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This week I welcome Cole and Elizabeth, the Switchback Kids, who are on the trip of a lifetime visiting all 59 United States National Parks in one year. Learn how they came up with the idea, and are paying for it, in this week’s episode.
Eric Rosenberg: Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, welcome back to the Personal Profitability Podcast. I’m so excited to have you back again for this awesome episode. And we’re actually doing, having someone on that I haven’t met in person before. This is the first time we’re doing that. So we’re kind of exploring the world meeting new people. And this couple that we have on, a friend sent me an article telling me how they were travelling to every single National Park in the United States in one year. That is an awesome goal one that I’m totally inspired by; how they figure it out, the timing, how to pay for it. So I had all these questions and I thought what better way to ask these questions than with the entire world listening on the internet; hopefully the entire world listening.
So we have Elizabeth and Cole on with us. They’re the Switchback Kids. You can find them at switchbackkids.com. Please say hello to everybody.
Elizabeth: Hello everybody.
Cole: How’s it going? Happy to be here.
Eric: As I was just telling you guys right before we started recording, personal finance should be personal. That’s a strong belief of mine and it should be fun and not stuffy boring bankers. So I’m sitting here with a home brewed beer that one of my friends who lives in East, farther East Portland, I’m in East Portland, there’s a farther East Portland, made and gave me over the weekend. It’s not a beer you’ve heard of but I’m really excited to be drinking it. And I know you guys have a beer, too. What are you drinking over there?
Elizabeth: Oh yeah. So I got the other Portland, so Portland, Maine. Waterfront Brewing Company and it’s a Spice Pumpkin Ale.
Eric: What a good time of the year to have; I love those pumpkin beers. They’re so good.
Elizabeth: Yeah, it’s delicious.
Cole: And I have from Bangor, Maine, that was our last stop in Maine, so very local. Presque Isle Blonde. It’s a Honey Blonde Ale.
Elizabeth: Got a Little mix and match.
Eric: Yeah, I’m totally in with that. Local breweries that’s like, traveling across the country I would probably, even if I run a National Park tour, I’d probably end up with more breweries than National Parks. That’s my thing.
I went to Napa a few years ago, I’ve never been before. I have a friend who was living just north of the Bay Area, right by Napa. He said, ‘hey, let’s go by Napa and try some wine.’ So I was like, ‘Awesome. But first we have to go to Russian River Brewing and Lagunitas Brewing.’ And by the time we got to the wineries I’d already had, let’s say I had more than a beer or two. So I was not able to appreciate some of the best wines in the world as much as I might have otherwise but at least I know I love beer, right? I got to enjoy those.
Elizabeth: We have not been to nearly enough breweries. I can go into one tomorrow though, we’re in Boston.
Eric: Oh, you’re in Boston? There’s lots of beer in Boston.
Elizabeth: Right. So we might be going to the Sam Adams.
Eric: They’re like one of the biggest breweries in the country now. But they’re still a craft brewery. They still get respect. They didn’t sell out. Some of the bigger craft breweries sold out. They’re still okay.
A Year of Adventure
Eric: I was mentioning right as we got on, you guys are traveling to every National Park. How did you guys come up with this idea?
Cole: It all started maybe a year and a half ago when we were hiking in Kansas City, just springtime…
Eric: Did you live in Kansas City?
Cole and Elizabeth: Yes
Elizabeth: Three years. We grew up in St. Louis, went to college, met at Mizzou, in the middle of Missouri
Eric: Go, Tigers, right?
Elizabeth: Yes, MIZ, and then kind of migrated further west across the state and both worked in Kansas City for three years. So this was like year two in Kansas City.
Cole: And we were just happy to be out finally after a long winter.
Elizabeth: Like a bear.
Eric: I’ve been to Kansas City winters. I have family in Kansas City. I was actually just there in February this year. I know it’s cold. I went to a winter Kansas City wedding. That was cold. It was brisk.
Cole: Interesting choice.
Eric: He was from Kansas City, so….
Elizabeth: Right. So anyway, hiking, spring, Kansas City, talking just about life goals and bucket lists, aspirations we had. And Cole kind of mentions National Parks.
Cole: I just thought it would be really cool to visit all the national parks someday. And then Elizabeth kind of surprised me and she said, ‘yeah me, too, that’ll be awesome.’
Elizabeth: Well, just not really me, so much.
Eric: You’re not an outdoorsy type?
