(Photos courtesy of Julie Michaels)
By Nathan Michaels, reporter
Twenty two months ago we packed up our house and moved into an RV. Our lives were about to get very different.
Hi, my name is Nathan and I just traveled the country for a year and a half with my family in our mobile home. Two years ago my parents decided to buy a tiny house on wheels and travel the country for a while. At the time I was 12 and my brother was eight. My father had been working in the jewelry industry for a very long time and wanted a change. Both of my parents wanted to travel more even though we were always going somewhere on vacation. We had to leave our house on LaReine Ave. in Bradley Beach and even though we were all excited, my brother and I were sad to leave our hometown and our house that we loved. We spent a few months looking at different kinds of RVs including Airstreams, fifth wheels, pop up campers, travel trailers, and finally settled on a 34-foot motorcoach. This RV has a bedroom in the back, a bathroom, and a kitchen/living room area.
I’ve learned a lot of things on the road. For example, I learned that seals and sea lions are completely different animals and are not interchangeable. Seals have no ears that you can see while sea lions do, and sea lions are loud. They yell a lot. I learned that otters swim on their backs and dive to the bottom of the water to pick up shells to eat. I learned that there are more than 40 waterfalls in North Georgia alone. I have visited at least seven of them so far. I hiked to the highest cliffs on the Eastern seaboard and although I didn’t feel well and wanted to give up halfway there, I didn’t give up. When we made it to the top, I was proud of myself for sticking it out and finishing the hike.
Life on the road takes some getting used to. It took me a few months to become comfortable walking around the woods alone, but eventually my brother Asher and I would take walks into the woods and build forts. We would use our bows and arrows for archery and we even got to shoot airsoft and bb guns. When we were in Northern California, my brother and I would take our two Australian Shepherds for walks on the dune preserve across from the resort we were at. I had never seen dunes like that before. They are very different from NJ beach dunes in the fact that they are massive. There are 170 acres of protected dunes at that resort alone. Our dogs, Jersey who is now 14 and Dani who is six, loved running over the dunes and down to the beach.
We traveled across the country from coast to coast about four times. We saw Roswell, NM; The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, MO; Pinnacles National Park, CA; the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA; Monterey Aquarium, Monterey, CA; Gray Whale of Catoosa, OK; Las Vegas, NV; Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TX; Blue Hole, NM; and many more places. I stood inside a redwood tree in Northern California and we surfed in Oceanside, California which was strange because it’s warm there but the water is always cold. We had to wear wetsuits in summer even though it was almost 100 degrees. I swam in “Blue Hole” which is a deep hole in the middle of the desert where people swim and scuba dive. The Blue Hole is a circular pool east of Santa Rosa, New Mexico. It is one of the most popular dive destinations in the US for SCUBA diving and training. The Blue Hole is an artesian well which is a well dug where there is water beneath the ground under pressure. When the pressure is enough the water fills the well. It is clear water with a constant 62 degree temperature. The surface is only 80 feet in diameter but it expands to a diameter of 130 feet at the bottom which is 80 feet deep.
We lived minimally, which means we only had a few items of clothing for each person and we all shared the same toiletries. When we lived in a house where we had at least four shampoos in our shower, but on the road we all shared the same one. We had to get used to compromising on what we all wanted to eat for dinner because we had a much smaller refrigerator and only one cabinet for food so everyone had to agree on the same thing. Most of the time we had no TV or wifi. We read lots of books and played board games like Battleship and Monopoly. Some of the books I read over our time on the road are I am Number Four, the Divergent series, the three Miss Peregrine’s books, Ready Player One, and many more. My brother learned to play a card game called Gin and he got so good that he beat my grandma when we got back to NJ.
The biggest negative about full-time traveling is having to be away from friends and family for so long. It was hard being away from my friends and knowing that their life was going on in NJ without me. I tried to stay in contact the best I could without reliable wifi. At the same time, it was an amazing experience because I got to see a lot of different places and things I never thought I would see. One of the best positives of full-time traveling is that we have the freedom to go where we want and that included being free to come spend five months here in NJ so I could graduate with my class who have mostly all been together since preschool.
Living back in a house is strange to me now and I am still getting used to it. My family has been living very close to each other in the RV and it’s strange to have our own space again. We plan to go back on the road at the end of June when school is over and head south to Georgia for the rest of the summer, then we don’t know what comes next after that. I can imagine taking my children on an adventure like this someday but at the same time I can also imagine a future where I live a “normal” life in a house. I think I would like to take my family on trips all over the country and also all over the world but I think I would do it on vacations instead of living on the road full time.
When I ask my parents why they decided to do this their answers are very in depth and extensive. For the sake of this article I asked my parents to give me a short answer and here’s what they said: “We decided to embark on this adventure because we wanted to show you and your brother that there are options. There are other ways to live besides the ‘brick and mortar’ house and the nine-to-five job. We wanted you to know that you can exist outside of the social norms if that is what you want to do. Parents tell their children that they can be anything they want when they grow up, but most don’t realize what that actually means. Hopefully this experience has opened your eyes to the extensive options available to your generation. We hope that it has taught you to think outside the box with the decisions you make about your life and your future. We hope it helps you understand the human condition, and if it eases the pressures of adulthood the slightest bit, it was worth it. If it doesn’t? Well, at least you got to see America!”