Let’s talk about a lifestyle many out there don’t even know exists. Not for those who aren’t retired. I was turning 30 and my husband 35, when we were fed up with the way things were going in life. There has been quite a few stories lately about those choosing to sell practically everything they own to move into an RV. We thought we were clever to have found a way out, instead we found out very quickly we were not the only ones seeking out alternative ways to live. We had no idea what was in store for us.
My husband, John Hebard, is a Combat Veteran who served 3 tours overseas. He joined just before 9/11 and was shipped off the day after boot camp. When he came back to the United States a lot had changed and he was unable to find work post economic crash. He was medically retired for PTSD and seeing the VA to get help.
He went back to school for Criminal Justice, and achieved his bachelors. We met in October of 2011, at the time I was graduating and beginning my career. I was working overnights at an incredible emergency center for small animals working overnights. Both of us have “helper personalities”. We are at our best while helping others, it’s when both of us are happy and fulfilled.
We were living in Kansas City when Ferguson happened. We had friends in Saint Louis, and all we could do was watch and pray for everything happening to end peacefully.
All John ever wanted to do was help and make a difference. I could see the way the stress and fear were affecting him (watching what was happening just a few hours away) and making his PTSD from being at war overseas, worse. I didn’t understand at the time. He was worried but what he was hearing and seeing of the law enforcement agencies, with how the climate was shifting, and decided that it may not be the best situation for him to join a police force.
By 2016 we were exhausted, and not working out well. Taking one week per year off of work was no longer working for us, and we were looking for pop up campers online. We wanted something we could tow with our truck. We knew we had a crazy period ahead in our lives with John going to the police academy, and me working late shifts that were always changing.
Soon after we started looking at pop up trailers to tow behind the Tacoma, we found videos on YouTube from others who were traveling the country in larger RVs. They had sold everything and just left. We spent the next few weeks sharing them back and forth and talking about it constantly. One of our biggest concerns was making sure our 110lb aging Labrador, Bullet, would have enough room to age gracefully on camping trips.
Finally one night (we had one half day together per week), he asked me if this was something I would want to try. I was so excited because I had been wanting to ask him. So instead of a pop-up we bought a dually, and a 41ft 5th wheel that was large enough to accommodate our 4 legged family members as well as give us some space. At that time we were arguing a lot, desperate to fix our marriage as well as the scheduling nightmares. We called it Thursday Fight Night, because that was the end of our work week, Saturday started the new week. It was the only time we had together, and all issues were discussed in a not so fun way.
It was the perfect time for us to try it, we had some savings, no children, and he was about to graduate with his degree. We thought, if we could save our marriage, this would be a pretty cool way to do it. We did not own a house so we had to be careful about how we would do this.
We set a budget of $30,000, and realized the market in Kansas City would not allow us to buy much with that. We decided to take out a loan for the truck and then take out a loan for the RV. A month later we found the truck, and the RV. I gave my notice at work 6 months ahead so they could find and train my replacement.
Most of them still thought we were crazy. For five months we lived in the RV getting used to the systems and making sure this was something we really wanted to do.
October 20th, 2016 we left Kansas City. We went to Florida first, because it was getting cold in the Midwest and we loved the beach.
Of course the first year was insane, but we were doing better.
The RV began falling apart faster than we could repair it, we began to learn to edit video (no prior experience in this, running a website, or even a Facebook page). We learned to create graphics and share our stories. When we figured out the RV was a total lemon, we were still under warranty. There were so many problems electrical, plumbing, and the exterior wall was falling apart. The manufacturer did their best to push us aside so we kept making videos. They asked us to find a repair shop and gave us a book of 300 or more locations. No one wanted to touch it. Finally we found a shop in Washington (at the time we were in Texas). We scheduled the appointment 3 months out, hoping it wouldn’t finish falling apart before we got there, 1,650 miles away.
When we arrived in Washington they told us they couldn’t repair it. They told us they would tell the factory to come and get it. For a week and a half we waited to hear if Cedar Creek would take it back to repair or not. I had never seen John’s stress levels so high. He had sleep disturbances, difficulty focusing, it was difficult for him to control his reactions and emotions. This was supposed to be something we could do together and enjoy before we went back to a more traditional lifestyle. What shocked us, is that even with everything happening, we couldn’t imagine our lives not traveling anymore. The RV community gave back the camaraderie John had been missing from his time overseas.
When we started our channel: Hebard’s Travels, our goal was just to share what we were learning, and what we were doing. An added bonus was showing our parents we were still alive, we were ok, and we were making new friends. So much of the RV Lifestyle includes traditions that we grew up with. Neighbors knew each other and were friendly. There was a sense of community we hadn’t experienced in a long time. These things were very much missing from the community we lived in prior to hitting the road. The people we met while traveling weren’t strangers.
