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This is my first time on this site. I've found everything I've read so far very useful, so I thought I might let you guys know what my situation is and see what advice you might have. Thanks!
I'm a 28 year old woman. I've traveled to many international destinations, and spent two years living in Africa, but I've never seen much of our country. Fortunately, I have a job that allows me to work remotely from anywhere I can get a cell phone and internet signal (at the same time). I really don't love my job, but I've decided to take advanatage of the flexibility. So, I'm planning a road trip. Right now the best plan I have is to rent/sublet apartments in many places around the country (probably by relying heavily on craig's list) and explore the local area while I'm "living" in these places and driving in-between them.
I have ideas about where I want to go, but how long I plan to stay in each place really depends on how much I like it. I'm travelling from Maryland, and will likely be leaving in the January/February time frame. My intention, at this point is to head southwest. Does anyone have any suggestions about what route I should take - ie: are there any destinations that would be criminal to leave out? I'm as comfortable in a tiny town as I am in San Francisco, so I don't really have any restrictions in terms of what I want. This trip is all about exploration! National parks are fantastic, music and cultural festivals would be great, unique happenings anywhere would be of interest. I do anthropology and photography so I know I'll enjoy just about anywhere I go. I guess I'm just trying to find out, from people who have traveled a lot, the must see spots in the US.
Also, any suggestions on a vehicle? If I had my way, I'd be driving a 1963 VW microbus (aside from it being so fun, you can park it like a car and it offers you a lot of storage space or overnight options if you need them) but I don't want to deal with any mechanical breakdowns. I know I couldn't drive a big RV because I want something that I can use as an everyday vehicle, for when I'm living somewhere. The more versital - in terms of weather readiness and functionality - the better. I'm currently considering a hybrid Toyota Highlander.
Really any advice on any subject would awesome!
Thanks in advance!
It's Your Rainbow
Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!
Our Editor refers to your type of travel as "Dashboarding", be sure to have a look through all his articles on the topic. As far as staying put for a while as you travel, I have no experience with Craig's List, but my wife and I also prefer to set up a 'home-away-from-home' when we travel and have had excellent results with such sites as VRBO, CyberRentals, Great Rentals and others. You can always just do a search on the location name and 'vacation rental' or 'house rental owner'. While these might tend to be a bit pricier than what's on Craig's list, they are meant to be rented by the week (or less), are in great locations, and are still only roughly as much as a mid-scale motel - especially in off-season.
With as much time as you have (basically unlimited!), I think you might want to first head south and take in the Outer Banks of North Carolina and the coastal areas of South Carolina and Georgia, then traverse the Deep South before heading west to the Great Southwest. To be perfectly honest, I'm at the point in my travelling where I'm filling in the gaps from previous trips to the 'must-sees', and I'm having just as much fun, seeing just as much beauty, and enjoying the journey just as much as on those previous great adventures. My point is that what you get out of travel depends far more on your mindset than on where you go. It's all good and you're starting off with a great attitude. You will enjoy this!
As far as vehicle goes, whatever you're comfortable with is what you should drive. My wife and I have had very good experiences through the years with a number of different Subaru wagons (Outbacks). I had one when I lived in Maine and had to commute 50 miles one way to work. We had one when we lived in upstate New York and had to deal with lake effect snows. I've never had one let me down yet. They get moderately good (not great) gas mileage, but are a bit on the small side. If you really plan to do some back road or foul weather driving, then you should be looking at 4WD or AWD and a good set of all-weather tires.
Finally, you'll note that this post has been pretty short on specifics of what to see. Everybody's RoadTrips are personal at their best, and you are setting off on an adventure. An itinerary might be antithetical to that. You will be carrying probably the best resource with you - connectivity to the Internet. As you travel, just check out what's available as you go along. I find that a simple search on 'PlaceName tourism OR attraction' usually brings up more options than I can possibly take advantage of. Other great resources are the welcome centers as you enter each state and local visitor bureaus.
And Congratulations at the outset of your journey.
Last edited by AZBuck; 11-01-2006 at 03:58 PM.
