We are at the third interview of our World Travellers interviews. Today we get inspired with Nathan that has been traveling non stop for five full years, mostly with his Recreational vehicle (RV). But the most amazing part of it, is that they are a family of five and two of the kids were born on the road!
Hi there, my name is Nathan and I'm an American traveler going on my sixth year of full-timing it. I've spent some limited time in Europe, as well as various spots in Central America, before going the full-time RVer route through my native country. I travel with my three young boys (Tristan 12, Winter 3, Wylder 1) and beautiful girlfriend Renee (32). We were friends in college and afterwards she disappeared on a backpacking tour through Europe. When she got back, recounting her tales, I found myself suddenly needing to travel. I took my first cross-country roadtrip a couple of months after that, and I've been hooked on keeping myself moving ever since. After that trip, I immediately set out to quit my job, go freelance, and see as much as I could of this world while I still could. I'm only 34 so hopefully that means I've got a few more decades of it ahead of me.
When you started travelling and why?
I got to full-timing in 2008, but before that had spent a few months in England and living in the Pacific Northwest, plus a bunch of shorter trips here and there. To be honest, I was bitten by some type of travel bug that just won't let go. I think it was a tick, and I must've let the head in when I tried scratching it out because I haven't been able to shake it since. I really find that the only thing that keeps me from going completely crazy is to continue to explore, keep moving around and trying new things.
What's your travel style?
We're currently experimenting with slow travel via vacation house rentals as we're trying to get some more experience with that before leaving the US later this year (and weather out the whole "Polar Vortex" science fiction thing that's happening in North America right now). Looking forward to spending a few months in Prague and somewhere coastal Spain, and wherever else that leads us. Aside from this little jaunt though, we have been traveling around in a vintage 1976 Airstream travel trailer for the past year, and a Volkswagen Bus before that (when there weren't quite so many of us.)
I've also done lots of train trips and a bicycle tour or two.
How many continents and countries have you visited so far and what are your favourites?
I've been to Europe briefly and around North America from Canada to Mexico and Belize. Some of my favorite places have been Brighton, UK, that was my first experience with another country and it just felt like a big ol' outdoor circus, something I hadn't really ever seen before, and I fell in love with it.
More recently I made it to British Columbia and thought that Vancouver was some type of Mega Man city of the future. Though I'm from a decent sized city and have been to several larger ones, it was just a whole different experience there. Giant perfect majestic buildings with Tiffany's and expensive clothing juxtaposed with so many street kids, waves and waves of them, it was all very beautiful and eye opening at once. In the US, my favorite spot recently is Mt. Rainier.
Renee has been to Spain, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Amsterdam as well, before she so generously agreed to join me on my particular journey.
What was your longest journey?
Well, we haven't owned or rented a house at a fixed address for more than nine months at a clip (once per baby boy born on the road) in the last five and a half years, so depending on how you look at it I suppose it's five and a half years or two years with just enough time to cook a baby and let him cool on the counter before heading back out.
What's the aim of your travels? What are you looking for while travelling?
God, I have been thinking about this more and more as of late. It started out as just something to do, for fun and to see new things, meet new people, hike new trails.
Lately I've been wondering if it's more like running away, if there's somehow something wrong with just wanting to keep going on and on perpetually. I've seen most of what I really wanted to see in the US, not that there wouldn't be more here to offer that I don't know about, but I'm ready to move on to foreign languages, foreign cultures and concepts. I keep coming back to this, that traveling, for me, is just about keeping every day of my life new and different. Traveling the world makes me feel like what I think famous people or rock stars must feel like, sort of a "Man, I can't believe this is really happening!" exuberance in my chest.
What's the best memory you keep from your travels?
Hiking up into the Cactus Forest in Arizona with Renee, when we had first gotten together. The change in atmosphere from the very hot, very dry desert, with those big "cowboy style" Saguaro cacti all around and then as we gained elevation the climate changed to different cacti and then to rocky or grassy cliffsides, until we finally reached the top and there were evergreens all around, even some snow. I hadn't brought the rainfly for our tent because I honestly hadn't thought it would rain and didn't think it would be freezing up there.
We shared a little whisky around a fire and went to bed in the tent. After a few minutes, I thought a snake had bitten my hand, it hurt so badly, that's when I realized how utterly cold it was. We both just stayed up all night shivering and trying to do what we could to keep warm. I ended up bringing the fire into the tent with a long log...and well, we survived and it was one of those horrible experiences that's so much fun to remember having made it through.
