The Big Settle Down

Kate driving our first camper, “Champ,” through Denali National Park. Champ was awesome and had so much character. I think our new camper, “Mabel” (named before us), will give Champ a run for his money.

Kate and I were travel PTs for over 10 years. We had a good run – no, “good run” doesn’t begin to describe it. We have lived all over the country, driving to both the East and West Coasts most years. We have lived in a camper on Martha’s Vineyard, explored Alaska, found serenity in rural Hawaii, and have accumulated over 500 ski days each in Colorado. We have had a great run.

We’ll be having a kid in about 4 weeks. When we decided we wanted to have a child, we weren’t sure if it would end our travel careers. Until even a couple months ago, we had a backup plan that included the three of us living in a camper taking short contracts all over the Western US – it seems a single traveler salary could stretch further than most permanent salaries. With travel pay, one of us could work while the other home-schooled the little one. We remained very undecided about whether we would stay in Colorado following the baby’s birth or see just how far we could take this traveling thing. We have a couple friends here in Aspen who are raising a one-year-old between Asheville, NC in the summer and Aspen in the winter – sounds pretty awesome, and with an established life in each place, very manageable. We had visions of a similar life… seemed reasonable.

So what gives? Life as a travel PT really has been living the dream. We never made a formal decision to stay here in Aspen – it just happened.

Over the years, we began returning to Aspen for winters yearly. We have long said if we were to settle down, it would be here. Over the years, we’ve casually looked at properties with a friend who is a realtor. About 3 years ago, we took snowmobiles to check out some land on the back of Aspen Mountain. It would have been awesome. (It would still be awesome) But, it would be expensive, and we would have to snowmobile to our house through avalanche terrain every day in the winter – not the most practical set-up. There’s been a couple other things we’ve casually looked at over the years. Within days of showing up in town this December, our realtor friend insisted, “Hey, there’s this house you should really check out.” We dilly-dallied, didn’t pay much attention, and again, “Hey, there’s this house you should really check out.” Within 2 weeks of returning to Aspen this winter, we were under contract on the house and have been working to buy it since.

Our first winter in Aspen, 2007. We figured we’d live slopeside, because “You only live in Aspen once. Right?” This was one of the many on-mountain fireworks shows that first year when we could stroll out our front door and watch. We certainly don’t live slope-side anymore, but we’re close enough.

It just happened. There was no conscious decision to stay in Aspen, but here I am sitting by my cozy wood fire typing, in my house, trying to process the fact that I’m not a travel PT anymore. The longest job I’ve held in the last 11 years was my first travel assignment that I extended out to 10 months. Before that, my entry-level PT program at Northeastern University was structured so that we were constantly rotating between a few months in class and a few months in clinic. The last time I did one consistent thing for over a year was high school! But, I guess it’s time to settle-down. All this came together and happened so naturally that I have to believe the timing is right and that it’s meant to be. I honestly see a lot of advantage to being in one place. There are definitely areas of my life where I’ll gain traction and finally be able to make some headway. Don’t get me wrong, traveling PT has been a dream-life and I can’t picture doing anything different with the last 10 years. One sign of more stability is that I’ve already committed more time to the Colorado Chapter of the APTA. My first project is getting the PT licensure compact to pass here – clearly travel-driven idea.

So what now? I guess I’ll keep writing about traveling and the path-less-taken by therapists. I’ve learned a lot about traveling over the last decade and will continue to share what I can for as long as I can. I recognize that my knowledge and advice probably have an expiration date, maybe a couple years. You’ll likely start to see me taking on more generalized PT and rehab topics, but travel PT will stay central for now. In life, traveling is not even close to done. We recently bought a 1970 Shasta camper that we are going to put some serious miles on this summer driving through the mountains and into the desert. The mind-set in Aspen affords a lifestyle full of continuing adventure. Many of our coworkers routinely take 3 week international vacations – many of our coworkers and friends are of international origins themselves. I’d eventually like to see a large chunk of the globe, but Australia, Japan, Iceland, and much of Europe stand out as places that I need to get to more immediately. A steady job affords the opportunity to increase participation in global-health projects and international service learning for which there are many opportunities in healthcare. Aspen has exchange programs with several sister cities (Bariloche, Argentina; Chamonix, France; and Christchurch, New Zealand to name a few of our sister cities). I’m not really sure what having a child, owning a home, and accepting a permanent job means, but it definitely doesn’t mean the end of travel.

