On The Road Again

Welcome to The Road Goes On Forever. My name is Nick Pisano, and me and my girlfriend Morgan Smith and our cat Linus will be spending the next year or so traveling the country.

I’ll be posting updates here on our travels for anyone who’d like to follow along. Based on the looks we consistently get when we tell people what we’re doing, some explanation may be in order…

How Did We Get Here?

Just over three years ago, I left my job at WTOP Radio, where I’d worked since I was a junior in college. Truly, I should have left years earlier; the job made me a stressed-out mess, and I was barely able to afford to live in DC on a radio writer’s salary. But I enjoyed the fast pace of breaking news and the prestige of working for such a respected source of local news. Still, it always felt like I was playing journalist more than actually *being* one, and rarely have I thought twice about the decision to leave.

After quitting WTOP, I traveled for a few months, mostly because I had no idea what else to do. I started with a train trip across the country, something I’d had in the back of my mind for a decade at this point. Using three trains, I made the trip from DC to Los Angeles over 17 days, making five stops along the way in Chicago, Denver, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco. Three months later, I set out on another solo trip, driving nearly 2,000 miles along the Texas-Mexico border and into New Mexico, Arizona, and finally Las Vegas. Along the way, I met Amish seatmates who only spoke German and guys heading to Nebraska for sentencing in court cases, crossed the Mississippi River and Rocky Mountains, attended the Great American Beer Festival and drank margaritas at the Juarez bar where they were invented, nearly drove off both the edge of a mountain and into the Rio Grande, and much more.

I came back to DC and spent a relatively frustrating and unhappy 18 months working in property management, a job I took with the goal of learning about real estate that ended up being more about plunging toilets, making copies of keys, and running errands for my boss. In my spare time, through a combination of luck, good timing, and the disturbing power of the Facebook algorithm, I built a relatively successful dropshipping store, one that for the first time in my life had me making significantly more than my living expenses. By the time things petered out, I was left with decent-sized five-figure earnings for a few months of part-time work. With the daily risks of entering people’s homes and showing houses during the COVID pandemic, this was enough to encourage me to leave and strike out for something new. Call it another example of the Yolo Economy.

While it’s been a rocky 10 months at points, they’ve also been some of the most rewarding of my life. I’ve been able to cobble together a decent living freelance writing about RVs and real estate, and spent two weeks this summer walking the length of the Jersey Shore from Cape May to Sandy Hook (much more on this to come.) In the meantime, I’ve had ample time to plan for the year ahead.

Morgan’s path here has been quite a bit less rocky. She’ll be keeping her full-time job as we travel, while I bum around our destinations and occasionally write down some words for your entertainment or my finances. Morgan had been transitioning to working at home part-time even before the pandemic, so the switch to full-time working out of our condo wasn’t as dramatic as for some. Luckily, even at the early stages of discussing our plans for long-term travel, her company was very supportive, provided we could work out certain logistical issues.

Now, about those logistical issues…

The RV and Why It Didn’t Work

If either of us has talked to you in the past year or so, chances are our plan to take an RV trip to all of the lower 48 states has come up at one point or another. When it started in summer 2020, it was a pretty vague notion. Neither of us really had a plan for how we would financially make this happen, nor any idea of the logistics of driving a bus-sized vehicle thousands of miles cross-country, emptying our own bathroom tanks, and somehow avoiding smashing into obstacles, other cars, or people. I enjoyed planning trips, but something like this was head-spinningly daunting.

But even as some elements fell into place (my financial situation, the logistical elements), we ran directly into two buzzsaws – the slow pace of corporate decision-making, and the exploding used RV market sparked by COVID. Rigs were selling for $10,000, $20,000, or even more over what they would have just a year earlier, when most folks were more than happy to stay in a hotel with comfortable beds, fast internet, and reliable water pressure. Not only were the RVs out there more expensive, but there were also just far fewer to go around. Most used RVs hit the market when their original owners decide to upgrade. But COVID-related issues with acquiring the necessary parts for new RVs forced owners to hold onto their old models longer. On some RV forums, I’d seen discussion of folks getting a delivery date for new motorhomes *two years* from their order. This was obviously not a problem that was going to work itself out anytime soon.

