• sparkfireswan

A&A 2020 Nomadic Year End Review | Lessons & Reflections

End of Week #83

John Prince Park Campground, Lake Worth FL > Neapolitan Cove RV Resort, Naples FL

Miles traveled since last week's post = 141 miles

Total miles traveled to date = 11,997 with trailer

A&A Year End Review

We are in the final few days of 2020, and my last blog post update for the year. Can you believe this moment is already here? I personally find it hard to believe that today is the second to last day of December, but I also feel like this has been the wildest year of my life! There is no doubt that 2020 will be one for the history books, and something we look back on for forever.

It also doesn't really feel like a typical end of year time for reflection, as the collective vibe just isn't anywhere near the same. I'm sure I'm not the only one trying to accept what I have been through, and accept how I have dealt with it, without being let down that I expected more from this year. This is one of those years that also feels like it lasted forever, and at the same time I'm shocked that I'm sitting here on December 30th writing this finale to you. Moments dragged on for months, but overall things flew by. It's hard to picture how different this year would have felt for us if we had been living our "old life" in our townhome in Woodbury, as it would have been a totally different reality to deal with. Overall I don't feel like it was a bad year for us, and I almost feel guilty saying that, but when all things are considered, I have a lot of great memories from 2020! It was a very emotionally driven year, with some reroutes I wasn't expecting, but the experiences and opportunities we had really outweighed most of it.

Before I go into the lessons this year has taught us, I wanted to go over some of the statistics we had with our first full year of RV Life.

2020 Full-time RV Statistics

Miles traveled = 7,113

Total number of states traveled to = Depends on how exactly you add them up, as we went through a handful of states two different times. Here is what our state by state route ended up as:

  • Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, then pause for 5 months.

  • Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, travel through the tips of Mississippi and Alabama and then we ended up in Florida.

  • All in all that's 7 new states counted on the state map, but 12 total if you count it all.

Total number of campsites = 33

Favorite campsite 2020

  • Amanda - Faver-Dykes State Park, St. Augustine FL.

  • Adam - Jamaica Beach, Galveston TX.

RV maintenance conducted = Replaced all four tires on the travel trailer, bent out the side skirting after damage from shredded tire, reinforced the underbelly with sheet metal, greased/checked wheel bearings, replaced one full wheel bearing, reset the kitchen slide, and replaced one 12 volt battery with 2 brand new 6 volt batteries. Frank the tank (van) also got a few oil changes and a tire rotation!

Workamping jobs completed = 2 jobs, in California and Florida.

  • Gualala River Redwood Park - From the end of April to the end of September in Gualala, CA. Adam worked maintenance and I worked in the office.

  • Hart-T-Tree Farms, Christmas Tree Lot - From mid November to the end of December in Margate, FL. We both managed the entire operations of our retail lot.

National Parks visited = 9

  1. Big Bend, Texas.

  2. White Sands, New Mexico.

  3. Saguaro, Arizona

  4. Grand Canyon, Arizona.

  5. Lassen Volcanic, California.

  6. Death Valley, California.

  7. Petrified Forest, Arizona.

  8. Carlsbad Canyons, New Mexico.

  9. Guadalupe Mountains, Texas.

Favorite National Park 2020

  • Amanda - Lassen or Big Bend or Guadalupe.

  • Adam - Carlsbad Canyon.

Favorite hike 2020

  • Amanda - So many hikes in Sedona, hiking the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend, the waterfalls and mountains in Lassen.

  • Adam - Carlsbad Canyon will likely still be his favorite for awhile, because he liked how unique it was!

Favorite city traveled to in 2020

  • Amanda - Carson City, NV, Lake Havasu City, AZ, Sedona, AZ, Santa Fe, NM, Mandeville, LA, Destin, FL, Jupiter, FL.

  • Adam - Destin, FL.

Favorite meal & location

  • Amanda - All the meals Adam cooks :) especially the alfredo pasta he made with coconut milk, Rebecca's baked goods in Gualala, Gourdough's Big Fat Doughnuts in Austin, tacos - in general.

  • Adam - Oysters in Bodega Bay, California.

  • Both - Salmon in Gualala (and basil martinis if they count), fried seafood in Louisiana, all seafood across the country, shrimp ceviche Tania made us in Santa Fe, and all the dessert treats family have sent us.

Best beach(es) = Northern California and Florida.

  • Northern California - Van Dam Beach (but too cold to swim).

  • Florida - Destin beach for the white sand, Jupiter beach and Lake Worth beach for turquoise waters.

Best mountain = Big Bend, Sedona, Lassen.

  • Big Bend NP - Chisos Mountains in Texas.

  • Sedona AZ - Basically all the red rocks in the entire area.

  • Lassen NP - The beautiful volcanic mountains of northern California.

Amanda's 31st birthday = My birthday took place while we were workamping in Gualala, CA. It fell on a Monday and we had Monday's off from our jobs. We took a day drive north to Montgomery Woods Natural Preserve and looked at some of the largest Redwood trees we saw the entire time we were in NorCal. We came back to the campground and had a small get together with the other workampers, eating dessert and toasting around the campfire.

Adam's 32nd birthday = Adam's birthday took place Halloween weekend while we were in Louisiana. We stayed at Fontainebleau State Park in Mandeville, on Lake Pontchartrain, and had a great time eating fried seafood, drinking Glenlivet and having a bonfire.

