Van Camping List


Kitchen:

  • Lighter
  • Matches
  • Pots, pans
  • Coffee mugs
  • Silverware/plasticware
  • Plates
  • Bowls
  • Cups
  • Coozies
  • Utensils (can opener, label, whisk, tongs, spoon, chef’s knife, cutting board, measuring cups, measuring spoons, mixing bowls, strainer, scissors, spatula, stirring spoon)
  • Spices
  • Ice
  • Dish soap
  • Trash bags
  • 5 gallon bucket with lid
  • JetBoil
  • Food storage containers
  • ZipLock bags
  • Propane
  • Cleaning utensils
  • Sponge
  • Foil
  • Paper towels
  • Dish towels
  • Pot holder
  • Thermometer
  • Water tank
  • Water bottles

Bedroom:

  • Mattress topper
  • Pillows
  • Sheets
  • Blankets
  • Sleeping bags
  • Laundry bag
  • Sweatshirts
  • Bathing suit
  • Shirts
  • Shorts
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Shoes
  • Sandals
  • Boots

Outdoor:

  • Coats
  • Rain jackets
  • Towels
  • Hatchet
  • Leveling blocks
  • Tarp
  • Beach blanket
  • Broom
  • Head lamps
  • Sunglasses
  • Hats
  • Portable table
  • Roasting sticks
  • Beach chairs
  • Hammock, stand
  • Propane fire pit
  • Buddy heater
  • Flashlight
  • Tiki torches, fuel

Van Maintenance/Emergency:

  • Bungee cords
  • Jumper cables
  • Tow straps
  • Shovel
  • Oil
  • Duck tape
  • Zip ties
  • Cash
  • Air compressor

Bathroom:

  • Portable toilet
  • Toilet paper
  • Trash bags
  • Tooth brushes
  • Toothpaste
  • Dental floss
  • Deoderant
  • Glasses, case
  • Contacts, case
  • Contact solution
  • Hair brush
  • Razor
  • Shampoo/conditioner
  • Dry shampoo
  • Soap
  • Tissues
  • Tweezers
  • Nail clippers
  • Face wipes
  • Chapstick
  • Shower bag

Fun:

  • Board games
  • Kayak, paddles
  • Paddle board, paddle, fin, leash
  • Portable speaker

Technology:

  • Camera, charger
  • Tripod
  • Drone, charger
  • Phone chargers
  • Adapters
  • Phone dash mount
  • Back up camera
  • Dash camera
  • Aux cord

Pet Supplies:

  • Dog food
  • Dog bed
  • Leash
  • LED collar
  • Food bowls
  • Dog toys
  • Extra water
  • Boots
  • Dog lifejacket

First Aid:

  • Petroleum jelly
  • Bandages
  • Blister prevention bandages
  • Gauze
  • Scissors
  • Rigid tape
  • Elastic wrap
  • Super glue
  • Gloves
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Tums
  • Aspirin
  • Iboprofen
  • Excedrin
  • Icy hot pack
  • Tweezers
  • Tissues
  • Blanket
  • Safety pins
  • Cue tips
  • Sunscreen
  • Aloe vera
  • Burn cream
  • Eye wash
  • Re-sealable plastic bag
  • Rubber bands

Porta-Bote Review

 

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The Porta-bote is a dinghy that folds down to the size of a paddle board. Our specific model is the 2009 Genesis IV. Benefits include durability, lightweight, compact, maneuverability, and stability. Disadvantages include storing the seats, transom, and motor separately and set up time.

Benefits:

Durability- This boat can be beached, dinged, and bounced around without damaging the hull. It’s made of polypropylene and has proved to be very rugged.

Lightweight- Our 12 foot boat is roughly 87 pounds once emptied. Once folded, the boat can be lifted with 1-2 people to be placed on a roof rack or carried down to the beach or boat ramp. This boat does have the option to put wheels on the back for even easier  maneuverability out of the water.

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Compact- Emptied and folded, the Porta-Bote is about the size of a paddle board. The folded thickness ranges from about 3 inches at the bow and 7 inches at the stern. The folded width is about 24 inches. We also have a rope that we place around the center of the boat once folded to help keep it in place, although this isn’t necessary.

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Maneuverability- This boat turns on a dime. It’s got great turning radius and agility.  Our 6hp Nissan rides out great and gets 2 people and an 80 dog up on plane.

Stability- This boat makes it easy for standing and moving around without feeling like you’re about to fall over. The flexibility of the hull actually makes the boat more stable in waves. We’ve taken this boat to Lake Tahoe on a busy Labor Day weekend, which created  2-3 foot waves coming in all directions, and this boat handled it without issue. The weight capacity is 670 pounds, including gear. We’ve pushed that limit and hauled 4 adults, 1 80 pound dog, and all the gear for a day without issue. When open, this boat is 60 inches across, 24 inches deep, and drafts 4 inches of water. It comes with 3  bench seats.

Disadvantages:

Storage- When the boat is folded, the seats, the transom, and the motor are stored separately. We keep the seats (and the emergency paddles) together; they all fit in an EZ UP storage bag we had lying around, so now all we need to do is grab the bag with all the accessories.

Set up time- Initially, it took 2 of us about 15 minutes to put the boat together when we were first learning. Since taking it out several more times, we have perfected our technique and can get it together in about 5 minutes.

Our boat in action can be found on YouTube:

Getting comfortable with the Porta-Bote

Porta-Bote on Lake Tahoe

 

Sleeping on a Sailboat for the First Time

One of our “Life Goals” is to learn how to sail. Mike has a little sailing experience on a small sailboat. I don’t have any sailing experience, but I get excited thinking about being able to travel by using (mostly) the powers of mother nature herself.

We thought it might be a good idea to test the waters a little at a time, so we booked a “unique stay” on a 22 foot Catalina through Airbnb. The boat was advertised to be similar to a simple camping experience, with the boat hooked on a mooring ball, with access to a dinghy powered by oars, and with minimal bathroom facilities.

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Due to the excitement of the thought of being able to stay on a sailboat, I was unable to wait until springtime. We booked a Friday and Saturday night in February in the Clipper Yacht Harbor in Sausalito, California. We drove 3 hours south from Fort Bragg and are greeted by the host on the dock. With plenty of luggage bags in hand, we load the dinghy with what we could, including Mike and the host, and they paddle away, leaving me on the dock. The host wanted to show Mike the “ropes” and give him the grand tour of the 22 foot boat. So off they went.