They were friends and family right out of the gate. If another RVer is struggling on the side of the road, there isn’t a question of stopping to help, it is just done. We’ve changed out tires, fixed belts, replaced oil, performed CPR on a gentleman in one RV Park, and ended up saving his life. People have helped us repair our electrical, installed solar on our rig so we would have electricity pretty much no matter what. We have had group dinners, one of our favorite things to do when someone isn’t feeling well, or didn’t have enough time or money for groceries. We have bought gas for others and had people buy us diesel when we were in a bind. The #rvlife is a community of acceptance and we had not experienced that before in our lives.
We spent two and a half months waiting for the factory to finish repairs. With all of our belongings in a storage unit, staying at my mother in laws house in Washington. It was a particularly tough summer because I was very far from my family, not knowing if we would get our house back. Customer service was not stellar at the time, and very few updates were given. I loved spending time with my husbands family, and it was incredible to get to know them all better. I also missed my family and our traditions, a lot.
We were approached by Eric Odom, who had an idea for making a movie. We had never heard of him, despite his notoriety. He was wanting to create a low budget full length movie and we would learn a lot more about how to create videos for our channel on YouTube, why not! So we jumped in with the caveat that we may or may not actually have an RV anymore (we really weren’t sure if we would get the rig back at all, let alone in time to film).
At the end of the summer, we finally got a call from the factory where the rig was being repaired. We were over the moon. We packed up the Uhaul and drove all the way to Topeka, Indiana (the factory for Cedar Creek 5th Wheels). We drove 10 hour days since the trailer could only go 65mph, and stayed at a different hotel with our dogs and cat – every night. Basically we just jumped from La Quinta to La Quinta. In Kenosha we forgot the bikes on the roof and hit a hotel awning. At the time it was so frustrating because it basically represented all of the exhaustion and stress we had been under for the past year. We counted our blessings it was just the bikes and not the truck too. We limped our way over to the RV.
They weren’t done repairing it.
They told us they would finish that night. We hired an inspector certified by the National Recreational Vehicle Inspectors Association. He found several more things that they needed to fix before we took possession. We had 48 hours until we had to book another RV Park nearby, and we still had to move everything back into the RV that survived the trip to pick up the RV.
The factory finished quickly and gave us back the RV. They apologized for the mess of a situation and promised that they would be better in the future.
We were grateful things would improve and made our way over to Oklahoma, where we would meet the producer of the movie. Our first week together awesome! They were around our age, looking to get into the full-time RV Lifestyle. Then it was capped off with our sewer hose falling apart and spilling raw sewage all over John on travel day. It was like being at a job interview but living with the person who was hopefully going to be working with you. For the finale we showed them how much of a bad idea it could potentially be. When we thought it couldn’t get worse, we realized their fans were running which sucked all of the smell into their RV. Good times.
They decided to keep us on the project even with the unfortunate incident.
Epic Nomad TV (ENTV) formed the company structure around the movie. After all, the dream didn’t stop at ONE MOVIE. We found ourselves putting in more and more time to building and creating a company that was essentially hand in hand with our dreams. We were creating short form content, long form content, publishing books, writing books, developing an App to house it all. We were reaching out to other content creators with one goal in mind.
Elevate the Story.
So many RVers and Nomadic individuals had these incredible stories, coming from all walks of life, and embracing the challenges of unplugging from traditional society. We wanted to share and uplift all of them.
￼Within a year the project grew from 4 cast and production crew members to over 30. We had the attention of the RV Industry, Youtubers, Bloggers, and full-time RVers. Some were families, others were couples or solo in their travels. All of us had companies or projects we were doing online to make money and stay nomadic, or bring experiences to others. We are digital nomads.
The Movie RV Nomads hosted its first event: NomadFest in Wellington, TX October of 2018! The movie explored the full-time RVer movement. There were so many others with stories similar to ours, and this way of living just worked for them. Even through the craziness of dealing with something new and or challenging everyday.
The movie will be released November 15th, 2018! Epic Nomad Life is the app that will host the movie, and potentially other markets as well. The app is built for all of the nomadic community as a way to share stories, pictures, get help, and reach out to old friends.
We not only grew as individuals but our marriage also healed, while we working some of the hardest and longest hours of our lives. We had a common goal, a family built around those goal. The camaraderie of working with the crew and spending time to be a human being helped John to cope with the symptoms of PTSD, which also helped our marriage. This lifestyle is absolutely not a great option for anyone, but I can’t help but wonder how many else it would help to break out of the traditional cycles of society and try something new.