Stay tuned, this is the start of a new adventure. A very different, new adventure.

Choosing the Right Camper to Live In

As we have done our traveling in the last year, we have slowly but surely made some changes. One of those changes that we came to was the decision to buy a trailer and live out of it full time. Our journey to the trailer probably took way longer than necessary because Kelsey was very particular about what she did and did not want our trailer to look like. Phil was more concerned about the inside, which is more important in the end. When we actually looked at all the possible options we each wanted in a trailer we knew we had our work cut out for us.

Here are some things Kelsey wanted/needed in the trailer:

Phil and Kelsey normally blog on their website at minimalistlifemaximumresults.com

Phil and Kelsey normally blog on their website at minimalistlifemaximumresults.com

1. NO STRIPES – Kelsey likes to be unique and she did not want her trailer to look like the other trailers we often see on the road, this means no stripes decorating the sides. If you like the look of the trailer or RV with stripes that’s fine, but you see those trailers everywhere. It is kind of hard to find a trailer or RV without stripes nowadays. We want to be unique and that’s what we were looking for.
2. Solar energy – This wasn’t exactly a deal breaker like some of the other items on this list. It is relatively easy to put solar power into an already existing home, whether it’s a standalone home or a mobile home. It makes it much easier when it is already installed for you. If we were going to pay big money for our new home, we preferred it already done for us.
3. No shower – This was kind of a weird one since most people think of a shower as a necessity. Kelsey did not want to deal with the hassle of the shower and fell in love with the idea of having to join a gym in order to shower. That little incentive to shower can be a huge motivator to go to the gym and get in better shape. This is a tip not just for people on the road but for all you home dwellers out there too! Another benefit of not having a shower is reducing the amount of water used. The average American shower uses 17.2 gallons of water. That can equal out to over 6000 gallons of water used per year, per person. Just on showers!
4. Small in size – We like downsizing and quickly realized we tend to have more space than we could ever need. We also like getting rid of stuff and living as minimalist as we can (hence the title of the blog). By doing this and going as small as we can, we are forcing our hand even more. Sometimes a big (or small) change can do a world of good in your life if you feel stuck.
5. Enough room to change comfortably – We looked into the van life a little bit, but we are still working professionals. That means we have to dress business casual – so looking presentable in a van would be tough. Not impossible but definitely becomes more difficult if you have only a small van’s amount of space.

Phil’s lists of wants:

1. Towable by a small SUV or crossover – Phil has never wanted a truck and has always wanted a vehicle that optimized gas mileage. Anything bigger than an SUV or crossover would really impact this ability to stay eco friendly in the car department.
2. Decent amount of windows to give open and outdoor appearance – The draw of the trailer is that you’re outdoors, you can walk outside at a moments notice. If your trailer is stuffy with no windows, it makes it feel like you live in a small box, not a tiny home.
Camperlife3. Kitchen of some kind – Phil isn’t really big on cooking but we have made healthier food choices in the last 12 months. Cutting out Cheetos, pop tarts, potato chips, chicken, beef, etc has been great for us. By making a big life change for the better, we didn’t want to make a big life change for the worse. Our kitchen is only an induction (energy saving) stove top and a mini fridge, but we are able to use that efficiently to keep up our healthy lifestyle.
4. Toilet – This one is kind of important to Phil as he goes roughly 20 times a day. Technically, he also wanted a shower but after some negotiating the no shower lifestyle ended up winning out. And the toilet in this place is composting! So less water and even better for the environment!

