It’s been awhile since I’ve written a blog.
The past couple months Alyssa and I have been in New Zealand and while we’ve been posting pretty frequently on Youtube, I haven’t written any.
When I first started blogging a few years ago this was the only real medium where I created content. Now, with the podcast and Youtube I’ve sort of neglected this thing. Sorry blog.
Long story short, I really miss writing. For me, writing is one of the best ways for me to express what’s inside my head. Whenever I’m struggling through a problem, I write. When I’m stressed or anxious about the future, I write.
And my favorite kind of writing is when I’m just working things out and sharing what’s on my heart. For a good bit of this blog, that was definitely the intention.
However, lately I feel like I’ve mostly written how-to posts like this one. While I like being useful, I’m currently in a mental place where I just want to share what’s happening in our lives VS write a “top 10 things you should do in New Zealand” post, which sounds boring (but I probably will write that one at some point because I’m sure people are Googling it and I have a lot to say on the matter, sorry for being click-baity).
For today’s post, I just wanted to sit down and share an update of what is happening in our lives at the moment (and tentatively for the rest of the year).
Here are a few things I cover in today’s post:
- Highlights from 2018 (so far)
- What work projects we’re currently working on
- Our (tentative) plans for the rest of the year
- What I’m working on personally
- Our next big dream
Highlights from the First 5 Months of 2018
February: We Hosted Our Second RV Entrepreneur Summit
Pretty much all of January through February Alyssa and I were really heads down and focused on hosting our second RV Entrepreneur Summit. We sold out of tickets again this year and doubled in size from 120 to 250 attendees, which was crazy awesome.
Last year we didn’t know that we’d host a second conference, but the feedback we got from RVE Summit #1 was that we couldn’t NOT host another one, so we did.
We started scheming for this year’s summit almost as soon as we wrapped up the first one in 2017. I remember being in Maine last summer brainstorming the theme for this year’s conference, what the backdrop would look like, the speakers we’d invite and everything else that goes along with event planning.
Of all the projects Alyssa and I have done together, I think hosting the RVE Summit has been (at least for me) the most meaningful.
We not only enjoy hosting the actual event, but even the planning process is something we both get excited about. The conference would be months out and we’d be sitting in the RV over a glass of wine and thinking about how we could make it a great experience for people. In the weeks leading up to the Summit, we’d go on daily walks around the campground and constantly be planning little details like where the food truck would be and where we’d hang lights.
The actual event itself is always a complete blur, kind of like your wedding day. You’re basically just running around and saying hello to everyone and making sure that everything is going the way it should be. Afterwards you take a breath and say, “I think that went well.”
For me, the coolest part about hosting a conference like RVE Summit is to see what happens afterward. I’ve seen so many social media posts where people are meeting up with fellow attendees on the road or starting a new business, it makes my heart incredibly warm to know our conference played a small role in that.
Plus, the weeks leading up to the conference we get enough quality friend time to last us for months. So much of our time on the road the past few years has just been us two, so when we finally are surrounded by like-minded people, it fills our community gap in a major way.
A few things I’ve learned from two years of hosting our own conference:
#1: It‘s crucial to have a partner and/or wife with event planning experience.
I can’t even pretend that I carry an equal amount of weight in planning the Summit. Alyssa leads and executes on a level that I can’t compete with. She’sdetail-orientedd and is really what makes the event run smoothly. I sometimes struggle with taking my head out of the clouds to execute on all the day to day details, but she excels there (and I think that’s why we make a good team).
My job for our summit is to mostly keep in touch with all our speakers, sponsors and partners and make sure that everyone is happy. Alyssa literally does everything else (thanks Alyssa).
#2: You don’t have to be an expert or pretend to be an expert to bring together valuable advice and community.
When I started the RV Entrepreneur podcast, Alyssa and I had been on the road for a year and just started our video production business.
