David Laffitte and Doni Smith are on a mission to hike every national park in the United States. I talked to these RV Nomads to learn what it’s like to leave it all behind and take to the road.
“It’s a good thing when you can’t remember all the places you’ve been.” –Doni
David and Doni completed more bucket-list trips in a year and a half than many people complete in their lifetimes. They hiked the Grand Canyon, rim to rim. They witnessed a heard of bison run mere feet from their snow mobiles during one winter trek through Yellowstone (they sat quietly and observed). They stared up at the largest tree in the world in the Giant Forest of Sequoia National Park. They even secured a hike to the coveted Havasu Falls where the water is naturally so blue, it looks photoshopped.
They live out of an RV and journey from place to place in United States, staying near major national parks and outdoor attractions. But this lifestyle wasn’t always a life-goal. The road to Dave and Doni’s RV nomad lifestyle bubbled up organically, and nature has been the catalyst since the beginning.
For years, camping trips and hikes dominated the couple’s leisure choices. And, one birthday trip, in front of a campsite in Grand Teton National Park with no technology to be found, they asked themselves “Why don’t we do this more?”
So, they did.
About a month after they returned from that birthday trip, they packed up and left Dallas, Texas without an RV for an unfurnished apartment in St. George, Utah. All they had was camping gear, lawn furniture and their doberman pinscher, Cane. It was, without a doubt, an adventure.
Doni sports a perfect pixie cut and a wealth of energy so deep, it was apparent through the tiny speakers in my headphones when I spoke to her. Her job drives the choice of locations and makes the RV travel thing possible. After 15 years as an accountant, Doni left the profession for her real passion: nursing.
Somewhere along the way of nursing school and certification, Doni and David met two travel nurses who traveled the United States in an RV, working 13-week nursing contracts. Their story planted the idea for the nomadic RV lifestyle in the back of David and Doni’s minds.
David lives by the adage: “There’s no bad weather, only bad gear.” As the operations director for the company behind Places.Travel, Odyssey Storyworks, David is able to work from just about anywhere with an internet connection. The idea to travel and work remotely was there, the last thing needed was to dive in and do it.
“You have to have that spirit, you know, if the refrigerator breaks, are you going to freak out or are you just going to fix it?” Doni said when talking about what this lifestyle takes.
The RV nomad lifestyle isn’t all flannel and weekend hikes, cute Instagram photos and campfires.
“It is a sacrifice. You have to be able to flow. I was really surprised with how well we both did that,” Doni said.
After their first few weeks on lawn furniture in southern Utah, they committed to an RV and haven’t looked back since.
David and Doni travel slow, getting to know an area for two to three months before moving on. Their location and length of stay is determined by Doni’s nursing contracts, but traveling this way has a unique perk: they travel slower, really getting to know a place and the people and finding the hidden gems.
“We’re conditioned to take vacations but when you have a little bit different time-line, you can do it at a different rate,” David said.
There is some urgency to their trips, they know they have a timeline. But the timeline is just long enough to give their trips space to breath.
Since their initial departure in 2016, David and Doni have driven over 4,000 miles, lived in three states, hiked two 10K+ peaks, been to 13 national parks and hiked some iconic trails including Glacier National Park, Little Bighorn, Badlands National Park in South Dakota, and Havasu Falls.
“The more you see and get a taste for it, the harder it is to go back,” David said.
It’s apparent they’re not giving this lifestyle up any time soon.
Want to know more about the RV lifestyle? Follow our series as we dive in-depth to the nitty-gritty details of choosing an RV, hiking lesser known trails, combating boredom on the road and more. To see more of where David and Doni have been, check out Doni’s instagram account @nurserover.