Imagine growing up in the part of the world that many think is a “must see before you die” location. That place was Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and its beautiful rocky mountains, mixed with a cowboy country work ethic, was a magical place to grow up. Looking back over my 60 years makes me realize that where your roots come from makes a big difference in your outlook on life.
I am a Canadian by birth, who also happens to have American citizenship, thanks to the decades I lived in the U.S. This mix of perspectives gives me a bioptic lens through which I look at life. I am a proud mother of two successful young men who hope to one day bless me with grandchildren, but I am not in a hurry for that to arrive. For now, I am free to rewrite the ending of my own story and to remember the bright, shining light I once was.
My family loved the outdoors and traveling, where my wanderlust began. To us, vacations were 5000-mile road trips or hiking in the beautiful mountains in our own backyard. I became an accomplished horsewoman and was fortunate enough to spend my summers at a girl’s ranch in Montana, riding to my heart’s content. That was a life I loved so much, and I even tried out for the Stampede Queen contest one year.
I graduated from the University of Calgary with a degree in International Economics and a letter of internship to work for someone at the world bank in Kenya. It had always been a dream of mine to work and live in Africa; thanks to my childhood hero Jane Goodall, this extended period of time propelled me to seek out new and exciting places. When I returned home and married, it was my strongest wish to have my children grow up living in different cultures and learning different languages. This translated into moving first to Scottsdale, Arizona, and then to Houston, Texas. Our decision to do this negated my own ambitions, and I settled into being the glue that held my family together.
I have been a professional photographer, worked in high-end jewelry, designed and built 4 of our family homes, was the registrar for two of the largest soccer clubs in Houston, Texas, administrating over 30,000 children from recreational to college-level players, and was a constant volunteer at my children’s schools and in our communities. When the boys were successfully launched in their careers, I was moved back to Calgary.
My hobbies are quite varied. Athletically I love hiking, biking, kayaking, volleyball, basketball, yoga, swimming, skiing, and Tai Chi. Artistically I paint, embroider, sew, garden, devour jigsaw puzzles, and continue to grow in photography. Most recently, I have added ceramics which has helped me heal from trauma as it can be quite hard and ceramics helped calm my mind and refocus my heart. I enjoyed it so much that I now have a successful ceramics business. I continue to be a horsewoman and have successfully ridden most of the continental divide atop four legs. Probably one of my most meaningful jobs, though, besides being a mom, was creating a group that has helped thousands of survivors of abuse find happier, safer, and healthier directions in their own lives. If I had stayed married, It’s hard to imagine where I would be.
Wanderlusting to Calm the Soul
I was born into my love of travel, and my family has nurtured me wanderlusting my whole life. My father’s desire to see all the places he only dreamed of as a young boy watching movies in Hungary fueled our focus. From a young age, our trips consisted of a steady dose of 5000-mile road trips, and my first overseas journey was at the tender age of 14, and that two-month journey through Europe sealed my fate. As I branched out on my own, I continued to explore Europe, Africa, and Scandinavia by plane, train, and ferry. During my marriage, we added cruising to our traveling repertoire. We became intimately familiar with most Caribbean, Mediterranean, Mexico, New Zealand, Hawaii, Tonga, Somoa, and parts of South America. When my boys were 10 and 8, I took them on a month-long backpacking trip through Europe by train, which ironically fueled their own wanderlusting souls. I have now been to Africa on three different occasions and have driven through and explored over 18 countries on the continent I call my second home.
Once my marriage ended, I was hard-pressed to rethink how I could continue traveling on my own. It was my therapist’s homework assignments that helped direct me to my new RV lifestyle. She ordered me to be mindful of nature every day to reset my nervous system and calm my soul. What grew out of these daily encounters was a burning desire not to go back home. I wanted to find a way to connect to nature in a more intimate way and stay where I found peace and happiness. I remember the first time I brought up the idea of RVing because I had always thought a trip across Canada in an RV would be wonderful, so why not do it now? My therapist was elated, and my children felt it was an excellent way to add to my traveling experiences, but my friends were afraid they would never see me again. It was one of these friends who directed me to Leisure Travel Vans. She and her husband had been researching RVs for their own retirement, and she felt LTV was a perfect fit for me. So, off to my local LTV dealer, we went. It didn’t take me long to realize the quality difference between an LTV and the other motorhomes they had in stock. I was impressed with the chassis options and floorplans LTV offers its customers, and after some pretty deep contemplation, it took less than two weeks before I was back in the dealership ordering and building my new home on wheels. I was drawn to them by how their product made me feel–safe, happy, and hugged.
Since the delivery of my rig one and a half years ago, the longest time I have been away from my beloved Bee being five months. Six months ago, I had one of my knees replaced, so I have been recovering. Had it not been for that, I think I would already be living in my LTV full-time.
Just weeks after my LTV arrived, I jumped off a huge mountain ledge, and that was the best thing I could have done. It forced me to get very familiar, very quickly, with my new home. The more obstacles I overcome while I am RVing make me want to do it more and more. I love long journeys; the longer, the better. There is always a steady mix of campgrounds with boondocking, and I have quite a soft spot for quaint harvest host locations. These stops connect me to the most amazingly hard-working people following their own dreams. Researching has always been a huge passion of mine, thanks in part to being the glue that made my family work, and have now applied these skills to my RV adventure with incredible results.
As a brand new, solo female RVer, I prefer to prebook my campgrounds so that I always know where I am going to be staying each night. This helps me feel safe in what I am doing, and it removes one level of uncertainty from my day. I prefer to stay in regional, state, provincial, and national park campgrounds because they are cheaper than private locations, and they are usually why I have come to an area, so why not stay at the park itself? There is also Love’s parking lot, where I will stay in the RV section, not the trucking lot, and this allows me to drive later in the night and not waste time hooking and unhooking the rig. However, I have not yet overcome my fears of staying in the middle of nowhere by myself, but I am hoping to continue to build my connections within my LTV world to maybe meet up with others to enjoy this level of freedom.
I travel in my Bee to find purpose and to feed my lifelong obsession with learning. I build travel itineraries based on my interests. Civil war battlefields, lighthouses, outer bank islands, civil rights, First Nations history, places of my childhood, National and State Parks, and finding those obscure “largest in the world” icons towns create. Where I put the Bee each night is just as important to me as the place I have come to see or experience.
My Bee also tows a car which has become my built-in safety, in case I break down on the road, and it is also a way for me to bring my real kayak and a wonderful road bike. It has also provided an easier way to get to a remote trailhead or boat launch. The tow allows me to use my rig as a boutique hotel room instead of a glorified car, something I look forward to returning to after a hard day of exploring. The tow car also makes extended travel easier for a solo RVer. When I move my rig, I am responsible for everything that needs to be done inside and outside the rig. That can add to a lot of work, so the tow car eliminates the need to break down camp to go to the store for more food.
This year I am also using the rig to reconnect with people. As a member of the Solo Female LTV Travelers Group, I am trying to create meet-ups with other solo ladies at destinations so we have others to share an experience with, heightening it for everyone involved. I am utilizing the driveway stay LTV Group as well to meet as many people as I can, which has finally allowed me to meet so many of my new virtual friends in person, and I will finally get to experience my first LTV rally in April with the Flamingles.
Most importantly, I am using my RV to give back to the LTV community, which has been so encouraging and welcoming. Through my posts, on the LTV Facebook pages, and my social media pages, I am trying to encourage people to get out and use their rigs to go places they might not have thought before. Mexico was this year’s significant addition to my RV destinations which has opened the door to so many new discoveries. My interview with Brandon Hensley of Pagosa Travels has resonated with so many people who have reached out to let me know how much my own journey has emboldened them to start one of their own. My children like to use the word influencer a lot, but I see it as giving people the tools, space, and encouragement to find their own superpowers.
RVing Changed My World
The question of how RVing has impacted my life was asked, and it resonated deeply. If you would have told me two years ago that simply buying an RV, learning how to use it, and then getting in it and seeing North America would have produced such life-changing physical and mental benefits, I would not have believed you. But this is precisely what it has done. In just six months of continual travel, I lost 35 pounds, stopped taking four heart medications because my blood pressure had normalized, and developed healthy eating and sleeping habits, something I never thought could be part of my world again. These changes were so measurable by my doctor, neurologist, and therapist that they collectively ordered me back to my beloved Bee.
Outside of the physical benefits, I think it is the effects RVing has had on my mental and spiritual health that has changed my world the most. I want you to sit and think of what it would be like to wake up tomorrow morning and have everything that makes your world whole disappear. No home, no family, few friends, loss of purpose, and a realization that all those lifelong plans you had been cultivating over your life no longer apply to your future. That is a very scary place to find yourself. RVing has allowed me to rediscover what a beautiful, resourceful, strong, resilient, intelligent, loving, and capable woman I am. It has relit the shining flame that makes me, me, and has helped me find a new purpose and joy in my life. For this alone, I will be forever grateful I bought my LTV.
Favorite Travel Destinations
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is one of those places that takes a lot of effort to get to, but once you’re there, you’re so glad you made an effort. I had zero expectations on my first visit, but that quickly changed once arriving at the park boundaries. Located about 3 hours south of Phoenix on Highway 85, you first pass through the delightful little town of Ajo, the location of a closed copper mine. If you like burritos, stop at the Chevron gas station and grab one of the homemade ones next to the till. I promise no other burrito will ever come close to these.
A fun fact is that Organ Pipe is the only Park in the U.S. that has a sister park in a neighboring country. Mexico and the U.S. have a joint project to protect the migratory paths through both sides of the park.
