Meet Susan Strayer also known as ‘Mountain Mom,’ an outdoors enthusiast from Utah, mother of three, and author of the MountainMomandTots.com, a blog designed to encourage young families to explore the outdoors. Susan and her husband, James, (aka Mountain Dad), launched in September a one-year-long RV trip across North America along with their underage children. We’ve talked with Susan about the chief challenges posed by such an adventure and how her family managed to overcome them. If a full-time RV road trip seems too extreme to you, you can always explore Susan’s blog for expert advice on camping, hiking, biking, and winter sports or enroll in one of her exclusive online courses.
Susan Strayer aka ‘Mountain Mom,’
1. When did you decide to start this journey: A year-long, full-time RV trip?
Through my blog MountainMomandTots.com I’ve been able to get to know a lot of amazing outdoor families, including several who live full time in their camper trailers. Reading their posts and getting to know them made me feel a bit jealous – they had all this freedom to go wherever they wanted in the world. I knew I wanted a piece of that freedom as well.
Well in 2016, my family went on a National Park-to-Park Highway trip to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park System. It was seven weeks, 7,000 miles through some of the most iconic outdoor spaces in the western US. We lived out of the back of our pickup truck with our three small kids and while we really enjoyed that trip the logistics of truck camping as a family got really tough after a while. After that trip, both my husband and I said we would like a camper or RV vehicle for any other long-term adventures.
Since then, we’ve made some financial changes in our life which gave us more flexibility and the opportunity to take a year off and travel around the US. We have decided now is the time to go while our kids are still young and we have the energy to go on hikes and bike rides with them. It seems like a lot of full-time traveling households are retirees and we didn’t want to wait until then to see the nation.
2. How did you prepare for this trip and how long did it take?
That’s a tough question to answer. If you count our National Park-to-Park Highway trip as a practice round, we’ve been preparing for this trip for over two years. But actually we started talking seriously about living full time on the road about a year before we started.
There’s lots of logistics to figure out. What camper did we want? Where will we go? What will we do about school? What will we do with our house? How will we afford the trip?
Once those were decided there were tasks we had to complete. Finishing home renovations so we could rent out our house while on the road. Selling or giving away items to have a more minimalist lifestyle. Choosing homeschooling books and resources. Getting the kids excited. Updating MountainMomandTots.com.
I wrote about some of our preparations here: https://www.mountainmomandtots.com/2018/09/full-time-rv-living-frequently-asked-questions/
3. Which are your favorite places for hiking and camping so far?
On this first section of the trip, we went from Utah across the midwest and up to Maine and then down the Atlantic coast. So far we have enjoyed visiting historical sites for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, biking the Tow Path in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, watching the fall colors change in the Adirondacks in New York and Vermont, eating fresh lobster in Maine, learning about American History in Boston, Pennsylvania, and Washington DC, and spending lots of time at the beach in Maryland and South Carolina.
We hiked along the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park, which was really cool since thousands of people thru hike there each year, but so far my favorite places have been at the beach. The mountains will always be my favorite (hence being Mountain Mom) but Mountain Dad and my son Big E love the ocean.
4. And a question many people ask: What are you eating? Do you make supplies, use dehydrated foods?
We are pretty lucky since our camper trailer has a full kitchen with a fridge, freezer, propane stove top, oven, even a microwave. The microwave only works if our trailer is plugged into an outlet or our generator, though, so we don’t count on using that.
We eat the same kinds of meals we would eat at home, but we mix in some dutch oven meals and roasting marshmallows over the fire of course. Some of our favorites are quesadillas, pancakes, potato soup, and chicken and rice.
When we are on the road we usually have one day a week to do all the real-life errands like laundry and grocery shopping. We restock our “pantry” with the foods I know my family will eat – cereal, oatmeal, pancake mix, rice, dried beans, pasta, soup, canned fruit/veggies, tortilla chips. My son has severe food allergies to wheat, eggs, nuts, and peanuts so we very rarely eat out. It’s important to me to have plenty of meal options I know he can eat.
When you know some basics about outdoor cooking it’s easy to adapt the food you have with the cooking options available.
I’m actually developing on online course on outdoor cooking with a blogger friend of mine – www.SimpleOutdoorCooking.com.
5. What advice do you have for those who want to go into an adventure like yours but don’t have the courage?
I don’t think it’s a matter of courage, honestly. I think if you want to go into an adventure of any size it starts with deciding to do it. Once you’ve decided then I recommend writing a list of 100 steps that need to happen to turn that adventure into reality. This is a skill a therapist friend taught me.
If you have to write out 100 steps for anything you start breaking a large, daunting task into smaller, manageable pieces. Since you have to have 100 steps, some of the steps might be as simple as:
- Turn on computer
- Search for full time RV living tips
- Ask my family members what they think of the idea
I hope many people who want to have outdoor adventures do it!
6. Tell us about your monthly outdoor challenges.
My goal with MountainMomandTots.com is to help families explore outdoors, even in simple ways. So in 2017, I started hosting monthly challenges for anyone who wants to participate. Each month’s challenge is:
- Free or inexpensive
- Requires you to get outdoors
- Something kids can participate in
Plus there are prizes! Anyone who wants to join is welcome. Just sign up at www.mountainmomandtots.com/challenge.
Have you enjoyed our interview with Mountain Mom on the challenges of a year-long RV trip? It looks doable even with three kids, right? Just keep the 100-step rule in sight and you’re set. Leave your thoughts below. We’d love to hear from you even if you may be just a closet outdoors enthusiast for now.