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By the time I got to the boat, named Shenanigan, it was dark and chilly so we hopped on board and started exploring the cabin. The V berth was about as big as a full mattress shaped like an ice cream cone with about 2 feet worth of space between the roof and the bed. This was just slightly smaller than our truck camper bed, so we figured we could handle it for 2 nights. My attention then turned to the “minimal bathroom facilities”, which included a 5 gallon bucket with a very nice plastic toilet seat, with lid, and the ever-so-lovely Doodie bags! He also had plenty of toilet paper for us. Such a generous host.

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It was fairly late after a long day and we couldn’t see anything in the marina, so we decided to call it a day. We somehow managed to squeeze the two of us in bed without getting 1 single muscle cramp!

Waking up the following morning was truly my most favorite moment of the weekend. I woke up to the bright sunshine peeking through the tiny windows on the hull, with birds chirping, and the boat rocking ever so gently. It was actually really comforting. This was the first moment I thought, “I could live on a boat”. Now, it would have to be bigger than this one, but it was really soothing.

Then reality set in when I attempted to get out of bed without waking Mike up. That didn’t happen. After whipping myself around in a twisted ball like a Cirque De Soleil dancer and almost kicking Mike in the face, he got startled. As gracefully as I could, I finished squeezing myself out of that tiny little hole of a bed.

Now, one of the first things most people do when you wake up is use the bathroom. Well, you know you’re close to each other if you can use “minimal bathroom facilities” within 5 feet of each other. Sure enough, we’re super close.

Then it was time to finally open up (and air out) the cabin and take a good first view of the marina in the daylight. So I slide open the hatch, proceed to take out the 3 door slats, and step up onto the deck. It was a beautiful sunny day, with a gentle breeze, and we were surrounded by blue water and sea life. We saw seals, sea planes, and seagulls. We spent most of the day lounging on the deck with 1 trip to a local nearby restaurant for dinner.

Night #2 went a little better, as we had planned the configuration and process of getting into and out of bed.

The following morning wasn’t as pleasant as the first. It was actually quite serious. The wind had definitely picked up over night, and the waves were a bit more rough. We woke up a bit sooner than the day before and were just sitting at the dinette talking. We noticed a kayaker going by and it looked as tho his kayak actually seemed to be sinking. Sure enough, he capsized next to our neighbors boat. Now, you have to remember its February in Northern California and the Pacific Ocean stays around the low 50’s. Our boat neighbor waisted no time, not even to put clothes on. He came out of his cabin buck naked! As the kayaker clung onto the owner’s dinghy, he pulled him to safety. Mike immediately gathered up some of his spare clothes, got in our dinghy, rowed over to our neighbor, and offered the kayaker some dry clothes. He politely declined, as our boat neighbor had already grabbed him a sweatshirt and pants, but also acted surprised of Mike’s actions. They knew we were not a normal part of their boating community, as we were just Airbnb guests, but repeatedly thanked Mike for being so kind.

Once Mike rowed back, we began to pack our things and head out. It was definitely a memorable first stay on a sailboat. It only fueled our drive to continue saving, researching, and dreaming of our upcoming sailing life.

 

Best Beaches Around Fort Bragg, Northern California

  1. Usal Beach, Lost Coast

Situated on the northern California coast between Fort Bragg and Leggett, this secluded black sandy beach is only accessible by navigating 6 miles of curvy logging roads. The drive is well worth the time and effort. With 1 mile of sand to play in, this beach is known to locals for fun in the sand with 4×4 vehicles and dirt bikes. There is a free, primitive campground with natural stone fire rings and plenty of space to spread out, and even beach camping is allowed. This beach always has fully stocked outhouses, although there is no readily available potable water. However, Usal creek cuts the beach in half, which can be used for drinking water if filtered properly. The creek also brings in wonderful animal life. Birds, seals, otters, and elk are a usual scene in the area. Also recommended is a hike on the Peter Douglas Coastal Trail, which starts right at the campground entrance. This 2.3 mile trail leads you along the beautiful Lost Coast and next to some of the most stunning Candelabra trees, which are designed by mother nature herself from a mix of salt and wind. After a full day of playing in the sand and hiking, cooking dinner over a bonfire while watching one of the best sunsets you’ll ever see is the only thing left to do. Enjoy.

*Remember to practice safe fire handling and protect our beaches. A fire broke out in the summer of 2019 due to fireworks let off at the beach.

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2. Glass Beach, Fort Bragg

This place is a dump, literally. It is, however, the prettiest dump you’ll ever see. Located in Fort Bragg, there are actually several glass beaches. However because of tourism and people scooping up the glass like beach shells, a lot of the beaches only have pieces here and there. There is, however, one “hidden” glass beach that still has glass that goes several feet deep. You can find it by parking at the Glass Beach Trailhead parking lot and walking left along the coastal trail. Look for the bench behind the fence. This is the entrance. Bring your hiking shoes because you’ll have to walk down a steep hill to access this beach. Once you walk down, your feet will land in several feet of smooth glass beads. Stick your hand in the glass and grab a handful (but don’t take it). Keep an eye out for sharp pieces of trash, such as wire. Again, this was once a dump so you’ll see all kinds of oddities. Hang out for the day and see what you find.

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3. Big River Beach, Mendocino

This beach is a long, widespread beach with soft sand that is perfect for friends and family get togethers. Dogs are allowed with a leash, although you’ll see several running without one. You’ll also see paddle boarding, beach volleyball, ultimate frisbee, and kayaking. Catch-A-Canoe and Bicycles, Too, rents out kayaks, canoes, and bikes right on the water. If you choose to go up river, you’ll see many seals hanging out along the banks. Just remember to time out the tides to make things easier.

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4. Seaside Beach, Inglenook

This soft sandy beach is a true Pacific coast beauty, offering many boulders, caves, and rock formations to climb on for the adventurous type. This beach is also long and widespread, allowing people to have their own space. Park at the parking lot and head south to see countless sand dollars that have been swept up by the tides.

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5. Jughandle Beach, Fort Bragg

Walk down just a few steps onto this beach and be ready to spend your whole day here. This beach is surrounded by seaside cliffs and is sheltered by the wind. Bring a picnic and enjoy the beautiful views. This beach also has direct access to the pygmy forest via the Ecological Staircase trail, featuring stunted trees.

