Full-Time Weekend Warrior: Kerisa Kiele

My dream is to full-time RV. Travel is my life and it’s when I’m truly happiest. I feel my shoulders relax and a grin come across my face when I’m towing my teardrop trailer with an open road ahead. My boyfriend and I are currently working the grind (8-5 day jobs) with hopes of turning our dreams and side hustles into full-time digital nomad careers within two years.

Something To Call My Own

I currently have a 980lb teardrop camper towed behind a Subaru Forester named Blu. I had a Subaru from when I lived in Boise, ID and needed an all-wheel-drive vehicle for those winter months. I bought my teardrop (named Buddy) because of his lightweight and affordability. I was planning on doing a solo two-month journey with just Butters (my mini dachshund/adventure buddy) around the Western US in between jobs and I wanted something I could pay for with cash from my hard-earned savings from my desk job AND be able to man-handle around a tight spot if need be.

How I Got To Where I Am Today

I worked for my local hometown in customer service for utility billing … aka the people who get yelled at when their water gets turned off for not paying their bill. I did that for over a decade and it was absolutely soul-crushing. I knew I loved helping people but knew that being a verbal punching bag for the city was just not meant for me. So I started researching remote jobs and stumbled upon becoming an independent travel agent! I get to help people do the thing I love to do the most … travel!

This side hustle was only the start of my travel career dreams. I attended Boise State University and got my BA in Communication and found a natural talent and passion for travel writing and even got a couple of articles published in a local magazine in Boise. Friends and family started suggesting that I start a blog to tell my story. Hence how my blog, Karisa Keeps Traveling was born. It’s a place to tell my stories of being a weekend warrior, and what I’ve gone through (I’m talking two divorces by age 30, yep) to get to where I am today.

I just recently started a new job still in local government but in Community Development, a department that works side by side with open space conservation, a field like most outdoors enthusiast am passionate about. It’s still a government job that pays the bills but it offers a better work schedule that allows for extended weekends for more adventures! I plan to use the longer weekends to explore more and work on my newest venture called Gems of the Road. This new project is my newborn baby and what I hope to eventually use to sustain my full-time RV lifestyle. Gems of the Road will be a website/blog and social media account showcasing all of those wonderful hidden gems I find across the country, and a place to encourage others to get out there and see the wonderful sights of America too!

Sharing My Adventures Is The Best Thing About Them

Honestly, my favorite part about the road has been showing my boyfriend Anthony the wonderful world of travel. He had the complete opposite upbringing that I did, he was work work work compared to my family’s policy of work hard and play harder. Before Anthony, I had been previously married and my marriage turned very unhealthy. My ex and I divorced and I moved back home to Southern California vowing to not let anything stop my love of travel. So I solo traveled for a while and was honestly loving the freedom of it. Then I met Anthony, a former boy scout turned gamer… someone who once loved the outdoors but had a different life now, someone who didn’t even think of camping alone. Well, needless to say, I rocked his world and one of our first dates was hiking up a gnarly hill in the mountains of Malibu. All of this is to say that my favorite experience was the first time we went camping together. It was mine and Butters first maiden voyage with my camper. I’m the driver of our rig because, to be honest, I’m a paranoid control freak. But to see Anthony’s face heading up the PCH for the first time. He didn’t know whether to look out over the rugged coastline with awe and surprise or to look at me behind the wheel with pride and admiration. It’s a look on his face that I will never forget. An experience that confirmed I’m meant to be on the road and experience others to do so as well.

Learn From Our Lessons

Remember when I said that I was supposed to take a two-month-long solo trip around the West? Well, sadly that didn’t happen. Less than two weeks before my departure date my Subaru’s engine needed major and expensive repair and Butter’s IVDD disease (a spinal disease common in dachshunds) flared up leaving my travel buddy in pain. She had been paralyzed by this disease a couple of years ago and had made a good recovery, but I knew I couldn’t risk taking her on the road in her condition and NO WAY was I leaving my travel buddy behind. So we waited a few weeks for Butters to get some much-needed crate rest and to ensure her flare-up had subsided.

