I have to admit coming home is curious. It's not hard and I don't exactly have the post vacation blues -- I'm glad to be home, in Missoula -- but it feels simultaneously like we've been gone forever and not at all. We fell right back into our usual routines within minutes of pulling up to the curb. Kids scattered to be with friends, Mike and I unloaded the RV, went to work our separate ways and sorted out house chores and bills and to dos. The adventures had and discoveries made on our trip were left somewhere on the unfamiliar road we traveled.

Girl with helmet on smiling.Coated with dirt, but still smiling post 4-wheeling in Leadville, Colorado. Photo credit: Mike Beltz

Those 4-weeks and 5,000-miles were so much more than the places we visited, people we met and things we did. They were transformative. For the first time in my life, I was able to experience and appreciate the simplicity of living on the road. Perhaps most importantly, I was able to see what it's like to live without all of the "stuff" we seem to amass at home. On the road, there's no grass to mow, weeds to pull, dogs to exercise, appliances to fix, schedules to arrange, bills, banking, work, lessons, cleaning, shopping. No daily grind. A simple sweep of the RV floor (small enough to use a hand held broom and dustpan), hand-washing the dishes or quick bathroom cleaning was all that was needed every now and again.

Every day was filled with unknowns rather than the knowns. Our kids would ask, "Where are we going today? Or "Where will we stay tonight?" Sometimes we could answer but more often than not, we said with a smile, "We're not exactly sure." We had the flexibility to stay and enjoy, keep moving or change course altogether -- all of which we did on this trip. It was here and now. Living in the present. We just don't get to live that way at home.

Person holding a surf board heading towards the water.Clarence's last day on Huntington Beach. An early morning session with Dad. Photo credit: Mike Beltz

I truly relished every minute of this trip. It's not to say every minute was pure bliss. Every family knows that's not practical or perhaps even possible. But I acknowledged the gift of time, four whole weeks, to be with my favorite people, day in and day out. To see them. Observe them. Listen to them. Laugh with them. Without distraction.

On this trip, we all had opportunities to connect in new and meaningful ways, challenge ourselves, give in and lean on each other. There really weren't any other options. We were confined. In it together. And not just for a day or even a few.

Family selfie with canyons and river below.Selfie on the Rim. Photo credit: Mike Beltz

For many of these reasons and more, this will not be my first and only RV adventure. It's quite clear that my kids aren't likely to beg us for another trip anytime soon (and that's to be expected), but Mike and I, we're a different story. We're already talking about trips to celebrate milestone birthdays and anniversaries. Places we missed and want to go back to, other places we want to go and stay. What we would do differently. What we want more of.

It's a beautiful thing, this RV travel lifestyle. It's liberating and easy and comfortable. Very comfortable. It gave me a chance to open my eyes, to see this amazing country and to appreciate this life in a whole new way.


Woman hiking through brush with hills in the background.Finishing up a hike to Mt. Sherman, a Colorado 14er. Taken before altitude sickness set in. Photo credit: Mike Beltz

I thank my kids for indulging me. I thank Mike for being my number one biggest fan and supporter (and photographer extraordinaire). Mamalode readers for their interest, enthusiasm and unending support. And I thank Winnebago for the trip of a lifetime.

Dori and her husband Mike and two children, Matilda and Clarence, just completed a 4-week, 5,000 mile trip across the western U.S. in a Winnebago Via. She wrote about her experience for Winnebago Life and for her national audience of readers and writers at Mamalode -- "America's best parenting magazine." Dig up all her posts on Instagram @Mamalode #viaMamalode -- and start planning your trip. 


A few of our favorite places and people (in no particular order), and a thing or two we missed that you shouldn't:

-Cleanline Surf Shop, Cannon Beach, OR (these folks are super helpful)

-RV Resort at Cannon Beach (for teaching us what it means to dry camp)

-Rudy at Leadville RV Corral (this RV park needs some love but the owner is a gem)

-Klamath River RV Park (for a free night of camping, just because)

-Desert View Campground Grand Canyon National Park, AZ (an awesome place to spend the night and great recycle bins)

-Bright Angel Bicycles (for a cool mug and great cup of coffee in the Grand Canyon)

-Rincon Parkway Campground in Ventura, CA (we drove by this wishing we had known about it)

-A guided tour and the movie about Hearst Castle (we didn't do the tour but should have)

-Riley at Crescent City Information Center (for being super helpful, knowledgeable and all around awesome)

-San Francisco police for waking us gently in the middle of the night to move the RV to a more discreet location.

-Local Ocean Seafoods in Newport, OR for some GREAT seafood when cooking in the RV didn't cut it

-Dosa in San Francisco for damn good Indian food

-Local Juicery in Sedona for an outstanding and uber healthy smoothie

-Vans US Open Surf Competition in Huntington Beach (no better way to experience SoCal)

-Rancho Sedona RV Park (a really great place to stay)


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