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  • Writer's pictureCasey Girard

We're Never Going Back

Ruth, our travel trailer, has been our home for eight months. October 2020 feels like just yesterday, and forever ago at the same time. Since autumn, Ruth has transformed on the inside, thanks to my extremely handy husband. We, as a family, have also transformed during our experience with fulltime living. When we bought our home, we stayed on my father’s land. We used his electricity, WIFI, water, etc. I cooked daily with my air fryer and instant pot, like I always had in our sticks and bricks home. Life in the camper was remarkably similar to life in Maine, just on a smaller scale.


Shortly after we purchased Ruth, Jake and I started searching for our first workamping gig. “Workamping” is a term used by us nomads to describe seasonal opportunities where one works and lives, at a campground (or other property). Sometimes hours are simply traded for a free campsite. Other times, and more up our alley, employers offer a campsite and an hourly wage in exchange for agreed duties, and hours worked. During the researching phase of this lifestyle, we kept coming across the same website, Workampingnews.com. We decided to bite the bullet and pay for an annual membership.


I am so happy we did. We created a resume, added some pictures of our family, truck and rig, so employers knew exactly who and what they were getting. What you see is what you get with our zoo crew. Once our profile and resume was completed, Jake and I started the hunt for a job. While we were in Georgia, Jake was working second shift at a nutritional supplement company. It paid the bills, but we had different plans, plans to free our family from any nine to five restrictions.


We applied to four positions and heard back from all four of them within two days. The very first position we applied to was in Colorado. I remember reading the ad out loud to Jake, and both of us were giddier with every word. Rampart Range needed a couple to camp host. We had never heard of Rampart Range and google was not much help. Online offered one time-lapse video of what seemed like a never-ending dirt road and a couple of photos. As we were getting lost in any small piece of information the internet would grace us about this remote area, we received an email.


Someone wanted to set a phone interview. That someone was the area manager for Rampart Range. Eagerly we accepted the invite. The next twenty-four hours crawled with anticipation. It felt as if our entire future was up in the air. We had so much to prove to our parents, the biggest thing was convincing them we were not crazy.


When the phone rang, I put it on speaker, and Jake and I introduced ourselves. The voice on the other end was extremely welcoming, and kind. After an hour-long conversation discussing the position and camp host duties, the woman on the other side of the phone offered us two fulltime camp-host positions. It felt too good to be true. We would be working alongside of each other, and with our children. No daily commute, no daycares, a wooded campsite, like minded people, and completely off grid.


Off- Grid. That was a huge jump into the unknown compared to how we had been living on my father’s land in an Atlanta suburb. Jake was not worried, even in the slightest. Me, I had some questions, but we had time to work through those, as we did not have to report to Colorado for our new gig until March.


That left us with the winter in Georgia to remodel our camper and make a plan. And plan, we did! We continued our research, this time shifting gears to generators, poop caddies (more on this later), water systems and anything else we may need to make off-grid life comfortable. These couple of months are a blur. Our home was a construction zone, Jake was working fulltime an hour away, and I was busy homeschooling the two big kids while entertaining our toddler.


By the time we left Georgia, mid-February, we had everything we needed, so we did not have to rely on anyone for our home to function. Not relying on an outside source for anything is a very freeing feeling if I do say so myself. It is a form of freedom; I am not sure my husband will ever give up now that he has experienced it.

We stopped at a few places to break up the drive from Georgia to Colorado. I saw an old friend, met her husband and her baby boy. I had not seen this friend in nearly a decade. With every mile we drove, and every site we stayed at my nervous feeling was changing to excitement, as I could see better than ever how perfectly we were meant for a traveling lifestyle. Seeing someone I had lost connection with during the hustle and bustle of life reminded me what really matters. Connection. Connection with people who make you happy. The rest of it is rubbish. All of it. Anything that takes us away from the people we love is working against the meaning of life.


The day we made it to the Pike National Forest was a sunny March Colorado day. We were all wearing shorts, and there were only small dirty patches of snow remaining along the roads. The heat coming from that springtime sun was unbelievable.

We were right about one of those things. The universe certainly was on our side bringing us to the base of the Rocky Mountains. We could not believe our eyes. The red dirt, big boulders, and crystal-clear South Platte River is too beautiful to put into words, and pictures do not do it justice. We were going to be living HERE for ten months?!

The mountains quickly reminded us that winter was still among us. Over the next two months mother nature littered our slice of heaven with snowstorm after snowstorm. As Mainers who spent the winter in Georgia, we welcomed the first few storms with open arms. The kids making snow men, and forts, just as they were used to doing in Maine.

