by Jenni Raney Edwards,
The Author of Bumping Down Highways
Have you ever looked at a travel brochure with a picture of an RV and wondered what it would be like to climb in and drive away? Have you thought there must be something more to life?
I was 47 and single, and my kids were doing well on their own. I had climbed the corporate ladder and found success at every turn. I was chasing the traditional American Dream. I had the big house, the beach condo, the convertible Lexus and 47 little black dresses. I was the Prada heel wearing, running through airports, successful business woman. I loved to travel (the “five-star hotel and dining” kind that you got to by airplane), and I had it all…except time for my family and I.
I saw dear friends die too young from cancer and co-workers die from heart attacks. To be honest, I was miserable in my job. It was the challenge of accomplishing something and helping other people that I really loved. Perhaps I had gotten the definition of “success” all wrong.
I left the thousand thread-count sheets behind and took a road trip across the country that was way outside of my comfort zone. Hitting the road in my SUV with my dogs and the barest of essentials, I did not have a daily plan or reservations anywhere. From Florida to Oregon, I found campgrounds along the route that had tiny cabins we could stay in. I needed to think. I needed to figure out what was next for me.
My little road trip turned into two months. I was happier and healthier than I had been in years. I fell in love with the sights, the simplicity and the kindness of people. Shortly after I came home, I chose to walk away from “normal,” trade my Pradas for flip flops and join over 2 million other Americans who were living the full-time RV lifestyle.
I had zero RV experience, got into a lot of crazy situations, and made a lot of mistakes. Like flying down a mountain on my first cross country trip and being certain that was the day I would die. Or when I bought my big Class A motorhome and didn’t test drive it because I thought, “I drove a 5th wheel through the mountains and survived. How hard can this be?” I handed the dealer a check, climbed in and pulled out of the parking lot, but could barely keep the RV on the road! Another RVer helped me get to the RV Park and connected me with an instructor from the RV Driving School. After two days of private lessons with Chuck, I hit the road from Florida to Oregon. I just looked at it as practice every day.
On this journey, I found a community of people who were always willing to help each other even if they did not know you. People who didn’t care about my political affiliations, my religion, or my job. I met singles, couples, and families with children traveling in RVs. Some lived full-time, others were on vacation. They were the same everywhere I went. They only wanted to spend time with each other, sharing their stories, helping their neighbors, and encouraging me to keep going. This was life changing for me.
I am on an old-fashioned road trip every day: climbing mountains and looking for hidden waterfalls. I am seeing sights across our country that are more beautiful than you could ever imagine! I make real connections that last even after I am gone, people I still talk to and meet on the road again and again.
Life isn’t perfect, but when I have a bad day, the people in my RV community always make it better. From these people, I learned anyone can do anything. I learned that it didn’t matter how bad the weather was or how many things went wrong in a day, something good usually comes from it. I learned that there was more to laugh about than there was to cry about. I learned that the things I wanted to do were bigger than my fears. I now drive and live in a 40-foot Class A motorhome seeing the country and helping
others along the way. I learned how to live life!
I work less and do more. I have traveled through 47 states and am happily homeless by today’s standards. I hope to make that 50 states this year and be the first solo-woman RVer to do it!!!
People along the way often ask me if I am afraid to travel alone. I tell them that I am often afraid. I am just not afraid to try. I learned that courage is not the lack of fear, but doing the thing in spite of fear, because your goal is more important than the fear itself. I am living the life many people only dream of and you can too!