We met Jeff and Candace Smith at Lake Guntersville, AL last year and saw them again this last March. They let us tour their beautiful new home and shared their story of RV life. To see a tour of this 5th wheel, visit Episode 35 of our TVC Live show, their rig is near the beginning of the show. Enjoy meeting another full-time RV couple!
Tell us about yourself and your travel companions
We are Tripping With The Smiths – Jeff, Candace, and our two dogs, Cameron and Jasper. Candace is an online strength and nutrition coach, and Jeff works for a traditional company, albeit online and mobile. Cameron is a 12 year old pitbull in the sunset of his life, and Jasper is a two year old German Short Haired Pointer that has more energy that any one living thing should ever have.
We decided to give this full time RV thing a try back in 2016, when we were looking for a house in the Austin area. After looking at many houses and finding ourselves frustrated with the process, inventory, options, etc, we sat back and re-evaluated what we wanted out of life. It was then that we realized we valued travel and experience more than the traditional American lifestyle, and in fact, had spent 3-4 months of the previous year traveling away from our home. We decided that we’d rather travel then spend the money and effort on a home that was going to anchor us to the Austin area. So, we extended our current lease to allow us to make the transition and dove into the lifestyle.
How did you decide to RV?
We decided to RV, as alluded to above, as a result of a frustrating home buying process that led to us re-evaluating our life and goals. Both of us were able to work remotely, Jeff for his traditional job, and Candace was able to transition her business to online only. There’s alot of America to see, and it takes some serious time to do it. Combine the freedom from location based work with a desire to travel and not live out of a hotel, and you get the RV life. So here we are.
How often do you travel in the RV?
We’re currently full time RVers, but not traveling much, unfortunately. The COVID situation, some commitments we had, and the constantly shifting environment has curtailed our traveling a bit. We’re in a good spot, life is fairly normal, and we don’t really want to travel to places that have widespread restrictions in place. In fact, our next destination keeps canceling our reservations, and we’re looking to re-vamp our travel or lack thereof plans for the summer.
What were the reactions of your family, friends, etc?
When we decided to start RV’ing, most of our family were surprised, but kind of excited for us – they see the adventure in it. With that being said, we’re still kind of strange to them. They understand that we like to travel, and that we may be anywhere, but they still don’t really get it – and I guess most people won’t really get the RV lifestyle unless they do it, because we certainly didn’t understand many aspects of it till we were knee deep in it.
What kind of RV do you have?
We have a 2018 DRV Fullhouse JX450 – what a mouthful! It’s a DRV toyhauler, and it’s roughly 45 feet long, give or take a foot. We tow it with a 2017 Ford F350 DRW, which will be getting air bags on the rear suspension in the near future. The fifth wheel has a great floorplan – it has the traditional rear living floorplan with the addition of a 10 foot garage on the rear of it. It has a huge kitchen, and plenty of room for the two of us.
What did you do with all your stuff? How did you downsize?
When we made the decision to transition to full time RV’ing, we had recently made a geographic move for work. This cut down on some of our stuff, but not nearly enough for RV’ing. We started out by putting the bigger ticket items on Craigslist and Letgo, and sold some of those. I’m not sure it was worth the trouble of dealing with people on there. We didn’t do garage sales, as we both hate them. At the end of the day, we made many trips to the Goodwill right down the road from us. It got to the point that their drop off guy knew us and commented many times that we weren’t donating trash items as many do. We also took the stuff we couldn’t bear to part with and put in a climate controlled storage unit, as we weren’t sure exactly how long this full time thing is going to last. Sounds easy, right? Nope, it was an overwhelming process – probably the most difficult part of transitioning to full time RV’ing.
Have you done any renovations on the rig?
We have done some renovation to our current RV. It’s primarily refinishing the cabinets in the RV. If you haven’t noticed, many of the RV manufacturers love brown, and we can’t stand it. So, we spent some time prior to moving in re-finishing the cabinets and wood trim in the main living areas to a nice shade of white. It really brightens up the area and makes it feel alot bigger.