It turns out finding a trailer that meets all of these needs is way more difficult than it sounds. By way of luck (or more just constant searching) Phil came across an all wooden solar paneled travel trailer that actually fit all of our wants. The company is Homegrown Trailers, and they are amazing. Not only did the company already meet the needs we had laid out on paper but when we went to look at the trailer they came up with ideas to customize the trailer even more to fit our needs. It was perfect timing since the company has only been running since early 2016.

We do have to give some honorable mention to Air Stream as that was our top choice until we found out perfect match with Homegrown Trailers.

Suggestions to finding the trailer for you:

philkelseybeds1. Make a list of what you want and categorize by what is and what is not negotiable.
2. Set a budget – Don’t go over your comfortable amount to spend just to find the perfect trailer. If it’s perfect and you still want it, it will always be there later. We ordered ours back in July and are happy to make money and get ready to pick up in December.
3. Do research – And a lot of it!
4. Don’t settle – wait until it is exactly what you want. Kind of going along with the budget point above. If the trailer doesn’t have what you want, it’s not the trailer for you – unless you are very interested in the DIY trailer, which some people are.
5. Make time to call the company and see what other types of options or customizing is available.

Everyone is different and that’s perfectly fine. If you want to live on the open road go check out some awesome vans, trailers, RVs and mobile homes. There is no wrong choice as long as it fits your needs and is what you want! Thanks James for the awesome opportunity to write about our beginning of nomadic, eco-friendly travel trailer PT and thanks to everyone for following along with our journey!

#Camperlife

Watching football on the camper's big screen.

Watching football on the camper’s big screen.

Kate and I had wanted to live in a camper for a while. We had this old, awesome RV in Alaska a few years back and had always talked about living in one for a full summer. When we accepted our assignments on Martha’s Vineyard this summer, we started looking at apartment rents and quickly realized living in a camper was our cheap way out.

The funny thing is, 5 months of camper living have passed and I barely even recognize that it happened. I had all these grandiose intentions of sharing all kinds of tidbits about “#CamperLife”, blogging about the great advantages of living in a camper and having some great take-away message after almost half a year living in 150 sqft. I posted less during the time living in the camper than I intended. When I did post, it was mostly pictures of campfires. Now that it’s over, I have no revelation, I have no great take-away message, I have no feeling of great accomplishment from living a minimalist life. It just feels… I don’t know, it’s like I’ve simply lived in a small apartment that I really liked.

Our main kitchen for the summer. Cooking indoors will never be the same. The kitchen sink was a garden hose.

Our main kitchen for the summer. Cooking indoors will never be the same. The kitchen sink was a garden hose.

There are a few appreciable improvements on life that are worth mentioning. I spent the vast majority of this summer outdoors. We had a great screen room and deck that was where we spent all our home time – 3 months went by where I didn’t cook a single meal inside. Meal prep happened on our outdoor stove top, grill, and fire pit. All this outdoor cooking and campfiring left me wondering about whether my carbon footprint was really improved by living in a camper. Originally I had thoughts of buying solar powered generators to be really minimalist in energy usage, but our very shaded campsite put the kibosh on that very early on. Our entire electric usage for the summer was about 750 kilowatt hours, my understanding is that for 5 months, that’s a relatively small amount of electricity. I figure with all the campfires we had, that we broke about even on our carbon production – sorry, Earth. I did find myself a little more in-tune with nature through all of our outdoors time. Most days, I could tell you the sunset time within 15 minutes, could tell you whether the moon was waning or waxing, and could describe any recent changes in the flora and fauna surrounding our campsite… so that was pretty cool.

People have been asking, “How’s living in a camper?” It’s fine, it really hasn’t been much of a change from how I like to live. It’s cool that I’ve lived minimally and mildly increased my connection with nature, after all, these are two things I have been looking to enhance in my life. So, if you’re wondering if living in a camper is for you, go for it. Hopefully you’ll have a very pleasant and unsensational experience like mine. Although, now that I think about it, maybe my blasé experience says less about the experience of living in a camper than it does about me. Maybe it didn’t affect me because I’m built for this. Me and a camper fit together so seamlessly that I barely noticed it. Let’s latch home onto the back of the car and keep moving – maybe I could be a traveler forever.

