Jackie Richey (BA 2006 Communication Studies, Sociology) & Mark Slattery (BA 2006 Communication Studies)
My husband Mark and I have inhabited a tiny RV since September 2011 while traveling the contiguous United States. We visit, and participate when possible, in a sporting event in each state and publish our experiences in articles, photos, and video on our website, www.coupleofsports.com.
About this time last year while eating dinner in our Los Angeles apartment, we discussed our mutual itch to change locales and careers. Soon after, we visited Joshua Tree and Grand Canyon National Parks and realized how much of the United States we have yet to see. We joked about becoming bloggers and meandering the entire country while writing about it.
But this pipe dream soon turned into a serious consideration. Utilizing dry erase markers and the giant mirrored wall that our apartment featured, we brainstormed hundreds of ideas from what the theme of the trip would be, to who we were going to contact, and how we would avoid going broke. After weeks of talking about it, we finally decided that we were going to go for it. After all, you only live once and if people never took risks, nothing great would ever happen. The idea of having a family was also tugging in the back of our minds as we inch closer to our 30s, and we can’t very well drag a baby to a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) event.
After months of planning we finally summoned the courage to tell our parents. My mother’s response was calm, but marked with a very interesting question, “You spent 4 years at University of Michigan, have since earned your Masters…and now you want to gallivant in an RV for a year?”
Albeit untraditional, this journey is a test of our education and abilities. Without our knowledge and preparation as undergraduates at University of Michigan, we would not have been able to plan and execute all of the various aspects of the trip and website. Our LSA education has given us the skills and determination to effectively achieve the goals we have set for ourselves.
But it just seems like a vacation, you say? Though we are having fun seeing and experiencing new and different things, we are also working like crazy! We are constantly trying to grow readership and social media presence, plan where we’re going, how were getting there, and where to stay safely. We write, volunteer, edit photos and videos, improve the website, contact local events, visitor’s bureaus, and businesses, and if something breaks, we’re researching how to fix it and executing the repair ourselves. On a daily basis we use multiple skill sets that can’t be encapsulated in one major, but rather from the variety of educational experiences given to us through the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.
In particular, we feel our ability to think critically and problem solve were skills honed in college. In any situation, we find ourselves relying on our own knowledge base but also we have the wherewithal to research information, interpret data, draw conclusions, and consider a number of factors when making a decision.
We’re resourceful, can manage our time effectively, set goals and priorities, multitask, and can handle a whole lot of stress. We learned to be mentally tough in Ann Arbor, where we fell off the proverbial horse many times, but picked ourselves up and persevered.
And finally, something particularly beneficial to success on this trip is our sincere appreciation for people of all backgrounds. This is no doubt a result of the emphasis placed on the importance of diversity by the University, and the opportunities given by professors to collaborate with our peers. This country is awe-inspiring in landscape, but the people themselves contribute to the beauty of our nation. The cultures and traditions we’ve found among people, and even sports fans, have richly augmented our travels. We’ve been invited to participate in unique activities and events that without our desire to learn more about the people around us, we would have missed out on.
We’ve loved meeting people from around the country, but it’s particularly exceptional when you hike to the top of a mountain in Utah or bike in your first triathlon in Arizona and encounter a stranger from the Michigan family greeting you with a friendly “Go Blue!”
Jackie Richey is a co-founder, writer, photographer, & communications and press manager for www.coupleofsports.com, a website chronicling a husband and wife’s 400-day RV journey through America. You can follow their adventures by visiting their website, following them on Twitter, or liking them on Facebook.