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In Season One of my first year RVing around North America I learned so many different things about myself and what I’m capable of doing with my life. This experience of traveling all over the country has pushed me into this part of my life I never knew could exist.

The last year has been a powerful opportunity to learn, grow, adapt, and literally transform my life and I love that I get to share it all with you.

My hope is that if you’re reading this that you garner something from it that you can take and use in your own life – to create your own transformation that allows you to live at your fullest.

To live your best life.

Just after I purchased the new Hymer Aktiv – I headed to Colorado to explore and landed at Mesa Verde National Park for some rest, relaxation, and a tour around the cliff dwellings.

Mesa Verde National Park

Morefield Campground in Mesa Verde National Park

You know me, I typically go for the free overnight places, however in the new camper van, showering is underwhelming so I’d much prefer to take a shower in the campground. Plus I needed to dump the tanks and fill up on water.

So, I opted to go ahead and spend the night at the Morefield Campground within the Mesa Verde National Park. I also opted for the cheapest option of dispersed camping, which was still $30 per night.

It was quiet and in a really beautiful area close to the scenic loop around the national park. I love how well-kept the area was, including the showers.

Amber Baldwin - Mesa Verde NP

The shower was simply amazing with piping hot water. No military shower for me this time! It was such a treat to stand under the hot water and feel it cleansing my skin after scrubbing it with soap.

What a great feeling.

Morefield Campground also had a small shop for your typical National Park souvenirs and some grocery items along with a little outdoor cafe and all-you-can-eat-pancakes for breakfast.

The first day I arrived I decided to stay at the campground, shower, and get a good nights rest before making a day trip around the national park and scenic loops.

Hymer and Lily Back door screen

Mesa Verde National Park Scenic Loop

Caution to RVers in Trailers on the Scenic Loop

I arrived at the Mesa Verde National Park during the off-season so some of the tours into the cliff dwellings were still closed. You aren’t actually allowed to walk through the dwellings on your own without a tour guide.

You can purchase tickets at the front entrance into the national park for any of the tours during peak season.

It’s quite a climb in the RV through the winding, steep roads to get to the actual cliff dwellings. Any RV should be able to get around – I’ve seen tour buses up there – but just know that parking spaces will be more limited. You also cannot pull a trailer through the park.

Mesa Verde Cliffs

If you’re here just for the day and have a trailer, you can unhook at the base of the national park in the designated area for trailers and then complete the scenic loop in your passenger vehicle.

Mesa Verde National Park Cliff Dwellings

One of the first places I arrived on the loop was at Cliff Palace which contained 150 rooms and 23 kivas built into the side of the cliff. During its population, it housed approximately 100 people and is thought that Cliff Palace was primarily used as a social and administrative site that conducted more ceremonial activities during its time.

Cliff Dwellings Colorado

Cliff Palace Cliff Dwellings

One of the things I noticed about the dwellings throughout were the openings to enter the dwellings were rather short. It appears the cliff dwellings were made for people who were shorter during that time period.

Mesa Verde National Park Cliff Dwellings2

Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings

An average man was about 5'4″ tall, and an average woman was approximately 5′. The Pueblo people's average life span was pretty short, due to a higher rate of infant mortality so most people lived an average of 33 years which is skewed by the fact that many children didn’t live past 5 years of age.

Mesa Verde NP Cliff Dwelling

Mesa Verde NP Cliff Dwelling 2

Can you imagine living such a short life? I feel like it’s short enough already. At 33 you’re just getting started. Though I suppose times back then were more difficult to live in with disease, little medicine, tribal wars, and constant threat from enemies domestic and foreign.

Seeing the history of this land always makes me thankful for what I’ve been given and to live in a more modern society where I can travel in my RV and live mostly how I choose. I say mostly because there are laws and rules in our countries, some of which I don’t agree with, but we will never agree 100% agree with everything.

So I live within those rules and as free as I possibly can.

Ahh…..freedom. Well that leads me into my next topic of wrapping up what I learned in my first year of RVing. I just celebrated my one year nomadiversary on May 8, 2018.

What I Learned in my First Year of RVing

Can you believe it’s been one year already? Time seems to have flown by at lightening speed this last year. I packed in an abundance of traveling, activities, and lessons during this last year.

In my first year of RVing around North America I learned:

  1. Living my best life
  2. I’m Happier
  3. More social
  4. Experiencing world
  5. Transformational
  6. Love this life
  7. More adaptable
  8. Vulnerability
  9. Trust instincts
  10. Love minimalistic lifestyle
  11. Restored faith in humanity
  12. Overcame fears
  13. Slow down and enjoy the moments (driving slower)
  14. Appreciation & Gratitude
  15. Flexible & spontaneous
  16. Living My Best Life

In learning more about how to live my best life, just the simple act of deciding to RV and sell my home and all its belongings was part of the mindset to live my life differently. I wanted to live life more fully rather than working all the time and dedicating my spare time to the house and yard.

