Traveling Big, Spending Small


Oh, the open road—listen to how lovingly she calls. After months of languishing in the dark of winter, I'm honestly so ready for a little warmth and sunshine. I know, I know: we all miss the sun, but, I've experienced this winter—and many before it—in a way that actually made it difficult for me to wake up and get moving normally some days. I suffered pretty severely from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or "SAD."

Definitely an ironic acronym, for sure, but the effects are also definitely real. The cold winter days affected my mood enough that it would leave me suffering from chronic fatigue, irritability, and restlessness. I mitigated the effects of these darker days by consistently visualizing where I'd travel to as soon as the weather would allow. Because I'm open about what I go through every year, and I've worked hard to develop a network of supportive people that have guided me through the process.

Thankfully, as soon as spring rolls around, I start to roll out of bed a little easier—and with a little more hope. Now that spring is finally springing; it's time for me to break out the back-country maps and fulfill all the travel plans I'd visualized over the winter. I can't think of a better time to take off into the beautiful Colorado mountains than when they've shaken off the snow and begin showing their true colors. After many a season of exploration, I've got a few tried and true techniques for venturing out successfully into the wild.


FINANCIALLY HOSTILE HOSTELS 
As I first discovered years ago that the amount of time I spent road-tripping and camping directly affected my ability to overcome my seasonal depression, I started looking for methods that could streamline my ability to head for the hills. After I considered the amount of time and money I had been spending at hotels or hostels—the check-in, the load in, and sometimes changing rooms because they hadn't been kept up to standard—I researched some more convenient camping and cross-country traveling options.

On journeys that included exclusive bus travel, I'd find myself exhausted just from lugging my gear so constantly during transfers; sometimes four transfers during a single trip! I'd also struggle with knowing that every dollar I'd spent on a room could have instead gone to food or gas. I tried to convince myself that the extra cost of lodging would be worth the quality sleep that I thought I'd be getting, but my head was usually too filled up with financial worries to allow me to recharge. I decided to take my travel living situation into my own hands and invest in a system that will enable me to invest in myself.

TRAILING TO THE TRAILS
I decided I wanted to keep my travel lodging accessible at all times: at first, I thought that I'd have to invest in a large, expensive, and difficult-to-maintain RV. I quickly learned that it wouldn't be financially viable for me to invest in a massive motorhome—nor did I want to. I wanted to minimize, not expand.  I looked into purchasing a truck and a truck-bed camper, but a truck wouldn't be feasible for my general commute, either. After months of searching, I settled on a teardrop trailer that I could haul with just my Honda. Although it was a substantial investment, the ease of hauling and movement is by far the most cost-effective strategy for my travel plans. A quality teardrop trailer is a safe, light-weight option that can be pulled by almost any vehicle. I tracked the trips I wanted to take over the coming years, and I would have spent over 10k on the hotels alone.


CAR TROUBLE? NOT TODAY, SATAN! 
Once you're ready to take the plunge and head towards adventure, my advice is to make sure your car is prepared to take the plunge as well. A blown head gasket is nothing to scoff at. Go through a checklist to make sure your vehicle has got the right levels of "glycerin in the gaseous pressure sensor tank"—-okay, okay, I totally made that phrase up, but I would have believed it to be entirely factual if I hadn't started paying attention to what my mechanic had to say about my vehicle at every tune-up. My car is my door to the open road, and taking care of it properly is of top priority to me.

YES, IN YOUR BACKYARD
With the ease of hauling my teardrop trailer, traveling doesn't mean I need to go too far out of state—or spend a vast fortune—to arrive at the places that energize my heart and mind. Staying closer to home will cut the costs and stresses of traveling over long distances. When I'm ready to get out on the road this spring and summer, I can basically point in any which direction, drive for six hours, and arrive at a destination that will uplift me.


Whether it's Wyoming, the deserts of Southern Utah, Arizona, or a mountain town in Colorado, the beauty of the Southwest will never cease to amaze me. After hibernating through a difficult winter, I'm ready to crawl out of my cave—and into my camper—to take on my next adventure.