Our New Home

Bryan and Shelly in their new trailer

We are excited to share our next adventure! We both work remotely now, so we decided to take this opportunity to not be confined to a one bedroom, one bathroom insanely expensive apartment anymore. This was our chance to do something a bit non-traditional and we dove head first into researching how to make this happen before our lease was up in mid-April.

Step 1: The Essentials

We quickly realized that we needed to decide what was essential to us in a home on wheels. We also had to decide what was better for us – something we could tow or something we could drive. These things were fairly easy to hash out. With my upbringing from an aeronautical engineer and bookkeeper and being married to a petroleum engineer/chemist, we did the only thing one can do – make a million Excel spread sheets! We are happily married and would like to continue to be for many years to come, so we decided we needed to have enough space to not be on top of each other. Other necessities - a bed that didn’t need to be folded up every day in order to have room to walk around, a bathroom with a door (some things need to be kept private, am I right!), work space, storage, a spot for a litter box, and a fully functioning kitchen. Bryan is a great cook and we wanted to be able to maintain our lifestyle of cooking most of our meals, having room to meal prep, and having a fridge that could hold a week’s worth of food. As for what led us to end up purchasing a travel trailer, there were a few things. One – price. We weren’t looking to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on an RV, especially since we didn’t know if this lifestyle was going to be sustainable for us. Two – practicality of getting around. We knew that with our lifestyle it would be easier to drop our trailer and then explore, without worrying about where to park a 40+ foot recreational vehicle. Three – previous experiences. Bryan’s dad, Steve, had many RVs and there always seemed to be something wrong with the engine. We didn’t want to risk having the engine die and be in the shop for months. An RV in the shop isn’t that bad when you don’t live in it full time, but when it is your home, that would really put a damper on things. Given the popularity of traveling since COVID, it has become increasingly difficult to get parts and service. So maybe we were jaded, because of Steve, but we like to think that he was proud of us for learning from his experiences.

Step 2: What vehicle is the best for towing a travel trailer?

While I kept searching through thousands of travel trailers, I let Bryan take the lead on this step. We ended up upgrading from my 2008 Volkswagen Jetta to a 2018 Ford F150 XLT 3.5 L EcoBoost. My Jetta was with me through vet school, got me from Florida to Chicago for my internship, back to Florida, out to Colorado, and many road trips in between. I’m quite certain she could have towed our TT with no trouble at all, but Bryan strongly disagreed, so I sadly traded her in on a cold, snowy day in March.

Shelly saying her goodbyes to the Jetta

For previously not being a truck person, our new truck is a beauty. The EcoBoost is also incredibly dangerous. You can get up to 85 mph and not even realize it. However, towing 7,000 lbs will probably limit any potential speeding tickets in the near future. Our truck came with the trailer hitch and tow package, so that was one less thing we would need to add. With a weight distribution hitch and spring bars, our truck is rated to tow 10,500 pounds. Many YouTube videos later, we learned that you don’t really want to tow more than 75% of your tow capacity, so that gave us guidelines for trailer weight.

Our new Ford F-150 EcoBoost

Step 3: Buy a travel trailer

My Excel spreadsheet of potential travel trailers started out incredibly long and it soon become a bit overwhelming. There are just so many makes and models and most companies do a slight upgrade each year and completely change the model name. We visited a few dealerships in the area and were able to eliminate some styles (pop up camper on a windy day immediately eliminated any soft-sided models!) and also determine which companies were reputable. We painstakingly narrowed it down to two and finally settled on a Forest River Salem 22RBS because of the weight, length, layout, interior design, price, and an insane amount of storage. We found one at the dealership Herold Trailer Sales in Indianola, Iowa. They took a deposit over the phone to hold it, but they were so backlogged, it would take close to 2 months to do a proper inspection on it before it would be ready for pick up. We were out in Denver, so we took a chance that everything would be good to go by April and they were incredible about communicating with us via email over the next two months.

Our new Forest River 22RBS travel trailer

Step 4: Where are we going to put everything???

Combined, we have moved 10 times in the past 11 years. And we aren’t talking just across town. Most of our moves have been across the country. This has prevented us from accumulating too much stuff, but things still have a way of piling up. Now we had a new task in front of us – what was coming with us, what was going into storage, and what could we part with.

Trying to declutter our messy living room

Let’s just say I’m a huge fan of Marie Kondo, so we had no trouble thanking our things for the joy they brought us and then selling them on Facebook marketplace, giving them to friends, or donating them to Goodwill. It was incredibly therapeutic to declutter our lives. Mother nature also spiced things up a bit and made it snow on moving day!

Snow covered truck with furniture in the back

Step 5: Sit our two cats down to ask them if they were ok with all of this

By this point, they both realized something was up. Our normally tidy apartment was in disarray, new boxes of unfamiliar things were arriving daily, and there was stress in the air. After our new comforter arrived, they quickly gave me a sign that they were on board with this adventure.

Lumpy Space Princess asleep on the new comforterCatalina Wine Mixer licking her lips on the new comforter

Step 6: Get inspired!

All of this research and preparation were exhausting, but we still made time to get inspired by other full time travelers. Our favorite family to follow is Keep Your Daydream. If they can do it with three children and a dog, we can certainly do it with two adults and two cats, right? All of their tips, tricks, equipment lists, and travel ideas were invaluable and had us counting down the hours until move out day.

Step 7: Drive to Indianola to get our new home

Getting everything moved out and stored in the truck during a giant snow storm was less than ideal, but the day had arrived and it was time to travel to Iowa. It was a tight squeeze in the cab, but the cats loved their new carriers and we made it safely to Iowa.

Shelly with Lumpy in the truck on our way to pick up the trailer