I wanted my focus to be on creating more experiences and moments – my collective stories – hence the name Story Chasing.

I’m Happier

Okay, truth time. Before I started down this road a year ago, when I was just thinking about the prospect of RVing full-time, I wasn’t 100% sure I’d like it. I knew I loved road trips and site seeing, but I had doubts. The doubts were really just me questioning myself.

This was a big step to sell my house and all my belongings. I took a gamble that I would love it. Thankfully that gamble – albeit I was about 98% sure I would love it – paid off and I do love this life.

More than any other time in my life, I feel at peace and at home. I’m apparently a nomad at heart. I hate moving, but I think that’s because of all the “stuff” that comes along with moving. Packing, unpacking, and then doing it all over again.

Now – no more packing. Just put the gear shift into drive and roll away with all my stuff still in its place.

Amber Baldwin Niagara Falls Road Trip in RV

Cycling to Niagara Falls in New York

I’m More Social Now

While I love having my me time and traveling solo I love the people who I meet on the road whether it’s in a store, a campground, hiking, GETTING STUCK, or through some of the RV clubs.

My new camper van especially attracts more attention and consequently sparks conversations about how I travel full-time and how I’m able to live this kind of life. It’s a pretty amazing feeling to get a glimpse into other people's lives as well and share with them my experiences and help them to also overcome some of their challenges that keep them from living their best life.

Solo women RVers Moab

Xscapers Convergence in Moab, Utah – Just us solo ladies

Experiencing More of the World

I truly feel like I am story chasing and collecting these beautiful moments with the experiences that keep coming my way. In the past I didn’t think I’d be able to live this life until I retired, but to be able to live this freedom now and see our beautiful lands, explore historical sites, and meet people of all different cultures is just a truly gratifying moment!

I’ve learned so much in just the last year about our history and especially to see how people live in regions around North America. I get excited to visit these places and immerse myself in that area and talk to the locals.

Quartier Petit Champlain Shopping 2

Strolling through Old Quebec City in Quebec, Canada

 

Cape Breton Island Cliffs

Touring Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia

 

Cadillac Mountain Sunrise

Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain in Maine

Traveling has been a Transformational Experience and Restored Faith in Humanity

Merriam-Webster defines the word transform as, “to change in condition, nature, or character; convert”.

My transformation experience in traveling has absolutely changed me. It’s changed my emotional state. I’m more happy, less stressed and just overall more joyful.

Traveling and doing this “thing” of RVing that brings joy to my life has changed my outlook on humans. The media would have you believe there is so much to fear in our world and I truly believe that keeps people from living out their dreams. It almost killed mine.

I have discovered that most people are genuinely good and nice and willing to help. It has absolutely restored my faith in humanity and I no longer watch media news and instead read if I want to get the news.

Look, I’m not saying there aren’t bad people or bad things that happen, I’m just saying that my focus is on the good and that’s what I tend to receive – the good.

What you focus on is typically what you’ll get in life.

What do you focus on?

Lake Havasu Thanksgiving Friends

Thanksgiving with new friends in Lake Havasu

Learned More on Adaptability, Flexibility, and Spontaneity

I learned how to adapt better and not get stressed out when a challenge occurs. For instance, the weather always changes and in an RV, well, you have to adapt, get out of the way, and learn to live with the weather.

You’re more one with the weather so if it’s hot outside, it’s going to be hot in the RV. If it’s cold, well it will be cold in the RV. If it’s windy, like it was in the Southwest for most of the winter, your RV is going shake and you’re going to get dirt all in the RV if you’re in the desert.

Breakwater & Lighthouse8

I had to learn to quit being such a clean freak about the dust. I still clean it up daily, or every other day sometimes, but it’s there. Bugs too. Bugs come in. They crawl on the RV. They are also adapting as well by trying to take shelter or search for food in my RV. So I had to learn to not be so freaked out if I saw a bug or bee.

Yeah, I know, that probably seems weird about the bugs, but I lived in this nice, stale, city environment my whole life, though I love nature – I just didn’t like dealing with the little pests that want to come live with me. Like the mouse that invaded my first RV and chewed up everything it could find. I haven’t adapted to those things and they will never live in my home if I can find it.

Mice – you've been warned.

Learning to be More Vulnerable and Trust My Instincts

So this one can be difficult. Though I had been on the quest to be more vulnerable for years, there are things that you choose to “let out” and those that you keep inside.