I was worried that by starting a podcast about building a business that I’d seem like a fake. Because of this, I made the podcast centered around other RV entrepreneurs and their advice/lessons. When relevant, I would also chime in and share my experience as well. I just didn’t want it to seem like a 25 year old kid with a small business who was trying to be another “entrepreneurship expert” or something.
I wanted to focus on gaining that experience on my own. But I also loved hearing people’s stories and the interview process and being able to share what I learned while we get Campground Booking off the ground and dabble in other projects.
Both from hosting the podcast and the conference, I’ve learned that just because you’re still learning something yourself and aren’t an “expert”, it doesn’t mean you can’t provide value by connecting like-minded people, sharing your honest lessons, and building a community of passionate people.
#3: Say no to almost everything during the month of the conference.
This year Alyssa and I spoke 3 times during the month of our conference. We flew to San Diego, New York City, and Toronto all right before and after the summit. It was exhausting.
I said yes to several speaking commitments and a video gig because I always tend to over commit. I have this problem where I say yes to things months in advance because it seems like forever away and like I can balance it all, but then the time comes and all of a sudden it’s our conference month and I have us flying everywhere. Oops.
All of our trips in February were great opportunities that I’m incredibly grateful for and all turned out really well, it was just bad timing with our own event going on. A conference takes focus and next year I’m telling myself to be vigilant on saying no to more opportunities around our conference.
April – June: Our First Big International Trip to New Zealand
Alyssa and I have always wanted to travel internationally together and this year we finally made it happen. We finished paying off student debt last fall and felt like we could splurge a little to go somewhere. New Zealand has always been near the top of the list (plus it is a country friendly to RVers), so that would be our first place to explore abroad.
We set aside two months of time to explore New Zealand. Almost everyone we questioned about New Zealand said they’d spent a week or two and that wasn’t enough. We reasoned that two months would be plenty of time to explore a country the size of Colorado but we could have easily spent more time there.
We had no idea if we’d need to buy a campervan or rent one, but we knew that we wanted to explore New Zealand by campervan VS renting a car or Airbnb.
Through a recommendation from a summit attendee (thanks Richard), we found a rental company called Wilderness Motorhomes and decided to go with them. They offered an on board wifi package for $10 NZ/day, which was ideal since I’d be taking some meetings/calls while over there. Plus, their rigs looked beautiful and they had stellar reviews.
We ended up falling in love with the size and mobility of a smaller unit (23 feet) and could see our future RV travels being in a smaller rig.
Aside from the RV and travel side of things, I was pretty nervous about going abroad. Up until we left, Alyssa and I still had a number of clients on retainer for social media/video work and we’d just launched Campground Booking with several campgrounds in Canada. I was concerned that traveling abroad would just put a major halt on our business and everything we’d been working towards. I also didn’t know how the connectivity would be, and I guess I was just nervous in general (I’d never been away for that long).
It seems silly now because everything has worked out fine, but it’s the truth. Also, since we were so heads down on the summit until we left, we had hardly any time to plan our route or do research or even daydream about what the trip would be like.
I’ll spare you the gushing about New Zealand because at this time we’ve published over 20 videos on our Youtube where we do that pretty much the entire time. New Zealand was a pure dream. It was hands down the most scenic landscape I’ve ever seen and just as beautiful as everyone says it is and I can’t wait to go back.
Okay, I had to gush a little bit. It’s awesome and if you want to see what our days were like, you can watch lots of them on Youtube.
Key learnings from our first big international trip:
I need to move slower.
Because we had a limited time in New Zealand and we’d finished off some client projects, Alyssa and I went ALL IN to our travels and towards the end of our trip, we were both feeling exhausted.
We averaged driving two hours per day and when we returned the rental RV back to Wilderness, the lady who checked our odometer said we’d put the most kilometers on a rental that she’d ever seen (high score for us, woohoo!).
I think we were both afraid of missing something so we tried to do everything, and that just isn’t sustainable for a very long time (or our business) and not how we’re used to traveling. I share this with hesitation because at the end of the day the fact that we could take a two month trip over to New Zealand is INCREDIBLE/AMAZING in every way. I just have been feeling the need to slow down.
People in other countries work less than Americans (or so it seems).
The first thing Alyssa and I noticed upon arriving in New Zealand on Good Friday was that everything was closed (literally everything). In America most places stay open 24/7. But even aside from major holidays, it just seems that the Kiwi culture takes significantly more vacation days than Americans and spends more time outside (after all their country is beautiful).
I enjoyed getting to talk and hang out with Kiwis and hear their perspective on life and work and camping and everything else. I think this will be one of my favorite parts of traveling to different parts of the world, the various outlooks and ways other cultures see the world. It makes me feel small in the best of ways, which I know is a travel cliche, but a true one.
It’s easy to get lost in the hustle, hustle, hustle culture of American work and never even realize that most of the world has such a thing as “encouraged sabbaticals” and “gap years” and things that make you realize your work is not your identity.
Speaking of work…
Projects We’re Currently Working On
#1: Campground Booking
Earlier this January my two co-founders (Bob Orchard and Paul Ryan) and I officially launched Campground Booking. This is a business I’ve been working on since 2016 and it has taken awhile to actually have paying customers (which we have now, yay!).
While the goal was originally to create a website that was the end all be all site to find and book your campsites (and still is), we started off by creating a property management system for campgrounds. As a bootstrapped business, our goal was to build something that we could actually charge for and make money with (where a strictly booking site we’d have to spend most of our time marketing, creating listings, content, etc).
Since launching in January we’ve processed a little over $200k in campground reservations and over 1,500 campers have booked a site through us. We’ve learned a ton and our software still has a long way to go, but Bob and Paul have done an awesome job of making an easy, intuitive product for campgrounds to use.
It feels really cool to have actually been a part of creating a product from nothing.
In addition to our property management system for campgrounds, we have created a way for travel and association-type websites to use our listings to power reservations on their website. For example, one of our partners is a website called Travel-British-Columbia.com and we are currently powering the campground listings on their website. When someone books a site at a campground listing on their site, we charge a small fee.
Our hope is to launch a couple more partner portals such as this one throughout the year while we’re still adding campgrounds to our property management system. A major goal for Campground Booking in the next year is to be able to pay all the founders some kind of salary. While it has taken longer than I’d hoped to have a fully functional product, we’ve avoided having to raise money by bootstrapping the business up until this point.
Campground Booking is starting to be more and more of my time. Up until this point, we have focused very little time on customer acquisition and mostly been focused on creating a product, adding new features, etc. However, in the coming months, that will change.
Alyssa and I have been wanting to create more videos together for some time, we’ve just struggled creating space for it. However, in New Zealand we filmed 30 vlogs! Alyssa has already edited and published half of them and we’ll release the rest in the coming weeks.
Why I’ve enjoyed creating videos:
It’s been cool going back and rewatching some of our adventures in New Zealand and our families have been able to see so much more of our travels.
Providing value for others who want to visit/plan a trip to New Zealand
I think my favorite part of doing Youtube so far has been seeing people who are using our videos to plan their trip to New Zealand.
I’ve had this internal conflict with doing videos because I didn’t inherently feel like sharing our travels was valuable for people. For the same reason I never really wrote a “travel blog” here on our website. Most of what I’ve ever written has been sharing life, business or travel lessons and trying to provide helpful content for other people who want to hop in an RV and travel. That being said, seeing people get value or entertainment out of our videos has been encouraging.
#3 Planning for RVE Summit 2019
Last week we visited a potential location where we’re looking to host RVE Summit 2019. More details on this in the coming weeks. 🙂
Our Tentative Plans for the Rest of the Year
I know I just talked about how I want to move slower, so disregard that while I tell you about our plans to travel a butt load for the rest of the year.
