Jason and Dawn are an adventure-loving couple who moved out of their 41st floor apartment in Chicago to pursue full-time RV living. They have visited 49 states, 39 national parks and eight Canadian provinces in their 2017 Thor Four Winds Class C, and they have no plans of stopping any time soon.
From High-Rise to Highway
On the Road with Jason and Dawn
Jason Anderson and Dawn Robbins
If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that life is a wildly unpredictable and precious thing. I think at one point or another, we all experience a transitional moment that reshapes our outlook and changes our perspective forever. And for us, that moment came in the spring of 2018.
Dawn and I met in Chicago in 2013 when we were both in our mid-twenties, and for the next five years we experienced a lot of transition. Like many young professionals, we changed careers, apartments and friend groups. Even the weather in Chicago seemed ever-changing. And then one day, we decided we just didn’t want to do it anymore.
One morning, Dawn told me about a dream she had where the two of us had moved out of our apartment, left the city, and were living in an RV. As wild as the dream sounded, there was something about it that we were both drawn to—a sense of freedom that we didn’t feel we were currently getting in our “busy” lives. The more we thought about it, the more we realized we wanted to turn her dream into our reality.
Initially, this life-changing decision was hard to fathom. Both of us had spent tireless years establishing ourselves in our careers, building huge professional networks and making some incredible friends. Never mind the fact that we would be leaving behind our beloved city, the place where we met and called home for nearly a decade. But Dawn and I are both avid travelers, and with big travel plans come a certain level of risk and uncertainty. So, we channeled our inner risk takers and started to explore every element required for this lifestyle overhaul. First, we needed to confirm that we could keep our current jobs and work remotely. Second, we had to get our finances in order to not only buy an RV but sustain us while living on the road. And lastly, we needed to get rid of all our stuff. Months leading up to our departure, we began the frugal approach of saving as much money as possible and offloading all of the nonessentials that, at the time, would not be coming with us (we got rid of even more stuff once we actually were on the road). We did everything from donation drops to online fire sales to free gifts to friends, and everything that was left over got boxed up and placed in my family’s garage.
Truthfully, the mental adjustment of going from a spacious high-rise apartment to a small home on wheels wasn’t nearly as treacherous as we initially thought. What helped was remembering that, if this experience didn’t work out for whatever reason, Chicago would still be there waiting for us. As for staying connected to our close friends and family, we found that they were merely a FaceTime or a flight away. It never felt too far. And most importantly, we knew that if we didn’t at least try and do this, we would forever be asking ourselves “what if?” and that just wasn’t an option.
Life on the road has exceeded any outlandish expectations we ever had going into it. Now, after nearly three years of exploring, we can whole-heartedly say it was the best decision we’ve ever made. We have a newfound passion and appreciation for a more minimalistic outlook on life and find immense value in the day-to-day experiences as opposed to the tangibles. Being fortunate enough to see so much of the country has instilled within us a new respect for every state, region and place we visit.
The resources and information that helped turn us into full-time RVers has never been more attainable. Nearly everything we need to help guide us along this path can be found with a quick Internet search, and we are so thankful for that. Additionally, the RV community (as so many can attest to) is so supportive and full of extremely helpful, knowledgeable and caring individuals. We couldn’t have done this without them. We also couldn’t have done this without the perfect RV. Our 24-foot Thor Motor Coach Four Winds has been pivotal in making our transition much less daunting. It has everything we need, and we’ve been able to really make it feel like a home.
The number of resources available to help RVers is huge and seems to grow every day. Here are just a few resources and apps that we’ve found to be extremely helpful on our full-time journey.
Making Sense of Cents: A finance blog run by Michelle Schroeder, a former full-time RVer who helps other travelers improve their finances and track their progress.
TIM and FIN: A very relatable and fun couple that posts helpful YouTube videos about their full-time RV travels.
Roadtrippers: A road trip planning app that helps you find some of the best unique and off-the-beaten path destinations.
iOverlander: A mapping app that helps you find free places to park; features everything from mall and store parking lots to extra remote spots out in nature.
GasBuddy: This app not only helps you find the cheapest places to get gas, but it also calculates gas costs based on your trip details. This is an excellent tool for helping stick to a budget.
AllTrails: A free app that helps you find nearby hiking trails and tracks your performance (steps, distance, elevation). AllTrails can track your location on a particular hike even when you don’t have service.
Harvest Hosts: A camping membership that allows you to park your RV at various farms, wineries, breweries, and golf courses across the country.
If you’re like us and have dreamed (literally or figuratively) about a life on the road, there’s no better time than now to go for it. Yes, there will be struggles and challenges but there will also be great moments of joy and freedom.