Teaching Traveling: Get excited for an incredibly inspiring (and fun!) interview with J. Bruce Jones, an expert in self-publishing books online who decided at the age of 60 to transition careers and homes by taking a 2.5-month road trip with his wife across the United States! Bruce, tell us a bit about your background.
Bruce: I am a 30+ year business graphic designer, author of over 40 self-published books and product developer. All of my books and products are sold primarily online through Amazon and other websites. Along with products, I have also developed 5 online courses around publishing books, taking my own publishing experiences and sharing them with beginning authors.
I am 62, married, and the father of two grown daughters. My wife and I both love to travel and one of our goals for raising our children was to expose them to the world. Starting around age 11 and 12 we took them to New York, Canada, then The Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion, the West Coast and more. In their teens we showed them Europe with London, Paris and Rome, the goal being to expose them to a much bigger world out there than just their home town. I had this in mind when I created the World Maps Coloring Book (click to see) that is now a best-seller!
I also traveled all over Europe by backpack before getting married. In the past number of years we went with one daughter to Australia and New Zealand while she was doing a college abroad program, and we toured the Southern Island of NZ.
Over the summer of 2016, my wife and I traveled over the northern half of the United States, covering over 12,000 miles, roughly following the Lewis & Clark journey with side trips to National Parks. It was an amazing trip. Our daughters have continued to travel, covering additional chunks of the globe.
Part of the trip around the US was to have a transition from full time work to mostly retired. We also sold our house before the trip and have moved to a new location and a new house after it. I have let the design business wind down, but continue to operate my online businesses. I have also traveled back and forth to the West Coast many times in the past few years for events and conferences.
TT: Such exciting travels! Tell us more about that epic road trip you took with your wife.
B: We loved our 2016 summer of travel. The trip going west was based on the path of the 1804-6 Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery expedition, with side trips to National Parks. The entire trip lasted 2.5 months and covered over 12,000 miles. We started in Massachusetts, stopped in Gettysburg, headed west to St. Louis and then followed the Missouri River up to the Dakotas, across Montana, Idaho and then along the Columbia River between Washington and Oregon.
After landing at Cape Disappointment and Fort Clatsop, the winter home of the Lewis & Clark expedition, we headed north to Seattle and then back south to San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Our trip west was based on an excellent book by Julie Fanselow, Traveling the Lewis and Clark Trail. All along the trail there are interpretive centers, parks and monuments that you can visit.
Returning east, we basically backtracked across the US from Los Angeles up to Nevada to Wyoming, The Grand Tetons National Park, Yellowstone, up into Montana, the Dakotas again, to northern Michigan, down to Chicago and then to the East Coast.
We planned to camp along the way, but because it was so hot we ended up in hotels and motels. I called it the mid priced hotel tour of America. We did camp twice once at Mt. Rainier and then in The Grand Tetons. Both were excellent and well worth it. For travel we used a 2015 Subaru Forester carrying our camping and regular gear in the back. We often toured in the morning and traveled in the afternoon.
TT: Astounding. How did this trip come about?
B: 2016 was a year of change for us, because we planned to sell our house that year, put everything in storage and then travel before looking for and buying a new house. At the beginning of the year we were dealing with an elder parent and things were put on hold. But in January my mother passed and we were free to move forward. Our house went on the market and sold quickly, and by July we were ready to go. My original plan was to travel around the world, stopping at 6 or so sites. But we just didn’t have the time to plan it and felt funny going through all these different borders and customs crossing and not having a home address. So we decided to stay in the U.S.
The early part of 2016 ended being very rushed with the death and the selling and moving. We just didn’t have time to plan anything. We always had an interest in seeing more National Parks and thought this would make a good trip and got a couple of books on it, but again no real planning. My wife reminded me of my long ago interest in Lewis & Clark and suggested maybe we should follow their footsteps. I ordered the Fanselow book and starting plotting out a path. In her book she takes people on a two week tour. With the two week option, it seemed like you would end up driving like crazy. So my thought was to go at half the speed and enjoy it more, and along the way add in side trips to National Parks. That is basically what we did. By the time we turned to come back home we also had a good idea of other places we wanted to go. Having some kind of rough path really helps instead of just wandering around.
TT: Love this so much. How did you find the money to fund this travel?
B: This moment of life was planned for. When my younger daughter entered college I had been in business for 26 years. In 4 years she would graduate, I would be 60, I would have been in business for 30 years and it seemed like the right moment to do something different with our lives. We also had some other goals about how and where we wanted to live, and this date gave us a good target to shoot for to make some changes and get ready for the next phase of life. I was able to increase my online businesses so that I could wind down my graphic design business. I was also able to save some money. Everything was paid for from savings, but I also had my online businesses kind of on auto-pilot to fill in the holes. They need attention, but I could do it from the road.
TT: Inspiring. Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful.
B: Going out on the trip we realized that this was our trip, and not other people’s trip. People want you to visit, and this can really impact your traveling. You spend all your time going to their houses and not to your destinations. It is amazing how a date to see someone, even weeks out, can ripple back and affect your schedule. Sometimes you end up just hanging around, waiting to get together when in reality you would keep moving. It is hard to say no to family and friends, but (especially if you have limited time) you have to.
However, what we did on the way back was to drop in our visits, and they were well worth it. My wife saw a cousin she hadn’t seen in 40 years, and a friend for 20+ and I got to see a cousin and an aunt I hadn’t seen for 20+ years. These visits were highlights of the trip, and worth all the effort to make happen. There was a lot of catching up. They were wonderful experiences.