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6. Casper Beach, Casper

This beach requires almost no walk at all since you can park right along the edge. This beach features a great spot for beginner surfers. You can rent a surf board from the campground right across the street and also get some nice refreshments and souvenirs too.

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7. Pudding Creek, Fort Bragg

This beach features a beautiful walking bridge surrounded by cliffs. This beach is great for families, as the creek can be used for small children to play in while the older kids can use their skimboards or swim since the beach has a very gradual decline into the ocean.

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8. MacKerricher State Park Beach, Fort Bragg

This beach features a beautiful coastline and many walking trails out to the ocean. Bring your binoculars and go whale watching or watch the sea lions on the rock formations right off the coast. This beach also has fully stocked restrooms and drinking fountains.

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A Camper’s Guide to Yosemite National Park

In Fall of 2018, we planned a 6 week road trip across the United States with our 25′ travel trailer. Yosemite National Park was the first place on the list!  We planned 2 days to see the highlights, and I made sure to plan ahead to make the most of our time. I wanted to share our first-hand experience and hopefully give you the tips and tricks you need to help you plan your time in Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite Valley

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Most people head to Yosemite Valley, which is an 11.5 mile one-way loop in the center of the park. There are 4 ways to get there:

From the Northwest: Highway 120 (Big Oak Flat Rd)

From the East: Highway 120 (Tioga Pass)

From the Southwest: Highway 140

From the South: Highway 41

We came from Northern California and took Highway 120 (Big Oak Flat Rd).

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Now, once you pass the Big Oak Flat Rd entrance to the park, Big Oak Flat Road does have vehicle restrictions:

1) Max vehicle length 45′ for single vehicles

2) Max height into the park: 13 feet 8 inches; max height exiting the park: 10 feet 3 inches

The height restriction was confusing at first since I assumed the tunnel to be symmetrical, however that confusion got cleared up once we drove through the tunnel… The height is measured from the curb to the top of the tunnel, but only the “entry” side of the tunnel had a sidewalk, therefore pushed that side of the road further towards the middle of the tunnel where it is the highest, or 13 feet 8 inches. The “exit” side of the road was closest to the side of the tunnel, where it is the shortest, or 10 feet 3 inches.

Big Oak Flat Rd then leads to a section of El Portal Rd. Restrictions include:

1) Max vehicle length 45′ for single vehicle, 60 feet for combination vehicle, and 35′ for towed vehicle from hitch to rear bumper.

2) Max height into and out of the park: 12 feet 10 inches

El Portal road then leads you to Southside Dr.,the one-way road into the valley.

Our TT was 10 feet 5 inches, so we chose to park our camper outside of the park.

Place to stay

We chose to park at Yosemite Lakes RV Resort, a campground right off Highway 120 (Big Oak Flat Rd) BEFORE you enter the park.

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Yosemite Lakes is a nice RV park with plenty of amenities and space for each site. October is not an extremely popular time to visit Yosemite so I was able to call just a few weeks in advance and reserve our campsite.

When I made the reservation, I let the office know that we were going to be arriving after hours, so they told us to park in the parking lot next to the office and sleep there until morning, allowing us to save money for a night.

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The next morning we were able to check in and hand-pick our site.

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For more details about Yosemite Lakes RV Resort, visit:

Sample Page

For more details about campgrounds inside the park, visit: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/rvcamping.htm
Transportation and Park Fees

We planned to take the YARTS shuttle, which is a one-way $5 bus ride from the campground to Yosemite Valley (with FREE admission into the park!!).

Unfortunately, I didn’t realize the shuttle closed for the season on September 30. We missed it by just 2 weeks, so we took the truck and drove into the park. We missed out on the free admission, but we had several other national parks planned on our trip, so we ended up buying the annual national park pass for $80. This is a great deal as it covers the admission for both of us into unlimited national parks for 1 year.

Our first day into the park was on Saturday, and the wait time for admission was approximately 20-30 minutes.

Parking and Transportation Inside Yosemite Valley

RV parking restrictions are laid out pretty clearly on the National Park Service website: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/rvcamping.htm

Since we only had our truck, parking was pretty simple in October. I do recommend bringing bicycles though because pedaling is still the fastest way to see the park and the only way to make sure you don’t waste any time. The park also has tons of bike racks, so make sure to bring a bike lock just for added security.

We brought both of our bikes, but unfortunately I didn’t realized that my tire tube had a hole in it and was no longer holding air. Thankfully, the park had plenty of bicycles to rent. We chose to bike around the first day, which cost $33.50 for the whole day.

The Yosemite Park website is also helpful for more details about bicycle rental locations and rates: https://www.travelyosemite.com/things-to-do/biking/

The second day we chose to use the FREE Yosemite Valley Shuttle, which arrives at each bus stop every 10-20 minutes depending on the season and stops at every major attraction the valley has to offer.

Attractions

Day 1:

We parked at Curry Village parking lot (Bus stop #14/20).

We then biked to Mirror Lake Trailhead (Bus stop #17). There was no water to make up Mirror Lake when we went in October, however I would still highly recommend it at this time of year because we were able to stand in the center of the “lake” and take in all the views of the mountains and cliffs you normally couldn’t see otherwise when water is present.

We then took the bike path to Yosemite Valley Visitor Center (Bus stop #5/9). There you can learn more about the rock formations, the history of the park, and stop by the gift shop.

Then we biked over to the Lower Yosemite Falls Trailhead (Bus stop #6) and ate our lunch on the picnic tables.

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From there we headed back to Curry Village parking lot, turned in my bike, and headed out of the Valley. I planned sunset at Taft Point, which is about 1 hour away from the Valley by car. So from the parking lot, you exit the Valley Loop via Northside Dr, take a left back onto Southside Dr, and then a right on Wawona Rd. Right at the intersection is the trailhead for Bridalveil Falls. As you continue down Wawona Rd, you’ll pass the infamous Tunnel View, where you get a good look down the whole valley and a great photo opportunity.

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Restrictions for Wawona Tunnel:

1) Max vehicle length 45′ for single vehicle.

