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La Casita Bella

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More from Outdoor Living Newsletter December Outdoor Living Newsletter
Bernie and Mar by the ocean in Georgia
Bernie (left) and Mar (right) in Georgia

Travel opens up more than just our minds, it opens up our hearts. When you travel with an open heart the relationships you have and the relationships you make seem to take on a greater meaning. In June 2008 Bernie (32), a contractor, and Mar (48), a college professor, happily resigned their 9-5s, sold everything they had, bought an RV (named Bella), and began the trip of a lifetime.

As it says in their blog "It all started with a birthday. And a dream to get in the car and just drive without a destination or plans." And that was it - well not really ...

Map of the states that Bernie and Mar have visited
States visited

There was lots of research and planning that had to be done first, but that was the beginning! Bernie and Mar's travels have taken them across 28 states and 3 Canadian provinces with more stories than the U.S. has cities. The story of how these two women gave up everything and gained even more in the process is an inspiration to all travelers.

CampingRoadTrip.com interviewed them to find out more:

CampingRoadTrip.com (CRT): How long have the two of you known each other?

We have known each other 3 years. It's the quality of the friendship and not the quantity/length that matters. We complement each other pretty well (our likes and dislikes, but also our strengths and weaknesses), so we knew we could take the "risk" to do this together.

What made you decide to leave everything behind? Was this something that you had been planning for a while?

It really was like a domino effect, things just fell into place one at a time to allow us to do this. But no, we didn't plan it for a long time, I did dream about it for a long time though. For Mar's birthday she wanted to take a car trip and see as much as we could see of the country. As we began planning this adventure I started thinking it may be better to rent a motor home. There was a progression of events that took place. And everything seemed to fall into place from there."

How should others prepare for a road trip like this?

Mentally more than anything. It takes tons of planning and lots of research, from determining how much you will drive, where you will park at night, what you will do the next day, how many groceries to get, where you will find water for showers, where the next dump station is, whether you have enough water to shower and do the dishes, and when the next oil change is. Read as much as you can. I have learned a lot from groups on RVing and people have a lot of advice to give. Living in an RV is the best way to learn about it

Do you have any tips for our readers on how to handle being on the road for so long and not strangling each other?

That is easy to answer! You DO strangle each other from time to time, and then you have to decide to let go and get over it. But those who want to do it have to learn to bite their tongue, compromise, and not always have the last word (yes, all easier said than done). Determine which responsibilities you will handle and stick with that. Be quick to forgive. Be understanding.

Just recently, you were visiting with Julie and Gene in Ohio who, from your blog, seem like pretty hospitable people. Has this been the typical reception that you have received? Are people welcoming and willing to offer help?

Yes, in our experience this has been very typical. We are actually blown away by the kindness of everyone we've met. At first it was a little hard. We didn't know what they expected - how long we should stay, what to do while we were there, but you kind of learn with time. People who don't even know us treat us like family. They feel close to you even before you get there, because you have a common bond.

La Casita Bella, Bernie and Mar's RV, an all white Class C motorhome
La Casita Bella

How have you been finding work while on the road?

We find work mostly through word of mouth or from people who have read our blog or have read about us in some publication. So it changes all the time, it is unpredictable. Mar teaches online classes and that income goes to pay our regular recurring bills (cell phone, insurance, internet access, student loans, etc). Bernie's income from the jobs she gets while we travel goes to pay for our travel and RV expenses. When we get low on money and have not worked for a while we let go and know God will find something. We're not above asking anyone for work. If you don't ask you don't know.

From your blog it's evident that staying healthy while on this journey is important to you. How are you managing this?

We both share the same goals and try to support each other. This means sometimes reminding Bernie to put the fork down between bites, sometimes reminding Mar to eat every 2-3 hours. We try to only buy the right foods (mostly chicken, fruits and veggies - no junk food) and we never go to fast food places. Exercising has proven to be more difficult. We're sure many of you can understand this.

Bernie wearing some huge clogs
Bernie trying out
some huge clogs

Are there any roadblocks that you have come across that you think our readers should know about? How have you dealt with them?

You just take it one day at a time; you have to be flexible and try to be ready for the unexpected. One of our roadblocks was paying for gas and oil changes. We solved this by doing the oil changes both in the rig and in the generator. Sometimes money can hold you back. You just roll with the punches, do what you have to do, and move on.

Have you found any hidden "treasures"?

There is a hidden treasure in every day. Today it was a bed race in the middle of Fort Wayne, Indiana. When we were in Atlanta it was watching a movie on the lawn with hundreds of others. We've enjoyed finding houses made of nontraditional materials, like the glass house, the bottle house, the can house, the paper house, etc. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

What is the funniest thing to happen to you while on this road trip?

The funniest thing was when we were in Canada and I wanted to go to the beach. So Mar did some research and found a place she thought would be great for us with the camper. As we pulled down this long unpaved road the water was to our left, and field and trees were to our right. We finally made it to the end of the road. We did not see any place to park the whole way down. It was like a road with water on one side and no space for parking or swimming or anything. Then a man approached us. He told us the water would be up that far by morning and we would be floating down the ocean. He told us where we could park and stay for the night. We made camp and I was determined to make it to the water's edge. All of a sudden I stepped toward the water and I sank to my knee. Then I tried to get my foot out. It would not come. I shifted my weight and my other foot sunk. I struggled and struggled and could not get out. We were laughing hysterically. It seemed impossible to get out with my shoes on. I slipped one shoe off and tried and my foot slipped out. Then I did the same for the other foot. I was free, covered in mud and had lost a pair of shoes forever!"

What has been your favorite place (or places) to visit so far?

In the North Carolina Outer Banks there were the sand dunes at Jockey's Ridge State Park, the tallest sand dunes on the east coast. At the top we sat down to watch the hang gliders and the many people flying their kites there. You could see all the way from one side of the island to the other. We found [a green place] in New Orleans where they recycle house parts, everything from frames to doors to windows and more. The best natural place was Sliding Rock Park in North Carolina. It was sooooo fun. Everyone should do it once in their lives!

Frank Lloyd Wright Falling Water house with waterfall beneath it
Frank Lloyd Wright
"Falling Water" house

You have traveled mostly up the east coast and are making your way across the Midwest. Are there any sites that you definitely want to see along the rest of your trip?

We hope to see all 48 contiguous states (we've seen 28 so far and Canada twice). We do want to see all the wonderful places we hear about, like Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Mt. Rushmore, and Napa Valley. We plan our route to visit as many of the Frank Lloyd Wright buildings as possible along the way.

There's a little bit of La Casita Bella in all of us. You may be at work, dreaming of the day when you can toss in your badge, leave behind that suit, and forget about the Monday morning meeting. Perhaps even pull the kids out of school and give them a different kind of education. Don't give up. As Bernie and Mar have shown us, it's important to hold on to your dreams until you make them a reality.

Postscript: Unfortunately, Bernie had to return home for a personal matter, but the spirit of La Casita Bella lives on. Mar has continued her journeys and you can follow her new blog site Life at 55 MPH. Mar is always looking for ways to help others and keep her journey going. If you have or know of any opportunities please email her at HerTinkerbell@yahoo.com. La Casita Bella is also looking for a new look. If you are looking to buy Bella (a Class C Motorhome) or know of a Class B Motorhome that is for sale please reach out to Mar.

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