We saw so many places but a few really stood out: We met one daughter at Glacier National Park, and the other in Los Angeles. Glacier has always been on my bucket list. I love meeting people you know in far away places; they are always special visits. We had a wonderful camping experience at The Grand Tetons and a visit to a little island called Ryan Island in the middle of the Missouri River by Great Falls, Montana… just really cool. We discovered this from the Lewis & Clark travel book. We had to travel over miles of wheat fields to get there. We also really enjoyed a small coastal hotel called the Westport Hotel (click to see), which we discovered in “late of night we need to find something now” Westport, California. The hotel is located on Route 1 along the California coast. It’s a beautiful little romantic hotel. During the trip, I also loved all the oversize roadside creatures, dinosaurs, cows, buffaloes, chickens, I just thought they were the coolest. But it is probably the long lost relatives that had the most meaning.
TT: How have your travels impacted you in your current career, and how have your travels impacted you as a person?
B: The travels impacted me mostly as a person and the awareness of the huge distribution of goods and materials need to supply our country. I know that sounds odd, but I was just overwhelmed by the massiveness of all this in our country. In my twenties I traveled back and forth across the country but those were kind of “drive like crazy” trips: Memorable but not that impactful. This trip, however, I got to take my time. I knew we grew wheat, but had no idea of how much and how big the fields were. In western Montana there are massive fields of wheat as far as you can see for miles and miles. I was also affected by the lumber industry and the coal trains and open pit mines and the wind farms generating energy. It really hit me about how much energy and process it takes to supply a country of our size with goods.
Every gas station, convenience store, grocery store, restaurant, coffee shop has to have bread products every day, and they have to be fresh. Where does this come from? It comes from these massive fields. It was amazing to see the huge combines in the fields and the freighters on the Columbia River. The same with lumber: every town in America has a Home Depot or Lowes or lumber yard of some kind and all that has to be supplied. We sat outside a saw mill in the state of Washington just below Mt. Rainier watching the trucks coming in with logs and the boards going out. You can’t stop this and it has been going on for hundreds of years. I really felt it traveling around. For me this was one of my biggest memories.
TT: What advice do you have for people dreaming of epic travel like your road trip?
B: A common question that I have been asked about this trip is how did I do it. We did a lot of things that most people don’t normally do. We sold our house and put everything in storage. We drove for several months, living out of our car with no real destination. We had no agenda.
Having the storage unit allowed us to travel, but we didn’t have to think about our stuff. It was safe and sound. We also set up a PO box for our mail and one of the harder things was moving all of my financial life online. I set up electronic bill paying for pretty much everything. For most people these things wouldn’t necessarily apply because they aren’t going for such a long trip. But they all helped. We really had no idea when we would be back; we just went and needed a way to manage that. That really amazed people.
One of the ways that we were able to pull this off — and this was something that opened a lot of people’s eyes — was that we picked a date to make these life changes. Once that age, 60, and date were picked, we then started to pivot towards it. Decisions were being made to make that date happen, like closing down my business office and moving it home to pay off and close out some college financial planning that helped pay tuition. We kept moving forward with the plan: Starting to downsize and remove items from our house to storage. Putting the house on the market. And then when the time came, to just go through with it and do it, ready or not.
Setting a future date to go do something and then doing it was a key element in making all this happen. Most people just do the “someday I will” but never do. You have to set a date and then do it. Even half doing it is better than not doing it.
Another piece of travel advice is that anyplace you are visiting that you haven’t been to is just as good as any other place that you haven’t been to. All places have something to offer and can be enjoyed. I used this philosophy when I backpacked around Europe at 30. Any place you are is as good as any other place.
To record the trip I set up a blog, and I used Google Blogger; it is free and easy to use. This was a great way to take people along on the trip. I had many people comment about following us on this trip. I also reposted my blog posts on Facebook and used Instagram, but the blog was a great way to remember. It took some effort, sometimes a hour a night in the hotel room, but I am glad I did that. Coming back, I was able to pull off the text and photo and put together a book around the trip. I also used the phone and web app RoadTrippers to mark down every location. You just forget all the places you went. This map can be embedded in a blog.
Here are more good resources we used that I recommend:
- Hotels: Orbitz.com phone app. We would stop around 4 or 5 pm, pull up the Orbitz app and find a hotel for the night, select it, pay for it, and show up. It worked great most of the time in any city with a decent population. We sometimes did it from the parking lot.
- Hotel Tip 2: [By Lillie] In a useful update, TripAdvisor now gives you the ability to book hotels instead of just searching ratings. This is great on the road, too.
- Traveling the Lewis and Clark Trail, by Julie Fanselow, (available at Amazon)
- Money: I used the online banking app for my bank. It worked great to move money around.
- National Geographic Guide to the National Parks of the United States, (available at Amazon).
- Camera: iPhone. I debated what to take for a camera, and then just chose to use my iPhone. It worked great. Saved carrying a separate device.
- Lewis & Clark National Historical Trail
- Maps: we used Apple Maps on our iPhone. Amazing! We used it every day. Google Maps is great also.
- My travel blog: “Road Trip With Bruce and Louise.”
I have a big list of things I learned traveling that on my blog for anyone who wants more!
TT: Thanks so much, Bruce! Readers, what questions or comments do you have?
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