Five years ago Russell Vance was a geriatric psychotherapist who thought he had many more years of work ahead of him, “But I was burned out,” he said. “Within 18 months, my wife, my mother and my father had all died. It wasn’t until my daughter told me, ‘You know, you might think about retirement,’ that I even considered that was a possibility.” Russell craved a retirement life full of freedom and travel, but he was uncertain how to make it happen.
So, Russell engaged a financial planner and with her guidance, divested himself of his practice and then took time to explore his interests. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I started getting out and doing trail runs across the country,” Russell said. One of his treks included a 45-mile run across the Badlands of South Dakota. During his exploration period, Russell lived in a converted trailer and participated in runs in Georgia, Florida, and in the St. Jude Marathon.
Just as Russell settled into his new lifestyle, he realized running around the country solo could get pretty lonely. When he met Pamela Smith, a retired biology professor, he found a companion willing to live like him, untethered from a traditional home. Together they have made the open road their home, adopting the term Nitsitapiisinni, which translates from the Blackfeet Indian language as “our way of life.” They nicknamed their live-in 20-foot trailer Sinni and their Dodge Ram 1500 4X4 pulling it Mighty Moe. “We go down the road and our home is 18 feet behind us,” Russell said. Every supply they need is neatly packed in the trailer or in the truck – from their two bright yellow kayaks to their bicycles, generator, camping gear, and scuba equipment.
They drive an average 15,000 miles a year – traveling as far south as Florida and as far west as Arizona — while also serving as volunteer park rangers at Glacier National Park in Montana. “We’re able to park our trailer, we wear uniforms when we patrol and we receive a small stipend,” Russell said.
Pam and Russell have mapped out a new course for their lives that is full of family visits, exploration, and environmental projects. As a park ranger, Russell is learning new skills that
include studying the legalities of land acts, writing environmental beneficial proposals and rebuilding log cabins, barns, and new corrals, while Pam is becoming an expert in geology. Russell loves to cook, and during his quiet time, he writes. He is currently working on his fifth novel and writes a regular blog about their adventures. Click here to read his latest post.
The couple plans to continue their nomadic lifestyle while working for the park service. “They are wonderful and treat you like gold. Every day we are learning, seeing and experiencing new and exciting things from the rocks to the plants to the weather.”
Pam and Russell encourage their friends to consider life on the open road or at least early retirement. “I tell people to retire as soon as they can; they shouldn’t wait around. Find a financial advisor to help you make it happen. They will be a valuable partner in making decisions about your future,” Russell said.
Actual performance and results may vary. This example does not constitute a recommendation as to the suitability of any investment for any person or persons having circumstances similar to those portrayed, and a financial advisor should be consulted for your specific situation.