Crunch Time

Our decision to pivot to Airbnbs was partially a matter of necessity. We sold our condo in DC’s white-hot real estate market without even putting it on the market. More than a week before we’d even planned to list it, we already had a ratified contract and a move-out date – a month earlier than anticipated. And naturally, we were no closer to approval from Morgan’s work for our RV internet plan. We’d done a little bit of RV shopping, even found some that we liked. But in mid-July, with leaving DC now a reality, we were simply running out of time.

We were having a Saturday evening drink at Moreland’s Tavern when the topic first came up. We were already planning on getting an Airbnb in DC to spend a few more weeks with our friends, wrapping up our time here before hitting the road. So why couldn’t we do this as our main way to travel?

It made sense in too many ways. Financially, we’d be spending more per month but wouldn’t need to deal with the hassle of finding a suitable RV and paying for multiple fail-safe mobile internet options. I had already come to terms with losing a decent chunk of money on any RV we bought, knowing it was likely the top of the market, and no RV meant no hassle eventually selling it when we were done. Airbnbs solved our biggest challenge, ensuring Morgan had access to reliable internet for work. And we both agreed it accomplished our major goal – getting to travel the country for an extended time together. An RV was always just a tool to that end, and one that wasn’t particularly easy to acquire or use.

We were *actually* going to get to take this trip – AND I wouldn’t have to worry about backing up in one of these behemoths.

Where We’re Going This Fall

As of the end of September, we’ve currently planned our travels through December 2021.

October 4-14th – Helen, Georgia

Helen, GA via Richard Elzey/Flickr

When people ask us our first stop and we tell them “Helen, Georgia,” some of the excitement tends to morph to confusion. I get it. Helen is a tiny former logging town in the north Georgia mountains that, 50 years ago, decided to remake itself as an Alpine village with a yearly Oktoberfest. Five decades later, it’s the third-most visited city in Georgia (yes, really.) Why did we pick it? I was writing a story about the best small towns in Georgia, and this was one of them. We’ve both been looking forward to enjoying more of the outdoors after two years mostly indoors, and a bunch of delicious German restaurants don’t hurt either. Definitely the most impulsive of our destinations, but one I’m happy to start with.

October 14th-23rd – Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston, SC via Alyssa Rose/Pexels

We chose Charleston as we’d already booked Helen and Tybee Island, and needed somewhere for the time in between. We both wanted to go, but we’re not sure when we’ll be back on the east coast, so it made sense to visit now. We’ll be staying in the Park Circle neighborhood of North Charleston, on the recommendation of our good friend and Charleston native Brianna Burke.

October 23rd-November 25th -Tybee Island, Georgia

Tybee Island, GA Pier, via Dizzy Girl/Flickr

Our first long-term stay will be in Tybee Island, the beach community located about 20 minutes east of Savannah. We truly lucked out here, thanks to the magic of Airbnb monthly booking discounts. For not too much more than we were paying monthly for our DC condo, we’ll be able to stay in a two-bedroom place just a half-block from the beach, with outdoor space and a short walk to the restaurants and bars.

November 28th-December 24th – New Orleans, Louisiana

French Quarter, New Orleans, LA via Pedro Szekely/Flickr

I’m not sure any introduction is necessary for New Orleans. This is one of the spots I’m most excited about, as we’ll be staying in the Marigny neighborhood, right between the French Quarter and Frenchman Street. We’re right around the corner from a bar that is also a laundromat (or laundromat that is also a bar, depending on your perspective) and on the same block as some sort of place from NCIS: New Orleans, if that’s your kind of thing.

Where Are We Going Next?

Right now, our itinerary for 2022 is wide open. The general plan is to head west or a bit north, likely to Tennessee or Texas, before heading to the southwest. From here, it’s less certain. We may head north and east, through Utah and Colorado, and then turn north into Wyoming, Montana, and then west to the Pacific Northwest. Alternatively, we may go clockwise through California, the Pacific Northwest, and so on. We’re not beholden to the seasons we would have been if we decided to RV. But neither of us particularly enjoy the cold, so we’ll be doing a bit of chasing 70. But who knows? Maybe we’ll be so tired of warm temperatures that we’ll spend next winter in Alaska.

Stay In Touch – And Let Us Know Where To Go!

If you’d like to keep up to date on our travels, enter your name and email below. You’ll get occasional updates on our progress – nothing spammy, I promise. We’d also love to get your ideas for where we should go, including if we should come visit you!

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