2020 Lessons & Reflections

Challenges overcome

We were fortunate enough to have a strong start to 2020 - living our best life on the coast of Texas, hiking through the Texas mountain desert, and visiting with friends and family in both New Mexico and Arizona. Days after our visit with my dad and step mom, covid took over every waking moment of our entire lives online, on the TV, and on every source of information out there. Toilet paper ran out, grocery stores emptied out. The year began to flip upside down from that moment on. We cancelled or had a handful of travel plans cancel on us and ended up extending our stay in Camp Verde, AZ to wait things out - but things didn't get any better, they only got worse. We worried about our upcoming travels through California and if we would be allowed to enter the state or have anywhere to stay during our trek north. On our way up north we shredded a tire on the trailer for the first time and went through extensive stress and minor damage to the trailer. It also seemed like we dealt with issues with our kitchen slide of our trailer off and on the entire year.

Upon arriving to Gualala, California, on the north coast, our very first workamping job was delayed a total of 2 months due to covid and campground shutdowns. We were very remote, secluded, and lonely for a lot of the summer! It felt like interactions with friends and family were limited and we had no other social interaction for several weeks. Not to mention we were really out there on the coast, off highway 1, and far away from services like large grocery stores or department stores. Once a month we would drive two hours away to stock up at Costco and Trader Joe's. Our entire summer was spent only connected to WiFi for our phone and laptops, and we had zero network connection whatsoever. The weather was also cooler and gloomier than we expected and that did start to take a toll on me. Then at the end of the season the wildfires started to breakout in California and we were surrounded on all sides inland. I will never ever forget that day the sky turned the craziest colors of red and orange I'd ever seen - just like in apocalypse movies.

Scheduling places to stay and things to do during the pandemic turned out to be quite challenging all year long, as there has been an increase in the amount of RVers, and a decrease in the amount of spaces available at places that were open. But then you have your states like California and New Mexico where just about everything has been closed down and it is difficult to find anywhere to stay at all. Then while we were making our way south again for the winter, we encountered a change of plans again due to hurricanes, not once but twice, and had another trailer issue when a wheel bearing exploded on us.

Finally, we arrived to our second workamping job of the year, and were met with challenge after challenge in getting water to our site, working with the local neighbors and gaining their approval for our existence, leaning into 15 hour days of hard work, dealing with a shutdown from the city, managing tree sales and lot helpers, and trying to find ways to get more sleep at night! Whew. Then we entered a weird period of time where we had a lot of situations with cats - a stray cat showed up to the lot, Roscoe had to have dental surgery and more of his teeth removed, Rahja started acting strange and had to stay at the vet overnight, crazy cat ladies were showing up at our lot trying to steal the stray cat.... And it was just a whirlwind end to a year that tested us in a lot of ways. But this year also proved to us just how strong and capable we really were too!

Success & accomplishments

I could sit here all night and break down everything that was tough to deal with this past year, but what would that gain me? By no means was this year just butterflies and daisies, but that doesn't mean a lot was not accomplished either. Just getting through to the end of this year without completely losing your mind, is in itself a huge point of success. This year tested people in more ways than they could have ever dreamed of, Adam and I included. But this year also helped promote what is most important to us in life, and showed us in which of those areas we have been neglecting to focus on. It showed us how important it is to cherish every moment with loved ones, every hug, every connection. It showed us how much we value more freedom to be traveling, as that is the soul reason we set out on this lifestyle - not to remain in one place for too long. It showed us the importance of health and wellness, travel and adventure, events, get togethers, and all of the other things it tried to take away from us. This year may have tested us, but it brought back to the forefront the most important things in our lives too.

Twenty-twenty was also the first full year that Adam and I have lived on the road in our travel trailer, and that feels like an accomplishment worth talking about all in itself. One full year was spent across the United States, quite literally from coast to coast. This is the longest we have ever been away from loved ones, out here on our own, trying to navigate the insane chaos that has been 2020, without the emotional support of having friends or loved ones near. We also completed two jobs together, (both of which we were invited back to), totaling over 6 months of the year, and learned all about what each others skills are in these jobs are and how to work together to form success. I can't even express how proud I am that together we managed a retail Christmas Tree Lot that totaled over $188K in net sales, and we ended that experience without wanting to run away from each other. All in all, we lived a very full year together, experiencing more things we have never experienced, meeting new friends that felt like family, seeing new parts of the United States, and finding things to be happy about everywhere we went. We continued to grow closer together and stronger in our partnership!

I also shouldn't forget to mention a huge success on Adam's part... back in May/June of this year he quit his battle with cigarettes and gave them up for good! We can't remember exactly the day it happened, but we know it was well before our campground opened up in Gualala mid June.

Intentions For 2021

My intentions for 2021 involve less expectation and more willingness to accept the unknown. But I also have larger plans for our success and accomplishments, and can see us both working a lot harder towards our future goals. I want to travel more intently, enjoying the moment more than trying to plan the moment. I want to travel less miles, and spend more time in each place, soaking up as much as the first quarter of the year as I can in Florida. I intend to eat better, and focus more on my mental and physical health to help encourage an even stronger year. And I intend to focus more energy on fostering deeper connections with my friends and family, as the time apart only continues to grow longer.

2021 nomad intentions: Travel to at 7 or more states, visit Minnesota to renew our driver licenses, see our friends again, see our family again, spend as much time at the beach and in the mountains as possible, and to return to Florida for the winter!

Every day we are already doing the best we can to live life to the fullest, to fulfil our own dreams, conquer our fears, and try new things. I fully envision the year 2021 to continue to deliver just that for us, and more!

NEXT WEEK: What will the first week of 2021 bring for Spark Fire Swan? The answer is, I don't know yet! But I will definitely figure out something good.

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