Creating a YouTube channel and putting myself out there on YouTube has been a HUGE vulnerable moment. Have you seen the trolls that comment? It’s ridiculous. Thankfully my skin has toughened up over the years – literally toughened up from those dry deserts – so I can let a lot of things roll, but seriously, the energy these people put into making stupid comments is literally more than I can comprehend. If they put that much energy into being positive and building people up, they might, themselves, be more happy and live a more fulfilling life.

Delete – is what I do with their comments.

Living a Minimalistic Lifestyle

This is one of my favorites. Literally everything I own is in my van. I didn’t rent a storage and store a bunch of things in it before transitioning to this life.

It makes me feel even more free to not carry around a lot of things and also to not feel the need to buy anything.

I have exactly what I need and enjoy and the rest of my life is filled with creating stories and moments in my travels and meeting people. That’s the “stuff” I like. No need to get a storage for that. It’s documented in my blog, on my YouTube channel, and in my brain.

Downsizing this much has been a surprisingly joyful creation to live with only what I really need. I got rid of the 30 pairs of socks that I didn’t need. How many socks can one really wear at a given time? Especially when most were just plain ‘ole white athletic socks.

Goodwill made a small fortune off of me! Not just from the socks, okay I didn’t have that many socks that Goodwill could get super rich, but along with all the other stuff I was lugging around from place-to-place.

Learned to Overcome Fears

Overcoming fears has been HUGE for me over the last year.

First I was fearful of traveling as a solo woman in an RV. It almost kept me from living out my dream, but then I decided I had to move through this fear and just do it.

So that’s when I bought the RV and sold everything to fulfill this lifelong dream of traveling across North America and then beyond that in the future.

I was also super nervous about staying by myself somewhere boondocking at night, in the woods, where it’s really dark. This one took me a little bit of time to get through, but after each experience of just staying by myself somewhere, I started to feel better and better and less fear. Now it doesn’t seem like any big deal at all. I love it!

Amazing how this gripping fear of something turned into this beautiful moment of love and appreciation.

On the other side of fear is your greatest success!

Learning to Slow Down and Enjoy Life

Slowing down has been difficult. I'm still a work in progress on this one.

I’ve been going so fast for so long that I feel like my brain was just permanently hard-wired to stay that way. It’s taken me the better part of the year to slow down and relax and to enjoy what’s in front of me.

I still don’t have this one down, but I’m getting better at it.

All those years of commuting to work and then commuting back home and then starting it all over again the next day really took a toll on me.

The RV actually forces me to slow down – since it’s larger and needs more time to stop – more as well and really enjoy my surroundings.

My meditations have helped as well with learning to slow down some more, but I’m not there just yet.

Learning to Appreciate and Show Gratitude

I think because I wasn’t slowing down before it was hard to take notice of the things I was grateful for in my life.  I’ve been meditating for a while and writing in a journal about gratitude prior to this RV life, but it’s different now.

The appreciation and gratitude are more heartfelt and real. I cannot even count how many times I’ve been driving or standing in front of something so profoundly beautiful that my eyes welled up with tears in that moment.

It renders me speechless and I feel so humbled by the awesomeness of these lands – of the mountains, the waters, meadows, hills, and even the desert which I hated in the past.

It’s almost like the gratitude is tangible. I can feel it. I’m no longer numb with busy-ness.

Devils Tower Prayer Cloths

I can't wait to see what happens in Season 2 as I learn more about myself, my traveling, story chasing, and creating more beautiful moments that will last a lifetime.

What do you focus on? Do you dwell on the past or do you actively create, in your mind, what the present and future look like? I'll be discussing this topic soon.

Overnights & Places Visited

Overnights/Cost: 

  • Morefield Campground at Mesa Verde National Park/$30 for dry camping per night

Places Visited/Cost:

  • Mesa Verde National Park/$0 with the America the Beautiful annual pass

RV Accessibility:

  • Morefield can accommodate any size RV; however if you have a trailer, you can't take it through the National Park if your just going for the day, but there is a designated place to unhook and then travel the loop around the park with your passenger vehicle.

Cell Phone Signal Strength:  0-1 bars mostly nothing so plan on not having cell signal or data even with a cell booster

Park Pass:  Free entrance with America the Beautiful annual pass


Video/Audio/Gear Used

Panasonic Lumix G85 Camera – For most still images and vlogging

Sony Action Cam FDRX3000 – For dash cam and walking/talking video

Joby Gorillapod – Used for holding the cameras as a tripod or mounting to just about anything to capture a shot.

AllStays app – Use on phone or desktop for finding gas stations, RV parks, campgrounds, propane, and more on your travel route.

Verizon Data Plan – Best nationwide coverage as of this post while traveling.

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