Miles vs. Smiles

Posted February 25, 2019 – Narrated by Jim
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In nearly 1000 days on the road, we’ve encountered two kinds of RV travelers.

The first visit as many destinations – parks, monuments and attractions – as possible during their allotted travel time. They achieve great distances. Logging miles is a point of pride.

The other kind of RV traveler has a different approach, a longer leash on time.

Bureau of Land Management – Quartzsite, Arizona

For a variety of reasons they can travel more leisurely and cover shorter distances between overnight locations – catch the places most travelers miss, take in the history, immerse in the culture.

I guess it’s a guy thing, but recently a camper (guy, about my age) asked how far we’d traveled in 1,000 days. When I told him 29,000 miles he shook his head and said, “What happened? Road trouble?” 

Okay, I get it. When we started out we, too, had bought into the idea that faster was better.

Newly unleashed we took a run for it and covered 14,225 miles between 85 different locations in our first year.

It was a phenomenal experience … amazing … stimulating … exciting … fantastic … and, ultimately, physically exhausting.

We had doubts that we’d be able to keep it up much longer. Even Pico was pooped. 

But we took advice from other full-timers and learned that we had to slow down, find our pace … But what was our pace?

Many full-timers (perhaps most) stay put for a month or more at a time. Most private RV parks incorporate discounts to make it much more affordable to stay by the month, while fourteen-day maximums are the norm for National, State and County parks.

Maybe our pace was somewhere in between …

Through experimentation, we’ve learned that the excitement of being mobile is sustainable when we stay less than a month and longer than a week.

Month stays are doable once or twice a year, but within a week, we’re planning the next move. 

In September of 2016, I crunched our travel data and matched it up to our “happiness” factor and came up with the 4-3-2 Rule. But even at the time I didn’t know how to wrap my head around it. I was still caught up in that vacationer mode – the guy burning rubber to help his family see and do everything.

The paradigm shift into slow-travel, thinking like a full-time/long-term traveler, and relaxing into the rhythms of life on the road was uncharted territory – so I did the CFO thing and wrote a production manual about my 4-3-2 philosophy.

In Year Two, we finally started to embrace the 4-3-2 Rule in practice and from July 2017 to July 2018 we only traveled 9,849 miles between 71 locations. Our physical health benefited and our happiness factor went up, but the data proved that we still needed to slow down. 

So far, in our third year, since July 2018 we’ve only traveled 4,957 miles between 36 locations. We’re getting there!

Click the map to see our travels animated…

We’re beginning to find our pace, trusting our instincts and feeling more certain that we can continue to sustain our lifestyle and enlarge our experience in this mobile condition.

Last week we viewed a great documentary film, Expedition Happiness, (available on Netflix) about a young couple, Felix and Selima, and their dog, Rudi.

In search of happiness they felt the need to disengage from conformity. So they renovated an old school bus and took off on an epic road-trip from Alaska to Mexico. In a single year they accomplished travel locations we certainly hope are in our future as well. 

During our first year, we felt like kids too – like the German kids in the documentary – whose enthusiasm for adventure mirrored ours. We relived the joy of discovery with them as they learned to boon-dock in serene wilderness places, revel in sunsets and make their own way along highways and byways not knowing where they’ll be tomorrow.

But watching them made us tired and worry for them as they drove themselves too hard. Maybe we’re just old, we thought. But no …  

In the end, Felix and Selima found the happiness they were seeking, but due to their fast pace they nearly collapsed from exhaustion and their dog became seriously ill. But still grateful for their adventure, they returned home to Germany with a treasure trove of happiness.

There are as many ways to travel as there are people. Every year our list of house-free, mobile friends continues to grow. 

How do you travel? What’s your speed? What’s your philosophy? Please share in the comments below!

16 thoughts on “Miles vs. Smiles

  1. I look forward to you posts and this one is so enlightening. Retired in July 2017, purchased our AS two weeks later we took off traveling west like we had to be back to get ready for work. Finished in October. Started again in April 2018, we are not full timers, at a little slower pace, realizing quickly that 5-6 hours of driving is exhausting. This year we are hoping for a break in the Michigan weather so we can take off again, practicing the 4-3-2 rule. Thanks so much!

    1. Great to hear from you! I believe you told us a year ago you bought a 26 foot Flying Cloud Airstream. We like the 26 foot layout. We have not spent as much time in Michigan as we hope. We did spend a week at Duck Creek RV Park in Muskegon in the Summer of 2017. We were on our way to the Mothership in Jackson Center for repairs, so we had to be in Ohio on a certain date. What we really want to do is spend a few months in the northern part of the state. Maybe you can offer suggestions.

  2. I wish I wish we could take all the time in the world to travel and explore. But sadly we fall into the category of trying to cram as much time/miles/activities into a set amount of time away from home. One day we will take the long way and enjoy each and every mile. Thanks for doing this for us … for now!

    1. Lori, we feel the important thing is to travel, any way you can. When we had that pesky day job, we took every opportunity we could to go on an adventure, even if was a short one. Biking through France and Prince Edwards Island for 3 weeks was fantastic. It was crammed full of activities, but it was seeing things we had never seem before. Same with tent camping through Arizona or Northern California. Short times, but fulfilling.

    1. Lula, glad you are enjoying our blog. We have fun writing about traveling full-time and we are pleased someone else finds the posts useful!

  3. Great article. Stop and smell the roses! Absolutely love the slower pace! If you are enjoying the location, stay a few weeks:-) Find free camping and enjoy the surroundings. We love your 4-3-2 rule. If you dislike the place, move on. Great option when you can bring your house with you!

    1. Christina, thank you! It has taken a long time for us to come to grips with ‘our pace.’ We are currently in Big Bend National Park and was only able to get reservations for a few days. But we love it here so much, we found a ‘first come first serve’ site that will allow us to stay 2 weeks. Glorious! Slow the pace and enjoy the beauty! We never knew Texas could be so beautiful! Hope our paths cross again!

      1. We just missed you guys at Rio Grande Village CG.
        Love Big Bend. Hope our paths cross again someday. Slow is the way to go.

        1. Randy & Dianne, sorry we missed each other. We are heading to the South Padre Island area. Sooner or later our paths will cross! Safe travels!!

      1. Enjoy your commenting and your pics as well. Yes people who log many miles may as well drive trucks and get paid for their miles. They sure miss most of the reasons why many of us rv and that is to see and experience things we do not see everyday.

        I do however feel your tree rat sitting on your dash always looks the same and does not deserve being in EVERY picture, lol. I would be more interested in your pictorial captures than your tree rat, lol, But it is your choice, do what you want, but once in 10 pics might suit some of us better, JMHO.


        1. LeRoy, Thank you for your comments. Many folks do miss so much beauty and culture by logging as many miles as they can in a day. Agreed, State Line Squirrel sometimes likes to take center stage.😊 The reason we had him in every photo this time was because when we cross a state line, we always take a photo of the welcome sign. Since this post was about traveling many or few miles, we liked the idea of showing many different state welcome signs (and state line squirrel is always in those type photos). We will try to keep him in check from now on. lol Thanks for following LIB.

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