Life on Wheels: Rachel Farabaugh
An Interview with artist Rachel Farabaugh and her travels so far in a 87' Chevy Lindy.
Follow Rachel on all her future adventures @bohemian.dreamer
What inspired you to plan this trip?
I blame Pinterest and Instagram for the idea. I started following one account…and another… until suddenly my Instagram feed was filled with adventurous young couples traveling the world in their vans. Planning to get married myself, I thought this would be the perfect way to start our new life together and get out of Los Angeles. The artist in me couldn’t wait to take something old and redesign it, so I was equally excited to renovate a vintage camper at the same time.
But then our relationship suddenly and unexpectedly fell apart two months before the wedding. I honestly never saw it coming, nor did any of our friends or family. It was devastating to say the least, but I had no choice but to get through it and accept this new reality. We both moved out of the apartment we had shared for nearly three years and started canceling the wedding immediately.
As I watched everything familiar and comfortable crumble around me, I had no choice but to embrace a new start and let it all go. There was really no better way to start over other than this. I gave away all of my furniture and most of my possessions knowing I wouldn’t need them anymore. With nothing left to lose, I had nothing holding me back. I had been in LA for eight years and was ready for a change anyway, so I used this opportunity to keep my plans but do it alone. I bought the RV two weeks after I moved out. And I moved into a furnished house temporarily so I had a place to stay while I got ready for the roadtrip.
What has your itinerary been so far?
I sort of winged it for the first two months of traveling. I only had three months of preparation to get the RV renovated and ready to hit the road. The logistics of moving into an RV took up most of my energy in those months outside of repair work. I had to think of things like where to get mail, getting a storage unit, insurance, phones, internet, and running my business remotely. I barely had any time to get excited or plan out my route.
I basically got a notice one day from my new landlord telling me that I had to be out of my rented space by the end of September. That really pushed me to get everything finished in time, and even then I was still cutting it down to the wire. Then one of my best friends invited me to a music festival in Joshua Tree that first weekend in October. The timing was perfect! She would caravan along with me to the festival so I’d have a friend to start my journey with. And by luck, the following weekend got scheduled for our annual Hallmark artist team retreat. We picked Sequoias this year, so I made that my stop one week later. In between those two, I booked a campground in Big Bear because I knew it would be an easy stop in between.
Well, it was supposed to be an easy stop at least.. but I broke down leaving Joshua Tree and had to get towed to Big Bear. That was only my third day on the road and it was my second AAA call for help since owing the RV. I still hadn’t booked any plans beyond that weekend and that was making me nervous and feeling displaced. So I booked a spot in the Sequoias for another two weeks after the team retreat, and I stayed in a little RV park ranch at the base of the mountain.
In one week, I went from hot desert conditions in Joshua Tree, to cold temperatures and high elevation in Big Bear, back to low elevation and high temps in Sequoias, and then back up the mountains again inside the park. My body was not happy with the changes and I got bloody noses my first two days in Sequoias National Park. It was a rough adjustment period that first week, but I finally felt good once I got to the RV park and had two weeks to chill and figure out my next moves.
It was a good thing I didn’t plan my next moves until I got there, because I had originally wanted to keep going north up to Yosemite and Mammoth Lakes. But after driving up the mountains and experiencing the cold conditions in October, I changed my mind. I wanted a city experience after that and I wanted access to Ubers to get around. So I chose Santa Cruz. After that, I knew I would head south and chose Big Sur. I picked my spot there based entirely on a recommendation from a friend and it was perfect. After that, I made it back to LA just in time for Thanksgiving.
What have been the pluses to traveling in an RV?
It’s pretty amazing being able to camp out anywhere and have all the comforts of home with me even in the most remote wilderness. I have all the essentials to keep living my life the way I’m used to but with the added benefits of doing that in nature. My way of life has become much simpler in many ways but also much richer in the form of spontaneous adventure and lack of any sort of routine. I’m presented with unlimited opportunities due to the random nature of how I’m living. So much of my lifestyle now relies on blind luck and taking chances. I never plan my days because each one is dependent on my surroundings and who I might meet that day. And I like it that way.
Most recently, I discovered that I can live at luxury resorts and have access to the same amenities as the hotel guests, but for way cheaper! So I just booked the entire month of January at hot springs resorts across New Mexico. If you need to reach me in January, I’m busy. I’ll be soaking in natural hot spring baths… every day.
What have been the challenges you've faced?
