with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Questions about Traveling

Living on the road full-time for over ten years, I guess we are experts at it. Who knows how expert we will be after another ten years?!! As “experts” we get a lot of questions about our life on the road and how we live it, get things done, travel with our cat, and more. If you have a question about how we travel, you can post it in our comment section below.

How do you plan your schedule?

graphic of a calendarWe research birds, mammals, seasons, and information about different areas for the best time to visit and plan accordingly, as best we can. Sometimes we sit down with advertisements from photo travel companies and check out where and when they think it is the best time to be somewhere. Sometimes we decide we need a particular subject and research where to find it and go there. Sometimes it’s word of mouth and just guessing. Sometimes it’s because we have a program or workshop in that area.

We try to plan our travels at least six months in advance, but it doesn’t always work that way. One winter, due to massive storms crossing Florida, our schedule was a mess, and we didn’t know where we’re going to be from day to day. We prefer a plan, but sometimes it’s just not convenient.

Graphic of Kitty paws walk across the screen

How do you travel with your cat?

Toshi, the monster traveling kitty, was one of the highlights of our life. He was so mellow and such a great traveler, we felt really lucky. The trailer was his home and he was happy, as long as his food and water bowls are filled. If you would like his opinion on life on the road for a pet, check out his own journal pages. He’ll give you more information about his life on the road, including tips for taking an animal with you.

When we lost Toshi, we were totally miserable. Happening just before heading to Israel, it was even more difficult. A year later, Dahni came into our life reluctantly and warm fuzzy hugs reentered our home. Dahni is also a lover of travel and thoroughly enjoys car rides and camping. He even has flown with us to Spain and explored the north of Spain for over a month, living in a Class C motor home with us. He would hang out the top of the window and "watch" the world go by, one arm in and the other hanging on for balance. While driving, he bats at the wind trying to catch it. This is even more amazing because he is blind. He literally has no eyes. We discuss the magic of our Eyeless Wonder Cat on his own web page and we’ve also translated the Hebrew text of an article written about him in a national magazine.

How do you pull your trailer?

Pulling the trailer. Photo by Lorelle VanFossenWe have a Chevy, 1 ton, crew cab (four doors), dually wheels, 1988 pickup truck. It ain’t pretty but it does the job. We’ve installed steel headers and a special exhaust system which cools the engine better and increases efficiency. While an automatic and not four wheel drive, this truck has some serious pulling power. We have a 30 foot trailer that weighs about 10,000 pounds and the gasoline engine pulls it without much debate. We write about choosing a vehicle in our Going section and you will find plenty of truck stories in our journals.

How do you keep from getting lost?

Graphic of a compassOh, we get lost, from time to time, but we avoid it as much as possible. With a truck that gets 6 miles to the gallon, getting lost can be expensive. We are very dependent upon maps, of all kinds. We have statewide maps from Rand McNally, but we will also buy area maps. We have a lot of guidebooks for nature areas and always pick up more at visitor’s centers when we arrive.

Learn the local landmarks as soon as possible upon arrival. It could be a building, a major street or intersection, something you can mention to people to help you get oriented. If the campground is near a school or WalMart, when people aren’t familiar with the campground, they can often give you directions to the school or store and from there you can find your own way. The trick is to plan ahead and when in trouble, stop and ask directions. We’ve learned not to be shy.

How do you deal with emergencies?

After suffering flat tires, frozen pipes, burnt-out transmissions, and other uglies on the road, you build up a tolerance for stress and a hearty attitude about dealing with emergencies. Check out our journals to find out specifics about our adventures. In general, Graphic of first aid emergencywe handle emergencies just like anyone else: sometimes with grace and style, and sometimes with frustration and anguish.

If there is a family emergency, we fly home. We have arrangements for "what ifs", in all shapes and forms. Brent and I learned to talk things out, no matter how difficult they are. We trust and rely upon each other to hold up during stressful times, each taking strength from the other. Everything works better with a plan. You can plan for emergencies just like you plan a trip. What are you going to do? Who is responsible for what? Where will you meet if you are separated? What do you do in case of fire? In case of tornado? In case of flooding? Go through a list of "what ifs" and create a plan for each one, and then rehearse it. Make sure everyone knows their role. And then pray nothing happens.

