For those of you who closely follow our Facebook page, you may have seen a post or two from See Simple Love in our feed. See Simple Love is a couple, Russ and Betsy Gibbons, who full-time in a Heartland Landmark 365 Charleston, aptly nicknamed "Charlie".
See Simple Love happened to be at the Florida RV SuperShow in Tampa last month. We got a chance to sit down with them at the show and chat about adjusting to life as full-timers, their first experience with Amazon CamperForce, and other RV-related topics.
At the time of our chat, See Simple Love had recently celebrated their 6-month "NOMADiversary", i.e. 6 months as full-timers. "We sold our house in April, hit the road in May," says Betsy. "So far its been good".
Prior to taking up the full-timer lifestyle, Russ spent 26 years working for Verizon, and Betsy operated a cupcake bakery. They lived in a 2,200 square-foot home in southeast Pennsylvania. Their path to full-timing started like many others: casual campers to a travel trailer to a fifth wheel and so on.
"We had 2 or 3 years where we had a travel trailer - just a basic [32-33 foot] travel trailer," Russ recalls. "We had a lot of family in New York, and they all camped. So we met a lot in Lancaster County. They would come from Hanover or New Oxford, and we met them a lot in that area or we'd go to the beach in either New Jersey or Maryland or Delaware. We spent a couple of summers as a group. And we'd show up, we'd have 6-8 campers. So that was fun. After a summer or two, we were like 'wow, we could live in this'".
"I didn't think I would like to camp because it was so much work to prepare to go," adds Betsy. "We worked all week, we worked long hours, but when we had the travel trailer - and we had everything in it - it was easy. All I had to do was grab my clothes and my food. That's when we realized, 'Oh, I can do this'".
"We kind of did a test trip. We were in our travel trailer for 2 weeks," says Betsy. "It was funny, we were like 'we have everything we need here, why do we need to go home?' We knew we could do it. That would have been 2014".
Russ and Betsy attended the RV-Dreams Spring Educational Rally in 2015. "That was the big turning point," says Russ. "We had already kind of decided [to go full-time], but that was nuts and bolts: 'what do we have to do? how do we get an address? where do you stay?' That kind of stuff".
The couple started working through the "nuts and bolts", and the turn around from there was pretty quick. "Getting rid of a business was part of our process," Russ says. "She closed [the bakery] Christmas Eve, and then in May, we were gone. We sold our house in like 2 weeks and had 3 weeks to get out of it. It was much quicker than we expected. We had envisioned spending the summer working through that process".
When the Gibbons put their sticks-and-bricks house in their rearview mirror, they were in a 2005 DRV Luxury Suites, similar to the one made famous by Mortons on the Move. After a couple of months in the DRV full-time, they swapped it for Charlie. Moving from one RV to another proved to be a bit of an ordeal. Their DRV and Landmark were parked side-by-side at an Elkhart, IN, RV dealership, and they moved everything they owned from one fifth wheel to the other. "When we moved into the DRV we took a couple of weeks. Then we had to do it all in 10 hours," Betsy remembers.
"We're still kinda figuring out which way do you do it," Betsy says of transitioning to life as a full-timer. "We try to remain fluid, but sometimes you get a little antsy," adds Russ. "You wake up and you're like, 'Wow, we don't have anywhere to stay tonight. We have to be out of this site and we don't have another place to go.' And it always works out".
"Do you find some place and say, 'I want to go there'?" says Betsy. "The same with workamping jobs: do we say, 'just go to any job that we find that we like,' or do we say, 'we want to be here,' and then look for a job in the area?"
Their first workamping gig was at an Amazon fulfillment center in Campbellsville, KY - a popular, though physically demanding, job among full-timers. "We thought we'd jump right in," Russ says with a chuckle. "They treat you well though. We were impressed. They have it down, from on-boarding you, to training you, to treating you well. They have it figured out. There were 600 just in our or warehouse, and they do a couple of thousand over the country".
"I mean, we were still glad to be done," says Betsy of the Amazon gig. "It was nice to be able to come home to our Charlie and relax a little bit". The couple clocked nearly 2 million steps and almost 1,000 miles during their stint at Amazon.
"We probably won't do that every year," Betsy says. "We would have no problem going back if it fit in our schedule and we were going through one of the areas that have it, we would do it".
The next job they have lined up is up in the New England area. "We're headed up to Maine next summer," Betsy says. "We're looking forward to checking out some of that part of the country".
"We're at a kayak and bike rental company up in Bar Harbor," adds Russ. "That'll be a lot less walking. Throwing people in the river in kayaks - I can do that".
But first, they wanted to experience a little more of the Sunshine State. Following the Florida RV SuperShow, See Simple Love was headed to Cudjoe Key - to a waterfront campground - for a little vacation and to further explore Florida. Betsy's parents got the couple a National Parks pass for Christmas, so the two hope to explore more National Parks, like Biscayne Bay, Dry Tortugas, and Acadia, in 2017. And they want to hit a lot of spots in the eastern United States before they venture out west.
"I'm afraid once I get out West I might never come back," Betsy admits. "Let's get the New England states out of the way because there's a chance I might not be back."
Though See Simple Love think they may put down roots out West, they don't see themselves going back to a stick-and-brick house anytime soon - if ever. "I think, right now - and it probably changes weekly or monthly - I could see 3-5 years being completely mobile," Russ says. "Hopefully, in that time, you get to some place, but when I say 'a place' I mean an RV lot. I don't mean a house. I could see having a lot in Arizona that we go to every winter, but pulling it out and spending the summer somewhere. But a house, nope, nah…"
It would seem Russ and Betsy are taking to full-timing just fine. "We've learned to enjoy the whole industry," Russ says. "We're learning more about the campground industry. I became an RV inspector. I'm going to start a business to do that. There's so many angles". They're also considering making some upgrades to Charlie, like adding batteries and maybe solar to their Landmark for more capable boondocking. Betsy is also interested in getting a hammock attachment for their 5th wheel.