Following a Dream: Family Road Trip – Part 1 Preparation

We just returned home after driving 4,000 miles in 45 days covering the Pacific Northwest with our family of 4 living out of our Toyota Highlander.

The idea for the trip came from a dream Chelsea had last year when we were in Hawaii.

Last June, I took an extra month of paternity leave when Owen was about 4 months old and we exchanged homes with some friends that also had two little boys and live in Maui, Hawaii. One night, after putting the boys to bed,  Chelsea and I were sitting out on the Lanai (deck) and she said, I’ve been dying all day to tell you about this dream I had last night.

In her dream, I had quit my job and we got in an RV and drove up the coast of California, through Oregon and into Washington. Her dream was very detailed even to the point of the storage bins that we used to organize our things.

That night, we had a long and inspiring conversation about it and agreed that next July I would quit my secure job that was paying our bills and we would borrow her parents RV and do the trip.

Because, why not? You only live once and our kids will only be young and not in school for a few more years. We knew it would be an amazing adventure that we would remember for the rest of our lives.

In addition to having an epic adventure with our family, our underlying purpose was to try and find a new place to live. We absolutely love where we live in Manhattan Beach, but it had become too expensive for us to live here. When you can’t afford to shop in the stores or eat in the restaurants in the town you live in, you need to either move or make more money. We’ve tried for a long time to make more money and that hasn’t happened, so maybe we should move.

Then we came home from Hawaii and the buzz about it wore off as we settled back into our lives. Some nights we would look on Zillow at different homes in various places around the country. Ultimately, we decided that we really do love where we live, so let’s just keep living here as long as we can. When the time is right for us to move, we will know it and move then.

Life continued and our trip got put on hold indefinitely.  My sister in law Heather said, “why would you move from the community that you love so much just to save money”. We were like, yeah, that makes sense, we have always been taken care of here and our bills are paid, so let’s just stay. Yes it’s expensive, but it’s amazing and our life here is just too good to leave.

Well, as life happens, I was fired from my “secure” job a week before Christmas and a couple of months later, the pandemic happened.

One afternoon during the quarantine, we were on a family walk around the neighborhood and Chelsea said, “Remember the dream I had in Maui?” I said, “Of course”, she said, “let’s put it back on the table”. I said “Why not?! There is no better time than right now”.

After posting on Instagram that we were looking for someone to sublease our place,  a friend of a friend decided to rent our place for the month of July. We took that as a sign to go for it.

We spent the next few weeks planning out our route. Normally we would have just planned for the first few days and been open to where we felt led. We are big on “going with the flow” However, because of the pandemic and so many places being closed, we planned out our trip in detail covering 28 of the 31 nights in July.

A combination of camping spots and hotels taking us all the way up to Portland and back. Visiting all of the various places along the way that friends had told us about. Places that we may want to someday live in, as well as visiting a few epic spots like the Redwoods and Crater Lake.

The original plan was to take an RV, but after talking to Chelsea’s mom, who has one, we decided not to take it. Way too much work if you’ve never driven one. Also, we wanted to be able to explore the various places we went to and felt like we wanted our car, because it would be much easier to get around in.

We then talked about pulling a trailer, but that proved to be too expensive and also hard to drive. We even tried to rent one from U-haul and you could only have it for 14 days, so that wasn’t going to work. We looked into adding roof racks, but that turned out to not be an option as well. Eventually we settled on packing the car with what we needed and just using a soft sided roof top carrier for all of our camping stuff.

Downscaling from an RV to a Toyota Highlander with a roof top carrier wouldn’t have been a big deal with just the two of us, but with a four year old and a one year old, it’s a little bigger of deal as you can imagine.

What was it going to be like, the 4 of us in a confined space (tent, car or hotel room) all day every day for 4 straight weeks. We had just spent the last few months in quarantine together and still liked each other, so we were confident/hopeful we could do it.

What was it going to be like in the outside world with covid 19 and protests and places potentially being shut down. They had just announced they were going to close the beach where we live for the 4th of July weekend. What if they closed a campsite we had reserved or what if they made everyone quarantine at home again and we couldn’t go back home, because someone else was staying there…

Well, we were about to find out.

On July 1st, we put all of our camping stuff in the roof top carrier and all of our clothes and other essentials organized neatly by Chelsea, in different sized bins in the trunk and hit the road.


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