Elizabeth: I am. I am outdoorsy. We both of us had this kind of camping nature hiking mentality instilled in us by our parents. So I’ve done a lot of outdoorsy stuff. Just the whole leaving everything and leaping into something, that wasn’t me.
Eric: When did you decide that someday was going to be now?
Cole: It was really all a matter of lucky timing, I guess. We were in Kansas City. We had great jobs but they weren’t our passion in life, I guess you could say.
Elizabeth: Right, getting a little stale.
Cole: And we knew at one point we wanted to move to where our family were in St. Louis, and just figured the time was right to, if we’re gonna make that transition anyway and uproot, why not make the most of it and do something really excited about. And that ended up being our goal of visiting all of the national parks.
Elizabeth: In a year.
Eric: That’s amazing.
Cole: We really debated for….
Yeah. So we came up with that idea.
Elizabeth: Without even knowing how many national parks there were or how far away they were from each other. So without even doing much research.
Eric: It’s a big country.
Elizabeth: Yeah, exactly.
Cole: That’s what we found out.
Eric: Alaska’s really far away.
Elizabeth: Right. And American Samoa has a national park.
Eric: That’s also really far away.
Elizabeth: Much further
Eric: Farther than Alaska. Farther than Hawaii. It’s like almost to Japan.
Elizabeth: Yeah. It’s like two Hawaii away.
Basically this little idea sparked. And then it kind of stayed at the back of our minds. We didn’t really think it was going to happen or it was real. It’s just, we started looking into it a little bit, we started talking about it and then we would stop talking about it for a while. This was now summer, fall. And by about fall, I think, the idea just kind of slowly grew. It wasn’t like a moment where we knew. I feel like the more we talked about it, the more we started taking about it to other people, we got really reinforced to this idea and this crazy adventure.
Eric: Were other people supportive or…
Eric: like your parents, your friends?
Eric: Friends will always be like, ‘Yeah, go do things.’ But parents would be like, ‘Keep your stable job and keep making money.’
Cole: Exactly. That’s exactly how mine were. We started, we mentioned it to them and I don’t think they believed us.
Elizabeth: They’re like, ‘Oh, okay.’
Cole: It’s just a pipe dream of course. Then when we were actually planning and we were actually budgeting and doing all these different things to get ready, they realized we were actually serious in it. And from that point on, to their credit, they were nothing but supportive and…
Cole: Yeah, probably jealous.
Eric: Is anyone coming along for like a leg of the journey with you?
Elizabeth: Yeah. My sister joined us for ten days, which was amazing. In Grand Canyon, in Zion, for ten days in a row now, it’s really fun. And Cole’s parents, we’re actually gonna see them in a couple of days. They’re gonna meet us near Washington DC in Shenandoah National Park for about three, four days. They’ll be with us in Virgin Islands also.
Eric: That’s a rough place to go to have to see a national park in the Virgin Islands.
Elizabeth: I know. It’s hard.
Cole: Especially when it’s getting into December. Everywhere else is getting some snow, we’ll be…
Eric: Hanging out in the beach?
Elizabeth: Yeah, roughly.
Eric: Someone’s gotta do it.
Cole: But that’s been the really cool thing is that going all around the country people can pop in for a park. Friends that we knew during college and haven’t talked to since we can hit up again and say, ‘hey what if we crash at your place in a week?’ and you realize you have this support network that is kind of all-around and it’s really been fun to be able to tap into that and reconnect with a lot of different people.
Dealing with Finances
Eric: That’s great. When you started thinking, well maybe this isn’t a pipe dream it’s something that we might actually do, what were you’re steps specifically thinking about paying for it all? How did you start planning and getting everything together?
Cole: Yeah. That’s the big question. Our very first step, before we knew that it was something we were going to do, for sure we had to make sure it was feasible; mostly that meant feasible financially. And that’s kind of my cup of tea more so I kind of make sure we’re on track financially. And in a lot of instances, the scrooge when it comes to money, I’m sure we’ll get into that later.
Eric: Do you typically share those financial management responsibilities or does one of you typically…
Elizabeth: Cole does most of it. I think he enjoys it.
Cole: Enjoy is a strong word.
Eric: I know, I enjoy dealing with my money so my wife is like, ‘you can just deal with that, I don’t have to worry.’
Cole and Elizabeth: Yeah
Eric: I have two finance degrees; I’m a weirdo like that.
Cole: I like doing it more than a lot of other chores. But I make sure, the important thing of course as a couple, the other person has to know what’s going on so I drag her in to whatever details necessary. But day to day, I take care of the bills and everything and the budget.
