The rumors are true: after 439 days on the road, we’ve decided to buy a home and put down some roots. We’ve purchased a lovely little house on 5 acres in northern Idaho.
Earlier this spring, we started talking about what we’d do in 2017. After finishing our loop across the American West, what did we want to do? Visit the East coast? Go international?
At first, we started to seriously consider heading to Mexico and Central America for January through March. Leave the trailer somewhere in San Diego after Christmas, fly south, then head back once it starts to warm up. We’d also been talking about buying some land somewhere north – Idaho, Washington, Montana, or somewhere in there. We loved our time in Montana last summer and it’d be fun to have a little place to retreat to in the summer.
So we figured we’d visit Idaho later this summer, maybe buy some bare land, then return to it next year to build something small like a yurt or a tiny house. It’d be a great place to return to each summer and slowly build it out over the coming years.
Then something changed. Well, a few things, really. First, Erin and I started to feel the squeeze of living in the trailer with 3 kids. This happened to us last spring, too – days and days of rain with nowhere to escape to. I had trouble working at home with all the kids inside. Erin was having trouble keeping things clean and finding her alone time.
But we also knew from last summer that this difficulty would pass. Last year, after a month of rain in Colorado, we entered Wyoming in June and things turned around for us. So we weren’t worried. We knew our springtime blues would go away. We made plans to meet up with friends in Moab and kept on rolling.
We also had some travel planned: I had two work trips and Erin was taking the kids to visit Grandma in San Diego. We assumed these trips would give us a much-needed boost, but instead, we came home to more troubles. While away, someone stole the tailgate off our truck. They also stole our ground-deploy solar panels and most of my tools. We’ve always been so good at ensuring the back of the truck was locked up, but we blanked this one time and we paid for it.
We tried to shake it and headed for Bryce Canyon National Park. More rain and cold temps came. We were camped in the shade and couldn’t get sun without our freshly-stolen solar panel. To make it worse, our converter wasn’t working (which allows you to charge your batteries from a generator), so our power was dwindling. The blues returned in full force.
Then, we noticed something in our kids. We took them to Bryce one day for a beautiful hike, but we noticed their malaise. What once was excitement about visiting a National Park was now boredom. Visiting Parks and exploring new places had become common-place for them. This was the first time we’d seen this in them. Over the next few days, we began to get their opinions on where we were and where we were headed. We’d always promised ourselves we’d pay close attention to our kids and never force them to travel if they didn’t want to.
They were tired, too. Their dreams were no longer open roads, but were dreams of having their own rooms, building a tree house, having a dog, and taking dance lessons. They missed having friends and wanted some level of stability.
Erin and I stayed up late for a few nights and mulled all of this over. It was really really hard to admit that we might need to take a break. We’ve loved being on the road. So many great memories, new friends, and more adventure than we’ve had in our entire lives. We’ve been advocates of this lifestyle to friends and family – how could we leave the road and not sound like hypocrites?
We caught ourselves elevating the concerns of our community over the needs of our family. We shook that off and saw clearly that what our family needed was a home – one without wheels.
But we also knew that being cooped up and stuck in one place wouldn’t work for us either. We needed three things:
- A home with land. Plenty of space for our kids to roam. They do so great outside and we didn’t want that to change.
- A home that was centrally located to lots of places we loved. Idaho was top of our list because of its location to Washington, Oregon, Canada, and Montana.
- A home that provided for our family, but continued our desires to live simply and beneath our means. We still want to travel with our family and want to ensure we don’t buy some 5,000sqft monster that would make us house poor.
We agreed that Northern Idaho fit the bill. We’d already been doing a ton of research on the area and felt it might be a good place to settle down.
So we told our friends in Moab we wouldn’t be heading that way. Instead, we hurried north through Salt Lake City and west over to Boise.
My Own Private Idaho
While we waited for our truck to have its tailgate replaced in Boise, we began to put on our sleuthing hats. We started taking long drives around the city and countryside. We had our hearts set on northern Idaho, but maybe Boise would fit the bill. While we loved the downtown area and surrounding foothills, Boise wasn’t quite what we were looking for. So after the truck was fixed, we headed north for Memorial Day Weekend.
The beauty of Idaho really came alive to us on that drive. It was gorgeous. Large forests, wide open spaces, lakes and rivers. It certainly wasn’t the Southern California coast that we both grew up with, but it was definitely the kind of place we saw ourselves enjoying for years to come.
We settled into a National Forest campsite on the east side of Couer D’Alene. We enjoyed a few days exploring and getting to know the town, but quickly decided it wasn’t the right spot. CDA felt a lot like Lake Tahoe to us – a seasonal town with lots of money and lacking the community we were looking for.
So that left one more town on our list: Sandpoint. To be honest, this was a lot of pressure to put on one little town. What if we didn’t like it? What would be do? Scrap the plan and just head to Washington? We had to leave our options open – we didn’t want to force ourselves into a bad decision. So we drove north with an open mind.
Finding The Spot
The first few days in Sandpoint were very weird. We had built things up so much in our minds that we kind of screwed ourselves over. It was incredibly difficult to evaluate a place that had been so idealized. We both agreed we needed to drop all our preconceived notions and look at it with fresh eyes.
Once we did, we fell in love. Now, I don’t want to sing the praises of Sandpoint too much. If I did, everyone would move here and it would lose its small town charm. So I’ll just tell you that it fit us great. Small town, wide open spaces, close to lots of outdoor adventures. We started getting excited.
We called up a realtor that was recommended to us – someone who specialized in off-grid and rural properties. We drove around much of the area last week. We saw a lot of old, run-down houses. We saw a few gorgeous houses, but with terrible locations. We were disappointed. But the last house of the day was different. It was exactly what we had dreamed of: 5 acres for the kids to run around on, a creek and well providing off-grid water, and located close enough to town for church and gymnastics. And not too big or too expensive that it would cripple us financially. We pulled the trigger and signed an accepted offer.
We’ll roam around Idaho in our trailer during escrow, then grab the keys on closing, and pull up to the house to unload our few possessions. Then we’ll head to Costco to find some mattresses.
Does this mean we’re done? Our adventure is over? Was our journey a failure?
A resounding “NO” to all points.
For that time, being on the road was exactly what we needed. We’ve got the pictures, Junior Ranger badges, and memories to prove it. Our family grew closer than ever and we learned a lot about ourselves.
And the adventure continues – right outside our front door. Our house is located near thousands of acres of National Forest land. We’re 45 minutes from ski slopes, 5 hours to Banff, 3.5 hours to Glacier National Park, and so much more. And now my kids will get that tree house they’ve been begging for, I get that dog I’ve wanted, and Erin gets the garden and chickens she’s been dreaming of.
And if we get the itch again? We’ll hit the road. We definitely see ourselves journeying to grandmas house in the winter, exploring the Pacific NW, or visiting Canadian wine country to our north. We may be done with full-time travel, but we’re not done exploring this big beautiful world around us.