One of the best pieces of advice I have heard about running your own business is that “you didn’t trade a 9 to 5 for a 24/7”, however, that is often how it feels. Emails and messages well past traditional business hours, nights and weekends with events to attend or to plan, networking and constantly promoting your business is exhausting but exhilarating, doing it on my own terms. I have past the point of start-up and am now selecting my hours a little more around my family, maintaining business relationships while building a few new ones, and nurturing the product I have created but still, this is more than a 9-5 and a recharge was desperately needed. Cue husband and the purchase of a teardrop camper in Spring 2017, the purchase of hard copy maps, and charting a course to travel up the East Coast as far North as we could make it, camping along the way up and back down the coast.
Let’s put this in perspective. A teardrop camper is basically a curved box built around a queen bed, with overhead compartments like a boat’s sleeping quarters, and a rear hatch that covers the galley outside at the rear of the camper. My husband, George, is 6’5″, I am 5’7″, and we have a wiggly 2 year old who wore 4T and size 8 toddler shoes. Now add that the car we are pulling the 1,400 pound, loaded camper with is a Mini Cooper Clubman. It may look impossible or slightly clownish but I have always been a fan of small spaces, even spent over a year living on a sailboat as a kid, and George spent 4 years in the Navy so is familiar with much smaller sleeping quarters. We make it work.
The hardest parts of owning a business and traveling is detaching, unplugging, and enjoying the moments. We did not have too many set plans except a couple of friends to visit and target areas to stop. I ordered a good ole fashioned map and drew our routes ahead of time just in case we were without technology and to keep my phone from being glued to my hand as the navigator, which worked well. FL>NC>VA>MA>ME>PA>NC>FL in 2 weeks.
We also had the goal to support local wherever we stopped, as a small business ourselves, this was important. No chain restaurants, no Starbucks, no shopping centers. I did search Google reviews for coffee shops, restaurants, and other businesses we needed, including a Uhaul service center when our trailer electric malfunctioned and took pictures and added reviews each place we went. We were stuck at Uhaul for about 5 hours and luckily this little food truck called Mojo Taco was serving tacos was next door because there was not another coffee shop or restaurant in 20 miles any direction. There was not a single photo or review of this little lifesaver, and now my photo has almost 20k views!
This coffee shop in NC had great reviews and one of the best breakfast sandwiches I have ever eaten, but we were very confused turning into a gated community to where mapquest said this highly rated coffee shop should be. Sure enough, next to the playground, splashpad, pool, and activities pavilion was a coffee shop with floor to ceiling windows and wrap around patio.
Of course when in New England you have to have a lobster roll, and we turned down many opportunities to find the right one, just outside of York, Maine, Shore Road Market that did not disappoint. It might have been a dent to our travel budget but huge chunks of lobster with just butter the perfect toasted roll was worth it, once.
Coffee was a daily search and we found some of the best (hidden and not-so-hidden) gems all the way up the East coast, Bread and Roses in Ogunquit (the line was out the door!) and Bard Coffee in Portland, ME (George dropped me off in the middle of downtown so I could hop out and not have to park the camper). Although we didn’t stay in Portland, we drove along the coast and through town a few times and put it on our list of cities to go back and visit.
Things you don’t think about when calling and reserving campsites, coming from flat Florida, is that you might end up directly on a cliff. Like, feet from rocks that plunge 40 feet downward to the ocean, which is petrifying when traveling with a fearless 2-year-old. At Libby’s Oceanside Camp the view of the ocean, the overnight storm that rolled in, watching 4th of July fireworks by a campfire, the fog in the morning before the sun came up and burned away the clouds, were perfection but one of us had a hand on our daughter the ENTIRE 24 hours we were there and triple checked the camper locks when she went to bed. We drove up and down the coast, windows down, even stopped at a barn and estate sale, and daydreamed about a completely different style of coastal living.
I had high hopes for Boston, and am still holding out for some pointers from locals for next time, but on July 5th everything was shut down except for tourist boat rides at the port and that simply isn’t our thing. We walked around hangry, trying to take some good photos and simply left quickly, disappointed with our Boston experience. I managed a quick walk around the Harvard campus as we continued our drive onto our next destination.
We learned a lot about camping, as our first trip with our H2ODrop (what we named our teardrop camper). How to pack and unpack almost daily, maneuvering small towns and even a drive through, and only had one issue with unhooking and hooking up the camper to the Mini Cooper. We had just left a gas station and were taking a smaller road towards the highway. The speed limit was only 45 mph so we weren’t going very fast but it felt bumpy. The next big bump and the hitch unhooked completely and ran into the car as we slowed to a stop. Micro campers are not very heavy but George said, “I would feel more comfortable lifting this back onto the hitch if I just had one more guy here”, and just like that a car pulled over, guy hopped out, and he offered to help! We got it back together and back on the road in minutes with just a couple bumper scratches.
Sometimes, we literally googled the closest campground and just pulled over for the night. Other times, there would be a spot I wanted to try out and we drove an hour off the beaten path after check-in had past in order to find a hidden gem. Don Laine Campground is located in Palmerton, Pennsylvania. Never heard of it? Me neither. But it was just the hidden gem we needed. Our site was at the end of a row, next to some regulars, overlooking a hill and open field that was twinkling with fireflies, or “magic fairies” as we told Cadence. She and I sat and watched in the tall grass as little lights flashed and her eyes lit up. For days she spoke of the fairies.
We hadn’t expected much, and that site ended up being one of our favorites, with “neighbors” that invited us to eat and hang out with them. They entertained Cadence and let her pet their dogs and do what family does. It was a pretty special place we would gladly revisit. But next time, I hope to keep the spiders at bay. As we got back on the road, I began to feel sick quick and found 2 bites on my torso and George remembered seeing a squished spider in our sheets. I am thankful it bit me and not Cay but I was quickly nauseous, lethargic, and wanted to sleep instead of navigate so George found his way back south to stay with friends in NC before making it back to Florida.
Between the beautiful views, hikes, cute towns, and just the time to breath outside of our day-to-day operations, this 2 week getaway was the perfect reset button as we grew our little business. This year, we will be shutting down business operations, other than a couple of fun creative projects in the works, and traveling for 2 whole months!
When building my business and dreaming of the lifestyle we wanted, extended travel as a family was high up on the priorities, so despite the busiest year yet, we are making it happen. For July our plan is to drive the camper West for 4th of July with friends in Cuba, Missouri and then further West with stops in Colorado, Arizona, and California over about 3 weeks. I hope to stay a few days at a time in each location and so there should be less time in the car and more at campsites and with friends. In August, our travel should take us abroad and, yes, Cadence who will turn 3, will be there every step of the way.