Eric: With me, I just got married, I should know how long ago, a year and half ago, when we moved in together I found communication is such an important part even though I was dealing with most of the day to day bill paying and all that kind of stuff. Just keeping both of us, keeping my wife in the loop definitely help build a strong relationship and in case anything ever happen, if I get sick, we both know what’s going on. It helps build trust, I think, having good communication.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Absolutely.
Cole: And when you’re living together, you would think, around each other all the time, you would think communication just comes naturally but you do have kind of make it a point to mention those really important things that wouldn’t come up otherwise.
Eric: I’d come home from work on a Wednesday and be like, ‘let’s go ride bikes.’ Money wouldn’t be the first thing to come up on some days of the week; always something important. I talk about it probably more than most people because I’m a finance guy but… so anyway, we totally derail talking about couples and relationships and money…
Elizabeth: Yeah, we’ll bring it back.
Eric: Perfect, perfect. Let’s keep going on the money train.
Tracking the Expenses
Elizabeth: Yeah. So basically we just became more aware of what we’re spending. That was probably the first thing we did is we tracked everything. We wrote specific numbers down of how much we spent on groceries this month. It was more of an afterthought rather than budgeting ahead of time. We just really tracked things. And that made us obviously a lot more aware of how much we’re spending and where we could cut back.
Eric: Did you use like Excel spreadsheets, did you have a favorite program or website you used?
Elizabeth: We used a Post-It note
Cole: Yeah. I kind of did it old school where I would just look at on the credit card statement online, all the lined items and then I would add them up in different categories, you have groceries and gas, utilities or fixed cost, I think I’ve said. And then you make sure you’re tracking that. We did every ten days. There were three times throughout the month where I did it. And then I totaled those up for the month.
At first we were keeping all our receipts too and realized that it really wasn’t doing us any good. So we just started doing totaling all the items. And it really helped us see what we were spending money on within each category and how that differed from month to month and how we needed to maybe put one category in check or how we did really good on another category this month because we made this change and conscious effort.
Eric: Did you have any surprises when you started budgeting like that? Was there any category like, ‘’Whoa, I spent way too much money doing something you didn’t realize you’re spending a lot of money on?
Cole: I would say that we always think that we’re doing really good on not eating out a lot and everything but that category was always more than I expected. It wasn’t a ton but it could get to $150 for the month or $200 for the month. And that is when you’re trying…
Elizabeth: We didn’t take a lot of effort.
Cole: And when you’re trying to keep in a budget of $1900, which was what I calculated we need to keep do for the month, that’s a big chunk of that.
Eric: Yeah, that can be scary budget busters. A lot of people never look at their finances at all. The first time they really look and sit down they’re like, ‘Whoa, I spent like $600 in the bar for the last three months.’ Things like that. That’s a useful exercise when you’re gonna travel the country or not, just knowing what your finances look like.
Did you have a specific goal with all these? What was your, you’re about to keep going, what was your next step?
Cole: We started tracking all of these mostly before we were considering going on this huge trip. When we needed to consider whether this all 59 parks in a year thing was actually feasible, I basically tried to estimate as best as possible all of the expenses that we would accrue during this year of travel. And that was gas, groceries…
Cole: Camping was a big one. Even air fare for specific parks because you have specific destinations that you need to get to you can calculate in a very detailed fashion what it would take to get to those destinations.
Eric: Unfortunately you cannot drive to the Virgin Islands or American Samoa easily.
Cole: I know. That causes some trouble.
Eric: That messes up your car when you try.
Elizabeth: He would try to take me on a 750 hour car drive across the Virgin Islands.
Cole: If it was a couple of bucks cheaper, I probably would.
Cole: So total all those expenses, our insurance and everything we would need for the year, and I got this hunk of money that was our goal to save. And then I also added up the expenses that we would have each month for the months we had remaining for until we left, until our estimated departure. And say that was 12 months or so, I knew that each month if we have our estimated expenses for the month at $1900 we had to just make sure that would be the mark where our income would be a couple of hundred greater than that to where we could suck that extra away and save for the trip.
And for the trip we estimated it would cost around $21,000 total for the year with all the transportation and everything. So that became our goal. We actually knocked it down to $20,000, make it an even $20,000. Pretty ambitious, honestly. But we wanted to challenge ourselves. And that became part of our adventure is not just going to all these places but going to them all realistically because anybody can do awesome things if they have all the money in the world but in the real world, people have limited budgets and that’s kind of what we’re working with to. And we wanted to show people that it is possible.
Elizabeth: And thankfully the national parks make it very easy. It’s easy to travel cheaply to parks when you’re hiking and biking…
Eric: As long as you’re not taking the helicopter too and stuff, that’s reasonable.
Elizabeth: Yeah, no.
Cole: Those are budget killers.
On Quitting their Full Time Jobs
Eric: If you don’t mind sharing, what were your jobs before you got started on this? And did you keep them or what was your arrangement with your employers when it was time to go on your adventure?
Elizabeth: One of the big deciding factors was that we knew we would have this quitting our job transition anyway because we wanted to move from Kansas City to St. Louis. In doing that we knew we have to quit our jobs. I was a 6th grade teacher so mine wasn’t transferable at all. Cole worked in healthcare IT at a large company in Kansas City and again, wouldn’t be able to transfer that to St. Louis. So both of us knew we would have to just kind of quit.
Eric: They’re transferable jobs skills but not transferable jobs.
Elizabeth: Exactly. That actually went pretty well. My co-workers are all very excited and very supportive and still very supportive and awesome about it. That was fine. And same with Cole, I think we both had really easy leaving our job experiences.
Eric: Did you give two weeks’ notice or did you give more notice?
Elizabeth: I had to give a lot more notice. Schools kind of work differently. They want you to know or they want to know as soon as possible. I talked to my principal in about January 2015 because they start hiring teachers right away at the beginning of the year. So she was grateful, she wanted to know as soon as possible.
Eric: So did you work through the school year? Is that your plan?
Elizabeth: Yeah. My contract went all the way. And I actually got paid up through August.
Eric: So you worked like paid out on the road a little bit?
Elizabeth: Yeah, which was really nice. So the teacher salary just works at my particular district works September through August. I did do summer school too. So it was an extra chunk of change. But I didn’t work at all in July and got paid, didn’t work at all in August and got paid. So that was an extra little kick.
Eric: It’s nice having state sponsorship to travel around and see the national parks.
Eric: How about you Cole? Did you have a similar experience?
Cole: Yes. I gave, I think, a month’s notice. Just a little longer so they could plan for the transition and everything. And I left my job this August; seems like such a long time ago. But it was August 15. It was very smooth. It was a great company. I didn’t get paid any time that I wasn’t working unfortunately.
Eric: It’s more typical.
Cole: I was able to do some stuff like cash-in the vacation I’ve saved up. Little things that helped me squeeze a few extra dollars.
On Taking Out Health Insurance
Eric: How did you guys decide to do health insurance when you left your jobs?
Elizabeth: That was a big one. The typical leaving your employment is Cobra, which is very expensive.
Eric: It’s convenient but it’s pricey.
Elizabeth: It’s so expensive. I think that was one of the big things that needs a lot of money that we didn’t settle for Cobra. So we looked into other options. Cole especially looked into, we talked to our parents and they’re very much…
Cole: Proponents of us getting insurance. Obviously, when you’re gonna be travelling around country..
Elizabeth: Right. And we were, too…
Eric: Doing hiking and things where you could sprain an ankle or break an arm.
Eric: Hopefully you won’t. Knock on wood.
Elizabeth: So Cole basically, go ahead, I guess.
Cole: I first checked out the Federal marketplace, wasn’t floored by those options. And then I actually threw signing up by putting out my information to get a quote from some other insurance channels. Got on some lists where I got calls from insurance brokers. But it was actually really helpful because they told me about this thing called short term insurance that I hadn’t known anything about before.
Basically, with what it could offer us, it gave us a better coverage options and a better deductible at a lower price than what we would have gotten from a regular plan. And since its short term it goes, you can do a contract for up to six months and renew it if you want to. I knew nothing about it but I was actually pretty impressed. That’s what we went away with through United Health Care, so it was a good name. It ended up being, I think, like a $180 a month or something like that.
Eric: Super cheap. That’s awesome.
Elizabeth: Very cheap.
Cole: For the two of us.
Eric: Was that on your $20,000 number?
Cole: We were budgeting $3,000 for health insurance for the year. So divide that by 12, I guess. So it’s definitely got us below our monthly allotment for health insurance.
Eric: Some helicopter ride money.
Eric: Or maybe an extra six pack to take with you on your hike.
Elizabeth: Exactly. That’s what we’re feeling.
Eric: More your vibe than helicopter? The reason I talk about helicopters, I actually just started private pilot lessons a couple of months ago. I’m flying Cessnas the one with the blade on the front not on the top. My mind’s in the sky a lot these days, up in the clouds.