Twin Peaks is the name of the campground at Organ Pipe, and it has over 200 sites to choose from. It is a dry camping location but does provide potable water, solar showers, restrooms, and a dump station. There is a very informative visitor center that has educational displays and rangers eager to help you plan your time in the park. Many walking trails are easily accessible, and I highly recommend the trail from the campground to the visitor center. The desert-scape in this area is amazing and diverse, and this trail takes you through many different areas. Dogs are allowed on some trails but must be leashed at all times.
Several things make this park special to me. The remoteness keeps crowds at bay, and the limited generator hours allow you to listen to the diverse bird and wildlife populations or just the lovely silence. There is an amphitheater that hosts day and evening ranger talks about things in the area. I have attended many of these sessions, and they are informative, very well put together, and interactive. There are two drives you can do inside the park. The more moderate, 2-hour drive winds around, up, and over the beautiful Ajo mountain range, and you can download an excellent narrative of the area from the National Park website to play on your journey. The second drive is more rigorous and takes 5 hours to complete. Ask before attempting the drive; there can be flooding at times.
The very best part of visiting Organ Pipe is the staff. There are over 60 staff, rangers, and volunteers who work hard to make your stay special.
Don’t let the name Death Valley dissuade you from visiting this uniquely vast area of Eastern California. Centered within five different mountain ranges, any part of the park provides amazing vistas, thrilling off-road travel, and picture-perfect sunrises and sunsets. Death Valley boasts one of the lowest spots in North America at 288 feet below sea level, and it is one of the hottest places on Earth. Two resorts in the park can provide a great meal or cool drink. There are also eight campgrounds; some are reservable, some are first come, first serve, and some are quite remote. The main campground in the park is Furnace Creek. It has the only sites with hookups and reservable sites in the park. Close to the visitor center and the Ranch Resort, Furnace Creek has 18 full hook-up sites that can be booked six months ahead.
Activities in the Valley are quite numerous—hiking, biking, horseback riding, and golf. Tours and off-road vehicles can all be booked or rented. Stop by the visitor center to get the informative visitor guide for more information.
What makes Death Valley special is its sheer size and diversity in landscapes and vegetation. You can find dunes of sand and barren salt formations, a multicolored layer of rock, and high mountain peaks. This is not an overly dog-friendly location, and there are rules to be followed if you travel with a fur baby.
The major sites are numerous and far apart, so be ready to travel a lot when visiting Death Valley. The more popular ones are Dantes View, Zabriskie Point, 20 Mule Team Canyon, Artists Palette, Desolation Canyon, Devid Gold Course, Mustard Canyon, Borax Works and Museum, Bad Water Basin, Artists Drive, The Devils Golf Course, Panamint Springs, Stovepipe Wells, the old Borax operations, Scotty’ castle, The Racetrack, and Emigrant Canyon Road to name a few. Dogs are not allowed on trails, and they may not be left in a closed car alone. Death Valley is also an internationally recognized dark sky location, and the desert comes to life once the people have gone to bed.
There are multiple entrances to the park, and I suggest a quick call to the visitor center before choosing your route because flooding has caused road and site closures this past year.
Jekyll Island was one of my favorite outer bank islands stops last year because it has a little bit of everything–camping, beaches, good restaurants, biking, hiking, golf, shopping, turtle conservation, and several museums can be easily accessed by car or bike.
Jekyll was once a private hunting and social club for some of America’s newest industrialist barons. People were invited to join based on their connections and their pocketbooks. Sporting of all kinds was the focus of this group, and many industrialists built beautiful mansions and a huge clubhouse on the island. A motorized train will take you on a history tour of this compound and allow you to go into some of the old fine homes. The income tax laws forced many to abandon these homes when Georgia finally extended its control over the island. The back taxes were enough to wipe out many, so they chose to walk away from their property. There is a museum dedicated to the slaves and servants of these wealthy island owners and even the old town where the servants were forced to live. Slave ships are associated with the island, which is well documented in writing and oral history.
The sea turtle sanctuary is fascinating to visit, and you will get to meet many of the patients who are in rehabilitation tanks. The info center here is exceptional.
Having five distinct beaches offers something unique that many other islands do not have. Some are sandy, some have giant dunes, another has a forest of dead trees, and they are all linked together by the bike trail system. Super huge old live oaks covered in Spanish moss line the road and bikeways making them turn into golden tunnels when the sun starts to set. There are deer, crocks, birds of all kinds, and small rodents that you must be mindful of when cycling or driving.
Biking is the best way to get around the island because it is part of the Georgia coastal biking circuit. You can get anywhere you want to go on a bike.
The main campground is undergoing some vast changes currently. In the past, people would come for six-month stints at a time. Now that it is a State Park, this archaic system is being fazed out. With its close proximity to the mainland, Jekyll is a beautiful destination along the Georgia coastline.