Hi Firsttimetripper --
A couple of random suggestions for your vehicle? Check around for either a mid sized SUV or a passenger van (or van conversion) or perhaps a minivan (Family van)? You'll have some stuff with you, even if you are being a nomad for a couple of years -- so you'll want some storage space to carry stuff. Hence the suggestion of a mid-sized SUV or van/ minivan. For size its going to depend upon what you're comfortable with more than anything else -- the only thing I'd suggest is when you look at one to curl up in the back as if you were going to be spending the night camping in it, and seeing how much room you have. (Not that you might be spending a lot of time camping *in* the vehicle, but that is always an option you can fall back on, even without a tent). You'll be carrying at least basic camping gear including an ice chest, and enough stuff to moderately comfortable (chair, stove, table, tent, good pad/ cot, etc.) so you'll need a reasonable amount of space, assuming you don't have all your worldly possessions in there as well.
For what you've laid out, and where you might be going, it sounds like flexibility in your options is the way to go -- and that tends to be a somewhat larger vehicle, with multi-purpose capabilities for volume and terrain (rain, snow, wind, heat, cold, deserts, mountains, hot summers, cold winters, beaches, cities, countryside, highways, byways, paved roads, gravel, dirt roads, cross country, etc. )
For make and model, I think that's also your choice depending upon price, size you feel comfortable with, and reliabilty statistics. Most SUVs have either an AWD or 4WD option, although not all have these installed. Less vans do, a some of the family/mini-vans have them. I listed the vans as they would definitely give you storage and camping space, and are available with 'camping' van conversions in many cases. The family minivans are quite available on the market, usually reasonably prices, and can come with AWD or even 4WD in some cases.
My personal preference has been away from the early Volkswagen-bus camper vans, although I've spent a fair number of days and nights roadtripping in them. The problem is power and wind --I've been in them when we've had to turn back on trips when the vehicle started making its own lane changes (high Santana winds in the Santa Ana River canyon and the lower desert here in SoCal), and the older VW vans didn't have much power. The new VW camper vans seem much nicer, although I really don't have experience with them. I've been with people with family camper vans, some of which are *VERY* nice for camping/ roadtripping, as well as minivans and the like on group outings. I've never seen problems with power or stability with the family camper vans or minivans, although I've not done extreme conditions with people using them (but including snow, desert camping, etc.)
The Toyota Highlander has a pretty good reputation, although I haven't heard much about the hybrid version, other than they are hard to find and some dealers are really squeezing folks on price for one. If you're running a laptop and etc out of the vehicle, the large battery pack in the hybrid might be useful, though. I would be somewhat concerned about the volume in it to hold camping gear and storage space for a nomad, but everyone's needs and tastes are different. (I knew a person who lived out of an MG convertible for a couple of years.....talk about pared down space!)
My current roadtripping/ camping vehicle is a Toyota Sequoia. Large enough that I can flip up a row of seats and stretch out in the back if needed (6' of space, without the 3rd row of seats), with AWD and 4WD, stability control, multiple airbags, is listed as a "low emissions vehicle" with a V6, and gets around 20 mpg using regular gas on the highway (not great mileage, but not bad). It drives more like a pickup truck than a car, but nothing like a van or RV, and parks in regular parking spaces. Other SUVs of the same class handle about the same I'm sure. The only limitation I've ever had on it is that it is about 6'6" (76.5") tall, so I can't pull under really low ceilings, particularly if I have cargo stowed on the top -- but I think that's true for many similar vehicles.
Wow....I'll take your job!
I envy the position you're in. You're going to have a wonderful time!
I think a hybrid would be a great choice and there are several on the market. I would test drive a bunch of different models, different sizes, to get a feel for what suits you. I would also gather up everything you plan on hauling to get an idea of what kind of space you need as well. Take measurements and check the cubic inches of storage space. And make sure that what you plan to carry with you doesn't have to be packed in such a way that it will block your view through the back window.
As for places to live, sometimes college campuses with dorms have space available in the summer months that might be an economical option. And, while I've never done it myself, I've heard that some folks have good luck getting involved in house-sitting for folks. You might google this as there are organizations that help hook people up with folks needing this service. I have no idea which ones are reputable so you might want to spend some time researching them if you decide to try it to ensure you're making a good choice as I believe there is a fee to get involved in this.
Wish I had more ideas for you. Please come back if you have any specific questions and I sure hope you'll pop back in here and share your experiences living in different areas of the country.