Hitting the Road Full-Time

Juli & Jordan Cote stand in front of wooden fence and log barn, Juli with sunglasses and blanket wrapped around her and Jordan with a baseball hat on.

Juli and I were both raised in a small community in the mountains of southern California, where we played outside with friends from morning until night, only going home for lunch and dinner. The woods were our jungle gym. The lake was our swimming pool. And the sunshine, wind, rain and snow were part of our ever-changing playground. As a child, Juli’s parents would take her camping all across California, and it became a mainstay of her identity. And some of my favorite childhood memories are set in the pop-up trailer and motorhome my parents bought.

My four siblings and I, plus our dog, would pile into in our Ford Explorer with the pop up trailer in tow, and make memories. Driving through Idaho one day, it began to rain. We all stuck our heads out the windows and tried to catch raindrops on our tongues. We inhaled the smell of fresh rain on soil, and my mom turned to me with a look of pure bliss on her face. She said, “That’s the best smell in the world.”

It was such a simple moment, but it fueled my curiosity to experience whatever was over the next hill or past the line of trees on the horizon. With Juli, that curiosity became the backbone of our life together, and led us to where we are now. 

In 2009, I saw a picture of a small motorhome for sale. After a lot of international travel, I wanted to take the time to see my own country. Juli and I set a goal to buy a motorhome by April 2012. We paid down our debts and saved up the money it cost us to buy our first taste of freedom.

We named it Destiny. It was 21 feet long, with only four cylinders, so you couldn’t go faster than 55 mph. There were plenty of times we had to pull over and wait out a wind storm because our limited power meant we’d have to drive too slow for the freeway. But Destiny got us across 20 states over two and a half years, and we learned how to slow down and embrace the ever-changing scenery. 

We didn’t have any running water or a heater or a refrigerator. We packed our food on ice blocks and Jules would suck out the standing water with a turkey baster several times a day. We bought cassette tapes from thrift stores and DJed our perfect classic road trip playlist. Destiny weathered blizzards and scorching heat, and we had some really rough days. But having to do everything the hard way in the beginning really makes you appreciate the things that make your life easier. 

Like the friends we met who took us in for a warm meal, with a hot shower for dessert. The strangers who befriended us in RV parks, taking us under their wing to teach a couple of clueless kids how to thrive on the road. We were always the youngest couple in every RV park, and we had the least amount of experience and wisdom. We would sit in other people’s rigs for hours, just absorbing all their knowledge about the best way to do this, how to fix that, and what sights we absolutely HAD to see. 

Often, when our new friends left the park, we would awake to gift cards or boxes of groceries. We call it “Road Magic,” and it’s a tradition we continue to pass on, helping anyone who’s new to the game like we were. The community of nomads across the country has been such a fun thing to discover. And the best part of it is that we’re never lonely, because the community has become like family. 

Often, when our new friends left the park, we would awake to gift cards or boxes of groceries. We call it “Road Magic,” and it’s a tradition we continue to pass on.

Gray water lake with dark, snowy mountains in the background.

We’ve also learned that nature brings out the best versions of ourselves. Every year, we go to Montana, a place that has astonished us over and over. We sit in awe of the snow capped mountains and the stillest lakes you’ll ever see. In a world that changes so fast, nature is a constant presence, where you can get past the noise and the hustle and find peace. Of all the states we have been to, Montana is the wildest. In a place where it would be easy to get lost, it’s comforting to have your whole life with you. But no matter where you go, you don’t buy a motorhome to stay inside, you buy it as a means to get out into the world. Our country is too beautiful to be experience secondhand, through documentaries or photographs. The snow falling, leaves changing, waves crashing–they’re experiences you can’t describe, you just have to be there. 

After two years in our modest motorhome, we realized this was the life we were meant to live. We upgraded to a 28-foot Four Winds RV and headed back out on the road. We lived by the motto, “You’ve gotta love time more than money, and experiences more than things.” Over the next four years, we visited another 26 states and countless national parks, and made more friends than we can count. 

So why did we decide to live this way and how are we still doing it and loving it seven years later? Why is it that every time we sit still for six months we get this overwhelming itch to get back on the road? Why do we continue to be called back to the road as if there were some magnet or tiny string that it keeps attached to us?

We wander because we can. Because the kindness of others allows it. Because it’s become our home. It’s the same curiosity that was instilled in us growing up in the mountains, played out on a life-sized stage. Because it is still possible to throw caution to the wind and go. Because we truly believe that there is something amazing out there, even if it is just the experience of being outside. 

Living small lets us live big. We have room to dream our dreams, and find answers to our questions. Living small means being able to pick up and drive to be near someone you love at a moment’s notice—that’s priceless. When we’re with friends and family, we can be fully present. All the wonderful people we meet along the way are just a bonus pleasure, the gift of reaffirming our faith in humanity, wherever we go.

These 28 feet of freedom have taken us to the most amazing places.

Back of Class C Four Winds motorhome, with two bikes and some firewood strapped to the back, and snowy mountains in the background.

PLACES TO GO IN MONTANA