We decided to take several smaller trips in the course of two months and our first one was to Organ Pipe National Monument on the border of Arizona and Mexico. We knew that there was a storm in the area but were hoping it’d skim by us. Nope. Tropical Storm Rosa came barreling down on the cactus-studded landscape around us! All my fearlessness went out the window when I started worrying about the thought of us getting swept away by a flash flood! We took shelter in a nearby vault toilet while the lightning and thunder crashed overhead. Eventually, we made our way back to the camper where Anthony vowed to keep an eye on the water level while we took shifts sleeping … we were that scared! He checked it one time, and later I found out he lied, saying it’s not too bad only for him to later confess there were several inches of standing water underneath us. Anthony’s shift lasted all of 5 minutes after his head hit the pillow. He was working graveyard shifts at the time for a security company and had been up for over 24 hours. So here’s my big strong man vowing to protect me from the storm passed out snuggling Butters under the blankets. While I sit up listening to the howling wind and pouring wind just imagining our rig being swept down some ravine and me being responsible for putting us in danger. I got maybe two hours of sleep that night after the majority of the storm had passed. We woke up to discover there was not another soul at this campground, even the Visitor’s Center was evacuated the day before due to the storm. We were the only idiots out there. We also awoke to cell reception and texts from my dad who tracked my GPS location thanks to our Find My Friends app and compared it to the radar map on the news and saw that his daughter was right smack dab in the middle of it. Once again confirming we were idiots. The storm had passed but the evidence of flooding was still around us. We had to go through some major river crossings, I’m talking white knuckle please don’t float away crossings. It’s one of those stories we love to share and laugh about now but it also was a great learning experience … check the weather before you head out!

RVing Should Be Fun For Everyone

Butters travels with me just about everywhere. She’s been to 16 states and even Canada, all by the age of 5. I treat Butters as if she were my kid, meaning I plan my trip around her comfort, not just as an accessory. The first thing I do is check the weather, if it’s going to be warm I have to make sure that wherever I am, Butters is comfortable. No leaving her in the car if it’s warm, it’s not worth it. Butters is adventurous but has back problems so an extra step I have to take is to plan my hiking trails accordingly, her strenuous hiking days are over and if she’s coming along I need to ensure her health is the first priority. I also love to find local eateries that have dog-friendly patios, bonus points if they have a doggie menu. Butters loves camping and even has her own chair. That’s her happy place. If you’re going to bring a pet camping for the first time maybe bring a piece of home with them (a favorite blanket, toy, etc.) something that will make them know they are safe and this is a good thing.

Find Your Happy And Safe Place On The Road

I grew up boondocking in the desert of California with my parents. I love the solitude! As a female solo camper, I personally felt more comfortable in an established campground, something like a national park or even a KOA. I felt safer around families. So if you’re a solo camper who’s maybe a little nervous about being in the middle of nowhere by yourself, start with a campground and then build your way up to more remote locations.

Budgeting For The Weekend Warriors

I currently live in Southern California and pay way too much for a one-bedroom apartment. But that’s why I’m still with my day job and not full-time quite yet. My biggest advice is if you’re still a weekend warrior such as myself, set a budget! You have a budget for rent, utilities, groceries, etc. Add travel/camping to the list. I’m an Excel advocate, I have a spreadsheet for everything and I love that I have my monthly budget set to the penny. I have a line and amount for every household expense … but I also have a line for Travel. I budget a certain amount each month to spend on things such as campground fees, hotels, whatever. That way I know I have money to travel each month. Some months my expenses aren’t as much as I thought if there’s extra … treat yo’ self to another trip or save for a bigger one! Don’t be afraid of a budget, make it work for you.

Having Someone To Share Memories With

Traveling with someone again has been a big adjustment. There’s a reason why there are pillows that say “I’m sorry for what I said when I was backing up the trailer!” Like I said earlier, I’m a wee bit of a control freak and since I did it alone before, I know I can do this on my own .. doesn’t mean I choose to. Traveling with Anthony has been an adjustment. He knew nothing about RVing before meeting me and I had grown up with a 26ft toy hauler with my folks. My dad taught me how to check my oil, hitch up a trailer, don’t forget the hitch pin, and on and on. Anthony didn’t have that and to teach someone tasks I thought were so basic was a bit of a test of my patience. But now we run pretty smoothly. I can now back my trailer up with ease and only need him to spot me for an occasional rock or stump I can’t see and he’s the one who likes to hitch up the trailer and test the lights. It’s been a big adjustment traveling with a rookie but he’s learned and fell in love with the RV life pretty quickly.

Dreaming Of More Adventures

We hope to be living on the road full time within the next 6 months to two years. We’re paying off some debts and saving for a truck and bigger trailer to make RV life easier for us, Butters and my cat Tiskies who will be tagging along as well. Our goal is to be on the road for two years, that will allow us to explore the country without feeling rushed. After our life on the road we hope to settle down back in Boise.

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