Joe & Emilie’s Excellent Adventure

By Jackie Reau, Publisher/Editor

Last month, former Over-the-Rhine Chamber President Emilie Johnson and her husband, Joe Neiheisel, who served as Vice President of Finance at ArtWorks Cincinnati, quit their jobs, sold their Clifton home, cars, a lot of their stuff and hit the road in a decked out Sprinter van.

While Joe and Emilie explore North America--and maybe Central and South America, over the next two to four years (depends on who you ask), we will share their adventures and beautiful photos in this column. 

You can also follow Joe and Emilie directly on social media @permanentroadtrip on Facebook and Instagram.

Here is our Q&A with Emilie:

What was the inspiration for the adventure?
The adventure itself -- we're doing all the things we love to do and in the places we enjoy most. Our adventure reflects who we are in our most natural state. Every vacation we have ever taken has involved some kind of adventure. We would pack up the car, the mountain bikes, the tent, the dog and the cooler and driving out west as fast as we could get there. We'd then spend our precious days off driving from destination to destination, soaking up as much as we could in the time we had. So, the inspiration for our adventure was seeking more of just that...

Admittedly, there were many things that kept us rooted in Cincinnati -- the house we got married in and loved, our friends and family, jobs we enjoyed and that challenged us, the ease of Cincinnati living. But, we were ready for a change, and we didn't want to look back one day and ask ourselves why we didn't take the time to do the things we really enjoyed doing.

We made decisions about how we lived our lives to ultimately put us in the position to be able to do something epic. For us, epic was hitting the road in a custom-built Sprinter van, which has become our tiny home on wheels. For people like us who were accustomed to tent camping sometimes 100+ nights in a year, van living is plush!

How did you prepare for it?
For as long as we've been together, we've been planning to do something adventurous, and it really just meant deciding what our course was going to be. But how exactly does one plan for "van living" and life on the road? Well, for us, we sold our house...which sold in a day...much more quickly than we had anticipated. Within 30 days we had sold or given away the majority of what we owned, stored the rest, and moved into our good friend's first floor. 

When we finally located the perfect van (not an easy task as Sprinters and van living is gaining popularity), we researched like crazy how to build out a van and bought all the components (all Joe's doing!), notified our employers and helped with succession planning and transition within our organizations. All told, it took nine months to hit the road from the time we decided on our adventure.

How did you map it or did you map it?
Our "map" is somewhat flexible, but the first few months will be largely guided by taking full advantage of these ski passes we bought, which gets us five days of skiing at 39 resorts. 

To best ease our way into van living, we planned a route that took us south and then through most of the national parks along the border from Florida to California. From there, we're dipping our toes in the mountain resorts on our ski pass that offer us relatively quick access to "warmer" climates, so along west coast for the most part. Then we'll head into the mountains where we have friends in ski towns and spend a few months there. 

When spring arrives, we'll return to the west coast and travel through the southwest, pretty much allowing mountain bike trails and the whereabouts of friends and family guide our route. We'll eventually explore more of Canada, Alaska, and if Joe has his way - and we brush up on our Spanish - we'll head into Central and South America.

What locations or experiences are you most excited about?
That's a tough question, but truly we're both looking forward to the adventure itself. We are looking forward to slowing things down a bit and taking the time to get to know our favorite places even better, and to discover new ones.

Do you have a daily or weekly budget for expenses?
With the lifestyle we're living on the road, $100 a day is more than enough to cover fuel, food, lodging, recreation, healthcare, phones, and maintenance on the van. We have lived a modest lifestyle for years and have saved enough to enjoy this experience, and to one day transition back into a more traditional lifestyle.

How long do you think you will be on the road for?
This question always makes us a laugh a little -- I usually say a few years, and Joe says four to five pretty emphatically. We don't have an exact timeline, but figure we'll know when we're ready to return.

Jackie ReauTRAVEL