There Will Be Detours

Making travel dreams come true.

Photo credit: PunkToad, CC BY 2.0.

“There go all my travel dreams,” I said to myself.

I was sitting in the doctor’s office waiting for the results of my studies. I’d gone in thinking I had some kind of nasty infection, and instead found out I had a chronic lifetime illness with no cure. I cried into my husband’s shoulders and numbly went home.

For the next couple of months, I tried to adjust to my new normal. Our 20th anniversary was right around the corner in February, but I knew I was too ill to do anything in February, so my husband and I took a wait-and-see approach and postponed until late March/early April. By then, I felt like I had sort of a handle on things, so we went to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, our favorite place on earth, and had a wonderful time.

As we were driving through the mountains, I asked my husband if he remembered how we always wanted to live like this—travel and see the mountains together, drive across the U.S.—and how it wouldn’t be possible anymore with my condition.

He said, “Maybe we’re thinking about this all wrong. What about if we adjust our thinking to accommodate our new reality? What if we got some kind of RV, either a small one that you drive or a small pull-behind travel trailer? That way, you would always have what you need; a bathroom, kitchen, a bed to lay down when you’re not feeling good, and we could STILL travel.”

That was the moment it hit me, and we began to make our plans.

Over the next several months, we researched this new and exciting idea. RVs come in all shapes, sizes, classes, price ranges, etc. Our budget was $5–7K, and we looked at all kinds of trailers. Did we want a small Class C where you can drive it around the city and still park in the campground? (No, because if you want to leave, you have to disconnect the hookups every time you want to go somewhere.) Okay, do we want a pop-up camper? (No, we weren’t sure about the maintenance on the canvas parts and didn’t feel like it would be private enough.) How about a small Class B RV, which is more like a van and easy to maneuver? (Great, except they’re super expensive and, like the Class Cs, you have to constantly disconnect/reconnect.)

We finally settled on a small pull-behind travel trailer. Less expensive, fewer moving parts to maintain, and we could leave it connected at the campground and go sightseeing in the truck. That being settled, we got into the researching of travel trailers. What size? How much? Who makes them? Can our current vehicles tow this? We finally decided we would go with a small fiberglass trailer sometimes called Egg Campers due to them resembling, you got it, an egg. Super cute, lightweight, basic and within our price range, we decided we would get either a Scamp or Casita travel trailer.

So we scoured Craigslist, internet forums, fiberglass-RVs-for-sale websites, and private ads for months until finally we saw an Casita for sale about four hours away in Alabama. It was priced at $7,250. I had about $14,000 in my savings account and didn’t want to take out too much more than half if I could help it, but we called the owners and drove over on December 27th to go take a look at it.

By now, my health had vastly improved due to dietary changes, but I still wanted to try this new camper lifestyle. I had it in the back of my mind that my condition could always come back (you never know) and it was better to have the trailer and not need it than need it and not have it. So we met the guy and took a look at the Casita. It was a 1993 16-foot trailer with a wet bath, mini kitchen, side dinette and a bed that could possibly be labeled as a “twin deluxe.” It was small, lightweight, musty, maybe even a little cramped, and the floor was spongy in some areas. We loved it. We made the deal and towed it back home.

The only thing left to do once you have a travel trailer is travel in it. We decided Florida would be nice, even in the winter, and I started researching campgrounds and RV parks. Everything was new to me, and I had a lot of questions: Are the lots private? How much is a site per night? Is it located close to the things we are interested in like the beach, the city for sightseeing, bike trails? Will we able to back the darn thing up into a site? We checked locations. We checked reviews. We checked the brakes on the Casita. We settled on Top Sail State Park in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida for our maiden voyage and off we went.

It was a surreal moment when we took off for the first time. I was doing it. A little over a year after my diagnosis, I was going on vacation—and not just any vacation. A vacation on my terms. A vacation that was not supposed to happen again, ever, because my body had turned against me. But after support and adjustments in the way I thought, accepting that there will be detours in life, taking care of my personal health, tons of research, a decent-sized savings account/budget, and a “why not?” attitude, we were doing it.

Everything went off without a hitch. The park was beautiful, close to the beach with plenty of nature trails and bike trails for us to enjoy. My husband and I backed in and hooked up like we’d been doing it forever. (I literally watched hours of YouTube videos to learn how to do all this stuff.) We sat on the beach at night with a towel to keep us warm and enjoyed the magnificence of the scenery. We read quietly or watched Netflix when it rained; we hiked and biked when the sun came out and watched for turtles in the ponds. Then it was over, and we drove home both thrilled and vindicated, eagerly anticipating our next trip.

We have since gone on another beach vacation, this time to St. Augustine, Florida. Another perfect trip. We are starting to feel like pros even though this was only our second time out. Now we have a few maintenance issues on our trailer to take care of and then it will be off to a lake vacation in Kentucky—and after that, hopefully the Adirondacks in the fall. Next year, we hope to go all the way to Crater Lake and enjoy the Pacific Northwest. We’re self-employed, so we can work on the road with our laptop for our clients and earn money as we travel. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even blog about the journey.

Most importantly, we will treat every trip as a vacation whether we are working or not because this whole experience has taught me that life changes in an instant, vacations are precious, and I never want to say to myself “I wish I had” or “if only.” No, we are not rich by any means, and everything will be budgeted and researched—boy will we research—but the point is we WILL go. And it WILL feel like vacation, every time.

MarLeigh is a 39-year-old self-employed Latina who handles both personal and business finances, is teaching herself to play the bass, and loves a quiet evening at home with her family.

This story is part of The Billfold’s Vacation Series.

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