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Of Crazy Clothes and Campers, Fish Frys and Fair Trade Festivals: A Love Story (Part 8/10)

(for Part 1, click here)

We resigned from our teaching jobs in July of 2021 and said goodbye to our life in Oregon so we could return full-time to Montana. We do miss our friends and colleagues. We miss our students. We miss the satisfaction that comes with knowing you are doing noble work, truly making a difference in people’s lives. We miss our church and our ability to reach almost anywhere in town by bicycle. We miss our favorite Wednesday night taco trucks and our Saturday morning donut shop. But we have dreams to pursue—and we are not getting any younger.

We laid out a strategy for how to get on the road in the least amount of time, ideally spending a couple of years meandering down the Pan-American Highway, from the northernmost point of North America to the southernmost tip of South America . . . at least as a starting point until we decide where we would like to go next. Again, remember we are not always the wisest people or the best planners, but we are good at improvising and making the most of opportunities. So, will our strategy play out as planned? Time will tell.

Step one was for me to get a short-term job that could provide a solid income, while Andy finished our house and built out a travel rig for us. After only one evening of scanning job postings online, I dusted off and updated my resume and, responding to some weird internal nudge, marched into the big appliance store in the nearby city and asked to speak to the hiring manager. Minutes later, I found myself in the manager’s office, interviewing for a sales position—a field in which I had no experience. By the end of the day I had been hired. When Andy asked how my job hunting had gone, I chuckled nervously and told him I had a new job . . . selling refrigerators.


The local housing market is strong, though—both rentals and sales are booming—and that means appliance sales are strong. New construction? New appliances. Want to get your own place ready to sell? New appliances. Couldn’t afford the place you actually wanted to buy and settled for a fixer-upper? New appliances. Can’t afford to move at all, so you want to update the house you are in? New appliances. Have an extra space and want to get it ready to rent out? New appliances. Inventory shortages caused by a global pandemic and massive supply chain disruptions world-wide? New appliances . . . in high demand, at increased prices. It works.

The next step was to decide on our travel rig. For years, I had been enamored with skoolies—retired school buses, either large or small, which have been converted into rolling tiny homes, the next step up from van life.

What could be better than two former teachers, traveling the world as students on a former school bus? We knew we could do it. Andy could build out the best skoolie short bus there ever was. We studied layouts and design elements. We studied buses and chose the one we wanted. We came inches from actually buying one, but something held us back.

We considered converting an ambulance into a camper van. They are becoming increasingly popular and can occasionally be found in four wheel drive, a decided bonus for travel and exploration in remote places. The wiring challenges were daunting, however, and the sturdy interior build that ambulances come with already presents a real challenge to remodeling. Plus, ambulances tend to be driven hard at high speeds, and then left idling for hours on end. We weren’t sure.

We even considered just putting a traditional truck camper on the back of our full size Dodge 4x4. It was a sturdy truck, chosen for its hauling ability when we purchased our most recent fifth wheel trailer. It was not new, but it was a good, solid, low mileage truck. A truck camper could be a good choice for living space, but it wouldn’t be customized to us and our lifestyle needs. We do like custom.

Finally, after much reading and studying, we decided the very most important factor to consider was the availability of parts and repair services world-wide, since we had already covered the continental United States quite thoroughly and wanted to head to regions beyond—far beyond—and with no end date in sight. Does everyone around the globe know how to fix a Chevy or a Dodge? Can parts be found anywhere, or would they have to be ordered from the States—at great cost to both our finances and our time? None of the three options we had considered--skoolie, campulance, or truck camper--provided good answers to these questions.

We needed a different plan.

(for Part 9, click here)


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