Something is different about the Colorado snow, though. Regardless of the nighttime temperature, the sun makes the rules. A storm would roll through, leaving inches of snow in its wake, but the sun would still raise temps to the high fifties, even low sixties. Some of my fondest first memories of this place are watching the kids make snowmen in t-shirts.


The winters are long in Maine, it is as if the temperature goes below freezing in November and does not rise again until late March. I always thought I had a distaste for winter, turns out I was just experiencing it the wrong way. What a thrill it must be skiing these vast mountains in this warm Colorado sunshine. We plan on putting our skis and snowboards to use this year, before we travel south for the winter.


It is a good thing we fell in love with the Colorado snow, because it did not stop snowing until late May. And since then, we have been pounded with a couple notable hailstorms. Sunny one second and storming the next, mother nature is always keeping us on our toes. We were not expecting to fall in love with our first workamping gig, but it has happened. It is hard to pinpoint what exactly makes these mountains feel like home, but it is a combination of land and the people who live and vacation here.


People always ask us, “How do you work WITH your kids?”. Looking back, it seems like a silly question, because all mothers work with their kids, or we would never get anything else done. But I understand people’s concern, as the social norm is to not work with our children. The society we are a part of makes it appear like work and family must be separate. Separation of the two, I believe, is the beginning of our downfall as a society. There is simply not enough time in the day from someone to give their all to work, their relationship, their home, and their family, let alone any time for themselves. Society has set us all up to fail for the benefit of a few rich people at the top.


I am going off track, I know. Time to reel it back in, back to working with our children. What does this look like? It depends on the day. If Jake is cutting down a dead tree, and I am moving limbs into the woods it means the big kids are set up on a blanket nearby, and I am wearing Ember on my back while hauling logs. If we are cleaning bathrooms, it means the kids are playing nearby, while we do it. If we are collecting trash, the kids are too. Helping us clean up the forest has really given them a unique perspective, at their young ages. If Jake and I are collecting money from campers, the kids are with us. When a task arouses where we need to conquer and divide than that is what we do. Where there is a will there is a way. I do know that these kids do not slow us down, and they enjoy being a part of everything we do. The inclusiveness of our lives makes them feel like we are all a team, which we are. That is exactly the type of family comradery we are trying to build. I am aware we are lucky to have a boss who allows us to work with our children, and we do not take that for granted. Our entire family takes pride in the care of this mountain, which is good for everyone involved.

The combination of these vast woods, never ending dirt biking trails, huge mountains, clear rivers, nearly perfect weather, a great group of people makes me think we will return to Rampart Rang every year for the summer season.


We have been off grid for three months, and I never picture us going back to a conventional lifestyle. Now that we have gotten the hang of off grid chores, they seem easier now than they did in a sticks and bricks home. We work a little harder for everything out here, but I would not have it any other way. The reward far outweighs the workload. And as far as our children go, the lessons they are learning, the people they are meeting, and the experiences they have go far beyond what any classroom could teach them. I do not want my children to wait until they are retired to start living. I want them to be hard workers, but I do not want them to be a slave to someone else’s dream. There is a difference between working hard and giving up your life for money. My hopes are that money never drives their existence. What a miserable existence that must be. I hope they take note of what their father and I are doing. The entire point of this adventure is to find the balance between work and life. Putting life (and love) first, as they should be.


Time is what we value most in this household. Time together, and time outside.

We have created a life that works around that one value.

A life we do not need a vacation from.


It has been a long six months since I have shared anything on my blog. There are a few reasons for my long absence. The main reason is I have too much to share. I do not know where to start. My head is constantly on the verge of exploding with new knowledge. It is difficult for me to organize my thoughts into an organized piece (as you can tell). My mind goes from work to off grid chores, to remodeling tips, to homeschooling, camping, and hiking, and then all around again. Everything seems to seep into everything else, making it hard to find one topic to blog about. But here is my word, that I am going to try.

I want other people, other families, who feel stuck in a world that does not understand them, to know that a different lifestyle is possible. A life where people do not judge you on what car you drive, or what your occupation is. There is a life out there where people talk about more than just how busy they are. There is a life out there where you do not have to be so busy all the time. A life where you are in control of the time you have on this splendid floating rock.


Where there is a will there is a way, you just have to want it bad enough. You must want it more than you care about what people think of you.

People want you to live within their comfort zones, because if you go outside the rules they think exist, it makes their choice to live within those imaginary walls more painful.


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