Hi, everyone, we’re Andy and Suzanne Hight, and we are nomads at heart. Here’s the story of how we arrived at this point in our lives.
Andy is originally from Phoenix, Arizona. He has lived all over the U.S., including California, Washington, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, and most recently Mississippi. I was born in North Mississippi and grew up there with the exception of three years living in Louisiana during my early childhood. After I started my work career, I moved from Jackson, Mississippi to Houston, Texas, where the two of us met in 1989.
We got married on July 4, 1991 and soon afterward we started tent camping, thanks to the encouragement of some good friends who taught us the ropes.
We started collecting camping gear and spent every available free moment pitching our tent in nearby state parks and national forests. Soon we got even more adventurous and packed our essentials into large duffel bags, boarded a plane, and flew off to camping adventures in Oregon, California, and New Mexico.
Not long after we started camping, we attended a large RV show at the Houston Astrodome, just on a whim. We had never been inside an RV, and we were blown away at the relative luxury and spaciousness they provided, compared to our little Kelty tent. We were especially enamored with the fifth wheels–we couldn’t believe they had actual fireplaces (electric) and king size beds, and all the slideouts made them seem like a spacious apartment instead of a camper.
We found out there were people who actually lived in their RV’s full-time, traveling around the country, exploring all the places that we longed to visit. We made a pact right then that, as soon as we retired, we were going to do the same thing–sell our belongings, buy an RV, and hit the road.
In the meantime, we continued tent camping in Texas and then in Arizona after we moved there in 2000. As we got older, our tents became larger and taller so we didn’t have to stoop over. Our little sleeping pads gave way to inflatable pads, then an air mattress with a battery-powered pump, and then cots with inflatable mattresses on them. We bought a porta-potty for the tent to handle those overnight nature calls that our older, more-active bladders delivered (#1 ONLY!). Our coolers became larger, we strung extra tarps for shade, we hung battery powered ceiling fans in the tent, we bought a solar shower and shower stall….and soon, going camping felt more like moving than a relaxing getaway. Setting up or breaking down camp took hours, and was no fun in the rain. But we still absolutely loved being in the outdoors, close to nature, away from the demands of work and social media.
In 2011 we moved from Arizona to North Mississippi and brought all our camping gear with us, thinking that we would continue our tent-camping adventures. But the heat, high humidity, mosquitoes, and just the fact that we were getting older turned out to be such a deterrent that we never did go tent-camping again. We missed it so much, but just not enough to drag all the gear out and set up camp somewhere.
Fast forward to 2017–Andy was retired and splitting his time between taking care of household chores and making silver jewelry which he sold at local festivals and art shows. I had a full-time job that required me to do a lot of overnight travel about six months out of the year while working from home the other six months. It was a comfortable life, but we had gotten to the age where it was time to seriously consider how we wanted to spend our sunset years. Since there’s a nine-year age gap between us, I didn’t want to wait until I reached that arbitrary age that the Social Security Administration defines as “retirement age”. We both wanted to have enough time to follow our retirement dreams while we’re both young enough and healthy enough to enjoy our travels fully.
We talked it out and decided it was time to start the process of downsizing our life to be RV-sized. We set a goal of October 17, 2018 (my 60th birthday) as our “go-full-time” date, by which time we planned to have our RV home selected and purchased, and our sticks-and-bricks home emptied and sold. We then met with a financial adviser to review our plan, and were given the green light to proceed.
Since neither of us had RV’d before, we decided to go ahead and purchase a smaller unit to use for long weekends and week-long vacations for the near term. This would enable us to learn about RV systems (electrical, plumbing, mechanical, etc.), as well as give us some practical experience at living together in close quarters with two cats. (Did I mention that we have two cats?)
So in April 2017 we purchased Lizzy, a 2014 Thor Chateau 24′ Class C motorhome, from an individual in Franklin, Tennessee. She’s a beautiful coach, very well maintained, with just over 11,000 miles on her when we took possession.
Our plan was to use Lizzy as our “practice” RV, and then trade her in for a 5th wheel and a truck when we went full-time. But after taking several weekend trips to local state parks, and then attending a week-long RV rally in Sevierville, TN in late September 2017, we realized that we could totally live in Lizzy and didn’t need a larger rig. Besides, having a smaller rig would enable us to get into a lot of places that larger rigs can’t fit. Just to be sure, we took a two-week trip along the Gulf Coast in April 2018, and came home totally convinced that we were ready and able to become full-time nomads.
I quit my job in July 2018 and we put the house on the market. We had a contract on it in less than 24 hours, and closed on the sale on August 29. We moved into the RV on August 26, and hit the road on August 31 (you can browse the blog entries to get the complete details of our downsizing whirlwind).
We were on the road with Lizzy and our Tacoma pickup truck for fifteen months. Andy drove the RV and I drove the truck as a chase vehicle. We had an awesome time, traveling around the Southwest USA, just living the dream. But after fifteen months, we decided it was finally time to realize our original vision, and in December 2019, we traded our beloved Lizzy for a 2017 Grand Design Reflection fifth wheel. We also traded our 2004 Toyota Tacoma chase vehicle for a 2018 Ford F-250 XLT 4wd crew cab pickup.
We had barely begun our adventures in our new fifth wheel when COVID-19 forced some major shut-downs and changes for full-timers like ourselves. Given that we are in the higher risk categories for COVID complications, we made the decision in April 2020 to purchase a small property in Deming, New Mexico to use as a home base. It’s a single-wide manufactured home with a separate workshop, and very importantly, it has a place to park the RV with hookups. It’s located in a 55+ community which has an active neighborhood watch program, so we’ll feel comfortable leaving the property for weeks or months at a time when we’re able to travel safely again.
We are still nomads at heart, and will be on the road whenever it’s safe to travel. We’ll no longer be living full-time in our RV, but we’ll be there as often as we can be, for as long as we can.