Planning the Route
Eric: So you got your insurance lined up, you had your money ready, how did you decide your route? And how did Day One looked like?
Cole: I really enjoyed planning our route. That was probably my favorite thing that I did. And a lot of it was based on weather because when you are in the national parks, when you’re camping, tent camping like we were, you’re pretty exposed. So we had to make sure…
Elizabeth: A lot of the national parks are cold in the winter. So a lot of them are mountainous and…
Eric: You don’t wanna be in Rocky Mountain National Park in March.
Eric: I don’t even know if you can be Rocky Mountain National Park in March.
Elizabeth: Not really. I think everything is pretty close.
Eric: They shut down all the roads through, I know.
Elizabeth: Right. So that was probably the biggest decision. We also had a few things we had to be back for in Missouri – a wedding that I’m in in June. So we’re gonna have to be driving through.
Eric: Was that part of the $20,000, the wedding? I’m just curious.
Elizabeth: No. Was it?
Cole: Well when we count the mileage wise, the mileage to get there.
Elizabeth: Mileage wise, but like the dress and stuff, no. We’ll be fine, there goes our beer money.
Eric: There goes the helicopter ride, got a bridesmaid dress, thanks friend for getting married during my summer of travel.
Elizabeth: Exactly. Then it ended up being my sister had a baby shower and a few things that we wanted to do just kind of be around for and we were able to route it pretty well. Our route ended up looking almost like a spiral.
We started from St. Louis Missouri and then kind of did a little loop around the southwest, so Southern Colorado, Arizona, Utah and then back through Missouri. And now we’re north, northeast, so went through Ohio, Maine, and now we’re headed south for the winter; like birds. So in a couple of weeks, we’ll be in Florida, which is awesome.
Eric: It’s a nice time of the year to be in Florida for sure. My sister’s down in Miami and she keeps sending me beach pictures. Really? I’m sitting here in the rain in Portland and you’re sending me beach pictures? I get it, I’d do the same.
Selling Most of their Belongings
Eric: When you were in Kansas City, did you own or rent your home?
Eric: What did you do with all your stuff when you left?
Elizabeth: Sold it.
Eric: Sold it all? Like the great wedding?
Elizabeth: Oh yeah. That was a huge way we got extra income those last few months. We didn’t really have anything that was too nice. I’m a big, like thrift shopping is like my biggest hobby.
Eric: Pop some tags?
Cole: She’s an up-cycler.
Elizabeth: So I did a lot of painting furniture and selling it, which was cool. That was another way we got a little extra income.
Eric: Very cool.
Elizabeth: That was basically what our whole house consisted of was thrift store furniture that I had painted or somehow fixed up a little bit. So we ended up selling all that for a big profit from what we bought from which is nice. And a lot of our other stuff we just sold Craigslist-style.
Cole: I sold some of my video games.
Elizabeth: I’m so sad
Eric: If I had to give up my Grand Theft Auto 5 I’d be a little sad. Even if I hadn’t played it in like six months. I know it’s there, if I’m in a bad mood and need to shoot people, I have an outlet.
Eric: Or if I need to go to a strip club and not actually go to a strip club or run stops or…just like real life Grand Theft Auto.
When you left your apartment, what did you have left? What did you still own?
Cole: I feel like we had a little more than Elizabeth remembers but we had…
Elizabeth: We have a ton. We sold all of our furniture. We didn’t sell all of our stuff.
Cole: Of course you have a bunch of wedding gifts since we got married about two years ago, all our kitchen items and everything that we were gonna keep. So we have those all wrapped up in boxes in between one of my friend’s houses in Kansas City, who was very generous in lending in some of his large basement space, and then Elizabeth’s parents we have a large closet there.
Elizabeth: A nice walk-in closet full of stuff. Definitely less than the average person I would say. But we still have some stuff. We didn’t get rid of everything.
Eric: So when you’ve end of your journey, you have like a pot and pan aside from the camping pot and pan.
Eric: When you get home, after having a long stint in the woods before, I got home and I kind of wanted to go set up my camping stove in the backyard; it’s crossed my mind before. I don’t really have a good backyard anymore so I’m stuck with my regular stove.
Plans for the Rest of the Year
Eric: You say you’re on the way down Florida, you’re heading south for the winter, what does the rest of your year away look like?
