A year ago, Cristie and Nelson’s average day consisted of work, work, and more work. Nelson worked long hours at their restaurants, while Cristie managed all the financials from home and was the sole caretaker of their then one-year-old daughter, Charlie. They reached a point when they were burnt out and needed a change in their lives.
Realizing how fast their daughter was growing up and how much they were missing out on by working so much, they sold both restaurants, converted a school bus into a vacation home on wheels (their “skoolie”), and decided to spend a year (or maybe a few) living a much simpler life. The mission: Enjoy their time together as a family before their daughter has to start school.
We talked to Cristie and Nelson about traveling in their school bus home, how they embraced camping for the first time, how they connect to what’s most important to them, and much more. Read below for the inspiring conversation!
Tell us about an average day in your life.
Currently, an average day consists of exploring a beautiful place in our country and spending time together outdoors. Our work now consists of running our social media accounts, @thetravelingred and @2cool4skoolbus.
What are your daily challenges?
We have it pretty good right now, our challenges are minimal… they usually consist of figuring out where to head next, finding water to fill up our skoolie, lack of phone service while trying to run social media accounts, and life with a toddler (terrible two’s are a real thing).
What gets you excited each day?
We are so excited to see new places that we’ve never seen before. Every single day is a new adventure. We are honestly blown away by how beautiful the United States are.
What are your favorite ways to get outside?
Having a two-year-old with us, we can’t hike much, so we really just enjoy hanging out outside and enjoying the beautiful views. Our Solo Stove has been the perfect addition to our family time. We love setting up our chairs around the fire and just hanging out together.
Why do you enjoy spending time outside?
Being from Miami, neither of us had ever been camping. Our idea of outdoors was boating, because that’s what you do in Miami. After converting our school bus and hitting the road, we’ve developed such a love of camping. We get it now! There’s nothing better than spending time outside on a cool night, sitting around the fire.
Have a favorite camping/outdoor story to share?
On our cross country road trip we planned to visit Zion National Park, but we couldn’t find parking for our skoolie. Beginning earlier this year, the scenic drive was blocked off and the only way to access those areas is on their shuttle bus. After not finding parking for our skoolie two days in a row, we decided to skip Zion and head somewhere else instead.
What started off as a bad day, ended up being one of the best days of the trip. We headed to Monument Valley and found the most perfect spot with no one around and an incredible view of the monuments. When the sun started to set and the temperature dropped, we setup our Solo Stove and opened a nice bottle of wine. We sat out there for hours talking, laughing and enjoying the most incredible view. It’s truly our favorite night of camping so far. It was just perfection.
How does spending time outside benefit you and your family?
Spending time outdoors reminds us to slow down and enjoy the simple things in life. It’s the best family time. There’s nothing around to distract us, so we really enjoy the time together.
Who or what inspired your love of travel?
When we started dating 13 years ago, we both shared an interest in traveling. We were super young at the time (19 and 23) so we started taking little weekend trips together. One thing led to another and the trips got bigger and better. Our honeymoon was our first really big trip; we spent nearly an entire month in Europe. The more we traveled, the more we wanted to travel. It’s all we could think about. Every time we had a chance, we got on a plane and headed somewhere new.
You’ve been all around the world—what’s one of your favorite outdoor memories abroad?
There are two that really stand out in our minds. First, was our safari in South Africa. It is just the most incredible experience seeing such majestic animals roam freely. During one of our afternoon breaks, we were out by our private pool in our villa when an elephant just walked by. The photo of Nelson relaxing in the hammock when the elephant walked by will always be one of our favorite photos.
The second memory that stands out in our minds is the Bedouin dinner in Petra, Jordan. Last summer we went on a family trip to the Middle East and while in Petra our hotel offered a traditional Bedouin dinner, so we made reservations. It was just a magical night having dinner in a tent overlooking the mountains while listening to traditional music.
You’re busy! How do you manage your time?
Make it a priority. We always say, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way!” To us, making memories is so important, so we make time for special things. You can’t let the day-to-day rat race take over your life.
Any recommendations on how to get outside even when you’re busy?
Schedule in outdoor time and stick to it. When you schedule things you’re more likely to do them, even if it’s just one hour outside together as a family during the weekend. Plan it so you don’t make excuses or put it off.
How do you slow down and reconnect with what matters?
We make it a priority in our lives. We realized how important it is to really live and make memories together. It’s so easy to get caught up on the day to day… it happens to all of us. You have to make memories, the kind your kids will cherish when they get older. Mom and Dad working all day and night won’t be those memories. They don’t have to be huge adventures like the one we’re on now…. it can be as simple as ordering pizza, putting on loud music at home and having our own little family party where we laugh, dance, and enjoy our time together.
How does your Solo Stove help you slow down and enjoy the outdoors?
Every single time we bring out our Solo Stove, it’s such a great night. There’s something about the warmth and glow of the fire on a cold night that’s irresistible. We always end up sitting around our fire just talking and laughing while the fire burns. We really love it!
If you had a motto or slogan, what would it be?
Take a break from the rat race, tomorrow isn’t promised.