2) Max height into the park: 10 feet 2 inches; max height exiting the park: 13 feet 6 inches

Wawona Rd leads to Glacier Point Rd, which then leads to Taft Point and Glacier Point.

Restrictions for Glacier Point Rd (beyond Sentinel Dome/Taft Point trailhead):

1) Max vehicle length 30′ for single vehicle, no trailers

We chose to go to Taft Point and were pleasantly surprised. It does take an easy 1 mile walk in and out, but the views are definitely worth it. Taft point has beautiful views of El Capitan, lots of space to walk around and explore, as well as very little railings for a mostly natural view.

*With that said, there have been a few reported deaths of those who get too close to the edge. One occurred only 2 weeks after we were here. Please use your best judgment and always pay attention to your surroundings.

We had a wonderful view of the sunset and enjoyed the changing colors of the mountains.

 

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Day 2:

When I originally called to make the reservation, we had only expected to stay one night before heading to Lone Pine, CA. Check out time was supposed to be at 11am, however when I asked the front office if we could potentially check out late due to a hike I planned for Sunday, they said it was no problem. They requested that we just move out of our campsite and park our camper next to the office as we had done our first night there.

So we moved our camper to the lot and drove back into the park on Sunday. This time the wait was 0 minutes! We drove straight into the valley where we parked the previous day and hopped on the shuttle at bus stop #14.

We hopped off at Happy Isles (Bus stop #16), walked across the bridge toward Mist Trail, and continued to Vernal Fall.

I chose to hike the Mist Trail for a few reasons:

  1. Benefit of seeing two waterfalls on one hike
  2. Benefit of a loop trail via John Muir Trail, rather than an “in and out”
  3. 5.4 mile round trip trail, which was about the distance I was looking for
  4. Reviews stating the views are not to be missed
  5. Reviews stating that the hike is not too strenuous if you are in decent shape

There are 3 main stops along the way if you choose the loop:

  1. Vernal Fall Footbridge (1.6 mi roundtrip)
  2. Top of Vernal Fall (2.4 mi roundtrip)
  3. Top of Nevada Fall (5.4 mi roundtrip)

For us, getting to the footbridge was not a problem, however the whole trail past the footbridge was way harder than expected! We’ve done strenuous hikes before, and I thought “We got this!”, but no, no we didn’t. We hiked up the very steep, very constant uphill climb to the bottom of Vernal Fall, with several long breaks along the way to catch our breath. By the time we made it to the bottom of Vernal Fall, we both felt every single muscle in our legs and blisters beginning to develop on our heels. Even though I was moving along very slowly, my focus quickly shifted from my screaming muscles to the beauty of the falls and a rainbow in the mist. It was the perfect spot to break for lunch, so we found a flat boulder and rested for about an hour. Following lunch, we stood back up and I no longer felt like the agile 30-year old I once was. With great contemplation and hesitation, we chose not to continue on to Nevada Fall. We had several other hikes planned at multiple national parks in the weeks coming and didn’t want to stress our bodies too much on the first hike.

For further details on the Mist Trail, see the NPS website: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/vernalnevadatrail.htm.

We took our time and walked back down the trail to bus stop #16, and then we hopped off the shuttle at bus stop #20 in front of the Curry Village parking lot.

We had a great time sight-seeing Yosemite National Park and highly recommend it to anyone!

Ultimate Gift Ideas for RV and Outdoor Enthusiasts

This list is for those who love to travel and be outside, but have limited space for THINGS! These gifts allow your loved ones to pack light and compact and still enjoy life! Click the pictures for more details!

  1. Hammock

My mom and sister got this for me right before we started traveling in our RV full-time. Relaxing in a hammock is one of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors. It is easily taken on a backpacking, hiking, or camping trip. When you’re ready to pack up, the fabric easily folds up into the attached pouch, making it compact and lightweight.

2. Zero Gravity Chairs

Zero gravity chairs are great to have around a fire pit or on the deck. The addition of the sliding table adds a neat feature for a place to put drinks, a snack, or smore’s supplies.

3. Light-weight collapsible camping chairs

These collapsible camping chairs are great for backpacking, hiking, or beach trips. They fold up to fit in the pouch and are extremely lightweight.

4. Sandals with a bottle opener

Drinking on the boat, lake, or beach? Did you forget a bottle opener? No worries with the Reef sandal! Not only are these sandals extremely comfortable, you can just flip your flop over and open your bottle with the bottle opener on the bottom of your sandal! It’s already come in handy for us!

5. Go Pro Hero 6 Camera

The ultimate action camera. You’ll never miss any part of your adventure when you have the Hero 6, with its awesome picture quality and ability to mount to all types of surfaces.

6. Go Pro Accessories: See below

6a. Grab bag of mounts

This is a great way to build your collection of mounts. These mounts will stick to almost any surface and are a great way to start using your Go Pro.

6b. The Handler

The Handler is probably the Go Pro accessory I use the most. It’s great to film water shots and just simple everyday use.

6c. Head Strap Mount and Quick Clip

For a hands free way of capturing your adventure, the head strap mount and quick clip are great! I use these for kayaking and boating.

6d. Chest Mount

The chest mount is another great way to stay hands free! I use this one more for white water rafting or skiing.

6e. Smart Remote

I recently bought this accessory and love it! You wear it on your wrist like a watch and it compliments the head strap and chesty mounts so you can see exactly what your camera is doing without having to unclip your Go Pro.

6f. Handle Bar Mount

This mount is used to capture trail riding, road biking, or even capturing the view from a motorcycle.

6g. Floaty

If you’re around water, you definitely want to have the floaty door. This just easily attaches to one of your backdoors on your case and prevents your camera from sinking. The adhesive is incredible. I’ve had the floaty on for years and put it through all kinds of water adventures, and it still looks like I put it on today.

6h. Rechargeable Battery

It’s always nice to have an extra battery so you don’t miss out on any of the action!

6i. Dual Battery Charger

This is a nice accessory to charge your batteries quickly! Each battery lasts a few hours, so it’s nice to have a few extra backup batteries to make sure you don’t miss out on anything!

6j. Accessories Case

Keep all your accessories organized in one place with the Go Pro case. It’s easily customizable for your specific mounts.

7. Camera

Whether you’re out on the road or enjoying the great outdoors, the Canon Powershot sx530 is great for scenic images. Between the amazing zoom and picture quality, this camera will capture it all.