How do you get mail?

graphic of a postmarkWhen we will be in a place for at least a week, we call Brent’s parents, the keepers of our mail, and they box it up and send it to us. We were going to use a mailing service, of which there are many good ones, but his family wanted to be a part of our adventure and handle it. We are so thankful for their wonderful dedication to this process. It means so much to us.

How do you camp while traveling?

animated camping graphicCamping consists of two forms of accommodation: the quickie stop and the longer term stay. When traveling from place to place, we often make use of truck stops, rest areas, and inexpensive campgrounds near the highway. We will often travel several days in a row, moving from Florida to Arizona, or Arizona to Texas or even Camping in the woods with the trailer, photo by Lorelle VanFossenfrom Oklahoma to Florida in a couple of days, so we only need a place to pull over to sleep for a few hours and then we’re back on the road. Truck stops are the most convenient, when you can find them. While it is illegal in many states for trucks to leave their engines running for more than a 1/2 hour or so while parking, many leave their engines going all night long. You get used to it. Security is rarely an issue as the rule of the highway is that everybody looks out for everybody else – but do take precautions.

We have no fear of staying in the most basic of conditions. With our trailer we are always ready with a full fresh water tank and fully charged batteries, and we camp wherever we can fit the trailer. Camping in our tent, we can go anywhere. Having our business in the trailer on the road, we are reliant upon phone hookups, though, and for most longer stays, we will find a campground through Woodall’s Campground Guide or Trailer Life Campground Guides books. We look for places that provide full hookups: electricity, water, and sewer dumps. Cable TV and such is nice, but most important is a PHONE HOOKUP. Few campgrounds offer phones, but as staying in touch with email becomes more important, many are starting to.

We’ve been lucky enough that many people have opened up their driveways and yards to accommodate USA, and we can’t express how thankful and appreciative we are. Not only to save a few dollars as we travel, but to spend time with people we so love and enjoy.

How do you store your stuff when you’re on the road?

animated graphic of luggageWe got rid of just about everything we owned at garage sales. We scattered the remains with friends. In the Seattle area, our light tables are with friends in Bellingham, our huge filing cabinets for our slides are in Gig Harbor with another friend. Our couch is at another friend’s home in Everett. Some boxes of precious books and mementos are at my mother’s house and our TV and some book cases are at my fathers. Our stereo is at a girlfriend’s in Seattle and Lorelle’s piano is with a friend of Brent’s. We didn’t limit the spread of our stuff to the Pacific Northwest. We carried furniture with us to Oklahoma to store with Brent’s family. One sister has a table and other furniture in Tulsa and the other sister has another table and other stuff in Florida. Not only are we travelers, our stuff is, too.

Depending upon how long you will be on the road, and if you are leaving behind a home, we recommend getting a good storage unit or two. If you have very valuable items, spread them out over a couple of storage units in different parts of town. The odds of some of your stuff surviving a disaster increase the more it is spread out.

How do you keep a permanent home?

animated graphic of houseOur home changes from day to day, month to month. While we have a permanent address in Oklahoma, we create a "home" wherever we are. We have created temporary "homes" with many friends across the country, a place we can come back and feel so incredibly welcome, it is like coming home. We have such "homes" in Florida, Seattle, New Mexico, North Carolina, Colorado, and more places than we can often remember.

There is something liberating and terrifying about taking your life on the road and "pulling up roots. We’ve learned that home is a place in the heart not a physical space. It is the family we find in the friends we meet as we go. It is a humbling experience to recognize yourself as a member of the family of humans, tied to everyone but locked in with no one.

3 Comments

  • Herman
    Posted May 5, 2005 at 7:22 | Permalink

    Your name sounds Dutch.
    Nice reading about your trip through the States.
    I would like to do the same next year, for a long time.
    In the meantime I read about your adventures

  • Herman
    Posted May 5, 2005 at 7:24 | Permalink

    Sorry I forgot to mention.
    I’m living in the city of Cuijk, in the Netherlands

  • Posted May 5, 2005 at 20:24 | Permalink

    My husband, Brent, is from Dutch stock, though his family has been in the US for many many generations.

    I thought we might see “familiar” faces when we were in Amsterdam a few months ago, but no one “looked” like him. They all looked like themselves. But you know what I mean. They did love his last name, though.

    Good luck with your plans to travel through the states next year. I’m not sure where we’ll be, but check in here to find out where we are and wherever we are, we’d love a visit!

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