We also converted the garage into office space. This wasn’t really renovation, per se, as it was furnishing it appropriately. We each have a sit to stand desk, office chairs, and external monitors setup. We also added a filing cabinet, small bench, and carpet to complete the “room” feel in the office. Finally, we added curtains to the sliding glass door and three season door on either end of the office to soften the industrial feel of it.
Just how long have you been on the road? Do you ever see a finish line?
We have been on the road for a little over three years. It’s been great. We do see a finish line to full time, but it’s soft and hazy at the moment – we don’t know when it will be. We do have plans to eventually buy a home somewhere and transition to a part time/half time lifestyle, but that’s off in the future, combined with some other lifestyle changes we’re contemplating.
What is the absolute best thing about full-time travel?
The best thing about full time travel is the travel portion of it – the ability to change your home whenever you want, and not have to make a full commitment to the location. We’ve “lived” in Alaska, Seattle, San Diego, Utah, Nevada, Michigan, Florida, and Alabama in the last three years! We’ve also spent time in many other places, but not long enough to consider it “living” there. What other lifestyle allows you to do that?
What is the worst thing?
The worst thing is probably decision fatigue. You don’t consciously feel it, but after Alyssa Padgett mentioned it; we became aware of it – there are so many decisions in an average day that affect your life. It begins with choosing how long to stay in an area, finding the next destination, then planning everything it takes to get there. Imagine planning a multi day road trip every frigging week!
Have you found a favorite place yet?
Right now, our favorite place is Lake Guntersville, AL, because life is normal here! No craziness at all, and most businesses are open and functioning.
Overall, I think our favorite place has been Southern Utah. There is so much to do outdoors, and so many places to see. We spent a couple weeks in the area, and the outdoor possibilities are endless. Couple that with the scenery, boondocking availability, and wide open space, and it’s a great place to be. We’re looking forward to being back out there!
What are your favorite kinds of destinations?
We like national/state parks, BLM land, and places that have a lot of space. We like to hike and take pictures. We also enjoy mountain biking and exploring, as soon as we pick up some kayaks, we’ll add that to our outdoor activities. We love to eat too and seek out non-chain restaurants to frequent.
What have you learned on this journey and what are you still seeking?
I think the biggest thing we’ve learned on this journey is to be flexible and roll with the punches. If you start following a bunch of the RV life and Van Life Instagram pages, you’ll see all kinds of beautiful pictures and idealistic lifestyle blogs, but know one will tell you the ins and outs of the daily grind. Sometimes it’s work! Add to that the nature of RV’ing – things break, plans change, pandemics, protests shut down cities, and you just have to be flexible! If you aren’t, then this lifestyle is probably not for you.
How do you fund your travels?
Jeff has a full time, remote job for a technology company, and I transitioned my fitness business to online. Together, we pay the bills!
How do you live together in such a small space and not drive each other crazy?
To be honest, it’s not always easy! There are days that we drive each other crazy, and there are other days that we’re totally happy with each other. Knowing when to take a break from each other helps – sometimes it’s a walk or bike ride, sometimes it’s a dive trip or girls week out! The other thing that helps on a daily basis is to have some basic ground rules – one of our key rules for the day is no conversation before coffee in the morning! We also prioritize getting at least a few workouts in during the week, which really helps manage stress and give us a time out. But the biggest thing that helps us live together in a small space is the fact that we are each other’s best friend, and we actually do like and enjoy each other most of the time!
What is the most exciting thing on the horizon for you?
Umm, we have some big changes on the horizon, but we’re not ready to share publicly yet. What we are ready to share is that we’re going to actually get back on the road! Jeff just finished a two year study he was participating in related to knee cartilage re-growth in Pensacola, and we’re now free to travel about the country! The study required a tether to Pensacola, as there were a ton of medical and therapy requirements. So, we’re wrapping up our time here in the southeast and plan on venturing west.
How can people find you?
Website: http://trippinwiththesmiths.com/ – Coming soon