8. Headlamp

Headlamps are always necessary when camping or RV’ing. When you need two hands for things like building a fire or changing your propane tanks at night (we know from experience the propane tank ALWAYS goes empty at night). This is a great alternative to flashlights.

9. Inflatable Lounge Chair

This was a gift from my sister, and I LOVE it! It’s super lightweight, there’s no need for a pump, and it’s extremely compact. It also floats! I use this the most at the lake!

10. RV pajamas

Who doesn’t love RV pajamas? They’re super cute and very comfortable.

11. Instant Pot

The Instant Pot makes cooking in the RV very simple and fast! Everyone I’ve heard from loves their Instant Pot!

12. Trailer Trash sticker for trash can

Put this sticker on your trash can for a little extra fun in your RV.

13. Binoculars

We use ours constantly! Whale watching on the coast, binoculars. Grand Canyon, binoculars. Bird watching, binoculars. You get the point. Save your eyes the strain, and grab a pair of binoculars.

14. Grilling Utensils Set

We grill out all the time while we’re camping. This set keeps all your grilling utensils organized and portable.

15. Portable Grill

When we’re out on the road, we’re constantly moving from one place to the next. Having a grill that we can easily pack away and get back out easily is so handy.

16. Mummy Sleeping Bag

I don’t go camping without my mummy sleeping bag. It’s lightweight and keeps me warm. I don’t need much else from a sleeping bag.

17. Pop Up Tent

I LOVE this tent! You take it out of the bag, and it literally POPS out and sets its self up within 1 second! This is exactly what I want at the end of a long backpacking trip when I was too tired to mess with poles. I recommend the 4-person, even if just for 2 people, because it allows you a place around the sleeping bags for your camping gear.

18. Speaker

What’s life without music? It’s always nice to have a speaker to play your favorite music.

19. Shower Caddy

Again, my sister got me this gift and told me I wasn’t allowed to use old grocery bags anymore. For that, I am thankful. This caddy is really nice for organization and a quick run to the bathhouse.

20. Mattress Topper

If you have ever owned an RV, you know the original mattresses aren’t always the best. I have never slept better after my mom got me a mattress topper for the bed. Now I sleep like a baby.

21. Back up camera

Having a camera on the back bumper allows one of us to hook the truck up to the camper while the other is busy putting stuff away inside the camper. Makes for a quick set up!

22. Propane Fire Pit

I didn’t even know these existed until recently. Instead of burning wood, which some campgrounds don’t allow due to fire hazards, this fire pit burns propane and is turned off with a turn of a switch. You don’t have to worry about how to put the fire out at night or even which way the smoke blows, because there is none!

The Details of Travel Physical Therapy

I’ve been doing travel PT for a few years now, so here is a quick summary of the details in hopes it helps you understand how it all works!

1. Pass the NPTE (National Physical Therapy Exam)

Passing the board exam is, by far, the hardest part. Once you’ve passed, you can start applying for state licenses.

2. Apply for state licensure

This varies state by state. Check with each state board website. The PT Compact Commission is currently trying to make this easier for travelers. See more details about PT Compact here.

3. Find a recruiter

There are a TON of recruiting agencies out there. I’ve personally worked with Delta and Triage. Both companies were recommended to me by fellow PT’s. After you find a recruiter you want to work with, you can request specific or broad locations, healthcare setting, and even your start date. Recruiters find available PT positions within your request parameters and will ask your permission prior to submission for a job. He/she will submit your resume and all other paperwork and set up the initial phone interview with the employer. Once you complete the phone interview and you still want that particular position (and they still want you), your recruiter can also assist negotiating your contract, salary, pay package, and can assist with finding your housing. Your recruiter is your go-to person for any questions or concerns. The awesome thing about having a recruiter is that the service is FREE to you! Once your recruiter is done with all the negotiations, and you agree to everything, your new employer will pay the recruiter.

My current recruiter’s information is:

  • David Proffitt
  • Triage Staffing
  • Office: 800-259-9897 (227)
  • e-Fax: 402-998-5260
  • Mobile: 402- 657-9057 (Central Time Zone, please be courteous)

He’s awesome. I do get a referral bonus if you call and sign up for an assignment with him.

4. Phone Interview

If you haven’t interviewed in a while, this part can be a little stressful, but it’s honestly not a big deal. Your recruiter will give you a heads up on the approximate day and time to expect the phone call.

The employer usually asks:

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses
  • What is your experience
  • Why should they hire you
  • Are you a good team player

The employer also usually gives you an idea of what the job entails as well, such as:

  • Case load
  • Dress attire
  • Information about the community/location

You do not discuss:

  • Salary
  • Benefits
  • Housing

You only discuss this with your recruiter.

The phone interview usually only lasts about 10 minutes. Once you finish the phone interview, it’s a good idea to call your recruiter and let them know how it went so they can follow up with the employer.

Find housing

Once you complete your phone interview and get the approval that the employer wants you, you can start looking for housing. DON’T SIGN ANYTHING YET! You want to make sure you can secure housing before you lock yourself into a binding contract.

Finding housing can be done in a few different ways:

  • Find your own housing and take the stipend (see below for more information on stipends). YOU are responsible for finding and paying for what you find. You will be compensated through a negotiated rate for housing.
    • Travel in a camper (my preference): Research RV/mobile home parks in the area. Find out availability, monthly rate, and make sure it’s in a decent area. I personally like the app “RVparky”
    • Find temporary housing: Research craigslist, airbnb, other websites for housing. Find out availability, monthly rate, and make sure it’s in a decent area
  • Have your recruiter do the work for you to find housing (they keep your housing stipend, but you will not have to pay for housing while you are on assignment)

With my experience, it has been in my best interest to find my own housing and take the housing stipend because I have been able to find housing for less than my monthly stipend, which means I can pay for a place to stay and POCKET the rest of the money.

Review the contract and sign

Once you have secured housing, call your recruiter and let them know. In the meantime, they will be negotiating your salary, stipends, and benefits. Your recruiter will then send you a contract to sign. READ EVERYTHING BEFORE YOU SIGN. If you have any questions or anything you disagree with, call your recruiter. Most likely they can make the changes, or they will contact the employer. ONLY SIGN THE CONTRACT YOU COMPLETELY AGREE WITH.

