How a Winnebago Changed Everything for One Family: RV Life Transitions Over a Decade of Travel
From RVing fun with a young child to international explorations as “empty nesters.”

By: Peter & Kathy Holcombe

It’s funny that each time you stretch outside of your comfort zone, you emerge from that experience a different person and it allows you to see the world, and yourself, differently than you did before. For the past ten years, our Winnebagos have been the perfect catalyst for growth for our entire family. 

RVing has allowed us to stretch our wings and charge ahead into the unknown, to become a better version of ourselves than we ever imagined possible. And it all started with a fateful decision ten years ago to step away from everything we had ever known (traditional school, suburban lifestyle, successful careers, etc.) and hit the open road in search of adventure in a Winnebago.

Winnie the View (circa 2014-2015) was a 2008 Winnebago View 24J that we purchased used with 19,000 miles. Winnie carried us over 105,000 miles to 49 states.
Revy Van Go and Caboose (circa 2020-2021). As Abby grew into a teenager, the Winnebago Micro Minnie towable was added to our 2018 Winnebago Revel to offer her some much-needed autonomy.

To learn more about each RV we’ve traveled in, Abby wrote a great comparison of all our various Winnebago RVs in this article.

Our First Decade of RVing: Family Travel with LOTS of Kayaking!

Our goal when getting our first Winnebago was to go on an epic road trip and show our, then 10-year-old daughter Abby, all of our favorite places in America. We spent the next four years exploring the rivers and wild places of North America. We visited over 40 national parks, all 50 states, and six Canadian Provinces. During that era, we were also obsessed with whitewater kayaking and our Winnebago View allowed us to spend all of our spare time paddling in the best places, with the best kayakers in the world. 

Kayaking with ten-year-old Abby around the Statue of Liberty in New York City.
Winnie the View II (circa 2016-2017) was a 2016 Winnebago View 24J that we purchased new and drove for 80,000 miles. This was the era where we explored over 40 national parks!

To us, it felt like we were living our best life, but at the same time, it was subtly transforming our daughter into a kayaking phenom. In 2017, Abby set the record as the youngest person to kayak all 280 miles of colossal whitewater on the Colorado River on a 26-day expedition down the Grand Canyon. (Here is a video of 12-year-old Abby talking about her experience in the Grand Canyon.)

Two years later, she set her sights on trying out for one of three spots to represent the USA at the Freestyle Kayak World Championships, the highest level of competition in that discipline. Not only did she make the team, but she placed fourth in the world as the youngest competitor (age 15) at the event. 

That early success ignited a fire in her to be the best in the world. In 2022, she returned to the world stage and took the gold as the Junior Women’s Freestyle Kayak World Champion. Without those early formative years spent in a Winnebago, exploring the rivers of North America with the world’s best paddlers, she may never have developed the skills or the confidence to become the top athlete that she is today. 

Abby’s record setting trip down the Grand Canyon set the stage and gave her the confidence and motivation to become one of the best kayakers in the world.
Abby winning the gold as the 2022 Junior Women Freestyle Kayak World Champion.
Rēvel Knievel and caboose (circa 2021-2022). The Winnebago HIKE replaced the Winnebago Micro Minnie as Abby’s own personal kingdom.

Looking back, Abby’s future was our greatest concern as we embarked on this journey, and we agonized over how that initial leap of faith into the unknown might impact her life. Would she become an educated, well-rounded and successful adult without a traditional education? Would she miss out on opportunities afforded other kids with a “normal” childhood? Would she develop into an emotionally healthy adult without regular interactions with kids her age? 

There were so many unknowns at the onset of this journey. But in hindsight, I think this decade of RV travel has been the best thing that we could have done for her. Overcoming the unforeseen challenges, along with the abundance of successes and failures, all led to an immense amount of growth along the way. Currently, Abby is pursuing a career as a professional athlete and social media influencer, and she continues to explore the world in her own Winnebago + Adventure Wagon. (You can learn more about Abby in this beautiful video and overview of her life story.)

Our Rēvel Knievel and Abby’s Winnebago + Adventure Wagon (circa 2022 to present). The only thing better than one adventure van is TWO. We were humbled and proud when Abby turned 18 and decided to continue on into adulthood in her very own Winnebago.
Abby graduating from the Jeffco Open School in Golden, CO, at age 16.
It’s been our greatest experiment to raise a daughter on the road. The time we’ve spent together as a family has been nothing short of extraordinary. We wouldn’t change a thing!

