Our Story : Vanessa’s Longer Version


Our journey to traveling full time was not an easy one. It required a lot of transitions, often times not being where we want to be in-order to get where we wanted to be. I hate to go so far back, but it truly does start with the birth of our son in 2011. We had been married 7 years and decided we would never regret having children. God must have been waiting for us to say, “Go.” It only took 5 days to get pregnant. Living in our home city of Anchorage, we were working full-time jobs and land-lording several 4-plexes at that time. We bounced back and forth about which of us would be the homemaker when our son was born, but it was eventually decided it would be me, as the mother. As tomboy-ish as I am, I was thrilled and loved my new roll as full-time mom and house wife, but Andrew hated his job. Then we got The Diagnosis.

Cystic Fibrosis. At 28 days old, they put a time stamp on our son’s life and it changed everything. Well, not everything. It made us look at what was already important to us and decide to push those ideals to the forefront. We had previously been talking about building a house in nearby Wasilla, so after some maternity leave Andrew changed careers to carpentry to learn some framing skills. But working 6 days and 60 hours a week away from his newborn son with an enigmatic future was more than he could take.


When I was very young my parents divorced and my mother left our home. Though she was still very present in our lives with our monthly visits to Anchorage, I was raised full-time by my mechanical engineer father, living in Glennallen with my older brother. Already an independent soul, I quickly grew into a young woman with very blue collar plans. Trades like mechanics and welding were inviting career paths with the potential for making money, along with plans to attend bible school and travel; camping in the bed of my F-250 when I did so. And I was well on my way with these goals… until I met a boy. Yup. That boy. At age 16.

By the time I was 19 I jokingly say that I ‘discovered I was a girl’ and grew a previously hidden, heartfelt, desired to be a wife and a stay-at-home mother. Something I hadn’t had with my own mother. I decided that when the time came for us to have children I would stay home with them, homeschool them, and if needed, do childcare in our home to bring in a little income. We married in 2003; ages 19 and 21.


Fast forward 10 years and that 19 year old’s plans were exactly where I found myself, but not home alone. Andrew and I, together, opened a licensed home daycare and shared the responsibilities, both enjoying the opportunity to be home with our young son. And it was successful. But it was also stressful. CF is a monkey that’s always on your back, even if one is as fortunate as ourselves to have it well maintained and with very few complications. There are hours of daily treatment, lots of medications to keep track of, and many doctor visits…. and that’s ‘healthy CF.’ Though we had minimized our life to just one four-plex and we were the bosses and ‘in-charge’ of everything in our life, truly, everything else was in-charge of us. We were still in the rat race, just like everyone else. Enough was enough, so we made plans.

We had dropped the idea of moving to another city only to live the same trying life there. I loved doing childcare, the children were beautiful and wonderful, but I was really tired of baby-sitting adults. I was also tired of always being behind-the-ball on property care: 4-toilets, 4 dishwashers, 4 garbage disposals, 4 washing machines, 4,000 square feet of living space… I wanted to ‘own less and maintain it better.’ The ideas rolled round and round in giant brainstorms between us. I don’t think, “Can we actually pull this off?” ever crossed our minds, as we had attained every other life plan we had ever dreamed up. But the transition was hard.

It ended up taking us years to sell our property. We had to do some pretty major updates, including new exterior paint for the whole building, 10 new windows, and at the last minute an entirely new roof. It was a buyer’s market and we were being absolutely taken by all of the other parties involved. It cost us $25,000 to fix things up which we never saw back, loosing an additional $20,000 with forced price drops on top of that. We were exhausted and severely beaten down, but finally free.


Immediately things were lightening up for us. We had a little cash in our pocket, and we found an old, but really good, Class C with 38,000 miles on it. We loaded everything we owned on-board. No storage unit for us. I left a handful of ‘save’ boxes with my mother, (Nathan’s baby items, and some artwork,) but otherwise, if it didn’t fit, it didn’t go. We were not coming back to a Alaska to live. Even as the land of our births and filled with family, we were tired of living in a box that was expensive and time consuming to get out of. We had done so many wonderful things in our ~37 years; seen the whales, the glaciers, the Mountain, the bears and the caribou, hunted for moose, fished for salmon and halibut in rivers and on the ocean, gone on the train, flown on the planes, visited distance villages….. it was time to take our son to see The World. And we left. Just like that.

Our first night in the RV was Thanksgiving 2018. About one week later we had said all of our good-byes, and were well beyond Anchorage, out in Tok, when we heard about the big earthquake. We had gotten out, gotten away from all those burdens, at just the right time.

No surprise, Canada let us enter, though I do quote the wonderful boarder guard, “Let me get this straight. You have no home, no jobs, no plan, and relatively no money, and I’m supposed to let you into our country?” I think the only saving grace was the fact that we had been planning this ‘escape’ or several years and we have very clean records. We may have looked like a bunch of vagrants, but despite a vague plan for Christmas in Arizona, we did actually have a plan…. well sort-of…. I guess.


We had 3 things on our agenda. First, “Get Warm.” Though we did see some wonderful things on the way, there was a pretty solid push to get to Arizona. For one, we were dry camping in freezing weather, but our number two plan was to visit my parents for the holidays. We were crossing paths with both sets of my folks, who were both vacationing in Arizona at the time. Christmas and the 2019 New Year. This is where we got some one-on-one help about how to operate our rig fully. It was also a good time to recuperate. We, mostly I, had also gotten VERY sick leaving Canada. (I slept for 10 straight days while Andrew drove through Montana, Idaho, and Utah, before I finally walked into a Moab clinic with pneumonia. It was the sickest I have ever been. Nathan was sick also, but kicked the worst of it after just 4 days! We were blessed.)

A major piece to our long-term ‘get out of Alaska’ master plan was to be able to visit Europe regularly. The East Coast became our focus and we thought that making a base in New England, perhaps a little cabin on a lake, would allow us the cheapest and fastest option to make that happen. The last item of our nebulous strategy, we booked our first flight to London. We now had a deadline. We had to be in New Hampshire by the third week of March.

We saw a huge number of amazing things during that three month period, (deserts, caves, several Space Centers and Saturn 5 Rockets, multiple zoos and science centers, logging roads, historical buildings and plots, Fire Fighter Training in Texas, Colonial Williamsburg, The USS Wisconson, skyscrapers, The Geroge Washington Bridge and Brooklyn, {in a Class C, in Friday afternoon traffic… Thanks GPS!} as well as some friends and more family…) but we were undoubtedly doing it in a hurry. We were also trying to navigate homeschool.

But we made it to Europe in time. I could write a whole book about our crazy 3 weeks, but I’ll summarize it here: We saw London, we saw France, we say ladies’… just kidding… but we did see London, both the main city, The Tower, Tower Bridge, Big Ben covered in Scaffolding, and all the beautiful skyscrapers, but we also stayed farther out and got to see small, “Local Community London;” Thornton Heath. Then we flew to Paris. We spent some time near the walled city of Saint Malo and got to see some of the shelled remnants of WWII defenses, and we went up into the Eiffel Tower, but visiting Notre Dame and the Louvre (with a personal tour from an online friend who was also and art student!) were by far the greatest experiences.

We made lots of mistakes on that trip, mostly due to poor travel planning, but we stayed in cheap hotels and Air BnB’s, doing the whole thing on the cheap, and will never regret it. Two weeks later we watched the live coverage of Notre Dame burn. It made me cry. What timing with which we had, once again, been graced .


When you are 19 and decide to go to school, so often you can either live in the dorms and pay it off with your career later, or perhaps have the luck to live at home on a low budget. Even if living in an apartment with roommates and a job on the side life is still pretty simple. When you are in your 30s, have a family, a child with medical needs, and real-life bills the decision to jump into a brand new career and become a full-time web development student is a bit more challenging. Living in an RV can often mean lessened expenses, but you still have to have an income.

For the summer of 2019 we settled at a great RV park in Henniker, New Hampshire. We hung up hammocks and planted a garden. Andrew began full-time studies and we shared the responsibility of treatments. I was able to work my way into part-time employment as a grounds keeper for the park, and did some homeschooling with Nathan in the afternoons. He was now 8 years old.

One sunny afternoon I was standing in our ‘yard’ and an unusual feeling came over me. It took me a few minutes to put my finger on it. Finally, I got it. It was the feeling of not feeling stressed. It had been ten months since we first moved into the RV and only now was I finally feeling freed from the rat race. As positive as it was to feel this new found weightlessness, it also made me open to see how much of the stress that was on my shoulders had be tricking down on top of Nathan’s. There had always been pressure to ‘get it done.’ Any problems or fixes that arose with the property, but also specifically to get homeschool work done during the daycare nap hour. Though I was no longer stressed we still had to work though the effect all those years of tension had had on Nathan. He was always on edge, just as he had been when we were worn out, jumpy parents, only now I could actually see it unblinded. It saddened me, but I couldn’t change the past. Nathan and I had chats about it and set goals to work through it together. The only way he could learn to ‘trust’ me was to prove that I wasn’t that high-strung Mom any more, but that would take time.

Andrew had thought that his schooling would take a few months. He had started before we left Alaska and was now able to go at it vigorously. The summer wore on. Nathan and I learned how to play together. We enjoyed having a lake to paddle in and a pool for the first time, and Nathan learned how to swim. We became residents of NH and got Nathan into the health care system for his quarterly specialty clinic appointments. We pain stakingly went through the process of buying not one, but three cars in order to end up with one that wasn’t a lemon, could actually pass inspection, and be titled. Let me tell you, there were more than a few things that we little Alaskans didn’t know about general life operations in other states! We also realized pretty quickly that we were outsiders and really didn’t belong in the North East.

Winter was on our doorstep and we began cold-calling around Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee to find someplace warmer for the winter. We finally settled in Moneta, VA. It is a beautiful land with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, hay fields with ‘hills and hollers,’ and Smith Mountain Lake, which we had known nothing about when we blindly picked it. Andrew wasn’t finished with his schooling yet so I eagerly searched for a job. We figured we’d need four months for him to finish and get a job and committed ourselves to a six month transitional plan. We celebrated Thanksgiving and our one-year anniversary as ‘fulltimers.’

Within 2 weeks I had scored a job at a local tractor shop. I started off doing mostly parts sales, inventory, and billing out jobs. I was very excited. I liked being in the mechanical world again, and I enjoyed learning all about the AG Industry. I really loved the other employees. In fact they were the reason I decided to commit to a longer stay. I often told people, “I’m on vacation, just with a full time job.” Then Covid hit.

To be honest I wasn’t truly concerned about getting sick, but Nathan was technically on the ‘at risk’ list with his CF, so from mid-March to mid-April I stayed home. This made me realize exactly how much care Nathan needed. There was ‘regular kid stuff’ like hygiene and meals, but also homeschool, and the never relenting CF treatments. It was more than enough for a full time parenting job, and quite obviously a total handful for Andrew as a very serious full-time student. Unfortunately my part-time work in New Hampshire meant only a $69 weekly unemployment stipend. (This was before we knew anything about the big UE pay-outs, and there were additional tax complications that meant that we didn’t even get most of the other family stipends until April of 2021.) It just added to the fact that the young tractor shop had blown wide open with booming business and needed me to come back.

This time I told the boss my heartfelt issues about Nathan needing care and that I wasn’t going to be there forever, but until Andrew was ready for work I didn’t have a choice. As much as I liked the work I was doing, which now included processing loans and being a salesman, we were incredibly busy and they hadn’t hired back all of the employees, so I was immediately, and very seriously struggling to keep up with it all. I was also now working every open hour; 6 days and about 52 hours a week. I re-labeled myself “on vacation with a more-than-full-time job,” but very quickly I was not feeling “on vacation” at all.

Two months turned into 6 or 8. Covid made logistics all that much more difficult for tractor and trailer sales and parts, and when we thought the load would lighten late in the season… it didn’t. Finally Andrew began looking at the job market. It had changed. The programming languages that he had learned no longer had high demand job markets. So he changed directions slightly and began learning even more coding skills. He was exhausted and frustrated at the difficulty of getting in as much intense schooling as he needed while taking care of Nathan. I was exhausted from the length of hours and the rigorous job demands. Homeschooling had been forced to a halt.

I felt very useless to my family, and though they really appreciated me working so hard for them, most nights I just wanted to disappear. By the time November came around I desperately tried to fill Andrew in on how unhappy I was. I felt like I was going down the proverbial rabbit hole. And not the fun ‘tripping’ kind. A very dark one. Unfortunately it came across as an ultimatum. We were both working hard but it was trying for sure. I worked hard to fight off the darkness for the sake of my very concerned family. We were now officially 2 years in as a full-time traveling family, with no actual traveling happening.

It was still a further six more months before there was light at the end of the tunnel. We finally got payouts for 2019 taxes, 2020 taxes, and the back-owed stipends. We had enough money for me to come home again. I was going to miss my co-workers and so many wonderful customers, and I had not burned the bridge, but I was walking out that door and never going back.


I had no idea how he did it, but Andrew had been able to scrape together enough savings to allot a 4-month window with me at home taking care of Nathan and the household. This allowed him to be fully distraction free to finally build his portfolio and begin job hunting.