Salary and stipends

You will have an hourly base salary, as well as your “tax-free travel package”. The hourly base salary is what you make per hour. Your recruiter will negotiate the hourly rate, as well as the “tax-free travel package. The reason that travel PT’s can make so much money is the “tax-free travel package” portion of your paycheck. The package includes 2 things: a housing stipend and a per diem (meal) stipend. Both stipends are completely tax-free, as long as you meet certain criteria (see below for more information on criteria). If you work a 40 hour work week, the travel package will make up about 50% of your paycheck. Both stipends will be a negotiated rate and will remain the same amount for each paycheck, as long as you work more than 36 hours. If you miss one 8-hour work day, your stipend money does decrease for that pay period.

Example:

  • $30/hour
  • Housing stipend: $600/wk
  • Per Diem (meal) stipend: $350/wk
  • 40 hour work week: Total $2150/wk.

Now, this is before taxes are taken out, but taxes only come out of your hourly rate. You get to keep ALL your stipend money (again, as long as you meet the certain criteria).

Certain criteria for tax-free stipends:

  • You have to sign a Permanent Tax Residence Declaration
  • Meet at least one of the following two criteria
    • You lived at your permanent tax residence immediately prior to your current assignment, or
    • You have a family member utilizing the residence, or you utilized this residence frequently for the purpose of your own lodging
  • Additionally there must be a realistic expectation that you will return to and live at your home; and
    • Your tax home must be separate and distinct from your temporary address; and
    • You pay to maintain your permanent tax residence while you are on assignment (mortgage, rent, room and board)
  • Finally, the tax residence must be
    • habitable living quarters at least 50 miles away from your temporary residence, and
    • Payments to maintain your permanent tax residence must be real and substantial
  • Also, the IRS considers employment away from your home in a single location that lasts one year or longer to be indefinite, not temporary. Therefore, in these circumstances, housing, per diem, and travel benefits would be subject to withholding

If you do not meet these criteria, you can still receive the housing and per diem stipends, however taxes will be taken out of your travel package.

Work pre-requisites

Most employers want documents to prove that you are safe to work in their environment. Most pre-requisites include:

  • Urine drug screen
  • TB test
  • Physical
  • TDAP Vaccination within the last 10 years
  • Hep B Titer/Vaccination
  • Flu shot
  • Mask fit test
  • MMR Booster

They will also need a copy of:

  • State license card
  • Driver’s license/ID
  • CPR card

Start your assignment!

It is a lot to prepare before you start working, however your recruiter will be there every step of the way. Most of the time, they will set you up with the pre-requisite appointments and cover all charges. You will also get reimbursed for the state license application fee and all other charges. Some travel agencies also offer continuing education refunds and assistance with student loan repayment.

Travel therapy is the best job I’ve ever had. I can travel anywhere within the United States and live in places I’d only get to see on a short vacation. I highly recommend travel therapy. Hope this was helpful! Let me know if you have any questions that were not answered!

I’m able to travel with my boyfriend, who is not a traveling PT. If you or your significant other are unsure what type of work is out there on the road, click here to see what he does!

How We Make a Living While Traveling Full-Time in an RV

Mike and I have been traveling full-time in an RV for a few years now. We’re not retired. We didn’t inherit any money. We don’t currently have any passive income. So how do we do it?

Good old-fashioned hard work.

Background story: 

Before we started traveling, we both had full-time jobs with the typical 2 weeks of vacation a year. Mike was working second shift for an aeronautical engineering manufacturer. I was working first shift as an outpatient physical therapist.

We decided we wanted more out of life. Instead of working like crazy just to enjoy 2 weeks off a year, we wanted to create a life that WAS a vacation. Of course we still have to make some kind of money to pay bills, but why not have a job that fits the lifestyle we were looking for?

So we decided to quit our jobs. We got a lot of questions and concerns from family and friends, asking us how we planned to make this work. “How are you going to retire?”. “Don’t you want to work your way up in your company and make more money?” I get it. These are valid questions, and trust me, we have thought about this, but we had a plan.

We made the decision in February of 2016 to travel around the U.S in an RV. We gave ourselves 6 months to save every penny possible, liquidate everything we owned from 2 homes, buy an RV and hit the road. In the meantime, we did all of our research. We researched types of RV’s, price, budget, jobs, and looked to other people who were already living this lifestyle.

There is no way we could plan for everything. To a certain extent, part of this lifestyle includes winging it. We didn’t really know what to expect until we actually got out there.

So we saved and saved and finally sold everything before hitting the road in August of 2016. This was the cut off we gave ourselves. Did we feel ready? No, but I’m not sure that we would have ever felt 100% ready to just leave the lives we knew. We left anyway.

Neither of us had a job lined up when we left. It was a little scary, but if worst came to worst, both of our employers told us we were welcome to come back anytime. (This is why you always keep a good relationship with your employer.) This, however, was the last thing we wanted to do.

How we earn money:

I decided to continue with my physical therapy career, but start travel therapy instead. I had no idea where to start, but with a recommendation from a former PT classmate, I got the name and number of a recruiter who assists in job placement. I called her and told her my goals and preference for job location, and she started looking for open positions right away.

(Click here for more details about how to get started in a travel PT career)

Because we both work, we have a specific way to look for jobs so we can make sure we get jobs in the same location. Since I’m working with a recruiter who assists with job placement, we decided that once a PT position was open in a location that we both agreed on, that Mike could then start looking for a job in that area.

My recruiter found an open position at a hospital in Lake Havasu City, AZ. I had a phone interview within a few days, and they hired me on the spot! The job started in 2 weeks, and it was a 13 week assignment. Mike then immediately got online and looked in the “Jobs” section of Craigslist. He found a few jobs he was interested in and called ahead of time to let the employers know he could come in for an interview as soon as we got to town. Before long, Mike got a job at Harbor Freight unloading trucks on second shift.

While working at Harbor Freight, he also interviewed for a first shift position at a parts washer manufacturer. He got the job and started working for them full-time, and worked part-time at Harbor Freight.

Cool side note: While my recruiter was searching for open PT positions, we headed for the FL Keys for a quick vacation. We routinely ate at one particular bar and grill, and Mike was offered a job position there. Then on our way to AZ, our RV broke down requiring a tow from AAA. Mike then got a job offer from the tow company on the spot. So there ARE jobs out there! You just have to be willing to take any jobs as they come up; winging it, like I said earlier. But we had our jobs waiting for us in Havasu; otherwise, we would have stayed for work until we were ready to move on.