As day broke we were quick to start heading back down the hill when this older guy, maybe in his 50s, had just run up the mountain that took us hours to climb the day before. Laughing and putting things into perspective, you know?
And the worst one?
The worst experience I've ever had, really the only one I can think back on and not laugh about now, was riding the train to Brighton, UK from the airport. Sitting in the seat in front of me was a Canadian girl and a British guy, and they were just going off on Americans, not knowing that I was behind them or really anything about me, let alone my nationality. It was right after Bush invaded Iraq and all of that 9/11 insanity, and I was right alongside the rest of the world hating all of that, but when I tried to explain that the actions of a government don't reflect the people as a whole, and how that type of thinking is prejudice...man, it just went really south from there. I was unloaded on by these two as though I was personally responsible for every army who'd ever done anything wrong back to the Crusades.
That was my first experience with any foreigner overseas and I couldn't believe it. I was pretty angry and it changed me in a way that I wish it hadn't, really. Luckily, everyone else I met in the country ended up being a great time and so I didn't leave there thinking everyone hated me. Kind of funny though looking back, I guess, as being a white American male, well, I was born into a pretty good position so being sort of chastised for that might have actually been a good thing. A little daunting for a first effort at world travel though...
What was the most important lesson you've learned while travelling?
Not to put too much into plans, as they always tend to change and the more you invest in the idea of "we're going here, I'm going there", the harder it is to jump onto another opportunity when it arises. Is "Go with the flow" still a hip saying?
What’s the item in your luggage that you couldn't live without?
Well I'd like to say my compass, because it's a cool bracelet that I made myself, but if I were honest it'd be my laptop, since that's how I make my money.
What's your average monthly budget and how do you fund your travels?
Most of our income comes from my freelancing as a web designer, and that pays pretty well. It's up and down, as freelance work goes, but we've learned to make the most of $50 for a week and somehow figured out how to spend $10,000 in a month if we have to...
I also run a web magazine at WandrlyMagazine.com, which is aimed at showcasing places we love in the US and our travel experiences, though we try not to be so much of a blog and more of an online magazine. I suppose others can be the judge of how well we pull that off.
Do you have any idea to make money for travelling that you could share with us?
Most of the people I've met have some type of job design or software development or something like that. A few writers, but though they're all over the web, I've never met one in real life. I know a woman who does tech support for Woo Themes, a WordPress theme development company.
Some of the cooler things I've seen though have been mobile RV repair guys who move with the seasons, and I love the site CoolWorks.com for finding jobs with National Parks, hotels, etc. Seasonal stuff so you can go somewhere and work for awhile, then find a new job and go somewhere new. I'm always fascinated with people who make a living while traveling and don't use the Internet. I think that's opened up the experience to way more people (myself included), so I'm always impressed with people "doing it the old fashioned way".
Do you plan to settle down first or later?
We have no real plans to settle down. It's always there, looking at everywhere we go and wondering "Could we live here long term?" I haven't personally found anywhere that fits that bill just yet.
Of all the places you have been to, where would you like to live the most?
Well if I had to choose, it would be Brighton, because I would at least want to be outside of the US. I would want to be somewhere I had quick access to lots of places we haven't been.
If you think of yourself in 10 years, how do you imagine your life?
Ten years, maybe we'd have a little farm somewhere, a very small patch of land which was inexpensive to maintain and we could live there if we wanted, and travel as much as we wanted as well. But 10 years out, I don't know, that's too far away when I can barely make certain plans on where we'll be next month. I'd also love to be creating something that blends writing and web design, and making documentaries. I've got all of these ideas for the next generation of really immersive travel experiences, where you get a sense of various places' magic through a blend of music and video and writing and interaction that you can't get from just television or just written words.
Again though, so much of everything I think about are just ideas and they often get trumped by just wanting to go somewhere new and hike its mountains, walk its streets.
A valuable advice for a long-term traveller at the beggining of his journey?
Don't be afraid to take it slow. I think most of us want to rush around a lot in the beginning, see as much as we can. It's just part of it all, but I've gained so much more from slow traveling than I do when we're trying to do everything we can in a summer.
Nathan and his family run and write for the online travel magazine Wand'rly, builds the Internet one site at a time via ClickNathan, and homeschools his children as they wander around the corner of the universe they're currently calling their own. He's also on Instagram.com/Wandrly