It’s that time again! Another Inside the RV, an interview with full-timers on why and how they travel.
Meet the Bentons. Debra and Barry Benton have been full-timers for 18 months and fell in love with the RV community . They recently starting talking to Liz with ideas for The Virtual Campground and are now taking over for her on the daily operations of this great community. So let’s get to know them better since you will be seeing a lot more of them!
Tell me about your family.
We have been married 29 years and raised two sons in the Dallas, TX area. Our sons are in college – the oldest attends Denver University and just finished his senior year at University of Glasgow in Scotland. The other is a junior at Colorado State University. In 2017, I retired from my corporate job at Southwest Airlines with vague ideas on what I wanted to do next. After a year as empty nesters, and while I was still deciding what I wanted to be when I grew up, we decided to hit the road.
How did you decide to RV?
Barry is a photographer and was doing excursions where he would off road to scenic sites and sleep in the jeep. It wasn’t very comfortable so he was thinking of getting a camper to pull and wondered if he should get a bigger one in case I wanted to tag along. I have never been a camper and wasn’t too sure about this idea. We decided to do a three week test in a R-pod from Dallas to Sedona. It was a test of whether we could work from the road as well as if we could stay in that small of quarters. The trip was a success so Barry started looking into campers. He also started following groups who were full-time RVers and was intrigued. We rented another R-pod and went down to our first RV Entrepreneur Summit to learn from the people really living it. We loved the people we met and their clear love of this lifestyle. When we returned from that trip, we put our house on the market and set out to live in a RV.
What were the reactions of your family, friends, etc?
Honestly, I was pretty reluctant to leave my house and the community we had built. I was hoping someone would say we were nuts; but everyone, including our sons, thought it was a great idea. The usual reaction was “I have always dreamed of doing that,” or “that is so cool.” The only exception was my mom. Now, she has had the luxury of her four children and six grandchildren living within 20 miles, so she seemed a bit biased. On our last day in the house, after it was completely empty, I was exhausted and laying on the carpet. My mom asked me, why are you doing this? And I responded – “Why not?”
What kind of RV do you have?
We found a 36-foot 2014 Class A Winnebago Itasca Meridian, diesel pusher near Atlanta so Barry flew up and drove her back. She has been christened Big Al based on her Allison transmission. She has been a great home, but not always a faithful one as we have encountered several engine issues. More on that later as we get to know you all better!
What did you do with all your stuff? How did you downsize?
I agreed to put the house on the market, secretly hoping it would take a while to sell and I could stay in it longer. Then the house sold in four days! After 25 years of living there and raising two boys, it took a while to empty it. Luckily the new owners weren’t in a hurry and gave us several months. We gave away a lot of Barry’s great art photography and special items to friends and family. We sold what we could through the Neighborhood app and Ebay, but gave a lot away. We laugh when we visit friends and family in Dallas now – with all we gave away, we find a bit of home wherever we visit. We did get a small storage unit for those memory items or key things that we could not let go.
Just how long have you been on the road? Do you ever see a finish line?
We’ve been living in our RV for 18 months with our longest stay of five weeks in Austin, TX with other RV friends. The first six months, we traveled nearly weekly. Since Barry works full-time, nine to five, we only drove on weekends and it was quickly clear that we needed to relax the pace so he could enjoy our travels as well. We started staying an average of three weeks in a place which feels enough to explore and feel a little like a local. Originally, Barry was telling people we would be on the road for five to seven years and I was saying two. After a year, we realized how much there is to see and that we could be on the road for much longer.
What is the absolute best thing about full-time travel?
The best thing is the people that you meet and of course, the places you get to see. We have always liked to travel and see new places, but the hassles and costs of packing and traveling made it hard. Now we can see so much more and always have our home with us. What a luxury to always have your own bed to sleep in at night!
What is the worst thing?
For me, it is not having a dishwasher. I really miss it! And with a Class A, if it needs repair and is in the shop, you have no home. Sadly, something we have experienced more than once.
What have you learned on this journey and what are you still seeking?
We have learned it is important to connect with others and create a community. While we stay in touch with many friends from the Dallas area, it is hard for them to understand what we are doing and they tend to think we are always on vacation. In my former corporate job, I loved being part of a larger cause and network of people. The Virtual Campground with its wide community of people, who have different backgrounds and lifestyles but are joined by the common joy of RV life, has helped me feel less alone.
The big question on everyone’s mind, how do you fund your travels?
Barry works full-time in the legal portraiture business (in other words, he and his colleagues photograph lawyers at large firms, usually for website and marketing materials). He also started a side business, Benton Downs Photography, teaching photography and leading workshops to help others improve their skills. Our goal is that he can eventually leave his 9 – 5 and focus on workshops full-time. Debra is a marketing and community relations consultant and runs their personal blog, picturingRVlife.com which showcases Barry’s photography and their travel adventures.
How do you live together in such a small space and not drive each other crazy?
Great question and one of my biggest fears as we started this journey. However, we do a good job of finding our own space and sometimes I send Barry to his remote office – the local coffee shop.
What is the most exciting thing on the horizon for you?
With Liz getting more involved in her new business and setting down roots in Connecticut, we are excited to be coming on board to continue this great RV community. She certainly has smaller feet than we do, but she leaves a big personality to fill. Luckily there are two of us! Of course, we are not letting her get too far away from all of us! We are excited about growing The Virtual Campground as a community and resource for RVers. We have a lot to learn and want to hear from you on what you hope to see so please let us know. We are excited to meet you all!