Todd and Marcia Schabel, along with their two mini goldendoodles Malai and Aspen, are traveling the country full-time in their Crossroads Sunset Trail travel trailer. Todd paints landscape portraits as they travel, while Marcia is a designer and marketer working remotely from the RV. Their dream is to one day own a farm back in Wisconsin.
On the Road to Our Future Farm
With Todd and Marcia Schabel
Todd & Marcia Schabel
Up until a few years ago, day-to-day felt mundane to Todd and I. We had goals and dreams but didn’t feel like we were actively pursuing them. Then, in March 2018, I went through a series of serious health issues and it made us realize just how short life really is. It forced us to look at what was and wasn’t working in our lives. We asked ourselves what we truly wanted for the future, and the answer—which has been the same answer since we first met 14 years ago—was to one day own a farm and have a family homestead.
I grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin and have such fond memories of my childhood. Todd, however, had no prior farming experience yet always felt a deep connection to nature and his surroundings. We knew we couldn’t just jump into purchasing property with my experience alone, so we started looking into options that could help us better understand what we wanted for our future farm.
At the time, a dear friend of ours was living in an RV with her husband and two young children. We saw how happy she was and how freely they could move from place to place. Todd and I began to wonder if we could do the same, but move specifically from farm to farm. I asked our friend endless questions, researched countless websites and showed Todd photo after photo of full-time RVers. Slowly, this initial idea began to take on a very real shape. Ultimately, we decided that buying an RV and setting out across the country to learn as much as we could about different farms was the perfect way to fulfill our dream.
We didn’t pick-up this new lifestyle without some initial guardrails. Todd and I are fortunate enough to have jobs that allow us to work remotely—I own my own marketing and branding business, and Todd is a talented painter who can ship his art from nearly anywhere. We both planned to still work on the road, but set aside some savings in case either of us had a slow month or anything unexpected came up with our truck or RV. We also wanted to further minimize our way of life. Over the years, we had collected so many things and we didn’t know how we were going to get rid of them all, but we did. While it took a while, it felt so freeing to rid ourselves of non-necessities.
After a year of preparation, we finally moved into our new home—a 2020 Crossroads Sunset Trail travel trailer. Living in our Crossroads allows us to explore and work towards a dream that, for so long, felt so far off. We aren’t sure what kind of farm we want, so we hope to gain valuable insight by traveling the U.S. and meeting farmers, listening to their stories and seeing their processes. Yes, we could have just purchased land or an old farm and learned by doing, but it feels so much better to gain this outside perspective and then make our decisions from there.
Todd’s painting has also really taken off since starting our RV journey. In 2011, Todd received a bachelor’s degree in painting but hadn’t been able to fully utilize it. His passion found new roots when we moved into the RV and began to travel. Now, he makes a point to paint every farm we visit. His hope is that he can share the endless beauty that’s found in farming—not only the physical beauty of rolling hills and old barns, but the conceptual beauty of living lightly and establishing something that can thrive for generations upon generations.
Our travel trailer is home, and looking out its windows reminds us of the incredible journey we are on. One of our most memorable experiences so far was staying at a pig and cattle farm in New Hampshire. A young couple the same age as us had started the farm a few years ago. They both grew up farming and it was a natural transition for them, but it was helpful to actually see what it takes to pasture-raise over 150 pigs and a few dozen cattle. As we sat there in our RV, looking out at the pastures, we saw a dozen baby piglets run by, all squealing with delight. Their happiness made us happy, and it’s moments like that that solidify why we are doing this. One day, we hope to look out at our own pastures and feel that same sense of delight.
Regardless if we’re staying on a pig farm, an alpaca farm, at a campground, or in the middle of an empty forest, this is a dream come true for us. It’s not your typical path to starting a farm, but we are choosing to immerse ourselves into an experience, to tear down the walls we put up for years and expand our ability of what we know we can accomplish. Dreams take action. And we’re taking that action one mile—and one farm—at a time.
Todd and I were both new to RVing when we set out on this journey, so we’ve had to learn some things pretty quickly along the way. It doesn’t matter if you’re searching for your own farm, or just traveling for fun, we hope these tips help make the journey easier and more rewarding for everyone.
If you can, ease into it. When we first moved into our travel trailer, Todd and I actually lived in my parent’s driveway for a while. This helped us ease into the transition of living in a house to living in an RV. It gave us a less stressful way to learn all about the travel trailer, practicing hooking up and figuring out what we really needed and what we could live without.
Don’t be afraid of the lessons. It’s easy to get upset when things don’t go the way you want them to. But when you step back and look at the lessons learned, you might find that they are actually pointing you in a better direction than before. Find value in the hard lessons learned and carry those with you.
Focus on your relationship. Living in a tiny space with two dogs can sometimes feel like Todd and I are always on top of each other. This is why open, honest communication is so important. Have regular check-ins with your partner—a simple “how are you” can go a long way. It’s also normal to want space and alone time. Maybe one of you works inside the RV while the other takes the dog for a walk. Set and agree on those boundaries early on.