After 13 weeks, we weren’t quite ready to leave Havasu. The recruiter I had been working with took some time off work, so I got another recommendation by a co-worker for a second recruiter. My new recruiter applied for a physical therapy position in Kingman, AZ. I was hired on immediately and continued to work there the next 6 months while Mike worked his 2 jobs.

After 9 months, we were ready for a change. My recruiter then got me a great position in Fort Bragg, CA.

Mike followed the same process and started applying for jobs he found on Craigslist. This time, he interviewed for 4 different jobs and got offers from all of them. He currently works for a family-owned RV repair shop, which fits perfectly with our current lifestyle.

Future plans: 

We plan to continue this process, as well as continue to research different ways for passive income and remote work in preparation to diversify our income as well as plan for our full-time sailing life.

We are currently working on building our blogging and vlogging business, as well as beginning the process of remote work. We currently have a few options that are good for us, with a little bit more research:

  1. Online fitness consultant
  2. Remote medical coding/transcription, medical sales representative, reviewer
  3. Travel agent
  4. Data entry
  5. Online administration assistant
  6. Online teaching
  7. Handy man work

I mentioned that we do not have passive income YET, but we are working on this.

Every one has different skill sets, even some you may not realize until you try them. Here are some other options for remote work that require little to no previous experience:

  1. Financial Operations Representative with an insurance company
  2. Bookkeeping Support Specialist with a finance company
  3. Junior Financial Planner with a finance company
  4. Phone auditor with an insurance company
  5. Customer Service for a credit card company
  6. Travel consultant
  7. Virtual assistant

There are several websites that offer these positions, with stated descriptions, compensation, and expectations. My recommendation is to do a search and compare these websites according to your specific skill. My top websites include:

  1. Remote.co
  2. Virtual Vocations

Traveling full-time comes with its own expenses, but is also a great way to save some money as well, depending on your lifestyle. Now that you have a better understanding of the type of jobs and compensation, click here for typical expenses for the RV lifestyle.

Budget: Living and Traveling in a Camper Full-time

How much does it cost to travel full-time in an RV?

Keep in mind that everyone’s budget will be a little different depending on lifestyle and choices, however there are some trends and averages we have noticed, which I will highlight below.

To keep things simple, we won’t talk about expenses that will be about the same no matter whether you live in an RV or live in a permanent home. These expenses include:

  • Food
  • Phone
  • Health Insurance (Will vary widely based on job and/or purchasing your own)
  • House essentials
  • Roadside assistance
  • Student loans

There are also other expenses that will widely vary based on choice alone, which include:

  • *Vehicle payment
  • Vehicle insurance
  • Camper payment
  • *Camper insurance
  • *Vehicle/camper repair/maintenance

*Vehicle payment: Our choice was to purchase a new heavy-duty diesel truck to haul our travel trailer. This is a much larger upfront cost, however we have no cost in vehicle repairs.

*Camper insurance: I always recommend FULL-TIME COVERAGE. Make sure your insurance company knows that your are living in your camper FULL-TIME. Progressive has FULL-TIME coverage, which also includes the contents of your camper. Ours runs about $80/month.

*Vehicle/camper repairs/maintenance: Our camper repairs/maintenance range from $0-1200/month.

We stay in campgrounds while we are working for the stability of living in our camper like a normal home:

BILLS WHEN STAYING AT CAMPGROUND, AVERAGE PER MONTH:

  • Rent
    • Average $600 (Monthly rent, all utilities included, occasionally extra for electric. We’ve paid as low as $500/month in AZ, and as high as $1200/month in the FL Keys. Average around the country runs about $600)
  • Propane
    • $20 (Chiefly depending on time of year, how much we are home. We use propane for the stove/oven, refrigerator while we travel, furnace, and gas grill)
  • Laundry
    • $25 (For 2 people)
  • Internet/TV
    • $20 (Verizon HotSpot- unlimited gb/month, however speed slows down after 15 gb)
  • Gas (Diesel)
    • $200 (Including a few weekend trips per month)

Total $865

When we are not working, we boondock whenever possible:

BILLS WHEN BOONDOCKING, AVERAGE PER MONTH:

  • Rent
    • FREE! (We stay in rest stops, truck stops, Walmart, Cracker Barrel, the side of the road, BLM land, where ever we can park for free legally)
  • Propane
    • $40 (Typically a little bit more because we don’t utilize our microwave as much when we don’t have electric hook ups)
  • Laundry
    • $25 (This doesn’t change)
  • Internet/TV
    • $20 (This doesn’t change)
  • Gas (Diesel)
    • $600 (This varies widely depending on our plans. When we’re not working, we tend to drive and travel much more than when we are stationary depending on our destinations for the month)
  • Gas (Generator)
    • $50 (Depending on time of year or our activities)
  • Dump station
    • $20 ($10/dump at Flying J or campground, with average of 2 dumps/month)

Total $755

How does this compare to life before full-time camper living? I was renting a 2BR 1 bath house in East Nashville, TN:

BILLS, AVERAGE PER MONTH

  • Rent
    • $1200
  • Electric
    • $100
  • Water
    • $20
  • Gas (Furnace)
    • $75
  • Gas (Vehicle)
    • $150
  • Internet
    • $110

Total $1655

Overall, the way we’re spending now, we’re saving money by traveling full-time. We can take as much time off as our budget allows and we can live anywhere we’ve ever dreamed.

This didn’t come without a HUGE learning curve.

Original budget: We didn’t have one. This was our first mistake. We were completely naïve when it came to living in an RV full-time and how to budget.

MAJOR MISTAKES WE MADE:

  • Going full-tourist mode and overspending on new activities/restaurants/bars
  • Trying to keep up with friends. We made friends as we traveled and tried to keep up with their spending habits
  • Taking too much time off. With our new travel lifestyle, we could take as much time off as we wanted. We went into “semi-retirement mode”.
  • Being naive to the amount of repairs/maintenance of a camper and a vehicle
  • Not having an emergency fund. If our truck or camper were totaled or required prolonged time for repairs, where would we stay or how would we get to our jobs? We got stuck paying for a hotel in Boston while our truck went in for repairs, which took our truck camper with it. We didn’t have the option to drop our truck camper off anywhere nearby.
  • We didn’t start out with a brand new truck, like we have now. We first tried to stay too cheap with our vehicles/camper, which ended up costing more in repairs/maintenance/rental cars in the long run. Not researching enough before buying some of our vehicles cost us. Even with 3rd party inspections, buying from a dealer, and doing research on forums, we still had a lot of truck issues.

