How Ordinary People Found Extraordinary Life on the Road: The Journey Begins

Kristi Buttles
8 min readOct 9, 2021
Gunnison National Park, CO (Photo cred: A nice passer-by who didn’t exchange names, only cameras)

Hi! We’re Bruce and Kristi. He’s a digital nomad and Air Force veteran. I’m a writer and own my own business. We are blessed with three grown children and a 15 year-old, Havanese fur baby, Precious. We’ve been married 31 years and prove opposites attract. His passions are snow skiing, cars, fixing things, football, and dad jokes. My passions are writing, photography, friendships, animals, and our Puffy bed. He’s an extrovert, I’m an introvert. He’s four-star spicy, I’m maybe a one-star. He loves winter, I hate the cold. He prefers mountains and I prefer the beach. He’s from the North, I’m from the South. He drinks strong coffee every single day. I don’t like coffee except for an annual Starbucks’ decaf caramel macchiato. He easily takes risks, I need assurance. He is spontaneous, I like structure. He jumps first while I’m asking a million questions. He’s the fun one at the party, and I’m the one who planned, shopped, prepped for, and made the party happen in the first place.

We have in common: a love for God, family, friends, those we serve worldwide, our country, our church, volunteering, teamwork, travel, hiking, water sports, trying new foods, celebrating holidays, movies, games, experiencing other cultures, a good alien conspiracy, a challenge, and an insatiable curiosity for life. We are equally strong, independent, competitive, and stubborn at times. We laugh, discuss deep things, and respect each other. We also butt heads and agree to disagree when needed. We forgive each other — like the time I accidentally got the razor blade numbers backwards while cutting his hair and gave him a mullet the night before a big work conference video call; or when I said not to take the shortcut through the unfamiliar mountain pass in the dark and he did anyway and got us in a pretty precarious position. It’s all good.

Together, we live to love God, love and serve others, work hard, explore the world, see humor in everything, leave things better than how we found them, and would spend every day with our adult kids and their loves if they would let us. We’ve also been known to take on projects bigger than us (built a home, relocated out-of-state, renovated a home, travel internationally with our — then younger — kids to some challenging places to do hard things to help others, and took an alligator air boat ride that, looking back, wasn’t our shining parent moment of safety or reason).

Guests at our wedding took bets on how long we’d last. Sure, I was only 19 and he was 23, but who takes bets at the wedding? At this point, I think we win the pool. RV life may be one of our biggest undertakings yet, but we love it! Here’s how it all started…

Like everyone else in 2020, Bruce and I looked at each other and said, “How are we going to survive this Coronavirus insanity?”

He was wrapping up a two-year, out-of-state work commitment a week before the country’s lock down.

During those two years, my mother-in-law, Nana, moved to us from out-of-state for what was supposed to be a golden retirement. Two weeks before she arrived, Bruce began his new job 10 hours away in Kentucky. She suffered numerous medical issues before Angiosarcoma unexpectedly set in after receiving radiation for breast cancer seven years earlier. By the time it was found it was too late despite our efforts and a negligent misdiagnosis. Within three months of her mastectomy, as a last-ditch effort to save her life, the anesthesia from the surgery ignited dementia into Alzheimer’s and she had to move into an assisted living facility.

Bruce and his mom’s last cup of coffee together (Photo cred: Author)

Nana passed away a week-and-a-half before her facility went into COVID-19 lock down and I had to clear out her apartment within the facility’s one-week grace-period.

On the last haul, I loaded the remaining items in my car when the phone rang. It was my daughter. Her boyfriend had just been T-boned in a bad car accident through no fault of his own. She was at work and couldn’t leave and asked if I could go to him across town. Absolutely! With Nana’s things in tow, I headed toward him to see if he was okay.

In the meantime, our youngest son in college came home for spring break … and never went back to classes on campus for the remaining semester. His university closed for COVID-19 lock down during break, so he and I had to move him out within 48 hours.

Moving out of his dorm Photo cred: (Author)

This was an unexpected and disappointing finish to his freshman year on campus, and we were hanging on for the ride like everyone else. Classes went remote online as students everywhere tried to cope with a new normal in a world where nothing was normal.

Photo cred: Author

Bruce’s work also went remote due to COVID-19, and we moved him out of his Kentucky apartment a week before lock down and only days after Nana passed away.

Photo cred: Author

The physical move during the beginnings of COVID-19 felt surreal. Some restaurants were open, others were not, and we couldn’t understand why. The work crowd was nowhere to be found. Even the air felt eerie. The vibe was janky, off-kilter. Everything felt a little sideways.

Photo cred: Author

Still, we were thrilled to have him home again full-time despite the strange circumstances of COVID-19.

Homeward bound! Photo cred: Author

The atmosphere that weekend felt like the time we were in NYC a few years after 9/11 and we walked to where the Twin Towers fell. The air was electric with an impending storm. Trash blew in micro tornado swirls in the street. No one was around. Damage to nearby buildings was still evident. It felt like the world had ended.

Now, in 2020, it felt like the world was ending all over again. Our world was changing with every pounding, anxious heartbeat, but time kept ticking.

Our 30th anniversary greeted us a few days after returning from Kentucky and we celebrated quietly at home. Our plans were to be somewhere that required a passport, but …

Our St. Patrick anniversary dinner. Photo cred: Author

We tried our best to stay busy at home during the dog days of summer. We played games, Precious took up yoga with me, and we got sucked into to watching Tiger King.

Competitive game of Othello Photo cred: Author
Precious and I practicing yoga (Photo cred: Author)

Our oldest son moved into an apartment. Our daughter moved away long-distance. We moved our youngest back to college for his sophomore year during that one summer. Grieving a deafeningly quiet home, plus the loss of Nana and all of the stress from trying to living in a COVID-19 world, we didn’t know how to even see the future, much less moved toward it.

With Nana’s memorial service on an indefinite hold due to COVID-19, the world stopped in its tracks, and our three grown children living in different cities and states, Bruce and I were full of emotion and numb at the same time. So much radical change in such a short time left us, like everyone else, unsettled and with no daily rhythm.

Enter the RV.

We were mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. Our family went through three move-outs within two weeks while trying to catch every new update on COVID-19 and find toilet paper along with everyone else. It was disorienting to say the least.

Our local store (Photo cred: Author)

I was also processing the news of my recent autism diagnosis at 51 and, honestly, one more change wasn’t exactly welcome with me — not even good, positive change. I wanted life to sit still, even for a second, so I could catch my breath.

To my surprise, Bruce proposed the idea of buying an RV over a casual dinner one night. I thought he was crazy. Sure, it’s something people want to do, but I was in the camp that it would never happen to us (and it’s the opposite of sitting still).

Keeping an open mind, we played around with some websites and took some tours and test drives just for fun. I wasn’t committed in the least at that point. However, it was a desperate attempt to get out of the house, though I had never stepped foot into an RV.

Touring RV’s (Photo cred: Author)

I’ll admit, window shopping was fun. Whose inner child doesn’t like the idea of a clubhouse on wheels? RV’s have everything you need only on a tiny scale. The oven looked like an Easy-Bake oven from my childhood. There was a bed, kitchen, bathroom, and even a gas stove. That’s all we needed and I was in love! We stumbled on a website that gave us a ridiculous online price for the model which best fit our needs. It was far less than we ever imagined, even less than some common cars on the road. We hit the RV market just before it exploded, but the buying process wasn’t without D.R.A.M.A. That story is next.

Most people plan for a life-change like this long in advance. For many, an RV is a dream come true, but for us it was a spontaneous escape. I borrowed Bruce’s courage and we took a leap of faith and jumped!

We’ve been traveling part-time for 10 months now and have logged over 25,000 miles in our RV. We’ve learned so much about RV’s, travel life, America, our marriage, each other, and ourselves.

We’ve enjoyed many mountaintop highs, endured some valley lows, and are learning to manage the miles of mundane in between, both metaphorically and literally. We hope our journey inspires others to go for their dreams or take a chance, and if we can share some helpful information along the way then all the better.

Join us for the good, the bad, and the RV life. Let’s go!

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