July: Texas to Forest City, Iowa
In July we’re driving from Texas up to Forest City, Iowa for the annual Winnebago rally. We’ll also be taking one of Winnebago’s newest Class C RVs out for a test trip.
August – October: Cross Country trip in Canada
With quite a few details still up in the air, we’re planning a cross-country Canadian trip. At the moment, we have quite a few campgrounds signed onto use our property management system in Canada and some partnerships that we’ll be working on up there. We’ll plan to drive north from Forest City at the end of July and the end the trip around Vancouver area in late October, hitting up a few national parks like Banff and Jasper along the way.
October — December
After our time in Canada, we’ll likely wind up spending our late fall in the Pacific Northwest somewhere. To be honest I have absolutely no idea where, still lots of details to plan for our Canada before worrying about this timeframe. Most of our life is sketched out on sticky notes, so that is how our plans are going at the moment.
Personal Goals/Things I’m Working On
#1: Being more present in the moment.
One of my biggest flaws is that I’ve always been a space cadet. My head is always in the clouds and I’m always scheming, planning, and dreaming about the future or business ideas I have. This often comes at the expense of the present moment. I’m really working on just being present to enjoy each day and be present with Alyssa.
One thing that has helped has been mediation and just trying to follow my breath. I’ve read a couple books on meditation, but still have a long way to go in order to calm my monkey mind. Before I knew anything about meditation I kind of had this idea of it being some “woo woo” type of thing that wasn’t really for me, but it’s really about being mindful of each moment (how you’re feeling, what is happening, etc).
Considering the fact that my mind is almost always somewhere else, my limited interactions with meditation has really helped me be more present (if you have any tips, books or resources, would love to hear in the comments).
I don’t want to look back on my life and realize that in all the meaningful moments my mind was somewhere else.
#2 More Consistent Exercise
The first couple of months of this year I was training for my first half marathon (which I finished without stopping, woohoo!). However, I’ve done an awful job of exercising in the months following my race (key learning: force myself into getting into shape by signing up for a race).
Having a clear goal to work towards helps me get off my butt and run. But without that clear goal, I’ve floundered quite a bit. Whether it is signing up for another race or something else, I want to find more consistent ways to stay in shape.
#3: NOT Selling Our Brave Anymore
A big reason we listed the Brave for sell was because it is currently the only debt we’re carrying and we wanted to be 100% debt free. But we realized that by trying to sell the RV we just opened ourselves up to a lot of stress trying to plan logistics and what we’d do after we sold it (Would we buy another RV? Would we buy a house?). We’re not quite ready to buy a house or settle down into a place and we really love our Brave. Selling our rig actually was creating more problems than it was solving, so we decided to hang onto it for awhile.
Plus, I don’t think carrying a little bit of debt on our RV is such a terrible thing. I don’t mean to get into the weeds too much on this topic, but I did want to explain the whole RV situation.
Okay, moving onto a bigger and more exciting topic of conversation.
Our Next Big Dream: Building a Campground for RV Entrepreneurs
Something I’ve talked about with friends over the past year or two has been this idea of building a campground for RV entrepreneurs, complete with coworking, fast internet, and all the things we’d love to have in a campground.
A few days ago I shared this dream in our RV Entrepreneur Facebook group and received an amazing amount of support.
This is still very much in the idea phase, but we’re hoping to start the process of bringing this dream to life in the coming months. I know very little about real estate or how to start a campground, but that will be part of the fun of working on this new venture.
We haven’t yet picked a location yet and at this time we have more questions than answers, but it’s something we’re both excited to start pursuing as the next adventure in our lives. The idea of having a strong community, home base, and a solid working environment in a beautiful setting is something I’m constantly thinking about and looking forward to bringing to life.
Having an in-person business will obviously mean slowing down our travels, but that’s something we’re both ready for in this next phase of life.
Stay tuned for more details. 🙂