THINGS WE LEARNED ALONG THE WAY: 

  • Live life as normal. Don’t treat this like a typical week-long vacation. Cook at home. Explore free activities.
  • Take time to stay in one place
  • Invite friends over to the camper. Have a BBQ. Play cards. Pick and choose which activities you go out for.
  • Plan time off accordingly. Give yourself plenty of time to get to your next destination. Always make sure you have a few months worth of saving for bills or unexpected breakdowns, if you can. Credit card interest rate can be killer.
  • Always expect break downs and keep a maintenance/repair budget for each month. Every single month will be different. We’ve spent anywhere from $0-1200 in one month just on repairs to be mobile or keep the heat on.
  • Have a separate emergency fund on top of the maintenance/repair budget. Also have a backup plan in case you have to stay somewhere other than your camper, or drive something other than your regular vehicle. We were so lucky to have 2 motorcycles at one point because we were both working and our truck was in the shop for over a month. Renting a car for a month is a major blow to the budget.
  • Research your camper and vehicle before buying. And then research it again. Ask the seller detailed questions. Get all written reports and facts. Ask more questions to different people, including resources like Facebook groups, friends, 3rd party mechanics, and online forums.

THINGS WE DID RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING: 

  • Boondocked whenever possible
  • Asked for weekly or monthly discounts at campgrounds
  • Drove our motorcycles to save on gas
  • Did our own maintenance/repairs when possible
  • Bought AAA RV+ before we left. We used all 4 free tows in our first year, which would have cost us a lot more had we not had this service.
  • We downloaded and used the RV Parky App. It’s a a nice, quick money and time saver because you can look up different campgrounds in one area and quickly get prices, reviews, amenities, etc.

 

Now that you know what the average cost looks like, click here to see what jobs allow you to travel full-time.

 

Exploring Northern California: Whales, Hiking, Kayaking, Tide Pools, and Glass Beach!

One of the first places we visited just south of town was Point Cabrillo Lighthouse. It was a beautiful lighthouse with 3 light keeper homes in front. The lighthouse was built in 1909, which was essential at the time for maintaining the safety of the ships bringing in lumber to Noyo Harbor.

 

Right down the road, we planned a hike at Jug Handle’s Ecological Staircase trail with one of my co-workers. This trail starts at a beautiful beach, goes through several changes in the soil, and ends in the pygmy forest full of very old, stunted trees. This was also around the time that Mendocino County was celebrating mushrooms of all kinds. One mushroom, in particular, caught my eye because of its’ bright red color. After researching later, I found out that it’s actually poisonous and releases psychoactive properties if ingested.

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I always get recommendations for hiking trails from locals. The trail I kept hearing about was the 5 mile round-trip Fern Canyon Trail at Russian Gulch State Park. It was the only hike nearby with a waterfall. After about a week of constant rainfall, the following Sunday was beautiful, which made it the perfect day to hike this trail. The leftover raindrops on the leaves were still beautifully reflecting the sunshine and the waterfall at the end of the trail was flowing very fast.

After walking back to the truck we still had plenty of daylight and wanted to utilize as much of it as possible. Mike wanted to go to Point Arena Lighthouse. This lighthouse was originally built in 1870, damaged by an earthquake in 1906, and rebuilt 1908. It’s featured in films including Need for Speed and Forever Young.

 

My hairstylist told me about a short hike to the Little River Punch Bowl. The trail leads to a steep descent, which requires a rope for safety. The steep trail leads to a sandy bottom with an open cave and turquoise water. Just be careful of the poison oak surrounding the trail. Mike and I learned the hard way. Poison oak cream and a lot of Prednisone later, the poison oak rash finally went away after about a month.

I had been wanting to take a whale watching tour since we moved here. We were just north of town at MacKerricher State Park when we were told that we were here right at the perfect time for whale watching season. My co-workers, myself, and Mike decided to sign up with Captain Tim at All Aboard Adventures! We saw plenty of gray whales and lots of seals.

My friend invited Mike and I down to their house one weekend for a bonfire and a river trip the following day in Albion. Having a weekend like this was exactly what Mike and I were missing. Just getting together with a big group of people and having a great time. We had a blast around the bonfire and stayed the night upstairs in their guest room. Mike and I woke up the next morning to a gorgeous ocean view. The ocean view was cool, but the green grass was so refreshing. Spending a year in the Arizona desert and then staying in a small spot in a campground the last few months, it had been so long that I had stepped foot in some lush green grass!

We grabbed our kayaks and they grabbed their canoe and paddleboard and we headed out for a day on the Albion River. It was a lovely day for a change of scenery. The water was so clear we could see crabs on the bottom of the river. We passed by a house sitting right in the middle of the river! Then we passed by an old logging machine. On our way back we saw a few seals pop their head out of the water.

We went back to the house and ate some wonderful crab and pasta made by our friends. The sun was quickly setting, so our friends took us to a great spot across the street to watch the sun set.

 

Exploring nature is just so relaxing. There’s no rush or stress. Just beautiful simplicity.

The following weekend, our same friends called us after work and told us we couldn’t miss the whales at Navarro Beach! We rushed 30 minutes south and sure enough, we saw 3 whales playing in the water only 20 yards offshore.

We then stopped by Buckhorn Beach with countless tide pools, each having their own ecosystems and sea life. We saw hermit crabs, starfish, fish, abalone shells, etc. This beach felt like a scavenger hunt with no end in sight! There was something new to look at everywhere we turned!

We spent this year’s St. Patty’s Day on Glass Beach. It was a bright, beautiful, sunny day and the warm glass felt amazing to lay out on. My friend started putting green glass on my toes and within an hour I was covered in smooth, warm glass!

We then picked up a Piaci’s Pizza and took it to MacKerricher State Park where we watched one friend fly his kite taking advantage of the ocean breeze!

To bring these pictures to life, check out our YouTube episode here!