Cole: So after we hit Florida we will be coming back up for Christmas about stay two weeks, with each of our families, one week with each. And then we have to fly out from St. Louis to Hawaii, two parks in Hawaii and then fly from there to American Samoa, one park there, back to St. Louis and then we kind of finish by staying down south for the rest of winter, where there’s a park in Arkansas, two in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona. And then you get into California, maybe around spring time, travel up the coast of California, where there are eight parks in that state, so we’ll be there for a while.
Eric: It’s a huge state.
Cole and Elizabeth: Yeah
Eric: My in-laws live in Sta. Barbara, which is, it’s not quite as far as San Diego and the Mexico border, but it’s pretty far down there, it feels like in southern California when you’re driving it. We did it straight through in a day. We left at 5 A.M., with the dogs and got to Sta. Barbara about 10 P.M.
Eric: California’s huge. I feel like I’ve seen a lot of California.
Elizabeth: At least we’re doing it in chunks.
Eric: Yeah. It makes it a lot nicer.
Elizabeth: So park to park to park is not so bad.
Cole: And we’ve never even been to the west coast. So that’s a whole other thing with this trip. When we were planning, we realized there’s so many places around the U.S. we haven’t touched. And that was one of the huge motivators to get out. And we weren’t really interested as much in doing some big international travel trip, we thought that our backyard in the U.S. had a ton to offer still that we haven’t experienced.
Eric: Totally. Are you gonna hit every state on your journey or are there are few states you’ll miss?
Cole: There aren’t a lot of parks down in the deep south.
Elizabeth: Yeah, hardly any.
Cole: So we’ll miss Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana…
Eric: Be down for Mardi Gras some time; get it off your list.
Favorite National Parks
Eric: Of all the parks you’ve been to so far, I know you’ve only been out a couple of months, what’s your favorite been and why?
Cole: We are always asked this and it’s super tough.
Elizabeth: We get asked this a lot. It is hard. My favorite is actually, it’s funny coz this is the last one we’ve been to and it’s probably it’s just fresh on my mind, but Acadia National Park in Maine was amazing, like it’s so crazy.
Eric: It sounds beautiful.
Elizabeth: It was so beautiful. I had this kind of picture of Maine in my mind and it totally lived up to that and far beyond it. It’s just a beautiful mix of ocean, mountain; fall colors right now were the best I’ve ever seen. We did a ton of hiking and it was cold and it was kind of gross and rainy but even so it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. It was amazing.
Eric: It’s awesome. Any that did not live up to your expectation?
Cole: I wouldn’t say that. But I would say, they met our expectations.
Eric: If you set a low bar they lived up to that low bar.
Cole: Well one of the parks we’re most excited for in our first leg of our trip which was all in the southwest, was Zion National Park. Heard so many good things from everybody about it so that had the highest expectation.
Elizabeth: It’s hard going in with that mentality, we didn’t give it much of a chance to exceed our expectations because we came in with such high expectations.
Eric: Did it live up to it?
Elizabeth: It did. It was awesome.
Elizabeth: But it was just a little bit more commercialized, touristy than…
Cole: It’s just very popular
Elizabeth: Yeah, very popular
Cole: Lots of people. You can definitely get away from the people if you do some of the more remote canyons. They have tons of back country hikes and we did one of those. But you also, when we’re traveling in these parks, we wanna hit the iconic places too so that meant in Zion a couple of places called the Narrows and Angels Landing.
Elizabeth: There’s people everywhere. So if you know how to get away from, which we’ve gotten really good at that too and so if you know how to escape the crowds for a little bit pop in to see those iconic places and then go find something that’s remote and solitary.
Eric: You get a little bit more of you and nature experience than you and the crowd and nature experience.
Ideal Hiking Footwear
Eric: I’m curious, what kind of shoes, you guys must be hiking like 5,000 miles this year, what kind of shoes are you wearing for this hiking?
Elizabeth: I have 3 pairs of shoes I wear. I’ve brought a pair of Tevas flip flops that I haven’t really worn at all, so I wear Chakos any time I’m not doing a hike which are sturdy sandals.
Eric: It’s like a half hour a day when you’re not hiking. No, kidding.
Elizabeth: And then I have a pair of day hiking, shorter hiking shoes that don’t go super high on your ankle. Those are Merrells. And then I have a pair of tall hiking shoes that are Hi-Tec brand, I think it’s kind of mid-range. Not super nice shoe but it works pretty well for me.
Eric: You guys been like super blistered or are things going well?