Driving a 21 foot vehicle is challenging in general. It’s got terrible gas mileage, barely tops 45mph uphill, and is one giant blind spot. Sometimes the roads are not even wide enough for it and I have to drive over the center line. Because I have to drive so slowly, I have to pull over frequently to let the long line of cars behind me pass. It requires so much attention on the road which tires me out faster than driving a regular vehicle. The radio doesn’t work and neither does the AC, so it can get really hot up there which only adds to the sleepiness factor. I’m also traveling with a cat, and the only place she is comfortable during the drive is on my lap. It’s either that or I get to listen to an endless symphony of her meows. Hours of meows.. Trying to keep her happy and drive at the same time is no easy task. I try not to exceed 8 hours in a day but would prefer to drive only 3 or 4 at the most.
As soon as I get to a spot and set up camp, I can’t just unhook the RV and drive to the store very easily. So I have to make sure to pick up groceries before arriving. Once I arrive, I’m stuck there unless I make friends with my neighbors or have access to an Uber to get around. That makes it harder to explore the area, so not having a second vehicle is definitely a challenge.
Beyond that, the basic maintenance of the RV can be a bit challenging. Something seems to break at each stop. But I’ve been able to handle all of it using duct tape, wire and super glue. I keep my tool bag in the front seat and I’ve used it at every stop. I’ve always been handy, but this is taking it to a whole new level.
What has been the most unexpected?
I really had no idea what to expect when it came to dating while traveling on an endless road trip. I have to say that it’s been way easier than I ever would have expected! There are some stops were I’m completely alone for weeks at a time, and then others where I’m having to turn down plans because I’m getting asked out so many times. It’s completely unpredictable, but when it rains it pours as they say. I’m meeting really incredible people along the way, so I’m really in awe of how connected I’ve felt. Even though I’m traveling alone, I never feel lonely. And now I get to use pickup lines like this… “Hi, nice to meet you. Want to come back to my van? There’s candy.” Just kidding. I don’t use pickup lines.
What are your top 3 experiences? elaborate.
1. Sequoia National Park, California
One week into the trip, this is where things finally turned around for me. I was in awe of the beauty as soon as I got to the National Park. I had an AirBnB cabin to stay in with some coworkers that was inside the park entrance on the side of a canyon. The view was unreal and I was with friends again. I had to ditch the RV on the side of a cliff and hike down to my cabin because the road was so steep and narrow, but the location was incredible. I spent two nights in that cabin gazing at stars while eating fresh baked cookies and ice cream from a hot tub. I also came face to face with a mountain lion on my second night there. Everything about that place was pure magic, and it was in those moments that my road trip dreams were unfolding even better than I had imagined them.
2. The Ranch
On my way to Sequoias, I met a guy on a motorcycle at a taco stand in the parking lot of a gas station in the middle of nowhere. He invited me to his ranch and and I thought about it for the entire two weeks that I was in Sequoias. At the last minute, I called him up and we made plans to go exploring. So I left Sequoias one night earlier than planned and headed to his ranch. When I got there, I made friends instantly with him and his two other friends who were also visiting. There is an incredible story about this experience that is so unreal, it’s almost hard to believe. But I’ll save that for another entry when I have more time to tell it properly. We shot guns, explored Native American caves and had a completely awesome and wild redneck experience that brought me back to my roots. It was without a doubt the highlight of my trip… until I got to Big Sur.
3. Big Sur, California
As challenging as Big Sur was, it was one of my favorite stops. I camped in the most beautiful spot I’ve been in yet, along a river and completely private. I could hear the sound of the river running all day and night. The sights and sounds were unbelievable. I didn’t have cell service or internet in the RV, so I was really disconnected in the best way possible. I ended up meeting incredible people there, and the best night of my trip was the night I went to Esalen hot springs. Esalen is on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean, and they only let you get reservations the day of. It’s tough to get into but I got reservations just before I was about to leave. You show up at 1 am and they let you stay until 3 am. In my case, I was allowed to stay until 4 am. It was surreal to lay in hot springs while watching shooting stars above and listening to crashing ocean waves below. I didn’t get back to my campsite until the sun was coming up the next day.
Arizona, New Mexico and Texas! I’m going to spend the winter in hot springs and tiny little towns in the south taking pictures of sunsets, gazing at stars and illustrating.
Any advice for women who are thinking of doing something similar?
DO IT!! Don’t think about how complicated it will be or you’ll want to give up before you even start. Remember that the breakdowns and road bumps are part of the journey. Embrace the imperfections and you’ll be in great shape. I was convinced I had made a terrible mistake for the entire first week on the road. I actually thought about ways to ditch the RV and questioned everything about the roadtrip. But it only took one week to turn that around and get through the initial uncomfortable phase. I kept thinking that if I had known how hard it was, I never would have done it. I’m so glad I did it anyway. Now I wouldn’t trade the RV for anything! Oh, and be prepared to answer lots of questions because everyone will ask if you carry a gun. And how you’re able to make money. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve answered those questions so far and I’ve only just begun.
California Locations Mentioned in this Article: