As the tepid winds of spring slowly breathe new life into our world, the promise of warmer days ignites a certain curiosity in us all. The restored light of longer days fuels wanderlust, luring our curiosities to explore the local landscape - and beyond.
Kindred spirits, Erica Shepardson and Tim Remington, tinker with the roof of their autumn-colored RV symbolic of a yesteryear decade, the two prepare for something incredibly awesome. Setting their sights on a self discovery, expanding perspective and meeting new challenges, the Connecticut couple is getting ready to hit the road for a destination unknown. While undiscovered travel isn’t particularly unique, the two leave with deeper meaning.
They meet seven years ago at a party and when Erica completed her Sports Medicine/Athletic Training degree from Keene State College in New Hampshire, the two began living together in Ellington - at least for now. While Tim diligently worked upwards in his company, Erica began working as a pharmaceutical rep, each make a good living with respectable careers. Somewhat weekend warriors, the two spend their off-hours enamored with music. Much of their “play” time and future plans were [and are] prioritized by concert dates, festivals and favorite artists. It’s a tradition that has broadened their experiences of music, food and adventure.
They spent years dreaming of long-term travel, but, it wasn’t necessarily in their immediate plans. However, after a series of simultaneous events, it became a calculated part of their intentions. One of the biggest hurdles was overcoming jobs, bills and insurance - all factors that were derailing their adventure. But when Erica was laid off last fall, the unexpected - and scary - departure prompted the pursuit of greater wealth in them both.
“I was struggling pretty hard with the idea of leaving my career, it was still a really good job and I really liked the people.” says Erica. I’ve never not worked. At first I was really sad - and scared - but then I felt like the universe was just telling me to go.”
Erica and Tim have found comforting synchronicities in the entire travel-prep process, like the benefit of a severance package two weeks after purchasing the RV and the confidence Tim would have a job or transfer once their adventure ended. While there’s always an excuse to why it’s never a “good time” for extended travel, the unexpected death of a dear friend changed their perspective.
“It set off this whole grieving process and we turned very introspective afterward,” says Tim. “We questioned what we were doing - was traveling really important to us? It really encouraged us to go out and learn what made us happy.”
“Our friend was someone who was very alive and to be so close to his death, it had a huge impact on us,” says Erica. “Us - following a dream - is the good we can get out of his death and find something out from his life. It’s not just like he died and we’re sad. It’s not easy, but you have to keep living. Having a drive like that is better than just throwing our stability away.”
Erica, a meld of a type-A personality/free spirit took some adjusting to the idea of uncharted travel. As a self-proclaimed planner, she is calculated in her decisions and such a whimsical adventure brings a bit of apprehension. Tim is a little more “go with the flow,” but still, no less reasonable to the reality of life’s expectations. They are extremely prepared in their endeavor, paying out the next six months bills and ensuring they have enough for the road.
“I think this is scary, I’m a worrier in general. I don’t think this is going to be easy - actually I think it may break me a few times,” admits Erica. “Neither of us has really traveled much, but we’ve both worked hard to a point where we can.”
It’s been suggested the two just save up vacation time, using the sequence of days to travel. But with just 10 days a year, Tim and Erica don’t feel like they can truly experience the country the way they envision. With their due diligence, they’ll be able to seize an opportunity most accomplish in their retirement - if they’re lucky. With their departed friend in the back of their minds - and hearts - they are ready to go now.
“In high school and college they teach us what it takes to be a good worker and how to pay off your student loans,” says Erica. “They don’t tell you what’s going to make you happy.”
The two have a goal of owning their own business someday and working independently. Although uncertain what that enterprise will be, learning more about themselves will help bring clarity. In the meantime, Erica has started a blog, charting their travels, their experiences with music and life in general. As that “worrier,” it was at first uncomfortable to put her thoughts on the “page” for others to consume. It was nothing short of nerve wracking. The experience and feedback has been unexpectedly positive, and starting to be a source of revenue, a welcomed benefit in their quest for professional freedom. As an e-commerce affiliate, Erica has started to monetize her website by earning advertising fees from qualified purchases and products advertised through her blog. For example, her “festival essentials” post will promote a selection of specific items relative to a weekend of music, camping and socializing. Shared amongst her growing network, linking tools provide subscribers the ability to “click-through” and purchase advertised products. Anytime someone follows the link and purchases something within a certain time span, Erica receives a percentage of the sale.
“I think my generation has a different view of the American Dream,” says Erica.
“Some people take offense to what we’re doing, like we’re trying to diminish what they do for a living,” says Tim. “It’s hard to explain, but there’s no right or wrong way to go through life. You just have to be open to what comes.”
The world is a stark contrast to what it was fifty years ago - even thirty. Going to college, being smart and working hard doesn’t always warrant idealized notions of success. Prosperity looks very much different and working in the standard physical world is no longer relevant - if you’re willing to embrace new ideologies - like the advancements of technology.
So, the two are working on their 1985 Toyota Coachman, replacing necessary elements to realize their nomadic freedom. Set to depart in early May, Erica and Tim plan to travel “closer to home” through New England and the East Coast to work out potential kinks with their vintage camper. With their dog, Suzy, they look forward to traveling west in search of uncharted territory.
In her blog, Erica writes, “It may be a long shot, but we hope to find a path that brings us abundant joy every day. And if that path cannot be found, hopefully moving so far out of our comfort zone will inspire a path that we can forge ourselves.”