7 months now – there’s a lot of this beautiful country to see!
What did your friends and family think?
They were extremely supportive! We have a lot of help and support back home making sure our “normal” life is kept up with. They just want us to be safe and enjoy this experience we are fortunate to have.
What has life on the road been like?
Eye opening is an understatement. We have discovered so many different things about our beautiful country and ourselves as well. When you’re taken away from your normal life, your job, your family, and friends, you’re able to really learn a lot about yourself as an individual – and as a couple. It can be a struggle sometimes, but it has really strengthened us.
What has been your favorite spot?
This is a hard one to answer when you’ve seen so many places! We have had favorite cities, favorite hikes, favorite views, and favorite atmospheres. I can tell you some places that blew us away that we didn’t expect. The two that stick out the most to us are Custer State Park in South Dakota (this was at the beginning of our trip, and we are still telling people about it), and Chiricahua National Monument in Southern Arizona. Custer State Park is near Mount Rushmore and Wind Cave National Park. The national park was closed due to COVID, but Custer had more than enough sights and wildlife to make up for it! We were truly spoiled with this hidden gem and would absolutely go back. Chiricahua was a spot we were traveling near but had no intentions on visiting. We like to zoom out on Google maps and look at our surrounding area often to get some ideas. This is how we stumbled upon this area, and it was amazing! In our eyes, it is national park worthy and definitely worth visiting if you’re ever in southern Arizona.
What is your best story so far?
Probably our most humorous story, and one we will never forget would be when our black water pipe “fell” while we were driving down the highway. The screw that holds it in place came off and the pipe began dragging along the road. For those who don’t know, the black water tank is what holds your sewage. We heard a lady honking and weren’t sure what it was until she got next to us and was pointing back at the RV. That’s when Matt looked back and realized we were spraying brown sludge all over the road behind us. He quickly merged to the right and it appeared to stop leaking, so he kept going to the next exit. As he merged left to get back onto the road, it got even worse. That’s when we stopped to check it out and see what damage had been done. Luckily, we were able to zip tie it back in place and stop the leak until we could get it fixed. We called a few repair shops, and they all had the same story – couldn’t fix it for almost a week. We decided to still go to our campsite only to find out the bathrooms were closed due to COVID (thanks, California!). With no other options, we had to try to fix it ourselves. Luckily, we were able to pick up the parts at some local RV suppliers the next day, and the repair turned out to be relatively easy. Chelsea really enjoyed “bucket duty” catching any spillage while Matt fixed the pipe. This story definitely explains how life on the road in an RV can have some unexpected challenges!
What are some unexpected things you have encountered traveling full time?
How tiring it can be. When you’re at home, you typically have days that you can relax and recover from everyday life. Being in a new place every week, we constantly feel the need to be on the go and have to remind ourselves that it’s okay to have a down day every once in a while.
We have grown used to living in the RV now, but at the beginning, it was completely different than living in a house. The RV has its own maintenance and necessities to be functional. If something goes wrong and you need to have it fixed, you have to make different plans quickly.
One other thing is when we stay at RV parks and are trying to leave on a day Matt is working, we have to request late check out since he ends work later than the typical 11 am check out. Most campgrounds have been okay with it and haven’t charged us, but a few have. So, we either had to pick up and move to a Walmart or pay the late fee. Now, to avoid that, we are trying to only stay at campgrounds on the weekends and stay at free campsites during the week.
What has it been like traveling with COVID concerns?
It has been interesting going through different states and seeing how differently they’re handling it. Certain places have been a lot less crowded than usual. Unfortunately, a lot of places have been closed completely. Masks rules have been all over the map, so we learned to always have one in our pocket and try to respect each place’s rules. California had some pretty tight restrictions while in Texas, it was a whole different world.
What is the coolest thing you have done?
We went on an airplane ride over San Francisco. We had views of Alcatraz, the Golden Gate, and the beautiful shores of the Pacific Ocean. Chelsea even got to “fly” the plane with the pilot.
Do you have a dream destination you haven’t managed to go to yet?
Glacier National Park. When we started this trip, we weren’t able to make it up there before it got too cold for us. We have to try to avoid cold weather due to the pipes in the RV, but we will make it there some day. We thought about trying to squeeze it into our last week on the road, but it would add about 18 hours to our trip back to Michigan, so we decided it’d be better to spend time with our friends in Denver on the way home.
What do you recommend leaving at home that most new travelers would pack?
Extra clothes! Only bring your favorites of what you need. You can always buy stuff on the road if it’s needed but its best to keep supplies at a minimum when packing.
What’s the funniest thing that happened to you on your trip?
Aside from our black water tank pipe leaking, one of our dogs jumped out of the window chasing after deer. We never realized how much of a hunting dog he was until this trip (he was a rescue 2 years ago). He would shake when he saw animals and whine trying to get out of the vehicle. We were on a backroad checking out a camping area around dusk and saw some deer. Matt decided to slow down to have a look and didn’t realize the window in the back was all the way down. Red jumped out of the truck and he was GONE. Matt went out searching with a flashlight while Chelsea stayed in the truck waiting for him and calling his name. After about 15 minutes, he came running back to the truck, dirty and exhausted. After honking the horn and flashing the lights, Matt realized he could come back to the truck. We never left the window down that far again!
What advice would you give to others wanting to get out and travel more?
Find what works best for your needs, and make it happen. Everyone’s story and lifestyles are different. There’s always a way to do it on a budget, and there’s always adjustments you can make to afford it. We really enjoyed the website/app Campendium. We were able to search for free campsites, cell coverage, and reviews from other campers. It has helped a lot with our planning.
Where are you heading next?
We are making our way to Great Basin National park and then into Utah to check out all the National Parks in the area and hopefully some smaller lesser-known areas as well. We never know our exact plans until we are in the area.
Where can we follow you?
We made a traveling page for the both of us on Instagram so we could look back at our memories easily. Our name is @Wandering.Match
Hope to hear from you! Feel free to message us with any questions!
Are you or someone you know on an amazing adventure? Leave a comment and we may feature the journey in a future post!
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