After about a year and a few trips along the way, Brian and I have decided that we are changing the way we travel. What began as a temporary pause in our travel habits has turned into a much longer absence infused with the convoluted effects of the pandemic.
In 2015, Brian and I became 100% debt-free. It was exciting and remarkably liberating. With a paid mortgage and low monthly living expenses, we embraced an intentional lifestyle of diversification, savings, and travel. The airport became a constant point of connection between home and away; on occasion, we were there 4-6 times per month.
We were mindful of our work schedules and kept an eye out for budget flights. It was an easy decision to fly across the country at $70 round trip for the BOTH OF US. We used our favorite travel credit cards (lookin’ at you, Chase Sapphire Reserve and IHG Rewards Club) to enjoy the benefits of Global Entry reimbursement, airport lounge access, and complimentary hotel stays. Brian and I had a rhythm going. Though the way we travelled was an acquired taste to some, it was the kind of on-the-go adventure we loved. The late night flights, no frills airfare, and random destinations were all part of the joy in the journey.
We put in an offer to buy a single family home the same week we returned from Italy. Brian and I used to pop in and out of open houses for fun. I called it research. It was nice to check out the market around us and explore how people ‘renovated’ their places. I remember walking into the open house of the home we own now and thought to myself – This is not going to last long.
It was a little crazy to think about the fact that we were running around Italy just a few days prior (with ZERO intention to buy a home), only to throw in an offer that same week. After a few rounds of negotiations, we struck a deal! As a result, Brian and I decided to hold off on our travels. We temporarily paused our adventures on the road so that we could settle into our new space. We officially moved in November 2019. Energy up and eyes forward, we both secured raises and more flexible, remote positions beginning January 2020. We were happily getting the townhouse ready to sell and planning our next year of travel. Unfortunately, 2020 slipped away from us, as it did for the rest of the world.
Oh, you crazy, complicated pandemic! What a complete mess you are. I’ll take a cue from the word above and stop for a moment to note that things could have been worse. However, just because things could have been worse, it doesn’t mean they were great, either.
While the world stopped for some, there are many who had to keep going – first responders, of course, and those who continued to operate as necessary, along with those who went into overdrive. As I have mentioned in past posts, Brian and I became inundated with our work. Our jobs became an obstacle to our travel plans, though it didn’t seem to matter anyway since the entire world shut down for a bit. I will say that I am grateful Brian and I had no issues with non-refundable costs. It was a small relief to not have to deal with the chaos of cancellation uncertainty and loss of funds. Alas, we succumbed to the complete and utter cessation of our travel plans.
As the world began to pivot around this tumultuous mess, we faced rules and regulations that helped in the initial thaw of what was previously frozen. Air travel was active, though limited, and accommodations began accepting more crowds.
Initially, we tested the travel waters by driving down to FL for our 2020 summer getaway. We usually do all of our grocery shopping back home and drive down with a cooler and portable gas grill anyway, so we did just that. It was an INCREDIBLE time away. The resort was only at a 30% capacity! It was quiet, easy-going, and relaxing. Most amenities were available, though some had limitations. The pools were open except for a few hours a day when they closed for complete sanitation. Overall, it felt like a perfect slow ease into the “new normal” of travel.
Later on as we ventured into Summer 2021, Brian and I boarded two flights (both of which were across the country). Sadly, they were nowhere near the experiences we had in the past. Of course, we understood and expected travel to be different, but it honestly left a lot to be desired. We traveled to Las Vegas, NV and Scottsdale, AZ. Both locations had limited dining options, hotel amenities, and minimally stocked grocery shelves (as was the situation back home). Was it fine to travel? Sure. Was it the on-the-go adventure we enjoyed? Absolutely not.
The most frustrating aspect for me was the amount of ugliness we saw from other people. Be kind humans beings. Seriously. I was so disappointed having to be around other people behaving as if they didn’t know any better. We are all tired from the effects of the pandemic, but that does not excuse the amount of deluded privilege and disregard that we witnessed.
Drained by the masses at the airport, Brian and I have come to favor road trips over flights. As of the last few months, we have explored our neighboring states and have driven as far as 550 miles one way. Granted, the destinations remain the same in terms of limited experiences, dining options, and access to groceries. We expect and understand this as normal until it won’t be.