Elizabeth: My feet are pretty disgusting. They’re really callousy. Sometimes if I don’t wear socks to bed I’m afraid I’m gonna pop the air. It matches with my heel. It’s pretty gross but not too blistered. I had a phase of that. And now I think I’m over the blistering phase.
Eric: Got through blisters and the callouses.
Cole: A sign of a seasoned hiker.
Cole: My shoes are Vibram FiveFingers which I’ve worn a couple of times
Eric: Are those the toe shoes, each toe has its own thing?
Cole: Exactly, so I’ve just worn them…
Elizabeth: I don’t hike with him if he wears that. I’m just kidding.
Eric: It’s like might as well have a fanny pack.
Cole: They’re good for the creek or sand, when we were in sand dunes in Colorado, hiking through huge dune fields but…
Best Camp Site
Eric: Sand dunes are cool. I’m from Colorado originally. I’ve been out on the sand dunes.
Elizabeth: The sand dunes were amazing.
Eric: It’s like you’re driving along in the middle of like arid desert, your high altitude deserts, there’s like sparse grass and then you turn a corner and there’s giant sand dunes. It’s like you turn from Denver into Saudi Arabia. It’s weird. But it’s awesome.
Elizabeth: Yes, we love them.
Cole: That was our best camp site. It’s camping in the dunes.
Elizabeth: Always amazing
Eric: Did you stay on the sand?
Cole: Yeah. It was like another planet.
Elizabeth: So you have to hike just right over the first ridge. That’s like the Day Use area. But once you get over that…
Cole: It’s a big ridge.
Elizabeth: It is a big ridge.
Eric: I’ve been on the top of that ridge and then I turned back.
Elizabeth: So we just keep going over that ridge and it’s like a different planet. There are no footprints, there’s nobody that you see at all. And so you can camp anywhere in the dunes over that first ridge.
Eric: Did you need a compass to get back in the morning?
Elizabeth: No. We did get a little…not lost, but we didn’t exactly make it to where we wanted to make it.
Cole: We’re trying to hike the tallest dune and we kept thinking that, ‘oh there it is, it’s right in front of us.’
Eric: It’s the falls highest dune?
Elizabeth: Falls summiting, like crazy.
Eric: I tried to climb Mount Elbert in high school with a big group and we kept, it’s like the sixth falls summit in August. It started snowing and the group rule is if it snowed we had to turn back no matter what. We had the real summit in sight after five fall summit. It’s like, this is it. The map says we’re almost there. But no luck. We still have to turn around. So it’s too bad. I feel for you with that. I’ve been there.
Facing Unexpected Obstacles
Eric: Any big obstacles or challenges you didn’t expect before you left you’ve come across?
Elizabeth: You know, we get asked that a lot, too actually. And it’s hard because I think we planned really well. It’s almost opposite. Like some of the things we expected to be challenging aren’t. Like sleeping on the ground and living completely out of our car….
Eric: Do you have a good ground pads, I’m guessing?
Elizabeth: Yeah, definitely. Although one of them has annoying leak right now. We’re working on that. But things like that, especially for me, like not showering, hardly ever; once a week we shower. Which sounds awful.
Eric: Did you get used to it?
Elizabeth: Yeah. I think so. Especially when it’s cold and you’re not sweating as much, it’s not bad. Some of the things that we thought would be challenging haven’t been nearly as bad as I thought they would be.
On Being Together 24/7
Eric: How is it being together 24/7? I know you’re only a few months in, I could ask you again at the end of your journey. How has it been so far? With a spouse, it’s someone you love and you spend a lot of time with, but it’s a big change going from having jobs that separate you for 8-10 hours a day and then come in together constantly for months on end. How has that been so far?
Cole: It definitely was a big change. I think during the first leg we were apart over a month and a half, a total of 6 hours so yeah, definitely constant presence. But that also means that when you have some sort of tiff or debate, you have to settle it.
Elizabeth: Like right away. There’s no escaping.
Cole: The other person isn’t going anywhere.
Elizabeth: Right. I feel our communication has… our communication has always been pretty good. But it has become fast. We have to really figure out, we’ve gotten better at reading each other a little bit. And just like he said, with arguments you have to solve it right away. You can’t, you know, jump out of the car or go out into the cold air from the tent. You’re kind of like in close, you have to get into it. But I think that’s been really good overall.
On Pursuing One’s Passion
Eric: If someone is listening and they are thinking of doing an epic journey or even a less epic journey of going across the country for the first time, doing something that they’ve never done outside of their comfort zone, from what you’ve gotten through that got you started, what advice do you have for them to take the first step?
