Retired and adventurous couple Jimmy and Terri Brown share what it’s like to travel for nearly a year in an RV across the United States. Photos by Jimmy and Terri Brown.
“We like to tell folks that we are avid fans of museums—only the museums we frequent are those of Mother Nature,” shared Jimmy and Terri Brown, a retired couple that’s been traveling across the United States for nearly a year in their RV and ticking off an enviable list of America’s outdoor “museums” along the way.
Jimmy and his trusty Teva sandals take on the Delicate Arch Trail in Moab, Utah.
Since the two married in 2017 at the summit of Kilimanjaro and had their first dance at 19,341 feet, adventure has been the bedrock of their relationship.
Their independent, nature-loving paths crossed while working at the same elementary to high school, while they were both in their mid 50s. Jimmy, (who sold his wealth management business and returned to his passion of working with kids by becoming a track and cross country coach) spent his weekends and vacations hiking, paddling, completing triathlons, and diving around the world. Terri (a 3rd grade teacher) liked running marathons, slalom water skiing, and getting certified in free diving in her spare time. It wasn’t long before they were off on a bucket-list experience together: hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru.
As distance athletes, they connected over sharing the lessons they’ve learned on the field (and life) to young minds. “Distance running is among the purest and mentally demanding of any sport. In order to be a successful runner, one must welcome an unbearable level of discomfort and this creates a foundation of discipline and self reliance,” Jimmy shared.
That grit and threshold for discomfort has undoubtedly come in handy as they navigated their latest venture of traveling across the United States with two dogs in an RV, with plenty of toys in tow. We caught up with them to hear how traveling has tested their relationship and tips for finding 5,000-star accommodations (of the Big Dipper variety).
Tell us about this epic RV trip. Why did you decide to take a year off and travel?
TERRI: When Jimmy blurted out in the spring of 2020 that we should buy an RV and hit the road for the entirety of 2021, I kindly asked if he was serious. For years it was on our informal bucket list to do such a thing but we hadn’t had the guts to tackle something that ambitious. Our passion for “Staying Wild” (the bumper sticker on the back of our rig) ruled the day and we set the massive list of to-do’s in motion.
The logistics for leaving our home for a full year with our two dogs, Teddie Girl and Bucky and itinerary planning was a full time job. Once we dove in and there was no looking back, we kept reminding ourselves what it was all about: life, love, and the pursuit of wilderness.
How did you decide where to go?
JIMMY AND TERRI: Initially, we mapped out regions of the country and Canada that we wanted to visit and the approximate months that we’d want to be there. It really was about trying to find places off the beaten track, less populated and full of nature-based activities. That was the easy part and as always the devil is in the details. Turns out that due to COVID the urge to get outside overwhelmed the recreational vehicle industry and available camping sites are extremely difficult to find.
Terri has done an incredible job putting us into many gems. We like to say that we are a traveling hotel suite with all of our belongings and toys. Sometimes when we pull into a campsite it’s like pulling into a Motel 6 (crowded, noisy, no privacy) and other times a Four Seasons (calming locations that feel like it’s just us and Mother Nature). We’ve now put our heads down in 83 different locations since we started our adventure on January 2.
What have you learned about each other through traveling together?
JIMMY AND TERRI: We have an attitude of gratitude: grateful for our position in life; our health at a time when many others our age can’t do the activities we do. Before we got underway we established some important guidelines to help diffuse what could become relationship crushers. For instance, snarky coupons are awarded to the person who doesn’t maintain composure in a difficult situation, like backing the rig into a tight spot. The key is that the individual who stepped out of line is the one that has to throw the flag on himself or herself. That alone has provided us with numerous bouts of fun and laughter in what otherwise could have turned ugly.
Mistakes, or as we refer to them, experiential learning, are a constant in this way of life. Adapting to the unexpected is a key to how we survive with a smile. We had a marvelous relationship prior to jumping into our approximately 300 square foot “home,” but we get very emotional when we discuss just how deep our love for each other has developed just in the past nine months.
Jimmy wears the Terra Fi 5 Universal sandals, the ultimate all-terrain vehicle.
What are some of the best and worst memories on the trip so far and why?
JIMMY AND TERRI: The very first night of our trip was a great test because we had numerous issues like a cracked windshield on the jeep, inability to level the rig (human error) and a disastrous problem with our sewage tank overflowing into the rig and flowing into the bedroom. Our celebratory bottle of champagne turned into drowning our sorrows. That was the low point.
High points have been so numerous it’s impossible to cover them. We are constantly amazed by just how much there is to see and do. If pressed, Terri would pick seeing, hugging, crying and yes, kissing, the massive redwoods in Northern California. Being a true beach aficionado, Jimmy’s very first experience being able to actually drive our beast of a home onto the beach in Port Aransas, Texas and camp for four days was a dream come true.
In RV terminology we were dry camping, or boon-docking (no hookups for electricity, water or sewer). We originally outfitted Sterling, the name of our coach, with abundant solar panels, special batteries and large tanks so we didn’t have to be tethered to regular campsites all the time. That’s afforded us the ability to be in places totally alone and off the grid, which is simply heaven to us. A full moon rising over the mountains in Alamogordo, New Mexico and the splendor and vastness of the desert in Moab are a couple of our boon-docking location standouts.
Have you had any surprising meetings with other travelers on this trip?
JIMMY AND TERRI: We’ve loved meeting diverse groups of individuals and families who share the love we have for being in our element. We were so inspired meeting two women in their late 70s on a 16-mile hike outside of Zion National Park. They clearly were struggling even before the halfway mark, yet simply said, “Sunset isn’t until after 9 pm so we have plenty of time to make it.”
While on a trail outside Custer, South Dakota passing a family with four young children, the mom casually said to us, “A little suffering is okay as long as they don’t get hurt.” These types of wonderful encounters have taught us that passion breeds perseverance and perseverance opens the door for endless opportunities to discover things about our surroundings and ourselves.
I hear you’re both longtime Teva fans! What are some of the most interesting experiences you’ve had with your Teva sandals over the years and why?
JIMMY AND TERRI: Teva sandals have been a staple on our feet since the mid ‘90s. We consider them to be “go anywhere, do anything” footwear and they’ve traveled the world with us. As we traipsed through the thick, varied and wet terrain of the jungle in Costa Rica years ago, that cemented the love, comfort, versatility and natural feeling of having a pair of Teva sandals as the foundation underneath us. It’s as if our feet are quietly talking to the earth below us because we are in our element.
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