My fiancé and I were stuck in post-collegiate limbo, dreaming of a farm in Vermont but too buried under student loans to buy one. Reluctantly, we decided to renew the lease on our apartment the next time it came due. Then Theo drove past an old Winnebago parked in someone’s yard with a “For Sale” sign on it.
“Are you up for a road trip?” he asked me. “We could head south with the birds.”
“You’re for the birds,” I scoffed. I was not the nomadic type. I craved a wood stove and sunlit kitchen, 50 acres, and apple trees.
But I had to admit, a motor home made sense. With winter coming, we could drive someplace warm and keep working, chipping away at debt. Despite my reservations, I agreed to look.
The Winnebago’s owner told us he was selling because his kids were grown and his wife would rather have a root canal than go camping with him. He led us across his yard to the 21-foot-long 1973 Brave. It looked like a bread truck. Cute. Vintage.
Feeling optimistic, I climbed through the door and gasped at the hideousness of its interior. Fake wood paneling, faux-Navajo upholstery, orange shag rug, the ’70s gone very awry.
Before I could turn and flee, Theo and the owner stepped up behind me. Jammed together like passengers on a subway car, we took the grand tour.
“This is your kitchen.” The guy pointed to a three-burner stove and half fridge.
“Your bath.” We peered into a stall no larger than a gym locker. It contained a mini toilet, ashtray-sized sink, hand-held shower, and a drain right in the floor.
After peeking at the living/dining/bedroom (a.k.a., the rear of the RV), we told the guy we’d let him know. I practically ran back to our car.
Seated inside, Theo turned to me and said, “Cool, huh?”
If by “cool” he meant the ugliest thing on God’s green earth, then, yes, it was way cool. Sighing, I glanced over at the RV. Suddenly I noticed something that hadn’t registered before, written on the side in flaking gold paint: “Brave.” My heart stirred in my chest. It seemed the universe had offered me a dare, to break out of my comfort zone.
“Oh, what the heck,” I said. “Let’s go south with the birds.”
We paid $2,000 for the Brave and another few hundred to make the interior fit for human habitation. Theo and I spent the next two years living in it, roaming the Eastern Seaboard. Miraculously, we didn’t kill each other. We danced to the dashboard radio, watched dolphins through our window, and eloped to Key West. I enjoyed the adventure but still yearned for my 50 acres in Vermont. Sometimes it seemed we’d never get there. Work led us to Chicago, then New York, then Connecticut.
Now, 20 years after buying our starter-home-on-wheels, we are nomads no more. Theo and I finally live on our dream farm. It ended up being in Maine, not Vermont, 20 acres instead of 50. We took a long, scenic route to reach our final destination, and I’m glad we did. I just wish we hadn’t sold that Winnebago. It would make a perfect guest cottage parked in our back meadow, out past the apple trees.
Kerri Sandberg is a writer and homesteader in Tenants Harbor, Maine. She plans never to move again. Send comments and a 550-word essay on your first home to Address@globe.com. Please note: We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue.