I don’t know about you, but I sometimes dream of finding a way out from where I live and seeing something more. Maybe some places in Poland, which I haven’t had a chance to visit yet or maybe a totally different country? However, I always find a good excuse for these thoughts, sometimes the reasons are real, but sometimes they are simply created by fear and anxiety which dominate my mind. I’m certainly not a born tramp, who would be pleased to spend countless nights under the stars with bugs sneaking under my clothes or with mosquitoes buzzing over my head. I’m a human being shaped by all the amenities of 21st century, which doesn’t change the fact, that just like everyone else, I need a change and a fresh start from time to time.
However, there are people who don’t lack courage to leave their old lives and homes to search for adventures and a deeper meaning of life – something much more important than just pure consumerism. Today, I’d like to introduce you to an amazing couple, who decided to sell out all their properties and to set out for a trip through picturesque United States of America, and to add some spice to this story, the earlier mentioned trip wouldn’t be possible without an RV, which has become the second home for Carol – the author of a blog Roam Sweet Roam, who will tell you more about her experiences, new lifestyle and about her plans for the nearest future.
Passion Piece: Could you tell my readers a few words about yourself?
Carol: Sure! I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My Mother started a typesetting business in the 1980’s, which then transitioned into a printing business too, and then Dad joined in at that time as well. I met my husband when I worked for Mom and Dad’s business, and married him in 1987 and we started our own business (servicing and selling supplies and equipment to printers and typesetters) in 1990. We raised 3 boys together, owned a 4000 square foot house with a built-in pool on an acre of land, a 2200 square foot photography studio (old house in a downtown area), and a 2000 square foot office condo, all in the suburbs of Chicago. In 2015 we decided enough was enough! The property taxes! The maintenance on all those properties! We sold it ALL (took about a year), packed up my-then-junior-in-high-school son (my youngest), bought homeschooling books, and hit the road! We still own the business, but have simplified it greatly. Now we dropship supplies to our customers, and go back to the Midwest in the RV once a year to visit the customers that want their machines cleaned and maintained (and get to visit family while we are there too!).
Passion Piece: How did you come up with the idea of setting up your blog?
Carol: Our blog actually came about before we hit the road full time. Our very first trip in the RV happened in 2009, when my husband made friends with a guy online from Vancouver, British Columbia. This friend – Mark and his wife Sandra and their 2 daughters thought it would be great fun to get together and have an RV trip down the west coast of the US – Washington, Oregon and northern California. We didn’t know the first thing about RV-ing, and thought we could just fly to Seattle and rent an RV for the trip. Little did we know that the RV comes with nothing aboard – no towels, no dishes, nothing. It’s pretty impossible to pack and fly with everything you need to live for 3 weeks on a trip, so one day my husband showed up home with an old, cheap motorhome, and OFF WE WENT! The blog came about because all of our friends and family were interested in our trip and wanted to know where we were going and what we would be seeing. So we set up a blog on Blogspot and pretty much the only readers were my family and friends – who were pretty convinced we were nuts. Pretty sure they still feel that way.
Passion Piece: Why has traveling become such an important part of your life? What does it give you?
Carol: After that first harrowing (more on that later) trip in the RV, we were hooked! My husband and I have always loved adventure, and when you’re traveling the United States every day is a new adventure! Some places we will stay for a night, and sometimes we will plan to stay in an area for a full month. It just depends on the area and what there is to do and see there. Traveling gives me a sense of fulfillment. There are so many different places and people to see and meet! How many people can say they’ve stood on the edge of The Grand Canyon, and then a week later listened to the most beautiful Cajun accent of the person they met in south Louisiana. The US alone is so big, and so diverse. I want to experience as much of it as is humanly possible!
Passion Piece: Was it a difficult idea to resign from your settled lifestyle and business to become a real tramp?
Carol: It was very difficult! When my husband first proposed the idea to me, because he had read about some people that did this on the Internet, I thought he was insane! It took a couple years of him trying to convince me that we could do this, but I eventually caved. I can honestly say NO REGRETS!
Passion Piece: How does an everyday life in a caravan look like? Can everyone afford it?
Carol: Every day is very different. It just depends on where we are. I start my day like everyone else does though – I enjoy a hot cup of tea (not a coffee drinker but hubby is), check my emails, look at Facebook, have a shower and breakfast and walk my 3 dogs. So in that respect it’s just like everyone else’s day! However, today I might do all those things in a campground just outside Yellowstone National Park, and tomorrow I might do all those things in South Dakota! After our morning chores, some days we will work on the computer all day (like I am right now), and some days we get out and adventure in the area that we’re in. Some nights we sleep in a campground with full hookups for water and electricity and sewer, and some nights we camp out in the desert in the middle of nowhere with no amenities (called “boondocking”). Can everyone afford it? That all depends – we’re able to afford it because we were very very smart with our money over the years, saved a lot and invested wisely, and because we do still work (most days it’s just an hour or two of work in the morning and then the rest of the day is ours).
Passion Piece: What kind of adventures have you experienced while being on the way?
Carol: Wow, where do I start??? So many adventures! We’ve watched the sun rise over the desert, been caught in snow in the Midwest, climbed mountains in The Smokies, skipped rocks in mountain lakes in Yellowstone, driven 14,000 feet up a mountain in Colorado, and so much more. We’ve also gotten a flat tire somewhere in Oregon (we pulled into a rest area and cooked pork chops on the grill outside the camper while waiting for roadside service to come change our tire), inadvertently dumped poop on the ground while trying to empty the tanks at a truck stop. It’s not all fun and games, but it sure beats the rat race!!!
Passion Piece: Was homeschooling your son a challenge? What kind of hardships did you face?
Carol: By the time we were on the road Brian was a junior in high school, so it wasn’t all that difficult to homeschool him. He had grown up going to a private Christian school so he was used to the tough curriculum, so I just continued on with that same curriculum. By senior year we let him have more freedom in his choices and didn’t stick to a strict curriculum, because by that point he was so far ahead anyways. So for example, History class one day might include a trip to the USS Lexington ship and then he would write a report about it. Or he would decide he wanted to learn Anatomy & Physiology, so he could hop online and take a course for that.
Passion Piece: Do you plan to come back to an ordinary life in a big city with all the amenities around?
Carol: This is a tough question! We did actually purchase a home in Tennessee 2-1/2 years ago, but we don’t live in it – our sons rent it from us. We are going to be selling the home soon, and then I’m not sure what will happen next. Some days we talk about buying another home in this area for us to actually live in, and some days we talk about hitting the road again for another year. We settled for a bit because my grandson (who is 2 years old now) was born with a major congenital heart defect, and has had 2 open heart surgeries with another coming up in a year or two, and we knew that my son and daughter-in-law would need help throughout this whole ordeal with their older daughter (who of course is not allowed in a NICU at 3 years old). Now that he is stable (for now), we may take this time to travel some more, until they need us again for his next surgery.
Passion Piece: Where do you see yourself in the near future? Have you prepared a new itinerary?
Carol: As of right now if I had to guess, I see us selling the house within a couple months, traveling for another year at least (we really want to go to Alaska!), and then who knows!
Passion Piece: Have you got any other passions besides traveling?
Carol: Yes! I have been a professional photographer for many many years, so the 2 passions go very well together! Part of what we do for work includes me doing stock photography, as well as selling nature/landscape photographs (multiple income streams!). I also design and sell t-shirts in the camping niche on Amazon Merch, which is a lot of fun and gives me a little bit of passive income.
Passion Piece: Which motto would you like to share with my readers?
Carol: We have nothing to lose and a world to see. In other words, JUST DO IT!
Passion Piece: Thank you very much for this truly interesting conversation! I hope that one day you will tell us more about your trip to Alaska!
I believe that Carol has managed to convince some of you to a more relaxed lifestyle in which the most important is what you experience rather than what you have in your pocket. What’s your dream destination?
See you around!
Photos by: Carol Mellema