Brian and I are working on getting our travel bug back. It’s a bit of a process with some adjustments here and there, but we have found a more comfortable way for us to enjoy the open road.
Road-tripping has given us so much flexibility and freedom.
Opportunity for Spontaneity
We have more control of our timetable on the road. Brian and I can explore stops along the way and even change direction half-way through our travels! We don’t have the stress of a hard time limit to abide by.
Avoid Airport Crowds & Hassles
It’s been a lot more pleasant to be able to hop into our car and go than to deal with crowds, lines, and flight mishaps. Out of the two flights we had this past year, both were delayed. It was better than being outright canceled, but still an annoyance. While we miss the way air travel used to be, I can say, without a doubt, that Brian and I are currently enjoying the solitude and quality time together rather than dealing with all of the noise of the airport.
Comforts of Home
Depending on where we’re going and for how long, Brian and I will usually have a case of water, food, and a blanket packed for convenience. Sometimes, we’ll even travel with a fully stocked 70-Quart cooler. It takes a little bit of extra planning and organization to prep for a road trip, but we have appreciated the benefits of having groceries on hand and the ability to bring other luxuries from home. An electric blanket and a scented candle, along with a handful of books, are more than enough to create a cozy space wherever I am!
Our lifestyles and work situations have changed to allow for a slower pace of travel!! While the chance for slow travel initially happened without intention, we are now enjoying it out of preference. Brian and I are taking in the scenery and spending more time outdoors. Without a strict schedule, we are more present and in the moment than having to focus on “the next thing”. From sleep patterns to our meals and work schedules, Brian and I have slowed way down to relish in single-tasking. In a way, road trips have given us some life back.
As of this moment, we have no plans to fly anywhere anytime soon. I’m wholly uninterested in paying a premium fee for flights, COVID-related uncertainty, and crowds. I think Brian and I are going to hit the road for a little while. That is, unless we come across a flight deal or overseas adventure that we’d be crazy to pass up.
For now, though, the open road is calling.
Moving forward, we are looking into driving to Texas with stops planned for Waco, Austin, and San Antonio.
Setting Travel into Motion
Fortunately, we have a stockpile of reward points and free nights that help make life on the road attainable. In addition to hotel accommodations, Brian and I have also explored the following tools to help us along our way:
Mobile Hotspot Device
Our local library provides the ability to borrow a mobile hotspot device for up to 21 days. Though our T-Mobile Plan includes a Hotspot/tethering with a limited amount of data, we tend to use it sparingly. For the most part, we utilize the hotspot device from our library. The hotspot offers unlimited data and connects up to 15 devices to the internet. It’s been an incredibly effective tool in our travels! This device allows Brian or me to continue working on the road while the other drives.
Brian and I love saving money where we can! GasBuddy is great for comparing gas prices on the go. We have saved as much as 40 cents per gallon using this website.
Depending on how far we travel, Brian and I will pack a different-sized cooler to accommodate our needs. I will oftentimes bring along some hard boiled eggs and bananas since they’re easy to eat on the road. If we are away for an extended amount of time and we have access to a kitchen, we will either purchase groceries before we leave or check all of the local weekly ads to see what’s on sale where we are going. I always build a shopping list before we go to the stores; not only does this help save time, but it also maximizes our savings!
Check In/Check Out Preferences
It never hurts to ask nicely for a complimentary early check-in or late check-out where you are staying (especially if you have hotel status)! Brian and I often request this accommodation to help maximize our flexibility and time.
I created an account for TrustedHousesitters years ago with hopes that we’d be able to visit all kinds of places around the world. Unfortunately, we never got the chance to really look into the community before work became crazy and the pandemic happened. Now that we have more flexibility in our schedules, we are keeping an eye out for potential stays!
House sitters do not receive payment, but rather a place to stay in exchange for watching over a home, watering plants, and caring for pets in some cases. Brian and I haven’t completed a stay yet, but we will surely report back when we do!
Travel has been erratic to say the least. We’re looking forward to seeing what’s out there and can’t wait to see where we end up. As old roads become new and city streets turn into mountainside views, Brian and I are excited to explore the joy in this new journey.