See you on the road.

Lightening Round

Grand Illumination Night is a uniquely Martha's Vineyard holiday. A group of a couple hundred small Victorian cottages called The Campground (different than the campground we live at) all hang lanterns on their houses and illuminate them at the same time. We've done some homecare in these houses too - neat, weird little places.

Grand Illumination Night is a uniquely Martha’s Vineyard holiday. A group of a couple hundred small Victorian cottages called The Campground (different than the campground we live at) all hang lanterns on their houses and illuminate them at the same time. We’ve done some homecare in these houses too – neat, weird little places.

I’m going to do now what I do every time I get crunched for time and realized I haven’t posted in over a month, whip off a quick stream-of-thought blog about what’s been happening in my life recently out on the open road. Life right now is in a camper in Martha’s Vineyard, so it makes for pretty easy writing, but it will be a brief one. Don’t expect great grammar, don’t even expect good spellign.

Life has been fast paced and it’s been tough to keep up with the website. There’s been a lot of you reaching out on the discussion boards who are just getting into travel, and we have some good discussions going – so keep it up! I have a couple of half-written blogs for you, but they are posts that require a little more thought, so expect those in a couple weeks. The main thing keeping me busy has been this dang 1/2 Iron Distance Triathlon that I have been training for since I arrived here on the island 4 months ago. It is going to be held right here on the island in just a week and a half, so the end of this crazy, time-consuming training is near. I’m really looking forward to it. The 70.3 miles will cover the entire island and some beautiful vistas, but the training has been ridiculous, so I won’t be doing another one anytime soon.

Living in a camper has been great. I was kept very busy when we first moved in. There were a lot of little repairs that needed to be done. Water heater work, re-sealing some seams, and installing a screen room were the major low-lights of the work. After a few weeks of maintenance and finding out what it’s like to be a homeowner, we settled in and evenings after work have been filled with dinner on the deck and typically a campfire. There’s a lot of things I like about living in a camper, including being minimalist in my consumption of space and energy. The main attraction to the 5 months of camping is being outdoors. I have spent many, many hours on the deck and by the fire. There will a be a couple blogs soon related specifically to living in a camper, so I will digress for now.

Kate working wicked hard on the Vineyard. As I try to claim I've been too busy to write a blog....

Kate working wicked hard on the Vineyard. As I try to claim I’ve been too busy to write a blog….

Being on an island has lent itself to a lot of beach time. Sunday is the big beach day around here. We’ve been captured by friends who throw us in the back of their truck where we drive out onto the beach and create a wagon-circle-type caravan – except instead of keeping women and children in the middle of the circle for protection, there is various grilled meats. Not a bad use of the weekend, every weekend.

Kate and I are both working for a home care company out here. The expected productivity is reasonable, and, being on an island, the driving distances aren’t too bad either. Regardless, it has been BUSY at work. With the seasonal bump of tourists and residents work has been in high-season mode for the last 2 months – Martha’s Vineyard goes from a year-round population of 15,000 to an estimated 170,000 people on island last week! There are signs of the work load letting up a little bit soon. It truly has been a great job.

Just another Sunday on the beach. Great fun carting friends, games, and meats out to the beach for an afternoon of relaxation.

Just another Sunday on the beach. Great fun carting friends, games, and meats out to the beach for an afternoon of relaxation.

The weather has been just absolutely awesome here. We have had about 3 rainy days in the last 2 months – good news for us camper dwellers, and us beach goers. Despite the dry summer, the island life lends itself to insane humidity and with humidity, mildew. Not to wish the summer away, but I’m about ready for some cooler weather so I can stop washing the walls. The campground has really quieted down this week along with the rest of the island. Last night was hoody-weather, but I know we have another month left of solid summer as exhibited by the return of 80 degrees and muggy this evening (peepers peeping like crazy in the trees, love it!). With the change of the seasons, the campground will close and we’ll have to move into an apartment for one month before returning to the mountains of Colorado for the winter.