Elizabeth: Do it.
Eric: Just do it?
Elizabeth: Not just do it. But definitely do it. I think a lot of what we did was not rocket science at all. I think it’s so attainable. So whatever it is that people want to do, it’s extremely doable. Like he said, the basic things we did were watch where our money was going, as far as financially planning for it, watch where our money was going, earn a little extra on the side and just have that goal. Having that goal in our minds just made it easy.
Cole: Yeah. The big tip I would say is decide on what you really want and have that in your mind constantly. If you’re able to really direct your energy on one thing, like when we finally decided that this trip is real and it’s gonna happen and we’re gonna make it happen, it was such a clarifying moment.
Everything we did from that point on was meant to get us to the point where this trip was a reality. And we could take off for a year and go to all these amazing parks. Every purchase we made was with that in mind. It either made us, got us closer to that goal, whether it was a piece of gear or a park pass or whatever, or a reservation. Or, you still gotta live a little bit, leave room for your social life too. We’ve had plenty of fun in our last year in the city.
Elizabeth: Yeah, we weren’t monks. We didn’t eat rice and beans only. We still had fun.
Cole: Yeah. But once you have that goal in mind it just really helps. And it also helps, I feel like, if it’s one thing you’re working towards, it’s really hard to have even two or three different priorities. For us, having that one goal was what made a big difference.
Eric: That’s a great story. Thank you guys so much for sharing.
Eric: Before we get going, I have one more question that’s just for my own curiosity. All of the parks you have ahead, do you have any that you’re most excited about? I know it’s like 50 parks to choose from, I gave you a lot of notice on this.
Elizabeth: I am most excited for Hawaii. There’s actually two parks there. Hawaiian Volcano is one and Haleakala is another. We’re actually gonna be able on all three islands within Hawaii. I’ve never been to Hawaii. Cole’s never been to Hawaii. And it’s gonna be such a perfect time to be there. It’s kind of like non national park-y type of park. You always think of mountains, bears, whatnot…
Eric: I get it.
Elizabeth: That’s what I’m most excited for.
Eric: Enjoy the pineapples and the macadamia nuts when you’re out there, too.
Elizabeth: Yeah, absolutely.
Eric: Cole, other than Hawaii, any other that you’re super looking forward to?
Cole: Right. Besides that, I guess I would say, Yosemite. Because we’ve heard so much about that. It’s kind of one of the biggest crown jewels of the parks system. You see so many incredible pictures from there. Never been there. I’m just really excited to get out there.
Elizabeth: It was actually the first park to be protected, right? The first thing to be protected. Yellowstone was the first national park established but Yosemite kind of sparked the idea of protecting land. That’s pretty cool.
Eric: I feel like I need to go out and get to some more national parks. Actually I’ve lived like all around some of those parks, actually.
Elizabeth: In a lake, right?
Eric: I’ve driven right by, I didn’t get off the highway because it was that day. I was barreling through Santa Barbara without stopping. Crater Lake’s only a few hours away from us here in Portland.
If you make your way through Portland definitely, shoot me a note, I’d love to meet you up for a beer and have a cheers in person.
Eric: I know I will be following your journey online. For those who have yet to find your journey online, what is the best place for them to find you if they wanna connect?
Cole: Yeah. We are blogging about all our park stories, the different adventures, the different tips we have, and you can find that all on switshbackkids.com. So that’s switchback like takes you up the mountain, kids like us, we’re pretty young, dot com. And then we’re also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…
Elizabeth: Periscope. That’s our new thing.
Eric: Periscope’s fun. I like Periscope. I’m getting into it.
Elizabeth: It’s fun. Not only in the east, we have service in the parks and we can like show people waterfalls. So it’s been fun.
Cole: Yeah. And also people can subscribe and get the new posts sent straight to their inbox. So we love it when they do that. That’s one of our big goals too, is not just to have a personal adventure but to really be able to share it with other people and get them excited about the parks and get them interested in, even if it’s not the national parks, going out and having their own adventure following their own passion.
Eric: That’s all amazing stuff. I’m thrilled that I got to hear even a tiny bit of your journey and adventure, I hope…
Elizabeth: We really appreciate you having us on. It’s been fun.
Eric: Of course. Thank you so much for the time. Thanks for sharing everything. Everybody listening please do go check out switchbackkids.com, I’ve been by, it’s a great site. You can learn more about what they’re doing and follow them along the way. And everybody, again thanks for listening and being a part of the Personal Profitability Podcast. And until next time, stay profitable.