Chatting with Cole and Sam of @rvbigdipper
Living the nomadic life in an RV and traveling around the country to see as much of North America as possible = Amazing.
Living the nomadic life in an RV and traveling around the country to see as much of North America as possible, only to have a pandemic come crashing down on you during your travels = Not ideal.
Despite this unpredictable turn of events in our world, Sam (she/hers) and Cole (they/them) of @rvbigdipper haven't lost their spirits. They are still living life on the road, and doing it in the safest, most respectful way.
I was really excited to chat with Cole and Sam. When COVID-19 began ramping up, and quarantine was put into place all over the country, I wondered about the folks who were living on the road full time. I had so many questions. I was curious about plans... curious about safety... curious about outdoor activities... curious about everything. I reached out to @rvbigdipper to see if they would be willing to share their experience, (spoiler: they were wonderful and willing to partner), and I am very excited to pass their story on to others who may be as curious as I was!
Sam (she/her), lives on the road in an RV with fiancée, Cole, and pets. She is a full-time freelance writer, and in her spare time she enjoys cooking, hiking, botany, and spending time with her little family. Sam grew up on the East Coast but prefers the west and loves exploring new places, especially national parks. She's passionate about environmental issues and sustainable living and plans to build a home base in Colorado whenever they are done traveling full time.
Cole (they/them) is from Pennsylvania and their home base is in Colorado. They and their fiancée, Sam, live on the road full time in a Class A motorhome. Cole is the dog trainer of the household and unofficial cat whisperer. They are currently studying coding languages hoping to land a job in cyber security when all the craziness of the pandemic is over.
What inspired you two to take on the nomadic lifestyle through RV travel? Is this your first long-term RV trip, or have you done others prior?
Sam traveled for two years full time before she met Cole, with the goal of visiting every national park and every US state, and she was always talking about how much fun she had. Cole really wanted the experience, and both of us were working remotely at the time, so there was really nothing holding us back. Sam also felt like her first extended RV trip was a bit unfinished, so this was a great opportunity to begin our travels together.
How long have you currently been on the road, and where are you currently camped out?
We’ve been on the road since late January, and we’re currently camped out in a very remote spot in Southern California.
What has been the biggest impact on you, and your travel plans, during the COVID-19 pandemic?
First and foremost, all the national parks are closed and unsafe for visiting right now. One of our biggest reasons for beginning this big trip was to see the second half of the national parks that Sam had missed, so that’s been a bit disappointing. We also planned to make a big trip up to Alaska for the summer, but we’ve had to postpone this until next year. As far as smaller changes, state parks are also closed, and these are typically great in-between campgrounds and excellent places for water and other resources that we need on the road. Additionally, traditional campgrounds are also closed or not accepting new campers, so we have to plan each route to the next place very carefully. Lastly, many places that RVers can traditionally park overnight (i.e. Walmart, target, etc.) are no longer open to RVs because of the restrictions on shopping times and limited hours.
What goes into your travel plans as you move from city to city? Do you already have plans for your next destination?
Typically we travel based on the places we want to see next, but all that has changed now. We’re trying to move as little as possible right now to avoid exposure, so we’ve been in one place for nearly a month. When traveling to a new destination, we typically block off an entire day and use a variety of resources to choose our next site. We’re currently in SoCal, but as the weather warms up, we’re planning to head up to NorCal to escape the heat, but the exact destination has not yet been chosen. We’ll likely choose somewhere remote and quiet, similar to our current campsite.
What initiatives and safety measures are you implementing to keep yourselves healthy on the road?
We are no longer close to our primary care physicians, so we have been doing everything possible to avoid getting sick while we’re on the road. We have been practicing social distancing since early March, and when things started to get really bad we were in Arizona. Arizona doesn’t have super strict stay-at-home orders, but we were still as strict as possible with our initiatives to stay home (our RV) and to stay healthy. Since then, we have moved over to SoCal, where things are being taken a bit more seriously. We also started wearing masks even before it was required and do typical disinfecting every time we got out.
When traveling through various towns and cities, what plans have you put in place to ensure you are keeping the locals that live there healthy and safe?
Typical tourist-y type travel isn’t really an option right now, so we have been moving as little as possible to avoid exposing both ourselves and others. We haven’t really been visiting new cities or towns for anything other than essentials (food, gas, water, etc.). We have been keeping to ourselves for the most part and going out once every 10-14 days to stock up on food and supplies. We’ve avoided trails, restaurants, and meet-ups with friends, and we also avoid small towns in general, where there are typically only enough medical resources for the town’s residents. We don’t go inside when we get gas, use self-checkout when buying groceries, and religiously wash our hands and use hand sanitizer in between stops on errands days.
Are there best practices that RV travelers are following right now that other folks like us may not know about?
Travel for RVers in general has almost stopped for the most part. As far as we know, those who have an off-grid set-up (like us) have mostly been boondocking in order to stay as far away from others as possible. Some of our friends who prefer campgrounds haven’t been moving or traveling and have just been in the same place since about mid-March. I think that instead of traveling and trying to see new places, most full-time RVers have just been trying to stay safe and healthy and just make it through this pandemic.
How has exploring new places been impacted by COVID-19? Are you able to get outside? Or do you find that much of your time is spent in/near your RV?
Because of COVID-19, we just haven’t really been exploring new places. We were in Moab for three weeks and didn’t go anywhere besides the grocery store. We were then in Sedona for about three weeks, and we explored by going for a drive and opting to stay in our car instead of stopping. Now that we’re in SoCal, we’ve been keeping to ourselves as well. We mostly spend time at home, working, playing games, completing projects, etc. We still very much enjoy spending time outside, so we opt for playing outside with our dogs in our own campsite and going for walks close to home. Basically, we just stick to our RV and the areas immediately around it.
And fun question for you both! U.S. vs. International: what is your preferred destination and travel style?
I’m not sure that we really have a preference. Currently we’re traveling in our motorhome, so our travels are pretty limited to North America. We both grew up on the East Coast, so we’ve really been enjoying exploring the west side of the country. Our RV has a great off-grid set-up which allows us to camp in remote locations, far away from others, where our dogs can play off-leash and we can enjoy our own little piece of land (not to mention fantastic views). This travel style best fits our plans and our lifestyle. In the future, when we have our own home base again, we will definitely plan many more international trips.
Thank you Cole and Sam! I appreciate your time and willingness to share your experience with @enroute.with.love.
In an effort to connect with queer travelers around the globe, I’ve been reaching out to folks from the LGBTQA+ community to hear more about their personal travel experiences. My hope is that sharing these stories will not only provide readers with the opportunity to learn, but that it will also open doors to places they may not have previously been aware of where the queer community is welcome.