Expect some more thoughtful and thought provoking posts soon. Among my topics will be new grads traveling, how to select where you want to go as a traveling therapist, and, of course, #CamperLife.

Camping and Working

The world of outdoor showers is something I have never been privy to. But here, on Martha’s Vineyard, outdoor showers are a very serious thing. I have been out on home visits with multiple patients 90+ in age who refuse to shower indoors, because, of course, it’s summer and you use the outdoor shower during the summer. Everybody has an outdoor shower here. We’ve been living at the campground for about a month now. Our camper’s water heater has been on the fritz (more on that later), so most showers have been over at the main campground building – quite nice, actually. Good water pressure, hot water, what’s not to like. But, the row of six outdoors shower stalls has been taunting me across the parking lot with the “closed” sign hanging prominently in front. This weekend, that closed sign changed and I took my first outdoor shower on Martha’s Vineyard. I’m a long way from being considered a local here, but an outdoor shower is a good start.

Typical midweek campfire at or site. Loving it.

Typical midweek campfire at or site. Loving it.

I’m currently sitting out by my campfire in the “seasonals” portion of the campground. There’s 180 sites at this place (huge!), that will apparently fill up in the next couple weeks once everyone is out of school and summer really hits. But, we’re insulated from that madness, surrounded by people who have reserved their spot for the whole summer. It turns out that a lot of these people have homes on “the mainland” and go there frequently. Ed and Nancy on one side of us – Ed is mostly here, Nancy is mostly here on weekends – I’ve made up a back story, based on no evidence, where Nancy is a school teacher – she spent the full week here this week, so maybe her school year ended, and my gut instinct about her being a teacher may actually be right. Mike and Kathy are on the other side – they have New York plates and are mostly here on the weekends. I wonder if they’ll stay for longer periods of time once the summer gets going strong – maybe they are teachers too. They usually roll in after dark on a Thursday or Friday. When they showed up this past Thursday night, Kate and I were sitting by the fire, I shouted over the shrubs, “Welcome back!” Mike replied, “You’re cheating by staying here all the time!” It was funny… but I realize it might not read all that funny, so you’ll just have to trust me. Funny stuff.

Pipe wrench in the water heater on the leaky pressure relief valve. If you don't reconnect that tube at the bottom left tightly when you're done, it throws fireballs up the side of your camper.

Pipe wrench in the water heater on the leaky pressure relief valve. If you don’t reconnect that tube at the bottom left tightly when you’re done, it throws fireballs up the side of your camper.

Anyways, aside from a handful of on going projects, camper life is becoming normal. I’m enjoying the simplicity of living at a campground, and, otherwise, there’s not much to living in a camper – it’s just regular life, condensed. My greatest victory so far is fixing the leak in the water heater this week. A series of projects on the water heater led up to the changing of a valve that was spewing hot water onto the ground outside the camper. I may have almost burnt down the entire place (no, seriously), but the water heater now makes great, piping hot water – 6 gallons at a time. I might start taking more showers here at the camper, but it’s tough to resist the allure of the outdoors showers just down the road.

On the work front, we are back in the grind of home care. It’s been a good assignment so far. The schedule is nice and flexible, so it’s been great to get some mid-afternoon exercise before fully finishing paperwork in the evening. And, to top it off, weather has been great, so what more could you ask for than driving around an island for work during the day and hanging out at a campground every night?

Pretty sweet so far, more updates coming soon. This was just a quick one to keep you up to date on what’s happening with us! Hope your summer is going well and, where ever you are, you have some exciting plans for the 4th!

Camper Life

The cold has finally broken me. I just went out to the trunk of the car, where our ski gear is stowed, opened up the bag, and grabbed my wool cap. Back inside the camper that we have been living in for almost three weeks, the oven door is open after dinner to help get whatever residual heat we can from it while the propane heater kicks on and off. When I thought of living in a camper on an island for a summer assignment, I tricked myself into thinking it was already summer in New England – just a couple more weeks and maybe it will be.

