Today, we're with another solo female traveler but this one lives and travels full time in her motorhome. She keeps a very active life volunteering at National Wildlife Refuges around the U.S., and she has a lifelong love of camping and RV'ing. She's got a popular blog, and even though she publishes almost every day, she doesn't often talk about her personal life. So we're happy to welcome Judith Bell from "Travels with Emma" so we get an inside look into how she arrived at where she is now in life...
Kevin and Ruth: Okay, let's get started Judy...everybody likes to know some personal history. Can you tell us where were you born, and what did your parents do at the time?
Judy: I was born in Chicago, and lived there until after I was married and had two kids. Then it was a move to upstate New York. My mother was a housewife and my father worked as a newspaper printer that produced the Sunday colored sections back in the day. He died when I was eight, which greatly affected our lives from that point forward.
Kevin and Ruth: We're sure it must have, that's a terribly young age to lose your Dad. Do you remember taking any family vacations when you were that age?
Judy: When I was five or six, I remember a vacation down to Mammoth Cave, Kentucky. We stayed in one of the cabins. It had to be in 1952 or 53. I only know that because we didn't travel in the 1954 Ford that my Dad bought and was so proud of. We still had that 54 Ford when I was 16 and old enough to take my driver's test in it. Oh, the close calls I had with that little car driving around Chicago as a teenager. That was about the time that the interstates were being constructed. My step-father thought it would be good for me to experience driving downtown on State Street after the brakes went out. Can you just imagine? I somehow lived through the experience, so driving through big cities doesn't bother me as much as it does some people.
Kevin and Ruth: So then you got married and had children. You mentioned that your mother was a housewife. Did you go that route also, or did you go off and have a career as well?
Judy: While the three kids were little, I was a stay at home Mom, but went back to school to get my master's so I could keep my teaching credentials in New York. I then taught math in a juvenile corrections facility. That was a precursor to becoming a principal at two different Alternative High Schools when I moved to Minnesota. Somewhere in there in Minnesota, I got divorced and began to set my plans into action for going full-time RVing upon retirement.
Kevin and Ruth: Ah, RV'ing. Now, had you been into camping and RV'ing as a family? Maybe you can run us through the steps that led to living in a motorhome full time...
Judy: I got bitten by the camping bug when I joined a Girl Scout troop in Chicago as a teenager. That was in tents of course. It was my first chance to get out of the city and enjoy nature. My mother had remarried by that time, and I was able to talk the folks into buying one of the first tent campers available. My mother was not about to sleep on the ground. My step-father was a butcher at the time and had to work Saturdays. So we would head out just about every Saturday evening for a state park, and return on Sunday afternoon.
My folks really enjoyed the traveling to see new places, and by 1980, they sold the house and went full time in an Avion trailer. There weren't that many full-timers back in those days. So, I guess you could say I come by it naturally. I continued to camp when I could after I married, but my partner was not that interested. We did take the kids for an eight week camping trip across America when they were 15, 13, and 10. They have always remembered that summer of 1988. That was the year of the big fires in Yellowstone, and we were right in the middle of them!
Once I was back on my own again, I decided that a motorhome was the best choice for me. The hitching up and backing up of my trailer was always a challenge for me, and I decided I wasn't getting any younger. For me, the physical chores of operating a motorhome were a lot easier and less stressful. I drove my first motorhome out of the school parking lot on June 29, 2006, and haven't looked back since. :)
Kevin and Ruth: Wow, your parents were pretty much pioneers when it came to full time RV'ing back then! So, tell us about your motorhome, Does it have a name? Did you buy it new? What is one thing you would change about it?
Judy: My present motorhome is a 38' Winnebago Adventurer. It's a 2008 limited model that I bought used in 2010. Diesel fumes make me ill, so it is a gas pusher. I've had some mechanical challenges with it the last three years, but they were a combination of recall items and other things that I think were due to it not being used much before I bought it. You know, there's always something to take care of.
If there was one thing I would change about it, it would be that I would like someone else to drive it. Some people love to drive, but I find driving to be my least favorite thing about this lifestyle. It doesn't have a name as I have never been the type of person to give names to inanimate things. I simply call it home.
As the driver of this behemoth, my paradise would be a string of gas stations across the country that offered easy access in and out for a gas motorhome pulling a toad. I get more heartburn finding stations I can safely get in and out of than anything else in my life.
Kevin and Ruth: And, you've got a traveling companion. How long has Emma been with you, and what kind of dog is she?
Judy: Emma came to adopt me over five years ago while I was volunteering at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Some one dumped her at the volunteer village when she was about five months old. She wandered around the volunteer sites for several days begging food from the volunteers. She eventually just plunked herself down outside my rig's door, and the rest is history. She's just a mutt of unknown heritage although I suspect, being from Texas, she may have a little pit bull in her along with lots of terrier in my opinion. She's a wild child that hasn't calmed down one bit in her time with me. I have had many canine companions in my life, and raised seven guide dogs for the blind, but I've never had a dog like Emma before. Her enthusiasm for life just wears me out. Perhaps she is part cat as well, as she is rather independent and mostly chooses not to listen to me. She is a good traveling companion, however, and I guess we're two independent women that tolerate each other. :)
Kevin and Ruth: Our time is almost up today Judy, so maybe we can finish up with one final question. What piece of advice would you give to anybody thinking of living and traveling full time in an RV?
Judy: As for advice for someone thinking of the fulltime RV experience, I really don't have any. I think that is a personal decision. I know what works for me. I spend most of my time volunteering for the US Fish and Wildlife Service at our National Wildlife Refuges. It gives me a purpose in life, marvelous natural surroundings, free rent (for hours served), the opportunity to share the wonders of my nation's wild areas with visitors, and peace. I really can't ask for more than that in my life...
Judy looks pretty happy with her life!
Photo courtesy of The Good Luck Duck.
Kevin and Ruth: Nice, thanks Judith! We enjoyed learning more about you! Thanks for spending some time with us.
And there you have it. Everybody has a story, and we're glad to have heard Judy's story. You can follow her adventures (and see some great photos!) at Judy's blog, Travels with Emma. The website URL is as follows...