Focusing Our Winnebago Adventures Abroad & Becoming a Traveling Couple Again

As for Peter and me, life is very different from when we started this journey ten years ago. It was a radical concept in 2014 to escape the suburbs and take our family on an extended RV expedition. There were very few people doing it back then and we truly felt like pioneers in a new land. But after four years of exploration in North America, life on the road began to feel very normal, and North America quite small. 

Revy Van Go (circa 2018-2020) was a 2018 Winnebago Revel and was the first Revel ever made and we drove it for 105,000 miles.

So, when Abby made the U.S. Team in 2019 to compete at the World Championships in Sort, Spain, it seemed like a logical next step to ship our Winnebago Revel to Europe and spend some time exploring a new continent after the competition. This new leap of faith introduced us to a whole new world of obstacles: shipping logistics, visas, foreign regulations, language barriers, unusual driving conditions, different food and cultures, and so much more. (You can watch our travels across Europe hereand read our recap here.)

While all of those things were, at times, difficult and often seemed like insurmountable hurdles, we fell in love with the challenge of it all. And after spending six months traversing 18 countries, traveling through foreign lands became easier, more familiar, almost “normal.” We returned to the USA committed to continue our international RV adventures, but we were waylaid for a couple of years by a global pandemic. 

Kathy and Peter exploring the Galactic Bellybutton, Southern Utah.
Rēvel Knievel (circa 2021 to present) is a 2021 Revel and was the prototype for the second-generation Revels. It has taken us from the top of North America in Deadhorse, Alaska, all the way to South America. We are currently at 112,000 miles.

During the COVID hiatus, Abby graduated from high school (a year early) and embarked on her own adventures in a Winnebago, leaving Peter and I dreaming and planning out our next season of life as empty nesters. We’ve often found that our greatest accomplishments occur after periods of stagnation. I think that it’s because we really need a pause to regroup, recharge, and prepare before jumping into the next big thing. 

During our pause, we modified our Winnebago Revel to gear up for our next international overland adventure and researched where we wanted to go and how to get there. Ultimately, we decided on the “greatest road trip on earth”, the PanAmerican Highway. It is the longest road on earth that travels from the top of North America in Deadhorse, Alaska, and continues 25,000 miles all the way to the bottom of South America in Ushuaia, Argentina. 

We made it to Deadhorse, AK, in August of 2023 (you can watch our Alaska series here), and have completed over half of the journey. We are currently sitting in Medellin, Colombia, with the most difficult logistics of the trip behind us (60 impassable miles through the Darien Gap that require putting the van on a ship to traverse).

Driving to the Arctic Ocean at the top of North America was an experience we will never forget and served as the Starting point of our PanAmerican Expedition.
Alaska is one of the most wild and wonderful places that we have ever experienced.

Six months ago, we were nervous about this expedition, afraid of what awaited us as we headed south through Central America. We had been warned endlessly about the dangers that we would face: violence, extortion, cartel, gangs, corrupt police, and more. We were warned that the high value of our Winnebago Revel would make us a target and told that we were foolish to take such a luxurious vehicle south of the border.

Honestly, we questioned that decision ourselves. But here’s the thing, the people who had actually traveled the PanAmerican had nothing but amazing things to say and reassured us that everything would be ok. (You can read about our experience crossing the Mexican Border here, and you can watch our Baja series here.)

The beaches of Baja are still a favorite of all of Central America and also the most accessible.

Now, having spent six months in Latin America, we have experienced a complete paradigm shift. We have experienced nothing but incredible hospitality, spectacular scenery, and some of the most kind and generous people we have ever met. We are no longer nervous about what awaits us. But, instead, we are eager to see what lies around the next bend in the road and curious to meet new friends along the way. We are so very grateful that our Winnebago Revel continues to serve as a catalyst to push us out into the real world and see for ourselves the goodness and the humanity that is so prolific beyond our U.S. borders.

Exploring the backroads through the jungles of Panama.

What’s Next for Our RV-Focused Life?

It’s hard to believe that we have spent an entire decade exploring the world in a Winnebago. In that time, we have driven through 29 countries on three continents and over 400,000 miles. If we could go back in time and ask our ten-year younger selves what the next decade would bring, I don’t think any of us could have in our wildest dreams ever imagined the impact that RV travel would have on almost every aspect of our lives. 

Looking forward, we see an open road that leads all the way to the bottom of the earth in Ushuaia, Argentina, and the beautiful landscapes that await us that we have only read about in storybooks. Beyond that, there’s a whole big world to explore and we can’t wait to discover every wonderful nook and cranny along the way. Until next time … we hope to see you somewhere over the horizon.

Be sure to follow the Holcombes adventures in their Winnebago Revel on YouTube as they continue their journey south on the PanAmerican Highway.

Learn more about the Winnebago Revel!

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