It feels like I’ve been waiting forever to write anything of substance about the camper we’re living in. I guess, in reality, we’ve only been living in this camper for less than three weeks. I’d like to wait a few more weeks to write anything so that I have some firm conclusions on what life in a camper is really like, but it’s going to be a long process of adjustment. There’s another 5 months ahead to share all the other things that come up, so why wait… this is the first installation of a series of posts on camper life that I will be putting out this summer and into the fall.

Kate and I have lived in close quarters before. On my very first travel assignment, before we were married, I had a studio in Boston that is still the smallest place I have ever seen – at less than 6 feet in width, you could not lay down on the floor cross-ways without bending your knees. The length of the room wasn’t much longer. Just a twin bed, a shelf, and a very, very small attached bathroom. Later, we would live together in far Northern Maine on a travel assignment in a small one-room cabin. I think this was the first time we became aware of “tiny-living” through some blogs like tinyhousetalk.com. The tiny living movement has really caught since then and shows about tiny living appear nightly on HGTV, DIY Network, and the like – or so I’ve heard, since we’re living without TV.

The cabin we rented in Presque Isle, Maine. Fun fact, "presque isle" means "near an island." Presque Isle, Maine is land-locked and near no islands.

The small cabin we rented in Presque Isle, Maine. Fun fact, “presque isle” means “near an island.” Presque Isle, Maine is land-locked and near no islands.

Let’s address the no TV thing. I love it, I just absolutely love not having a TV. Last summer in Hawaii was the first time we went without TV, or at least without cable. The only thing I truly missed was sports. Last summer/fall we would go out for football games or sometimes miss them if the Pats weren’t being televised. For now, since we’re in New England, we’re able to catch our precious Red Sox on the radio nightly, and if we’re out some where, it’s always on TV. Last summer, without TV, completely ruined us for our return to Colorado during winter where we rent an apartment pre-supplied with cable. At first, TV was hard to watch. Having to tolerate multiple minutes of advertisements between brief segments of the actual show was infuriating, but, with passing weeks, the time the TV was on during the day began to grow and my tolerance for ads returned. I don’t think I ever fully got back to my pre-Hawaii TV routine, which I’m proud of, but I did continue to watch far more than I needed to. I’m really glad to be back to no TV. I’m getting more done in my life, relaxing with a book more often, and the radio is usually all that’s needed for a little entertainment, although the Sox need to pick up some slack if that’s going to continue to be the preferred programming. Occasionally, once or twice a week, we’ll treat ourselves to a movie or show on Netflix – a sensible amount of mindless TV.

That assignment in Hawaii last summer plays another interesting role in getting us into the camper this year. The Hawaiian Island of Moloka’i, where we were without the TV, was a very rural and uncomplicated place with a very straight forward life. After work, there was little that “needed” to be done. Life was simplified to working, getting some exercise, and relaxing. Relaxing usually came in the forms of going to the beach, reading a book, or watching the sun sink into the Pacific ocean from a lounge chair on the driveway. I think last summer was the first time I came to truly appreciate a more simplified life, with less going on, and more relaxation – this is the first thing I most appreciate about living in a camper at a campground. We frequently have camp fires and once the day’s work is done, nights can be pretty lazy, or least I expect them to become more lazy once we have settled in and have finished more of the projects that need to be done around the camper.

For now, I’m going to leave the camper talk at that. I realize I really haven’t said much about how living in a camper is going so far, but that will develop over the next couple weeks. As far a life in a camper to this point? I’m having flashbacks to episodes of Tiny House Nation and people talking about consolidating their belongings, coming up with inventive storage solutions, becoming more conscious of their water and electric usage, and having to be more organized on a regular basis to prevent living in total squalor. That’s all you get for now, but I’ll post more soon.

Today, I’ll leave you with the first video I have ever done for this site – a tour of our camper. Enjoy!