Four years ago we set out to travel the country fulltime in an R.V. When people asked us how long we planned to live in a motor home, the best answer we could give them was “until we’re done.” We didn’t know how long it would take for us to see everything we wanted to see or how long we’d enjoy (or tolerate) living in what amounts to a fancy truck. We now know.
It took us just shy of four years to zigzag across the country from Maine to San Diego and make the roughly 250 other stops we wanted in between. Year four took us along the West Coast, out to Hawaii and up to Alaska, where we completed our westward migration.
With our domestic travels largely completed, we traded in our motor home for a couple of backpacks and set off to see the wider world.
If you ask us now how long we plan to travel this way, lugging all our worldly possessions on our backs, the best we can tell you is “until we’re done.” We may not know the path ahead, but we do have pretty clear recollections of the year we’re leaving behind.
With that in mind, here’s a list of our favorite destinations from our fourth full year of fulltime travel. As always with these posts, the destination header links to the original blog post on the topic.
We gave mixed reviews to Denali National Park (and to Alaska more generally), but the sight of Mount McKinley easily ranks among our favorite experiences of the past year. We were extremely fortunate for the rare stretch of clear weather that allowed us to see the mountain in all its glory. The fact that McKinley isn’t always “out” and that Denali’s wildlife population is often in hiding too makes this National Park more of a crapshoot than most of the others we’ve visited. But like the little girl with the curl, when Denali is good, she’s very good indeed.
If parts of Alaska underwhelmed us, Washington’s Whidbey and San Juan Islands delivered far more than we had reason to hope. Instead of pop-up tourist towns we found places with their own distinct centers of gravity. Behind the down-home facades and overflowing wildflowers were real businesses serving real communities and selling real things. More than that, it was just what we needed at the precise moment we needed it.
A Tuscan castle cannot, by definition, exist in California’s Calistoga wine country. Nor can this particular castle, completed in 2007, be described as 12th century. Yet, in important ways, Castello di Amorosa is both of those things, and authentically so.
The secret and the story behind this seeming contradiction is what garnered Castello di Amorosa a spot alongside our favorite destinations last year. The fact that it’s a castle right here in the U.S. didn’t hurt either.
So big we needed two blog posts to cover everything there is to see in California’s Big Sur. But more than just big, this California coastal area is also stunningly beautiful.
Death Valley, CA
If you don’t recall our original post on Death Valley, CA, don’t worry, your memory isn’t failing you. We haven’t yet given this great National Park a proper write-up. We nonetheless wanted to include it in this year’s list not only because it warrants a space on any “Best of” travel round-up, but also because the park’s wonderful diversity reminded us of so many other places we visited throughout the U.S. We simply can’t think of a better capstone to four great years of domestic travels than Death Valley National Park.
Getting there really is half the fun. Even after driving from coast to coast, the 127-mile stretch of road connecting Anchorage, Alaska, to Seward still struck us as the most beautiful drive we had ever done. But that really was only the half of it. Strapping on crampons and hiking up nearby Exit Glacier was the other half.
Neither rain, nor blockades, nor errant buses could keep the smiles off our faces while wandering the twisted stone alleys of medieval Segovia, Spain.
Watching lava flow from a live volcano is one of those rare experiences that will be hard to top no matter how long we travel.
Don’t stop now, there’s plenty more where these came from: