Sabbatical Road Trip

In 2006, my husband and I were driven—literally!—to seek sustainability success stories from around our country.

It was the year I turned 30 and Jeff turned 40, and we resolved to venture beyond the comfortable Port Townsend “bubble” and broaden our horizons.

So we planned, we saved, we bought a 1989 Volkswagen Westfalia camper-van (in partnership with my parents, to make this big expense more affordable), gave plenty of notice to our employers, and at the end of 2005, we quit our jobs, rented out our brand-new house for one year, and hit the road.

For 10 months in 2006 (with a month of decompression at either end), we drove a 26,000-mile loop counterclockwise around the U.S., with a delightful detour to the Canadian capital and the Maritime provinces. We camped some, but mostly stayed with relatives, with friends, with friends of friends, and with families offering accommodations through GlobalFreeloaders.com (they were some of the most memorable hosts!).

And, yes, I blogged about it. The “Waltzing Matilda” travel blog was followed by 240 subscribers and averaged 350 page views per entry.

In retrospect, the trip planted the seeds for Sustainable Together, as we were attracted to people brewing biodiesel, installing solar panels, growing and preserving their own food, riding their bikes, renewing their historic and walkable downtowns, and volunteering selflessly in Hurricane Katrina’s wake (read more about our visit to Port Townsend’s sister city, Bay St. Louis, Miss.). And an unexpected entree to an Amish community in western New York touched us deeply, as we were reminded how communities used to—and still can—function when the long-term sustainability of all members is a cultural priority.

Our year-long sabbatical was a jumping-off point to new careers: Jeff shifted from city planning to the renewable energy field, talking himself into a sales and outreach job with Power Trip Energy Corp., a local installer of photovoltaic solar systems.

I decided to go into business for myself, expanding the sole proprietorship I had set up in 2005 (for my freelance magazine writing) to include communications services for local small businesses and nonprofits.

Read more revelations of our sabbatical in the newspaper article about our return. (Jan. 31, 2007)

Check out the “Waltzing Matilda” Travel Blog