One major blessing that came from working at the tractor shop was a house upgrade! I had built connections within the community and made friends, and thanks to all the loan applications I had been processing I was able to come up with a plan to creatively finance a fifth-wheel RV. And it was, it is perfect! We now have a bedroom with a ‘real’ (sliding) door, a real shower, and bunk room for Nathan. … though Luna, the rabbit that Nathan was gifted in New Hampshire, pretty much owns that back for right now. (Nathan is still pretty attached to sleeping next to us, as he has done since his foster sister moved out when he was 4. I know it may see odd, but hey, we don’t play by the world’s traditional expectations, and we still work-in private time with no problems.)

Finally at home, I knew there would be steps to building the new routines in our life and I got to work right away. First I cleaned house. That meant scrubbing all the neglected corners and crevices, but also getting all our stuff put away more properly. It had been 6 months in our new place and that’s about the time you really refine where you want everything to live, and in our case what we could possibly get rid of. Getting the house in order also meant I had repairs to make. I’m the one who does the fixes and there was a need for some roof work, a drip from the water heater, and quite a few other knick-knacky things.

The next step was getting medication prescriptions and orders back in order. I had taken over Nathan’s treatments right away and I got all his medications sorted again and created my own routines to get treatments done, pills dosed and not forgotten, everything sterilized that need to be, and all his supplies properly stocked for the long haul. He got scheduled for his next routine CF clinic and we finally learned how to use his home spirometer. I had of-course also taken over all of the meal prep, cupboard stocking, dishes, laundry, and routine cleaning.

Following this came working in new homeschool routines. We’d been homeschooling ‘forever’ but looking back it was easy to see how it was never routine. It was ‘crammed’ the first few years, it was sporadic during the traveling months, then it was completely absent for the last 18 months. We could finally get into a real routine. We started with one subject for the first week, then two for the next, and finally built up to the six-plus we have now. Another hidden blessing of my year and a half at the tractor shop was that it ‘allowed’ Nathan to finally miss me. We are both pretty assertive people and homeschool had always been a battle, but now we were communicating and finally actually enjoying learning together. I was really surprised to find that during his ‘unschooling’ months his reading had improved immensely just simply through necessity, even if it was ALL because of huge amounts of screen time. The only skill we have to do rudimentary work on at this point is building a good phonics foundation for spelling.

The last step was Me. Just like Nathan and I had previously needed to repair our relationship, now Andrew and I needed some reconstruction and re-connection. It was my mess. I had been distant. I think that the darkness built some pathways in my brain that hadn’t existed before. During my first couple months home I really had to keep an eye on it, as sometimes that darkness wanted to sneak out in the evening and making me want to disappear again. I shared my struggle with Andrew and Nathan, and have worked to be in control of those feelings. I needed to again prove that I wasn’t going anywhere. So I worked to rebuild that trust. They love me very much and deserve everything I possibly ever give.


‘Coming home’ again changed my life. It took 2 full months, but I systematically, piece-by-piece, put myself back together. I am now living my purpose again, and I have regained my love of life. I woke-up one morning and told Andrew, “I get to do it all again.” He thought I meant it down-trodden, as there are so many repeating tasks in our daily life, but no, I meant ‘I GET to do it all again!” I love taking care of Nathan. I love taking care of our home. I love Andrew with all my heart and desire to be his partner and friend; to walk with him side-by-side through every dream he ever has. I also love to travel and look forward to nothing more than doing everything on the homemaker list all while going to see the world.

As you can see it’s been quite a journey, but in some respects it’s really finally just beginning. We decided a long time ago that we would choose Time over Money. We decided that we wanted to spend Nathan’s childhood enjoying life and traveling. We can never get rid of CF, and it doesn’t ever take vacations, but we won’t let it stop us from ‘living on vacation.’

It’s funny really, looking back. Before I met Andrew I just wanted to travel around, living in my truck. Then I desired nothing more than to be a stay-at-home mom. Now I’m doing them both! How frick’n lucky am I??!!

My word of advise is to never let your challenges get in the way of your dreams. Whether you are dealing with diabetes, autism, physical handicaps, or even low budget, if you desire to travel it can be done. For us it has taken a while to get there, but it has made us stronger. I could never imagine still being stuck in Alaska, tied to a building, and being run by all the things I was ‘in charge of.’ We started with a pretty small RV and managed to be content for 2 whole years. We were grounded in a small town for a year and half, but with hard work and determination we are now incredibly grateful to get to begin realizing the dream we had so many years ago.